On Economists View, Mark asks:

Is it important for taxes to be progressive? Or is progressivity in the net benefits the only important consideration?

In this context:

In Europe, the VAT is used extensively. VATs are regressive, but they’re an important source of revenue for the highly progressive tax-and-transfer systems in Europe. That is, although the tax itself is regressive, it is very good at producing revenue and once the distribution of benefits is accounted for (both cash transfers and other benefits), the systems are highly progressive overall.

I have always argued for progressive taxes, in particular for the principle of “equal marginal sacrifice” (the lost dollar paid in taxes should lower utility by the same amount or everyone, and since the marginal utility of a dollar falls with income this implies a progressive structure). But increasingly I’m wondering if a flatter structure that brings in more revenue and ends up more progressive once the benefits are accounted for might not be better.

The political right seems to think there is something valuable about the pain from paying taxes, that’s why they complain when people are able to avoid them (unless you are rich and manage this through legal avoidance). 1 When people are forced to feel the pain from taxes, they argue, that helps to keep government small (this seems to argue for equal marginal sacrifice and progressivity so that the marginal pain is the same).

My argument for progressivity is a bit different. It is based upon equity. It seems fair to have those with more pay proportionately more. But why shouldn’t the overall outcome be the important consideration?

So, he bases his question on the assumption of ‘Equity’ in result, meaning that ‘a moral sense of equity’ is the means by which decisions should be made.

Even if Mark’s right that ‘equal marginal sacrifice’ is the definition of ‘equity’, it is a selective definition because it only considers money transferred. But far more than money is reallocated in these transfers. He’s using (as do most progressives) a conveniently selective definition of ‘transfers’. All transfers have secondary effects called ‘externalities’. An economist who selectively chooses to ignore externalities in transfers is effectively committing a form of deception. In Mark’s case, given his consistency, it’s a form of self deception that humans commonly use to deceive themselves and others in order to justify obtaining their preferences.

What are the Non-Monetary transfers under ‘equal marginal sacrifice’?

    1) By laundering the relationship between producer and consumer through the artifice of government, the producers are deprived of the social status they have earned by serving consumers in the market. This is most important, because social status is as much or more important to humans as is money. People use money to pursue social status. Social status provides both entertainment, access to stimuli and experiences, and most importantly access to other people a) in terms of opportunities, and b) in terms of mates.

    The side effect of ‘status opacity’ has been that the upper classes have abandoned society both culturally, morally, and financially. And while any civilization can

    2) The CHOICE of what ends to put this ‘equal marginal sacrifice’ (money) to is taken from the people who produce and given to the people who consume. So, producers are deprived of determining how their wealth can be best put to use for the common good.

    3) Worse, since any producer in a market economy must serve consumers in order to create wealth, then they have more and better knowledge of how to create wealth than bureaucrats, and because they must create and run market organizations that serve consumers, they also have better understanding of how to achieve ends in an economy. So society is deprived of the knowledge of how to better itself. And producers are deprived of the opportunity to increase their wealth, society’s wealth, and their social status.2

    4) Even worse, producers are deprive of their influence on the social norms we call ‘culture’. No civilization has survived the loss of it’s aristocracy. And aristocrats work very hard to preserve their social status by demonstrating how ‘good’ they are for the people. They create arts. They create culture. They create new products and services – in fact, they create almost all interesting and beneficial products and services. THey are a culture’s research and development organization. But in purely social terms, they create a race for the top, rather than a race for the bottom.

Humans will sacrifice food and money to observe their alphas. They learn from their alphas. There are alphas in every social group, and every economic group. Without social status, there would be little signal for people to learn from. People would invent ‘black market signals’ for social status. The benefit of the western model is that social status is earned through the service of consumers in the market, not mysticism, or violence.

While redistribution of money may be sound, redistribution of status is HARMFUL.3 This is not to say that there isn’t a Pareto efficient system of redistribution that transfers no status, creates no aristocratic disincentives, and that deprives society of no knowledge. There is such thing. But it is not ‘knowable’ or ‘calculable’ using politicians.

As an political economist, what I object to most about this discourse, is that the function of the ‘state’ is to determine how the spoils are split, instead of how to increase the pool of spoils. After all, entrepreneurs risk their lives and homes to create wealth. It does not magically happen. And specialization being what it is, and humans having the incentives and motivations that they do, there is a regressive conflict of interest between having one political organization focus on the EASY task of redistribution AND the VERY HARD task of creating prosperity via the market. Humans universally select those politically rewarding and easily understood problems. Innovation is a very hard problem where one can be wrong at all times. It involves risk. Redistribution is quite simple. Trivial. Fun even. Everyone wants to give away someone else’s money. No one wants to be responsible and accountable for creating returns on investment. Instead, if we had two houses: one which created wealth through investment, and another which could distribute returns on that investment, then the conversation about our society would be quite different. Equity would be something both ends of the spectrum desired.

Mark’s question is a false choice. There is no equity in forcible transfer. There is equity in charity because of the social status people award to contributors to society, and along with social status, ability to command adherence to norms. There is equity in voluntary exchange. But there is no equity in forcible redistribution of money, no equity in deprivation of status, no equity in debasement of norms, no equity in involuntary transfer, no equity in appropriation of political power. So the question is not one of equity. It may perhaps, be one of UTILITY: in that keeping the lower classes well fed, well protected, and gainfully employed is actually CHEAPER than having them ill fed, uneducated, and engaged in career mischief. But any claim of “Equity” assumes a community of shared interests toward ends and means. And under involuntary transfer – theft – there is no possibility of community in a domestic empire as diverse as the USA.

Furthermore, any assessment of ‘equity’ requires that some random person in ‘authority’ determines how ‘equity’ is measured (if at all), who to take money from, how much to take, and what purposes to put it to. And this process is highly politicized.

So the question is false as it is structured. But there is still an alternative:

Assuming that instead, all people above certain incomes were required to contribute an aggressive and progressive amount of their income by purchasing auctions for the purpose of fulfilling community ends – then they would actually have choice in the matter. And because of transparency, these people could be controlled — assuming that their contributions were visible, and their names attached, so that they would be checked by market forces.

The process of ‘elections’ then would be turned from one of class warfare, abstract rhetoric, and demagoguery wherein we create that most horrid of specialists – the politician. TO one where we actively engaged and encouraged our upper classes to participate in society, rather than make as much as they can before abandoning it. Sick bureaucracies would be eliminated easily and quickly. Government waste would be radically reduced. Our precious ‘Universal Insurance’ programs would be managed by market forces. And society would be steered by popular sentiment, rather than political diatribe.

In other words, an tax democracy:

    1) It would be difficult for people to contribute to purposes and ends to which they disagree – or at least, they would choose those ends with which they least disagreed.

    2) Status would neither be redistributed or appropriated by professional politicians, and class cooperation would prevail over class warfare.

    3) Society is not deprived of knowledge.

    4) Society is not deprived of positive norms.

Under such a system a highly progressive income tax would be superior to a VAT, because a VAT puts unnecessary burden on the lower classes, and creates unnecessary and expensive administration costs.

The political class is an artifact of our prior lack of the information technology needed to make directly democratic decisions. We no longer lack that technology. We no longer need politicians. We need technology, free speech, courts, and public intellectuals. We do not need politicians. Politicians are commissioned salesmen for the transfer of wealth from producers to those in need, and transfer of social status from those who have earned it to those politicians who do not.

We do not need rulers. We only need rules and tools.

It is not taxes people object to. It is the disagreeable use of them. Especially uses that take from them status and the political power to defend themselves. It’s not the abstract of government that people object to. It is the dishonesty of electoral politics the technique of fomenting class warfare, the transfer of earned social status, and the incompetence and self service of bureaucracy.

  1. Note: Mark makes another mistake in criticizing the rich for avoiding taxes, when the reason that they avoid them is their disagreement over how they are USED, and the unequal risk they must take to create wealth. Again, financial sector aside. Conservatives think in terms of business people. Progressives think in terms of bankers. []
  2. Note: that if you consider government sponsored fiat money bankers as part of the private sector, I’m stating that by definition they are not producers, but government sponsored semi-political entities who privatize wins and socialize losses. Banking under fiat money is a government sponsored monopoly. Period. []
  3. I differ from my other libertarian friends on redistribution for TECHNICAL and LOGICAL reasons that I believe would invalidate propertarian analysis. An accidental side effect of Hoppe’s interpretation of Habermas. []


Most commenters on your site, and you yourself, frequently argue against the positions of that subset of libertarians called Rothbardian Anarchists and in the process smear the rest of the libertarian movement. Rothbardian anarchists have attempted to appropriate the term “libertarian” as well as the term “austrian economics” in order to gain legitimacy and popularity. The reason I’m appealing to you is so that you don’t further Jaundice the libertarian movement because of the behavior of it’s radical anarchic wing. While the anarchic wing is popularizing libertarian ideas, it is also obscuring and discrediting the broader movement’s rational foundation in economics.

Classical liberals had to coin the term Libertarian because ‘liberal’ was taken over by socialists. Now they’re in the same position again and trying to find an identity that’s been stolen by the anarchists. Appropriation of identity and ideas by radicals is one of the many challenges faced by moderates and pragmatists.

I’m going to appeal to you to use the term “Anarchist Libertarians” or “anarchists” or “rothbardians” rather than to assist in the appropriation of libertarian thinking by the anarchists.

You’re not alone in confusing ‘anarchism’ with ‘libertarianism’. The ‘anarchist’ wing of the libertarian movement has been highly successful in their efforts to appropriate the term ‘libertarian’ for their own use. To such an extent that the rest of us are abandoning it and adopting the term “NeoClassical Liberals”. Over the past few years there has been a bit of back-and-forth banter between CATO’s Establishment Republican Libertarianism, George Mason University’s more NeoClassical Liberal economics, and The Mises Institute’s radical evangelical anti-statists. The Private Law libertarianism of Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society has far less influence but is where the thought leadership seems to be originating today.

GMU has posted about the problem at The Coordination Problem.

Lew Rockewell defends his organization by way of attacking GMU at LewRockwell.com.

Mises.Org And The Pop Culture Rothbardians
I am not necessarily happy criticizing the Mises organization since they are largely responsible for the popularity of libertarian thought, even if it’s too often the pop culture ideology of Rothbard. And I think that promoting pop libertarianism is not a bad thing in this particular era. It has attracted many people to the cause of freedom, and in return some of those who’ve come, will mature into more sophisticated thinkers. Promoting an ideology is by definition a function of appealing to the masses. So I would rather have a lot of ‘Pop Libertarian Rothbardian Anarchists’ and a few classical liberal deep thinkers affecting the political discourse than I would just a few deep thinkers.

Libertarians (classical liberals, and now NeoClassical Liberals) do not advocate the extremes that the Anarchists do. If you read Hayek you would understand that ‘Pop Libertariansm’ of Rothbard is just that – ideological anarchism.

Hayek on the other hand is a sophisticated political thinker in the tradition of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Pareto, and Weber, who illustrates the various practical realities we consider in political theory once we have a grasp of economics.

The Neo Classical Libertarian Movement
You are obviously not aware of this ongoing battle for legitimacy, but there is a growing movement among some of us to drop the Austrian/Libertarian label and start calling ourselves “NeoClassical Liberals” in order to escape the “Pop Libertarianism” of the Rothbardian anarchists.

The NeoClassical liberals are challenged because they rely upon a skeptical, rational and empirical system of philosophy that suggests ‘we simply do not know’. While the progressive and the anarchists suggest ‘we do know’. Ideologies are always progressive, and certitude is more useful to ideologists than skepticism. Rothbardian libertarianism, and to some degree Misesian Praxeology, are doctrines of certitude. Luddite certitude perhaps but certitude none the less.

Some of the people working on this problem are setting up shop at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

Hoppe And Private Government
Hoppe’s contribution is that a private government is superior to a state (corporate) government – and he’s stated why it is superior in detail. A private government under the common law is by definition anarchic. The state is an unaccountable, epistemologically impossible abstraction, and that’s the problem with it. It’s as absurd as the other corporate entity we call ‘god’. But that is far too complicated a conversation for people who are motivated by ‘Pop Culture Ideology” regardless of stripe.

Rand Is A Doorway
Rand is a literary doorway into philosophy for the young and inexperienced. As such she is valuable to philosophy. Rothbard is a great and often underrated historian but a pop philosopher at best. Hayek is a great philosopher that bears reading and re-reading. And Mises is the only saint among economists despite his reliance on an incomplete system of logic he calls praxeology.

I hope this is helpful to you.



(NOTE: I have been a participant in Mises.org and have contributed something on the order of 30K to the organization over the years. I also have contributed not insignificant funds the Property and Freedom Society.)


The purpose of an ideology is to assist a group or class in obtaining political power.

The purpose of American Conservatism is to prevent groups or classes from obtaining political power.

It’s that simple.


Over On “League of Ordinary Gentlemen” there is a very long thread fitfully attempting to be critical of Libertarianism.

It’s interesting how almost no one on the thread understands anything other than what they’ve read in the popular press about libertarianism.

Which is common, because like any doctrine, people adopt it because of the appeal of it’s general sentiments, not because they actually understand it. And they propagate the sentiments very simplistically. Then, those who have adopted other doctrines because those doctrines appeal to their own sentiments, react to these simplistic statements of sentimentality, rather than to the libertarian doctrine itself –and all potential opportunity for rational discourse is lost in the chaos.

But Libertarianism is a technical philosophy that can be rationally articulated. It is often, for historical reasons, articulated as a moral philosophy as is most western ideology. THis is because the French enlightenment philosophers ‘Catholicized’ what was an empirical Anglo philosophical system and converted it to sentimental, moral, and rational system of thought. It was this moral, rational, and sentimental French framework, not the empirical Anglo framework that was popularized by continental philosophers and through their writings, distributed to the world in printed literature — thereby removing precisely what made the Classical Liberal economic political program innovative: that it was procedural and empirical rather than rational.

The term “Libertarian” was coined by Classical Liberals because the left appropriated the term “liberal” for their Moral political program.


First Principle: Economics
Libertarianism relies on economics.

    a) The best society is the most prosperous because more people have more choices, and because all humans seem to demonstrate a preference for additional material choices whenever possible.
    b) Prosperity is the result of increases in production made possible by a division of labor where prices signal demand, and function as the information system by which people coordinate their actions.
    c) Maintaining prosperity requires constant increases in production are due to rapid innovation – a process which we call competition.
    d) Personal property rights are necessary for the form of planning we call ‘economic calculation’, and to create incentives for as many individuals as possible to participate in innovation.
    e) Planning production with personal property requires predictable and constant rules of transfer, contract, and dispute resolution.
    f) Government is the means by which we determine the rules of contract, transfer and dispute resolution.

So, in any political discourse, given a multitude of possible choices, libertarians ‘err on the side of liberty’ because they believe liberty will have the most positive and the least negative side effects.

Second Principle: Anti-Bureaucracy
Libertarians use the term government as a synonym for bureaucracy. They use anti-authoritarian arguments. Anti authoritarian arguments are Moral and rational arguments. Anti-bureaucratic arguments are rational and empirical arguments: meaning that the evidence is that bureaucracies universally consolidate power and abuse it because of the processes and incentives necessary for humans to operate in a bureaucratic organization. (See Michels and Mises).

Libertarianism then, is an anti-bureaucratic rather than anti-government philosophical framework. It suggests that people can and do organize into groups we call governments. It suggests that in almost all cases, privately owned, market-driven service providers will provide better services at lower cost with less danger of bureaucratic abuse of group members than the alternatives.

Third Principle: Voluntary Transfer
Libertarians use moral arguments to criticize involuntary transfer of property. However, the rational and empirical argument is that only voluntary transfer allows people to ‘calculate’ positive social ends together by making use of their collective knowledge, rather than the supposed knowledge of one or more bureaucrats – and that ‘externalities’ (the secondary effects) are beneficial when transfers are voluntary.

The single moral property that defines all libertarian philosophy is that individuals have a monopoly on the use of their minds, bodies and property.

Libertarian is a middle class (commercial) philosophy.
It consists (largely) of two wings:

    1) Classical Liberal (Protestant Empirical) – Hayek/Jefferson
    a) Constitutionalism and Rule of law, b) Small State, c) Cautious Redistribution that does not create a dependency d) conservative monetary policy. e) Privatization f) a dependence on empirical institutions. (This is the important part that is lost on everyone – libertarians included. It is an empirical system of government.) and g) Meritocratic rotation of elites through demonstrated service to consumers in the market (rather than politics) and h) Multiple houses of government that reflect the class structure of society.

    The Classical Liberal wing of Libertarianism advocates an empirical method of government whose purpose is to prevent the rise of bureaucracy and systemic risk. It is effectively a restatement of european post-aristocratic philosophy in contemporary terms. ie: it has the structure of formal institutions we call government.

    2) Anarchist (Jewish Moral) – Rothbard/Rand
    a) No state. b) No redistribution c) No community d) Ideological Individualism. e) gold standard f) Absolute propertarianism.

    Anarchism is a form of rebellion against the status quo.

    It is effectively a restatement of the jewish moral code in modern economic terms. In that sense it is a non-empirical, moral, non-institutional form of government. ie: it has the structure of a religion.

The libertarian research program has contributed significantly to political discourse because it has:

    1) Provided the understanding of why Socialism and Communism are economically impossible. (Economic Calculation and Incentives)

    2) Contributed to political thought by developing the means by which services can be provided by privatization. (These arguments are persuasive. The west is a minority civilization that depends upon technical creativity in order to maintain it’s standard of living and only individual property rights make rapid and disruptive innovation possible.)

    3) Demonstrated that freedom is synonymous with constitutionalism and the rule of COMMON law, without which freedom is impossible.

    4) Produced a more predictive view of economic cycles, and in particular, correctly argued that the use of aggregates in economics and the DSGEM is not only anti-empirical, but actually irrational.

    5) That social classes make decisions according to different time preferences, and that these preferences appear to be impervious to change.

In the end, the combination of poor data collection, fiat monetary policy, use of the DSGEM in economics and it’s ‘static’ limitations, undermining the constituion’s implied but unstated empirical nature, and the democratic rather than class-based process of debate, have put us in a position where it is not possible to make rational economic and political judgements.

Thanks to Libertarians, we know that whether or not we have moral ambitions, we cannot currently make rational decisions in our form of government with the information at our disposal. And that is profound.


On Modeled Behavior, Karl posts that Unemployment is ‘Awful’. And he posts a chart illustrating that losing a job is a serious emotional experience.

But, the most obvious conclusion from the data in that chart is that “separation from your social and familial group” – separation from your tribe – is what troubles human beings the most. There is nothing to be learned about ‘money’ from the list of psychological stressors.

That aside, and back to your point: No one disagrees that unemployment is bad. The disagreement results from our differences in opinion over how to improve unemployment while producing the least damaging externalities.

The difference between conservatives and progressives is largely one of creating systemic fixes with positive externalities using the private sector that may take time on the one hand, and creating dependencies that create negative externalities using the government sector that produce immediate relief and long term negative consequences that serve to reduce liberty on the other.

And in the different evaluation of those externalities by the two sides. To progressives, a powerful state that helps them oppose the market is beneficial. To conservatives a powerful state that opposes the market is a threat.

It is inconceivable to conservatives that freedom is not more important than temporary stress. Conservatives in the US are classical liberals, which by definition means liberty-seekers. Freedom is an intrinsic good. They do not understand that freedom is, and always has been, a minority proposition, and that only under rare circumstances can freedom be obtained – precisely because a large percentage of people do not want it, and another group can achieve elite status by preventing any group from obtaining it.

Market prosperity requires personal freedom: property rights. Market prosperity does not require political or national freedom. Given the distribution of freedom seekers versus security seekers, Political freedom for the majority is a guarantee that the freedom-seeking minority will lose both political and personal freedom.

Freedom is not a desire of the many. Inexpensive goods that result from freedom are. But freedom to take risks in the market is, and always has been, a minority proposition that is only possible during periods where the majority of citizens are small business people – such as under expansionist agrarianism in both Classical Greece, MIgration Period Settlement, Ascendent England, and the conquest of the american continent.

The rest of the time, most people are some form of dependent – serfs – to the minority of people who actually take personal speculative risk in creating production for the market.

The progressive vision of the universe is that there is a world of plenty from which they are ostracized. The conservative vision of the universe is that there is a world of scarcity which must be constantly replenished through risk taking and experimentation. The progressive sees human reason as able to solve anything we can agree upon. The conservative vision sees human reason as demonstrably frail, and that our hubris is what undermines our success – only discipline and work can create material improvement.


The Leftist blog Economists View posts that Stiglitz writes that there is an ideological crisis in western capitalism. by which he simply means the “right is wrong”, and Stiglitz is right.

Really. That’s all he says.

And, of course, Stiglitz’s analysis is a straw man.

The conservative strategy since 1980 has been:
1) Defeat ideological communism as a threat to the international order, and to American trade interests – and to borrow any amount of money to do so.
2) Dismantle the left wing “great society’ movement, and if possible privatize education, social security and medicare as a means of starving and de-politicizing the government.
3) Starve the government either by over commitment or over extension, forcing either the dismantlement or privatization of ‘socialist’ programs.
4) Support of the entrepreneurial class, and increase home ownership in order expand conservative sentiments.

a) The replacement of ideological communism with ideological Islam was an unexpected threat and a high cost.
b) The christian whites have become a minority was faster than they expected, and the transition of christian whites into a political block that acts like an minority was also unexpected. Therefore the conservative movement has not been able to ideologically adapt to this change fully – they still remain attached to the Classical LIberal Constitutional model, despite the obvious evidence that the model has failed them and (per Epstein) attacks on constitutionalism by the courts and leftist cultural indoctrination by the schools has been largely successful. The next development in conservatism will be to acknowledge that failure and to become a more consistently adversarial, entrenched and likely racially or culturally identifiable block.

The end result is :
a) that the country remains center-right, and will continue to remain center-right for any politically actionable period of time.
b) the process of converting the rest of the world to some form of capitalism, albeit, totalitarian capitalism, or social democratic capitalism, is complete, outside of Islam, which now only needs one or more likely two core states to emerge – neither of which will be an expansionist and militant Iran.
c) the country is fragmenting into permanent regional blocks opposed to one another. Family moving patterns suggest that this trend will continue to create stronger divisions, further amplifying the effects created by the end of southern conservatism’s association with the Democratic party.
d) the attempt to move people into home ownership as a means of encouraging the conservative sentiment has failed and was an unwise plan in the first place. THe lower class population needs to be mobile and increasingly urbanized to compete.
e) the right will claim that the constitution has been sufficiently undermined that it no longer holds sway, and that the left will simply use temporary political power to circumvent it, and there the right will develop the mantra that ‘it’s just mob rule’ and that the constitution is simply ‘how we conservatives shackle each other and give the left time to undermine freedom.’ This will be the next political movement for the right. It is only logical.
f) it may be true that Chicago monetarism has been undermined, but it is also true that almost all quantitative DSGEM theory has been undermined. But the institutional investment in academia in the failed doctrine will continue to persist until a radical paradigmatic changes has been developed elsewhere.

The general trend that will drive support for conservative sentiments will be:
1) the regionalization and fractionalization of domestic culture due to demographic concentrations. and the eventual exhaustion of the population’s tolerance for discord. It appears from the data that our urban centers are headed toward the south american model of an elite urban (white) center, surrounded by a ring of poverty, and a (white) conservative rural culture.
2) the increase in small businesses due to repositioning of the US work force in the global economy.
3) the increase sense of threat from weakened US strategic and economic power.
4) the extended economic stress that will likely lose a generation of permanently displaced workers.

So, Stiglitz simply does not understand conservative strategy or motivations and is arguing against a straw man by assuming that conservative and liberal goals are the same.

To conservatives, freedom is the goal itself, and freedom is incompatible with the left’s agenda. And the willingness to protect that freedom is infinite. Revolt works from both directions. The left is willing to create the totalitarian redistributive society by class warfare and destruction of the western identity. The right is wiling to bankrupt what they see as a corrupt government in order to preserve it’s identity.

The fact that one monetary or economic policy or another was used to accomplish this is immaterial.


I love my country. The world is a better place because of the American Constitution. And the evidence is clear that everyone has been better off having been an English colony than a French one. But the colonists declared independence largely to escape paying the costs incurred by England in protecting the colonies during the Seven Years War. Which was at the very least, an unjust avoidance of responsibility by the colonists. Personally, I would prefer we had remained a colony. And I would still prefer a King or Queen to a president. History is a better thing to admire than politicians, and the evidence appears to suggest that monarchs were far better governors that our elected representatives have been. Despite the comforting untruths we tell ourselves.

I still like the fireworks. :)


American conservatives struggle with the fact that their political sensibilities consist of both the sentiments of conservatism and the remnants of aristocratic european philosophy – and that because they neither understand aristocratic philosophy, or understand conservatism, they cannot separate these two bodies of thought into their constituent parts. As constituent parts they can easily be defended against radical progressives who would continue to undermine the system of rule of law, and innovative individualism that we have inherited from our ancestors, and which is the source of our prosperity.

Conservatism is a sentiment and a philosophy. Aristocracy is a philosophy and a system of government. Conservatism has a skeptical view of man’s abilities. Aristocracy has an aspirational view of man’s abilities. But both conservatism and Aristocratic philosophy acknowledge the difference in ability between humans and that inequality is persistent, permanent, and obvious.

Both support the meritocratic rotation of elites, as long as that rotation is accomplished in the market or in defense of the realm – in the service of others. And both hold disdain for political ambitions that are not accomplished through the market or defense of the realm.

There is nothing inherently conservative about Aristocratic philosophy. But there is everything meritocratic about it.


Tyler Cowen, while at a Conference in Israel, posts : “The influence of the Tea Party seems on the decline.”

But that doesn’t mean what most people will take away from it.

I’m sure Tyler knows this, but other people may not: Movements need ideologies. All ideologies are progressive. Tea partiers are conservatives, and conservatives don’t use an ideology.

Conservatives NEED an ideology. They need a means of competing against creeping totalitarianism and socialism. They need a fully rational framework that proposes a fully rational system of government. WIthout that framework, they rely upon tradition, history and moral arguments. They rely upon the constitution, the founders, and law. And they have failed because of those forms of reliance. And they have lost by relying upon something that they appreciate, and value, but largely do not understand how to advocate through science, logic and reason.

Today, Conservatism is not an ideology. Conservatism is a sentiment at the very least, and a philosophy at the very most. But it is not an ideology. It prescribes no program. It simply sets hurdles by which changes should be implemented due to the limits of human reason.

Conservative philosophy consists of a very simple set of propositions:

1) Human reason is something to be skeptical of at all times. History and tradition are the tools by which we test our ideas and protect ourselves from hubris.

2) Because reason limited, change should be accomplished through merit in the market by people who conform to established moral codes, and are humble about their accomplishments.

3) People who attempt change by political means are charlatans who want to take from hard working people in order to glorify themselves.

And Conservatism consists of a limited number of sentiments:

1) Long term group persistence: This is a primitive human sentiment that encourages some portion of the population to give very high regard to saving – concentrating all forms of capital. It is universal to all societies. Some authors express Group Persistence as “loyalty”, which attributes only arbitrary emotional meaning to what is an important evolutionary strategy.

2) Hierarchy as a form of natural order. Hierarchy is mistranslated as obeying someone, rather than what it really means to conservatives is that “People are very different in knowledge and ability. Even if they have similar abilities they have differences in knowledge, and upbringing that mean some people are better at some things than others.” Conservatives do not see ‘following a leader’ as anything other than a practical necessity driven by the differences in human beings.

There are three other universal human political sentiments:
3) Fairness ( Reciprocity and it’s corollary Fidelity / Sincerity)

4) Nurture / Training : Taking care of others and protecting them from harm, and the objective corollary “training” and “educating”.

5) Purity. Avoidance of unclean foods, habits, places and thoughts.

Conservatives place equal value on all five of the sentiments (See Jonathan Haidt.) Progressives give their entire moral and emotional weight to just two sentiments: Nurture and Fairness. Conservatives have a more complex problem, becuase they place equal weight on all five values.


Thomas Sowell, in his two works on political differences “A Conflict Of Visions ” and “The Vision of The Anointed”, states that the only substantial difference between conservative and progressive philosophies is in their assessment of the potential of human reason.

Progressives: The Unconstrained Vision
Or the “Utopian Vision”.
In Sowell’s opinion, the unconstrained vision relies heavily on sweepingly optimistic assumptions about human nature, distrust of decentralized processes like the free market, impatience with systemic processes that constrain human action. Sowell often refers to them as, “the self anointed” people with a progressive political view.

Conservatives: The Constrained Vision
Or, the “Tragic Vision”.
Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on a reduced view of the goodness of human nature, and prefers the systematic processes of the free market, and the systematic processes of the rule of law and constitutional government. It distrusts sweeping theories and grand assumptions in favor of heavy reliance on solid empirical evidence and on time-tested structures and processes.

My view is that progressives get a discount on intellectual labor by artificially simplifying the problem of social orders, and that they justify their simplification by taking emotional pleasure from the fact that involuntary transfers are forced between producers and non-producers.

Conservatives simply account for more variables, and therefore are more pessimistic in the face of complexity. Furthermore, conservatives see involuntary transfers as failing to train people, not taking care of people.

Because english heritage is european, and european heritage is Aristocratic, conservatism favors the aristocratic system of politics. Aristocratic politics is fundamentally military and hierarchical in it’s view of the world. Aristocracy can be loosely translated as “a system of order for controlling and holding a body of land.”

The first principle of aristocracy is the Fraternalism. That is, the idea that each of us has his home or farm or Manor (plantation), and that we gather together to create a market, and a city around that market, and defend it together. But that we do not, under any circumstances, surrender our sovereignty over ourselves or our land. This is what makes the west unique: cities are the result of fraternal cooperation by land owning warriors who are required to supply their own arms, equipment and soldiers. In other words, cities were joint stock companies.

Aristocracy is not limited to a social or economic class. There are plenty of people, males in particular, in the middle and and upper proletariat classes, that are intuitively practitioners of aristocratic sentiments. Freedom, as it is used in libertarian circles is the remnant of aristocratic philosophy.

As such, the sentiment of conservatism has been confused with the philosophy of aristocracy, and the political system of classical liberalism. Sentiments, Philosophies and Political Systems are three different things.

There are good conservative ideas and bad conservative ideas. Southern conservatism over the elimination of slavery was obviously a self-interested bias masquerading as conservatism. Anti-communism and anti-socialism was clearly the correct proposition given the hundred million people it murdered, and the prosperity that the world has achieved by adopting consumer capitalism. Even McCarthy turned out to be right about quite a few things, after all. Conservative concerns over immigration will very likely play out as correct – the nation will divide either gracefully or violently at some point in the next century. Conservative preferences in health care are only that if it’s to be done at all, it should be done without expanding the government bureaucracy. And conservatives are right on that issue as well.

Conservatism is not an ideology. It is a skeptical philosophy that has biological, historical, and rational philosophical origins. The Tea Party, as a conservative movement, does not seek power. It seeks to prevent radical changes to the social order that are conducted in hubris, and where the consequences are dire.


In my Time Magazine reply to “Why do westerner’s fear the rise of China”, someone challenged me with:

You make the westerner seem as if he actually walks around Afghanistan and iraq folding hands and asking people to be quiet and china being the only country forcing power on others.

I don’t make that assertion at all. I (correctly) list the reasons why westerners fear a rise in China.

You make the error of treating geopolitical strategy as if we’re dividing up a loaf of bread for dinner. One can criticize individual actions of nations, or one can create an full accounting of the accomplishments and failures, and then to discern the motivations for those actions. Americans have had very simplistic objectives for the past century. 1) take over the collapsed british empires’ navy and trade routes. 2) take over the collapsed british pound 3) defeat communism and spread market democracy, 4) protect the oil fields in the old ottoman empire from being used as economic warfare against developing nations until those nations are ready to mature into market societies.

Sinic civilization, or rather the Chinese empire of north china, south china, the interior, Mongolia and Tibet, has a strong central state and a long standing bureaucratic tradition. After it’s devastating failure with communism, and the most expansive destruction of human life in history, Chinese intellectuals decided to give up on Communism and instead adopt authoritarian capitalism. Their efforts at doing so, despite being dependent entirely upon imported technology, has resulted in a vast movement of people from abject poverty to the consumer lifestyle. It is a difficult climb. But they are making progress.

Islamic civilization, which is more correctly viewed as the collapsed remnants of the Ottoman Empire, is still institutionally and culturally primitive, remains incapable of resolving the entho-tribal geographic conflicts, or even educating it’s people above sub-saharan african levels. Islamic civilization lacks a core state – a core state which holds other states in their civilization accountable in the international community – and therefore makes external intervention unnecessary.

I am quite sure it is humiliating for members of Islamic nations to hold to a personal religion and political doctrine of superiority, while faced with the daily evidence of the inferiority of the civilization and it’s people in the world arena. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west has maintained a policy of containment on the post-ottoman islamic nations, in the hope that they will skip the communist phase of evolution and directly join the modern market economy. I am sure that it is exasperating that the west has propped up dictators as a means of preventing yet another series of marxist states that will even further repress and regress their citizens. I am sure it is frustrating to have the west, yet again, for the fifth or sixth time in human history, hold the middle eastern people’s at bay in order to prevent the spread of ‘magical’ society, and it’s endemic pervasive ignorance. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west is split between those people who think islamic nations are insufficiently mature for democracy, and those who evangelically spread the idea of democracy without understanding that democracy is a government for a mercantile and commercial society – which is alien to islamic nations. I am sure all of these things are frustrating.

Do muslims actually think the average American wants to pay for maintaining the pattern of world commerce and trade? Do they think that American citizens like losing money and the lives of soldiers to contain Marxism, now Islam – Radical Islam is just another iteration of Marxism. Don’t they think we wouldn’t rather spend our lives and money on other things?

Most of us just wish muslims would just grow up and take care of their own house, so that we don’t have to act like their parents any longer. The question is then, what can they do so that it is unnecessary for others to interfere in their affairs.

Westerners fear the rise of China for the same reason they fear the Islamist movement: because they are both regressive social orders that are only rising out of ignorance and poverty due to western technology, western medicine, western ideas, western education, western institutions, and the emphasis on universal trade that the west exports.

And most of us look at China as either one of our great successes in transformation of a primitive society, despite their corrupt and kleptocratic political system and the fact that we Americans are paying for the transformation with our jobs, or we look at china as a systematically corrupt society that will simply disturb and destroy the system of world trade that we have developed over the past five hundred years, and return us to a world of physical rather than economic conflict.

The question is, which will it be?

The US would like to withdraw it’s military efforts around the world in order to account for our relative decrease in world economic dominance. It is simply too expensive to let other countries save military expenditures and force us to pay them. particularly the western europeans that treat us with distain on a daily basis all while they live entirely under our support and protection. The problem is that the average american is dependent upon the world system of trade, and in particular the market for oil. Americans do not want the rest of the Israelis to end up inside the USA, so they want a stable settlement of an israeli state, and for muslims to understand that israel does not breed enough people to hold that small nation for more than another century. Lastly, that rapid changes in military power create power vacuums that create expansive wars. And we cannot in good conscience allow that to happen when the world can no longer let people return to farm life. There are too many of us, and billions would starve if there were another series of world wars.

There is nothing more to American geopolitical strategy than that one paragraph.

So I’ll stick with my explanation of why Americans fear the rise of China. And radical islam. Primitive societies are a threat to the modern commercial order.

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