Monday, March 13, 2023

bionic mosquito: (Paper) Thin Libertarians

 …you cannot protect the value of respecting each other’s liberties with the value of respecting each other’s liberties. That value has to come from somewhere…

David French & the Vapors of Civic Virtue Escaping from a Mystery Box, Douglas Wilson (video)

It has been a while since I have written something directly and specifically about the non-aggression principle and libertarian political philosophy.  This blog started that way, and soon enough I figured out that it was not the foundation for a society that respected liberty.  In other words, paraphrasing Wilson, you cannot protect the value of liberty by using the value of liberty.

This could have been written by Hans Hoppe – he has written along these lines more than once.  Hoppe is, like Wilson, an outcast in respectable circles because he notes that a society that expects to achieve and maintain liberty will have to use values other than liberty to defend liberty.  In other words, paraphrasing Hoppe, sometimes you have to forcefully throw the bums out.

As I have noted: my libertarian society will not look libertarian to many on the outside.  You want sex orgies on your front lawn?  No, not in my libertarian society – I don’t care that your front lawn is your private property.  Such a libertarian society will not retain liberty for long.

Of course, the paper thin libertarian will retort: “you can just make the rules such that those who don’t voluntarily agree can’t join.”  Yes.  But this is my point: my “rules” won’t look libertarian to most libertarians.

This is where I came to grow weary of those who screamed “thin libertarian” as the path to liberty.  Now, admittedly, I once believed such things.  Libertarianism for children, as a good friend and well-respected (in our circles) libertarian once described such as these to me.  Yes, I once was this (look early in my archives…).  But I try not to be too hard on myself; some of the “children” are much older than I am and have been in the movement much longer – and have yet to mature.

It was through Hoppe that I came to understand that something deeper was required as foundation if one was after liberty.  I don’t recall if he put it exactly this way, but I do recall that he said something like you may occasionally have to throw the bums out if you want to preserve the liberty of which you are after.

In other words, Hoppe’s libertarian society will not seem libertarian to the bums (libertines) on the outside.  And I say…count me in.

Murray Rothbard, very early in his career (1960), understood this quite well:

What I have been trying to say is that Mises's utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty. It must be supplemented by an absolutist ethic—an ethic of liberty, as well as of other values needed for the health and development of the individual—grounded on natural law, i.e., discovery of the laws of man's nature.

A society holding to liberty requires something more than liberty if society is to retain liberty.

Returning to Wilson:

The virtues that are embedded in our customs, mores, and laws, and which are barely hanging on anymore, are not “without father or mother” Our public virtues are not “without genealogy.” They actually had a “beginning of days.” They grew up in the black soil of a robust Christian consensus, as Francis Schaeffer cogently argued…

Our liberty, what little remains of it, came out of a specific culture, a specific tradition, grounded in certain customs and mores and laws.  It is grounded in what came out of the Christian West, and one can point to the mixing of Christian charity with Germanic honor as the source.

Of course, this came with many ills – both regarding Christianity and regarding honor.  Progress does not flow in a straight line, with no bumps, no setbacks, no difficulties.  Every culture, every tradition, suffers these.  But only one bore the fruit of liberty in any meaningful sense.  If the bad comes in every flavor, I prefer the one that also offers good.

Throw out these “virtues that are embedded in our customs, mores, and laws,” and what do you get?  Look around us today.  The answer is self-evident.  Holding the non-aggression principle as the foundation for liberty offers no defense against a society sinking into the abyss.  One cannot even raise a complaint about pedophilia or even trans surgery for minors.  After all, the age of consent is a social construct – there is nothing in the non-aggression principle that places a firm dividing line in such matters.

Men and women sharing restrooms and showers?  Why not?  The private property owner can decide.  Forced jabs?  Hey, the employer is free to require what he wants – you can always get another job (except when all employers make similar demands). 

Google and Facebook are private companies – who are you to say that they can’t share their information with the Feds?  To argue that there shouldn’t be Feds doesn’t resolve this issue.  We live in something approaching an upside-down fascism anyway – it is now the private corporations controlling the government in many ways.  All of Ayn Rand’s industrial titans have run to Washington, not to Colorado.

Which comes back to the foundation underlying the liberty we enjoy (shrinking, but evident in history).  It is Christian.  It is also Western.  Disagree?  Argue from history, not theory.

…when a society has become polytheistic, there is no a priori standard that you can establish that will exclude the ugly gods, the angry gods, the savage gods, the gods whose wrath can only be slaked with blood.

Is it possible that the non-aggression principle will be the monotheistic god replacing the Christian God?  We know the answer to this.  Contrary to this, we also know that many libertarians believe – even require – that religion has no place in the libertarian framework.  But there will always be a religion – call it a narrative.  I like the way Wilson puts it elsewhere – Christ or chaos.

Well, then: What does this mean for liberty?  As the non-aggression principle will not come to be the new monotheistic god, and as society will then be polytheistic, there is nothing to exclude the ugly, angry, savage gods.

Liberty – whether libertarian or classical liberal – has no defense against these gods.  Revisiting Wilson’s quote, from above:

…you cannot protect the value of respecting each other’s liberties with the value of respecting each other’s liberties. That value has to come from somewhere…


I have noticed a dearth of straight (thin) libertarian commentary over the last few years.  Perhaps it has grown obvious that the answers to the social and corporate destruction we find ourselves in cannot be found merely by deducing from the non-aggression principle. 

Or, perhaps if such answers can be found via this path, it has grown clear that logical arguments along these lines carry no weight.  Or, perhaps, because we have found that to defend such principles one must violate the non-aggression principle.

Instead, I have seen an ever-increasing commentary that, at its base, revolves around the following:

Ephesians 6: 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Demons don’t play by the rules of the NAP.  There is only one way to fight the demons intent on robbing us of our humanity, let alone our liberty.  Yes.  Put on the whole armor….


Wilson then does his best Lysander Spooner impression – with a very Christian twist:

What social compact? Who made it? Why is it binding on me? Suppose we disagree with Hobbes, or Rousseau, or Locke, or whoever else made up these imaginary parliaments. What then? Will Christ judge us for walking away from this social compact? If so, where does the Bible say that? If not, then why should we care whether we are upholding our end of the social compact or not?

Is the Declaration of Independence an example of social contract thinking? If it is not, then shouldn’t we go with the Declaration, being Americans and all? If so, then is it really true that the social compact contains a provision that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government?”

And if we have that right according to the social compact, then why wouldn’t it be okay to do it by storming the Capitol? You know, with the praise music optional?

Just curious.