- On Debate
The Two Libertarian Traditions
AN APPROACH TO INSTITUTIONS
Two dominant traditions divide the “libertarian” movement. These two traditions emphasize different institutions. They both favor technical (commercial) institutions equally. However, the anarchists disavow all responsibility for, and value of norms, or rules, other than the norm of several property. And the Classical Liberals embrace all norms and rules that, and the enforcement of norms and rules, that they believe make several property possible. More importantly however, anarchists rely entirely upon norms as a means of enforcement of property, and classical liberals rely upon norms for the same reason. However, anarchists assume that those norms are enforceable without formal institutes, and classical liberals do not.
The propertarian position is that norms are up to the members of teh groups, that homogeneity of norms is neither possible nor desirable, but that the institutions of property, and the means of resolution of differences between individuals and groups, can only be created and maintained by formal institutions that are not open to contest.
THE TWO TRADITIONS
1) The Anarchic tradition specifically articulated by Rothbard in The Libertarian Manifesto, as well as the Ethics of Liberty. In contemporary parlance, “Libertarian” means unlimited adherence to Rothbard’s Manifesto’s single principle of non-aggression.
2) The Classical Liberal and “Hayekian” tradition. Hayek adopted the term “Libertarian” because the term “Liberal” had been appropriated by the left. Hayek sought to maintain and expand the classical liberal tradition under then name “Libertarian”. The classical liberals hold libertarian sentiments but are not libertarians. The current big-’L’ Libertarian movement has so successfully dominated the political discourse that the neo classical liberals are only now beginning to form an ideology. Unfortunately, they have failed to understand Rothbard and Hoppe’s ethics well enough to articulate Neo Classical Liberalism in Propertarian terms. (A problem I am slowly trying to correct.)
In no small part, the two libertarian traditions reflect the religious and social strategies of the authors from each tradition, with the Christian authors maintaining the concept of a collective ‘corporation’ in which all citizens are shareholders, VS the Jewish diasporic religious and social strategy of creating a ‘kingdom of heaven’ independent of the norms and institutions necessary for land-holding. It is this difference between the martial landholding Christians and the diasporic capital holding Jews that gives each branch of the movement its preferences. And it is the inability of the two movements to find a compromise position that precludes current ‘libertarians’ from forming a sufficient political block with which to alter the political discourse by incorporating classical liberal, social, religious and martial conservatives who have unalterable landholding sentiments without which ‘community’ and ‘norms’ are impossible to conceive of.
I. MANDATORY PROPERTIES OF LIBERTARIANISM:
1) Non-Aggression Principle (A negative which is often stated in its positive form: Voluntarism, meaning all exchanges of property are voluntary).
2) The institution of Private Property initiated by “homesteading”: acting to transform something not property into property, over which one has a monopoly of control. 3) By implication: All human rights can be reduced to property rights. No human rights can exist where they cannot be expressed as property rights. It is an impossibility due to scarcity and incalculability under complexity.
II. VARIABLE INDIVIDUAL PROPERTIES (Limited to common properties)
1) symmetrical-knowledge ethics (classical liberals and christian authors), VS asymmetrical-knowledge ethics (anarchists and jewish authors) Rothbard and Block are asymmetrical advocates. Most classical liberals lack the knowledge of Rothbardian/Hoppian ethics necessary to articulate their values in Propertarian terms. However, the classical liberals as well as the Hayekians, both advocate symmetrical-knowledge ethics whether they articulate the ideas effectively or not. “in any exchange the seller has an ethical obligation to mitigate fraud from the asymmetry of knowledge”
2) Implied Warranty (classical liberal and Christian authors), VS expressly denied warranty (Anarchist and Jewish authors). Rothbard and Block deny warranty. Classical liberals imply warranty. Implied warranty is a derivation of 1, above. “in any exchange the seller must warrant his goods and services to prevent fraud by asymmetry of information.”
3) Prohibition against all involuntary external transfers (classical liberal and Christian authors), VS prohibition only against state involuntary transfers (anarchist and Jewish authors). “No exchange, action or inaction may cause involuntary transfers from others”.
III. VARIABLE INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTIES
1) Shareholder Property Forms (classical liberal and Christian authors) VS Prohibition on Shareholder Property Forms (anarchists and Jewish authors). Whether intentional or not, Rothbard all but places a ban on organizations with geographic monopolies on rule making. Block expressly advocates geographic rule making, although he only expresses it in individual rather than organizational terms.
2) Norms as Arbitrary VS Norms as Shareholder Property. Since norms require restraints from action (forgone opportunities), and property itself is a norm paid for by restraints from action (forgone opportunities), then all those who adhere to norms, ‘pay’ for them. Therefore norms within a geography are a form of shareholder property, and violations of norms are involuntary transfers (thefts) from norm-holders to norm-destroyers.
3) Preferred Institution: Classical Liberal State, Minimal State, Private Government or Anarchic “Religion”.
4) “Markets Evolved” and regulation is a form of theft VS “Markets Were Made” and regulations by shareholders or their representatives are an expression of property rights. In practical terms, this is a derivation of principles 1, 2 and 3 above, since regulation is an attempt to solve the problem of involuntary transfers, fraud due to asymmetry of information, and fraud due to external involuntary transfers.
5) Artificial Property VS No Artificial Property (Intellectual Property VS no intellectual property. ) In practical terms, this is a derivation of 8 above, since if markets were made their owners have a property right to create artificial forms of property – (because different portfolios of property types are artificial norms that vary from group to group.)
IV FURTHER DIFFERENCES
Beyond the points listed above, “libertarian” becomes arbitrary and loses its distinction from “Classical Liberalism” and “neo Classical Liberalism”, since any discussion of the state, government, or shareholder returns on shareholder investments is alien to big-L Libertarianism because they believe that it violates their concept of the non-aggression principle. (I argue otherwise but that’s a longer topic.) Hayek, Popper and Parsons all failed to develop an articulated ethical language capable of expressing the logic of classical liberal sentiments in a rational ethics. Rothbard did it. Hoppe nearly finished it. No one on the conservative bench has so far seen to adopt it, and the classical liberal and conservative movements are trapped in Kirkian moralistic reasoning. Which is useless against encroaching statism. (Hence why I’ve formed the Propertarian Institute.)
V CONSERVATIVES IN PERSPECTIVE
The term “Conservative” describes a reaction to the status quo. As does progressive. In the USA, the status quo is what remains of American classical liberalism. So conservatives are American Classical Liberals who cannot use the term, because ‘liberal’ has been appropriated by the left. They are classical liberals, who DO have libertarian sentiments, but are not Libertarians because they disagree with the Libertarian prohibition on shareholder-community, and denial of norms as property.
Seattle, WA, United States
I am an independent theorist of Political Economy in the Conservative Libertarian tradition. And as a methodological Propertarian I attempt to complete the work of Rothbard and Hoppe by suggesting post-democratic political solutions for heterogeneous polities.
"De Philosophia Aristocratia"
Anglo Conservatism is the remnant of the European Aristocratic Manorial system and the Classical Liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment, combined with our ancient tribal instincts for group persistence and land-holding. It currently consists as a set of sentiments rather than as an articulated rational philosophy. And without that rational articulation, conservatives lack the ability to create and promote a plan that is a positive and rhetorically defensible alternative to the hazards of accidental bureaucracy and purposeful socialism.
This lack of an articulated philosophy leaves conservatives vulnerable in the public debate with Schumpeterian public intellectuals whose advantage in both volume of production, and simplicity of argument poses a nearly insurmountable challenge.
Libertarianism by contrast, is a rational philosophy of an articulate but permanent minority. It is based upon a solid, rational and critical methodology, even if it is flawed in its initial assumption: the principle of non-violence.
Unfortunately the Rothbardian Anarchist movement has appropriated the term "Libertarian", and left Classical Liberals and Conservatives alienated from the only system of thought with which they need to articulate their political sentiments in rational and empirical rather than moralistic and sentimental form.
By repairing the flaws in Libertarian philosophy we can use its methodology to provide a rhetorical solution for conservatives - a language which in turn may become an articulated philosophical body of argument and advocacy for the frustrated conservative majority.
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