Rothbard: As Ever, the Voice of Reason


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14 responses to “Rothbard: As Ever, the Voice of Reason

  1. Well, some interesting moral questions. Rhetorical as they are, I’ll make a stab at answering.

    The ideologists only have to explain themselves if their ideology is one of universalism; if their ideology is nationalistic or otherwise framentary-collectivist, they have nothing to answer.

    It is a default “moral” condition of humankind, that morals and the laws derived from them only apply to the ingroup. Interactions with an outgroup are always and everywhere entirely selfish. If you can prosper by killing them, or stealing from them, or kidnapping their women, you do. This is the default state of humanity; the “noble” savage who all our ancestors were lived a strict ingroup/outgroup system and raiding and ruining other groups (other tribes) if you can is the normal state. Morality simply does not apply to foreigners, nor members who evict themselves from the ingroup by their actions, which may include dong things which harm or threaten the ingroup. The harlot of Jericho who betrayed Jericho to Joshua’s blitzkrieg had evicted herself from the Jericho-ite ingroup; if they’d beaten Joshua’s horde back, she’d certainly have been executed for treason. But, she picked the right winner.

    So that answers Rothbard’s questions. Universalist ideologists on the other hand are being inconsistent if they support war. Many libertarians are universalists (but others are nationalist collectivists). Many on the nominal “Left” are universalists. So, a universalist who supports war is being inconsistent. A collectivist isn’t.

    Just as an aside, yes you can be a collectivist Libertarian. Such a person argues for the greatest possible liberty within their ingroup context. Effectively the same as a universalist Libertarian- who simply argues that there is only one ingroup (“mankind”). Me, I’m a short-term collectivist-libertarian and a long-term universalist-Libertarian. That is, “Give me continence, O Lord, but not yet!”.

  2. George Bernard Shaw described a madman as someone who had lost everything except his reason…

    Tony

  3. “It is a default “moral” condition of humankind, that morals and the laws derived from them only apply to the ingroup. Interactions with an outgroup are always and everywhere entirely selfish. If you can prosper by killing them, or stealing from them, or kidnapping their women, you do.”

    Who is this mysterious “you”? Are you the kind of person who would kill or steal if it suited you and there were no bad consequences? Is your morality whatever you can get away with? I doubt it. So what’s the point in describing other people who happen to be of that persuasion and blithely concluding that it’s “the default human condition”? It clearly isn’t. Not for me and presumably not for you.

    What difference does it make if the person stealing from you is a “universalist” or a “collectivist”? The content of their heads does not concern me. Their rationale is irrelevant to the fact of theft. All big-scale rackets cook up justifications to embed themselves, in the end it’s all the same bullshit.

  4. I am just stating the manner in which humankind has lived for all its history until the very recent development of universalist ideas which posit the tribe to be all of humankind, rather than a portion of it.

  5. Fair enough.

    But hasn’t there always really only been one tribe, when push comes to shove?

    “I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful use of “I” distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot.”

  6. Will Wolverhampton Wanderers Win on Wednesday?

    “The Voice of Reason”? You know, whenever I see someone fetishizing an abstract noun like that, I think of the lies peddled by Pravda, the Voice of Truth, or torture in the cellars of the Ministry of Love, or Tony “the pretty straight guy” Blair. Orwell’s 1984 is v. good on the ostentatious proclamation of virtue by organizations and people who are in fact working for the opposite of what they claim to be. Marxism was based on “reason” too. We know where Marxist rationalism leads and I’m not inclined to trust Mr Rothbard any more than I am to trust Mr Marx.

    • You are not invited to “trust” Rothbard. You can simply agree or disagree with his arguments, hopefully in as reasonable a manner as you can manage. “The Voice of Reason” is a colloquialism indicating agreement, not “fetishization” of an abstract noun, for God’s sake. What? Surprised that the director of the Libertarian Alliance regards a passage by Murray Rothabrd as reasonable? So surprised that you make a preposterous leap to the Ministry Of Love, Pravda, and Tony Blair?! Some perspective, please.

      Let’s abandon reason then, shall we? After all Stalin, Hitler and George W. Bush have all at one time or another used the devillish thing to justify their actions.

      Your post is baffling. Did you know that Rothbard himself was “v. good on the ostentatious proclamation of virtue by organizations and people who are in fact working for the opposite of what they claim to be.”? In fact, this very thread contains a wonderful example of it. It’s at the top in a yellow box, next to a picture of him. But let’s not be too reasonable about it. Otherwise there’ll be death camps and mass starvation, right?

  7. Will Wolverhampton...

    >> You are not invited to “trust” Rothbard. <> Your post is baffling. Did you know that Rothbard himself was “v. good on the ostentatious proclamation of virtue by organizations and people who are in fact working for the opposite of what they claim to be.”? In fact, this very thread contains a wonderful example of it. It’s at the top in a yellow box, next to a picture of him. <> But let’s not be too reasonable about it. Otherwise there’ll be death camps and mass starvation, right? <<

    Wait and see, dear boy. What else will emerge from the Trojan horse is not yet clear and you should rule nothing out. What is clear is that Mr Rothbard and his rationalist disciples, such as you in the L.A., have heaved as hard as anyone on the ropes-of-reason that brought the horse inside our walls. You haven't heaved as effectively as the Marxists, of course, but the will-to-anti-Powell was certainly there:

    "Libertarians should be totally clear on this issue. To remove immigration regulations is to remove a large barrier to trade. Economics shows that trade is good. Immigration is a form of trade. It is not therefore something to be merely tolerated. It is something to be supported vigorously." — "OPEN THE DOOR! THE CASE FOR ABOLISHING ALL IMMIGRATION CONTROLS", Adam Chacksfield, Political Notes No. 61, Libertarian Alliance.

    That was the — or rather, a — Voice of Reason from you back in 1991. Or the Voice of Autism — I think psychology is a much stronger influence on political affiliation than reason ever is. You're piping a different tune now, as Mr Gabb's appearances on that vile, racist, antisemitic hate-site VDare prove, but you've lost a lot of time and vented a lot of hot air on the "Open the Door!" side. Thanks to Mr Rothbard, inter alios. But Mr Powell’s “racism” has proved, and will prove, a much better guide to reality than Mr Rothbard’s “reason”. In short: Burke before berk.

  8. Will Wolverhampton...

    [Apologies -- your software didn't like the way I marked quotations. I hope it comes out better this time.]

    ** You are not invited to “trust” Rothbard. **

    I was using meiosis.

    ** Your post is baffling. Did you know that Rothbard himself was “v. good on the ostentatious proclamation of virtue by organizations and people who are in fact working for the opposite of what they claim to be.”? In fact, this very thread contains a wonderful example of it. It’s at the top in a yellow box, next to a picture of him. **

    I’ll try and unbaffle. There are two fields of human endeavour in which reason has been applied with huge success: science and mathematics. To believe that politics, on the other hand, is ripe for reason is supremely irrational. Or deluded. Or deceitful. I’m not a Christian, but I’ve always found “Ye shall know them by their fruits” to be an excellent guide to ideology. The fruits of Marxism have been abundantly clear in many ways and for many years, but we’ve never been able to see the fruits of a libertarian government or nation, have we? Well, in New Labour, we had the most libertarian government in British history, in a particular sense:

    “Immigration provided probably the greatest (or perhaps the second greatest) single scandal of the Clark campaign. New York Times liberals, you see, love Mexicans but only in Mexico; they are not too keen on Mexicans emigrating to the United States. And so the Clark position, which not only betrayed the libertarian principle of free and open immigration, but also froze immigration restrictions in with the welfare system.” — Murray “As Ever, The Voice of Reason” Rothbard, 1980.

    http://lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard285.html

    One doesn’t need to examine the U.S. in 2012 to see the flaws in that. Even in Rothbard’s own terms his support for “free and open” immigration was irrational. The U.K.’s borders were certainly free and open under NuLabour, and NuLabour were rather more open and honest in playing the card Mr Rothbard underhandedly plays above: the racism card. I’m not an expert in Mr Rothbard’s writings, but am I right in inferring he believed in only one race, the human race? I.e., “Biology is Bugger-All, Rhetoric” — I’m sorry — “Reason Rules the World”? If so, he was wrong. His views on immigration damn him as either deluded, insane, or malign, whether consciously or otherwise. Mass immigration has been utterly disastrous for the West: economically, socially, culturally, and politically. That’s why it has been so assiduously supported by Marxists in their many colours: it was the Trojan horse whereby all manner of blessings were introduced to us that might otherwise have stayed beyond our borders. I won’t list them — my self-preservatory unwillingness to speak freely is one of them — but I will say that New Labour, who hated and despised “liberty” (smarmy word), knew exactly what they were doing when they opened the floodgates. Would Mr Rothbard, who supposedly loved liberty, have cheered them on? Or would he have agreed with that nasty racist Mr Powell, whom I see Mr Gabb is also a great fan of?

    And yes, I know some libertarians will claim that “open and free” immigration does not work its magic in the absence of other libertarian policies, but that’s another way libertarianism is like Marxism: it can’t be falsified by reality, because its proponents always claim it hasn’t been applied right, it was undermined by deviationists, saboteurs, heretics, etc, etc.

    ** But let’s not be too reasonable about it. Otherwise there’ll be death camps and mass starvation, right? **

    Wait and see, dear boy. What else will emerge from the Trojan horse is not yet clear and you should rule nothing out. What is clear is that Mr Rothbard and his rationalist disciples, such as you in the L.A., have heaved as hard as anyone on the ropes-of-reason that brought the horse inside our walls. You haven’t heaved as effectively as the Marxists, of course, but the will-to-anti-Powell was certainly there:

    “Libertarians should be totally clear on this issue. To remove immigration regulations is to remove a large barrier to trade. Economics shows that trade is good. Immigration is a form of trade. It is not therefore something to be merely tolerated. It is something to be supported vigorously.” — “OPEN THE DOOR! THE CASE FOR ABOLISHING ALL IMMIGRATION CONTROLS”, Adam Chacksfield, Political Notes No. 61, Libertarian Alliance.

    That was the — or rather, a — Voice of Reason from you back in 1991. Or the Voice of Autism — I think psychology is a much stronger influence on political affiliation than reason ever is. You’re piping a different tune now, as Mr Gabb’s appearances on that vile, racist, antisemitic hate-site VDare prove, but you’ve lost a lot of time and vented a lot of hot air on the “Open the Door!” side. Thanks to Mr Rothbard, inter alios. But Mr Powell’s “racism” has proved, and will prove, a much better guide to reality than Mr Rothbard’s “reason”. In short: Burke before berk.

  9. Your theatrical style is enjoyable and you make some intriguing points. It is a little dispiriting to find out that libertarianism is really just like Marxism. Now I don’t know what to think! What then is the opposite of Marxism? I’ll have that, whatever it is.

    I’m not a fan of politically controlled immigration either. To import people who will end up economically dependant on the state is to import people who are ideologically dependant on it too. That’s useful for our masters.

    As for the whole reason thing, let’s suppose that there is a non-rational basis for political opinions – “psychology” as you put it, or tradition, or whatever. Is it really coherent to then reject reason as the means of sorting it all out? If you simply posit that individual liberty is the highest political end, you are not proscribing any traditions or allegiances, you are not imposing a rationalist regime. You’re just saying “let people be” and that includes every sort of social activity from the rational to the gloriously irrational. Unfortunately there is this annoying “non-aggression principle” so the fun&games would have to be cut short at a certain point. Oh well.

    I must have missed the racism lectures in school or something. Haven’t a clue what the word means. Dictionary says: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race” which is fairly vacuous. Little help?

  10. Will Wolverhampton...

    ** It is a little dispiriting to find out that libertarianism is really just like Marxism. **

    No need to be dispirited: it’s not “just like” Marxism, but it has a lot in common. And a lot in common with neo-conservatism:

    This necessity for grasping distinctions is particularly vital for libertarians: For our ultimate aim is to bring freedom to the entire world, and therefore it makes an enormous difference to us in which direction various countries are moving, whether toward liberty or toward slavery. If, in short, we consider a simplified spectrum of countries or societies, with total freedom at one end and total slavery at the other, different varieties of Communist regimes will range over a considerable length of that spectrum, from the horrifying slave state of Pol Pot’s Cambodia all the way to the quasi-free system of Yugoslavia. “The Myth of Monolithic Communism”, Murray N. Rothbard

    http://mises.org/daily/4492

    That is megalomaniac “Save the world!” nonsense. I’m reminded of the speech in which Mr Blair ended world poverty and instituted the rule of the Saints in Africa, the Middle East, etc. Blake is much wiser:

    “He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.”

    Art and Science — and Politics.

    More later.

  11. Who is least guilty then of “megalomaniac ‘Save the world!’ nonsense”? As I said previously, the goal of libertarianism is individual liberty: preferably as much of it as possible.

    It is perverse to regard this as equivalent to the wicked maneuverings of Tony Blair. Short of buddhist pacifism, how much more explicitly peaceful i.e anti-initatory force, would a political philosophy have to be to qualify as non-megalomaniacal? Will we be delivered from tyranny by the angels of the Conservative party?

    Yes, Minute Particulars:

    “The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.”
    – Ludwig von Mises

  12. Will Wolverhampton...

    I must have missed the racism lectures in school or something. Haven’t a clue what the word means. Dictionary says: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race” which is fairly vacuous. Little help?

    Mr Rothbard clearly has a meaning in mind: it’s wrong if Americans object to immigration by Mexicans. Aren’t we all the same under the skin? Aren’t any differences between Mexico and America due simply to ideas and their application? Or so I assume he’s saying. I’m handicapped by the fact that I find his writing dull, so I’ll never read much.

    As for the whole reason thing, let’s suppose that there is a non-rational basis for political opinions – “psychology” as you put it, or tradition, or whatever. Is it really coherent to then reject reason as the means of sorting it all out?

    It is not rational to use reason without recognizing a) its limitations; b) one’s imperfect knowledge of the world; c) one’s imperfect knowledge of oneself. I.e., we have a subconscious and it influences our behaviour and thinking. Rothbard ASSUMES certain facts of human nature, without knowing, let alone proving, them, and erects a “libertarian principle of free and open immigration”. His assumptions are liberal assumptions, in the bad sense of the word liberal: we’re all the same under the skin, etc. That “Open the Door!” pamphlet from the L.A. argued that trade is good, immigration is a form of trade, therefore unregulated immigration must be good. Compare: oxygen is a gas and good for human beings, chlorine is a form of gas, therefore chlorine must be good for human beings. Human beings are not the same as TVs or bananas! That is why I suspect the author of autism or autistic tendencies.

    If you simply posit that individual liberty is the highest political end, you are not proscribing any traditions or allegiances, you are not imposing a rationalist regime.

    I’m suspicious of ideologies that “posit” warm and cuddly words like “liberty” as their “highest end”. Christianity is based on “love”. It burned people alive when it had the power to do so. Marxism is based on reason, justice, and democracy. Etc. In this case, getting a satisfactory definition of “individual liberty” is merely the beginning. Rothbard and Chacksfield assume, without knowledge or proof, that human individuals are more or less interchangeable. And erect therefrom a hugely consequential “principle of free and open immigration”, ‘coz that’s good for “individual liberty”. We see the huge consequences of that principle all around us in modern Britain: an ever-more authoritarian state presiding over an ever-more fractured society and an ever-more sclerotic economy.

    It is perverse to regard this as equivalent to the wicked maneuverings of Tony Blair.

    Blair didn’t think he was wicked any more than Rothbard thought he was irrational when he urged a hugely irrational and harmful “principle of free and open immigration”.

    Short of buddhist pacifism, how much more explicitly peaceful i.e anti-initatory force, would a political philosophy have to be to qualify as non-megalomaniacal? Will we be delivered from tyranny by the angels of the Conservative party?

    I’m not talking about waging war: Rothbard obviously didn’t believe in bombs-for-liberty. But he did still claim “our ultimate aim is to bring freedom to the entire world.” The entire world. That’s billions of people of whom Rothbard had imperfect knowledge in socities of which he had imperfect knowledge heading into a future of which he had imperfect knowledge. But he’s still prescribing an ideological medicine for them all. “Dr Rothbard — Physician to the World”. Marxists and their fellow-travellers, like neo-conservativists and climate-change “activists”, think on that ludicrous scale. You can’t fault Rothbard for lacking ambition, but you can fault him for arrogance, irrationality and lack of perspective and common sense. As I say: megalomaniac. As Blake said: “general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer”. Rothbard is flattering libertarians with the idea that they can save the world — “ultimately”, whatever that means.

    To sum up then:

    1) Rothbard believed in open borders.
    2) Didn’t believe in race.
    3) Wanted to save the world.

    Not trivial things and not distinct from what T. Blair believed.

  13. Will Wolverhampton

    Wrong on Rothbard:

    Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals, ethnic groups, and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch75.html

    But now his views on “free and open immigration” become even more baffling. And if Adam Chacksfield held the same vile and unacceptable views, I hope his present accommodation is well-padded and free of sharp objects.