Part 2: Why Bother With Principles?
(I have written something else which makes the same point as what I wrote here, but does not deal with issues I am not qualified to discuss. I recommend reading that before or instead of this. If there is any truth in what I write here, then it might be the most important thing and would clarify all of the issues I have been addressing, but I am not qualified to write what I have written here and I do not need to in order to make a much more mundane point.)
I have explained ideas of how one could be a more or less principled libertarian if he managed to acquire political power in an attempt to resolve the debate I keep seeing. It is a separate matter of how well these ideas would work or whether they anyone should attempt to put them into practice. I really wonder why no one else seems to be suggesting these ideas. I wonder if the reason is that these ideas are so obviously absurd that only I am ignorant enough to propose them. There may be all kinds of reasons I am not thinking of why these ideas would not work and many problematic consequences would result from trying. The only problems I can think of are the usual objections to libertarianism or anarchism. The question, then, is why it is worth thinking about acting in ways consistent with principles when one’s enemies will do whatever they can get away with. I want to explain why I think a system of localized and more or less voluntary governance should be the goal and that the non-aggression principle can be a useful guide for achieving this
In the short term, I really do not care about being perfectly principled in action. Stopping the pandemic regime needs to be the priority. Indeed, the leftist regime may have gone too far in this matter and many others, and a right-wing populist reaction is growing. I would tell libertarians to do nothing to hinder it. However, what happens if the right wins? Will they be able to use and hold onto power and for how long? Donald Trump accomplished very little other than make the left even more insane. How can another leader be more successful?
Western civilization has constantly moved left for the past few hundred years. There has rarely been any long-term right-wing success. Those who question or reject libertarianism do not seem to have an explanation for why this has happened or know how to stop it. Why can’t there just be a stable, well-functioning, undemocratic right-wing regime which maintains order and tradition by using as much force as needed to suppress dissident and subversive movements? This is not what those being called “post-libertarians” say should be the goal for the most part, but I will use this question to make my point. The traditional monarchies of the past might not have been terrible and were better than what exists today, but the fact that they did not survive suggests that something must have been wrong with them and regimes like them cannot simply be recreated in the present. It is not just libertarians who have been unable to stop the madness occurring right now; the right in general has been a failure. It might seem that being principled restrains ones from taking the action needed to win but being unprincipled is clearly no guarantee of success. Perhaps the problem is that the entire right is infected with liberalism, but if liberalism is so bad, how did it become so dominant? The fact that it is so dominant suggests that getting people to reject it must not be easy. Logically convincing people to reject liberalism seems like it might be just as difficult as convincing people to accept libertarianism. Perhaps reactionaries are prone to the same lack of humility as anarchists.
There are several short answers as to why I think moving towards anarchy is the more realistic goal for the right.
Of all the people I have listened to, the one who might come the closest to answering these questions is David Gornoski when he explains the work of Rene Girard. I imagine he would have the most interesting things to say regarding these discussions, but he wisely stays off Twitter. Using my probably flawed understanding of what he says in addition to my own thinking based on my very limited observations of the problems of the present age, I want to put forward a hypothesis. I do not know if I am right, and I would like to ask someone who knows more. I particularly wonder if either my thoughts or what Gornoski says are theologically and historically sound.
Rene Girard’s theory says that peaceful human societies were only able to form because of scapegoating and sacrificial violence. By blaming all conflict on a common enemy, people were able to unite and form early civilizations. Indeed, this seems to be what makes a state different from both a voluntary association and a group of common criminals. States consist of groups of people with aligned interests. If they were simply aggressors, they would not be tolerated. States exist as a result of a ruling class gaining the support of a sufficient fraction of a population and the scapegoating of those who would resist. This only changed because of Jesus and his sacrifice. This has led to a slow personhood revolution which has exposed and undermined the idea that it is better that one man die than the whole nation perish. The victimization of a scapegoat does not unite people, but instead creates chaos. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword and he would turn a man against his father. This is how both the conventional progressive opinion that the modern age has been one of progress, freedom, and increasing tolerance and compassion for the previously oppressed can be true at the same time as the reactionary opinion that the modern age has been one of chaos and disaster.
My hypothesis is that this is why a stable undemocratic regime cannot exist in the West in the present age. A society with a Christian background cannot unite against the same scapegoat. The only stable regime is a two-story one, which allows different competing factions each with different scapegoats. The abuses of the regime must be hidden or justified by democracy. The left always wins in the long-term because their scapegoats are those who can most easily be portrayed as victimizers of innocents and that is the most effective way to gain power in a society undergoing the personhood revolution. It would be interesting to hear someone who knows more than I to seriously examine Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s analysis of history through the lens of Girard’s theory. Perhaps Christianity made the decentralized feudal order possible, but the Reformation and Enlightenment lead to the centralized modern state, but the weakened scapegoat mechanism made undemocratic rule impossible.
Leftism and liberalism in its various forms has been described as “Christianity without Christ”, as they are poor imitations of Jesus’ love. The right, however, often represents Christ without Christianity. They may call themselves Christians, but they treat Jesus as a pagan god who demands the sacrifice of Muslims, immigrants, and any who do not cooperate with the police. At least, they make themselves easy to portray in this way and that is what matters in politics. This is why it is easy to make the mistake of saying that libertarianism is neither left nor right. I might say that libertarianism is neither pseudo-Christian left nor pagan right, but rather it is, or can be, a truly Christian right, as it recognizes all victims and proposes an order which does not victimize. This is the meaningful difference between an order based on private property and a monarchical state. The former is a rejection of scapegoating and sacrificial victimization of innocents. This is a better ideal than the non-aggression principle and private property, but those are often useful guides for figuring out what that ideal looks like in material reality. At the risk of sounding like a lolbert, some of the those being called “post-libertarians“ and those associated with them may be in danger of falling into right-wing paganism. If there any truth to this hypothesis, then perhaps leftism in the modern age is a divine punishment for the right’s failure to love as Jesus commands. For this reason, I say the non-aggression principle needs to be made to work, as it is necessary, but not sufficient, for leftist tyranny to stop and for Christian civilization to survive. This is also to say that Christianity is required for any kind of libertarianism to work. A society’s powerful governing institutions must not victimize innocent people. Obviously, not every state is totally tyrannical, but the right of secession is the ultimate assurance against this.
I might say that libertarianism is not just a different kind of right, but the farthest right, as its goal is true order, not the false order created by scapegoating. Of course, this may be more order than humans are capable of and pursuing such a goal may just be an idolatrous attempt to achieve divine perfection. It might not be possible and would be dangerous to try. The powers of this fallen world may just always be corrupt. Additionally, Gornoski might be wrong and the “personhood revolution“ is a result of the Reformation and Enlightenment, not true Christianity. However, if it is worth trying to understand these problems, then it is worth trying to imagine ways to move things in a better direction. The idea of individual rights has clearly been very powerful. Whether that is good or bad, one should have humility in dealing with that reality. Liberalism may be a satanic lie, but there must be a reason why this particular lie has been so effective.
Returning to the question of how a right-wing regime can stay in power, I do not think it could do so by aggressively suppressing the left. In the present age, I do not think there is a faction, not just willing to do this, but willing to do it continuously. An organized and determined right-wing populist movement might be able to remove today’s left from power, but what if there are true revolutionaries in the future, people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Vladimir Lenin? Violently suppressing a force which gains power through a narrative of victimhood and oppression might just backfire. They cannot be successfully scapegoated. The public will be swayed by accusations of tyranny, and the agents of the regime will be afraid of being tyrants; they would have to admit that the lolberts were right that rejecting the NAP would lead to this. The victimhood narrative clearly works and makes right-wingers hesitant to stand up to the left. Perhaps it can be overcome, but for how long? Of course, doing nothing would also allow the left to gain power. As soon as this right-wing regime loses, they will be remembered as yet another of the great villains of history along with the Confederates, the Nazis, and Joe McCarthy. The solution might be what I proposed earlier. If one cannot destroy his enemies, the only other option is to make peace by ending the cycle of reciprocal violence. Perhaps the only way for the right to hold onto power is to only hold onto what it can without victimizing people. Without a reliable scapegoat mechanism, aggression is simply aggression, especially if it is not justified by the intent to help victims as the left does. Aggression creates enemies by definition. Having more enemies does not make anyone more powerful. Of course, I am not calling for surrender.
Imagine a Trump-like leader coming to power saying he is going to make America great again and the left calls him racist and everything else. What would it do to his opposition if he said “we do not need to be enemies. If you hate what I am doing so much, then you do not need to be a part of it”. What if he forcefully removed from power anyone who opposed him and made himself king for life, but also established a process by which anyone could secede from his rule? Could this anti-Lincoln be successfully portrayed as a tyrant? He would make it clear that his enemies are only the power-hungry liars who compose the neoliberal regime, not the innocent people who have been deceived into supporting them. Any violence he uses would be defensive as it would be to stop other people from gaining power over the people who support him, but not to hold onto power over people who do not support him. The leader and his supporters would be able to act unrestrained by the fear that they are tyrants; the victimhood narrative could not be used against the them as they would only rule those who consent and any who oppose him would be an aggressor. If the leader fails and loses power, he and his supporters would have no less perceived legitimacy if they themselves try to secede.
This regime could condemn the previous one and justify itself using libertarianism. Anyone who still believes the previous regime was benevolent and progressive would be corrected when Scott Horton is put on TV, and he lists its many crimes. He would be followed by people testifying how the lockdowns and forced drugs ruined their lives. The new regime, however, would be a private association and could do what it wants as long as it does not hurt people. Anyone who does not like it can leave. Of course, being allowed to leave does not mean it would happen often or would be easy. The effect of allowing secession is that it would divide the opposition. Of all the people who would vote against this government, only a relatively small number would find it truly intolerable. The rest might just go along with it. The strongest opponents would be divided between those who would secede and those who would insist on subverting and undermining the government. The latter could be forcefully stopped. The former would not threaten the anti-Lincoln’s government and would be faced with the challenge of managing their own society and might become less leftist in doing so. They might not become fully independent; their autonomy might be conditional on keeping their radicals restrained. This might be the way to destroy the left as a dangerous force. This is only a thought experiment to make my point that the only way to end democracy in a liberal culture is to replace it with a regime which would allow secession. This logic would apply to a local government and suggest that it should allow individual secession as I suggested previously, but there is probably no need for this. There may be little wrong with a local government being allowed to be the owner of its territory in most cases. Individual secession at the local level is probably unrealistic and the only reason to discuss it is to show that the principle can be applied consistently.
Even if a state were only to adopt the simple evictionist method I proposed earlier, it might start a revolution which leads people to think of government in the way libertarians do and shows them what the non-aggressive enforcement of societal rules might look like. People would be confronted with the question of why all governments do not make this one rather small change. Perhaps every government, even the seemingly most benevolent and progressive, is actually extremely evil when they do not need to be. Murderers and thieves need to be punished as a matter of justice, but if someone does something wrong which does not directly harm others, isn’t it enough that they just be stopped or be forced to live elsewhere? If one government decides to act in this more merciful way, how can any other not also do so and pretend not to be a criminal organization?