A Response To Arnold Kling's: The Church Of Libertarianism
Arnold Kling continues one of his themes by writing on one of my favorite topics, “The Churches Of Government”, where he laments the overlaps and conflicts between different conservative and libertarian philosophies.
You see, I think that the overlap between liberals and libertarians is somewhat suspect. The libertarian thinks that government should get out of the business of regulating marijuana primarily because the libertarian believes in limited government. The liberal thinks that government should get out of the business of regulating marijuana because the liberal doesn’t think marijuana is such a problem.
And later he explains the philosophical problem:
Still, I believe that it ought to be possible for a conservative to be in the Church of Limited Government rather than the Church of Unlimited Government. In theory, I would think that a conservative might really care about education or health care without necessarily favoring government involvement. However, in practice many conservatives went along with President Bush when he expanded Medicare and the Federal government’s role in primary education. My sense is that his approach to conservatism has few adherents at the moment.
To which I would respond, that the reason for confusion on this issue is the failure of the conservative, classical liberal, and libertarian movements, to provide an articulated alternative solution to socialism while at the same time, maintaining their long standing justification for taking power from the monarchy in order to implement a democratic republic managed by the capitalist class.
And finally, a reader comments:
“From a libertarian point of view, it would be inconsistent to advocate legalizing marijuana and banning trans fats.”
And from there I try to use the author’s and reader’s inability to distinguish the reasons for regulating products differently as one of state intervention not of market management.
Actually, the two issues are different.
The only reasons to ban marijuana are:
1) Because it impedes the mind, and therefore choice, and choice is a necessary capacity, and necessary assumption, in the libertarian model. This is a technical concept, not a practical one.
2) Because you can expose others to risk due to impaired judgement, largely while driving a vehicle. This concept is both technical and practical.
Justifying the application of force must be both technical (epistemically rational) and practical (materially implementable). Epistemic applications alone are infinite and open to error. (ie: laws should be enforceable not specious.)
Foods are a voluntary health issue, not an externalized risk issue or capacity issue. The libertarian concept of freedom allows people to harm themselves. However, since it is not possible to make a rational choice over the content of goods , regulating labeling is not a question of freedom but a question of limiting fraud or accidental harm in a market.
Classical liberalism is an outgrowth of conservatism. Libertarianism is an outgrowth of Classical Liberalism. Rothbardian anarchism is an outgrowth of libertarianism. The only fully articulated philosophy is the Rothbardian. The Classical Liberal philosophy is analogistic, pragmatic, and contractual. But it is a practical moral philosophy, not a necessary logical philosophy. Necessity and utilitarianism are two different kinds of problems.
Rothbard fully articulated his philosophy of natural law. But in doing so, by assuming the principle of non-violence, he avoided the problem of creating markets, the costs to people of having done so. And instead, by circumventing the natural law of violence ended up advocating a religion of property.
Hoppe improved this line of thinking by developing private institutions that provided public goods, and reinforcing the concept of natural law, by the ARgumentation Ethic which purportedly demonstrates that property is natural to man. But these methods are flawed because they start with non-violence and trade, rather than the human capacity for violence and fraud, and the necessity of building and creating markets. In that sense, while anarchists have made innovations ( monarchic inter-temporal incentives, private insurance institutions ) they have failed to provide an answer for advances in abstract forms of property, and as such are providing solutions that are regressive as did Marx.
A market is a joint stock company that was invested in by the fraternal order of soldiers who then collected fees for their service in creating that market. Merchants enter the market by registering products such that they meet the market criteria so that the shareholders experience an appreciation in value. The common people gain access to the market by respecting property, which is a material forgone opportunity cost. Everyone pays, and everyone profits from market participation.
The history of economic thought is the history of demonizing monarchs for the purpose of transferring control of the market from it’s military founders, to the vendors – the middle classes. This demonization is nothing but falsehood. As it turns out, kings were kinder to their populations than are republican and democratic governments. But because of this demonization, the causal origin of civilization, of cities, of markets, of prosperity, and of western culture itself, is obscured by the rhetoric of demonizing the nobility who created this culture under which we prosper.
Despite it’s variety of logical strengths, libertarian philosophy contains a number of errors, the most influential of which is in confusing the role of government as necessarily social in nature or necessarily defensive in nature, or a tool of class exploitation, versus the historical and causal origin of government as a protector and regulator of markets.
Markets are the primary social institution of post tribal man. Governments have no reason for existence outside of Markets. Government IS a market function, because the purpose of government is determining the rules of the market which funds the government. Trade exists without government, but markets do not. Advanced markets for the trading of abstracts do not.
All forms of property beyond portable personal property (several property) require registration, and rules for exchange in the market. The primary difference between the concept of trade and the concept of market is one of anonymity — whereby the market operator places some guarantee on the products offered so that the market’s shareholders can create a competitive advantage against other markets, and to reduce the cost of conflict administration within the market.
The difference in cultures is simply in the definition of ownership of different forms of property that they permit in their markets. And these differences are material: the more granular the property the more liquidity and velocity it produces, and the greater the division of knowledge and labor that is possible.
This culture of Market-Making is one of the three causal differences for western civilization versus the central and eastern models. (The other two differences being military tactics that required enfranchisement – leading to debate, reason an science, and IQ distribution mixed with resource and transport availability.).
Libertarians confuse fear of abuses by the government with the necessity of constraining the government to the maintenance of the rules of the market, and the value in those rules as a means of increasing the productivity of the market and their yield from that market. Libertarians have abandoned the problem of managing the market, and therefore have become a religious institution not a political institution. That is the difference between religion and politics: the market and the absence of it. Because in large part, neither institution has been rational, only practical.
Conservatives lack the ability to articulate their concepts in other than moral terms. Libertarians do significantly better. But both systems of thought are lacking in an understanding of what they argue for.
Libertarians, despite being a minority selling a minority philosophy, seek to create a nation governed by a ‘religion of property’ in order to exit the influence of government. When in fact, government is responsible for making the market, and libertarians should lobby for additional rules to limit the state. Not limiting the state to social activities of dubious non-market nature, but to it’s role in regulating the market and evolutionary increases in defining the ever expanding set of objects and options we refer to as property, and which we frequently trade, so that we, as a people, maintain a competitive advantage against other markets.
The problems with the anarchic movement are substantive in that they do not account for market-enhancing asymmetries, versus market-harming asymmetries. In other words, they are advocating the ‘buyer beware’ ethic of the Bazaar, rather than the ‘seller responsibility’ that is required of participants in the Market. This is not an advantage to the shareholders (citizens).
The problem with our institutions is that they do not separate redistributive efforts from market efforts. Libertarians (of which I am a member of the group of theorists) would be better served by abandoning our rhetoric of monarchic criticism, and instead develop a language and metaphysics such that we can provide an institutional response to an increasingly complex world in which we must register, trade and police a market of increasingly vast and complex products and services, so that we may maintain our competitive advantage over the rest of the world.
And abandon luddite religions of all sorts. That includes all forms of the Church of Limited Government and Church of Unlimited Government.
Instead, a rational epistemology can be applied if we simply look at the material problem of building and maintaining markets in an increasing division of knowledge and labor, where most of our inventions are abstractions that like large numbers, are beyond the ability of our perceptions. That is the one and only important function of government, after territorial defense and the policing of trade routes.
And the implementation of rationalism is in separating our institutions such that redistribution is held by one house, and market regulation by another. Further, our separation of banking, including the currency, credit and interest (which has replaced both our religions and our code of laws as our primary means of maintaining social order) is insufficient for the current state of our division of knowledge and labor.
That system of institutions and approach to analysis is Post-Rothbardian libertarianism. And it is the only rational alternative to encroaching socialism.
Libertarianism was hijacked by Rothbard simply because Hayek, Parsons and Mises failed. And both Rothbard and Hoppe created extraordinary epistemological and institutional value with their research program. But they have failed, as did the libertarians, and the classical liberals, and the conservatives before them, to create a system of institutions capable of providing an alternative to the anti-market anti-civilization sentiments and philosophy of socialism by failing to articulate the causal purpose of government as market maker, and to create institutions that expand and evolve along with the objects that we exchange in that market.
And that is your solution membership in A Church: the articulated causality of the market and it’s institutions and the purpose of government communicated by the technique which we call ‘reason’.