Viewing posts tagged libertarianism

The Gateway Drug

Paleolibertarianism was a consciously devised mutation of Austrian-influenced libertarianism, concocted by the late-20th century’s most prominent devotee of Austrian dogma, Murray Rothbard (and his fawning cohorts).  

Libertarianism today draws on several sources.  Ayn Rand is the best known, but the more influential is arguably Murray Rothbard.  (Rothbard’s attitude to Rand fluctuated.)  Rand is more influential for her ‘ideas’.  Rand is more accessible, despite putting up a superficial show of intellectualism.  Rothbard is harder to get a handle on.  Unlike Rand, he is a genuine intellectual – which is often a question of how one couches ideas rather than the ideas themselves.  And he develops.  And he writes long, involved, serious articles (though they get less serious-minded as he gets older).  I would argue that his influence is less in actual ideas and more in the surrounding spheres of aesthetics/style and tactics/strategy.  After all, in fusing libertarianism with conservatism to create paleolibertarianism, the libertarians consciously submerged certain libertarian ideas.  What succeeded – from the libertarian point of view - was arguably less the fusion than the style: the strategic attempt to use populist reactionary politics to further the ...

Return of the Irrepressed (Part 2)

The glue which gums Rothbard’s libertarianism, with its supposed veneration of personal liberty, to the politics of tyranny (white supremacy, anti-semitism, etc) is the baked-in project of conservatism, according to Corey Robin: the defence of privilege and hierarchy which is, or feels itself to be, threatened. 

Libertarianism, via its ideological justifications for the hierarchy of employees and employers (as worked out in Hayek, for instance, in a passage we looked at), is also a general theory of capitalist hierarchy. It full-blooded libertarianism (which nonetheless takes its cues from the more polite and measured coded-savagery of Hayek) tells a story of supermen and parasites. Rand – much mocked as if she is a uniquely bizarre irruption - is just an idiosyncratically unhinged, pathological, and libidinous version of this. It’s a form of panglossianism, in that everyone gets what the deserve – or at least the best any world is capable of affording them (in general). Hierarchy thus isn’t just something apologised for – it is something rhapsodised. It isn’t just unavoidable – it’s actively good. Laudable. A mark of civilisation (in the moral sense). Libertarianism fetishises commodity relations to the point where it makes its politics from an aesthetic category error ...

Return of the Irrepressed (Part 1)

We all float down here, Georgie… no government to hold us down, you see…

With thanks to @gerofalltrades for creating this post’s accompanying cursed image for me.

This article has been amended to remove an inaccurate claim that Reason magazine gave Milo's book Dangerous a flattering review.  I got them mixed up with Skeptic magazine.  My bad.  Sorry.  BTW, for interest's sake, the review in Skeptic was written by Dr. George Michael who received his degree from George Mason University.

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Whereas many of today’s libertarians and ‘classical liberals’ like to present their doctrine as somehow above or beyond the left-right divide (even as they enable fascists and agree with everything they say), Rothbard indulged in little such pretence.  He was cynical and opportunistic.  He was inconsistent and incoherent.  But he wasn’t confused.  For him, libertarianism was, essentially, a reiteration of what he called ‘the Old Right’.

For more on this, see a flatulent, blithering essay he wrote in 1992 called ‘A Strategy for the Right’.  You can read it at LewRockwell-dot-org.  I won’t link to it (because, while the SPLC might not come right out and say it, as far as I’m concerned ...

The Ron Paul Revolution (Part 1)

In my opinion, any account of the rise of the alt-right, especially one which emphasizes the role of libertarianism, and thus the distal causal role of the Austrian School of economics, must begin with Ron Paul.

In his essay ‘On Social Sadism’, published in the journal Salvage, China Miéville recounts an occasion when

[a]t a debate between Republican candidates in September 2011, Wolf Blitzer, the chair, mooted the case of a hypothetical thirty-year-old uninsured man who becomes sick. ‘[C]ongressman,’ Blitzer asks Ron Paul, ‘are you saying that society should just let him die?’

‘Yeah!’ comes a shout from the audience. A smattering of applause. The shout is repeated, and again, and the applause grows.

Paul retired from politics in 2013, but his shadow is long on the libertarian Right.  After the above exchange, Paul – a former medical doctor and a fervent libertarian, indeed a ‘paleolibertarian’, a follower of the syncresis of libertarianism and far-right conservatism invented by Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell – suggested that the hypothetical man in the question should have a private medical plan.  "We've given up on this concept that we might assume responsibility for ...

Chill Out, Hayek! - Part 1

In The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin claimed - drawing on Naomi Klein and Greg Grandin – that Hayek “admired Pinochet’s Chile so much that he decided to hold a meeting of his Mont Pelerin Society in Viña del Mar”, the seaside resort in Chile where General Pinochet’s CIA-assisted military coup against the democratically elected left-wing government of Salvador Allende was planned.  This claim was denounced on Twitter as “made up” by none other than ‘@FriedrichHayek’ himself!  (Probably just a fan rather than the man himself resurrected and tweeting… as usual, Hayek’s admirers simply deny his complicity with the Chilean junta, when they can’t get away with just neglecting to mention it.  As Robin discovered, they have lots of excuses - he was an old man at the time, etc - all of which turn out to be so much bad faith when you look at them.)  Checking, Robin discovered that it is more accurate to say that Hayek attended the meeting where the decision to hold the MPS’s 1981 conference in Viña del Mar was made and, at least, did not oppose it.  His position in the Society was still prestigious enough that, at the very least, an objection from him ...

By 'Eck, Hayek!

The early Austrian School was actually subject to a split.  It stemmed from the first wave of the followers of its founder Carl Menger.  Mengerians Friedrich von Wieser and Eugen von Philippovich were both a bit like Fabian socialists in their outlooks.  Wieser, for instance, seems to have believed that marginal utility (the radically subjective basis of modern mainstream economics) provided a theoretical foundation for progressive taxation.  But Wieser’s brother-in-law and fellow teacher, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, was of the classical liberal tradition.  Böhm-Bawerk was a strident anti-Marxist who developed many of his own theories - which became foundational to the subsequent Austrian School - in the course of his criticisms of Marx.  Böhm-Bawerk is still routinely credited by some with having demolished Marx… which he accomplished by systematically misreading, misunderstanding, and misrepresenting him.

The split was transmitted.  Böhm-Bawerk was Mises’ teacher, and Mises became fanatical in his rejection of state intervention (except when he wasn’t… it’s complicated).  Wieser was Hayek’s teacher, and Hayek is still thought by some hardliners to have been almost a socialist owing to his ability to countenance some welfare measures.  Hayek also believed a state was necessary… which makes him a cuck by anarcho-capitalist standards.  In Ancaptopia, law ...

Spare Kochs at an Orgy

As some of you will be aware, especially those of you who’ve been following my whining about it on Twitter, I’ve recently been finishing up something I’ve been writing about the Austrian School of economics (y’know, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, right-libertarianism, etc).  It’s my side of a collaboration with Phil for his next book.  It’s taken a long time (my fault) but I just finished.  One of the reasons it took so long was because I kept falling down rabbit holes, so to speak.  The good thing about that is that it has left me with excess material I can write up.  And here’s the first bit. 

By the way, people who give me as little as $1 per month on Patreon saw this days ago.

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The Koch Brothers.  Billionaire reactionaries whose dad co-founded the John Birch Society, and who now act as money-pits and eminences grise for huge sectors of the US Right.  Greasers of the wheels of the Tea Party.  Suffice to say, they – along with others of their kind including the DeVos family – have also funded organisations like CPAC, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute (co-founded by Murray Rothbard, by ...

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