Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Paradigm Shift On The Right?

Seth Mason Charleston SC blog 3In these times of rampant pessimism in which the majority of Americans believe that the country has been heading in the wrong direction for some time, there exists a ray of hope: the burgeoning liberty movement. Recently, there have been two significant positive developments regarding the movement's influence on the Right:

Although Republicans lag the nation in its change of heart on social issues, more people on the Right are coming to realize the high price of the federal government's marijuana prohibition.

The editors of National Review, arguably the most influential conservative publication in the nation, recently published an editorial arguing for the legalization of cannabis. The conservative publication of record noted the significant cost of marijuana prohibition, both in terms of currency and of human life:
Regardless of whether one accepts the individual-liberty case for legalizing marijuana, the consequentialist case is convincing. That is because the history of marijuana prohibition is a catalogue of unprofitable tradeoffs: billions in enforcement costs, and hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, in a fruitless attempt to control a mostly benign drug the use of which remains widespread despite our energetic attempts at prohibition. We make a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime, and do a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself.
Quite a departure from the Right's "Just Say No" rhetoric of the 1980s.

More people on the Right are also coming around on military interventionism. Rand Paul, whose non-interventionist view of foreign policy and homeland-first view of defense is a 180-degree-turn from a decade of George W. Bush-brand military adventurism, is a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. In fact, according to some polls, he's the leading candidate. In modern history, no Republican nominee for president has had a view of foreign policy anywhere close to Rand's. Even Barry Goldwater was an interventionist.

That's impressive. Even though Rand isn't the civil libertarian his father is.

There's reason to be hopeful in these times of uncertainty: The liberty movement's growing in size and influence, and it appears to be taking the Right in the right direction.

Seth Mason, Charleston SC


  1. http://authoritycon.blogspot.com/2014/03/statists-in-libertarian-clothing.html

    Plus, I was reading about the Campaign for Liberty's blatant omission of Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, from their list of philosophical influences. Liberty-lite, less intellectually rigorous and consistent, but easier for the masses of disillusioned republicans.

  2. http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/04/rand-paul-friedmanite-statist.html

    And I kind of agree with this article about Randy as well. Friedman ideas are favored among liberty-lighters.


    What, then, is the answer? What national boundaries can be considered as just? In the first place, it must be recognized that there are no just national boundaries per se; that real justice can only be founded on the property rights of individuals. If fifty people decided voluntarily to set up an organization for common services or self-defense of their persons and properties in a certain geographical area, then the boundaries of that association, based on the just property rights of the members, will also be just.

    National boundaries are only just insofar as they are based on voluntary consent and the property rights of their members or citizens. Just national boundaries are, then, at best derivative and not primary. How much more is this true of existing State boundaries which are, in greater or lesser degree, based on coercive expropriation of private property, or on a mixture of that with voluntary consent! In practice, the way to have such national boundaries as just as possible is to preserve and cherish the right of secession, the right of different regions, groups, or ethnic nationalities to get the blazes out of the larger entity, to set up their own independent nation. Only by boldly asserting the right of secession can the concept of national self-determination be anything more than a sham and a hoax.

    But wasn’t the Wilsonian attempt to impose national self-determination and draw the map of Europe a disaster? And how! But the disaster was inevitable even assuming (incorrectly) good will on the part of Wilson and the Allies and ignoring the fact that national self-determination was a mask for their imperial ambitions. For by its nature, national self-determination cannot be imposed from without, by a foreign government entity, be it the United States or some world League.

    The whole point of national self-determination is to get top-down coercive power out of the picture and, for the use of force to devolve from the larger entity to more genuine natural and voluntary national entities. In short, to devolve power from the top downward. Imposing national self-determination from the outside makes matters worse and more coercive than ever. Moreover, getting the U.S. or other governments involved in every ethnic conflict throughout the globe maximizes, rather than minimizes, coercion, conflict, war, and mass murder. It drags the United States, as the great isolationist scholar Charles A. Beard once put it, into “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

  4. Referring back to political theory, since the nation-state has a monopoly of force in its territorial area, the one thing it must not do is ever try to exercise its force beyond its area, where it has no monopoly, because then a relatively peaceful “international anarchy” (where each State confines its power to its own geographical boundary) is replaced by an international Hobbesian chaos of war of all (governments) against all. In short, given the existence of nation-states, they should (a) never exercise their power beyond their territorial area (a foreign policy of “isolationism”), and (b) maintain the right of secession of groups or entities within their territorial area.

    The right of secession, if fearlessly upheld, implies also the right of one or more villages to secede even from its own ethnic nation, or, even, as Ludwig von Mises affirmed in his Nation, State, and Economy, the right of secession by each individual.

    If one deep flaw in the Wilsonian enterprise was its imposition of national self-determination from the outside, another was his total botch of redrawing the European map. It is difficult to believe that they could have done a worse job if the Versailles rulers had blindfolded themselves and put pins arbitrarily in a map of Europe to create new nations.

    Instead of self-determination for each nation, three officially designated Good Guy peoples (Poles, Czechs, and Serbs) were made masters over other nationalities who had hated their guts for centuries, often with good reason. That is, these three favored nationalities were not simply given ethnic national independence; instead, their boundaries were arbitrarily swollen so as to dominate other peoples officially designated as Bad Guys (or at best Who Cares Guys): the Poles ruling over Germans, Lithuanians (in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius/Vilna), Byelorussians, and Ukrainians; the Czechs ruling over Slovaks and Ukrainians (called “Carpatho-Ruthenians”); and the Serbs tyrannizing over Croats, Slovenes, Albanians, Hungarians, and Macedonians, in a geographical abortion called “Yugoslavia” (now at least in the process of falling apart).

    In addition, the Romanians were aggrandized at the expense of the Hungarians and Bulgarians. These three (or four if we include Romania) lopsided countries were also given the absurd and impossible task by the U.S. and the Western allies of keeping down permanently the two neighboring great “revisionist” powers and losers at Versailles: Germany and Russia. This imposed task led straight to World War II.

    In short, national self-determination must remain a moral principle and a beacon-light for all nations, and not be something to be imposed by outside governmental coercion.


    Libertarians are, by and large, as fiercely opposed to ethnic nationalism as the global democrats, but for very different reasons. Libertarians are generally what might be called simplistic and “vulgar” individualists. A typical critique would run as follows: “There is no nation; there are only individuals. The nation is a collectivist and therefore pernicious concept. The concept of ‘national self-determination’ is fallacious, since only the individual has a ‘self.’ Since the nation and the State are both collective concepts, both are pernicious and should be combated.”

    The linguistic complaint may be dismissed quickly. Yes, of course, there is no national “self,” we are using “self-determination” as a metaphor, and no one really thinks of a nation as an actual living entity with its own “self.”

    More seriously, we must not fall into a nihilist trap. While only individuals exist, individuals do not exist as isolated and hermetically sealed atoms. Statists traditionally charge libertarians and individualists with being “atomistic individualists,” and the charge, one hopes, has always been incorrect and misconceived. Individuals may be the only reality, but they influence each other, past and present, and all individuals grow up in a common culture and language. (This does not imply that they may not, as adults, rebel and challenge and exchange that culture for another.)

    While the State is a pernicious and coercive collectivist concept, the “nation” may be and generally is voluntary. The nation properly refers, not to the State, but to the entire web of culture, values, traditions, religion, and language in which the individuals of a society are raised. It is almost embarrassingly banal to emphasize that point, but apparently many libertarians aggressively overlook the obvious. Let us never forget the great libertarian Randolph Bourne’s analysis of the crucial distinction between “the nation” (the land, the culture, the terrain, the people) and “the State” (the coercive apparatus of bureaucrats and politicians), and of his important conclusion that one may be a true patriot of one’s nation or country while – and even for that very reason – opposing the State that rules over it.

    In addition, the libertarian, especially of the anarcho-capitalist wing, asserts that it makes no difference where the boundaries are, since in a perfect world all institutions and land areas would be private and there would be no national boundaries. Fine, but in the meantime, in the real world, in which language should the government courts hold their proceedings? What should be the language of signs on the government streets? Or the language of the government schools? In the real world, then, national self-determination is a vitally important matter in which libertarians should properly take sides.

    Finally, nationalism has its disadvantages for liberty, but also has its strengths, and libertarians should try to help tip it in the latter direction. If we were residents of Yugoslavia, for example, we should be agitating in favor of the right to secede from that swollen and misbegotten State of Croatia and Slovenia (that is, favoring their current nationalist movements), while opposing the desire of the Serb demagogue Slobodan Milosevic to cling to Serb domination over the Albanians in Kosovo or over the Hungarians in the Vojvodina (that is, opposing Great Serbian nationalism). There is, in short national liberation (good) versus national “imperialism” over other peoples (bad). Once we get over simplistic individualism, and this distinction should not be difficult to grasp.

  6. I interpret this passage (that relates to our discussion) as an argument for there to be a measured and discreet amount of pragmatism about the borders of a "nation," which I think backs up what I said about interpreting his writing in a broader context. He was discussing the absolute libertarian position of open borders "no matter what" and came to the conclusion that the historical context and present circumstances need to be analyzed before borders are redefined or are opened or closed. That's a great big duh. My thinking is that yes, if there was no welfare state that needed those borders to be closed to stop or control the flow of tax eaters, then open up all the borders and let voluntary communities come up about based on property and a strict respect for the right to secede.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.