Friday, February 2, 2024

Identity > Ideology - Vox Popoli

 Lee Kuan Yew’s doctrine is more important than all the ideologies and isms in history combined. Because no one actually believes in any of them, they simply use them for the advancement of their races and religions. Identity is even sufficient to transform a diehard, life-long libertarian and Austrian economist into a full-blown collectivist, as evidenced by Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s criticism of Walter Block’s libertarian case for Israel:

Block et. al., in their attempt of presenting the liberal respectively libertarian case for Israel, maintain that they can justify the claim of present-day Jews to a homeland in Palestine based on their status as “heirs” of Jews having lived two millennia ago in the region then called Judea. Not surprisingly, however, except for the single and in itself highly questionable case of the Kohanim (Jews of priestly descent) and their specific connection to the Temple Mount, they do not provide a shred of evidence how in the world any one specific present-day Jew, through a time-span of more than two thousand years, can be connected to any one specific ancient Jew and be established as legitimate heir of some specific piece of property stolen or otherwise taken from him two thousand years ago.

The claim of present-day Jews to a homeland in Palestine, then, can only be made if you abandon the methodological individualism underlying and characteristic of all libertarian thought: the notion of individual personhood, of private property, private product and accomplishment, private crime and private guilt. Instead, you must adopt some form of collectivism that allows for such notions as group or tribal property and property rights, collective responsibility and collective guilt.

This turn from an individualistic to a collectivistic perspective is on clear display in Block’s et. al. summary conclusion (p.537):

“Rothbard supports homesteading as the legitimate means of ownership (the first homesteader gets the land, not any subsequent one)….Libertarians deduce from this fact that stolen property must be returned to its original owners, or their heirs. This is the case for reparations. Well, the Romans stole the land from the Jews around two millennia ago; the Jews never gave this land to the Arabs or anyone else. Thus according to libertarian theory it should be returned to the Jews.”

Bingo. But homesteading is done by some specific Ben or Nate, not by “the Jews,” and likewise reparations for crimes committed against Ben or Nate are owed to some specific David or Moshe as their heir, not to “the Jews,” and they concern specific pieces of property, not all of “Israel.” Unable to find any present David or Moshe that can be identified as ancient Ben’s or Nate’s heir to some specified piece of property, however, all reparation claims directed against any current owner are without any base.

Another property theory is needed to still make the case for a Jewish homeland. And Block and his coauthors offer such a theory: property rights and reparation claims can allegedly also be justified by genetic and cultural similarity… Whatever these outpourings of Block’s are, they have nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism. In fact, to advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents is the total and complete negation of libertarianism and the non-aggression principle. The Murray Rothbard I knew would have immediately called them out as unhinged, monstrous, unconscionable and sickening and publicly ridiculed, denounced, “unfriended” and excommunicated Block as a Rothbardian.

First, setting aside the burning question of what is, and what is not, Rothbardian, I always find the historic Jewish claim to the land of Israel on the basis of previous ownership to be incredibly bizarre, given that in the very document upon which they base that claim, it is established a) the Habiru stole the land from the Canaanites and b) most of it didn’t belong to them anyhow, but to one of the other tribes. How would property that Simeon stole from Joe Canaan, which was then stolen by Assyrians and later stolen by Romans, then Arabs, and finally the British, before being stolen by European Jews somehow properly belong to a genetic heir of Judah?

But that’s just an observation that is literally the exact opposite of new. What’s much more interesting here is the way that Block’s argument relying upon the transformation of the ideological core of libertarianism into a form of ethnic collectivism not only proves Lee’s doctrine of identity, but even shows how predictive that doctrine can be. For the record, I had never read anything by Block nor did I know anything about his background prior to reading Hoppe’s article today

Walter Block was born in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish parents Abraham Block, a certified public accountant, and Ruth Block, a paralegal, both of whom Block has said were liberals. He attended James Madison High School, where Bernie Sanders was on his track team. Block earned his Ph.D. degree in economics from Columbia University and wrote his dissertation on rent control in the United States under Gary Becker. Block identifies himself as a “devout atheist”.

Show me your argument and you show me your identity.

Because, as the greatest political mind of the 20th Century once wrote: “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.”

That’s why I no longer describe myself as a libertarian. Not simply because I have rejected the ideology, although I have, but because I no longer believe that most ideologists, past or present, are even remotely interested in, much less connected to, truth and objective reality. Despite its grandiose and universalist pretensions, ideology is the detailed rationalization of an identity group’s immediate interests, and it will always be subject to further modification and mutation as that group’s interests change over time.