Liberty Minecraft Quarterly: Winter 2019

Introduction

…it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things…” –Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Anarchists and libertarians frequently debate three topics concerning a free society: how to establish a free society, how to prevent its decline, and how to provide infrastructure. One might infer that the goal is to prepare by identifying and overcoming barriers to reduce the probability of failure and minimize start-up costs. These questions are often approached by extrapolating from areas where freedom exists, by engaging in thought experiments, or by trial and error.

When asked how institutions will function, anarchists like Michael Malice and Jeff Berwick often point out that most human interactions already take place in a state of anarchy.[1,2] Austrian economists sometimes explain markets with fictional stories about the island of Robinson Crusoe.[3] While these stories are useful, such thought experiments consider the actions of imaginary people with imaginary preferences. Neither approach can reveal a black swan event, the unexpected extreme consequence.

Rather, ideas must be tested in reality to discover events that appear obvious in hindsight, but here the costs and risks are high. People will make huge and often avoidable mistakes. Changing social and economic systems will risk human lives, freedom, and valuable capital. An opportunity to test ideas at significantly lower cost and risk is a valuable way to protect life, liberty, and property. Virtual worlds provide this opportunity because the people involved and their preferences are real.

Liberty Minecraft is a profit-generating[4] demonstration of a free society, where real people with real preferences act without state intervention. This article is the second in a quarterly series of updates on the Liberty Minecraft project, and it will explore four topics: specialization at the level of town management, developing land conflicts and their origin, the costs and benefits of culture building, innovation and it’s appearance in market prices. The goal is to demonstrate that a digital world is a rich environment for exploring a free society.

The New Stockholm Purchase

On Aug. 31, 2018, a player named Heronproject started to acquire land in the west end of Scar City. If one judges by initial investment, his plan was ambitious. In our first month he accumulated more than 12,000 square meters of high-value property. It was called New Stockholm. One could see in New Stockholm the expression of a preference to organize one’s own affairs in a new way, but development came to a halt just days after it began. Heronproject was and remains a busy Swede. Someone with greater ability, more time, or both would have to take over. To achieve his goal, Heronproject decided to sell New Stockholm.

On Nov. 10, a player named Haksndot purchased this land package for an undisclosed eight-figure sum. Heronproject sold everything except for Ruby Tower, making a tidy fortune and a calculated bet: Haksndot has experience. He is the owner and creator of Hrafnia, the largest estate in the Old World. He is the monopoly owner of Origo Station and The Netherway, the first and largest transit system in the New World. He also founded the Terrain and Agricultural Restoration Project, a free market initiative from the Old World.

By Nov. 12, New Stockholm was gone. In its place, Haksndot has created an opportunity to try again with a few iterations. Unlike other districts in Liberty Minecraft which sell management privileges (where Haksndot would remain the property owner) he has split the land into plots which may be purchased outright. The plots are intersected by privately owned streets and squares.

By Jan. 18, 2019, Haksndot had sold at least seven houses in New Stockholm for a total price of $9.06 million. Of the five players to buy claims, Heronproject was one of the first. Investing in land at a flat rate of $10,000 per square meter represents a considerable challenge for these new buyers. One plot has been converted into a market for trading and producing Nether Wart. Nether Wart is primarily used when brewing potions, but it is inexpensive to produce and represents a small part of our world’s economy. It is hard to imagine how any of these new buyers will return their cost of capital and earn a profit, but one need not imagine. Whether and how these buyers will profit will be discovered in time.

Developing Land Conflicts

Some players of Minecraft engage in an activity called griefing; they join a Minecraft server and damage unprotected property. Liberty Minecraft deals with this in two ways: players may purchase land using Claim Blocks which use computer code to protect the land, or they may invest in land which the rightful owner has intentionally left unprotected. Digital security is necessary to protect digital property because aggressors may use digital means like proxy servers and aliases to rejoin our world after they are banned. With property rights hard coded into the world, our players are free to do everything they are able to do, provided they do not break the server rule.

Even so, when players invest in land they do not own, this often ends in conflict. This scenario has been playing out underneath New Stockholm. One of the new denizens, named Aewheros, decided to core out the underground and build roads. Colloquially, this new area is being called Underholm. In time, claim owners will extend their land claim and interrupt Aewheros’ plans, settling the conflict over who owns what. The rightful land claim owners retain the option to protect any land beneath their claim. Until their land claim is extended into the ground, the area remains unprotected land which anyone may use.

Aewheros has also permitted a player named illdeletethis to build on his own claim. The plan was for illdeletethis to start building a home and then purchase the land, but now the house appears to be finished and still no sale has been made. illdeletethis has even built a second house which was not part of the initial plan. In this way, Aewheros will experience both sides of a conflict over land by investing in land he does not own and permitting another to invest in land he does own. This produces a remarkable opportunity to see how one person will navigate both sides of a difficult conflict over scarce resources.

The first conflict has already occurred. A visitor named shortanglewinner discovered Underholm on Jan. 9, and immediately started digging up the unprotected roads. Aewheros, who was present at the time had no means to protect his investment. He decided to complain that shortanglewinner was being unfriendly. In time, perhaps Aewheros will be grateful that the flaw in his design was exposed quickly because after his flaw was clearly demonstrated it was quickly solved. Haksndot, the proper land owner, exercised the option to extend his claims. Today, the main roads of Underholm are protected property belonging to Haksndot. He has also granted Aewheros permission to continue building the roads, a privilege which Haksndot is extending to the claim owners of New Stockholm. This demonstrates how exercising exclusive control over private property is a means to end conflict.

Culture Building, Warning Signs, and Dealing with Aggressors

Beginning in 2017, I decided to research and develop a new custom for Liberty Minecraft. This custom was developed with the aid of scientific research on attrition rates as presented by Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code.[5] When players join the New World, I attempt to perform three tasks: 1) bring them food to share, 2) engage with them to learn what they are best and worst at, or what they like about Minecraft, and 3) present them with the symbol of Liberty Minecraft and the tool which players use to claim land, a Golden Axe that bears their name.

When I succeed in performing all three tasks, this custom has produced incredible results which seem wildly out of proportion to their cost. Players who have joined since the launch of our New World and participated in this welcoming custom have been far more content and secure in their social status and more willing and interested to participate in group activities. This success has been encouraging, so I will develop an in-game player networking system which will prompt our community to perform these tasks.

Attempting and failing to perform these three tasks has come to represent a warning that the new player or players may not integrate into our community easily. In December 2018, a group of five new players joined Liberty Minecraft. Within ten days, three of these players rejected my one rule and were banned. A fourth left while being investigated for using hacks. I was unsuccessful in sharing food with this group. Four of the five did not offer an opportunity and the other one walked away when I attempted to share food. None of the five responded when I asked questions about them. None were presented with Golden Axes.

Other warning signs were present. The players were dressed as Klansmen or as Hitler. For completeness, a fifth player wore a Belgium flag, but the significance of this is lost on me. Also, when players asked them to not swear this new group simultaneously claimed that swearing is against the rules (it is not) and continued to swear, choosing to violate a rule which they claim exists. This shows both a denial of reality and a willingness to violate perceived rules.

Liberty Minecraft’s one rule is to resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Anyone who rejects or violates this rule will be banned. On Dec. 9, one of the group of five advocated that communism is a better way to organize society than anarcho-capitalism, and was banned. Another player rejected my one rule in regard to political matters and was banned. The remaining three players immediately started responding all at once to claim their friend was banned for arbitrary reasons. For nine minutes they spammed the game’s chat with the same inaccurate statement. This group was organized. One hour later, a third player admitted that he would not accept my one rule and was banned from Liberty Minecraft.

Lessons and Observations

Hostile players will use the good will of our community to build up arms. The group asked where they could purchase gunpowder and other materials to create TNT and fire-starters. Unclaimed land was later destroyed or burned with items they purchased. This is not a violation of my rule because there is no dispute. Unclaimed land in Liberty Minecraft is my unprotected property. I permit the players to use it or purchase the land from me.

In my absence, players of Liberty Minecraft will protect the natural landscape and impose social norms by acquiring land and raising prices. Aewheros and a player named K9us teamed up to purchase land surrounding the group’s land claim, protecting it from further damage. A player named Remixster was granted permission to replant the burned forests. K9us granted this permission at no charge and Remixster was given saplings to begin restoring the forest. One of the group who had destroyed land also requested permission. K9us offered to sell them permission for $30,000 per block which is the highest price ever demanded for access to land in Liberty Minecraft.

Rule breakers may be prepared. The group used mass messaging to claim that their group members were banned for arbitrary reasons. They invested at least three days of their time to build up supplies. They may have been using hacked game clients but left before I could make this determination.

Developing Private Health Care

In Survival mode, a Minecraft player will die when their 10 heart icons run out. A Minecraft player can lose health in many ways, for example; when they are struck by a monster, by drowning or falling a great distance, or by walking into a Cactus. Health can be restored by eating food, by consuming Health Potions, or by standing within range of a Regeneration Beacon. Over the last four months, players of Liberty Minecraft have reduced the price of Beacons by 96 percent.

To obtain a Beacon, Minecraft players must find a Nether Fortress and battle tens or hundreds of Wither Skeletons until they recover three skulls. Next they must summon The Wither, a very powerful monster. Players must defeat the monster to recover its Nether Star. Finally, with a Nether Star in hand, they can craft a Beacon. When Liberty Minecraft’s New World opened, there were no Beacons. First players had to remove the greatest obstacle to one’s use of a product: its nonexistence.[6] Haksndot and a player named Cardano_ff were both early developers in The Nether, one of Minecraft’s three dimensions. Each player created a Wither Skeleton farm and each farm made the task of producing skulls more efficient and less hazardous. This demonstrates that capitalists in a digital free market will eliminate hazards as a means to protect their digital capital.

On Oct. 11, Cardano_ff offered a Beacon on the market for $10 million, representing between ten and twenty hours of Diamond mining. The next day Haksndot listed one for $5 million. Cardano_ff matched his price, but it was unclear what price the market would support. The price fell to $3 million, then $2.5 million, then $2 million. At every step Haksndot and Cardano_ff offered the same price. It is unclear how many sales occurred during this time. Haksndot has expressed that most of his early Beacon sales were transacted “off the books.” This occurs whenever players trade without using a ChestShop. This is a common practice when an item is in short supply and/or is traded rarely.

After one week on the market, two Beacons sold for a total of $4 million on Oct. 18. It seems that these trades were enough to produce a shortage because the market price started fluctuating higher. The price rose to $2.5 million, then $3 million, and by Oct. 20 it had reached $5 million. That day, a third supplier entered the market when K9us offered to sell a Beacon, matching Haksndot’s price of $5 million. By Oct. 24, the price had fallen to $2 million, and once again two more Beacons were sold. By Nov. 11, the price had fallen by another 25 percent, and two more buyers purchased three Beacons. The price moved back to $2 million. The market remained shallow and a low volume of trading was causing quite a splash. Whenever new buyers entered at a lower price, the price rebounded.

A Market Shock

On Dec. 1, a fourth supplier appeared. A player named freakdown shocked the market by offering Beacons for $1 million each, cutting the market price in half. Two new buyers appeared. One of them was K9us, a former seller. As before, new buyers appeared at lower prices and the market moved, except this time the price fell. On Dec. 7, freakdown’s price was $600,000, another 40 percent decline. At first it appears to violate the old adage: “this time is [never] different.” In fact this has happened before, a month earlier when a player named Shahayhay cut prices on Blaze rods for the second time. The cause in that case was innovation. What about now?

A significant, unidentified event had occurred, and it was changing player behavior. Players started buying out of convenience, buying in bulk, and buying for the first time. A player named TheScrubJay decided to purchase a Beacon simply because it was easier than going home to fight a Wither. After all, he would want more than one. On Dec. 23, Aewheros bought three more beacons at the bulk rate of $483,333 each. Then on Jan. 7, freakdown cut his price to $400,000 or ten Beacons for $250,000 each, another decline. A player named NorraLigan entered the market to purchase her first Beacon at the new low price. In four months our players have provided over $18 million in value to each other, cutting the price of Beacons by 96 percent. A player named Mr_Digs now provides free health care at Ivory Tower, simply for stopping by.

The Nether Factory

It is clear that Beacon prices have fallen, but at least one big question remains: what was the cause? Our market experienced a spike in demand after an 80 percent decline. Then the price fell by half, and then it fell by half again just for good measure. How did freakdown do it?

Supply increases with falling prices only happen in a couple of ways. Either the cost of materials has dropped, or the process has become more efficient, reducing the time to deliver the end product. For Beacons, the most expensive producer good is a Nether Star, which requires three Wither Skeleton skulls. Obtaining these skulls started as a dangerous and labor-intensive task. Players entered The Nether and traversed an uncharted, inhospitable landscape of lava lakes and strong monsters in search of a Nether Fortress.

The risk of death is rarely higher, and the cost of dying can set players back hundreds of thousands of dollars. Armor, weapons, and tools which players carry and use while exploring The Nether can range in price from $50,000 to over $1 million. Better gear is often more costly. For example, a fully enchanted Diamond Sword is longer lasting, hits harder, and increases the probability of dropping valuable loot. However, in Oct. 2018, this sword was trading for $250,000. On the other hand, a successful return trip may take five hours, resulting in an opportunity cost of $4–5 million. A failed expedition represented millions in losses. Players have to balance risks to maximize their expected return. Both Cardano_ff and Haksndot overcame these obstacles to produce the world’s first Beacons. Today, rail lines connect directly to both farms, and the risk of death is practically zero with a round trip time of less than one hour.

To increase production, freakdown had to do something different. He searched for hours to find and prepare the perfect Nether Fortress, which allows him to spawn monsters in a relatively concentrated area. The farm produces enough Wither Skulls to create more than 200 Beacons per day. The materials used in construction are worth less than $100,000, but his opportunity cost brings the total investment to nearly $25 million. Today, the entire farm can be operated automatically and produces gold, coal, and bones as byproducts.

Conclusion

Liberty Minecraft provides an opportunity to protect life, liberty, and property by examining a free society at low cost and low risk. Players spontaneously organize their affairs to build competing roads and towns. Conflict over unowned land occurs regularly. Innovating in cultural development provides a way to welcome new group members and identify troublemakers at an early stage. When aggressors enter into the community, the members will band together to enforce norms and protect the natural landscape. Finally, the presence of innovation can be observed in prices when a spike in demand is met with a sustained increase in supply and decline in prices. These and many other lessons are experienced in Liberty Minecraft.

References:

  1. Malice, Michael; Rogan, Joe (2017, May 23). “Joe Rogan Experience #963 – Michael Malice.”
  2. Berwick, Jeff (2019, Jan. 15). “Regulation vs Anarchy: A Last Chance to Free Humanity.”
  3. Calton, Chris (2018, Jan. 24). “Minecraft and Crusoe Economics.” Mises Institute.
  4. Dempsey, Nathan. “Fiscal 2017 Donor Report.” libertyminecraft.com.
  5. Coyle, Daniel (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. New York: Bantam Books.
  6. Mises, Ludwig von (1958, Sept. 9). “Liberty and Property.” Mises Institute.

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.

Song Lyrics: SEC Got Run Over By A Bitcoin

To the tune of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” by Randy Brooks.

Chorus:
SEC got run over by a Bitcoin
Walking home from the office Christmas Eve
You can say there’s no such thing as karma
But as for crypto users, we believe

Verse 1:
They did too much regulating
And we tried to tell them so
But they hate all innovation
So they did all that they could to block the road
When we tried to get around them
They made threats to shut us down
But there’s no clear target to strike
For the blockchain is decentralized, you clowns

Chorus

Verse 2:
Now we point and laugh at the Fed
They’re not taking this too well
Wondering how to run their debt scam
If their phony fiat money burns in hell
‘Tis the season for green candles
Hope our trades are in the black
Don’t forget to check the markets
Before you spend Bitcoin that you can’t get back (No charge-backs!)

Chorus

Verse 3:
Now the Lambo’s in the garage
And the pizza’s hot and spiced, ahh!
And the chikun is arising
So the moon is shining brightly through the night
Time to help our friends and neighbors
Get some crypto for themselves
And there should be no BitLicense
That keeps businesses from bringing in the wealth

Chorus

Sing it Satoshi!

Chorus

Merry Christmas

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/

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.

Liberty Minecraft Quarterly: Autumn 2018

At the end of the 20th century, digital economies emerged on the Internet. Today, they also exist in virtual worlds. These economies offer freedoms which are suppressed by state violence. Virtual worlds can employ arbitrary rule sets which may or may not impose subsidies, taxes, price controls, respect for private property or self-ownership, among other norms. Virtual worlds may be operated as socioeconomic experiments in a cost-effective manner; a few hundred dollars instead of tens or hundreds of thousands. Experiments of this variety may be conducted ethically because participation is voluntary. In a virtual world, participant activity can be recorded easily, which offers a more complete data set for empirical analysis. In this way, virtual worlds offer a means to explore the adverse effect of state policies without risking large amounts of capital or human lives and freedoms.

To achieve this goal, one must first establish a control condition as a baseline for comparison. In December 2015, I decided to create a demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics using the world’s best-selling computer game, Minecraft. Following two beta tests which failed to generate a profit, Liberty Minecraft’s official launch was in March 2017, and today it is a profit-generating proof of concept. In November 2017, I wrote “Building Liberty in Minecraft” for Zeroth Position in which we explored digital economies, Minecraft, and liberty. September 2018 marked the launch of a new world that offers several technical improvements. This article will be the first in a quarterly series of updates on the Liberty Minecraft project, and will explore three topics: is Liberty Minecraft a valid demonstration of Austrian economics and libertarian ethics, the differences between the Old World and the New World, and what has happened there so far.

Is Liberty Minecraft Valid?

Minecraft is not the real world. Minecraft items have familiar names; “Cooked Chicken” will satisfy “Hunger” and restore “Health,” but these names and their association to objects in the real world is completely illusory. Rather, in-game items offer some utility as a means to achieve goals, and this means that items in Minecraft can produce real incentive systems. Liberty Minecraft is not and is not intended to be a simulation of reality. However, the players involved and their freedom to express preferences are completely real. When real actors compete to acquire scarce means that satisfy ends, a real economy and society develops, even in a digital world. Liberty Minecraft is a game world which implements Austrian economics with libertarian ethics using smart contracts. Self-ownership, private property, commodity money, and trade are offered via computer code which executes on our game servers. The ‘physical laws’ of Liberty Minecraft are also enforced by computer code.[Footnote 1]

The Rule of Liberty Minecraft

A society will enjoy liberty whenever it abides by this rule: resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. This is the primary rule of Liberty Minecraft. Our players “must solve difficult problems without resorting to violence or threats of violence.”[1] I enforce this rule. Here, it is common for people to suggest that I have violently centralized power, that this decision abandons the free market for enforcement services, and therefore that Liberty Minecraft does not represent a libertarian society. Let us see why this is false. First, a person who rejects this rule cannot argue against being banned from Liberty Minecraft without committing a performative contradiction. Second, property owners are free to decide who can use their property, and I have decided that everyone who rejects my rule is not allowed to use my property. Third, I compete with thousands of server operators, and player participation on a Minecraft server is voluntary. Thus, I am accountable in the free market and will put valuable capital at risk by performing my functions poorly. This rule and its enforcement exist in a highly competitive market and are consistent with libertarian ethics and Austrian economics.

In addition, there are two Terms of Use which are implied but stated in answer to common questions. The first term of use is “Read and understand the rules.” No one can abide by a rule which they have not read and do not understand. The second term is “Do not hack the server.” Hackers can change the rules, and permitting hacking would defeat the purpose of setting rules. Here I also list a promise: “Within Liberty Minecraft, I promise to protect land which is claimed using Claim Blocks.” This brings us to a second criticism of Liberty Minecraft.

The Function of Claim Blocks

In Liberty Minecraft, Claim Blocks are applied to the world in order to claim land as property. In the New World, Claim Blocks are available for purchase at a fixed price of 100 Claim Blocks per Diamond, one of the in-game commodities. Here people often argue that I am engaging in arbitrary price-fixing, therefore Liberty Minecraft is not an implementation of Austrian economics. However, unclaimed land within Liberty Minecraft is my property, and I am free to sell it at the price of my choosing. One may respond that I cannot own all the land within the server, as I have not homesteaded it. These people beg the reader to reject reality as a means to produce a more realistic demonstration: because Liberty Minecraft did not exist before I created it, and all land within Liberty Minecraft exists within Liberty Minecraft, its unclaimed land is my property. Furthermore, I work in order to pay for the proper maintenance and service of the server hardware on which Liberty Minecraft exists.

I have decided to sell land protection services within Liberty Minecraft for our in-game currency because the Terms of Commercial use for Minecraft preclude me from using other, more preferable options. I have developed a reputation by protecting the property of individuals, and in their absence for a period of years. Failing to perform this service in a professional way will result in the destruction of my project. The value of my offer is determined in the free market because I compete with other services for the protection of (digital) life, liberty, and property.

Once a player has bought land, they are free to sell it at any mutually agreeable price. Within Liberty Minecraft, all landowners hold an estate in land which is similar to fee simple except that there are no taxes, eminent domain powers, police powers, or escheat. Landowners are free to make their own rules and terms of enforcement. Ownership is conditional because players must follow my rule to play on my game servers. However, players may retain unconditional ownership by using server software to download a copy of their property. Land which is claimed can only be used with the authorization of the owner or a person to whom they have delegated that right. Land claims expire by default if a player leaves for 60 days. In escheat, property without an heir would go to the State. In my case, Claim Blocks are returned to the player and the property becomes unprotected. However, I am now investing to develop a better option: an auction system where the proceeds will go to the departed player. If this causes currency to become more scarce over time, then the remaining supply will have a higher purchasing power which will serve to attract former players, among other benefits.

Currency

Within Liberty Minecraft, Diamonds are used as currency. Minecraft’s Diamonds are durable, portable, fungible, and scarce. Thus, Diamonds have many of the monetary qualities which gold offers in the real world. There is one notable exception: Minecraft’s Diamonds are indivisible. Liberty Minecraft offers a solution where players may subdivide their Diamonds into 10^18 sub-units which may be transferred securely within Liberty Minecraft. One may object that my decision is arbitrary; it prevents the free market from solving this problem, and this abandons Austrian economics. These people seem not to understand that the currency is Diamonds even once they are told, because otherwise such a criticism amounts to the difference between 100,000 centimeters and one kilometer; that is, no difference at all.

Minecraft players have always used Diamonds as a standard of value and medium of exchange, which is why I have selected it as currency. Diamonds are produced by mining or may be discovered in the world’s ‘natural’ structures. In Liberty Minecraft, the supply of Diamonds is finite. Still, this is the only game item for which I am offering money services at our ChestShops. This intervention picks Diamonds as the winner instead of allowing for free market competition among in-game items in Liberty Minecraft, which is the result of an unfortunate technical limitation. At present I cannot offer money services for all game items. However, even if I solve this problem, game items suffer from the same vulnerability: I am an imperfect central point of failure. Therefore, Liberty Minecraft’s Diamond money is a game commodity which must be discovered and produced by mining, which had already been in use as money for many years across Minecraft servers, and which is subdivided in Liberty Minecraft to add an important characteristic of money: divisibility.

Liberty Minecraft is a valid demonstration of Austro-libertarianism for the reasons discussed above. The players of Liberty Minecraft, their preferences, and their freedoms are real. Scarce means may be secured to achieve desirable goals. Our one rule and its enforcement are consistent with libertarian ethics. The sale of land and protection services within Liberty Minecraft are consistent with Austrian economics. Until human incompetence or enmity changes this virtual world, Liberty Minecraft is a valid demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics.

From Old World to New World

Compared to any other Minecraft server, Liberty Minecraft’s New and Old worlds are nearly identical. Both are played in Survival Mode. They both offer Diamond currency, private property, trade, and self-ownership with smart contracts. They are both exactly the same size, roughly as large as Manhattan. They both subject players to one rule: resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Differences, which remain to be discussed provide an opportunity to demonstrate by example some of the ways in which a virtual world may be altered to test social and economic policies.

Put simply, Liberty Minecraft’s Old World suffered from arbitrary rewards while the New World does not. (This characterization is rather too simple because Minecraft itself contains some arbitrary rewards, but I will offer it as a general rule which rarely fails.) Over the first 9875 hours played across two years, Old World players received Universal Basic Income which created Diamond money from thin air, because otherwise it was impossible to trade land. This technical limitation was discussed in the previous article published here. I solved the problem at the end of November 2017, and my players experienced what happens when a subsidy program is eliminated. To pay for the money printing in the best way I knew how, I mined an amount of Diamonds somewhat larger than those which were printed and blew them up, returning them to the thin air whence they came.

Following this correction, players spent less time idling on the server. Most players who subsisted on UBI either stopped playing Liberty Minecraft or developed new skills, but over 90 percent of the people who have played Liberty Minecraft have stopped playing; our active population is approximately 60 players but more than 600 players have visited. Therefore, one cannot claim by this evidence alone that ending UBI probably caused players to idle less due to the size of the initial population and proportion of surviving players. Furthermore, I do not presently have a research budget to investigate research questions in a formal way. Nevertheless, players in the New World do not suffer from arbitrary rewards and punishments as a consequence of money printing. All money is earned by providing value in exchange to another player or by discovering and mining ‘naturally’ generated Diamonds.

In the Old World, a player ranking system provides arbitrary rewards in exchange for playing an arbitrary amount of time on the server. This ‘solution’ was selected in an attempt to achieve three instrumental goals: 1) I wanted people to play and enjoy Liberty Minecraft, 2) I wished to offer a secure way for players to trade in-game property of any type, including resources which exist but cannot be extracted in Minecraft, and 3) I intended to do this without a development budget.

Distributing new abilities with player ranks in exchange for an arbitrary amount of play time seemed like a simple and inexpensive way to achieve those three goals. However, this incentive system has the undesirable effect of attracting players who are rewarded without producing anything of value. I expect that this has a negative impact on our digital society in the Old World because the system is not meritocratic. In a sense, the New World is a test of this hypothesis because I have removed the arbitrary ranking system and its rewards. In the New World, all of the value a player accumulates is directly attributable to their merit. The New World now competes in real time with the Old World. If the New World makes significantly more money than the Old World, then it is a better product.

Operational Constraints

Both the New and Old Worlds are subject to the Terms of Commercial Use for Minecraft. Among other things, the terms prohibit me from selling digital items for hard currency. For instance, I cannot offer a secondary market where active players offer real-world value for the assets of inactive players. Without access to the free market, the property of inactive players is left in limbo. In common law, the State takes this property for itself. Liberty Minecraft is building a better option.

When Liberty Minecraft began in 2015, land claims could be configured in two ways which are relevant to this discussion. One could define an arbitrary duration of player inactivity that specifies when a player’s land claims will expire, and an arbitrary amount of wealth invested in Claim Blocks which permanently stops that player’s land claims from expiring. In the Old World, I work within these technical limitations. Niccolo Machiavelli held Cesare Borgia in high regard, and observed that the Romagna waited for more than a month while he was sick and dying.[2] Likewise, I hold my players in high regard, so land claims expire after 60 days. Furthermore, in the Old World, a player who owns 1000 Diamonds worth of Claim Blocks has permanent land claims. This system fails in at least two important ways. First, it punishes value providers who are busy and lose their property. Second, active value providers are punished because I invest resources to maintain the property of people who no longer play Liberty Minecraft.

After three years of operation, I can now turn my attention to these problems. In the New World, I will not work within these technical limitations. First, I wanted the duration of land ownership to be non-arbitrary. Last month, I designed and funded the development of a system which delays claim expiration for Donors and Subscribers. This new option permits an individual to decide how long to hold their property in their absence. By charging donations in exchange for persistent land claims, I may benefit from better earnings, active players may benefit from a server which is better funded, and donors expect to benefit because otherwise they would not donate. The actions of free individuals are a demonstration of their preferences. Second, I wanted a non-arbitrary way of paying the former owner of an expiring Land Claim. This month I created a budget and then designed an automated auction system where expiring land claims are put on auction. The proceeds will go to the former owner and will be available to them if they decide to return.

One Month of Freedom

The New World launched on August 31, 2018. At the time of this writing, Liberty Minecraft’s New World has already earned more than one year of operating expenses. 115 players have logged over 7700 man-hours within Liberty Minecraft’s New World. For comparison, my goal in the first year (beginning March 2017) was to provide 10,000 hours of experience in free markets and liberty. Roughly 13,000 hours were played that year. At the present rate, the New World will reach 10,000 hours by the end of our second month.

Liberty Minecraft’s players have engaged in more than 25,500 free market exchanges using our ChestShop system. More than 2200 shops have been created by the players. Roughly 500 of them exist at present. The money supply is completely unregulated, and has been expanded from $0 to more than $281 million (28,135 player-produced Diamonds exist as cash or claim blocks). Roughly 85 percent of that money is invested in Claim Blocks. More than 940 parcels of land are privately owned by the players. The market price for a number of items was recorded by me after one month of economic activity to be compared with market prices in one year hence.

In addition to this explosion in economic activity, a number of landmarks were established before the first month of play had ended. The players commissioned, designed, and built a house to surprise me with a wonderful gift for operating Liberty Minecraft. Also, a player named __Wildfire_ has constructed a city-wide rail system with lines that pass through the property of at least seven different land owners. The mine cart rail includes terminals in at least five different locations which provide no-fee access to three shopping districts and more than one hundred land claims. Two other owner/operators have agreed to connect their private rail lines to produce a transportation network which is both operated and owned by a distributed network of players.

Another player named Haksndot has become the monopoly owner of a no-fee railway system that spans the world using “The Nether”, one of the game’s three dimensions. Origo Station, which lies in the center of his rail system, includes roughly twenty ‘Portals’ that are native to Minecraft and which connect all around the world’s first populated area, sometimes called Spawn Town or Scar City. Origo also has the world’s second most active shop district called Hellmart. There, Haksndot is crowdsourcing the construction of materials for building his Netherway rail system by purchasing raw materials, automatically processing these materials, selling their products, and buying back the blocks which players may produce for profit and which are used in the construction of The Netherway. These places and many others may be visited by joining Liberty Minecraft which is free to anyone who owns Minecraft for their home computer.

Two clans have established themselves as significant social and economic forces in Liberty Minecraft: the Emerald Clan and Mein Kraft. While each one has their own story to tell, one cannot avoid discussing them by contrast. Emerald Clan has been with Liberty Minecraft for nearly one year and are a cornerstone of our community, but the name ‘Emerald Clan’ did not arise until last month, after Mein Kraft established themselves as a Clan. Mein Kraft joined at the launch of our New World and are still being integrated into our community. Machiavelli observed that there are difficulties when groups differ in language and customs, but the greatest help is if one resides there and sends colonies.[3] Emerald Clan and Mein Kraft differ in language and customs, but they share a love of freedom which is respected in Liberty Minecraft.

At present, the Emerald Clan is mainly involved in the production of goods that are obtained by trading Emeralds with villagers (which is an arbitrary trading feature native to Minecraft). Sharonclaws, who leads the Emerald Clan, is the operator of Emerald Tower, located in Scar City near Spawn. Spawn is the location where players first appear when they arrive in Liberty Minecraft. Mein Kraft is led by K9us, who owns $tore, which is primarily involved in the sale of goods obtained by ‘auto-fishing’ or by raiding End Cities (naturally generated structures that contain valuable goods). Another member, Frozenhammerz, owns Ivory Tower, which is also located in Scar City.

Emerald Clan is more socially invested and less hostile than Mein Kraft because they do not swear in conversations and communicate the purpose of their actions. For instance, they offer to use their property as a means to develop communities based on mutual trust. Mein Kraft has logged more man-hours, and is more productive and collectivistic; at the time of this writing, they have more shops offering items for sale and their clan’s members are trusted on all of the most valuable property owned by their members. Price wars between these two clans have reduced the price of tools and other high value goods by 50–90 percent over the course of one month despite the extraordinary growth in our free market money supply.

Conclusion

Liberty Minecraft’s New World is a technical improvement on my original offering. It is a valid demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics. The New World is actively testing a hypothesis that abandoning arbitrary rewards and subsidies will create a more profitable world. Since the launch of the New World, more things have happened than I can possibly describe. Our players build transportation infrastructure, establish communities according to their own customs, and have improved the standard of living among our players by direct competition among producers.

Footnote

1. One qualification must be added in every case because the game’s servers are not hardened against hacking or human fallibility. While I do perform regular backups to prepare for inevitable failures, I will ask that the reader mentally append all game rules and ‘physical’ laws with the qualification “…unless a hacker, operator incompetence, operator malice, or any combination of the above causes this to change.” I am the server operator.

References:

  1. Woods, Tom (2018, June 26). “Ep. 1187: Private Property vs. No Private Property: The Results”. The Tom Woods Show.
  2. Machiavelli, Niccolo, and W. K. Marriott. The Prince (ch. 7). Project Gutenberg, 2017.
  3. Ibid, ch. 3.

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.

Song Lyrics: Bitcoiner Blues

The chord progression is the same for all parts: C, Am(add11), G7, C7, C, Dm, Em, C.

The acoustic guitar solo also follows these chords. The tempo is such that performing the entire song takes 3:45–4:00.

Verse 1:
Sometimes buy high
Sometimes sell low
Never quite know
Where the market winds blow
But one man’s loss
Is another man’s gain
Here in cyberspace
Liberty shall reign

Verse 2:
The mining is hard
And it takes lots of juice
But that’s to make sure
That the spending’s no deuce
Once it’s in hand
They can’t steal away
The wealth is all yours
Just keep your private keys safe

Chorus:
Bitcoiner Blues
The song of the hour
Sing along and
Fight the legacy power
Buildin’ from scratch
A new paradigm
Savin’ the world from
The state and its crimes

Verse 3:
Roads made of silk
And markets for death
That’s the landscape
In this new Wild West
The first they took down
But they’ve been replaced
Thank Dread Pirate Roberts
For leading the way

Verse 4:
As for exchanges
Only trust if you dare
Your coins aren’t safe there
Let the user beware
Decentralize transactions
You’ll be better off
Or HODL your coins
And play some rounds of golf

Chorus

Acoustic Guitar Solo

Verse 5:
Investors are coming
With new ideas to try
Driving their Lambos
The limit’s the sky
SEC may stop some
IRS may stop more
But someday we’ll stop them
And show them the door

Verse 6:
New coins are programmed
And old coins bite dust
Let markets decide which
Currency to trust
Maybe someday
Bitcoin will fade away too
But ’till then I’ll sing
These Bitcoiner Blues

Chorus

Outro:
Bitcoiner Blues
The song of the hour
Sing along and
Fight the legacy power
Maybe someday
Bitcoin will fade away too
(But ’till then I’ll sing
These Bitcoiner Blues)x2

The Case Against Corporations

Libertarianism within a leviathan state functions not as a governing philosophy, but as a critique of excesses, i.e. the cases in which state power is used in an unusually pernicious manner. These efforts have had varying degrees of success, depending on how well libertarians can convince major party operatives and wealthy financiers of the wisdom of restraining the state on one issue or another. Unfortunately, mainstream libertarians seem to have a blind spot, if not an outright case of political autism, when it comes to corporate power. Free-market conservatives, reactionaries, and traditionalists also view corporations far too positively. Let us examine the history of corporations, construct a case against their existence and power, and offer solutions for reining them in.

History of Corporations

The word “corporation” comes from Latin corpus, meaning “body”. Originally, it was the gods of Uruk that fulfilled the function of imaginary entities that owned property and conducted commerce. Like modern corporations, Enki, Inanna, Lagash, Shurupak, and the other deities of ancient Mesopotamia outlived any human and were not troubled by inheritance disputes, but needed humans to conduct affairs on their behalf. The ancient Egyptians merged this concept with a physical embodiment to create the concept of Pharaoh.[1]

By the time of Justinian I (r. 527–565), Byzantine-Roman law recognized several types of corporate entities, such as collegium, corpus, and universitas. The state itself was considered a sovereign corporation, the Populus Romanus. Smaller municipalities were also categorized as such, along with occupational guilds, political groups, and religious cults. The privileges of these early corporations were granted by the emperor in their charters, such as owning property, making contracts, engaging in commerce, and pursuing legal action.[2] Local governments and religious institutions were also incorporated in medieval Europe for the same reasons. Other forms of organization such as partnerships were offered by common law, which arose whenever people acted together with an intent to profit.

The era of the modern corporation began in the 17th century with the chartered companies that led European colonial ventures in India, the Americas, and elsewhere. The Dutch East India Company (VOC, from Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was chartered by the Dutch government in 1602 and sold shares to investors, who traded them on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. The charter granted limited liability to investors and allowed the company to use military force pursuant to its purposes, which it did by defeating Portuguese forces in the Maluku Islands.[3] The English government chartered corporations with a territorial monopoly. For example, Queen Elizabeth I chartered the East India Company of London in 1600 to monopolize trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope.[4] Like the Dutch company, the English company would use force on the government’s behalf, becoming integrated with English and later British foreign policy. The English East India Company would become a symbol of both corporate success and exploitation.[5] Shareholders made almost 150 percent returns in 1711. Its first stock offering in 1713–1716 raised £418,000, and its second in 1717–1722 raised £1.6 million.[6]

However, the apparent success of a similar entity, the South Sea Company, turned out to be illusory. Established in 1711, its monopoly rights to trade with Spanish South America were supposedly backed by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. In reality, the Spanish remained hostile, only allowing one trade ship per year. Investors made the South Sea Company immensely wealthy despite the fact that it did no real business. It took on the burden of British public debt in 1717, further accelerating the share price. War with Spain in 1718 cost the company its prospects of trade profits.[7] The Bubble Act 1720, which prohibited the establishment of companies without a Royal Charter, contributed to Britain’s first speculative bubble.[8] South Sea Company shares eventually collapsed from £1000 in August 1720 to under £150 in October, causing many bankruptcies.

Modern Developments

As the 18th century ended, mercantilism was displaced by capitalism and agrarian economies became industrialized. Corporate forms also evolved to be less dependent on state direction and permission. Many business ventures during this time were unincorporated associations with up to thousands of members. Litigation was thus very difficult to coordinate, keeping the courts from being clogged with corporate lawsuits. The Bubble Act was eventually repealed in 1825. In 1844, Parliament passed the Joint Stock Companies Act, which allowed companies to incorporate by registration for only £10 without obtaining a royal charter.[9] Until 1855, company members were still fully financially responsible for their collective actions, but the Limited Liability Act changed this by only holding investors responsible up to the amount of their investment[10], thus allowing the remainder to be externalized to the public.[11] Insurance companies were excluded from limited liability at first, but the Companies Act 1862 changed this.[12] The 1897 House of Lords decision in Salomon v. Salomon & Co. confirmed the separate legal personhood of corporations by affirming that creditors could not sue the shareholders of an insolvent company for outstanding corporate debt. In 1892, Germany introduced the Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH), the forerunner of the modern limited-liability company (LLC). These were considered separate legal personalities with limited liability like corporations, but could be owned by a single person.[13]

In the United States, corporations were usually formed by acts of Congress until the late 19th century. The captains of industry therefore made more use of the trust model than the corporate model, under which Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel Company became enormously successful.[14,15] State governments had more permissive corporate laws than the federal government in the 19th century, but most were designed to prevent corporations from gaining much wealth or power.[16] In the 1890s, New Jersey and Delaware adopted enabling corporate statutes.[17,18] Around this time, mergers and holding companies led to larger corporations, and governments responded with anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation. Forming corporations was also made easier in most jurisdictions, though some places had many state-owned corporations that effectively nationalized certain industries. In recent decades, many countries have moved toward privatizing state-owned corporations, though ownership was transferred to politically connected oligarchs in many cases.[19,20,21]

Inherent Problems

The history of the corporate form makes clear the intractable problems of such entities. Fittingly, their roots are in the realm of religion, where fictions that operate on the intersubjective level of human experience have traditionally resided. Formalism demands that official reality should reflect actual reality, which is the first argument against corporations. Physical existence requires a concrete particular form; corporations are defined as lacking this, instead being legal persons without individual humanity. Furthermore, an association of individuals who agree upon a group identity and common purpose may be formed and continued without being accorded special privileges by a state, and power should not do what it need not.

A new set of problems arises when the state takes on a corporate form. For a sovereign to incorporate is redundant, as it already has all of the privileges of a corporation by virtue of monopolizing the legitimate use of force within the territory it controls. For good or ill, it can use its power to declare itself immune from suit and limit its liabilities by debasing currency or declaring a sovereign default. Only a loss of sovereignty from losing a war or sufficiently damaging measures taken against its trade by other sovereigns could force a sovereign to pay its creditors. More generally, a sovereign entity can have no law at all enforced against it except by the previously mentioned means. This is because the very concept of international law is a contradiction of terms; a sovereign cannot be subject to a higher law by definition.

Additionally, for a ruler to invite others to share power in a joint venture is to create offices which will eventually be used for evil ends, regardless of any well-intentioned efforts to create checks and balances. Eventually, these powers will be used to usurp the rights of the ruler and redistribute them. The road from there to democracy and all of its ills is heavily worn and in no need of additional traffic. Once that occurs, politicians can demagogue against the very corporations that the state has empowered to convince voters to support regulations that will increase state power and control over the economy. It is better to nip this recipe for rebellion and totalitarianism in the bud.

There is also danger in any sovereign entity, from private property monarch to nation-state government, granting such privileges to business interests. Corporations become the most powerful and profitable business entities wherever they can be formed without the tight constraints of pre-modern times (and even under those constraints in many cases) because of their ability to capitalize gains and socialize losses. That is, their state-granted privileges allow them to protect their interests by means unavailable to purely private businesses and push the tab for their mistakes onto the rest of society. This has long been a problem with regard to environmental pollution. Recent examples of this that still cause lingering resentment are the various corporate bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis. These privileges and safety nets, combined with their abilities to bribe state officials to regulate smaller competitors out of existence with compliance costs and spend vast amounts of money on political campaigns[22], creates a feedback loop by which economic and political power is centralized into a quasi-fascist oligarchy.

This oligarchic power is weaponizable just like any other power. Once an industry is dominated by only a few large corporations because the state has altered the market to keep any other upstarts from having a chance to compete, it becomes possible to deny essential services to people who are considered undesirable by the elite, such as political dissidents or ethnic minorities. It is here that the political autism of mainstream libertarians manifests itself, as they will defend the rights of business owners to discriminate without regard for context. Corporations, acting at the state’s behest, can effectively force people to stop participating in socioeconomic life by reducing their options and then cutting off those options. Those who lose their stake in society are both at risk of being destroyed by it and incentivized to destroy it in order to create a new system that serves their needs, paving the way for both genocides and terrorist attacks.

Solving the Problem

Fortunately, there are several methods which may be used to confront the problem of corporatism. The initial step is to gain enough political power to turn against them the very legal systems that empower them. Once that is done, the process of eliminating the corporate form may begin.

First, the worst behaviors of overzealous corporate leaders must be curtailed. 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. For example, an incorporated social media firm or payment processor in the United States should be prohibited from banning users who are not breaking laws because of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.[23] Only a purely private business should be able to discriminate in this fashion within territory governed by US law. Because taxpayers are forced to pay for the legal structures that corporations use, any funding grants or bailouts they receive, and any public works they perform, to let the taxpayers be denied service by these entities is doubly unjust. This method could be used against almost all corporations as of this writing, though corporations in countries with unwritten constitutions may be unaffected.

Second, the power to tax and regulate is the power to destroy. Libertarians and free-market conservatives tend to balk at the prospect of wielding this power, but so long as they are unwilling and unable to mount an effective challenge to it, it will exist and be wielded by someone. Progressives have no scruples about using state power to perform social engineering, and the presence of such scruples among their opponents explains much of the current imbalance of political terror. If the goal is to eliminate the corporation and the concept of limited liability, then the taxes and regulations on such companies could be made so onerous as to give them no choice but to adopt another business model. Of course, an adjustment period of perhaps two years would be necessary to avoid unnecessary economic disruption, and carrots for adjusting to a type of unincorporated unlimited liability company with haste could be employed alongside the aforementioned sticks. Once all companies have either transitioned to a new model or failed because they cannot survive under free-market conditions, the doorway back to corporatism can be sealed.

Third, it is necessary to break up the largest and most powerful states. Corporate power is ultimately derived from state power, and a large tree cannot be supported without large roots. In a world of thousands of smaller polities, no governance structure would be powerful enough to grant the dangerous advantages that corporations currently enjoy. Whether by amicable separation, cryptographic disempowerment of states, secessionist movements, or civil wars, the scale of governance must be reduced as much as possible in as many places as possible so as to limit the potential power of whatever corporations survive the purge.

While the plan of using state power against corporations followed by a localization of state power is being carried out, there is an important role to be played by private actors. Technological innovations, such as cryptocurrencies, enable new forms of business organization. These forms should be innovated and developed in order to create more alternatives that can help businesses transition to a model which does not depend on the state. Smart contracts built into blockchains can offer most of the legitimate advantages of incorporation without the illegitimate advantages or negative externalities. Moreover, purely private businesses can be built for the primary purpose of competing with establishment-favored corporations.

Rebutting Objections

One may anticipate several objections worthy of consideration. First, there is the sheer difficulty of the task at hand. Corporations wield immense power, and will exercise that power to defend their privileges. It is true that eliminating corporations will be a daunting task, but that which is created and perpetuated by humans can cease being created and perpetuated; it is only a matter of who has the will to do what is necessary to win. In fact, there was a time when people faced great challenges precisely because they were difficult for the sense of accomplishment and pride in achieving real progress. Doing battle against such a formidable foe may be just the sort of challenge that people need to give their lives meaning and purpose.

Traditionalists are most likely to object that corporations have existed in one form or another for millennia, and are thus a natural outgrowth of governance structures. This is both an appeal to tradition and an appeal to nature. Traditions can emerge in one set of circumstances as a collection of best practices, but be counterproductive in a different cultural milieu. It is also possible for traditions to form not as best practices, but as practices which are just functional enough to avoid being abandoned or as practices which keep a particular group of people in power, regardless of merit. That corporatism seems to naturally emerge from statism and become worse as democracy spreads is not a defense of corporatism, but an indictment of statism and democracy.

Another reactionary objection is that corporations can increase the effectiveness of governance by coupling the efficiency of markets with the functions of government. If governments ruled justly, this objection could be valid, except for the potential pitfalls already discussed. Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case, meaning that entrusting state functions to private actors results in the worst of both worlds: criminality under color of law carried out in service of profit above all else.

Critics from across the political spectrum will likely point out the role of limited liability in encouraging risky but beneficial ventures by protecting investors from losses beyond a certain point. In more modern terms, the absence of corporate privileges can lead to missing markets because of coordination failures that would occur without government intervention. This objection commits the broken window fallacy twice. First, it ignores the coordination failures that corporatism causes by creating negative externalities, thus resulting in missing markets in pollution mitigation. Second, it overlooks the economic activity that could have occurred had chartered and registered corporations not attracted investment capital to them and away from purely private companies. It also fails to interpret missing markets as a market signal that a certain market should not exist. Additionally, reactionaries should understand the shortcomings of basing economic considerations on utility alone, working instead with the principle of sacrifices producing greatness.

From a laissez-faire perspective, the economic growth that followed easing of restrictions on corporations and greater privileges granted to them may seem to prove the case in their favor. This is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy; the fact that an enormous increase in prosperity occurred after limited liability became common and the creation of corporations changed from charter to registration does not mean that the latter caused the former. It is impossible to determine how much of modern prosperity has occurred because of corporations, in spite of them, or because of other factors, such as the exponential growth of knowledge and technology.[24] Of course, any other factors are inextricably linked to corporations. What can be said for certain is that economic growth is not the be all, end all that some capitalists make it out to be. For what shall it profit a people to be physically enriched but morally and spiritually impoverished?

Finally, libertarians will object that state power in general and taxation in particular are morally criminal and should not be used in pursuit of any socioeconomic goal. The political autism of this approach has already been addressed, so let us focus on the particular policies being advocated. The policy of taxing and regulating corporations out of existence is not designed to collect taxes. The idea is to require businesses to avoid the tax by changing their form. If this succeeds, then the economy has been engineered in the direction of liberty. If this fails because businesses opt to suffer through exorbitant taxation and regulation rather than reform, then this gives and advantage to purely private businesses while engineering society against obstinate stupidity. The idea of localizing state power by whatever means are necessary will meet opposition from libertarians who misunderstand the non-aggression principle, but this is resolved by articulating a correct understanding of libertarian philosophy.

Conclusion

The ancient root of corporations is in myths about deities which exist nowhere except in the minds of believers. The current form of corporations empowered by nation-states is only possible due to the monopoly of the state, which is based on aggressive violence rather than any legitimate property claim. While the pre-modern chartered companies were created by more legitimate powers, especially in pre-democratic times, they are still legal fictions that a rational philosophy should oppose. Corporations are therefore incompatible with libertarianism and should be replaced by other forms of business organization, such as common-law partnerships and cooperatives. Recent technological advances offer novel means of aiding this replacement, but turning state power against the corporate power it has created will almost certainly be necessary. Though there will be many objections to such a radical approach, none of them withstand proper scrutiny. Everything that corporations have done that should be done can be performed by purely private companies without the drawbacks of greater statism.

References:

  1. Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. HarperCollins Press. Ch. 4.
  2. Berman, Harold Joseph (1983). Law and Revolution (vol. 1): The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. Cambridge University Press. p. 215–6.
  3. Prakash, Om (1998). European Commercial Enterprise in Pre-Colonial India. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II (1908), p. 6.
  5. Keay, John (1991). The Honorable Company: A History of the English East India Company. MacMillan-New York.
  6. Ibid., p. 113
  7. Carswell, John (1960). The South Sea Bubble. London: Cresset Press. p. 75–6.
  8. Harris, Ron (1994). “The Bubble Act: Its Passage and Its Effects on Business Organization”. The Journal of Economic History. 54 (3): 610–627.
  9. Davies, Paul Lyndon (2010). Introduction to Company Law. Oxford University Press. p. 1.
  10. Mayson, S.W; et al. (2005). Mayson, French & Ryan on Company Law. London: Oxford University Press. p. 55.
  11. “Limited Liability and the Known Unknown”. Social Science Research Network. 2018.
  12. Pulbrook, Anthony (1865). The Companies Act, 1862, with analytical references and copious index. London: Effingham Wilson.
  13. Limited Liability Company Reporter (2001, Jun. 4). “Historical Background of the Limited Liability Company”.
  14. Dies, Edward (1969). Behind the Wall Street Curtain. Ayer. p. 76.
  15. Nasaw, David (2006). Andrew Carnegie. p. 578–88.
  16. Smiddy, Linda O.; Cunningham, Lawrence A. (2010). Corporations and Other Business Organizations: Cases, Materials, Problems (7th ed.). LexisNexis. p. 228–31.
  17. Ibid., p. 241
  18. The Law of Business Organizations. Cengage Learning.
  19. Nellis, John; Menezes, Rachel; Lucas, Sarah. “Privatization in Latin America: The rapid rise, recent fall, and continuing puzzle of a contentious economic policy”. Center for Global Development Policy Brief, Jan 2004. p. 1.
  20. Faiola, Anthony (2005, Oct. 15). “Japan Approves Postal Privatization”. Washington Post.
  21. Megginson, William L. (2005). The Financial Economics of Privatisation. Oxford University Press. p. 205–6.
  22. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 844 (2010)
  23. Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co., 118 U.S. 394 (1886)
  24. Roser, Max; Ritchie, Hannah (2018). “Technological Progress”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org.