Authority, Anarchy, and Libertarian Social Order

On May 8, Fritz Pendleton published an article at Social Matter in which he argues that liberty is best preserved by authority rather than anarchy. He then proceeds to launch a misguided attack against libertarianism, all while misunderstanding authority, anarchy, liberty, and the nature of a libertarian social order. Let us examine what is wrong with Pendleton’s case on a point-by-point basis.

Stateless In Somalia

Pendleton begins with the old canard of Somalia-as-libertarian-utopia, though to his credit, he does not invite all libertarians to emigrate there. His description of the situation is essentially correct:

“It is a patchwork of warlords who have each parceled out a slice of mud to call his own, to rule according to his whims and fetishes. There are the Islamic warlords of al-Shabaab in the south, the government strongmen who collaborate with al-Shabaab when it suits them, the Somaliland separatists who want a separate nation in the north, and a thousand other men of questionable loyalties.”

Pendleton claims that “it takes a certain type of idiot to look at Somalia and see something promising,” then that “it requires an idiot of some erudition to see promise in a failed state like Somalia.” These are not equivalent. To look at Somalia and see something promising is to examine the entirety of their culture and find that there is at least one idea which could be adopted elsewhere to improve another society. To see promise in a failed state like Somalia is to believe that the situation in that particular place can be greatly improved in the foreseeable future. The former endeavor makes far more sense than the latter.

Though he is correct to say that “libertarians are interested in Somalia primarily because its central government is weak and has no effective presence throughout most of the nation,” his assertion that anarchy is not an effective solution to much of anything is confused. An absence of rulers is not meant to be a solution to anything in and of itself; its role in libertarian theory is to remove the statist intervention in the market economy that inhibits and/or prevents individuals from working together to find effective solutions to problems. Pendleton’s passing mention of human biodiversity is also misplaced, as the best means of analyzing anarchy in Somalia is to compare it to statism in Somalia, not to anarchy elsewhere or statism elsewhere. We are thus considering the same thede under different conditions rather than different thedes under the same conditions. His claim that “whatever the merits of decentralization in theory, in practice it mostly involves being subject to the whims of the local warlord and his cadre” is particular to the current cases of failed states. There is good reason to believe that a controlled demolition of a state apparatus by people who wish to impose a libertarian social order would not be like this because the people would have the will and means to disallow it. Even so, a nation-state government is essentially a warlord writ large. Localizing this evil and reducing its strength makes it easier to bribe, escape, or overthrow, which is a definite improvement.

Pendleton claims that a libertarian must search hard to find supporting evidence in Somalia, but the evidence is clear. Before Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime fell in 1991, the annual birth rate was 0.46 percent, the infant mortality rate was 11.6 percent, the life expectancy was 46 years, the annual death rate was 0.19 percent, the GDP per capita was $210, the adult literacy rate was 24 percent, and 35 percent of the people had access to safe water. The most recent measurements are that the annual birth rate is 0.40 percent (2016), the infant mortality rate is 9.66 percent (2016), the life expectancy is 52.4 years (2016), the annual death rate is 0.133 percent (2016), the GDP per capita is $400 (2014), the adult literacy rate is 38 percent (2011), and 45 percent of the people have access to safe water (2016). The telecommunications and money transfer industries have also improved to offer some of the best service in Africa.

It is easy to argue, as Pendleton does, that these improvements are negligible from his relatively cushy first-world environs, where such improvements on either a real or a percentage basis are barely noticeable. But in the third-world hellhole that is Somalia, such improvements can be the difference between life and death, not to mention the difference between having some basic quality of life or not having it. His claim that anarchy is not much different than communism is asserted without evidence and may therefore be dismissed without evidence.

The Case of Tudor England

Pendleton seeks to contrast the anarchy of Somalia with the historical Tudor monarchy of England. His contention that giving people more freedoms is not a prerequisite for a well-run society is technically correct but beside the point. The fact is that a society need not be ‘run’ at all in the sense of top-down management by a ruling class. People can (and in the absence of interference, do) form voluntary associations to solve problems without being ordered around at gunpoint by government minions. That people have flourished in times of gentle oppression, a strange phrase indeed, says more about human resilience than it says about the merits of oppression.

He continues,

“Henry VII and VIII set in motion a series of clever reforms that reached a climax during the rule of Elizabeth I. England had finally found its stride. It must be noted that Elizabethan England, despite its relative freedom, was not keen on handing out legal recognition of liberties to its people. The era was one of unapologetic centralization. The crown’s subjects were given no guarantees of free speech at all; in fact, the censors worked hard and fast to clamp down on anything they perceived as dissent. Freedom of speech was still very far over the political horizon. And yet, despite the book burnings, despite the cages, despite the severed heads around London Tower, the Elizabethan era gave us Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spencer, Jonson, and Bacon. Imagine an era that gave the English language so much genius and not one assurance of free speech to go with it!”

One must ask whether this occurred because of oppression or in spite of it. It is possible, of course, that the great writers of the day produced such memorable works because the adversity of censorship forced them to innovate novel speech patterns in order to evade the censors. In an earlier age, Chaucer gained a lasting place in the canon of English literature for doing just that. But one must wonder, what potential was wasted? What great works were never penned because their would-be-authors feared for their lives? Perhaps the literary marvels of Elizabethan England were due to its relative freedom rather than its censorship, and more liberty would have been better.

Pendleton asks us to consider that the Elizabethan era was when the British Empire began in earnest, but does not explain how this happened. Spain, Portugal, and even France were ahead of England in colonizing the New World and expanding trade routes in the latter half of the 16th century. It was not until Elizabeth died and James VI and I became King of Scotland and England that the English shifted their attention from attacking the colonies of other nations to the business of establishing their own overseas colonies. The burdensome regulations of the day may disappoint a contemporary libertarian, but the English trade policies were about as good as there were at the time.

Chile and Singapore

Next, Pendleton presents Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore as examples of anti-libertarian success stories. Both pursued economic liberty while restricting social and political liberty; as Pendleton says of the left-libertarians, “a libertarian would rather choke on his bow-tie than defend [their political policies].” Though left-libertarians tend to recoil at such measures, a reactionary understanding of libertarianism provides quite a different view. The libertarian reactionary understands that the desired goal of a libertarian social order can only be achieved by physically removing the state from power. Doing this, however, requires a critical mass of the population to use self-defense against the current system. If such a critical mass is absent, then those who seek liberty must turn to other methods. Those libertarians who are capable of checking their autism and doing what is necessary within context may come to support a Pinochet- or Yew-type for the purpose of restoring a balance of political terror. The idea is for libertarians to use a reactionary authoritarian approach in order to suppress leftists and reverse the damage they have done, overthrow the regime once the left is defeated, then maintain the power vacuum by continuous application of defensive force. Furthermore, a libertarian social order will not necessarily offer a great deal of social and political liberty, especially to those who do not hold allodial title over private property and/or disagree with anarcho-capitalism. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains,

“As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society. In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society.”[1]

This is quite similar to the standard of no voice and free exit advocated by Nick Land and some other prominent neoreactionaries. The only real difference is that the libertarian reactionary is especially concerned with making the sovereign units as small as possible. It is worth noting that both proposals blend anarchy with authority, in that there is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns who have authority within their private properties.

Pendleton wonders how Singapore would have preserved liberty in the midst of conflicts between the various ethnic groups present there without Yew’s rule, and how the various religious groups could have been kept from fighting in England without Elizabeth I’s despotism. The possible answers to such questions are the same in each case. First, groups may hire neutral third parties to resolve disputes. Second, the groups may voluntarily segregate themselves so as to avoid contact with each other. Third, some groups that cannot get along with others may have a mass exodus. Fourth, a troublemaking group may be forcibly exiled by all of the other groups. Fifth, each side may be armed to such an extent as to create peace through mutually assured destruction. Sixth, the groups may simply choose to fight it out, as some hostilities reach a point of no return. In the first five cases, the preservation of liberty is maximized. The sixth case is far more troublesome, but such quarrels can be formalized and separated so as not to catch innocent bystanders in the crossfire. A system of dueling has filled this role in many historical societies. There are thus many options other than authoritarianism for preserving liberty; the only question is whether people care to utilize them.

Libertarianism and Reaction

Pendleton writes,

“The reactionary and libertarian both agree that small governments are good. But the reactionary feels that small governments are made not by relinquishing authority, as the libertarian would do, but by strengthening it. Liberty is too precious to be entrusted to anarchy in the same way that diamonds are too precious to be entrusted to one’s doorstep.”

Here, he misunderstands what a libertarian would do, at least those who are not leftists. A libertarian reactionary seeks not to relinquish authority, but to make it as absolute as possible in the hands of the private property owner within that person’s private property. And contrary to Pendleton, liberty requires anarchy because the freedom to do as one wishes as long as one respects the right of other people to do likewise and commits no aggression against them is violated by a state apparatus by definition. If a state is present, it will fund its activities through taxation and civil asset forfeiture, take private property through eminent domain, and restrict the use of property through intellectual monopoly, zoning, and environmental regulations. Its officials and agents will choose the nature of the law and the enforcement thereof, meaning that they rule the law and not vice versa. Its enforcers will initiate the use of violence against people who are known to disagree with government statutes and acts upon their disagreements, thus presenting a constant threat to peace. Its agents are allowed to do that which is considered criminal for anyone else to do, and the system is set up to keep them from being held to account. It will force people to associate with it regardless of whether they want to use or pay for its services. Therefore, it is clear that liberty cannot be protected by state authority; such a threatening protector is a contradiction of terms.

Final Arbitration

Next, Pendleton presents a case to make the ‘final arbiter of disputes’ criticism of libertarianism:

“Suppose we have one of those highly attenuated legal battles where the details of the case are complicated and emotionally charged. Let us suppose that a drunk driver crashed into a tree and his passenger was killed when she flew through the windshield; she had not worn her seat belt. The grieving husband of the passenger demanded compensation from the driver to help take care of his kids in place of his now deceased wife. Daycare is expensive these days, after all. The driver apologized profusely but pointed out that the passenger was just as responsible for her death because she was not buckled into her seat. The husband countered by saying that the belt would not have been an issue if the driver had not been drunk and crashed into a tree.

Since these men live in a libertarian utopia, there is no superseding legal authority to arbitrate: a third-party arbitration company will have to be hired. Now let’s suppose that one of these arbitration companies is owned by a brother-in-law of the driver, and not surprisingly, the driver only agrees to hire that company. The husband refuses. The driver in turn refuses to pay any compensation whatsoever. The furious husband now threatens to kill the wife of the driver to make him understand what it feels like to lose a loved one.

How can any libertarian who sings the praises of anarchy not see how this situation will only continue to escalate? How can there be any justice for the woman who lost her life in the original crash and what about the violations of liberty that will ensue when this conflict devolves into a family feud? If there had been one authority to take control of this dispute the liberties of everyone involved would have been much more safely guarded. In a world where emotion forms the greater part of human action, liberty requires authority.”

This situation may be resolved in advance through contracts. The owners of the road set the conditions for operating vehicles on their private property, with violators subject to physical removal not unlike the traffic stops, arrests, and impounding of vehicles today. They may demand that everyone using their roads have arbitration services which do not involve such conflicts of interest, and contrary to some myopic analysis to the contrary, are almost certain to frown upon drunk drivers. They might even have all cars on their roads driven by robots, which nips this scenario in the bud. Failing this, a person who has committed an offense and refuses to make restitution can be ostracized from society until compliance is gained. Furthermore, such a person may rightly be forced to make restitution because an unrepentant aggressor is not subject to the non-aggression principle through his continuing violation of it. The driver’s wife, however, is an innocent bystander unless she was responsible for getting him drunk and/or making him drive while intoxicated. Threatening her absent these conditions makes the widower an aggressor to be subdued. As a libertarian society would have several private defense agencies available to handle such applications of defensive force and almost everyone would have a protection policy with one of these companies, an escalation is quite unlikely. Even if this kind of situation does escalate, it pales in comparison to the carnage wrought by the one authority that Pendleton defends. States were responsible for 203 million democides and war deaths in the 20th century alone. This is hardly a price worth paying to stifle a few family feuds.

More generally, a final arbiter of disputes cannot exist because no person or institution can absolutely guarantee that any issue will be resolved forever with no possibility of review. The way that disputes ultimately end in any social order is that some party finds the dispute to no longer be worth continuing. Everything else, whether statist courts and legislatures or anarchic arbitration services and private defense agencies, is simply window dressing on this immutable truth.

Of Rules and Rulers

Pendleton writes,

“A libertarian who is honest with himself has to ask why even jungle tribes have a chief and why high schools have hall-monitors. Human beings require authority, and if authority is to mean anything at all, it requires the power of compulsion; liberty cannot last long in a nation that thinks of its authority as a polite suggestion.”

It is important to understand the true meaning of anarchy. Anarchy comes from Greek ἀναρχία, which is typically translated as ‘without rulers.’ More precisely, it means ‘without beginning to take the lead.’ This is not the same as ‘without rules’ or ‘without leaders.’ Having a ruler means that there are no rules because the ruler has authority over the rules and not vice versa. That the lead is not taken does not mean that no one can lead because leadership can be freely given. This is well-understood in every aspect of life other than politics. In the words of Mikhail Bakunin,

“Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. …But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others.”[2]

Additionally, compulsion and initiatory force are not equivalent. This is because compulsion may take the form of defensive force or of less violent means such as shaming and ostracism. Thus, if human beings require authority (and Pendleton does not prove that they do), a libertarian social order is quite capable of compelling people through contract law, ostracism, and private military forces.

Mischaracterization

Pendleton laments that not many libertarians will be swayed by his arguments, but does not understand why. It is not the case that libertarians are “far too busy sketching intricate political systems on paper to be bothered with considerations of human psychology.” Libertarianism, properly understood, is anti-political; its primary interest in political systems is in finding ways to destroy them without causing unnecessary damage to the social fabric. As for considerations of human psychology, they should lead one to reject the state as an enabler and multiplier of evil in the world. Ultimately, libertarians are not swayed by his arguments because they are easily refuted, as shown both above and below.

The Definition of Liberty

Pendleton writes,

“Liberty, as we now know it, is a set of unquestionable boundaries that are owed to all citizens: the right to peaceable assembly, the right to free speech, the right to a free press, and so on. The problem with these ‘rights’ is that they are very enticing ideas that are very murky in their specifics. They exist in the minds of Americans as a hazy bundle of entitlements, as things that they are owed, rather than things that they must earn.

The greatest problem with this notion of liberty as an entitlement is that once citizens start declaring rights as ‘universal’ and ‘God-given’ there is no mechanism to stop them from continually inventing new ones. The ‘right to privacy’ or the ‘right to universal healthcare’ are muddled ideas that our founding fathers never anticipated. Jefferson and Madison almost certainly would not have approved of them, but they are ideas that have as much legitimacy as America’s own Bill of Rights: if Madison can conjure up new rights with a few quill strokes there is likewise nothing to stop Supreme Court justices from doing the same thing. And so the list of entitlements owed to Americans steadily grows longer as its list of responsibilities dwindles.”

He correctly criticizes the contemporary understanding of liberty in liberal democracies. As I have explained elsewhere, these rights belong to private property owners within the spaces that they own. No one has a right to assemble, speak, print, and so on within private property if the owner disagrees with such activities. Those who would do so are trespassing and thus subject to physical removal. The current problem is that the state has greatly interfered with private property. This is a problem of the commons, and the only solution is to eliminate the commons and return it to private ownership.

From here, as Pendleton realizes, it only gets worse. When people fail to connect rights to logic and ownership of property, or more simply, to thought and action, they confuse negative rights with so-called “positive rights.” These positive rights cannot be valid because their provision violates the negative rights of other people. For instance, a right to healthcare implies that someone must be forced to provide healthcare, even if it against the provider’s wishes to serve that person.

But though he correctly identifies the problem, Pendleton proposes an incorrect solution. He seeks to restore the ancient Roman ideal of liberty rather than to correct the errors in the practice of modern liberty. The Romans viewed liberty in a collective sense, as imposing responsibilities to the state in eschange for individual rights. In truth, liberty is neither a list of entitlements nor a reward for serving society or the state; it is the result of gaining and defending private property. With this understanding, it is not ironic at all that libertarians would condemn a system which subordinates the individual to a collective as fascism (or more appropriately, as communism).

Rationalism and Empiricism

Pendleton claims that the Roman notion of liberty has the example of Singapore while the libertarian has no compelling models; only fantasies and Somalia. Implicit in this claim is a sort of historical determinism that demonstrates a lack of courage and imagination to look beyond what has been and see what is possible but as yet unrealized. As explained above, Somalia has shown improvement without a state. And fortunately, libertarians have more than fantasies; we have a priori theory. In the words of Hoppe, “A priori theory trumps and corrects experience (and logic overrules observation), and not vice-versa.”[3] This is because one may use rationalism without using empiricism, but one cannot use empiricism without using rationalism. That rationalism is independent and empiricism is dependent establishes a clear hierarchy between the two ways of knowing. Of course, this will not convince a strong empiricist of the historical determinist variety, but this has no bearing upon the truth value of the argument.

That being said, it is worth considering why there are no empirical examples of a stateless propertarian society in recent times. The obvious answer is that states initiate violence to sustain their operations, and libertarians have yet to suppress this aggression with enough defensive force to stop it. The other, less obvious explanation is that those who govern in statist systems know at one level or another that their institutions are unnecessary for the functioning of society, but that most people are more empirical than rational in their thinking. It is for this reason that they cannot allow a working example of a stateless society to be created, as this would permanently turn the masses against the state. They thus use force not only to maintain their power, but to ensure that most people never consider alternatives which do not include them.

Conclusion

Pendleton closes by contemplating the issues on the horizon for America, from racial tensions to Islamic terrorists, though he says nothing of the various economic issues. However, the “furious, explosive derailment” he fears is not only unavoidable, but necessary. The current system cannot be fixed; it must end in either a controlled demolition or a chaotic collapse. In any event, the answers are to be found in the restoration and enforcement of private property rights and freedom of association, with physical removal for those who challenge these norms. It is best to work toward emerging from this chaos looking neither like Singapore nor like Somalia, but as something completely novel in time memorial: a functional stateless society of covenant communities.

References:

  1. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 218
  2. Bakunin, Mikhail (1871, 1882). God and the State. Mother Earth Publishing Association. Ch. 2
  3. Hoppe, p. xvi.

Book Review: Against Empathy

Against Empathy is a book about the negative effects of trying to feel what other people feel by Canadian American psychology professor Paul Bloom. The book makes the case that concern and compassion function better in the absence of empathy. It also makes the case that empathy is a driving force behind much of the cruelty and irrationality in the world. The book is divided into six chapters and two shorter interludes, each of which explores a different aspect of empathy.

Bloom begins by defining his terms and laying out the case he intends to make over the whole book and in each chapter, as any good academic would. Adherence to definitions for the purpose of avoiding confusion is done well throughout the book, and is especially necessary when a word as widely defined and misused as empathy is in play. Rather than arguing in favor of psychopathy, Bloom advocates thinking with our heads rather than our hearts so as to reach a more consistent and helpful morality. Nor does he argue that empathy is completely bad; only that it does more harm than good.

The first chapter makes the distinction between cognitive empathy (recognizing another person’s feelings without feeling them oneself) and emotional empathy (experiencing the world as one thinks that someone else does). The shortcomings of the latter are the primary focus of the book, namely that empathy can lead to ignoring unidentifiable victims, denigrating logical choices that have superior results, letting our biases lead us astray, overrating present costs versus future costs, and sending unnecessary aid. The chapter ends with responses to objections raised by Bloom’s colleagues during the writing of the book.

In the second chapter, Bloom explores the neuroscientific aspects of empathy, including mirror neurons, the role of preconceptions of other people, and the difference between understanding and feeling. The difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy is important here, and it can be detected in fMRI scans. Bloom then discusses how empathy is currently measured, as well as the shortfalls of such methods.

The failures of empathy in the pursuit of virtue are the primary subject of the third chapter. These failures occur because empathy works as a spotlight, illuminating some problems and leaving the rest in the dark. This causes people to choose to help suffering individuals instead of suffering masses, to care less about the problems of a perceived out-group, or to engage in high-time-preference thinking. There is also the matter that one person can never truly feel what another person feels because one person does not have another person’s aggregate experience. In short, empathy interferes with a rational assessment of how to make the world better. Bloom concludes the chapter by praising economists for avoiding empathy in their analyses.

Next comes a half-chapter-length interlude about empathy and politics, which deserves more attention than it gets here. Bloom correctly states that empathy is not a useful measure of where one falls on a map of political views, but says little about libertarianism and nothing about anarchist or reactionary thought. The shortsightedness discussed earlier leads to incorrect long-term policy decisions, and empathy can lead judges to take decisions contrary to the letter of the law.

The fourth chapter is about the relationship between empathy and intimacy. Bloom argues that empathy runs counter to the special nature of a close interpersonal relationship, instead leading one to treat one’s family no better than strangers. He mentions an interesting hypothetical case of a pathologically empathetic person and shows how psychologically harmful this condition can be. It is interesting that there is no clinical name for this condition. Next, Bloom explores the difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy in Buddhist philosophy, which contains a similar distinction and a similar recommendation about embracing cognitive empathy while rejecting emotional empathy. After this, the difficulties that doctors may encounter if they are distracted by emotional empathy are discussed, as well as the negative effects that receiving emotional empathy can have on patients. Then, Bloom makes important distinctions between having useful past experiences, caring about people without using empathy, and having emotional empathy in the present. The positive role of empathy in apologizing for misdeeds is examined, and Bloom has no counterargument on this point.

The second interlude considers empathy’s ability to serve as a foundation for morality, especially from the beginning of life. Bloom considers that empathy may be foundational for young children but harmful for adults, much like human breast milk. He considers that selfishness may motivate kind acts, but finds the explanation wanting on the grounds of misunderstanding both natural selection and psychology. The topic is left as an open question, but the evidence discussed suggests that even young children are capable of caring without internalizing another person’s feelings.

In the fifth chapter, Bloom explores how violence and cruelty are linked to empathy. In particular, he discusses how empathy can lead people to commit cruel and violent acts, especially toward people who have themselves committed atrocities. Bloom correctly posits that violence will always be with us, as some problems are insoluble without it. Here, the spotlight nature of empathy is seen to maximize the impact of victimhood while minimizing the impact of perpetration, which leads to escalations of hostilities between nations and blood feuds between families. Empathy can lead people to falsely believe that they are doing good deeds when they are being cruel and violent. It can also lead wartime leaders to fail to recognize sacrifices that must be made to win the war. Next, Bloom looks at the nature of psychopaths and the role that dehumanization plays in atrocities. He shows that these are concerns are different from concerns about empathy. He ends the chapter by comparing empathy to anger, and finding both to be unworthy of removal from a person’s psyche, but in need of subordination to rational deliberation.

The final chapter addresses the role of reason and defends it against several attacks. After all, an argument that presupposes rationality can be undermined by a case that people are fundamentally irrational. This chapter could have been improved by including the discourse ethics of Jürgen Habermas or Hans-Hermann Hoppe, as it would have added a strong defense of objective morality. Like so many controversial academics who encounter social justice warriors, Bloom was told to check his privilege, which he rightly dismisses as nonsensical, though “SJWs are the real bigots” is not a sufficiently sharp response. He addresses the concern that regardless of the virtues of reason, humans are incompetent at it. But this can be shrugged off by noting that reason is objective and thus not subject to individual competency. The arguments in favor of determinism lead to performative contradictions if taken to their logical conclusions, but Bloom does not attack them in this fashion. A second attack on reason comes from psychological studies that show how people can be subconsciously influenced, but to know this is to know to take corrective steps to eliminate the problem. Finally, Bloom makes the case for rationality by discussing the strong correlation between high IQ and success, as well as the correlation between self-control and success. He briefly returns to politics to note the irrationality there, but concludes that this is due to the political systems rather than the participants themselves. Bloom ends the book by conceding that empathy can have good results, but that this is the exception and not the rule.

In a sense, Bloom does not go far enough. The concept of conspicuous compassion is barely mentioned, and there are some cases in which psychopathy can be used for beneficial results. The final chapter is in need of stronger logical cases against Bloom’s critics. Even so, Against Empathy is thought-provoking and much-needed to stem a tide of books that take too bright a view of empathy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: In Our Own Image

In Our Own Image is a book about the prospects of creating artificial intelligence as well as the cultural, economic, historical, philosophical, and political concerns about it by Greek author and scientist George Zarkadakis. The book considers the problem of AI from the perspectives of human evolution, cybernetics, neuroscience, programming, and computing power.

Zarkadakis begins by briefly speaking of his early years and doctoral research, then spends the rest of the introduction outlining what he will discuss in the rest of the book. The book proper is divided into three parts, each with five or six chapters. The first part covers the evolution of the human brain from the primate brain, especially the most recent 40,000 years. The role of language in accelerating human progress is discussed, as well as the effects of totemic thinking, story-telling, philosophical dualism, and theory of mind. The use of metaphor and narrative to understand the world is examined, along with the inaccuracies inherent in them. The invention, uses, and limitations of the Turing test are explored, as are Asimov’s laws of robotics and the role of AI in fictional stories throughout history.

The second part is about the nature of the mind. The differences in approach between dualism versus monism, rationalism versus empiricism, and materialism versus Platonism are discussed. The thought experiment of the philosophical zombie and the possibility of digital immortality are explained. On the matter of why there appears to be no other intelligent life in the cosmos, Zarkadakis shares an interesting hypothesis: science is an unnatural idea at odds with our cognitive architecture, and an intelligent alien species would be unlikely to widely adopt it. This means that the universe is likely full of Platos, as well as Ancient Greeces, Romes, Indias, Chinas, and Mayas, but is perhaps devoid of Aristotles and societies advanced beyond that of humanity in the early eighteenth century. Daniel Dennett’s explanation of consciousness is overviewed, as well as the contributions of a great number of scientists to the field of cognitive psychology. Finally, the field of cybernetics and its offshoots are examined, showing that the hard problem of consciousness is actually solved with ease. The brain-in-a-vat paradigm of consciousness is shown to be insufficient by applying cybernetic theory.

Everything up to this point lays the foundation for understanding the last part of the book. The third part details the history of computers and programming, from ancient theorists to more recent mathematicians, and from punched cards to modern electronics. The limitations of symbolic logic and the implications thereof against AI in conventional computers are explored, and possible solutions in the form of new electronic components and computer architectures are explained. Charles Babbage’s inventions are discussed, as well as the lost potential of their lack of adoption in their own time. The role of computational technology during World War II is considered, along with the results of government spending on computer research at the time. The development of supercomputers, including IBM’s Deep Blue and Watson, is outlined. The ‘Internet of things’ is compared and contrasted with true AI, and the possible societal impact of large-scale automation of jobs is considered. The possibility of evolving rather than creating AI is examined, as are the possible dispositions of an AI; friendly, malevolent, or apathetic. Interestingly, Zarkadakis shows that there is good reason to believe that a strong AI may exhibit autism spectrum disorders. A short epilogue that begins with a summary and then considers possible economic, political, and social implications of strong AI completes the book.

The book is well-researched and impeccably sourced, at least in its core subject matter. That being said, the book struggles to find an audience, as it can be a bit too technical for the average layperson, but does not venture deeply enough into the subjects it covers to interest a professional in AI-related fields. In other words, it is lukewarm where being either cold or hot is best. Zarkadakis also commits some ultracrepidarianism, particularly in the fields of economics and politics. He seems to believe that AI will overcome the limitations described by Hayek’s knowledge problem and Mises’s economic calculation problem, but unless AI can get inside of our heads and know us better than we know ourselves, this is impossible. In politics, he briefly mentions the possibilities of AI leading to anarchism or to neoreactionary-style absolute monarchies with computerized philosopher-kings, but does not give these possibilities the amount of consideration that they warrant. Finally, the book contains more typographical errors and grammatical abnormalities than a competent editor should fail to correct, though we may grant Zarkadakis some leeway because English is not his first language.

Overall, In Our Own Image is worth reading for those who already have some knowledge of the subject matter but would like to fill gaps in their understanding, but there is room for improvement and expansion.

Rating: 4/5

Read the entire article at ZerothPosition.com

On Libertarianism and the Alt-Right

On August 26, Jeffrey Tucker published an article highlighting what he perceives to be five important differences between the alt-right and libertarianism. Throughout the piece, he misunderstands various aspects of the alt-right, along with their connection to libertarianism. As such, let us examine Tucker’s article and what libertarians can learn from the alt-right.

Introduction

We begin with Tucker’s introduction, in which he writes,

Let’s leave aside the question of whether we are talking about an emergent brown-shirted takeover of American political culture, or perhaps merely a few thousand sock-puppet social media accounts adept at mischievous trolling on Twitter.

Here, he both sets up a false dilemma and decides to ignore its resolution. The alt-right, as explained in an article that Tucker links to, is an umbrella term for everyone on the right who is opposed to establishment conservatism. This includes American nationalists, anti-egalitarians, fascists, men’s rights activists, monarchists, neo-Nazis, paleoconservatives, racial separatists, reactionaries, right-libertarians, and white identitarians. But many of these groups are at cross purposes with one another. The danger of such a broad term is twofold; that which describes everything really describes nothing, and this vacuum of imprecision may then be filled by anyone who wishes to denigrate everyone included within the broad brushstroke. Tucker spends the rest of his article doing the latter, as we will see. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on a (neo)reactionary, right-libertarian take on the alt-right that includes some aspects of men’s rights and anti-egalitarianism.

1. The Driving Force of History

The first difference Tucker notes is the theory of history that each movement has. His presentation of the libertarian view as one of liberty versus power, or market versus state, is essentially correct but lacking in detail. It is this detail that the alt-right can provide, but Tucker decries this as “long and dreary.” To the contrary, the “meta-struggle that concerns impersonal collectives of tribe, race, community, great men, and so on” describes the individual historical events that decide the victor between liberty and power, between market and state. To ignore this is to see a forest and have no concept of a tree.

While libertarianism does speak of individual choice and the alt-right does speak of collective action, these two are not mutually exclusive. The belief that libertarians must reject any concept of a group identity or a collective action just because they are individualists is the height of political autism. While a collective does not exist in the sense of having a particular form in physical reality, it is a useful mental abstraction and grammatical shorthand to describe many individuals acting in concert toward a common purpose. Contrary to Tucker, the alt-right does not claim that we “default in our thinking back to some more fundamental instinct about our identity as a people”; the claim is that while people have this instinct which is genetically hard-wired into us, some people embrace it while others reject it. Those who embrace this instinct have an advantage in forming a strong social unit, which is the basis of a strong society. To criticize this as racist is generally inaccurate, as there are many population groups within each race, some of which may be more different from one another than from a population group of a different race. Thedism, tribalism, or in-group preference would all be more accurate terms for this phenomenon.

The overarching theme here is that while an individual person has the ability to make minor course corrections to the general trend of a society, the arc of history is generally not subject to the whims of an ordinary person. This is because an ordinary person lacks the means to defend against nation-states or even large groups of opposing ordinary people, and many libertarians oppose the idea of them acquiring such means. Thus, something more powerful than an ordinary person is needed to “make a dent in history’s narrative,” as Tucker says. Where the alt-right goes wrong is to believe that this requires a Carlylian Great Man. Libertarians correctly recognize that a large number of ordinary people can make such a change directly, without acting through a Great Man or any other method of centralization.

2. Harmony vs. Conflict

The second difference Tucker discusses is the view of harmony versus conflict. He compares Frédéric Bastiat’s view of a “harmony of interests” with the alt-right view of societal conflict. What Tucker fails to realize is that these views are not mutually exclusive. People find value in each other and divide labor among one another in order to build a society, and this works best in the absence of central planning. Tucker correctly says that libertarians believe in a “brotherhood of man,” but then fails to understand that the alt-right does as well to some extent. The nnerbund (league of men) is a central element of neoreactionary thought, being the organ that defends a society from external threats, maintains the traditions of the society, and enforces social norms within the society. The decay of this organ due to various aspects of modernity (which are frequently misidentified as capitalism rather than communo-fascism) is lamented by the alt-right as a contributing factor to much of the moral degeneracy currently present in the West.

Voluntary cooperation and free markets are wonderful and liberating, but some people do not want us to be liberated, preferring instead to violently victimize the innocent and exist parasitically upon productive members of a society. Those people must be physically repelled and removed, and someone must do the repelling and removing. This deterrent must exist in order to keep the state eliminated as well as repel common criminals and foreign invaders. The subset of libertarians who think that we will all peacefully evolve into a utopia where no one initiates the use of force suffer from incredible naïveté concerning matters of violence as well as an ignorance of history. The history of mankind has been one of deep-rooted conflict, based on whatever happens to be convenient at the moment.

Tucker closes this section by noting a parallel in Marxist ideology about a conflict between labor and capital. He quotes Ludwig von Mises, who wrote, “Nationalist ideology divides society vertically; the socialist ideology divides society horizontally.” This is true but incomplete, as it puts the cart before the horse in terms of how human interaction actually occurs. Society is already divided horizontally and vertically by the inherent biases and prejudices that people have. Nationalism and socialism simply give people an intellectual basis to explain and amplify what they already believe.

3. Designed vs. Spontaneous Order

Third, Tucker looks at the nature of social order. Tucker describes the libertarian position thusly:

The libertarian believes that the best and most wonderful social outcomes are not those planned, structured, and anticipated, but rather the opposite. Society is the result of millions and billions of small acts of rational self-interest that are channeled into an undesigned, unplanned, and unanticipated order that cannot be conceived by a single mind. The knowledge that is required to put together a functioning social order is conveyed through institutions: prices, manners, mores, habits, and traditions that no one can consciously will into existence. There must be a process in place, and stable rules governing that process, that permit such institutions to evolve, always in deference to the immutable laws of economics.

This is an accurate description of the libertarian position, as well as how society should operate. The alt-right mind, on the other hand, has a better understanding of how the current system operates, and this is an understanding that libertarians must have. After all, one cannot get from point A to point B without knowing about point A. Statist societies are built through central planning, by “the will of great thinkers and great leaders with unconstrained visions of what can be,” as Tucker writes. However, what we see is not necessarily the result of someone’s intentional and conscious planning from the top down, as there are unintended consequences and bootlegger motivations that must be accounted for.

What Tucker alleges to be an obsession with conspiracy theories by the alt-right is actually something else; a realization that some consequences that people routinely claim to be unintended should not be assumed to be such. When there is an ample body of history and economics to suggest that a particular result will follow from a particular policy, it is reasonable to assume that someone wanted that outcome, or at least should have expected it. But Tucker does understand the desire to seize the controls, if only by accident. Some libertarians have proposed that the controls must be destroyed, this author included. But since there appears to be almost no popular support for this idea, we are left with a situation in which someone will use those controls, and far better that it is libertarians than anyone else. It could be the case that like the One Ring, someone must hold state power in order to eliminate it. We cannot use state power to create a stateless society, but we can set one enemy of liberty against other enemies of liberty in the hopes that they weaken or destroy each other, after which we can mop up what remains of them.

Finally, Tucker correctly criticizes Carlyle about economics, but then fails to provide the correct answer. Economics is not “the dismal science” for not being dismal, but for not being science. Economics, properly understood, is an a priori, rational discipline like logic and mathematics.

4. Trade and Migration

Tucker’s fourth point concerns trade and migration. He is correct to laud the positive changes that have occurred since the Middle Ages with respect to human rights, economic mobility, and free association. He is also correct to view protectionism as a tax on consumers and an unnecessary source of international conflict. But again, Tucker fails to appreciate the context of the situation. We do not live in a world in which tearing down our barriers makes everyone better off. The reality is that doing this would only impoverish and endanger the domestic population while empowering foreign governments and external organized crime. If we open our borders, they will be magnetic to those who would come here to take handouts from the state at our expense. And once those people are here, we will not only be forced to associate with them, but any opposition to them or the government programs that bring them here will be condemned as racist. Since a libertarian solution is not on the table and no one seems to be willing to do what would be necessary to put it on the table, we are left with a choice between forced integration and forced segregation. The latter is both less threatening to the liberty of the domestic population and easier to evade through illegal means.

Tucker also misunderstands the alt-right view of this issue. A community must be strong enough to thrive as an independent unit not because international trade is “inherently bad or fraudulent or regrettable in some sense,” but because entrusting the survival of one’s community to outsiders is a precarious position. Trade is generally good to engage in, but not to depend upon to such an extent as to lose the ability to provide for one’s own basic needs. The potential danger comes when trade causes a society to evolve too fast, which can bring destruction as delicately balanced social structures are swiftly toppled without a clear replacement ready to prevent chaos.

The reasons that migration is seen as a profound threat to the identity of a community are that assimilation occurs slowly (if at all), and the resulting multiculturalism weakens the männerbund of a society, which compromises the security and values of the society. A massive influx of migrants into a community will cause the culture of that community to change in their direction. It is amazing that so many libertarians fail to understand this, given that the Free State Project has this very objective for the state of New Hampshire. But the FSP is an exception to the rule; generally, migrants come from societies whose cultures do not value libertarian principles, which will weaken the culture of liberty.

5. Emancipation and Progress

Tucker’s final point is about human progress. He writes,

Slavery was ended. Women were emancipated, as marriage evolved from conquest and dominance into a free relationship of partnership and consent. This is all a wonderful thing, because rights are universal, which is to say, they rightly belong to everyone equally.

This much is true, but then he continues,

Anything that interferes with people’s choices holds them back and hobbles the progress of prosperity, peace, and human flourishing. This perspective necessarily makes the libertarian optimistic about humanity’s potential.

This is not always true. For example, laws against trespassing interfere with people’s choices to go wherever they choose. Laws against theft interfere with people’s choices to take whatever they choose from whomever they choose. Laws against rape interfere with people’s choices to have sex with whomever they choose. Need we go on? People’s choices must be tempered against the rights of other people as well as the social norms of the community in which they find themselves. To be fair, Tucker would be unlikely to dispute this, but avoiding poor wording prevents many problems.

The alt-right view is not that the libertarian view is incorrect, but that it is incomplete and devoid of context. Without the state, an overall increase in liberty would have occurred by freeing slaves and emancipating women, not that slavery or treating women as property could have been maintained in its absence for as long as they were in its presence. But with the state in place, empowering women and former slaves has not resulted in an overall increase in liberty, but in a struggle between races and genders. The result of that struggle thus far has been a decrease in liberty for men and for white people, as it is at their expense that women and the descendants of slaves have made many unjust gains. The corrupting and perverse incentives inherent in democracy only make this worse, as expanding suffrage to include more people has allowed them to use the state to attack elite men. The end result has been the expansion of a political view once found only in brothels to ensnare the society as a whole. This is why, as Tucker writes, “What appears to be progress is actually loss: loss of culture, identity, and mission,” at least for white males. The proper libertarian answer is not to expand suffrage to everyone, but to abolish it for everyone. It is for this reason that a libertarian with alt-right sympathies can “look back to what they imagine to be a golden age when elites ruled and peons obeyed” and “long for authoritarian political rule.” Traditional monarchies were far from perfect by libertarian standards, but the shift to hyper-inclusive mass democracy failed to solve the problems of traditional monarchy while introducing new problems of its own. The authoritarian political rule of a king or dictator more closely resembles that of a private property owner than the popular rule of the masses in a democracy, at least in terms of the incentives that apply to the participants. If a decentralized violent revolution to end the state is not forthcoming, and technological advances that push back against centralization are insufficient, then an intermediate step against the leftist Leviathan in the form of a right-wing dictator is the remaining option, risky though it is.

Contrary to the view of left-libertarians, libertarianism does not expressly forbid authoritarianism, but rather confines it within the boundaries of private property. The critics of libertarianism who say that we wish to replace the tyranny of the state with the tyranny of the private property owner are correct, in that libertarianism allows a private property owner, in terms Tucker uses elsewhere, “to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on politically incorrect standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of anti-social norms.” This should be welcomed, as a society in which private property owners may freely express their preferences and prejudices is far more likely to confront and successfully deal with bigotry than a society in which the state either promotes or prohibits bigotry across its entire territory.

While libertarianism has an a priori true position on universal rights in theory, the alt-right once again excels in describing how the world actually works at present. That “rights are granted by political communities and are completely contingent on culture” and “some were born to serve and some to rule” is true in current practice, and the latter would be the natural result of the sort of Darwinian meritocracy that is the logical conclusion of libertarian theory. One has many sorts of rights in theory; property rights, freedom of association, freedom of communication, and so on. But if one cannot make use of them and defend them against those who would violate them, they are meaningless in the real world. And unless a person has a reliable means of self-defense against an entire community while being able to survive without said community, that person’s expression of rights are granted by political communities and are completely contingent on culture.

Tucker’s Conclusion

The alt-right knows who its enemies are, and while some libertarians are among them, others are not. The alt-right generally shows hostility only to left-libertarians, social justice warriors, moral degenerates, and other such subsets of the libertarian community. Many other libertarians are able to have peaceful, honest, and productive conversations with members of the alt-right, with some even identifying as both libertarian and alt-right with no apparent contradictions. Even so, one can make temporary common cause with a lesser enemy (unsavory elements of the alt-right) in order to defeat a greater enemy (the democratic state).

Tucker finishes by commenting on the common opposition to democracy among libertarians and the alt-right. He writes,

This was not always the case. In the 19th century, the classical liberals generally had a favorable view of democracy, believing it to be the political analogy to choice in the marketplace. But here they imagined states that were local, rules that were fixed and clear, and democracy as a check on power. As states became huge, as power became total, and as rules became subject to pressure-group politics, libertarianism’s attitude toward democracy shifted.

In contrast, the alt-right’s opposition to democracy traces to its loathing of the masses generally and its overarching suspicion of anything that smacks of equality. In other words, they tend to hate democracy for all the wrong reasons. This similarity is historically contingent and largely superficial given the vast differences that separate the two worldviews. Does society contain within itself the capacity for self management or not? That is the question.

These views are not mutually exclusive. One can loathe people, conclude that a state will not solve anything because it is composed of people, and therefore support abolition of the state in favor of an anarcho-capitalist society because it is the best that we can do. Furthermore, the 19th century classical liberals should have known better. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains,

Free entry is not always good. Free entry and competition in the production of goods is good, but free competition in the production of bads is not. Free entry into the business of torturing and killing innocents, or free competition in counterfeiting or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad. So what sort of “business” is government? Answer: it is not a customary producer of goods sold to voluntary consumers. Rather, it is a “business” engaged in theft and expropriation — by means of taxes and counterfeiting — and the fencing of stolen goods. Hence, free entry into government does not improve something good. Indeed, it makes matters worse than bad, i.e., it improves evil.

What Libertarians Can Learn

With Tucker’s piece examined, let us conclude by considering some lessons that libertarians should learn (or re-learn, in some cases) from the alt-right. First, the alt-right has a better understanding of how to get media attention. The alt-right is most famous for using the Internet to troll and create memes to attack those whom they oppose. This gets them media attention to a degree that many libertarians only dream of, and libertarians can learn their skills in order to create better memes as well as troll enemies of liberty.

Second, the alt-right has found a way to deal with the nearly constant accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that spew from the left. They either ignore, dismiss, or embrace such accusations. To the surprise of many on the left, though it should surprise no one, this technique is effective. Throwing labels at one’s political opponents in response to their reasoned arguments is not a counter-argument; if anything, it is an admission of defeat and ignorance, as a person who is capable of making counter-arguments has no need for name-calling. Libertarians would do well to respond to such accusations in this way rather than accusing leftists of being the real bigots or backing down for fear of being accused of bigotry. As for embracing the accusations, it is better to have bigots within libertarianism than outside of it, for 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. The presence of openly bigoted people also has the welcome side effect of driving out social justice warrior entryists.

Third, the alt-right is better at avoiding political autism. Political autism is the manifestation of symptoms similar to those which are present in high-functioning autistic people, such as using reason and evidence exclusively while being unable to process that a listener is operating emotionally rather than rationally, an inability to identify or think about groups or shared interests, preoccupation with particular topics to an unusual extent, focusing on details while missing the big picture, and repetitive use of set phrases. It is important to learn to identify when one is engaging in such behaviors so that one may correct oneself and avoid incorrect conclusions. This is not a new problem; Rothbard identified an example of political autism at work without naming it in a 1967 essay called War Guilt in the Middle East. Rothbard writes,

The libertarian, in particular, knows that states, without exception, aggress against their citizens, and knows also that in all wars each state aggresses against innocent civilians “belonging” to the other state.

Now this kind of insight into the root cause of war and aggression, and into the nature of the state itself, is all well and good, and vitally necessary for insight into the world condition. But the trouble is that the libertarian tends to stop there, and evading the responsibility of knowing what is going on in any specific war or international conflict, he tends to leap unjustifiably to the conclusion that, in any war, all states are equally guilty, and then to go about his business without giving the matter a second thought. In short, the libertarian (and the Marxist, and the world-government partisan) tends to dig himself into a comfortable “Third Camp” position, putting equal blame on all sides to any conflict, and letting it go at that. This is a comfortable position to take because it doesn’t really alienate the partisans of either side. Both sides in any war will write this man off as a hopelessly “idealistic” and out-of-it sectarian, a man who is even rather lovable because he simply parrots his “pure” position without informing himself or taking sides on whatever war is raging in the world. In short, both sides will tolerate the sectarian precisely because he is irrelevant, and because his irrelevancy guarantees that he makes no impact on the course of events or on public opinion about these events.

No: Libertarians must come to realize that parroting ultimate principles is not enough for coping with the real world. Just because all sides share in the ultimate state-guilt does not mean that all sides are equally guilty. On the contrary, in virtually every war, one side is far more guilty than the other, and on one side must be pinned the basic responsibility for aggression, for a drive for conquest, etc. But in order to find out which side to any war is the more guilty, we have to inform ourselves in depth about the history of that conflict, and that takes time and thought – and it also takes the ultimate willingness to become relevant by taking sides through pinning a greater degree of guilt on one side or the other.

Fourth, the alt-right understands role of society in judging individual behavior and opposing degeneracy. Many libertarians believe that private actors should not be criticized because they have the freedom to do as they wish with their bodies and resources. While this is true in the sense that no one has the right to initiate the use of force to stop them, this does not mean that libertarians cannot condemn hedonistic behavior that is capable of collapsing a society if it becomes sufficiently prominent. It could even be said that there is a tragedy of the commons at work, in that everyone pursuing their own carnal pleasures without regard for the well-being of others results in less liberty and prosperity for everyone. Libertarians must learn to use non-violent means, such as shaming, ridicule, and ostracism, to peacefully promote beneficial social norms if the goal of a functional stateless society is to be created and maintained.

Fifth, the alt-right recognizes that blank-slate egalitarianism is false. This is because individuals vary in ability and populations groups adapt to their environments. These adaptations can give members of a particular population group an advantage in a particular activity. While these adaptations can be noticed in people who move to another place and live as the locals do, the extent of the adaptations which are present in a population group that has inhabited a place for many generations cannot be replicated in one human lifetime. The result is that there are both individual and demographic disparities in intelligence and athleticism, which cause disparities in socioeconomic outcomes. While these differences are not large enough at present to categorize humans into different species or subspecies, libertarians would do well to learn about gender dimorphism and human biodiversity, as their implications will alter the strategy for reaching a functional stateless society.

Conclusion

In Tucker’s foray into the alt-right, he seems to deliberately look for the worst that anyone in the movement has to offer while ignoring the positive lessons which may be learned. As a result, he sees what he wants to see; a separate and distinct movement from libertarianism with no legitimate overlap, an enemy to be fought rather than a potential ally. But as shown above, this is a thoroughly misguided approach. There is much common cause to be made with the alt-right and much to be learned from them, especially in defeating our common enemies.

We are not a country of anarchists: a philosophical rebuttal

On Oct. 4, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made a blog post which presents a statist viewpoint of the necessity of government services as well as an incorrect association of Republicans with anarchism. Let us examine her sophistry and rebut it line-by-line. In the interest of reason, something which tends to make statists uncomfortable, we will skip around occasionally.

“If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you’d think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn’t exist at all.”

Right out of the gate, there are multiple fallacies and falsehoods. Anarchism is an anti-political philosophy which holds the state to be an unnecessary, immoral, and harmful institution. Anarchists advocate for stateless societies with an absence of force, fraud, and coercion. This is not the position of any House Republican.

“Extreme” is a philosophically invalid term that is used frequently by statists, particularly those of a progressive bent, to dismiss a position without having to argue against it. As such, it is an example of argumentum ad lapidem.

No government exists; only its component parts (each person, each building, each gun, etc.) exist, because only those parts have independent forms in physical reality. To define existence in a way that does not require an independent form in physical reality allows for abstractions and universals to exist alongside concrete objects, which deprives the idea of existence of meaning, as anything can then be said to exist.

“But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don’t want a future without government.”

“The American people” is a nonexistent universal, just like government. Each individual person exists; “the American people” does not. Therefore it cannot be a reality that the American people do not want a future without government. It is also not the case that each individual person wants a statist future. Some individuals within the geographical area of the United States are anarchists, this writer included.

“When was the last time the anarchy gang called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children’s toys? Or for inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in our babies?

When? Never. In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens.

…The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that the white pills we take are antibiotics and not baking soda. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees crash tests to make sure our new cars have functioning brakes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission makes sure that babies’ car seats don’t collapse in a crash and that toasters don’t explode.”

Here, Sen. Warren is going after her straw man caricature of House Republicans, but let us take the attack upon anarchism at face value. First, we should consider the nature of regulations imposed by the state. Such regulations are written by legislators, who are routinely bribed by lobbyists hired by the most powerful people in the very industries to be regulated. Under such a system, regulations serve not the interests of the common man, but the interests of the wealthy business owners.

On the other hand, all of the above examples can be handled through private dispute resolution organizations in a free market. People who destroy life, liberty, and property with their goods would be made to either perform restitution or be economically ostracized. Economic ostracism would make it impossible for them to continue their harmful practices, as no one would buy their goods or sell them anything for fear of being ostracized themselves. All of this can be forcefully backed by individuals acting in self-defense or by private defense agencies.

“After the sequester kicked in, Republicans immediately turned around and called on us to protect funding for our national defense and to keep our air traffic controllers on the job.

And now that the House Republicans have shut down the government – holding the country hostage because of some imaginary government ‘health care boogeyman’ – Republicans almost immediately turned around and called on us to start reopening parts of our government.”

By pointing to Republican efforts to protect certain government employees and services, Sen. Warren has contradicted her previous assertion that Republicans are anarchists.

A hostage-taker is a person who threatens to harm peaceful people unless certain demands are met. Any legislator who passes a law of any kind is doing exactly that, because anyone who peacefully disobeys a law is in danger of being harmed by agents of the state. Therefore, every member of every legislature is a hostage-taker, not just House Republicans.

“Why do they do this? Because the boogeyman government in the alternate universe of their fiery political speeches isn’t real. It doesn’t exist.”

Sen. Warren says that government does not exist. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.

“Government is real, and it has three basic functions:”

And sometimes, a blind squirrel promptly loses the nut again.

“1. Provide for the national defense.”

Like a government and the American people, a nation is yet another nonexistent collective. There is no such thing as national defense apart from the sum of individual defenses.

“2. Put rules in place, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.”

As shown above, regulations in a statist society are anything but fair, as the affluent can easily bribe those who write the regulations. A state is not necessary for there to be regulations, as the free market imposes its own regulations which arise through spontaneous order.

“3. Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.”

Here, Sen. Warren commits the great fallacy of statism, which goes like this:

1. The state provides service X. X can be anything; in this case, Sen. Warren mentions roads, schools, and power grids.
2. Without the state, service X would not be provided.
3. Therefore, those who do not want the state to provide service X do not want service X to be provided at all, and do not care about people who need service X.

The problem with such reasoning is that step 2 is a positive claim, which carries a burden of proof. This burden is never fulfilled by statists, nor can it be, as one must ultimately disprove every possible solution to a problem that does not involve the state. This is an inexhaustible proof by exhaustion. On the other hand, all that an advocate of liberty must do is to find a solitary example of such services being provided in the free market. Examples of roads and schools which are built and maintained privately are abundant. Power grids can be more tricky to open up to free market competition, but it can be done.

“These things did not appear by magic.”

This is a straw man, as no one claims that they did.

“In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together. We made that choice because we wanted to be a country with a foundation that would allow anyone to have a chance to succeed.”

From here on out, Sen. Warren continually uses “we” to refer to “the American people,” a collective which has already been shown not to exist. It is impossible for “us” to make a choice because there is no such thing as a collective mind; there are only individual minds. For the sake of avoiding unnecessary repetition, this rebuttal should be understood to come after each bit of text by Sen. Warren from this point forward. In this excerpt, the collective pronouns render all points invalid.

“We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together.”

This is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because individuals acted on the idea of government before people became healthier and stronger does not mean that the idea of government is the cause of such benefits. There could be any other cause for an increase in the health of individuals.

“We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages.”

Here, Sen. Warren proposes that one must either believe a government that regulates many aspects of the economy, or be a stereotypical bomb-throwing chaos-seeker who views selfishness as a virtue. This is a false dilemma fallacy, as it is quite possible to believe that people should form voluntary associations to solve problems without the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

“We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation.”

The future is unknown and unknowable. People once said that a constitutional republic would never work. People once said that (chattel) slavery would never end. People once said that landing on the moon was impossible. Now Sen. Warren says that the end of the state will never come. She is on the wrong side of historical precedent.

“The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.”

There is no government shutdown; there is only a roughly 17 percent slowdown.

Sen. Warren comes full circle with the philosophically invalid terms “reckless” and “extremist.”