Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons: Universal Basic Income

<<<Episode VI                                                                                                Episode VIII>>>

A Universal Basic Income (UBI), also known as Citizen’s Income, Basic Income Guarantee, or Universal Demogrant, is a proposed social welfare program in which the state pays every legal resident within its territory a periodic sum of money. Most proposals have variations for age, but have no other conditions; people would receive the same amount regardless of their employment status, contributions to society, existing salary, net worth, current expenses, gender, family structures, race, religion, or any other factors.[1] Depending on the amount being paid, a basic income may be full or partial.

Basic income was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century[2], but did not receive much further attention until Thomas Spence, Thomas Paine, and Marquis de Condorcet argued for such a welfare system in the late 18th century.[3] The idea resurfaced again during and after the Progressive Era, but related welfare systems such as means-tested programs, negative income taxes, minimum income guarantees, and family allowances were tried instead.[4] Since the 1980s, policy advocates have given more focus to basic income, especially in Europe.[5,6] The proposal has gained traction in recent years due to concerns over structural unemployment caused by automation and artificial intelligence, and experiments with basic income programs are being proposed and conducted in several countries.[7,8,9]

Supporters of UBI generally believe that the basic means of subsistence should be guaranteed as a positive human right in advanced societies, and that UBI can provide this better than extant welfare programs. But there are reasons to support UBI which are quite different from what most of its proponents believe. Let us explore these and see why one could agree with statists for the wrong reasons.

One criticism of welfare programs is that they are dysgenic; they subsidize the survival and reproduction of the unfit at the expense of their Darwinian betters. But any effort to combat dysgenics must begin with figuring out who the dysgenic people are. UBI does this in a way that no other welfare program does. It gives equal amounts of money to people, and the spending habits of the recipients can be studied. The overall process is the closest thing to a controlled experiment that can be performed in economics. The results will show who is beyond help due to poor decision-making, such as spending their entire basic income payment on vices. From there, the least intelligent members of a society can be dealt with through a variety of means. A 2014 World Bank review of studies shows that relatively few people who receive UBI will squander it in such ways[10], suggesting that only the worst people would be spotlighted as unfit. Of course, this would mean that UBI is only a transitory step toward something else, but so is every other government program on a sufficiently long timescale.

Second, critics of UBI cite the fiscal impracticalities of implementing it. In the United States at the time of this writing, current population figures mean that implementing a proposed[11] $1000 per month UBI would cost almost $4 trillion annually, which is roughly equal to the entire current expenditures of the federal government.[12] Effectively doubling government spending seems illibertarian at face value, but let us examine the matter more closely. Any reduction in government spending will be strongly felt by those who receive the funds, while the expenses of taxation and inflation are diffused throughout a society. This perverse incentive structure produces ever greater rent-seeking behavior on the part of special interest groups. Furthermore, attempting to reduce spending on welfare programs, as libertarians would advise, is politically impossible in a democracy. Such efforts will only get one branded evil, selfish, heartless, racist, sexist, and all the rest of the Great Progressive Litany Of Not An Argument. The alternative course is to accelerate government spending in order to hasten the inevitable collapse. Implementing a generous UBI would accomplish this.

Given economic realities, it is far more practical for UBI to replace some or all of current welfare spending.[13] Again, repealing welfare without replacing it is a political non-starter, so it is necessary to consider replacement. UBI is not means-tested or contingent upon any factors which must be examined, so the need for a bloated welfare administration is eliminated.[14] Lisa Westerveld, a councilor for the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, estimates that £15 million of their £88 million annual welfare budget could be saved by implementing UBI there.[15] It is important to remember that welfare does not solely consist of handouts, but also of make-work programs and bloated bureaucracies that introduce artificial inefficiency to the state apparatus and the broader economy. Cutting these programs and government jobs should be a welcome development to any libertarian.

Another effect of providing free money unconditionally is that people will have less need to work for a living. Less work means less tax revenue, which in turn means less funding for government programs.[16] This is good because it will force formerly public projects to be created and maintained privately, thus subjecting them to market accountability. Alternatively, the state may run larger deficits or inflate its currency, but these measures will eventually cause it to cut spending out of necessity when interest rates rise and creditors become nervous about a sovereign default. Meanwhile, once people have a basic subsistence without work, many unskilled jobs that are ripe for automation would have to be automated quickly, as businesses and governments would no longer be able to find workers to fill those jobs. This would greatly increase efficiency.

One must also consider who would be impacted by such changes. The government jobs that would be eliminated by UBI implementation in Western countries are disproportionately held by racial minorities, while basic income would give an advantage to poor whites. Because democracies incentivize people to vote themselves money from the public treasury, UBI would reverse the political vote-buying of the current welfare system in the short-term while curbing the practice in the long-term. The anti-white racism of the progressive political establishment would be further exposed when they oppose a transition to UBI, as they would have to go on record as wanting to give handouts to everyone except poor whites. Right-wing parties could therefore expect a boost at the polls if they embrace UBI.

Critics of UBI will point to likely price inflation, as increasing the total amount of money in consumer hands would reduce its unit value by reducing its scarcity. There is also the matter that funding such a program will likely come from raising taxes on businesses[11], which are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices like any other business expense. But this provides an opportunity for people to buy precious metals and cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation. This could help cryptocurrency gain more widespread adoption and further weaken the fiat currency that is used for handing out the UBI, adding to the acceleration effect on government spending and inflation when people advocate for a larger UBI to combat inflation. (This represents the other end of the intelligence spectrum from the dysgenics discussed earlier. UBI also shows us who the smartest people are, as they would use the fiat money to exchange for something more sound.)

Some feminists oppose UBI because it might serve to reinforce traditional gender roles by incentivizing women to stay out of the workforce.[17,18] But this actually leads to a set of reasons to support UBI. If mothers are at home raising their children, then children will receive better care than they would from strangers. Money saved on childcare could be kept within the family to provide for the children or help the family unit in other ways, while those providing childcare would be freed up to do something more directly productive. Renewed dependence on male breadwinners to provide for the family beyond the level that UBI allows would strengthen family cohesion and lessen divorce rates. At work, the restored male super-majority would improve workplace social dynamics.[19] Women cannot be sexually harassed or discriminated against at work if they are not at work, and social justice warriors would have a harder time operating against a revitalized männerbund. The male social bonds that develop at work would soon extend to society at large, helping to restore a proper patriarchy.

UBI can also help to stem the tide of demographic replacement in Western countries. A direct money transfer to poor whites would raise their fertility rates, resulting in less need and room for foreign labor, but it would also encourage a solidarity among all citizens. Let us consider Native American tribes that make money from casinos and other tourist traps. These funds are distributed to tribe members, which gives all recipients a monetary incentive to place strict limitations on tribal membership and reservation residency in order to increase the share for all who remain. Otherwise, people would be incentivized to move to reservations and join tribes in order to receive a handout. Similarly, a national UBI would encourage immigration at first, but would also give every citizen a monetary incentive to close the gates while clearly demarcating in-group versus out-group. This direct skin in the game could counter the elite bribery that mostly prevents effective border controls at present.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, UBI could fuel a surge of anti-establishment activism. Many people who work in menial, low-paying jobs with little hope of advancement would prefer to be professional political activists, and UBI would allow them to do this. Those with careers who fear losing them if they speak out of turn would also have a fallback strategy, if a less luxurious one. This surge would primarily be libertarian and rightist, as leftists have an entrenched establishment to protect their activists from the harms that other activists suffer. UBI would not solve the problems of deplatforming or anarcho-tyranny, but it may make them so onerous that they can no longer go unsolved, which is the general objective of a bootlegger political strategy.

In summary, UBI has effects across the board that are useful and even vital for libertarians and rightists who wish for a freer hand in the political arena and greater realization of their overall visions for society. It is therefore easy to agree with statists for the wrong reasons when they propose a universal basic income.

References:

  1. What Is It? – Citizen’s Income”.
  2. More, Thomas (1516). Utopia, Book 2: Discourse on Utopia.
  3. Nicolas de Condorcet (1794). Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit.
  4. Spicker, Paul (2011, Jan. 19). How Social Security Works. Bristol University Press.
  5. Citizen’s Income – An unconditional, nonwithdrawable income paid to every individual as a right of citizenship”.
  6. Blaschke, Ronald (2012). The basic income debate in Germany and some basic reflections.
  7. Krahe, Dialika (2009, Aug. 10). “How a Basic Income Program Saved a Namibian Village”. Spiegel Online.
  8. Mathews, Dylan (2017, Mar. 6). “This Kenyan village is a laboratory for the biggest basic income experiment ever”. Vox.com.
  9. Monsebraaten, Laurie (2017, Apr. 24). “Ontario launches basic income pilot for 4,000 in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Lindsay”. Toronto Star. Star Media Group.
  10. Evans, David K.; Popova, Anna (2014, May 1). “Cash Transfers and Temptation Goods: A Review of Global Evidence. Policy Research Working Paper 6886”. The World Bank. Office of the Chief Economist.: 1–3.
  11. What is Universal Basic Income?”.Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign.
  12. Mulvaney, Mick (2017, Mar. 16). “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”. Office of Management and Budget.
  13. Standing, Guy (2017). Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. Pelican Books. Ch. 7.
  14. Konczal, Mike (2013, May 11). “Thinking Utopian: How about a universal basic income?”. Washington Post.
  15. Boffey, Daniel (2015, Dec. 26). “Dutch city plans to pay citizens a ‘basic income’, and Greens say it could work in the UK”. The Guardian.
  16. Séguin, Gilles (1994). “Improving Social Security in Canada – Guaranteed Annual Income: A Supplementary Paper”. Government of Canada.
  17. Katada, Kaori. “Basic Income and Feminism: in terms of ‘the gender division of labor’”.
  18. McLean, Caitlin (Sept. 2015). “Beyond Care: Expanding the Feminist Debate on Universal Basic Income”. WiSE.
  19. Lambert, Hugh (2017, Mar. 23). “Mannerbund And The Sexual Dynamics Of Coordination”. Social Matter.

<<<Episode VI                                                                                                Episode VIII>>>

What’s In A Name?

When I launched Zeroth Position in January 2016, I wrote an article explaining the name of the site. What I have not done until now is to write an article explaining the pen name I use here. The practice of writing under a pseudonym has a long history, and has been done by various authors for a wide variety of reasons. The particular name or names that one chooses for this purpose frequently have a degree of significance, either to the personality of the author or the nature of one’s literary works. Let us explore these reasons and contemplate them in relation to my own pseudonym as I explain the meaning and significance of it.

Motivations for Pseudonymity

A pen name is a name other than one’s legal name that an author adopts for use in the by-line of their publications. One reason for doing this is to protect an author from retribution. In many societies, authors of dissident materials could face severe punishments that could deprive not only oneself, but one’s family of life, liberty, and property. For example, this is the motivation for a critic of Islam using the pen name Ibn Warraq. Although states in the modern West usually refrain from such measures, having instead some degree of freedom of speech, the reality is that they have outsourced censorship to the soft power of establishment journalists and the leftist mobs at their command. Whoever wishes to be free from harassment by these types and remain employable while presenting a worldview at odds with the progressive consensus is therefore strongly incentivized to use a pseudonym. In other cases, an author may need a pen name because the terms of one’s other employment disallow publishing under one’s real name. Irish author Brian O’Nolan‘s use of the pen names Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen is explained by laws forbidding Irish civil servants from publicly expressing political views.[1]

Those who are safe from harm may wish to use a pen name in an effort to distinguish themselves or gain more readership. If one’s real name is shared with someone who is already famous, then a pen name may be necessary to avoid confusion. This was necessary for a young Winston Churchill, as the British statesman was once overshadowed by an American novelist of the same name; the former therefore wrote as Winston S. Churchill.[2] Some authors write in several genres and wish to have a separate name for each; the mathematician Charles Dodgson wrote under his own name for non-fiction and as Lewis Carroll for fiction.[3] Highly prolific authors may use multiple names to get more of their content into a given medium, as novelist Stephen King did with the pen name Richard Bachman.[4] Those wishing to experiment with a different writing style or genre may do so under a different name out of concern that failure may impact sales of their other works, as science fiction author Harry Turtledove did with some historical novels under the name H. N. Turteltaub. In cultures that disadvantage female authors, or in genres usually written by men, women may either choose a masculine pen name or use their initials instead of their full name. Famous examples of the former from the 19th century include Mary Ann Evans (as George Eliot)[5] and the Brontë sisters (as Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell). J. K. Rowling is a more recent example of the latter.

Some pen names are used collectively by multiple authors. One use of this is to suggest continuity of authorship over long time periods, much as a corporation suggests continuity of ownership beyond the span of an individual’s involvement in a business. This is also known as a house name. An example is The Saint series; the first books were written by Leslie Charteris, but later books were written by ghost writers under the same name. Collaborative authors may also share a pen name, as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay did when they wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym Publius.[6] One’s ideology may disallow taking credit for one’s work as an individual, so pseudonyms for public use exist for this reason, such as Luther Blissett.[7] The historical practice of pseudepigraphy involved the false attribution of a work, usually to put one’s own ideas into broader circulation that could be achieved under one’s real name by using the name of an established intellectual.[8] Of course, there may be multiple motivations for a pen name, as is the case with the pen name N. B. Pettibone once used by Brittany and Nicole Pettibone. It is both a collaborative name and an initial name by female authors in a male-dominated genre.

Other concerns are purely aesthetic or personal. An author may feel that one’s name does not fit with the genre of one’s writing. Whereas Julie Woodcock’s real name has certain implications in the romance genre, she writes as Angela Knight instead. As a person’s knowledge and experiences alter one’s beliefs over time, one can come to reject some of one’s previous works so strongly as to feel a need to use a different name. The tradition of using a pen name after one’s real name, known as takhallus, has long been practiced by poets and other writers in Persian, Urdu, and some other Indian languages.[9] Japanese poets and artists also use art-names, which they may change several times during their careers. This usually marks significant changes in the artist’s life.[10]

Nullus Maximus

Now that the reasons for an author to choose a pseudonym are clear, let us examine the name I have chosen. Both words come from Latin. As an adjective, “Nullus” is the masculine word for “no, none, not any”. As a noun, it is the masculine second declension of “no one, nobody”. It is also the closest word for the number zero, a foreign concept to the Romans which did not appear explicitly in Latin until medieval times.[11] “Maximus” is the masculine word for “greatest/biggest/largest”, “highest, utmost”, “leading, chief”, “longest”, or “oldest”. Several interpretations of the combination “Nullus Maximus” are meaningful to me, including “no maximum”, “greatest nobody”, “not any chief”, “no leading”, and “largest zero”. The masculine words give away my biological sex and gender identity, but I believe my work already makes this obvious.

“No Maximum” could also be thought of as “No Limit”, and this refers to my willingness to tackle any subject matter that interests me as well as my determination to take an argument to its logical conclusion. Though there are certain viewpoints that I refuse to allow to be advocated here at Zeroth Position, no topic is off-limits for thoughtful exploration. Whether it is the ethics of political assassinations, private ownership of nuclear weapons, the role of conquest and genocide in libertarian theory, slaughtering the most sacred ideological cows of the political establishment, or admonishing those who are nominally on our side (including ourselves), there is no intellectual ground that I and my guest authors dare not traverse.

“Greatest Nobody” is an acknowledgment of my personal status, a rejection of credentialism, and an aspiration to be more than I am. As of this writing, I hold a bachelor’s degree in physics with some graduate study in the subject, but no advanced degree. I wield no power to speak of in the physical world, aside from what following and influence I have earned here. On paper, there is no reason for someone to regard me as an authority on most of the subjects addressed in my political and philosophical writings. But to dismiss my work on this account would be a courtier’s reply fallacy; the truth value of an argument is independent of the expertise (or lack thereof) of any person advocating it. My work should stand or fall on its own merits and demerits, not on my merits or demerits as a person. While I may or may not be the “greatest nobody,” I aspire to be the best that I can be.

“Not Any Chief” is one possible interpretation of my ideal political order, though a great multitude of chiefs, each of whom have far less control than modern nation-states, is a more accurate description. This was initially called anarcho-capitalism, but anarcho-monarchism and anarcho-feudalism are more accurate terms. The former is suggestive of politically autistic hyper-individualism that is incompatible with the fact that humans are social creatures. This interpretation also admits that I am “not any chief”; I do not hold sovereign power and am unlikely to ever do so.

“No Leading” is a statement of purpose. I have always had natural leadership qualities, and many people in my life through the years have granted me perhaps more decision-taking power than I am due, but it is not my goal to convince others to follow me. (That said, subscriptions and donations are much appreciated.) I believe it to be more important to provide logical and strategic blueprints that others may adapt to their own purposes, for achieving a libertarian social order (or any other great accomplishment) will require many independent, decentralized efforts.

Finally, “Largest Zero” is a reference to my role here at Zeroth Position. As I am the site founder, payroll master, head of IT, chief editor, and the most prolific author, my role here is far larger than anyone else’s. Should this site grow to become far more popular and profitable than it currently is, I will seek to offload some of these responsibilities so that I may focus entirely on thinking and writing, but this interpretation fits for now.

Personal Motivations

I have explained my choice of pen name, but not why I chose to use one, so let us review the motivations from the first section. Agents of the state have only ever been inconvenient to me, but the dissident materials I and my fellows here have authored do not rise to a level that would currently be punishable by law in the United States as of yet. Of course, this may change someday, but no one who lacks sovereign power is truly safe from this.

However, as previously noted, the forces of inquisition are now mostly private and decentralized, with ever-changing standards for what makes them target someone. This is of little concern to me, as traditional employment has long remained elusive for me regardless of whether or what I write, and my audience is not yet large enough to attract much public ire from the Cathedral or its minions. I have very little at present that they could take from me, so this is also not my motivation for having a pseudonym. Furthermore, my legal name is something of an open secret in libertarian circles, in that anyone who needs to know (e.g. for the purpose of inviting me to a speaking engagement) has little difficulty in learning it. An enemy could presumably do so as well.

Several other people share my legal name, and at least one has contributed to scientific research. But no one with my name writes in a similar vein to my own work. Though I had several profiles at the content mill I wrote for prior to launching Zeroth Position, and I chose my pen name partly based on the site name, I did not choose the name to experiment with a different writing style; this simply happened over time as I changed my focus and learned more information. I currently write only for this site (though that may change in the near future) and am not highly prolific, so I do not use multiple pen names. Neither does anyone else write under my pen name.

My motivations for going pseudonymic are purely aesthetic and personal. The aesthetics were described in the previous section. The personal (beyond the personal nature of the aesthetic) is primarily that I wanted a new name to fit with my new website, a venture which marked a change in my life. “Nullus Maximus” thus functions somewhat like an Asian art-name. Another factor is that I noticed the neoreactionary scene a few months after starting Zeroth Position, and almost everyone there has a pen name. While the libertarian reactionary views I espouse are significantly different from neoreaction, there is also significant overlap, with a large number of shared concepts and diagnoses of the modern world. At the time, I thought that I might better fit into their circles if I behaved likewise. In hindsight, their response to me under my real name probably would have been nearly identical.

For now, I intend to keep the pen name and maintain course more generally, but with one major change. In early 2018, I began working on a book, but now I have started devoting more effort to actually doing everything necessary to complete a masterpiece of original thought. This will necessarily mean less articles here until the book is finished. Once the book is ready, I will seriously consider dropping the mask and going for a writing career under my legal name, though the subject matter of the book would fit my pen name very well. I may also write articles for other sites under my legal name or initial name in the near future.

To all who wondered about the meaning of my pen name, both denotatively and personally, now you know.

References:

  1. Curran, Steven (2001). “’Could Paddy Leave off from Copying Just for Five Minutes’: Brian O’Nolan and Eire’s Beveridge Plan”. Irish University Review. 31 (2): 353–375.
  2. Dockter, Warren (Oct. 2011). “The Tale of Two Winstons”. The Historian. 11: 10–12.
  3. Thomas, Donald (1996). Lewis Carroll / A Biography. Barnes and Noble, Inc. p. 129.
  4. “StephenKing.com – Frequently Asked Questions”.
  5. Cross, J. W. (ed.), (1885). George Eliot’s life as related in her letters and journals, 3 vols. London: William Blackwood and Sons. Vol. 1, p. 431.
  6. Furtwangler, Albert (1984). The Authority of Publius: A Reading of the Federalist Papers. Cornell Univ Press. p. 51.
  7. Deseriis, Marco (2010). “’Lots of Money Because I am Many:’ The Luther Blissett Project and the Multiple-Use Name Strategy”. In Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas and Possibilities, edited by Begum O. Firat and Aylin Kuryel. Rodopi, Amsterdam. p. 65–94.
  8. Bauckham, Richard (Sept. 1988). “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters”. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 107, No. 3, p. 469–94.
  9. A Brief History of Persian Literature, by the Iran Chamber Society.
  10. Weston, Mark (1999). Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan’s Most Influential Men and Women. New York: Kodansha International. p. 116.
  11. Durant, Will (1950). The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4, The Age of Faith: Constantine to Dante – A.D. 325–1300. Simon & Schuster. p. 241.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2018 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2018 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

We begin, of course, with last year’s article of the same kind. Some articles in this list are sequels to articles in that list. Aside from that, we may move on.

Benjamin Welton and I began 2018 by addressing some leftover matters from the end of 2017. He explored the quick decline of Nepal from monarchy to democracy to communism in less than a generation, while I responded to a thoroughly misguided attack by Bill Wirtz on Hans-Hermann Hoppe and other right-libertarians.

The left’s warfare on language and the dangerous potential thereof is important to understand. I began exploring this phenomenon by examining common shortcomings among leftist popular authors, looking for the origins of their follies, and showing how these factors can cause a civil war if left unaddressed. In a follow-up essay, I contemplated how the innovation of language becomes stunted and weaponized in political struggles, as well as what may be done to counter such tendencies.

Book reviews have long been a part of my intellectual output, and 2018 was no different. I read and reviewed less books than in 2017, which included Robert Taylor’s Reactionary Liberty, Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, Surjit S. Bhalla’s The New Wealth of Nations, James Ledbetter’s One Nation Under Gold, and Insula Qui’s Anarcho-Monarchism.

I began a new series called “Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons”, in which I consider how government policies which seem terrible at face value can be exploited to achieve liberty and/or undermine statist goals. This was loosely inspired by Morrakiu’s series “Agreeing With Liberals For The Wrong Reasons”, in which he showed how progressives unwittingly help the alt-right. The subjects covered in this series in 2018 included cryptocurrency bans, conscription, anti-discrimination laws, minimum wage, and impeaching Donald Trump. More episodes will come next year.

Insula Qui presented a grand project called “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” to lead into her book Anarcho-Monarchism. The introduction discusses other schools of thought and makes the case for why a libertarian theory of statecraft is necessary. Part I explains the folly of political activism. Part II explores the implications of property rights in a libertarian social order. Part III deals with the differences between states and governments, as well as the basics of private defense. Part IV explains the necessity of governance, what form it might take, and who will govern. Part V considers the effect that trust levels in society may have on the form of a libertarian social order. Part VI explores the relationship between authority and liberty. Part VII uses social contract theory to expand libertarian philosophy. Part VIII considers the nature of the natural elite. Part IX explores the role of trust in society. Part X examines the role of time preference in forming a libertarian social order. Part XI considers the role of externalities that go beyond strictly material concerns. Part XII explains how greed is frequently overrated by libertarians. The series may or may not have more entries.

In 2017, I argued that the United States debt ceiling should be eliminated. However, the debt ceiling is only part of the problem. Another part is the practice known as a government shutdown, and I argued that this practice should also be ended.

On March 9, right-wing activists Martin Sellner and Brittany Pettibone were detained and deported while attempting to enter the United Kingdom to give speeches and interview other rightist personalities. A similar fate also befell Lauren Southern on March 12. I wrote a list of observations about these events.

Following the Parkland shooting, a student movement to restrict access to firearms became prominent. I deconstructed this effort to show how it is orchestrated by the political establishment using tactics common to other such movements.

My glossary of social justice warrior terminology is the most popular article ever posted at Zeroth Position. After two years of continued craziness from radical leftists, I decided to revise and expand it to create a second edition. This is likely to need continual updating, and two years is a proper amount of time between editions, so look for the third edition in 2020.

I began an article series called “The Color Theory of Conflict”, in which I attempted to provide a grand unified theory of conflict. Part I defines the various colors and defends those definitions against likely objections. This was unfortunately put on the back burner, but more parts will come next year.

In human discourse, logical fallacies are quite common. But when opposition to these fallacies goes too far, further fallacies and sub-optimal behaviors can result. I examined the most common examples of this behavior in an effort to counter such second-order problems.

Sometimes, the lens of examination is best turned inward to correct one’s own missteps. Such was the case for an article I wrote in 2017 about the concept of degeneracy, so I published a revision in which I considered the possibility that civilization can be degenerate.

Welton returned with a case that American intervention in Syria is not only not right; it is not even wrong.

My poetic side suddenly came out in May, resulting in song lyrics critical of elected politicians in general. It resurfaced in September with song lyrics about Bitcoin, in November with an anti-election song, and in December with a Bitcoin Christmas song.

Libertarians have mixed views about capital punishment, but no one else seems to have considered the value of forming communal bonds by working together to execute the worst offenders. I did this at great length through the lens of ritual magick. Later, I used the problem of pedophilia among Catholic clergy to consider the limits of capital punishment, and found that there is a strong case for executing child molesters.

Welton offered an excellent history of the rise and fall of the Boy Scouts, along with the characteristics that a replacement organization should have in order to prevent a similar leftist takeover.

Doxxing has long been a problem in political circles, but it became worse in 2018. I reasoned through the limits of its acceptable use, then proposed a comprehensive solution for reining it in to those limits.

Since the beginning of recorded history, a teleological element has been present in historical narratives. I argued against this practice, promoting instead an agnostic historiography.

An incident on cable news over Trump’s immigration policies provided an opportunity for examining useful tactics for making leftists look more unhinged than usual. I showed how Corey Lewandowski’s treatment of Zac Petkanas was a master class in this regard.

I attempted to find the ideal amount of force that a civilization should use to maintain itself, coming to the conclusion that, contrary to mainstream liberalism and libertarianism, the bare minimum is not ideal.

Welton took on an important issue that has long been waiting for a proper reactionary response: the undue reverence given to the Magna Carta by liberals of all stripes.

In 2017, I argued the case for reining in censorious technology giants by threatening the revocation of their incorporation. I followed this up with an argument against the corporate form itself as a creature of statism that would almost certainly not exist in a free society. Continued problems with corporate censorship that touched me personally led me to formulate a holistic approach to solving the problem.

Qui returned with a thorough survey of the producerist school of thought, which has both significant overlap with and significant difference from libertarianism.

On July 23, Social Matter published an article by Mark Christensen in which he argued that conservatives should favor larger government. I welcomed Darien Sumner, the fourth additional writer at Zeroth Position, in August to rebut Christensen’s arguments point-by-point. A September 25 article by Henry Olson that criticized libertarianism from the right merited a more measured response.

Welton and I figured that if libertarians and rightists are going to be slandered as fascists and Nazis no matter what, then we have nothing to lose by examining real Nazis and seeing what can be learned from their example. The result was an excellent piece on the rise and fall of the Sturmabteilung (SA).

The Walking Dead comic series and the television show based on it contain many themes which are of interest to the student of libertarian philosophy and reactionary thought. I explored the many ways in which Negan’s group resembles a state apparatus, as well as what one can learn from those who resist his rule and ultimately overthrow him. The third part was released in 2018, covering the second half of Season 7. The fourth and fifth parts, covering Season 8, were planned for 2018 but will instead appear in early 2019.

In 2016, I wrote a guide to political autism as it pertains to libertarian commentators. I followed up that effort with a similar overview of autistic conservatism.

On September 4–7, the United States Senate held hearings on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy. I wrote a list of observations on the events. After Democrats launched an unprecedented smear campaign, I wrote another list of observations.

Nathan Dempsey returned after an 11-month hiatus to begin a quarterly series of updates on his Liberty Minecraft project, the first of which ran on October 24.

Clashes between different strains of political universalism, as well as proselytization into territories ruled by non-universalist governance structures, led to the unprecedented losses of life and property in wars and genocides during the 20th century, and is capable of doing much more damage going forward. I examined the history and practice of universalism, its pathway to genocide, and what libertarians may do about it in a sweeping essay.

Welton offered a history of imperialism and colonialism, considering the bad name it has unjustly acquired, the joint-stock and free state models, and how colonialism might be used to create a libertarian social order.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I updated my explanation of why this reverence is misplaced.

My final think piece of the year will continue into 2019, but the first part offers a detailed explanation of the concept of immaterial technology.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian and reactionary arguments. May 2019 bring more and better!

Book Review: Anarcho-Monarchism

Anarcho-Monarchism is a collection of 30 essays by libertarian author Insula Qui. The book explores various issues from a libertarian reactionary perspective, all of which factor into a synthesis of anarchy and monarchy.

The introduction sets out the purpose of the book, which is to synthesize liberty and authority in such a way as to avoid the apparent contradictions in doing so. According to Qui, this is done through careful nuance. She recommends an alternate order in which one may read the book, but this is only necessary for those unfamiliar with any libertarian reactionary thought. She includes here a disclaimer that the work is not professionally edited, which unfortunately is more glaringly obvious than in her previous book.

In What is Anarcho-Monarchism?, Qui offers an extended introduction. She proposes that the non-aggression principle is necessary but not sufficient, and that property rights will lead to natural hierarchies that culminate in monarchs. These monarchs are different from the absolute rulers of history, in that they rule based on merit and ability rather than coercion.

The Contradiction of Freedom explores the limitations of freedom as pertains to the mutual incompatibility of each person being free to do as one will, which naturally leads to people violating each other’s freedoms. The differing conceptions of freedom offered by competing political ideologies motivate further conflicts in this regard. She summarizes these conditions thus:

“To fight for freedom qua freedom is to fight for other people to be able to impose their vision of freedom onto you. To fight for freedom is simply to fight for the dominance of an unspecified party, and as such if you fight for freedom you fight for subjugation. However, there is still the slight hope that you will be the one doing the subjugating.”[1]

She resolves this problem by advocating as a pragmatic matter that there must be a pursuit of autonomy to avoid needless conflicts in which people seek to impose their vision of freedom upon everyone else. Qui concludes the essay by denouncing the egoism of Max Stirner as the worst combination of freedom and autonomy.

In The Final Arbiter, Qui deals with the problem of final resolution of disputes. She considers various possibilities for how such a final arbiter may exist outside of a monopolistic legal system. Unfortunately, she accepts the opponent’s framing of the question and spends all of her effort in trying to answer it rather than rejecting the concept of a final arbiter as either nonsensical (in that no person or institution can absolutely guarantee that any issue will be resolved forever with no possibility of review) or guaranteed by nature (the dead cannot dispute and every person eventually dies, so the Grim Reaper is the final arbiter).

The fourth essay is The Centralization of Defence, and it argues against the contention of Robert Nozick and others that market anarchy would eventually be undone by centralization of defense agencies leading to the re-establishment of states. Qui admits the advantages of centralizing defense, such as volume discounts and the reduction of transaction costs. But as she explains,

“[P]eople do not constantly need viable alternatives. Rather, what is necessary is the possibility of alternatives emerging.”[2]

In other words, the mere threat of competition can inspire existing companies to provide better service. But more importantly,

“[T]he system of law enforced by the agencies of defence is independent from those agencies that provide physical protection. There is no one agency that should have control over both law and force, and these industries would always be separate. If these industries are not provided by different agencies, the defence agency would become a dictator and would become what it was supposed to defend against.”[3]

The separation of law creation and law enforcement into entities that are not under the same umbrella would be absolutely necessary to avoid the tyranny of modern nation-states. Finally, there is the problem of a powerful defense agency simply conquering a territory and declaring itself a new state. Qui admits that this is possible but not certain, which while less than ideal, is better than the certainty of the current system.

Pro-War, Anti-Nation offers a strong case for the incompatibility of nationalism with warmongering, noting the dysgenic effect of sending the best men to die, the economic ruin brought by wartime destruction and production diversion, and the loss of moral foundation. Qui argues that true nationalism has been corrupted by imperialism, and restoring non-interventionist thinking is the path back to sanity. To her credit, she recognizes the possibility of restoration of martial virtues in a defensive war.

In The Necessity of Force, Qui argues against the utopian ideas of some left-libertarians who advocate a goal of universal nonviolence. She writes,

“ There will always be people who use force and there will always be people who need to respond to force with force to ensure that the original initiator of violence can be brought to justice. …If there are no people who are willing to use force to secure relative peace for people who do not want to use force, then people who are willing to use violence for personal gains would always achieve unjust outcomes for the sake of themselves.”[4]

She also demonstrates that this need not devolve into a state, as the incentive structures involved give advantages to defenders over aggressors.

Qui considers the corruption of libertarian philosophy for the purpose of appealing to leftists in Brutal Freedom. Here, she considers the flip side of full personal responsibility to its logical conclusion of social Darwinism, though she does not use the term in this essay. Though charity may mitigate brutality somewhat, Qui argues that some brutality will remain, as these charities will only help those who are willing to help themselves and just need a temporary step up.

All Men Are Created Equal is a brief essay that addresses that all too common liberal fiction. As usual,

“Definitions change and juxtaposing a modern notion with a classical one results in a misunderstanding of much thought in the classical tradition.”[5]

As such, she compares modern notions of equality with the classical liberal idea of getting rid of titles of nobility and other such birthrights. This classical idea of human biological diversity and meritocracy is contrasted with the modern idea of equality of outcome. But Qui commits an error at the end, arguing for classical equality instead of natural inequality.

Social Darwinism is given direct treatment in the ninth essay. Qui argues that far from trying to deny such an accusation, capitalists should embrace this sort of thinking. She illuminates the difference between actively killing and passively allowing death, showing expectation of survival to be a revolt against nature. But then she makes a dubious assertion:

“If a system allows people to gain unearned advantages, that system ceases to be a social darwinist [sic] one. This is because it starts to encourage parasitism and negative qualities instead of the advancement of all individuals.”[6]

Left unsaid is what constitutes an unearned advantage. There is also the problem that one does not earn one’s own genetic code, and that parasitism and other negative qualities are part of the evolutionary process. However, she correctly recognizes that a Darwinian process applies not just to who can survive, but who will occupy each station in life. She argues that social Darwinism will prevent charity from being wasted on those who will never become productive members of society, with resources instead flowing to those who prove themselves best at managing them.

In The Rule of Law, Qui briefly contemplates the impossibility of any political system securing the rule of law, as any such system places someone above the law. She argues for a separation of law and state:

“The only solution to this is to remove the managerial position when it comes to law from being legitimized by the coercive use of force and to put law on the same level as every other industry. We can have the managerial position of law be put onto the free market where each person is able to patronize the providers of law and where each person is also free to not do so. Thus the people who are in the position that is traditionally one of governance become reduced to the level of every person who is not within the system of governance. In that manner, it is possible to create a situation where there are no privileged positions and there is real equality before the law.”[7]

Of course, this raises the usual objections of the wealthiest patrons ultimately deciding the law by which enforcers they will hire for which purposes, the free rider problem, and the possibility of re-emerging states, none of which are adequately addressed in the essay.

Against Taxes is the first long essay of the book, and approaches the case against taxation in economic terms rather than the usual moral arguments. Qui uses opportunity cost, price mechanisms, the lack of market accountability of the state, the cost of collecting taxes, the cost of prosecuting tax resistance, wealth transfer from competent stewards to incompetent stewards, and the impossibility of creating a taxation scheme that does not disproportionately harm the poor to make this case. She concludes the essay by debunking the idea of public goods.

In High Trust, Qui provides an overview of various types of individualism, settling on ethical individualism as most conducive to a libertarian social order. She also considers the role of homogeneity in strengthening trust. Unlike mainstream libertarians, Qui accepts the impact of genetics:

“Due to evolutionary pressures in different ecosystems and climates, genes change in humans when they are in different areas of the world. [T]hese genes affect the culture and they create the basis for culture. Furthermore, even if a member of a genetic group comes into contact with the culture of another, they still have the genetic incentives of their original culture.”[8]

The essay concludes by explaining why high trust is important. Where Qui goes astray is with her insistence on nonviolent means of enforcing social norms; violence has almost always entered into this process and will likely continue to do so. There is also no mention of the possibility for technology to reduce the need for trust.

In Liberty, Property, Society, Qui argues against critics who accuse libertarians of being anti-social because they reject coercive institutions. Defining liberty as self-determination and explaining property as a rational method for allocating scarce resources, she concludes that this allows for social interaction to be maximized. She explains the difference between capitalism and corporatism, which critics of libertarianism (and many libertarians as well) frequently confuse. The essay concludes by exploring the reversal of the argument, that a lack of liberty and property will undermine society.

With The Family in Capitalism, Qui begins addressing the relationship between libertarianism and the far-right. She addresses the far-right contention that capitalism is anti-family. Unlike left-libertarians, many of whom view the breakdown of traditional family structures as a positive, Qui argues that the state and the corporatism it enables has done this to everyone’s detriment. She shows that both states and corporations are incentivized to destroy the family as a challenger and impediment to their power. She understands that capitalism is an amoral process; garbage inputs result in garbage production, while good inputs result in the production of virtue. The ending deals with women in the workforce, and bears quoting at length:

“[T]here is the…point that capitalism pushes women into the workforce…so there is a need for fascist economics to avoid this phenomenon. This argument has a compelling point. Capitalists are directly benefited by there being a surplus of labour to make those who own capital able to lower wages in the economy. This would eventually correct itself and, given enough time, the supply of capital would reach the demand for capital. But capitalists hold political power in an unfree market. We can say that when the capitalists hold both political and economic power, capitalism has inherent forces that destroy the family. This cannot be achieved with economic power alone. There would be no way to force women into the workforce and keep profits from increasing the size of the workforce. However, in a free market, the capitalists cannot prevent additional capital from entering the market and cannot alter the amount of labour in the economy by incentive structures.

Furthermore, it is simply profitable due to the division of labour for women to stay home and take care of the children while the father works. This is for multiple reasons, usually men earn more since they are more productive and more willing to work longer hours. Women are more apt at taking care of children and more emotionally attached to the process of child-rearing. Thus, if a couple aims to produce healthy children in a good family with enough wealth, that couple needs a division of labour that would fit the strengths of all people in the family.”[9]

The Case for Tradition argues against “libertine hedonihilism,” as Qui terms it. This is the left-libertarian view of liberty as freedom to engage in any degenerate behavior whatsoever as long as no one else is aggressed against. She argues that the family is the bedrock of society, therefore a stable libertarian order will be undermined by anything that erodes family values. She writes,

“Every society is organized along some lines, even a society with no coercive power system creates a system of exclusion, rules of interaction, and other norms to stabilize social life under the system. These social foundations may be implicit or explicit, however, they will always exist and thus we should make sure that the everpresent [sic] organizational principles result in a society that produces the best quality of life for the people involved. The libertine recoils at this statement as he firmly believes that all people should be left alone to be as degenerate as they want to be and no person should be bothered by any sort of moralism. But even the libertine must function within a society and that society will have organizational principles.”[10]

Qui explains the difference between individualism as isolation and individualism as independence. She then describes tradition thus:

“[T]radition is not to be understood as the corrupted american [sic] concept of tradition. So-called family values, military histories, and constitutions do not constitute a historical basis for organizing society. Rather, tradition is the all-encompassing concept of the cultural heritage and the knowledge of all people involved in those traditions. Tradition is the manifestation of the cultural group that created the traditions. …Simply put, tradition is the spontaneous historical order of a nation and to not respect tradition would be to not respect proper social structures.”[11]

She urges libertarians to appeal to rightists instead of leftists as a more natural fit, much as Murray Rothbard did in his 1992 essay Right-Wing Populism. She finishes the essay by thinking of tradition as a collection of best practices through the ages, which while imperfect, was good enough to bring people this far.

In Community, Tradition, Liberty, the same matters are approached from the angle of community as a mitigating factor for the degeneracy that can result if people regard themselves as atomized individuals. The role of social capital as an economic factor is also discussed, along with lower transaction costs and better economic calculation as people form tight-knit communities. She then considers the problems of implementing traditional values absent liberty.

The Two Laws of Nature begins a streak of five controversial essays, in which Qui attempts to bridge the liberty-authority divide. She describes her undertaking as follows:

“In the niche sphere of radical politics, you find two very contrasting American intellectual traditions with their own notions of what is the natural law. American white nationalists and fascists occasionally claim that the law of nature forms a brutal order of self-defence and racial animosity. Radical libertarians interpret the law of nature as something that guarantees rights to each person. I would propose a synthesis of these two laws of nature to combine them into a proper set of moral values. This could form a social order that is a combination of libertarian and extreme traditionalist-nationalist values. Furthermore, this synthesis is highly similar to classical concepts of natural law which combine both personal morality and rights.”[12]

She considers fascist ethics as being rooted in animal behavior and adapted to take account of the differences between humans and lower animals. This sets up hierarchies as the natural form of organization, while egalitarianism and democracy are revolts against nature. By contrast, Qui views libertarianism as constructed from reason, from which the non-aggression principle and private property rights emerge. But curiously, she refers to libertarian theory as “empty tautologies.” She describes her proposed synthesis thus:

“Each person ought to value their tribe, know their place in society, attempt to form a family, and defend themselves. This is not to say that each person can succeed at all of these, there are certain inherent limitations. [H]owever, these things should be required for living a perfectly moral life. The tribe does not have to be a race or a nation, the tribe would rather be the community in which you find yourself.”[13]

The next essay is National Socialism and Libertarianism, and it deals with common premises shared between libertarians and national socialists, which are commonly believed to be diametrically opposed. Qui believes these to be that society should emerge organically, opposition to parasitism, recognition that the state is an institution of force, and intolerance of communism. The manifestation of each of these differs greatly; is the parasite the state or Jewry, are parasites best removed by the market or the state, and so on. She closes with a warning:

“[I]t is very easy to become disillusioned with freedom when one realizes for which purposes freedom is used. Because there are overlaps in the general worldview of fascists and libertarians, it becomes easy to simply remove the seemingly problematic aspect of freedom that leads to various ills within libertarianism.”[14]

“However, this does not mean that libertarians are similar to fascists or that it is necessarily libertarian to intermingle with fascists.”[15]

Authoritarianism Versus Libertarianism deals head-on with the central issue of the book. Qui argues that liberty and authority are incompatible in the political realm, but can come together outside of politics. Again defining liberty as self-determination, she finds the enemy of liberty to be not authority but coercion. She writes,

“When strong command structures and a social order predicated upon a strong focus on authority can defeat coercion at large in society, then authoritarianism is more libertarian than perceivedly unauthoritarian structures. This may seem impossible. After all, when there are strong structures of command it seems like there could not be any room to exercise liberty. But this ignores human action and psychology. These strong command structures do not liberate people from command structures but rather give them the liberty to decide what they do outside authority.”[16]

This kind of liberty under authority comports well with both traditional and neoreactionary thinking. Qui also has an explanation for why this is poorly understood among libertarians:

“But the people who want to be left alone to practice their liberty are also the people who are viscerally opposed to being constrained by command structures. This means that they often overlook how these seemingly oppressive structures can actually benefit the ability to exercise control over your own life. A government that makes a few demands in a very authoritative manner should always be preferable to a government that makes many demands in a democratic manner.”[17]

She spends the remainder of the essay considering the benefits of non-coercive command structures over coercive ones as well as a lack thereof.

Qui’s flirtation with neoreaction continues in Strong and Small. Here, she argues that an ideal state exercises hegemonic control and strong political authority, but does not needlessly involve itself in every facet of society. She uses public choice theory to show that states are inclined to grow, either by becoming stronger or larger (or both). She contends that a strong state will primarily look after its own interests, while a weak state will do the bidding of various special interests. But this contention is dubious because a strong state can have special interests and factionalism internally rather than externally, leading to similar problems. Her conclusion is that a state can either function as an anarcho-tyranny (as many currently do) or as a liberal autocracy, a strong state that does very little.

Libertarianism and Fascism began as an article here at Zeroth Position, though the version in this book is significantly different. Qui compares the spectrum between libertarianism and neoliberalism that leads to left-libertarianism to the spectrum between libertarianism and fascism that can lead to a type of libertarian reaction. She provides a history of the various fascist movements, though this history is not exhaustive. Next comes an overview of fascist ideology, which Qui explains as placing the advancement of the nation above all else. Of a potential synthesis of libertarianism and fascism, she writes,

“Fascism undoubtedly preserves property more than left-wing socialism does, thus fascist sympathies cannot be construed as completely anti-libertarian. But one cannot take both nation and property as ultimate goals. This is because the conflicts between these goals would have to be solved by means of arbitrary decision. This means that libertarianism and fascism cannot be combined as ideologies because their premises are different. One may combine republicanism, minarchism, monarchism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. into a broad political movement, as the premises of these positions are sufficiently similar. But there is no way to create a big tent movement that can accurately represent the interests of both fascists and libertarians; the premises come into too much conflict.”[18]

She concludes that although fascists and libertarians are incompatible in the long-term, they can work together against common enemies by setting aside their incompatibilities to deal with common enemies.

Conversely, the lengthy essay Producerism was later adapted from this book into a Zeroth Position article. Qui’s contention that efficiency is the base value of libertarianism is questionable at best. She describes producerism (differently from most sources) as trying to increase production in general, both of material and immaterial goods. Her claim that producerism is the only metaphysically consistent form of political philosophy requires more support than is given, as she does not prove uniqueness as needed. Much of the rest of the essay repeats material from earlier in the book. This essay would have benefited greatly from exploring the dangers of overproduction as a source of degeneracy instead of containing so much repetition.

Communitarian Libertarianism deals with yet another possible synthesis between libertarianism and another school of thought. Qui blames the strategic errors of Friedrich Hayek for the top-down focus of political libertarianism, which has so far failed to convince elites to be more libertarian for entirely predictable reasons. Though she correctly notes that warfare against the state would be required for the masses to implement libertarianism, she does not contemplate the possibility of a rogue elite leading the way to liberty, as neoreaction does. Qui instead focuses on building communities as a bulwark against the leviathan state, as this is what worked in pre-modern times.

The provocatively titled The Final Solution to the Banking Question argues for a fundamental reform of banking systems. Qui begins by explaining what is wrong with contemporary banking, which essentially functions as a globalist system of debt slavery. Before proposing a solution, she describes a conflict between two sets of critics of banking:

“Our approach to banking should not be about turning a blind eye to unethical action, rather it should wholly be a method of critique and instituting a market solution to a state problem. And there are plenty of people who critique banks from an anti-market perspective. They propose different solutions as they feel that banks are unethical by nature and not by circumstance.”[19]

She provides a standard free-market defense of interest as a measure of time preference. Her proposed solution is quite similar to the Banking Act of 1933 (better known as Glass-Steagall), in that she would separate savings and loan banks from investment banks, disallowing any institution to practice both. Strangely, there is no mention of cryptocurrency and its potential to eliminate the need for banks as we know them.

Familism refers to primacy of the family rather than the individual or any larger collective. Qui argues that families cannot be separated into discrete sub-units in economic analysis, as the income and spending of the individuals is too intertwined. More broadly,

“In cultures that have not been subject to American cultural imperialism, there is often no such thing as individualism divorced from the family. In most of the world, individualism does not imply that the individual should be independent from the constraints of the family, but rather that individuals should be focused on their own family. However, due to the increasingly westernized [sic] nature of the world, this is not a commonplace meaning.”[20]

She contends that unless families consist of degenerate and/or aggressive people, alienated individualism and non-familial collectivism are less optimal than familism. According to Qui, one redefines one’s family through redefining oneself, and advancing one’s family by giving rise to the next generation is the purpose of economic action.

Neo-Feudalism explores the common ground between libertarianism and feudalism, which is quite rich despite libertarianism’s origins in anti-feudalism. Qui makes the case that a natural landed aristocracy will arise out of libertarian standards for property ownership, but the absence of coercion would allow for more turnover of incompetent landowners. Second, the defense structures of anarcho-capitalism greatly resemble that of feudal lords, but Qui again hand-waves the issue of potential re-establishment of states. Even so, the destruction wrought by modern nation-states dwarfs anything under feudalism. She also notes the benefit of using mercenaries for lessening “my country, right or wrong” sentiments.

The Case for Guilds argues that trade unions are a statist corruption of the older system of guilds, which should be reborn and adapted for the future economy. Qui highlights the issue of guilds being run by the best in their line of work, while unions are run by the best at rent-seeking. The means by which guilds ensure quality in ways that unions, trade schools, and universities do not are also discussed.

In Greatness, Qui contemplates the conflict between modernity and potential for excellence. She blames the Enlightenment for abandoning the virtues of previous eras:

“Rationalism became replaced by populism, religious tolerance became replaced by institutional secularism, human advancement became replaced by anti-traditionalism, and an opposition to absolute and tyrannical monarchs became an opposition to monarchy. This was not helped by the opponents of the enlightenment [sic] as they were not staunch traditionalists, but rather simply anti-rationalists and similarly opposed to greatness. They only helped create the monsters of the enlightenment and the popular philosophy that started the downfall of the world.”[21]

This assessment of the Counter-Enlightenment is only partially accurate; for example, Joseph de Maistre opposed a rational foundation for governance because he believed it would only lead to arguments devolving into violence over whether this or that particular government was legitimate. Qui goes on to expose the contradiction between popular democratic will and eternal values. She then describes the progression from Enlightenment values to progressivism:

“Without equality, liberty, fraternity we would have never reached egality, entitlement, collectivity. It is a logical progression from wanting to abolish institutional privilege to wanting to abolish every kind of privilege. The same is true with wanting the ability to be undisturbed by other people and the ability to be undisturbed by the fundamental realities of the world. Respect for your fellow man can easily lead to demanding that the focus of each person be on their fellow man.”[22]

In Kings by Merit, Qui advocates authority as the means for creating virtue, which she believes liberty cannot do on its own. Why this would involve removing authority from economics or politics is left an open question, as degeneracy is especially prone to manifest there. She describes the libertarian king as a societal patriarch who is followed voluntarily for his leadership skills, which she believes is necessary for most people to avoid being led astray by the various demagogues that arise from time to time. Qui views the king’s function as combating parasitism and embodying virtue. She writes,

“The king would logically then be the person in society who has the highest degree of virtue and the highest degree of merit, voluntary monarchy is the ultimate meritocracy as the most qualified person would have the most power. The…person who is the most righteous and most capable would be the king. …Monarchy in any other way and democracy in all ways results in situations in which the rulers are people who do not embody virtue, although this happens far more with democracy than with monarchy. It does not mean that involuntary rule will always necessarily be against virtue, but we need exemplary kings to embody virtue and we only get exemplary kings through voluntary monarchy”[23]

The final essay, For an Anarchist Monarchy, closes the book on its central theme. Qui discusses the failures of combining monarchy with democracy, then proposes a synthesis of monarchy with anarchy by retaining the best principles of both while mitigating the potentially destructive aspects of both with a voluntary monarchic system.

The book ends with a single page advocating further reading of her series “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” here at Zeroth Position.

The first word that comes to mind when describing the entire collection is ‘unfinished.’ The grammatical constructions and punctuation are awkward throughout. A book of this many essays should be categorized into sections of similar subject matters, and the table of contents lacks page numbers. Each of the essays would benefit from a much deeper bibliography, as there are many important points which are simply asserted without proper support. The essays are also somewhat disjointed, in that they do not refer to each other to save space. That being said, the thoughts expressed in this book are sufficiently intriguing to merit reading despite these flaws.

Rating: 3.5/5

References:

  1. Qui, Insula (2018). Anarcho-Monarchism. p. 22.
  2. Ibid., p. 38.
  3. Ibid., p. 40.
  4. Ibid., p. 57.
  5. Ibid., p. 66.
  6. Ibid., p. 71.
  7. Ibid., p. 80.
  8. Ibid., p. 104.
  9. Ibid., p. 123–4.
  10. Ibid., p. 127.
  11. Ibid., p. 129.
  12. Ibid., p. 146.
  13. Ibid., p. 153.
  14. Ibid., p. 162.
  15. Ibid., p. 160.
  16. Ibid., p. 168.
  17. Ibid., p. 169.
  18. Ibid., p. 189–90.
  19. Ibid., p. 224–5.
  20. Ibid., p. 232.
  21. Ibid., p. 257.
  22. Ibid., p. 259–60.
  23. Ibid., p. 268–9.

An Introduction to Immaterial Technology, Part I

Merriam-Webster defines technology as “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area”, “a capability given by the practical application of knowledge”, “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge”, and “the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor”. There is an inclination to think of technology in terms of physical goods, but such material manifestations are only made possible by immaterial forms of technology. These consist of behaviors, beliefs, and relationships that are used for social organization. This has historically been called social technology, but we will introduce the term immaterial technology to avoid conflation with material technologies that are used for social organization, as has occurred with the former term in recent times.[1,2] Immaterial technologies include (but are not limited to) political power, laws, cultural norms, religions, symbols, decision-taking systems, information transfer mediation, and behavior pattern creation among individuals and groups.[2]

The idea of immaterial technology originated with Charles Richmond Henderson, who referred to it as social science and social art. In his terminology, social science makes predictions, while social art introduces improvements to society.[3] In 1901, he defined social technology as “a system of conscious and purposeful organization of persons in which every actual, natural social organization finds its true place, and all factors in harmony cooperate to realize an increasing aggregate and better proportions of the ‘health, wealth, beauty, knowledge, sociability, and rightness’ desires.”[4] In the 1920s, Ernest Burgess and Thomas D. Eliot broadened this definition to include results from psychology and other social studies.[5,6]

These concepts took on a distinctly Marxist flavor in the 1930s (and have never truly lost it), as both social technology and its intentional use to achieve particular goals, known as social engineering, became associated with the socioeconomic plans of the Soviet Union. The Soviet economist Yevgeni Preobrazhensky defined social technology as “the science of organized production, organized labor, of organized systems of production relations, where the legality of economic existence is expressed in new forms.”[7] Karl Popper criticized the Soviet-Marxist theory and use of social technology. He distinguished piecemeal social engineering, which adopts “the method of searching for, and fighting against, the greatest and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching for, and fighting for, its greatest ultimate good,” from utopian social engineering, which seeks “an ideal state, using a blueprint of society as a whole, is one which demands a strong centralized rule of a few, and which therefore is likely to lead to a dictatorship.” According to Popper, the former was democratic while communism and fascism were examples of the latter.[8]

Just like material technology, immaterial technology is often complex. Although immaterial technology can be subject to design, it does not always have a clear inventor, instead being produced by a vast iterative process for which no single person can take credit or blame. In this sense, the development of immaterial technology bears some resemblance to Darwinian natural selection. This necessarily makes it more difficult to understand, but it is vital for any practitioner of statecraft or contributor to political theory to understand the role of immaterial technology because the types available in a particular place or time form part of the boundary conditions within which a civilization located there will develop. Moreover, it is the advance or regress of immaterial technology that determines not only how societies will evolve, but how they can evolve.

To gain a greater understanding of immaterial technology, we will first explore the nature of interaction with technology in general, then apply this to immaterial technology in particular. In Part II, we will examine proper and improper modes of functionality of immaterial technology, explore the concept of social engineering, then consider how to apply immaterial technology toward the purpose of eucivic social engineering.

Levels of Interaction

Let us begin by considering the eight levels of interaction that a subject may have with a particular piece of technology. These can be illustrated by considering various responses to encountering a physical artifact. We will use for this purpose an iconic firearm: the Colt Single Action Army. Designed by William Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff Richards in 1872 and released the following year, it was the United States Army’s service revolver for the next two decades (three decades for the Artillery Model), and has remained popular in the civilian market to this day even though it has been outpaced in terms of performance.[9] Although this is an example of material technology, the same levels apply to the handling of immaterial technology.

First, a technology may be beyond one’s understanding. Consider a snake slithering across the ground who happens upon our revolver. The snake may investigate, but will find no use for it, for a snake is both physically and mentally incapable of using a firearm and understanding its use. Firearms made for humans by humans are simply outside the context of a snake’s ordinary existence. The most primitive response to a technology is to ignore it, and beyond a momentary examination, this is precisely what the snake will do unless it manages to accidentally discharge the firearm.

Second, one may use a technology in a manner inconsistent with its intended purpose. Suppose that our revolver is found by a gorilla. The gorilla will not understand how a firearm is intended to be used, and may not be physically capable of getting its finger into the trigger guard, but it may find that the gun can be smashed into fruits and nuts to crack them open. This is not the function that a revolver is built to perform, but it can serve this purpose. To understand another form of misuse, imagine a small child encountering our revolver. A toddler can fire a gun, but is likely to accidentally kill himself or someone else because he is mentally incapable of handling and using it properly. This form of misuse occurs not because the proper use of the technology is beyond the limits of the user’s abilities, but because the user’s abilities are not yet developed to handle the technology with competence. Misuse in this case is to be understood as inability to understand the proper operation of a technology; technically proper use for evil purposes, such as a criminal using a revolver as a murder weapon, is another matter to be discussed in Part II.

Third, one may be able to use a technology but be unable to repair or replicate it. Suppose our revolver is sent through a time portal to ancient Rome. It is likely that people from this context would figure out how to use the revolver. However, once the ammunition runs out or the gun breaks, they would not be able to keep using it because they did not know how to make gunpowder or manufacture the parts to repair it. Note that one can be at this level in the short-term due to a lack of material resources, in the medium-term due to a lack of knowledge, or in the long-term due to physical or mental limitations.

Fourth, one may be able to repair a technology but not replicate it. Suppose our revolver is sent through a different time portal to a gunsmith of the late 16th century. Matchlock firearms had just been invented[10], but the development of cartridges was still far into the future. A gunsmith from this time could probably repair a Colt SAA if he could figure out the mechanically indexing cylinder, but a user would still be limited by ammunition. Note that the gunsmith of this era may seek to avoid this limitation by re-purposing it as a matchlock revolver rather than a cartridge revolver. Repairs that are technically improper but functionally useful are an important aspect of immaterial technology as well as material technology.

Fifth, one may have the ability to replicate a technology but not innovate it. In modern times, copies and near-copies of the Colt SAA are made by Beretta, U.S. Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, and STI International. This level can be difficult to distinguish from the next. Efforts to invent a new technology are rarely uncontested; it only appears to be so because of the human tendency to remember winners instead of also-rans. Additionally, replicas manufactured later tend to be enhanced in some way that was unavailable when the original was invented; e.g., the modern STI version of the Colt SAA has a modified hand/spring assembly designed for more durability, thus placing it in the sixth level. In some cases, this level is reached and not surpassed because a particular technology cannot be further improved but is useful long-term in its current form, thus avoiding the higher levels.

Sixth, one may have the ability to innovate a technology. Here we include both invention of a technology and making improvements upon it, for most inventions are improvements upon prior inventions. After all, it would be rather myopic to treat the development of magazine-fed semi-automatic pistols as a separate line of technology rather than a different branch on the same technology tree. With respect to the Colt SAA, Mason and Richards were at this level, along with later gunsmiths who improved upon their design.

Seventh, one might take notice of a technology but decline its use because one already has superior technology. Suppose that an away team from Star Trek happened upon a Colt SAA. They are just as vulnerable to bullets as humans are today, but their phasers are generally superior weapons to firearms. Even so, they might find a revolver useful if their phasers should become inoperable or unavailable for some reason. In other words, if one’s current technology moves down to the third level and then fails, a less advanced technology may move down to levels of use from the higher levels of neglect.

Eighth, one may ignore a technology not because one is too primitive for it, but because one is too advanced for it. Suppose a Colt SAA is found millennia from now by an advanced “species” of sentient robots. Perhaps they are made of materials beyond our understanding, have an energy shield that vaporizes incoming projectiles, or can transfer their “consciousness” out of one robotic body and into another. Whatever the mechanism may be, they are immune to bullets. While they may have interest in such an artifact as archaeological evidence and/or a museum piece, it is not a useful technology for them. Just like the first level, this level is the result of broader context, but now the positions of subject and technology are reversed.

Further Observations

Let us make a few additional observations before applying these levels to immaterial technology. Note that this system refers to individual technologies, so each subject is at a particular level with each technology. Thus, a person or a civilization may be at level three with respect to one technology while being at level seven with respect to another.

Whereas a productive discussion of immaterial technology necessarily dwells on the practical and useful, we are primarily concerned with the middle six levels and not the first or eighth. Technologies which are so far ahead of or behind a particular subject as to be in level one or level eight tend to be matters of speculation. The first level is primarily of interest to experimental archaeologists, while the eighth level represents Outside Context Problems of one form or another. That being said, there is a nebulous boundary between the first two levels; just as a snake or a toddler may accidentally discharge a firearm, one may attempt to use methods of social engineering that are beyond one’s comprehension, with randomly destructive results. There is generally a greater gulf between levels two and three, as a certain mental capacity is required to cross this boundary. Accordingly, it is more difficult for a civilization to fall back from level three to level two than to fall through other level boundaries, as this is indicative of a general loss of knowledge that only accompanies great cataclysms. Aside from such disasters, the general trend is for technology to advance.[Footnote 1]

Levels three through five are much closer than they might appear to be. Though there can be many centuries of developmental difference between these levels in a particular technology, as there were between ancient Rome and 19th century America in the above example, the ingenuity of humans (and presumably other sentient lifeforms) allows for advanced technology to be reverse-engineered with astonishing rapidity. Should someone manage to send a relatively modern weapon back to that time, such weaponry would likely be in common use by perhaps a century later.[Footnote 2] In the same vein, level four is a spectrum of sorts. At the low end, only the most basic repairs may be performed, and losing even this ability returns one to level three. At the high end, the ability to repair blends into the ability to replicate as the production of repair parts eventually leads to the ability to produce copies of the entire artifact, thus blurring the boundary between levels four and five.

Level six requires yet another step in intellectual ability, as inventing one’s own technology is more difficult than figuring out how to use extant resources. Progressing along one branch of technology is the natural result of this level over time, but will usually lead to a different kind of technology, thus advancing one to level seven. Failure to make the transition to level six or level seven is a sign of stagnation, which usually precedes a decline. At level seven, we find one more important observation: “inferior” is not a synonym for “bad” when it comes to technology. If a rival is expecting to encounter more advanced technology, then using less advanced technology may be an effective surprise, as the rival may not have prepared defenses for it. Thus, archaic technology need not be discarded and should not be forgotten until one is at level eight with respect to it.

The eighth level represents an enormous step in ability, by far the greatest of all the level transitions. So great, in fact, that it is difficult to imagine a technology with respect to which humans at the time of this writing are at level eight. Even the most primitive tools of pre-human primates have modern improvements that perform the same functions more effectively, but the root functions are still necessary. Therefore, we are at level seven with respect to them. To be at level eight with respect to a hand ax, for instance, is to be so advanced as to have no need to use physical objects to apply force to other objects. To use another Star Trek example, the Q Continuum is at this level.

Application to Immaterial Technology

With the eight levels of technological interaction hopefully well-explained, let us apply them to immaterial technology. Here we will use several examples to illustrate some phenomena which do not generally occur with material technologies. As mentioned earlier, we will focus on levels two through seven, as this is where subjects are with respect to all useful and comprehensible immaterial technologies. We will proceed through these levels out of order for reasons which will soon become clear.

It must be noted that not all immaterial technologies are useful to all beings. For example, patriarchy would make no sense to a species that reproduces asexually. For them, patriarchy would be non-scoreable on the eight-level scale; regardless of their ability to understand the concepts involved, it would be impossible for them to apply such knowledge unless their biology were to change. One could only make an educated guess at their development with respect to this immaterial technology by examining similar technologies, such as those involved in their dealings with other species.

Invention and Replication

Let us begin with level six, for no technology can be used, misused, repaired, replicated, or improved upon before it is invented. As with material technology, people invent immaterial technology because they believe it will improve their lives in some way by giving them additional capabilities through the practical application of knowledge. In other words, to the extent that immaterial technology is the product of deliberate design, people are seeking to alter social structures to produce greater net goods per unit of effort. In the absence of deliberate design, immaterial technologies build up over time as cultural traditions through a process of survival of the sufficiently fit. These efforts fail at times for reasons which will be explored in Part II, but the intent is always the same if one remembers that what constitutes “greater net goods” is subjective because value is subjective. We see again that most inventions are built upon prior inventions, or at least have necessary prerequisites. For instance, one does not get democracy if there is not timocracy first. The most notable difference is that advances in immaterial technology are not necessarily improvements; using the previous example, though democracy seems to be a natural progression from timocracy, this was regarded as a devolution from good governance to tyranny of the majority for most of history, and for good reason. Of course, accounting for such false advances blurs the distinction between levels six and seven, but the theory must adapt to reality, not vice versa.

Next, let us discuss level five. Once an immaterial technology is invented, it must be replicated in the minds of enough people to make its practice possible. After all, one does not have a männerbund of ten men providing defense for a tribe of thousands or a religion with a dozen believers providing moral guidance for a great empire. In order to grow to the point of practical use, an immaterial technology must produce a perceived benefit for the right people, which is to say that the elites must find it superior to what they already use. Here we see another difference versus material technology. It is rare for there to be a successful effort to suppress the adoption of physical inventions; such efforts tend to be targeted and suppressed in short order.[11] Only when these physical inventions are intertwined with immaterial values that oppose those in power do elites spring into action against material progress, as happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.[12–14] Immaterial technologies which work against current elites are far more likely to be suppressed, such as heretical religious doctrines or alternative political systems.

When immaterial developments are not hindered, their proliferation is somewhat different from that of material technologies. Many societies have intellectual property laws that slow the advance of physical invention by restraining market forces to give inventors a monopoly on production for a number of years. Although these laws frequently deter the spread of ideas by lessening the availability of the media in which they are expressed, the ideas themselves are not scarce or rivalrous. Once released into the public domain in one way or another, they tend to remain there and be used freely. In the strictest sense, the replication of immaterial technology is as simple as you reading this article after I have written it. Failure in this sense is most unusual, for language is one of the most basic immaterial technologies. However, the use and repair of immaterial technology after replication is much more complex.

The adaptation of an immaterial technology from one societal context into another typically only occurs on a mutatis mutandis basis. The culture which produces an immaterial technology will necessarily leave its imprints on it, and some aspects of this may be incompatible with another culture. For example, Islamic feminism looks quite different from Western feminism because it must contend with another dominant set of immaterial technologies (the religion of Islam and everything that comes with it) that will not allow feminism to be expressed in the same ways that it is in the West. This kind of adaptation leads us into the matters of repair and maintenance.

Repair and Maintenance

The fourth level, that of repair, is quite different with immaterial technology. Indeed, maintenance may be a better term for what is done with ideas, especially when they still seem to function as intended. Whereas continuous replication in the sense of instructing future generations in the use of particular immaterial technologies is an essential part of this maintenance, the boundary between levels four and five is blurred once more. But education is only one aspect of this level; there are several others to discuss.

The proper maintenance and repair of immaterial technology involves the defense of orthodoxy against heresy, enforcement of social norms, restoration of lost traditions, and adaptation to conditions. An immaterial technology cannot be maintained if it is replaced by another, so it is necessary for the brahmins of a society to defend the immaterial technologies in use against alternatives whose advocates seek to replace the current paradigm. Contrary to the liberal ideology prevalent in modern times, this behavior has no inherent morality; the good or evil of suppressing heretical viewpoints depends on whether the immaterial technology being protected is proper or degenerate compared to the ideas being suppressed, and immaterial technologies that function well can still require such protection. The kshatriyas also have a role to play in this defense, for their role is the defense of civilization against enemies foreign and domestic, and immaterial technologies that can be wielded to wreak havoc upon social order certainly qualify.

Unfortunately, there are many cases in which the defense of proper immaterial technologies fails and degenerate forms manage to dominate a society. Even worse is that the very mechanisms that once reinforced a healthy social order are turned against that purpose. When this happens, a restoration is necessary. This involves purging the degenerate forms and reintroducing proper immaterial technology. The details of performing this operation are a primary concern of most schools of reactionary thought.

The role of adaptation to conditions was partly discussed in the previous section, but only in the sense of immaterial technologies crossing borders between societies and making necessary changes to accommodate the inherent differences between peoples. Changes must also be made to deal with temporal differences; just as there was a cultural difference between Han Dynasty China and the Roman Empire, there is a difference between Rome two millennia ago and Rome today. Shifts in demographics, economics, and even geology can alter the cultural institutions of a society, which must keep pace with conditions without being subordinate to them.

Improper maintenance and repair usually takes the form of doing the above incompetently, whether accidentally or maliciously, and tends to result in failure of the immaterial technology. But there is another form which need not end in failure, and is done out of necessity by well-intentioned people who are doing their best but are in over their heads. Bastiaan Niemand uses the example of horse-drawn cars in rural India to illustrate this phenomenon. He writes,

“First, a horse-drawn carriage is replaced by a car. The car soon becomes a junker, which is even worse than a carriage. So the junker is discreetly retrofitted into a jugaad horse-drawn car. The jugaad car looks like a car, but it only works because it is, in fact, powered by a horse. Yet it doesn’t even work as well as a horse because it has to pretend to be a car.

…[It is] likely that proper horse-drawn carriages existed in that part of rural India within living memory. But imagine that you have grown up without ever having seen a working carriage (let alone a working automobile, for that matter). All you know is horse-drawn cars. You might harbor vague doubts that things are not quite fitting together as envisioned, but compared to what? Who would you even ask about your suspicions? Everyone you know drives a horse-drawn car, even as the rusting frames seem to require more urgent maintenance every year.”[15]

The word jugaad is borrowed from Hindi, and roughly means “makeshift” in its adjective usage. As a verb, it means “to make existing things work with meager resources”. Niemand applies this idea to various immaterial technologies in his article, but describes only part of the cycle; in the example of the jugaad car, the rusting frames will eventually require greater repairs than can be performed. This leaves people riding horses and carrying only what will fit in their saddlebags. Eventually, someone rediscovers how to build chariots, then carriages and wagons. Perhaps the next time that something like an automobile comes along, the resources to maintain it will be present. Otherwise, the cycle begins again, as entire societies generally do not reject as transformative a technology as an automobile. The same sort of cycle can be seen in immaterial technologies; the political doctrine of anacyclosis described by Polybius, in which rule progresses through monarchy, kingship, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, ochlocracy, and back to monarchy, is an example.[16]

As with material technology, level four is a spectrum. At the low end, some civilizations prove incapable of repairing and maintaining their mechanisms of social organization, resulting in decline that leads to foreign conquest, a dark age, or both. In the middle range, this can be forestalled by the jugaad method discussed above, but this sort of ingenuity receives far more praise than it deserves. The presence of such improvisation indicates that the leaders of a civilization are incompetent or malicious, causing the brightest minds of that civilization to exert effort toward solving problems which would not exist under better governance, thus keeping them from other accomplishments. At the high end, repairs and maintenance are performed properly, which keeps a civilization stable and healthy.

Intermission

So far, we have covered the history of immaterial technology as a concept, justified our novel terminology, devised a eight-level scale for describing interaction with technology, and started applying this scale to immaterial technology. In Part II, we will finish this application by discussing levels two and three, which include the use and misuse of immaterial technology as well as proper versus degenerate forms. We will conclude by discussing the use of immaterial technology for social engineering and determining how this is best done to promote eucivic good.

Footnotes:

  1. It is through this observation that Whig historiography appears as a corollary of technological determinism. If technology is a creator of potential, technology has continually advanced in time memorial, and reality is downstream from potential, then history will appear to be an inexorable march of progress.
  2. This is strong evidence either against time travel or in favor of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Any artifact left in the past by time travelers should dramatically alter the course of history, as it would be figured out by the people of that time period and put into widespread use thereafter, thus creating a temporal paradox of who actually invented a particular technology. The only escape from paradox is for this chain of events to create a new timeline.

References:

  1. Leibeseder, Bettina (Jan. 2011). “A Critical Review on the Concept of Social Technology”. Socialines Technologijos/Social Technology: 7–24.
  2. Tamošiūnaitė, Rūta (2018). “Integrated social technologies for citizen participation in modern public governance decision making”, in conference proceedings of The 5th European Interdisciplinary Forum 2017. Bologna, Italy: EDITOGRAFICA s.r.l. p. 28.
  3. Henderson, C. R. (1895). “Review”. Journal of Political Economy, 3(2), 236–8.
  4. Henderson, C. R. (1901). “The Scope of Social Technology”. The American Journal of Sociology, 6(4), 465–86.
  5. Burgess, E. W. (1923). “The Interdependence of Sociology and Social Work”. Journal of Social Forces, 1(4), 366–70.
  6. Eliot, T. D. (1924). “The Social Worker’s Criticisms of Undergraduate Sociology”. Journal of Social Forces, 2(4), 506–12.
  7. Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1926). Novaya Ekonomika. Moscow. Translated by Pierce, Brian (1965); with an introduction by A. Nove, 1st ed. Oxford: Clarendon. p. 55.
  8. Popper, Karl (1945). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 158–9.
  9. “History: The Colt Legend”. Colt’s Manufacturing Company.
  10. 趙士禎 (Zhao Shi-zhen) (1598). 神器譜 (Artifact spectrum).
  11. Walters, Karly (2004). Law, “Terror”, and the Frame-Breaking Act. University of London.
  12. Kiernan, Ben (1997). The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79. London: Yale University Press. p. 31–158; 251–310.
  13. Bergin, Sean (2008). The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide. Rosen. p. 31
  14. Seng Kok Ung (2011). I Survived the Killing Fields: The True Life Story of a Cambodian Refugee. p. 22–6
  15. Niemand, Bastiaan (2018, Nov. 13). “Jugaad Ethics”. Social Matter. https://www.socialmatter.net/2018/11/13/jugaad-ethics/
  16. Polybius (146 BC). The Histories, Book VI.

On Private Imperialism and Colonialism

In the modern academy, no “sin” is seen as more reprehensible than racism. Colonialism and European imperialism (and only European imperialism) are equally damned by the professoriat as the arch-manifestations of racism. Take, for instance, a scholar like the German-born, Harvard-reared Sven Beckert, whose books claim that capitalism in the Western world is inextricably tied to the enslavement of Africans. Therefore, capitalism equals slavery, which equals racism, thus capitalism is illegitimate. This is the logic of post-Marxism in a nutshell.

Given this reality, how could anyone with a modicum of respectability stand up and cheer for imperialism? There are two worthy cases within living memory, and both merit discussion.

Colonialism’s Bad Name

Dinesh D’Souza penned “Two cheers for colonialism” in 2002. D’Souza argues that “the articles of faith” spouted by “Third World intellectuals” are not true. D’Souza uses two examples; the first is the Marxist historian Walter Rodney, whose book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa says that European colonial powers are responsible for “draining African wealth and making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the continent.”[1] Rodney’s view is echoed by millions of leftists around the world, who, like Karl Marx, make the fatal mistake of assuming that wealth is only generated through labor and material extraction.

A more insidious writer was the Francophone psychiatrist Franz Fanon, whose book The Wretched Earth became one of the most popular reads among the Western counter-cultural set of the 1960s. D’Souza quotes Fanon,

“European opulence has been founded on slavery. The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races.”[2]

According to Fanon, Europeans have nothing about which to be proud.

D’Souza contends that this is all hogwash. “The West did not become rich and powerful through colonial oppression,” writes D’Souza. “It makes no sense to claim that the West grew rich and strong by conquering other countries and taking their stuff.” Rather, D’Souza notes that Western imperialism (namely British imperialism) added vital resources to their foreign territories (e.g. the introduction of rubber to Malaysia), introduced such thoroughly Western concepts as scientific inquiry, democracy, and capital investment, and rose the overall standard of living for non-white populations from Africa to the Philippines.

“Two cheers for colonialism” did not make too many waves because it was written by a well-known and outspoken mouthpiece of the Republican Party. The same cannot be said about the article published by Prof. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In 2017, Gilley wrote an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” that was published in Third World Quarterly. The outrage was immediate. The journal called the piece “offensive,” while online mobs howled not only for Gilley to be fired, but to be stripped of his doctorate. The journal’s editor claimed that he had received threats of violence against his person. All of this was for the apparently extreme assertion by Gilley that good governance by Europeans in the colonies lifted millions of people out of wretched poverty.

Besides elucidating the intolerance of the Left and academia (a fact hardly worth noting anymore), Gilley’s reviled article also put forward a proposal to bring back some form of colonialism. Gilley’s example includes the poverty-stricken nation of Guinea-Bissau, which until the 1970s, was a Portuguese colony. He writes,

“Suppose that the government of Guinea-Bissau were to lease back to Portugal the small uninhabited island of Galinhas that lies 10 miles off the mainland and where the former colonial governor’s mansion lies in ruins. The annual lease would be US$1 so that the Portuguese spend their money on the island and the Guinea-Bissau government is not dependent on a lease fee. Suppose, then, that the US$10 million to US$20 million in foreign aid wasted annually on the country were redirected to this new offshore colony to create basic infrastructure.”[3]

Gilley’s idea is not only controversial, but inconceivable. Portugal’s electorate would never vote to absorb Galinhas, regardless of whether or not it is inhabited. No democracy would vote for imperialism, no matter how conservative or “racist” the voters are. Imperialism is simply too expensive and has too many ugly connotations to appeal to any voting public. This is why none of the great European (or non-European) empires were brought into being by voters.

How then can imperialism be revived? A possible answer lies in imperialism without the state. There are at least two models of non-state imperialism from history which could be resurrected in the modern world. More importantly, these stateless empires could appeal to libertarians, despite the oft-cited contention that libertarianism and imperialism are diametrically opposed to one another.

The Joint-Stock Company Model

The greatest overseas empire in history, the British Empire, did not come about thanks to a professional army or Parliament’s funding of a world-dominating navy. Rather, Britain’s rise as the world’s most powerful state occurred because of royally chartered, quasi-private companies like the Virginia Bay Company and the East India Company. While some of these joint stock companies later became indistinguishable from the central state in London, they began as semi-independent entities cherished by the English, then British crown for their cheapness and the revenue and taxes they kicked back to the home isle.

The genesis of the joint-stock company began in the late 16th century, when Richard Hakluyt suggested to Queen Elizabeth I that company-controlled colonies in the New World would provide the Kingdom of England with a way to both harass the Spanish and remove from the metropole debtors, vagrants, and other “undesirables” (e.g. Scottish and Irish POWs).[4] Elizabeth I was not swayed, mostly because Sir Walter Raleigh’s adventures in the New World had generally failed.

King James I, the founder of the Stuart dynasty in England, had more of a gambler’s personality. In 1606, he established the Virginia Company as a way to colonize the New World. The fear of failure was high, and the starting costs for this venture were enormous. However, England at that time had plenty of willing investors. The second sons of noble families were willing to invest in the venture because English common law barred them from inheriting property. Merchants in southern England, many of whom had become stiff-necked Puritans, saw in the Virginia Company and others a possible way to flee the strictures of the Anglican Church. Helping matters too was the fact that England was awash in the landless poor, thousands of whom would wind up as workers (or slaves) in the plantations of Virginia, the Carolinas, and New England.

Unlike the colonialism of Spain or France, England’s joint-stock model gave investors as sense that the colonial enterprise belonged to them, not just the king. Whereas New Spain and New France were conquered by brave men filled with either religious zeal or the lust for gold, England’s Empire in the New World began as a business venture. This business venture proved highly enduring. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which had been founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company, English settlers were left to handle their own affairs. Massachusetts formed its own militia, created its own courts and churches, and even established its own schools and universities.

Such semi-independence derived from the Massachusetts Bay Charter of 1629, which legally bound the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a company-ruled plantation with only minimal supervision from England. The charter reads,

“Wee will, and by theis Presents, for Us, our Heires and Successors, doe ordeyne and graunte, That the Governor of the saide Company for the tyme being, or in his Absence by Occasion of Sicknes or otherwise, the Deputie Governor for the tyme being, shall have Authoritie from tyme to tyme upon all Occasions, to give order for the assembling of the saide Company, and calling them together to consult and advise of the Bussinesses and Affaires of the saide Company, and that the said Governor, Deputie Governor, and Assistants of the saide Company, for the tyme being, shall or maie once every Moneth, or oftener at their Pleasures, assemble and houlde and keepe a Courte or Assemblie of themselves, for the better ordering and directing of their Affaires, and that any seaven or more persons of the Assistants, togither with the Governor, or Deputie Governor soe assembled, shalbe saide, taken, held, and reputed to be, and shalbe a full and sufficient Courte or Assemblie of the said Company, for the handling, ordering, and dispatching of all such Buysinesses and Occurrents as shall from tyme to tyme happen.”[5]

Such autonomy was the norm in New England until 1686, when the crown in London consolidated the New England and Mid-Atlantic colonies in order to form the Dominion of New England. Under Governor Edmund Andros, England tried to remake the Dominion of New England in the image of the motherland. These attempts ran into trouble when the Church of England was instituted in the Puritan heartland. The Dominion of New England did not last past the Glorious Revolution and the unseating of the last Stuart monarch, King James II.

Besides the New World companies, the most famous English/British joint stock company was the British East India Company. Founded and incorporated by royal charter in December 1600, the East India Company’s original goal was to enhance English trade with India and Southeast Asia. Much like the Virginia Company, the East India Company was born out of England’s desire to take the trade in spices, tea, and other items away from its imperial adversaries; namely, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. By 1757, the company was the ruler of Bengal. From this time until the passage of the India Act in 1784, all sovereign decisions made in company-ruled India were made by the East India Company’s shareholders.

Today, companies are far more wealthy and powerful than the East India Company ever was. Although most corporations cooperate hand-in-glove with governments (both foreign and domestic), they have the resources and the wherewithal to establish private empires in the world’s less developed regions. A new East India Company could be easily established today. For instance, in borrowing Dr. Gilley’s idea, some import/export company could buy Galinhas island and protect it with private military contractors. Other countries in Africa, Asia, or Latin America could be similarly enticed to sell off parts of land that are either unproductive or too expensive for their meager government budgets. These countries would then be granted favored status in trade.

As far as issues of immigration or citizenship are concerned, such matters would be left up to the company. However, the easiest solution would be to grant citizenship or residency only to those who hail from the company’s country of origin or the country that sells the land to the company.

The Congo Free State Model

Only Nazi Germany is more reviled by the contemporary Left than the Congo Free State, which lasted from 1885 until 1908. Many people know about the cruelties of the Congo Free State thanks to the book King Leopold’s Ghost by lifelong leftist Adam Hochschild. According to Hochschild, the Congo Free State was King Leopold II of Belgium’s private sweatshop, and it culminated in one of history’s deadliest genocides. Hochschild puts the number of people killed by the awful Leopold II at 10 million.

Ryan Faulk argues that Hochschild’s numbers do not conform with the censuses taken of the Congolese population in the late 19th century. For instance, there were only 9,801,150 people in the Congo in 1885 (the first year of Leopold II’s rule). The number of Congolese citizens rose by 1900 to over 10 million souls.[6] Such numbers should be taken with a grain of salt given the high population of transitory slaves in northeastern Congo and the haphazard nature of census-taking in 1900. Still, these numbers call into question not only Hochschild’s body count, but his assertion that Leopold II was one of the world’s greatest butchers.

Similarly, when other European imperial powers investigated the Congo Free State after journalistic investigations into the practice of torturing and mutilating native rubber plantation workers, they found that such practices were not official Congo Free State policy.[7] Instead, members of the Force Publique, an armed constabulary made up of black Africans commanded by white, mostly Belgian officers, were singled out for committing cruel acts without official sanction.[8]

We can now highlight the unique innovation of the Congo Free State. Namely, this colony was not ruled by Belgium, but was ruled by King Leopold II as his private property. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, Leopold II convinced Europe’s major powers that he was interested in philanthropic work in the Congo. Rather than annex the Congo on behalf of the government of Belgium, he used the International Association of the Congo, a private company that he controlled, as the governing institution of the resource-rich African state. This is why Roderick Long and Tibor Machan labeled the Congo Free State as “anarcho-capitalism”.[9]

Under the rule of the IAC, the Congo became the world’s largest exporter of ivory, rubber, and minerals.[10] Its borders and internal divisions were guarded by the Force Publique, which attracted local men looking for steady work, as well as Belgian, European, and American mercenaries looking for profit. Between 1892 and 1894, this minarchist state even fought and won a war against Arab slave traders supported by the Islamic sultanates of Zanzibar and Muscat. This war ended the Arab buying and selling of Congolese flesh. Despite these successes, the Congo Free State is only remembered today for atrocities and gross exploitation. To be sure, the health and wellness of Congolese workers mattered little to the IAC, and it is certainly true that horrible things happened under the watch of King Leopold II. That being said, the design of the Congo Free State remains one of the few truly libertarian states in world history.

Imagine if Galinhas was purchased today not by a country, but by a country’s ruler. Consider American President Donald Trump. Trump, a billionaire businessman who specializes in real estate, could be enticed to personally buy some uninhabited island or chunk of real estate in some cash-strapped country. In return for American investment, Trump, acting only as a private citizen, could legally purchase this land and rule it as he saw fit. Trump’s critics would be horrified by such a proposal, but nonetheless such a legal transaction between a private citizen and a foreign government would be binding. Europe’s remaining monarchs, as well as wealthy businessmen the world over, should consider following in Leopold II’s footsteps while simultaneously avoiding those mistakes which cost Leopold his free state.

Libertarian Objections

It can be argued that imperialism is the antithesis of the libertarian social order. If the conquerors have no legitimate claims to land, then their invasion is no different than a highwayman sticking up fear-struck travelers. If conquerors colonize a land, rule it, but do not exterminate the local natives, then they forever become a thorn in the side of the people. By any legal definition these locals have a right to strike against their unwanted occupiers. However, there is a caveat here. If a colonial power invades a territory, exterminates the local population, then imports their own people, then it becomes less of a legal issue and more of a moral one. Although claims of genocide end with that generation that experienced and committed the genocide, a moral nation would disdain both conquest and genocide.

The problem in making a libertarian alternative to the contemporary state lies in modernization and state formation. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism defines an empire as “a state of affairs in which one nation, tribe, or political entity (or, actually, their ruling elite) exercises political power over others.” By this definition, the United States, China, and Russia are imperial powers that resort to violence in order to maintain their control over a racially, ethnically, and religiously heterogeneous civilization, despite their stated federalism or anti-colonialist feelings. The power of these states have become so normalized that few today find it possible to rethink the central state model. Therefore, right-libertarians see imperialism as coercive and immoral.

One voice decrying the usual libertarian hatred for imperialism, Faré of The Distributed Republic dismantles the Rothbardian notion that one’s government is always the primary enemy:

“Of course, applying the same ‘logic’, the respective citizens of those countries whose government are in conflict with USG should in turn support the US government in its fight against their own—if only their own government wouldn’t murder them immediately at the mere utterance of such a support. And to take this line of reasoning to its conclusion, a Pole in 1939 should have supported Hitler and Stalin as opponents to his current oppressive government.

A ‘logic’ that reaches different conclusions for different people is actually…polylogism, a fallacy of double standards, a rhetorical device to back whichever absurdity one fancies. Moreover, underlying this fallacy, we see another typical case where people who should know better fall into an accounting fallacy: just because a current oppressor is identified (current account negative) current non-oppressors (current account zero) are considered a better alternative as part of an unrelated future choice between oppressors.”[11]

For Faré, some oppressors are better than others, and the article notes that “the British and French Colonial Powers should have been supported in their conquests of barbarian and totalitarian powers that previously existed in Africa, India, Vietnam, etc.” Although London and Paris exported oppressive states, at least their market-centric states were more beneficial to the average colonial subject than their own prior regimes.

Another complaint is that libertarianism is a peacetime philosophy. This line, which is often used to mock online libertarians, does get to the root of a major problem. Namely, extralegal force must be used in some cases to protect liberty. By extension, in the face of aggressive globalism, it could be argued that the exportation of the libertarian social order is the best defense. To square colonialism with libertarianism, certain factors must be met first before a colonial enterprise can be undertaken. First, can colonial expansion be justified under the idea of defensive violence? If not, then it is not guided by libertarian ethos. Second, the colonial campaign cannot be justified under collective punishment. Finally, colonial violence in the name of protecting a libertarian social order is legitimate only after softer measures have been exhausted against anti-libertarian opponents.

Possible Opportunities for Libertarian Colonialism

If Galinhas were purchased outright by an American company and protected by a private military outfit, then the cost to the American taxpayer would be zero. American and African consumers would benefit from efficient management and trade without having to foot the bill. Even better, if Galinhas proved to be a success, then it could serve as a model for other societies, especially those enduring illegitimate, oppressive, and/or poorly managed regimes. Other American or international companies could also be enticed to purchased uninhabited or sparsely inhabited territories in order to establish local governance overseen by a private entity.

Another possible example of libertarian colonialism could occur somewhere in the Middle East. Because of exhaustive chaos and warfare, perhaps a city in Syria or Iraq decides to become completely independent. As a city-state in the 21st century, this entity would need major outside assistance, as internal objections from its neighbors (especially its former state overseer) would put this hypothetical city-state in troubled waters. Like Galinhas, this city-state may turn to a well-armed private company in order to meet some of its security and economic needs. Employees of the chosen company would then receive citizenship or special privileges within the city-state. Again, as in the case of Galinhas, the Middle Eastern city-state’s foreign backers would be involved in governance because of a private contract between two parties.

Since colonialism is often interchangeable with imperialism, libertarians must find a way to distinguish the two. One way to do this would be to reintroduce a sense of Roman imperium, which means the right or authority to rule. For the Romans, this typically meant a general’s right to rule a legion or the emperor’s right to rule his empire. Imperium almost always meant an individual’s power rather than a nation’s. If this ideal could be wedded to the colonialism of the Archaic Greeks (Greek city-states built commercial centers on mostly uninhabited land), then few libertarians would object.

Finally, defensive colonialism is a possibility. Let us consider South Africa. The serially corrupt South African government led by Cyril Ramaphosa is considering an amendment to the South African Constitution to legalize the taking of private property without compensation.[12] Ernst Roets of AfriForum proved that such illegal land seizures target mostly (if not only) white South African farmers. He and his organization were pilloried by the mainstream media in South Africa and the West.[13] Without fail, when the land seizures began, they not only threw the unstable country into an economic tailspin[14], but white farmers were the ones targeted by the government and wildcat squatters alike.

In the case of South Africa, a private company, a private military order, or some other kind of non-state actor hoping to create a libertarian social order is justified in providing farmers in South Africa with money and security. If the South African Army initiates violence against these hired guns, then the farmers and their supporters would be justified to use violence against the South African state. The aim of this war would be the creation of a separate state within South Africa that would be recognized and supported by those counties currently denouncing Ramaphosa’s land seizures.

Conclusion

Private imperialism would provide the economic benefits of imperialism without the evils of state domination. To be sure, private companies are fully capable of evil on their own, and thus any company considering taking on non-state imperialism must make sure that they do not sink to nepotism, brutality, or any acts that would raise the ire of the always critical (and leftist) international press. Given human fallibility, such strictures may be too difficult to overcome, but private imperialism could be the best solution to the current problems facing the most impoverished nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

References:

  1. Rodney, Walter; Qtd. by D’Souza, Dinesh (2002). “Two cheers for colonialism”. San Francisco Gate. www.sfgate.com.
  2. Fanon, Frantz. Qtd. Ibid.
  3. Gilley, Bruce (2017, Aug. 15). “The case for colonialism”. Third World Quarterly.
  4. “2b. Joint Stock Companies”. U.S. History.org.
  5. “Charter of Massachusetts Bay 1629”, reprinted by American History from the Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. www.let.rug.nl.
  6. Faulk, Ryan (2016, July 24). “Mythologies About Leopold’s Congo Free State”. The Alternative Hypothesis. http://thealternativehypothesis.org/index.php/2016/07/24/mythologies-about-leopolds-congo-free-state/
  7. Report of the British Consul, Roger Casement, on the Administration of the Congo Free State. https://web.viu.ca/davies/H479B.Imperialism.Nationalism/Br.report.Congo.atrocities.1904.htm
  8. Renton, David; Seddon, David; Zeilig, Leo (2007). The Congo: Plunder and Resistance. London: Zed Books. p. 31.
  9. Long, Roderick T. and Machan, Tibor R., Ed. (2016). Anarchism/Minarchism: Is Government Part of a Free Country? Abingdon, UK: Routledge. p. 50.
  10. Gondola, Didier (2002). The History of Congo. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 66–7.
  11. Faré (2009, Nov. 25). “In Defense of Libertarian Imperialism”. The Distributed Republic. http://www.distributedrepublic.net/archives/2009/11/25/in-defense-libertarian-imperialism/
  12. Merten, Marianne (2018, Nov. 8). “The politics of land expropriation without compensation in the ANC constitutional review proposals”. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-11-08-the-politics-of-land-expropriation-without-compensation-in-the-anc-constitutional-review-proposals/
  13. Steenkamp, Hesti (2018, Sep. 26). “South African farmers are indeed in a serious crisis – Ernst Roets”. AfriForum. https://www.afriforum.co.za/south-african-farmers-indeed-serious-crisis-ernst-roets/
  14. Montanari, Lorenzo; Thompson, Philip (2018, Aug. 31). “South Africa Land Seizures Begin, Economic Decline Accelerates”. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenzomontanari/2018/08/31/south-africa-land-seizures-begin-economic-decline-accelerates/

Song Lyrics: Election Song

Verse 1:

(E7) Wake up in the morning
Long before first (E9) light
(E7) Smell the coffee (Bm7) brewing in the
(E7) same pot that you didn’t wash last (A) night
(A7)
(E7) Gonna be alright
(E)
(E7) Pull out of the driveway
Head down to the (E9) polls
(E7) Odds are better (Bm7) that you’ll die in
(E7) a car crash than change the way it (A) goes
(A7)
(E7) Oh, don’t you know?
(E)
(Bm7) Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee
(F#m7) whoever wins the system keeps (E) control
(E7) The status quo

Verse 2:

(E7) Stand there in a long line
Wrapped around the (E9) block
(E7) Brave the pouring (Bm7) rain and cold damp
(E7) air so you can say you cast your (A) lot
(A7)
(E7) Wish you forgot?
(E)
(E7) Get inside the polling place
Know just how to (E9) vote
(E7) Gotta do your (Bm7) civic duty
(E7) Mark the ballot for devils you (A) know
(A7)
(E7) Is it all for show?
(E)
(Bm7) After all its in the hands of
(F#m7) whoever is there to count the (E) votes
(E7) What a sick joke

Verse 3:

(E7) Go about your busy day
Gotta work your (E9) job
(E7) That “I voted” (Bm7) sticker is your
(E7) ticket out of lectures from the (A) mob
(A7)
(E7) Their minds are locked
(E) from propaganda slop
(E7) The hours finally pass
Time to go back (E9) home
(E7) Stuck in traffic (Bm7) listening to
(E7) the last ads play on the (A) radio
(A7)
(E7) Glad they’ll be gone
(E) for two years or so
(Bm7) But the next election season
(F#m7) promises another stupid (E) row
(E7) Hackneyed ebb and flow

Verse 4:

(E7) Supper’s done and now its time
To sit down and (E9) rest
(E7) Switch on the (Bm7) idiot box and
(E7) Watch the results come in too (A) fast
(A7)
(E7) Election’s done at last
(E) Glad its in the past
(E7) One seat stays with Team Red
Another flips for (E9) Blue
(E7) Counting votes like (Bm7) counting sheep and
(E7) sheep are those who vote to put them (A) through
(A7)
(E7) Tell me, is that you?
(E) Yeah, is that you?
(Bm7) Wake up the next morning to find
(F#m7) nothing’s getting better; what a (E) ruse
(E7) and you’ve been fooled

Verse 5:

(E7) No matter who you vote for
The system stays in (E9) place
(E7) Ever growing, (Bm7) ever reaching
(E7) ever looking for more things to (A) claim
(A7)
(E7) A monster without face
(E) Liberty erased
(E7) One hand in your wallet
Another ’round your (E9) neck
(E7) Threaten you (Bm7) with prison time
(E7) unless you obey and send that tax (A) check
(A7)
(E7) That’s truth direct
(E)
(Bm7) Starting wars, funding terror,
(F#m7) turning the whole world into a (E) mess
(E7) Its all grotesque

Verse 6:

(E7) Then you start a-thinking
Is this all there (E9) is?
(E7) Can’t we find a (Bm7) way to solve our
(E7) problems that works out better than (A) this?
(A7)
(E7) Or call it quits
(E) and take our own risks
(E7) But they won’t let us do that
They’ve too much at (E9) stake
(E7) Their vested interest (Bm7) is to stand in
(E7) our way until we cause them to (A) break
(A7)
(E7) Make our escape
(E) Freedom retake
(Bm7) But we’ll have to build and plan and
(F#m7) bide our time until they seal their (E) fate
(E7) with a mistake too great

Outro:
(Bm7) Yeah, we’ll have to build and plan and
(F#m7) bide our time until they seal their (E) fate
(E7) Await that day
Await that day
Await that day
(E)

A Holistic Approach to Ending Corporate Censorship

Over the past decade, the large technology companies of Silicon Valley have transitioned from a mindset of attempting to make government censorship impossible to a mindset of attempting to make government censorship unnecessary. People with views that oppose the progressive liberal narrative have increasingly found their posts removed and accounts suspended on the social media platforms created by these companies. Domain registrars, web hosting companies, and payment processors have joined in this effort to de-platform those who are not part of the progressive movement, such as conservatives, libertarians, reactionaries, and the alt-right, especially the latter two. At first, there were just a few relatively marginal people being removed from social media, having their crowdfunding campaigns taken down, and being chased off of web hosting. But these behaviors have become more common, as has the denial of service by payment processors.

There are several proposals for how to respond to these developments, and the debates concerning them highlight differences in political theory and strategy between the aforementioned groups under attack by the outer arms of the Cathedral. Let us consider each option in order to construct a holistic approach to freeing the Internet from censorious technology giants.

Policy Inaction and Reliance on Alt-Tech

The view articulated by mainstream libertarians and free-market conservatives is that the technology giants are success stories of capitalism, having brought about wondrous advances in commerce and communication. They tend to view these technology companies as private businesses whose owners should be able to set their terms of service as they see fit and choose with whom they will associate or not associate. Indeed, many view ostracism as a nearly universal positive, working to reward preferred behavior while punishing dispreferred behavior. If technology companies behave improperly, they believe that the market will punish them by elevating alternatives to prominence as customers flee to other providers. This leads them to favor inaction at the policy level while championing alt-tech as the solution.

This stance is best understood as inability to deal with the context of the situation, naivete by those who have yet to face the wrath of the establishment, or malice by those who are part of the establishment. The truth is that the dominant companies in social media, website hosting, domain registration, and payment processing have such large market shares that it is difficult for competitors to enter the market. Those who try face many hurdles in trying to start a site and remain online. The established companies can and do use their positions to engage in anti-competitive business practices, such as keeping competitors out of search results and application stores. This can keep competitors from gaining the brand recognition necessary to build the user bases they need in order to become successful platforms. This was less of a problem in the early days of social media when turnover of the most popular sites was higher, but the near-monopolies of the largest companies are no longer as vulnerable. In a free market, censorious behavior from the largest technology companies would be of little concern, but the market is not free because it has been effectively cornered.

Although ostracism on the basis of behavior is nothing new, the crowdsourcing power of the Internet has transformed it into a political weapon that can be used to ruin people unjustly. Moreover, it is capable of dividing an entire society along ideological lines. When reasoned discourse is shut down and unpopular viewpoints are suppressed by howling irrational cyber-mobs, those who are de-platformed are likely to have their internal victim narratives confirmed, radicalizing them further. This may even motivate extremists who would otherwise spew hateful rhetoric but take no further action to go ahead with plans to commit acts of terrorism. It also may serve as a precursor to a novel type of civil war, one which arises when the heated rhetoric that is naturally produced as a byproduct of democracy escalates into political violence and there is no peaceful outlet to reduce tensions before they consume the entire society.

It is clear that doing nothing is not a reasonable strategy, and that alt-tech is necessary but not sufficient, so let us consider our real options.

The Communications Decency Act

Recent commentary on this subject has focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, codified at United States Code, Title 47, Chapter 5, Subchapter II, Part I, Section 230. The stated intent of this law is laid out in Subsection (b):

(b) Policy
It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;
(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;
(3) to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services;
(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and
(5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.

The substance of the law at issue here is found in Subsection (c):

(c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2) Civil liability: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in (1).

This statute allows service providers on the Internet to restrict the actions of customers without being legally responsible for the actions they do not restrict. The Communications Decency Act was written partly in response to the Supreme Court case Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. (1995), which suggested that service providers were publishers subject to responsibility if they assumed an editorial role. The original purpose of these provisions is revealed in Subsection (d):

(d) Obligations of interactive computer service: A provider of interactive computer service shall, at the time of entering an agreement with a customer for the provision of interactive computer service and in a manner deemed appropriate by the provider, notify such customer that parental control protections (such as computer hardware, software, or filtering services) are commercially available that may assist the customer in limiting access to material that is harmful to minors. Such notice shall identify, or provide the customer with access to information identifying, current providers of such protections.

As usual, laws intended to solve a particular problem, in this case protecting minors from viewing obscene materials that they are not mentally prepared to view, are employed later for other purposes far beyond their original intent. The technology giants of today use this statute in order to have their cake and eat it too; they censor as they see fit and suffer no liability for what they choose not to censor.

Section 230 has come under attack from both left-wing and right-wing activists. The former wish to remove liability protections to incentivize more zealous censorship of “hate speech”, while the latter wish to either remove the ability of interactive computer service providers to censor content and remove people or make it easier for victims of defamation to sue the platforms that host defamatory material. But a full repeal of Section 230 would allow for platforms to be legally responsible for all of the content they host. Whereas moderating the sheer volume of user-generated content that exists today would be impractical, many sites would stop hosting such content. Lawsuits from failed moderation would overload the courts, and content hosting would mostly move to the decentralized dark web.

There would have to be a replacement statute following a repeal in order to mitigate the extreme disruption to business as usual. This replacement should serve the purposes laid out in Subsections (b) and (d) of Section 230, which has not been done by Subsection (c), item (2). Any replacement for that provision should keep interactive computer service providers from removing otherwise legal content from their sites unless they wish to be responsible for everything that they allow to remain. This would make Internet censorship so impractical that it would almost never occur, as success would produce very little benefit while failure would result in being treated as a publisher of vast quantities of libel and slander. This would be in keeping with the general methodology of federal regulations; rather than prohibiting an activity outright, it instead makes the activity too difficult for any reasonable entity to perform. Other measures could be used to keep obscene materials away from minors and allow users to filter out content that they do not wish to view. These measures already exist, and are such obvious solutions that there is no need to require them by law.

Altering Section 230 should rein in social media censorship, but it would be of questionable efficacy against domain registrars and web hosting companies, and would be useless against payment processors. Therefore, let us consider other approaches.

The Public Utility Approach

In the view increasingly expressed by conservatives and alt-rightists, the Internet is an essential aspect of life in the 21st century, and the technology companies that deny people access to the most popular social media platforms, domain hosting services, and payment processors are curtailing both the civil liberties and economic opportunities of those people. The largest technology companies are effective monopolies, in that these firms are the only sellers of products and services that have no close substitutes. In response, they call for the state to regulate these companies as public utilities, much as they do to providers of electricity, water, and natural gas. This line of thinking also leads to support among these people for net neutrality regulations. Some argue that government regulation is even more necessary in this case, as the network effects and first-mover advantages of the largest technology firms mean that a competitor cannot provide the same quality of service even if there were no significant barriers to entry into the business of creating social media platforms, search engines, and payment processors, which there are.

Treating social media and web hosting as public utilities is likely to cause more problems than it solves. When governments began regulating other industries, innovation in those industries slowed. The companies which were nearly monopolistic either remained so or became real monopolies, as competition became even more difficult. Freezing current troublesome companies in place as major players rather than allowing upstarts to displace them is an undesirable outcome. This is exacerbated by the fact that public utility regulations are just as vulnerable to regulatory capture as any other regulations. Furthermore, the cost of regulation is likely to be high, and the regulated businesses will pass this cost onto their customers. However, given the dominant market shares of domain registrars and payment processors, as well as the barriers to entry for creating new ones, those businesses may need to be treated as public utilities until meaningful competition can emerge.

The Anti-Trust Approach

There was obvious collusion between the legacy establishment media, dominant social media platforms, payment processors, domain registrars, and web hosting companies in the effort to silence Alex Jones in August 2018 and in the effort to shut down Gab in October 2018. There is a strong case to be made that such conduct runs afoul of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Passed in 1890 and amended to include and exclude various activities since, the Act is codified at United States Code, Title 15, Chapter 1, and reads:

“Section 1: Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Section 2: Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.”

Section 3 extends these provisions to the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Much of the meaning and application of anti-trust law has been fleshed out judicially rather than legislatively. This has resulted in two major types of Sherman Act cases: “per se” cases and “rule of reason” cases. In a per se case, market actors strictly violate Section 1. In these cases, conduct has a “pernicious effect on competition” or “lack[s]…any redeeming virtue”[1] and “would always or almost always tend to restrict competition and decrease output.”[2] Such cases do not contemplate intent or effect, and simply require proving that the conduct occurred.[2] A rule of reason case considers intent, motive, and effect to attempt a prediction of whether the conduct in question promotes or suppresses competition. This is more difficult to prove, but should not be necessary in the most prominent cases of corporate censorship.

One example of prohibited conduct is “concerted refusals to deal”.[3,4] The efforts to de-platform Alex Jones and shut down Gab offer two obvious examples of concerted refusals to deal, and should easily clear even the heightened standard of Twombly[5] for bringing a case that cannot be summarily dismissed. As for Section 2 violations, the courts have distinguished innocent monopoly from coercive monopoly, which is the difference between a monopoly earned by providing goods and services so well that no one cares to compete and a monopoly maintained by using one’s dominant position to suppress competition. Though the technology giants mostly were innocent monopolies in the beginning, few have remained so, as the Jones and Gab incidents demonstrate. More generally, suppressing a company’s search results and keeping a company out of application stores is tantamount to anti-competitive business practice that would violate Section 2.

Champions of the free market have decried anti-trust law as a cause of market inefficiency[6] and as a violation of property rights. Ayn Rand described such laws as “the penalizing of ability for being ability, the penalizing of success for being success, and the sacrifice of productive genius to the demands of envious mediocrity.”[7] Concern about market inefficiency is important, but should not overrule non-economic moral and philosophical values. While ability and success can be penalized by anti-trust action if the targets are innocent monopolies rather than coercive ones, this does not have to be the case, and is not the case here.

A more substantive criticism is to fault anti-trust laws for solving problems caused by corporate law by additional legislation rather than by repealing bad laws. Another valid point is that anti-trust will be insufficient even if it is necessary, as trust-busting will solve nothing if Facebook, Google, Twitter, PayPal, et al. are broken into a hundred pieces, each of which behave exactly as the former did. More fundamental changes are thus needed, which brings us to the final option we will consider.

The Anti-Corporate Approach

We come now to the strongest approach, which is championed uniquely by libertarian reactionary thought. The nature of corporations leads to a clear rationale for restricting their behavior in such a manner as to end corporate censorship. A corporation is a legal fiction created by the state to shield business owners from full financial liability and ease the enforcement of laws upon those businesses. Without registering or chartering a corporation under the laws of a state, it is impossible to establish such entities as we know them. For the four millennia that business structures similar to corporations have existed, they have always been intertwined with state power. Although one could negotiate contracts with other legal persons to make an unincorporated business function similarly to a corporation, this would not be identical to a state-recognized corporation in terms of its interaction with the state or its liabilities for negative externalities.

Two results directly follow from this. First, registering a corporation amounts to participation in a government program. Second, state-recognized corporations are not truly private businesses, but public-private partnerships in which the state provides limited liability through its monopoly on courts and the private business fulfills its purpose, whatever it may be.

In order to participate in a government program, a person or other entity is supposed to be in compliance with government laws. As all of the censorious technology giants are incorporated in the United States, they should obey American law. The Constitution is the supreme legal document with which a state-recognized corporation should be in compliance for this purpose. (More generally, if a corporation is chartered or registered under the laws of a particular state and that state has a constitution demarcating the limits of its claimed powers, then no such corporation should exceed those limits, for no entity should delegate powers to others that it does not have itself.) The Constitution contains a number of provisions which are supposed to limit the conduct of government, including provisions to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, security against unreasonable search and seizure, and due process, among other rights. Because state-recognized corporations are public-private partnerships, they should be held to the same limitations on their conduct. Because corporations exist on the backs of taxpayers who are extorted to fund the government that allows them to incorporate, any funding grants or bailouts they receive, and any public works they perform, to let taxpayers be denied service by these entities compounds the injustice of taxation and violates the legal doctrine of estoppel.

The technology giants should face a choice of ceasing all censorship, forfeiting their corporate charters or registrations, or leaving the United States. In other words, they must choose between opening the marketplace of ideas, becoming truly private companies, or getting out of the way, any of which would be an improvement in the long term. Even the threat of this proposal would have the technology giants rushing to behave better, and could accomplish the same results as public utility regulation with far less threat to innovation.

Conclusion

The effort to stop corporate censorship is the most important social issue of our time because failure in this effort will greatly hinder the ability to discuss any other issue, at least from any position that deviates sufficiently from progressive liberalism. Silicon Valley has both a greater and a more insidious power to suppress dissident speech than the Cheka or Gestapo ever did. As Henry Olson explains,

“While a force like the Cheka was obviously able to inflict much more pain on individual people than Google can, its obvious brutality could not help but stir up popular resentment; thus, the common refrain that by the fall of the Berlin Wall the only people still believing in communism were American university professors. Therefore, the fact that modern tech companies have given up primitive methods of control for more sophisticated ones is an evolutionary improvement in managerial totalitarianism, not a weakness. The goal of the gulags was rarely to hurt individual people; it was to make the cost of opposing the system prohibitive to others. If Google, Twitter, PayPal, or any other company can silence dissent just by changing search algorithms or banning dissidents from using a service, then it has achieved in the same results in a less intrusive way. And because their methods are less obviously evil, they are also less likely to engender popular disillusionment or revolt.”

We have considered five methods for countering censorious technology giants: market competition by alt-tech companies, changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, treating interactive computer service providers as public utilities, breaking up technology giants with anti-trust laws, and making incorporation contingent upon ending censorship. Only the latter method could possibly work without assistance from the others, as alt-tech could be suppressed by a concerted effort, the CDA does not deal with payment processors, public utility regulation would stifle innovation while freezing the currently dominant companies in place, and anti-trust risks replacing a few large bad actors with many small bad actors. Given the importance of this issue, a holistic approach of all of the above (and perhaps more) is essential for preventing the curtailment of discourse by an elite few, and thus preserving peace and order.

References:

  1. Northern Pacific Railway v. United States, (1958).
  2. Broadcast Music, Inc. v. CBS (1979).
  3. FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association (1990).
  4. NW Wholesale Stationers, Inc. v. Pacific Stationery & Printing Co. (1985).
  5. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007).
  6. Greenspan, Alan (1962). Antitrust. Nathaniel Branden Institute, New York.
  7. Rand, Ayn (1967). Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ch. 3. New American Library. Signet.

On Universalism, Genocide, and Libertarianism

One element which distinguishes modern political ideologies from their pre-modern counterparts and predecessors is universalism. That is, each of them makes several objective truth claims, and their adherents believe that everyone should convert to their point of view. Most also believe that everyone eventually will. This is due in large part to their Whig historiography, with the dominance of their particular system as the “end of history”. Clashes between different strains of political universalism, as well as proselytization into territories ruled by non-universalist governance structures, led to the unprecedented losses of life and property in wars and genocides during the 20th century. The currently dominant form, which will be examined at length, has the potential to motivate even greater destruction going forward. Let us explore the origins of political universalism, its implications, and what might be done with this knowledge.

Origins: Universalism, Calvinism, Unitarianism

Like most Western political ideas, the dominant strain of universalism in contemporary politics has its roots in Christianity. The doctrine of universal reconciliation says that all humans will eventually be saved and reach Heaven, that no permanent Hell exists, and that the idea of eternal damnation comes from a mistranslation of Scripture.[1] This belief can be found among some of the early church fathers[2], and persists in some sense within Catholicism through the belief in Purgatory. From a Protestant perspective, universalism is perhaps best understood as an extreme form of Calvinism. Calvinists believe that God has predetermined the fate of every soul, with some going to Heaven and others going to Hell.[3] A Christian Universalist believes that all souls are in the former category in the long-term. The Calvinist view of election is in contrast to Arminianism, which holds that election is conditional[4], and to open theism, which claims that God does not know in advance how a person will respond to the Gospel.[5]

The other four points of five-point Calvinism are total depravity, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Total depravity means that all people are enslaved to sin and cannot by their own faculties choose salvation. Limited atonement means that salvation is intended only for the elect and not for all people. Irresistible grace means that the elect will be saved regardless of their resistance to the Holy Spirit. Perseverance of the saints means that the elect cannot fall out of communion with God; apostates either never had true faith or will be divinely chastened into repentance. All five points have important implications in the political realm which will be discussed in the next section. The teachings of John Calvin eventually led to his own de facto rule in Geneva, the rule of Oliver Cromwell following the English Civil War, and the dominance of the Puritans in New England, the latter of which has never truly lost influence over American politics. Each of these produced its own horrifying and deadly results, from the burning of heretics like Michael Servetus[6] to Cromwell’s massacres of the Irish[7] to the Salem Witch Trials.

Christian Universalism proper can be traced to a liberal denomination formed in 1793 to uphold belief in universal salvation, which would later become known as the Universalist Church of America. This denomination merged with the Unitarians in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. The early Unitarians rejected several fundamentals of mainstream Christianity, such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the pre-existence of Christ, original sin, and substitutionary atonement. During the 19th century, through the influence of Transcendentalism, they moved away from liberal Protestantism to become more theologically diverse.[8] This trend continued with 20th-century secular theology.

Unitarian Universalists have seven fundamental principles: 1) the inherent worth and dignity of every person; 2) justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; 3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; 4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and 7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles look remarkably similar to secular progressive liberal rhetoric, and for good reason. As Unitarian Universalism became pluralistic and no longer explicitly Christian, it lost whatever minuscule resistance to leftism it once had, and Conquest’s Second Law took effect as usual. Unitarians and Universalists were active in social reform movements during the 19th and 20th centuries, including slavery abolition, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, feminism, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmentalism, and social justice.

As the Unitarians in America became more secular, they formed a bridge between mainline Protestants and various types of radical leftists. The allegiance of these forces took some time, but was finally accomplished during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their takeover of academia and the mainstream media after World War II led to their dominance in political life, so much so that non- or anti-Universalist ideas were steadily pushed outside of polite discourse and into the fever swamps of far-right conspiracy theorists. Only in the age of the Internet is this hegemony beginning to crack, though this may be partly attributable to backlash against the sheer extremity of the leftist vanguard, which is a natural consequence of their dominion.

Social Justice as Secular Calvinist Universalism

Taken together, the twelve beliefs listed above explain many facets of contemporary leftist behavior, and the contradictions between them are responsible for much of progressive doublethink. Although progressive liberal ideology claims to advocate for the seven Unitarian Universalist principles, its practice looks more like the five points of Calvinism. Like Calvinists, progressive activists believe that the world is fundamentally unjust, and that people cannot save themselves. But since they generally reject the Christian God, they substitute the secular god of statism and view themselves as its agents and advocates. This also leads them toward total depravity, but their self-righteousness and use of statism to avoid the consequences of bad personal decisions shield them from this understanding.

Unconditional election manifests in the form of oppressor classes and victim classes. For all of their supposed opposition to essentialism, social justice warriors group people into what would in earlier times be called the elect and the damned based on race, sex, orientation, and other biologically immutable characteristics. Since they define bigotry as prejudice plus power, they contend that members of the elect (victims) cannot be bigoted against the damned (oppressors). This paradoxical view echoes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus[9], in that the eternally wealthy are temporally impoverished and vice versa. Just as a Calvinist never is sure of one’s salvation status, so too is a progressive activist never sure of whether one is sufficiently far to the left or whether one has done enough work for the cause.

Limited atonement takes on two forms with the radical left. First, despite their claimed universalism, they do not intend that all people and their descendants should have a long-term part in their planned future society, especially if they are classified as oppressors and prove resistant to social justice ideology. We will return to this later, but let us now consider the second form. Because a progressive activist is never sure of one’s status, one must endlessly engage in ritualistic privilege-checking confessionals and sacrifices, such as ceding platforms and resources to those deemed less privileged and more oppressed. These offer only limited atonement and are never sufficient to resolve one’s “burden of original sin” for being part of an oppressor class.

Irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints manifest together. Members of oppressed classes who reject social justice ideology are said to have “internalized oppression” in general, which includes particulars such as “internalized misogyny”, “internalized homophobia”, “internalized racism”, etc. Universalism rules out the possibility that nonbelievers never had true faith, and secular progressives reject divine chastening, so they themselves must chasten nonbelievers and apostates to repentance. This chastening never ends because of the doctrine of irresistible grace; the elect must be saved regardless of their resistance, and universalism extends this chastening to all of society.

Against Unitarian Universalism

At the surface level, the seven fundamental principles of Unitarian Universalism may seem harmless or even beneficial. Worse still, they may fool one into thinking that they are an antidote to secular progressivism. But the way that these principles are interpreted through a Calvinist lens leads down very dark paths, and has already done so on multiple occasions.

It is possible to have reasonable disagreements with six of these seven principles. First, both the labor and the subjective theories of value reject the idea of inherent value, so taken to their logical conclusions, human life does not have an inherent worth or dignity and can become a negative in some cases. The replacement of the culture of honor with the culture of dignity may also be lamented for its amplification of uncivil conduct and decline of martial virtues. When offensive speech carried the possibility of being challenged to a duel, and either risking one’s life or being branded a coward, it was necessary to engage other people in a more dignified manner. That social justice warriors view only some people as elect seems to conflict with the inherent worth of human life, but this is resolved by dehumanizing their opponents.

Second, the idea of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations may be rejected at a shallow level as an excuse to intervene in affairs that are none of one’s business. All too frequently, social justice warriors will insert themselves into private transactions and relationships which do not concern them, using the promotion of social justice and equality as a pretext. At a deeper level, whereas social justice rarely means the same thing as actual justice, one may dispute the meaning of justice. The ideal of equity may be rejected as a revolt against nature, with the alternative view that human individuals and collectives have differing capabilities as a result of both genetics and environment. Fewer people will argue against compassion, but there are times when rational psychopathy, social Darwinism, and so forth produce superior results.

Third, universal acceptance rejects the idea of discriminating against anyone for any reason. In practice, this is both an assault on private property and on freedom of association. If one cannot exclude people, then it is impossible to have quality control. The result is a predictable decline in quality of human relationships, economic goods, and standards of living. Encouragement to spiritual growth may be rejected by materialists who deny the existence of the spiritual, though some progressive activists will do this as well.

While no one should disagree with the fourth principle, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, such a search has the potential to undermine the entire progressive program. Leftists will instead attempt to create the illusion that this is both occurring and finding results consistent with their ideology, with any discrepancies blamed on lack of funding, poor communication, and any other cause besides the possibility that they might be wrong. Of course, this means that anyone who finds contrary results and publishes them will feel the full force of the establishment machine.

Fifth, the right of conscience can be opposed as an assault on contract law. While conscription by the state should be rejected as a form of slavery (or agreed with for the wrong reasons), it is also a consequence of universalism in the political realm. The democratic process may be rejected as an affront to individual liberty, private property, freedom of association, the iron law of oligarchy, the right of might, and/or the divine right of kings, depending on one’s political views. One may also critique democracy for empowering those who are unworthy of having a voice, creating conflicts of interest, encouraging demagoguery, and perpetuating social unrest.

Sixth, the goal of world community is in opposition to all political ideologies which call for non-globalist, non-universal political organization, such as nationalism, localism, anarchism, and individualism. This point in particular is the path to darkness, and will be addressed at length later.

Seventh, respect for interdependent ecosystems cannot be fully rejected, but can be subordinated to human concerns. Alternatively, one may approach ecology from a reactionary perspective; not as a pretext for state intervention in the economy, a broader social justice movement extended beyond humanity to all living things, or a myopic desire for a nice place to live, but as respect for cosmic order, hierarchy, bravery, harmony, and beauty.

Other Universalist Ideologies

Before we continue, it is necessary to take note of other kinds of universalism. The progressive liberal variety described above at length traces its lineage through the political philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the Young Hegelians in particular. Other Young Hegelians were the forerunners of various socialist and communist ideologies, such as Leninism and Stalinism. Right-Hegelianism, another school of thought founded by Hegel’s disciples, was a contributing factor to fascism and Nazism.

Conflicts involving these schools of thought have provided the philosophical backing for the great wars of the 20th century. In World War I, universalists defeated their non-universalist opposition in the form of the traditional monarchies of Europe and Russia, leading to the rise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Austria-Hungary. World War II was a victory of Young Hegelians over Right Hegelians in Europe and non-universalists in Japan, respectively. The Cold War was a conflict between two different branches of Young Hegelians, the Soviet communists and the progressive liberal West.

The War on Terrorism in the 21st century is a struggle between the ascendant progressive liberals and the forces of political Islam. Some Islamists embrace a universalist ideology, seeking to bring the whole world under the rule of a global caliphate. Others are non-universalist, seeking an exit from and alternative to postwar progressivism. But both of these are rivals of the Western hegemony, except when the establishment sees fit to weaponize them against the remnants of non-universalism in Western countries.

The Path to Genocide

The fundamental characteristic of any universalist ideology is that it posits at least one common factor among all people. Such factors may be formulated as “All people are W”, “All people believe X”, “All people do Y”, “All people require Z”, and so forth. But what shall a universalist do with a person who is not W, or believes the opposite of X, or deliberately avoids doing Y, or has no need of Z? Like a scientist who encounters data which does not comport with the hypothesis being tested, the universalist faces a binary choice: reject the hypothesis and formulate a better one, or alter the data to fit the hypothesis. In science, the latter is (hopefully) condemned as academic fraud, but it is standard practice in the political realm. In other words, because the presence of people who steadfastly reject universalism is an empirical falsification of universalism, a universalist must either renounce one’s ideology or renounce those people, and the latter tends to occur. The method by which this renunciation of people is performed is best known as “no true Scotsman,” and declares them to be less than human.

The path from universalism to genocide is thus clear; dehumanize the inconvenient people, systematically reduce their role in socioeconomic life, then remove them from society. Because it is impossible to remove people to a location outside the Universe, which is what would be necessary to preserve universalism from those who reject it, the universalists are left with the option of murdering the incompatible. Regardless of whether the universal ideal is the Nazi master race, the Soviet industrial worker, the Khmer Rouge agrarian peasant, the Islamic State interpretation of Sharia, or the Calvinist-Unitarian-rooted system of progressive liberal values, any belief system which posits a mold that all people must fit will ultimately dehumanize those who do not fit, often with ghastly results.

But what genocide are progressive liberals carrying out? Surely the United States government is not forcing its own citizens into concentration camps or murdering them en masse, even though it has done both in the memorable past. Merriam-Webster defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”, “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group”, and “acts committed with intent to partially or wholly destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Note that only one of these three definitions explicitly mentions killing. The other two are far broader in scope, including any acts intended to destroy a group of people. Whereas the size that a group must have in order for its destruction to be considered genocidal is rather arbitrary, this is also absent from the definition. Culture is defined as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”, “the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic”, and “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” All four of these definitions denote aspects of traditional Western thought that radical leftists seek to transform and destroy.

Because progressives have acquired such immense cultural power in the West, it is not necessary for them to directly murder their domestic opposition in appreciable numbers at this time. Such treatment is currently reserved for third-world peoples abroad. It currently suffices to use corporate power to censor their opposition, use social shaming to render them unemployable, promote milquetoast moderates as controlled false opposition in the political arena, wield state power to stop open attempts at real opposition, and steadily import migrants who are culturally incompatible with American and European rightists to demographically displace them over the course of generations. But no one should doubt that progressive universalists would resort to shooting like the others if nudging and shoving were to lose their efficacy, and this is beginning to happen throughout the Western world.

Genocide and Libertarianism

At this point, one may wonder what any of this has to do with political libertarianism, the idea that the use of force should only be defensive in nature. It may seem so obvious as to go without saying that genocide is incompatible with libertarianism, but let us take a closer look. By inserting the definition of culture into the definition of genocide, one finds that deliberate action intended to partially or wholly destroy a political or cultural group and eliminate the set of shared attitudes, beliefs, conventions, goals, practices, and values that characterize them is technically a form of genocide. Therefore, if a political or cultural group has a set of shared conventions and practices which are inherently aggressive in nature, then certain forms of genocide against said group would count as defensive uses of force.

That libertarian philosophy does not forbid genocide, but rather provides guidelines for its proper practice is a shocking realization that must be understood correctly, so let us contemplate these guidelines. First, of the four universal factors listed in the previous section, only the behavioral factor can form the basis of a libertarian genocide. It is aggressive action or the threat thereof that merits the use of defensive force. All forms of universalism based on a person’s essence, beliefs, or requirements are enemies of liberty because they lead to violence on the basis of factors which do not involve initiating the use of force against people. Only a group of people who actually behave in an unrepentantly aggressive manner merit partial or whole destruction.

This leads to the second requirement, that collective punishment should be minimized. While it is acceptable and may be necessary to use the authority of private property to censor and exclude those who provide the ideological motivation for criminal behavior, each person has the agency to decide whether or not to attack innocent people and/or their property. Thus, the people who are responsible for crimes are the people who committed the crimes or hired others to commit crimes in their stead, and defensive force should be focused on them. Broader nonviolent measures to suppress cultural norms which are anti-libertarian may be less targeted in application.

Third, a genocidal effort against an anti-libertarian faction should be the culmination of a long train of lesser measures and escalations, all of which have failed. One should not reach for a rocket launcher when a fly swat or a handgun will suffice, and one should not attempt to eliminate an entire political or cultural faction if lesser measures will restore orderly peace. The amount of force which is best for civilization is dictated by the strength and cohesion of the enemies of that civilization, and partial or complete suppression of a political faction is only necessary for ending existential threats to a libertarian social order.

Conclusion

Let us conclude by considering libertarian strategy in light of the points discussed above. There exists an established order that has permeated and controlled established organs of politics, academia, media, business, and finance. This order originated with a heretical Christian sect despite the denials of its membership that this is the case, but has since become almost entirely secular. Examining the tenets of this religion is useful for understanding why progressive liberal activists argue and behave as they do. The practice of this religion has brought unprecedented aggression, destruction, and death to the world, and will continue to do so unless and until it is stopped.

In order for a libertarian social order to succeed, it must stand against this creed with both the might and the willingness to defend itself from the proselytizing acolytes of secular Calvinist universalism. Of course, libertarians will need to make the advocacy of such ideas within their territories punishable by exile and outlawry. But because the establishment is universalist, the very existence of islands of liberty in the ocean of progressive liberal statism refutes their ideology. For the reasons and by the processes enumerated above, peaceful libertarians minding their own business in their own societies can expect to be attacked. This necessitates considerations of robust defense, as failure to do so will result in said libertarians being genocided by statists.

While part of the practical answer to globalism is local governance protected by nuclear deterrence, another part is a counter-universalism that fights fire with fire. A behavioral standard that all people refrain from engaging in the worst forms of criminal activity, with those who do regarded as having forfeited their personhood in an ethical sense, is not only necessary to prevent social order from being disrupted, but is essential for dealing with persistent external threats. Just as an individual need not spend a short life dodging hired assassins instead of stopping the person who hires them, libertarian communities need not live on the precipice of annihilation by an all-consuming global statism. By resorting to the methods discussed in the previous section which happen to fall within the dictionary definition of genocide, a libertarian social order can prevent itself from being defeated by the nation-state system and stand defiant against secular Calvinist universalism.

References:

  1. “What Is Christian Universalism?”. Auburn.edu.
  2. Knight, George T. (1953). The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96.
  3. Calvin, John (1994). Institutes of the Christian Religion. Eerdmans. p. 2206.
  4. Allen, R. Michael (2010). Reformed Theology. Doing Theology. New York: T&T Clark. p. 100–1.
  5. Gregory A. Boyd (2001). “The Open Theism View”, in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, ed. James K. Beilby, Paul R. Eddy. InterVarsity. p. 14.
  6. McGrath, Alister E. (1990). A Life of John Calvin. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 118–20.
  7. Breton, Albert (ed. 1995). Nationalism and Rationality. Cambridge University Press. p. 248.
  8. Engaging Our Theodiversity. Unitarian Universalist Association.
  9. Luke 16:19–31.

Henry Olson Misunderstands Libertarianism

On September 25, Social Matter published an article by Henry Olson titled “The Death and Tragic Rebirth of Libertarianism”. While this article raises several important issues for libertarians and gets some points correct, it also has major theoretical problems. Whereas Olson’s misunderstandings are more commonly distributed and believed than correct libertarian theory, and this is a primary reason for many rejections of libertarianism, let us explore them and offer corrections while also noting where his essay is accurate.

Abstract

Olson begins,

“Whatever their partisans claim, political ideologies rarely succeed in describing some timeless truth about the world. More often, their existence is entirely contingent on the events around them. They serve as gathering points for similar personality types to consider the important issues of their day. When the issues change, most partisans move somewhere else, and the ideology goes stale.”

This is mostly correct, though libertarianism (in the Hoppean sense) does succeed in providing a rational proof that self-ownership, non-aggression, and respect for private property form the basis for how people should act, even if it is not how they do act. Though a political ideology can become stale when partisans leave, it can also lead to renewal as those who would use (and abuse) the ideology for their own purposes go elsewhere and take their corruptions with them.

Olson views the rise of political libertarianism through Ron Paul and its recession away from Rand Paul in favor of Donald Trump and the alt-right as an example of this staleness. He describes the passing of the “libertarian moment” in favor of Trumpism and the alt-right as “the sadness of a vanished childhood, where we realized that the dreams we once believed so deeply were only dreams”. But as we will see, this view rests upon a foundation of misunderstanding, as does the mainstream corporatist libertarian position that Olson criticizes.

Libertarian Theory

Olson attempts to provide the reader with a brief overview of libertarian theory, but offers a deeply flawed version of it. He writes,

“The central tenet of libertarianism was always simple. It was based around the so-called ‘non-aggression principle’ (or NAP), which held that anyone may do whatever he pleases with his own property so long as he respects other people’s rights to do the same with theirs. Since the boundaries on what it means to encroach on someone else’s property rights are not always clear, the NAP was typically understood as a prohibition on the initiation of force.”

While it is odd to read of even a former libertarian referring to the “so-called NAP,” the issue here is that self-ownership is the central tenet while NAP and private property are corollaries thereof. Though the definition of “encroachment” is not always clear in the abstract, it usually is clear in practice because people negotiate agreements in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts. The exceptions to this tend to be caused by state interference that inhibits the ability of private actors to negotiate such matters between themselves. Olson’s footnote about zoning laws, which suggests that libertarians have no answer to the objection that zoning laws “make communities nicer for nearly everyone and do not significantly harm the few cranks and outliers they inconvenience” suggests an unfamiliarity with libertarian theory. Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s theories on covenant communities resolve such problems, as does the work of many other libertarians on the subject of contracts. If one wishes to prevent “transforming the Vermont village green into a strip mall,” for instance, the charter of a covenant community may provide that this space is never to be developed. The residents of the area may also band together to make socioeconomic life so difficult for anyone who would develop a particular plot that no one would want to take the risk. “Using force to preserve something that nearly everyone appreciates” is not “defined as immoral from the outset”; it simply requires that the proper private legal structures be put into place and that the proper forces be arranged toward that purpose.

Olson raises the canards of Murray Rothbard’s case for letting children starve, Walter Block’s less palatable chapters in Defending the Undefendable, and the apparent love affair that the Mises Institute has with Ebenezer Scrooge. For the former two, it must be said that even the greatest thinkers can be dreadfully wrong on occasion. No philosopher should be followed exactly on reputation alone, but neither should the rest of their canon be rejected without further cause. Defending Scrooge, however, makes far more sense, especially from a Social Darwinist perspective, which a person moving from libertarianism to neoreaction could reasonably possess and retain. Even so, Olson praises libertarianism for giving “the right answers to the most pressing practical issues of the late 2000s,” even if its adherents occasionally wished for a past that never was (also common among reactionaries of all types). However, his history is slightly off. The Austrian School began in 1871 with Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics; those working in the early 20th century (e.g. Ludwig von Mises) were the second generation of Austrian economists.

The Moment Passes

Olson’s initial description of the passing of the “libertarian moment” on the right is poignant:

“As the defections of former libertarians and Tea Partiers to Donald Trump and the alt-right showed, a lot of the libertarians from the Ron Paul years fundamentally did not believe in libertarian theory as much as they thought they did. They flocked to it at the time because it offered an intelligent critique of the Left and the mainstream Right that was otherwise lacking in a time when Sean Hannity and Karl Rove were leading right-wing luminaries. But when a meatier opposition arose—based on nationalism, immigration restriction, and economic protectionism—many libertarians saw no problem in dropping their old beliefs for contradictory ones.”

These people never were libertarians (or Tea Partiers, for that matter); they were anti-progressives and anti-cuckservatives who saw no other political movement that opposed both camps. He then identifies himself as being in this category, which is glaringly obvious by the analytical mistakes in his next paragraph. Olson writes that his “libertarian dream died with the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri.” His description of events is saturated with exactly the type of political autism of which reactionaries tend to accuse libertarians. It is true that within context, the police and National Guard forces imposed order upon a rioting mob that was attacking innocent bystanders and destroying their property. But who created that context? For the past century, all levels of American government have worked tirelessly to suppress militia groups that once performed the legitimate functions of the National Guard. Many cities once had racial zoning ordinances that created segregated ghettos where none had existed previously. The welfare state provides perverse incentives that have destroyed black families and grown the criminal element, and government education has failed to prepare them to lead a life outside the criminal justice system. Legal protections for the press dating back to the Constitution itself keep them from facing proper consequences for inciting people to riot, loot, and burn. Wherever one looks, the state is at fault, and expecting them to clean up their own mess is the least that one can ask. It is fair to criticize “the libertarian theorists pontificating on how the best solution would be to privatize the roads, abolish the police, or legalize pot” for not addressing the problem at hand with the implements at hand, but they did far more than “offer only platitudes in the face of real life-and-death problems”.

On the left side, Olson is closer to the target:

“Certain aspects of libertarianism insisted on drug legalization, open borders, and the right to all kinds of weird sex, in what was then an even more aggressive manner than the mainstream Left. But as the ‘mainstream’ Left adopted increasingly radical positions in the culture wars, such that, today, elected Democratic politicians demand that we ‘abolish ICE‘ while Democratic voters nominate transgenders as their gubernatorial candidates, there is little reason for cultural leftists to stick with libertarianism. Why buy the knock-off when the real thing is just as accessible? So these people left too, and joined the freakshow known as liberalism circa 2018.”

His errors here are minor. First, there has always been a degenerate, hedonistic element in majuscule, political Libertarianism. These people come into libertarian circles because they seek a safe space for the practice of their vices, whatever they may be. Leftist elements within libertarianism provide them with this safe space because doing so is an easier way to grow the movement than authentic proselytization. This also gives them occasion to attack right-libertarians for opposing the adulteration and degeneration of their political movement. Second, they are not leaving the Libertarian Party in sufficient numbers to turn it rightward, as many of them know that they lack the talent to perform in a major political party and would rather remain as big fish in a small pond, fighting over worthless scraps of non-existent power.

A Tragic Rebirth?

We now reach the purpose of Olson’s article: to make the case that libertarianism is an enemy in the fight against corporate censorship. He describes the importance of this struggle thus:

“The most important battle of our time is now shaping up to be the battle against the tech monopolists. Whereas issues like changing demographics, non-white immigration to the West, and the glorification of sexual deviancy and hedonistic consumerism over traditional Western norms all pose existential threats to our civilization, the threat from the tech world presents an even more fundamental problem. It challenges whether we will even be able to talk about these other issues at all. By excluding dissident websites from Google search results, by preventing rightists from using Facebook or Twitter to spread their messages, or by banning the Right from online payment processors, private tech monopolists have every bit the same power to silence critics as the old Soviet Cheka.”

Once more, Olson is poised to ignore how the current context was formed. He continues,

“In fact, their power may even be greater. The secret police of the twentieth century communist regimes had to rely on glaringly primitive and brutal tactics like the gulag, the torture chamber, and the firing squad. While a force like the Cheka was obviously able inflict much more pain on individual people than Google can, its obvious brutality could not help but stir up popular resentment; thus, the common refrain that by the fall of the Berlin Wall the only people still believing in communism were American university professors. Therefore, the fact that modern tech companies have given up primitive methods of control for more sophisticated ones is an evolutionary improvement in managerial totalitarianism, not a weakness. The goal of the gulags was rarely to hurt individual people; it was to make the cost of opposing the system prohibitive to others. If Google, Twitter, PayPal, or any other company can silence dissent just by changing search algorithms or banning dissidents from using a service, then it has achieved in the same results in a less intrusive way. And because their methods are less obviously evil, they are also less likely to engender popular disillusionment or revolt.”

That soft power frequently faces less backlash than hard power is important to remember, as is the fact that private enterprise working hand in hand with the state typically results in the worst of both worlds: the evil of the state combined with the efficiency of the market. It is important to remember that the market is fundamentally amoral; it is not a thing but a process. If the inputs are corrupted, so will be the results. Just as markets “find solutions that the government misses” for good, so can they for evil. As Hoppe writes,

“Moreover, free competition is not always good. Free competition in the production of goods is good, but free competition in the production of bads is not. Free competition in the torturing and killing of innocents, or free competition in counterfeiting or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad.”[1]

Olson accuses libertarianism of “rush[ing] to the rescue of the establishment censors,” defending them as “private companies [that] can set whatever terms of service they want.” While some prominent libertarians are saying this, proper libertarian theory says no such thing. Instead, it recognizes that corporations are not private companies; they are legal fictions created by the state to shield business owners from full financial liability and ease the enforcement of laws upon those businesses. It is impossible to create a corporation without involving the state, as attempting to do so without chartering or registering the corporation with a state will have no effect. The closest one could come would be to negotiate recognition of a business entity with limited liability with each customer of that business, but this would not be identical to a state-recognized corporation in terms of its interaction with the state or with bystanders. Corporations as we know them are therefore incompatible with libertarianism; they should be replaced by other forms of business organization, such as common-law partnerships and cooperatives.

Olson quotes Rothbard on the matter of freedom of speech:

“Freedom of speech is supposed to mean the right of everyone to say whatever he likes. But the neglected question is: Where? Where does a man have this right? He certainly does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right only either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him on the premises. In fact, then, there is no such thing as a separate ‘right to free speech’; there is only a man’s property right: the right to do as he wills with his own or to make voluntary agreements with other property owners.”

What both Olson and Rothbard neglect is that, as explained above, corporations exist on the backs of taxpayers who are extorted to fund the government that allows them to incorporate. It is not trespassing for those taxpayers to enter the property of the social media companies, payment processors, etc. and make use of their services against their wishes because their incorporation is a benefit of property rights violations. Therefore, their exercise of private property rights by denying service to people and trespassing them is estopped as long as they remain incorporated.

Olson correctly points out that (misunderstood) libertarian theory serves the progressive leftist establishment, and that they will use the part that serves their interest while ignoring and discarding the other parts and implications, such as the right to discriminate racially. But as shown above, his descriptions of libertarians who do oppose the technology giants are false:

“They range from an acknowledgment of the problem but a refusal to find a solution (e.g., ‘a free speech social media alternative will come eventually, so we can ignore the problem for now’) to a half-baked rationalization that government tech regulation really is not regulation at all (e.g., ‘tech companies get lots of government subsidies, so it really does not aggress against their property rights to regulate them’).”

The consistent libertarians really are not “the tech apologists,” nor are the effective opponents those who would “rally government force to stop them.” If the NAP really said that “we are not allowed to stop them” from “silenc[ing] dissent to aid our ruling class’s efforts to turn America into the Third World and destroy the civilization that we inherited,” then one could reasonably say “to hell with the NAP.” Fortunately, it says no such thing. Government force is the ultimate cause of the problem because it provides the means to destroy Western civilization and empowers the technology giants to become giants that serve as tools of oppression in the first place. Though it may be necessary to break up the near-monopolies of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, this alone will not be sufficient. Nor will regulating them as public utilities, as this will both stifle innovation and incentivize regulatory capture.

Conclusion

Olson’s article is most interesting for its dueling political autisms; he correctly chastises mainstream libertarians for their inability to understand and deal with the current situation, all while remaining blissfully unaware of how his beloved state created the current situation. The solution to censorious technology giants will likely require taking the reins of power, but only for the purpose of setting parts of the Cathedral against other parts in order to hasten its demise. If the Right, per his suggestion, “learn[s] to be unapologetically statist,” it will only retread a predictable course that ends in failure, more robust leftism in the long term, and the abandonment of liberty.

References:

  1. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 87.