On My (Lack of) Use of Profanity

Longtime readers of my work will notice that unlike the work of many other radical libertarians who produce blogs or videos, my content is almost completely devoid of profanity. As an explanation of this may help illuminate some important libertarian principles, I will take time to inform my readers concerning my lack of use of profanity.

Some of the greatest benefits of liberty are the ability to assert one’s individual preferences and work out one’s biases in action. Because I own my own publishing platform, I can exercise exclusive control over it for the purpose of publishing original content that suits my liking. As such, my choice to generally abstain from foul language is not dictated by any external policy (as was the case when publishing elsewhere), but is purely a personal choice. That being said, I also respect the personal choices of others to use profanity, which is why some of my articles do contain an occasional swear word within the context of quoting someone else. A critic may object that I am occasionally driven to wrath on social media discussion boards, but I keep this in a separate and distinct location from my articles and limit my interaction with people who make me sufficiently angry to swear.

While this would be a sufficient answer to a simple question concerning my lack of foul language, it would hardly be worth writing an article just to say this much. Thus, I will spend the remainder of this article explaining why my personal preference is what it is.

I was raised in a Protestant Christian home, where using profanity was generally frowned upon, even more so for children. While this restriction slowly eased as I grew older, I still had a sense that such language was only to be used in extraordinary circumstances. Some swear words were unknown to me even as late as my first year of middle school. Even though my general outlook has slowly evolved from Christian conservative authoritarian to secular reactionary libertarian, there are several good secular reasons to mostly refrain from using profanity.

First, it can turn off some people who would otherwise be receptive to one’s message. If one is the first libertarian that a potential convert has ever met and one’s first answer to that person resembles “F*** the state!,” then that person can get the perception that libertarians are crude people who lack the ability to make good arguments in favor of their beliefs, and a bad first impression is a hard thing to erase. This brings us to the second reason, which is the appearance of a lack of intelligence. Using profanity, especially en masse, creates a perception that the communicator is uneducated, undignified, perpetually angry, and generally unfit to be considered as a worthy intellectual. As someone who wishes to influence public discourse for the purpose of moving society in a libertarian direction, it is important to avoid such a perception. An intelligent person should be able to accurately describe one’s ideas and feelings without having to resort to vulgarities.

Third, there is something of a conservation of impact when using profanity. A person who heavily peppers one’s conversation with curses is simply considered to talk that way, with the profane words having little to no impact. But if a person uses profanity only rarely, then it will grab the attention of the audience in the few cases in which it is used. Fourth, using profanity tends to short-circuit reasoned debate in favor of emotional outbursts. The person who first resorts to emotionalism, name-calling, and other related tactics is the person who has run out of reason and evidence, and is thus in a state of defeat. There is no need for a libertarian to do this because both the logic and the historical evidence are on the side of liberty.

Fifth, profanity has no real meaning. Of course, the words generally considered to be profane have dictionary definitions, but the words are usually used outside of that context as a general swear. The curse words perform no function that is not performed by one’s speaking tone, body language, and literary context. Sixth and seventh, for the above reasons, profanity demonstrates a lack of creativity and efficiency.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use profanity and if so, how much is a subjective value judgment that each individual content producer must make. But as for me, I fail to see the benefit of resorting to foul language, and the drawbacks discussed above lead me to avoid it as much as possible.

Why We Need More Political Violence

The 2016 election season has seen the United States become more polarized than at any time in recent memory. The rise of Donald Trump on the right and of Bernie Sanders on the left has emboldened radical elements on both sides which had formerly been politically homeless. This has led to a greater number of protests, some of which have resulted in violence and threats thereof. Even third-party candidates have found themselves in danger from violent extremists.

Of course, the establishment media has condemned the violence, though most of the blame has predictably been levied upon Trump and his supporters rather than upon radical leftist elements. Most alternative media, with the notable exception of Christopher Cantwell, have followed suit. But there is a case to be made that politics in America have become too tame, and that more violence in politics would actually be beneficial. Let us consider that case.

First, let us note the hypocrisy of those who call for peace. For example, Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, “There should never be a ‘but’ when comes to condemning violence and intimidation. Violence and intimidation are never acceptable under any circumstances.” Yet she is the chairperson of one of two organizations which control the United States government, the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization in human history. In this role, she has presided over the use of violence and intimidation of the American people (and the rest of the world, by way of foreign policy) on a scale scarcely imaginable to an individual Sanders (or Trump) supporter. Most of the others who have made such statements are less directly connected to the state, but still bear vicarious liability for its crimes to some extent.

Second, libertarianism allows for the use of violence in self-defense. As such, when protesters attack people, those people may defend themselves with any amount of force necessary to end the threat. Moreover, when statists seek to wield state power against people to do what would be considered criminal if they were to attempt the same actions on their own, those people have a right to defend themselves not only from the state, but from the people who would employ it against them. In fact, using force against a group of citizens in this case is likely to cause less bloodshed than using force against agents of the state while achieving a similar result.

Third, for much the same reason that the Cold War never went hot and gun-free zones are disproportionately targeted by criminals, the very possibility of political violence tends to foster greater mutual respect. The knowledge that both sides of a dispute are able, willing, and even eager to forcefully defend themselves makes an attempt by either side to violently impose their will upon the other side more risky and therefore less attractive. However, if one group is willing to use force and the other group is not, then the group that is willing to impose its will upon others will win. As Vegetius said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Fourth, the possibility of political violence can have the same effect on politicians that it has on citizens. Back in the days when dueling was common, a person who spoke ill of someone else risked having to either back up his words with deadly violence or be considered a coward. With this custom removed, political discourse is not necessarily harsher, but the harshness is more widespread because one need not back up one’s words with any show of force. (Notably, such duels occasionally managed to not only resolve a personal dispute, but to change the political course of an entire nation, as when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton.) One could even make the case that a system of dueling would be preferable to a system of voting for determining political leaders.

Fifth, the past few years have seen the rise of a radical left-wing element, and this element has become increasingly violent and hostile toward civil liberties. Whenever someone says something with which these people disagree, their response is not to present a reasoned case against it, but to shout down speakers, deny them a platform, get them fired from their jobs, get them banned from social media platforms, ruin their reputations, and physically assault them. Private property rights also mean nothing to them, as they have shown a willingness to do this not only on public university campuses, but at private venues as well. These people are unwilling to peacefully coexist with people who are different from them, and their detachment from reality is capable of destroying civilization as we know it if they are allowed to triumph. The only sensible option, then, is to violently suppress these radical left-wing elements as a matter of self-defense. Leaving this up to the authorities risks pushing us closer to an authoritarian police state while making us less self-reliant for our own protection, so political violence by right-wing groups against left-wing groups in order to, as Murray Rothbard wrote, “take back the streets, crush criminals, and get rid of bums,” is essential. Such a move could also help to establish the sort of culture of resistance needed to abolish the state for the long-term.

Sixth, given that the state is the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization within its geographical area, it is entirely unreasonable to expect efforts to gain control of it to result in anything other than violence. In this sense, democracy is an unhealthy historical aberration. When voting with bullets is replaced by voting with ballots, the risk of using force against one’s fellow human beings is immensely reduced. It is much safer to have the state send a tax collector to take property from one’s neighbor than to take up arms and try to rob that neighbor oneself. This risk differential and the potential to profit from what Frederic Bastiat termed ‘legal plunder’ is great enough to make using violence to gain control of the state apparatus appealing to people of a certain mentality.

Finally, the ultimate check on state power, the greatest source of violence of all, is the ability and willingness of the populace to use force in self-defense against the state. In the words of Frederick Douglass,

“Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Ideally, this would be an anti-political form of violence intended to permanently abolish the state, but such a revolt would be far more likely to replace one form of statism with another at present. The American nation was founded with political violence in the form of a long and bloody war for independence from Great Britain. But as soon as political violence ceased to be used successfully by the American people (usually dated to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791-94), the new American state began to grow into its current monstrous form. But such defensive violence need not overthrow a state to be effective; it need only make government agents think twice before victimizing the innocent. The 2014 Bundy standoff was one example of this, as the presence of militia groups caused the Bureau of Land Management to back down from its efforts to seize Bundy’s cattle. Another example was the killing of two NYPD officers in December 2014, after which most non-essential police activities were significantly curtailed. As explained above, an activity becomes less appealing if there is a greater risk of experiencing violence for engaging in it, and being an agent of the state is no exception.

Whether the goal is to protect oneself on the street, reduce political cowardice, suppress destructive degenerates, prevent rivals from gaining control of the state apparatus, or to alter or abolish the state apparatus, we do not need less political violence; we need more.

On Libertarianism and Punishment

At its core, libertarianism is an answer to the question of when it is appropriate to use force. It says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable, while using force to defend against a force initiator is always acceptable. But what should be done once a force initiator is subdued? Let us explore what libertarianism allows in terms of punishments for aggressors.

Punishment Defined and Defended

The first step in constructing a rational case is to define terms. The Oxford English Dictionary defines punishment as “the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.” The Merriam-Webster offers two definitions for our purpose: “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution” and “a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure.” So there is an aspect of retribution, of being deprived of something for having deprived someone else of something; and there is an aspect of force, of inflicting or imposing such a deprivation. The question, then, is what sort of deprivation may be forced upon an offender within the bounds of libertarianism.

The first thing to note is that it is improper to punish someone who has not initiated the use of force. Thus, all punishments for so-called “victimless crimes” which are not necessary to stop further acts of aggression should be abolished. The next consideration is what form a punishment may take. In other words, what may one justly be deprived of for having deprived someone else? Rothbard writes[1],

[M]ust we go along with those libertarians who claim that a storekeeper has the right to kill a lad as punishment for snatching a piece of his bubble gum? What we might call the ‘maximalist’ position goes as follows: by stealing the bubble gum, the urchin puts himself outside the law. He demonstrates by his action that he does not hold or respect the correct theory of property rights. Therefore, he loses all of his rights, and the storekeeper is within his rights to kill the lad in retaliation. I propose that this position suffers from a grotesque lack of proportion. By concentrating on the storekeeper’s right to his bubble gum, it totally ignores another highly precious property right: every man’s − including the urchin’s − right of self-ownership. On what basis must we hold that a minuscule invasion of another’s property lays one forfeit to the total loss of one’s own? I propose another fundamental rule regarding crime: the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his. If a man deprives another man of some of his self-ownership or its extension in physical property, to that extent does he lose his own rights. From this principle immediately derives the proportionality theory of punishment − best summed up in the old adage: ‘let the punishment fit the crime.’”

He asserts this but does not justify it, so let us do so. Libertarianism is a logical construct, therefore it is subject to logic in the form of consistency. To claim a right for oneself while violating the equivalent rights of another person is hypocritical and logically inconsistent, therefore it cannot be rationally advanced in argument. (Of course, this subjective variety of pragmatic contradiction only applies to the hypocrite; it would be absurd to argue, for instance, that all people lose their right to private property just because one thief steals something.) Nor could it be rationally advanced in a court setting, as the legal doctrine of estoppel would prevent it. Thus, a criminal loses his own rights to the extent that he has deprived other people of theirs, and one should be able to kill murderers, beat up assailants, take property from thieves, imprison slave-masters, and so on in proportion to the crimes an aggressor commits, subject of course to liability for attacking an innocent person. For who can rightly object to a taste of one’s own medicine?

Retribution and Restitution

While retribution in kind is within the logical boundaries of libertarianism, a result in which the aggressor is punished and the victim is made whole is self-evidently more just than a result in which the aggressor is punished only. Therefore, it is best for retribution to take the form of restitution, in which a criminal compensates his victims. Sometimes a criminal will agree to make restitution, and sometimes force must be used to compel the criminal to make restitution. In this sense, there can be both the aspect of retribution and the aspect of force described above.

Next, we must consider what constitutes proper restitution. Rothbard writes[2],

“But how are we to gauge the nature of the extent? Let us [consider] the theft [of] $15,000. Even here, simple restitution of the $15,000 is scarcely sufficient to cover the crime (even if we add damages, costs, interest, etc.). For one thing, mere loss of the money stolen obviously fails to function in any sense as a deterrent to future such crime (although we will see below that deterrence itself is a faulty criterion for gauging punishment). If, then, we are to say that the criminal loses rights to the extent that he deprives the victim, then we must say that the criminal should not only have to return the $15,000, but that he must be forced to pay the victim another $15,000, so that he, in turn, loses those rights (to $15,000 worth of property) which he had taken from the victim. In the case of theft, then, we may say that the criminal must pay double the extent of theft: once, for restitution of the amount stolen, and once again for loss of what he had deprived another. But we are still not finished with elaborating the extent of deprivation of rights involved in a crime. For A had not simply stolen $15,000 from B, which can be restored and an equivalent penalty imposed. He had also put B into a state of fear and uncertainty, of uncertainty as to the extent that B’s deprivation would go. But the penalty levied on A is fixed and certain in advance, thus putting A in far better shape than was his original victim. So that for proportionate punishment to be levied we would also have to add more than double so as to compensate the victim in some way for the uncertain and fearful aspects of his particular ordeal. What this extra compensation should be it is impossible to say exactly, but that does not absolve any rational system of punishment − including the one that would apply in the libertarian society − from the problem of working it out as best one can.”

In short, we have a principle that Walter Block calls “two teeth for a tooth,” plus some extra amount. As Rothbard correctly notes, it is impossible to precisely calculate what this extra amount should be, as there is no price system which would allow one to do so and no way to examine a counter-factual world in which the crime was never committed to see what difference was truly made in the victim’s life. A critic may claim that this makes the theory impractical, but in practice this extra amount would be decided by mutual agreement between the criminal, the victim, and any hired agents they may have.

We speak, of course, only of the maximum allowable extent of punishment. A victim has the option to negotiate an agreement with the criminal to reduce or even eliminate the criminal’s obligation to perform restitution.

Forms of Punishment

We have considered matters of material restitution once an aggressor is subdued. But what about matters in which an aggressor is not subdued, or matters where such restitution is impossible?

If an aggressor is active, then any amount of force necessary to subdue the aggressor may be used, for any standard short of this would not only fail to be logically consistent, but would allow an aggressor to succeed simply by escalating the use of force beyond what his victims are allowed to use in defense. The only permissible limitation on defensive force is that which ceases to be completely defensive. Rothbard writes[3],

“How extensive is a man’s right of self-defense of person and property? The basic answer must be: up to the point at which he begins to infringe on the property rights of someone else. For, in that case, his ‘defense’ would in itself constitute a criminal invasion of the just property of some other man, which the latter could properly defend himself against.”

This leads to some implications which many prominent libertarian thinkers appear to have missed. Most libertarians unequivocally condemn the use of torture for any reason, but there is nothing within libertarian theory which does so. What libertarian theory cannot justify is the use of torture against a non-aggressor, such as an aggressor’s family or friends, or someone not known to be an aggressor. Thus, we are restricted to using torture only in scenarios like that of a ticking time bomb which was set by a terrorist. The bomb will detonate before all innocent people could be evacuated from the area, a particular terrorist or group of terrorists is known to be responsible, and the terrorist(s) will not provide the means of deactivating the bomb unless they are tortured. Their active attempt to deny the self-ownership of other people by blowing them up estops them from claiming their own self-ownership, so any means necessary to stop their aggression may be used against their bodies, including torture. However, we should be wary about putting the power to torture into the hands of the state, as its agents have shown on countless occasions that they will not adhere to the above limitations. They have, in the words of Radley Balko, “not used it competently, abused it, and found new, inappropriate contexts in which to use it.”

As with torture, many libertarians condemn the use of corporal punishment as barbaric and counterproductive. Most such arguments focus on the spanking of children as a grotesque violation of the non-aggression principle, and these arguments are not wrong. But for an aggressor who has reached maturity and assaulted someone, these are merely aesthetic and utilitarian concerns which play no role in libertarian theory. Rothbard writes[4],

“In the question of bodily assault, where restitution does not even apply, we can again employ our criterion of proportionate punishment; so that if A has beaten up B in a certain way, then B has the right to beat up A (or have him beaten up by judicial employees) to rather more than the same extent.”

At issue is not a concern of efficacy (for how shall this be measured?) or even deterrence (though this is an important side effect), but a concern for logical consistency.

While there are several offenses for which exact restitution is impossible, in that no amount of money can undo the psychological damage of a rape or a kidnapping, there is no possible restitution for the crime of murder, as it is impossible to make the victim whole in any way. Block writes,

“What the murderer has done, essentially, to his victim is, in effect, steal his life away. If there were but a machine that could transfer the life out of the dead victim and into the live murderer it would be the paradigm case of justice to force him into this machine, and make him disgorge the life he had stolen. It would be a matter of supreme injustice to refuse to do so.”

But no such machine exists (or may ever exist), so there is no result in which the aggressor is punished and the victim is made whole. We are then left to choose between a result in which the aggressor is punished or a result in which the aggressor is free to murder again. Although the victim, being dead, cannot negotiate anything with the murderer in terms of forgiveness or of buying one’s way out of the penalty for murder, this is not an intractable problem. Rothbard writes[5],

“In short, within the limits of his proportional right of punishment, the victim should have the sole decision how much, if at all, to exercise that right. But, it has been pointed out, how can we leave the decision up to the victim in the case of murder, precisely the one crime which removes the victim totally from the scene? Can we really trust his heir or executor to pursue the victim’s interests fully and wholeheartedly, especially if we allow the criminal to buy his way out of punishment, in dealing directly with the heir? …The answer is to deal with the problem in the same way as any wishes of a deceased person are obeyed: in his will. The deceased can instruct heirs, courts, and any other interested parties on how he would wish a murderer of his to be treated. In that case, pacifists, liberal intellectuals, et al. can leave clauses in their wills instructing law enforcement authorities not to kill, or even not to press charges against a criminal in the event of their murder; and the authorities would be required to obey.”

Rothbard neglected to mention one caveat here. While the heirs and the authorities could be obligated not to prosecute or punish a murderer if the victim left a will to that effect, no such limitation exists upon a third party acting solely out of concern for logical consistency and personal safety. As explained above, a murderer forfeits self-ownership, so while the courts may be bound by contract and the victim’s will not to kill a particular murderer, the courts would also have no cause to prosecute someone else who did kill the murderer. A critic may claim that this standard risks the devolution of civilization into a murderous free-for-all, but a person who kills a non-murderer becomes a murderer himself, subject to all penalties thereof. This creates a potent disincentive against killing someone in the name of eliminating murderers who enjoy freedom unless one is absolutely sure that one has the correct target. Another objection is that such a killing deprives a murder victim’s family of what restitution they could get in the form of making the murderer work for them, but an outsider to such an agreement is not necessarily bound by it, depending upon what arrangements he may have with various court companies and defense agencies.

Finally, there is one punishment that one may undoubtedly inflict upon anyone for any reason without any need for judicial oversight: ostracism. To be denied association with one’s fellows as well as with one’s trading partners by said fellows and trading partners can certainly meet all of the above definitions of punishment. Psychologists have found that the pain of ostracism is quite similar to the pain of physical injury in terms of the effect it has on a person. The long-term effects that an episode of ostracism has make it an effective way to enforce beneficial social norms without violating the non-aggression principle.

Conclusion

Contrary to some narrower interpretations of libertarian thought, there is a great deal of room within the bounds of libertarian theory for the punishment of criminals. Not only is forced restitution appropriate for the persistent offender, but there are cases in which corporal punishment, torture, and even assassination could be morally justifiable.

References:

  1. Rothbard, Murray (1982). The Ethics of Liberty. p. 80-81
  2. Rothbard (1982), p. 88-89
  3. Rothbard (1982), p. 77
  4. Rothbard (1982), p. 89
  5. Rothbard (June 1978). The Plumb Line: The Capital Punishment Question. Libertarian Review, Vol. 7, No. 5, p. 14

The Glorious Delegitimizing of the American Presidency

On April 27, Peter Weber published an opinion piece in The Week arguing that the institution of the American Presidency is being delegitimized, and that this is a dangerous direction. Let us explore a case to the contrary; that this is happening, and far from being dangerous, this is actually a welcome and even glorious development.

Weber begins by noting that nastiness in American politics is nothing new, and was in many cases worse in the past. He then points to the effort to disqualify Obama, from the birther movement to the unusually strong opposition of congressional Republicans to his presidency. According to him, congressional Republicans treat Obama as though he is not truly the President. But while it is fair to note that Obama won election and re-election without the questionability of his predecessor in the 2000 election, one should also point out that congressional Republicans not only won many of theirs, but grew their ranks as a reaction to Obama’s presidency. While the birther claims against Obama’s birth certificate do not withstand scrutiny, questioning the veracity of a government official’s claims is not an unreasonable activity.

He notes that gridlock is stifling the basic functioning of government, such as the refusal to hold a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but this has not been only a Republican game. When Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was still the Majority Leader, the constitutional requirement of an annual federal budget went unfulfilled for six years and was only done once he lost his status to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Overall, the gridlock in government reflects polarization of the populace to some extent, as this is a democratic system to some extent. And is this really worse than a government which is able to make sweeping changes?

Weber laments that efforts to delegitimize this year’s candidates in the eyes of voters are already underway. While there have been attacks on Bernie Sanders for his age and status as an independent rather than a Democrat, and attacks on Ted Cruz (who has since suspended his campaign) for being born in Canada, most such efforts have been made against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump is denounced as a bigot, buffoon, bully, and quasi-fascist, while Clinton is denounced for foreign policy blunders and her role in the scandals of her husband’s presidency. The rise of the alt-right, the general ignorance of the public, and the overuse of the word ‘fascist’ make the charge less stinging than it would have been in the past, and it is unclear how much voters will care about the scandals of a presidency which took place two decades ago, but polls do show the front-runners of both major parties as having historically high negatives.

He points to the (entirely justifiable) contentions by Sanders and Trump that the primary processes are illegitimate and rigged to support the establishment and give them the presidential nominee of their choosing, then complains that all of the above spells out “a worrisome trend for the country.” What follows is an altogether too common acceptance of representative democracy as a form of government. Just because a multitude of people vote for a particular person to violently dominate society does not mean that said person should be allowed to do so, especially considering that more eligible voters stay home than vote for any particular candidate. “Our system of representative democracy,” like every other, has resulted in what Frederic Bastiat called legal plunder, in which the state causes the very problems that it is supposedly instituted to prevent, such as murder, robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violent crimes against persons and property. In other words, the very nature of the Presidency is to commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” under color of law and evade punishment for doing so.

So, let us not agree that whoever gets at least 270 electoral votes (if anyone does so), if a proper end to the state does not occur before January 2017, should have the same rights and responsibilities as the 44 presidents who came before (not that they did; the power of the Presidency has steadily grown over time). The office of the Presidency of the United States is a violent criminal institution. Its occupant has ultimate authority over the enforcers of the most powerful and dangerous regime in human history. The delegitimization of this office is not something to be condemned; it is something to be glorified.

Libertarianism and Reaction: Pieces of a Whole

The rise of the neoreactionary or alt-right movement has brought reactionary thought back to the forefront. Its relationship to libertarianism eludes many people, who either claim that the two are antithetical in some way or that libertarianism is best served by making other allegiances. My first attempt at examining this relationship was necessary but not sufficient, so let us complete the examination by looking at how libertarianism and reaction work together to form a complete worldview, as well as why combining each of them with anything else leads to disaster.

Definitions

In order to produce a meaningful analysis, it is necessary to begin by defining terms. This essay, like the first, will use the following definitions:

  1. Libertarianism: a philosophical position on what constitutes the morally acceptable use of force. Libertarianism says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable but defensive uses of force are always acceptable.

  2. Reaction: in the broadest sense, a political position that favors a return to some status quo ante which is believed to have possessed desirable characteristics which are absent from the status quo. In a narrower sense, reactionaries oppose liberal democracy, socialism, communism, egalitarianism, tabula rasa, and Whig historiography while supporting hierarchical structures, traditions, nativism, and skepticism.

It is good to know what both libertarianism and reaction are, but it is equally important to know what they are not. While many people claim that libertarianism is more than non-aggression and says something more about how people should interact, this is not true. While there are some obvious prerequisites like the three laws of thought and self-ownership, this is true of any coherent ideology. The critics who claim that libertarianism is not a complete worldview are correct, but it was never intended to be; it is simply an answer to one vitally important question. In order to form a complete worldview, libertarianism needs something else to inform its adherents about other issues, such as economics, religion, race relations, gender roles, and collective concepts.
Likewise, reaction does not offer a complete worldview in and of itself. Much like conservatism, which favors the status quo rather than a status quo ante, reaction has no consistent definition because the nature of both the status quo and the status quo ante are dependent upon time and place. For example, a reactionary in 1995 Russia might seek to restore the Soviet Union, while a reactionary in 1795 France might seek to restore the Bourbon dynasty to the throne. In order to form a complete worldview, reaction needs something else to inform its adherents about the nature of the mistakes which occurred in the past so that they can understand how to get society back on the correct path.

It is in these senses that reaction completes libertarianism and vice versa. And complete each other they should, because if they do not, other ideologies will do so. If libertarianism will not inform the reactionary about what mistakes are in need of correction, then something else will. If reaction will not inform the libertarian about issues other than the acceptable use of force, then something else will. Let us examine what happens if reaction or libertarianism gets combined with something else.

Reaction Without Libertarianism

If reaction is not combined with libertarianism, then it will be combined with some ideology which accepts initiation of the use of force as legitimate. This has resulted in a dark and bloody history of authoritarian statism, from the emperors and kings of old to the more recent fascist governments. The amount of death and destruction that this has caused is second only among political ideologies to its leftist counterpart of communism. Even less extreme non-libertarian combinations with reaction can lead to ruin, though such ruin takes the form of slow economic and cultural decay rather than violent domestic suppression and foreign wars. The most common of these forms is that of reactionary populism, which tends to surface once in a generation or so. The primary problem with reactionary populism is that it tries to maintain welfare statism while seeking to return to traditional moral values, as its adherents do not understand that welfare statism is the method by which traditional moral values have been undermined. By subsidizing practitioners of degenerate behavior at the expense of people of good character, reactionary populists only produce more of the problems they claim to want to solve. As Hoppe explains[1],

By relieving individuals of the obligation to provide for their own income, health, safety, old age, and children’s education, the range and temporal horizon of private provision is reduced, and the value of marriage, family, children, and kinship relations is lowered. Irresponsibility, shortsightedness, negligence, illness and even destructionism (bads) are promoted, and responsibility, farsightedness, diligence, health and conservatism (goods) are punished.”

Non-libertarian combinations with reaction can also lead to state-mandated discrimination on a basis of unsubstantiated prejudice rather than any biological or cultural justification which may arise among private individuals or communities. Such activities weaken an economy and encourage internal strife between the different subgroups within a geographical area, as armies tend to go where goods do not, and vice versa. (This, of course, is in the rational self-interest of those who wield power in a reactionary authoritarian regime, as those who fight amongst themselves are less able to overthrow the government.)

Libertarianism Without Reaction

If libertarianism is not combined with reaction, then it will be combined with some ideology which actively promotes vices as though they were virtuous behaviors, as opposed to one which condemns degeneracy while stopping short of supporting initiatory force to stamp it out. This has resulted in a leftist infiltration of libertarian groups, complete with social justice warriorism, egalitarianism, hedonism, and other associated ills. The amount of confusion that this has caused is immense, and it is a major reason why libertarianism has failed to gain mainstream acceptance. When people seeking a reprieve from state oppression and violence encounter a movement of people who seem to believe that anything drug-related is inherently libertarian, standards of public morality are manifestations of rape culture and patriarchy, and using one’s private property rights and freedom of association for politically incorrect purposes is somehow anti-libertarian, they frequently decide not to take seriously such a movement as an avenue for the change they seek, and they are not wrong about that.

While the toleration of vices is required by the non-aggression principle as long as said vices do not lead to assaults upon people or destruction of their property, there is a difference between tolerance and encouragement. A successful libertarian civilization must have a well-functioning market economy and be capable of both stopping common criminality and repelling external invasions. Those who abuse drugs, engage in sexual promiscuity, gamble excessively, and so forth may not be directly harming anyone other than themselves, but these behaviors practiced frequently on a large scale not only fail to make a successful libertarian civilization, but endanger its continued existence and flourishing by weakening its members and attracting people who will fake being a libertarian for their own selfish ends while undermining the community.

While it may be unpleasant when bigots use private property rights and freedom of association to discriminate against people, it is better to have bigots within libertarianism than outside of it for two reasons. First, if bigots truly become libertarians, then they must start adhering to the non-aggression principle. This means that they would have to stop initiating the use of force in pursuit of their bigotry, as well as stop asking the state to do so on their behalf. Second, the presence of openly bigoted people has the welcome effect of repulsing social justice warriors.

Another negative side effect from non-reactionary combinations with libertarianism is an autistic sort of hyper-individualism. The thinking goes that because one is an individualist, one can no longer recognize groups or make collective judgments, even in dire situations where ideal libertarian solutions are not currently available. (The reader who had this kind of thought two or three paragraphs ago should consider oneself diagnosed.) The next step in this line of thinking is to believe that anyone who dares to do so is racist/sexist/etc. But this leads nowhere good, as inaction in the face of very anti-libertarian threats can cause far more damage in the long run than would an emergency makeshift which is less than optimal from a principled libertarian standpoint.

Finally, without reaction, libertarianism lacks a certain driving motivation. From a certain perspective, libertarianism is the most ancient and fundamental form of reaction. (One could attempt to argue that atheism could be a more ancient and fundamental form of reaction than libertarianism, but such an argument fails because statism is ultimately a form of religious belief, thus making libertarianism a necessary prerequisite for atheism.) Taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism requires anarchy and views the creation of both ancient city-states and modern nation-states as a societal error. Recalling that a defining feature of reaction is a belief that a societal error was made at some point in the past which must be corrected before society can properly advance, this provides an impetus to do the hard work of correcting such errors that non-reactionary perspectives do not provide as well, if at all.

Conclusion

As Hoppe explains[2],

“The relationship between libertarianism and conservatism is one of praxeological compatibility, sociological complementarity, and reciprocal reinforcement.”

As shown above, the same is true of libertarianism and reaction; they are pieces of a whole. Combining one or the other with something else leads to disaster. Libertarians should be reactionary, and reactionaries should be libertarians.

References:

  1. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. p. 195

  2. Hoppe, p. 202

Cut Puerto Rico Loose

On May 2, the Puerto Rican government missed an interest payment on bonds it has issued to an extent of $422 million. Worries of default on the territory’s general obligation bonds are continually rising, as it appears that a $2 billion payment due on July 1 will also go unpaid.

Of course, the usual suspects are calling for intervention to “save” the island from its financial woes. Some Democrats are openly clinging to Keynesian ideas of bailouts for troubled financial instruments, despite the abject failure of such measures to repair the mainland U.S. economy since 2008. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made the statement that “[o]ur primary responsibility is to protect the American taxpayer and to help bring order to the chaos that will befall Puerto Rico if the status quo continues going in the direction it’s going,” which is contradictory because attempting to rescue Puerto Rico will require victimizing not only the American taxpayer, but everyone who holds U.S. dollars.

That such a bailout would be funded by money gained by the state through extortion and currency debasement is terrible enough, but rescuing Puerto Ricans from the just consequences of their actions also creates a moral hazard. If Puerto Rico, then why not Detroit? Chicago? California, even? If $72 billion in debt plus $44 billion in unfunded liabilities for a outlying territory, then why not more for the U.S. mainland? Rewarding and subsidizing bad behavior only encourages more of it, not only from some irresponsible actors, but from all of them.

It must also be noted that in the current political climate, Republicans will be demonized by Democrats and the lapdog media regardless of what happens, and the Republican rank-and-file will be given the shaft. If there is no bailout, then Democrats will accuse Republicans of being too stingy to help people in need, especially ethnic minorities. If there is a bailout and trouble continues, which it will under such circumstances, then Democrats will blame Republicans for not using enough stimulus and/or for allocating the funds poorly. If one will face accusations regardless of one’s actions, then one might as well get one’s money’s worth and do the right thing. And what is the right thing?

Do not only abstain from bailouts; cut Puerto Rico loose.

Let us face facts; Puerto Rico has never really been a part of America, not in terms of economics, culture, language, or identity. In fact, it was not a part of America at all until 1898, when the United States gained control of it from Spain (along with Guam and the Philippines) under the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. For four centuries prior since being claimed by Columbus in 1493, Puerto Rico had been a Spanish colony. The people there used the Spanish language, but developed their own sense of culture and national identity. (This commonly occurs upon islands, as the ocean makes for a clear barrier between in-group and out-group.) That they may call themselves U.S. citizens is only a matter of law.

The economic well-being of Puerto Rico is not on par with the rest of the United States. If it were an independent nation, it would rank between 60th and 62nd in GDP, with a similar economic output to Angola, Morocco, and Slovakia, none of which are exactly paragons of economic development. If it were a U.S. state, it would rank 37th out of 51. The difference is far more pronounced when considering other measurements. In terms of public debt to GDP, Puerto Rico has a debt of 66 percent of GDP, while no U.S. state exceeds 25 percent. The per capita public debt of Puerto Rico is $19,486.60, which exceeds that of every U.S. state but is lower than that of the District of Columbia. The per capita income in Puerto Rico is $11,241, placing it just above half of the worst U.S. state (Mississippi, $21,036) and far below the best (D.C., $45,877; Connecticut, $39,373).

While cutting Puerto Rico loose is a matter of rational self-interest for mainland Americans, it is also a way to end their victimization at the hands of central bankers and the investors who react to their pernicious policies. While a free market would have much higher interest rates and no currency debasement, central banks like the Federal Reserve have kept interest rates artificially low and have greatly expanded the monetary supply. Savers who are used to getting a reasonable rate of return in a savings account thus have to seek riskier alternatives. Those who have enough capital to access hedge funds, high-risk sovereign debt becomes an attractive option. Those who are poorer either sit on fiat currency as it loses value or venture into precious metals and cryptocurrencies, which can pose even more risk and volatility. While Puerto Rico would likely form a central bank and issue its own fiat currency if it were cut loose, this would keep the Federal Reserve from imposing an economic system which encourages booms that favor foreign investors at the cost of busts that burden Puerto Ricans. A problem of this sort has already been seen in Greece, and the mistakes made by the European Central Bank should not be repeated.