Author’s note: The main themes of this series are further expounded upon in my book Anarcho-Monarchism, which you can buy here.
The frame in which the modern libertarian movement sees the world is a combination of individualist anarchism and classical liberal thought. This in itself is excusable, as the classical liberals and individualist anarchists were major influences in the development of libertarianism. However, framing libertarianism by these principles also results in serious problems. Our theory is subject to the suppositions of opposing theories.
Freedom for Freedom
An idea that is largely derivative from the individualist anarchists is the libertarian claim that the superiority of our ideology is due to the fact that we want freedom for the sake of freedom. However, this originates from the socialistic individualist anarchists, and as such we must realize the incompatibility of this notion of freedom with the libertarian philosophy. For the most pertinent example, no proper libertarian would support the freedom to violate private property rights. The guiding principles of our philosophy are self-ownership, non-aggression, and private property rather than freedom itself.
It is also not the case that libertarians unconditionally endorse private property. We may tacitly support the right of communists to form communes on their own property, but we do not actively endorse such uses of private property. This means that libertarians also have a philosophy when it comes to the use of private property. Libertarians do not only want a system of private property, but private property that is put to efficient uses. To say that libertarians want freedom for the sake of freedom is to ignore libertarian theory and to imply that libertarians subscribe to suppositions that they, in actuality, do not hold.
Furthermore, nothing in libertarian theory implies that we should have any respect for social freedom beyond what private property rights require. Hedonism, nihilism, degeneracy, and other high time preference behavior must be avoided if there is to be a sustainable libertarian social order. This requires restricting some actions in the social realm. Thus, favoring social freedom is not necessarily a desirable libertarian position. Libertarian theory only makes statements about the ownership of private property and what a person can do on their private property. People should have full rights to the property that they rightfully own. However, people can also use their property to take on duties and social responsibility.
Social freedom only exists in libertarianism insofar as a person is confined to their own property with no responsibility to a society. Most people want those in their society to be responsible, and most also want to be responsible to their society. Thus, social freedom becomes an irrelevant concept. Social responsibility can be institutionalized within a system of formal governance to manage the society. To take a relatively uncontroversial example within the libertarian sphere, a society could ban adults from yelling at children to prevent future crime and social disarray. The society could enforce this agreement by previously agreed upon penalties.
Since all forms of freedom within libertarianism are superseded by property, libertarianism as a discipline focuses on the results of property. This is the so-called ‘thin libertarianism’ and the only current philosophically consistent form of libertarianism. Therefore, debates within the libertarian discipline should be about the end results of property and not values beyond property. This may mean that the libertarian discipline should be abandoned, but if one embraces norms contrary to property, they can no longer call themselves libertarians.
However, there is much disagreement concerning the form that property would take within a libertarian system. Even when there is a broad consensus of non-aggression, the results of such non-aggression differ based on who is describing a libertarian society. The Hoppean view and the agorist view of complete privatization are conflicting visions, although both are ‘thin libertarian’ theories. But both views are technically correct, in that they are possibilities within libertarianism.
As long as one remains within a non-aggressive philosophy, one will be able to establish whatever system one wants in libertarianism. All conceivable systems could be described as libertarian as long as they respect private property rights. Thus, the debate within libertarianism is over which form of property management is the most efficient, or in other terms, which form of social organization will out-compete the rest. All our debates eventually need to result in individual strategies to maximize private profit. Using any other terms of debate, one moves into a philosophy that is not expressly libertarian. This is not to say that libertarians need to seek material profit above all, but libertarianism is largely an economic philosophy that uses economic terms due to the focus on efficiency.
The Second Order
The fact that any libertarian society will be predicated upon personal profit maximization demonstrates how libertarianism serves as a basis for further philosophy and strategy. Each person within a libertarian society still has to decide how they will manage their property or outsource the management thereof.
All libertarian thought henceforth ought to be about how best to maximize profit once we have established full rights to property. Libertarians need to establish how it is possible to avoid most potentially negative outcomes that a pure private property society could conceivably have. We should not tacitly assume that the libertarian ethic nullifies all problems, or even that the libertarian ethic allows for proper solutions to all problems. Rather, it is superior to any other ethic overall. When one shifts one’s focus from the ethic into the profit maximization derivative from that ethic, one finds a relatively unexplored field in libertarianism.
Upon entering this field, we ought to look back to the original theory of the social contract and the classical liberal ideas for managing society. Once we have established a libertarian order, or a new “state of nature”, we can then look at the theory of the social contract to see what the libertarian order could become. Our philosophical heritage has allowed us to completely reframe the social contract and use it at the basis of libertarianism and statecraft without justifying the state. The intellectual work of the 20th century radical libertarians has given us the best opportunity to reincorporate classical tools into modern theory.
Social Contract Theories
The three and a half centuries that we have had to develop libertarianism have done enough to establish a legal system and an ethical philosophy. This means that we need to change our focus to a descriptive outlook. Toward that end, Locke’s theory of the social contract is simple and the least controversial for a libertarian system. Locke simply stated that in order to prevent potential revenge that could arise from personal judgment over all legal matters, there needs to be a central state to create a harmonious society. This social contract would give the central authority power over law to prevent unnecessary violence. This is simple to adopt into preceding libertarianism, as all persons within a society can form a contract, or in Hoppean terms, a covenant. This allows them to defeat the possible problem of conflicting legal enforcers by giving one concrete agency power over judgment. Thus, by simply adopting Lockean theory within a stateless framework, we have explained how defense could work in a libertarian society. Finding solutions to questions simply becomes one of adjusting our frames of reference to a voluntary basis.
Hobbes comes at the problem of a social contract from the right. He states that since the natural state of man is violence and chaos, man needs to be suppressed by a mortal god, or the state. The state then retains sovereignty in itself and has functionally absolute power over its citizens. We find this adopted into neoreactionary theory through the notion of contractual absolutism and the idea that establishing a social contract can lead to a reactionary and authoritarian form of government. If we accept the libertarian framing, we also accept that there is no inherent problem with this form of governance as long as it respects the property of all the people within it. The problem with Hobbesian theory is that the Leviathan is not constructed voluntarily, not that the Leviathan exists at all. As long as the Leviathan coercively imposes no costs on the people in society, it would be a completely justified construct.
Rousseau, meanwhile, comes at the problem from the left. He admits that a political society is worse than living in nature, then establishes that we ought to establish a social contract to prevent further ills. This social contract would consist of making the entire polity absolutely supreme and creating a radically democratic society where all impose duties on all and are equally free (or unfree). This can solve leftist criticisms by allowing them to undertake any profit-maximizing scheme they wish. This profit, however, sacrifices material well-being for a feeling of equality and moral superiority. If the people in the leftist society value having equal obligations more than having liberty and property, they can sacrifice their liberty and property to maximize their psychological profit.
Application of Social Contracts
By simply rehabilitating social contracts into our theory, we find at least three new intellectually stimulating directions that libertarianism could take. If we think about how to maximize personal profit and how that relates to the wider society, we find an entire field of libertarianism that has been left largely unexplored, with social contract theory only serving as a baseline. Even agorist and Hoppean theories now seem woefully insufficient, and it seems that we are at a junction where we can truly advance libertarian theory.
By introducing a second layer of thought in libertarianism we find ourselves with infinitely more options than before. We can now solve problems using these newfound tools and manage to find even better solutions for ubiquitous criticisms of libertarianism. We do not have to resort to contrived logic or empty statements; we can now use whatever we can conceive of to defend liberty. There is no more uphill battle to defend liberty; we place ourselves in a position of attack and of strength.
This even allows us to turn around every statist criticism against libertarianism and use it to strengthen our case. Whenever someone points out an apparent flaw in libertarianism, we can simply default to the establishment of these second order systems to solve the problem. We can repeat the exact solution that was proposed back to the proponent of that solution mutatis mutandis within the framework of libertarianism. This only comes with a caveat that their solution needs to maximize social profit, whether it be material or immaterial.
But if every system is possible in libertarianism, it would also mean that systems which are reprehensible to libertarians are allowed to flourish. Autostatist reciprocity is a necessary form of libertarian organization and vital for any future libertarian system. But is there any way to combat undesirable systems? Is there any reason to counter illibertarianism within the aforementioned second order of politics? Can we do anything about potential totalitarian systems, and if so, should we? These questions will be addressed in Part VIII.