Rothbard’s Political Spectrum

This essay from Murray Rothbard provides some intellectual stimulation for those who are well-versed in libertarian political theory. It’s dense reading, but provides some insight into certain ideological traps into which I myself have fallen.

One is the oft-repeated mantra that libertarians are better friends with right-wingers than left-wingers. Rothbard highlights that libertarianism, then called liberalism, was the left-wing but a century ago. It goes to show that liberalism was never meant to be a chronological ideology, but one of principle. Conservatives try to maintain the status-quo, or return to the recent past. Progressives promote the ‘next big thing,’ whether it’s a new form of liberty or tyranny. Both of these camps are incompatible with a principled position, because liberty will not always be fashionable in the near future or recent past. Sometimes, a couple centuries will have elapsed since the last good libertarian revolution (wink, wink).

Principled ideologies require relentless devotion, and a sense of hope. That is Rothbard’s main point: our current self-concept, as freedom activists, is shaped by America’s recent history. Our current self-concept is that we hold an extreme right-wing ideology, that we are losing ground to the statists, that conservatives are our closest allies in the struggle, and that the masses are hopelessly gullible to populist wiles. The lesson is thus: pick up your chin, trust no statist over another, and resist their barbarity knowing full well that liberty has historically been the stronger — and more popular — position. Remember that for us the most civilized of men, the good news is everywhere!

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Dear Mayor David Miller

Dear Mayor David Miller,

I am motivated to write this letter in response to your recent attempt to impose a tax increase on Toronto, and the mass-media scare tactics employed when the City Council rightfully rejected your plan.

What truly amazed me was your claim that without the tax increase, police and mass transit would have to be cut. What this shows me is that either your office has not approached the budget question creatively, or that you simply want your tax increase regardless of the facts.

The facts, sir, as I understand them, are that the city and the province own plenty of real estate in downtown Toronto (Moss Park, Regent Park, Portlands, Harbourfront, Islands, etc.). Much of this land is used for ‘subsidized activity,’ whether it be residential, commercial, or industrial. Before you talk of cutting funding for the police force, one of the only legitimate functions of a state, why don’t you take inventory of the city’s and the province’s ‘social programs,’ and cut them until the budget is balanced? Why don’t you push for cuts to city planners, regulators, and other busybodies who impede growth? Before you talk about cutting the Shepherd subway line, wrenching away from taxpayers the fruit of their involuntary investment, why don’t you rent out the line to willing companies, of which I’m sure there are many? Or even better, why don’t you support privatizing the TTC — selling it off to several private groups in order to get a healthy transit market going? I am willing to bet that a private transit system would have lower fares and better service, all the while solving the ‘budget crisis.’

Lower taxes, more funds for police, and transit competition sound like good results. Respect for liberty, the rule of law and order, and private property create these results.

While I have your attention, if I still have your attention, I would like to address a major Quality of Life issue in Toronto — one that requires an expanded police force, not a rump one. To preface, I moved here from New York City. During the 1990s in my hometown, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD undertook a plan to address Quality of Life issues in addition to major crimes. The plan addressed serious nuisance issues including squeegee kids, panhandling, petty theft, loose psychotics, belligerent drunks and vandalism. Now I know Toronto is a tolerant city, and I’m not necessarily recommending the authoritarian measures of Mr. Giuliani, but we have a big problem with all of these QoL issues here. Something must be done! I cannot take an evening stroll in my downtown neighborhood without being approached ten or twenty times by beggars and psychotics. Sure, they are often harmless, but it is threatening nonetheless. I’m a lover of city life, hailing from one of the great world cities, but do you know what I think when I can’t walk outside unmolested? I think, “maybe this is why people move to the suburbs, to Mississauga, because they want peace and respect.”

Mr. Mayor, I implore you to focus the city’s energies where they are needed, and withdraw from where they are not. Privatize the socialist baggage of the 20th Century. Publicize the real political issues facing our city: Quality of Life, rising crime, crippling tax rates, provincial transfer payments, and others. There isn’t a budget crisis, there’s a crisis of understanding about the proper role of the state: limited, focused, and free.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Denizen

Why Are We Politically Homeless?

Do you know the feeling when you know how to do something, and you’re trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t know, and they just can’t get it right?

 This would be the situation of libertarians in the political world, except that we aren’t even given much chance to explain the correct way. Do I sound too presumptuous, assuming that liberty is the ‘correct way?’ Well, after years of beating my head against a wall, trying so hard to understand the statists’ point-of-view, I have to conclude once again that while there is legitimate room for disagreement, liberty is always preferable to slavery.

That sounds like a self-evident conclusion, and most people — in their heart of hearts — embrace it, but when it comes to the details of freedom most show ignorance of what it means to be a slave. If I work for half a year to fund others’ programs and initiatives, to provide weapons that will be used against me, and I have no choice in the matter except to cast a statistically insignificant ‘vote,’ then I am a slave. Even African slaves were given some time to provide for themselves, and the difference between their condition and ours (as ‘citizens’ of modern nation-states) is only one of degree.

Libertarians are often left feeling alone and abandoned in a world of interpersonal violence, like the young child in a gang-infested project, knowing that what goes on is wrong but powerless to stop it or leave it behind. This despair must be a psychological trait of the type of person who would tend toward a absolute libertarian worldview, but it doesn’t reflect reality.

The reality is that most people thirst for freedom, if only because it is in their own interest. The problem is that ideology is like a game of darts: it’s easy to shoot around the mark, but hitting the bullseye consistently requires great skill. It seems hard for parties, groups, and movements to accept an entirely libertarian agenda. When they do, it seems hard for the ‘common folk’ to embrace said agenda. Of course, when a libertarian movement is a success, the region yields greatness for a long time after. The States are still reaping the fruits of a libertarian revolution in 1776, even as they actively squander those fruits.

If liberty makes sense and has demonstrable rewards far surpassing slavery in any form (socialism, nationalism, theocracy, majoritarian democracy), then why does it seem that freedom is constantly on the run? There are two answers.

One, freedom is winning the cultural battle globally. Globalization is, for the most part, the process of freedom expanded spontaneously — self-supported for the first time in history as flowing information and sheer economics weigh heavily on totalist regimes. For the first time, liberty is behaving like a fire, acting as a chain reaction that feeds itself and becomes harder to extinguish as it grows.

Two, being free men, defending our liberty and behaving in a civil and mutually beneficial way, is the highest state of being. Like any kind of maturity, it takes time and training to cultivate. Freedom is always under attack for the same reason that bullying often persists past the grammar school playground, onto prep school and then college: people are born naked and primitive. Civility is like a callus to animal temptations and shortsightedness; it must be built up through rigorous enlightening.

The end-point is that those of us who consider ourselves enlightened and outnumbered should not despair. Freedom does not always yield to tyranny, in fact that trend over history is in the other direction. It must be, for if tyranny always grew we would all be dead. Despair over one’s condition has never been known to help change one’s condition. I find that libertarians have such enthusiasm for their unusual political clarity, but burn out or sell out before they have a chance to make an impact.

Stewards of freedom, pick up your heads. This world rewards the smart, brave, and relentless. Any perceived advantage accorded to those who don’t play by the rules (of interpersonal respect) is only an illusion. Russian politics has, for example, been historically full of such disregard for human dignity, and that leviathan state has hobbled through the ages as a result. Keep trying for my sake, and I will for yours. Even if most people are too naive to support a sophisticated and free political order, we are dependent only on a determined minority to provide widespread salvation.

uTOpia: Toward A New Toronto

This is a great read, and I think it should be on the reading list for everyone in the development industry here in Toronto. I’ve made my way through about a third of it, as I’m a slow reader, but so far it has enveloped me in its accurate account of the spirit of Toronto now, and its visionary ideas about Toronto’s future.

 Among these ideas are: the demolition of the Gardiner Expressway, a car-free Kensington Market, an expanded subway and streetcar system, and high speed trains to New York and Chicago.

As far as the Gardiner goes, I agree it should be torn down. Most people, including the authors of this book, propose that it be buried a la Boston’s Big Dig. I think it should just be dispensed with, that it should never have been built, and that suburban car-types can go fuck themselves if they intend to keep driving all over our healthy, city life.

As far as car-free goes, Toronto has the recently-developed Distillery District, which I surveyed this past weekend. It was pleasant, but small and not a real ‘neighborhood’ as of yet. I hear more development is to follow. A car-free Kensington Market is a great idea, but why stop there? Why not phase out cars from downtown completely, or relegate them to major thoroughfare like Spadina and the Queensway.

Of course, this cause would be assisted by the re-introduction of private mass transit, first supplementing, then in place of the resource sink-hole known as the Toronto Transit Commission. I read recently that mass transit was the preferred means of travel in North American cities until the 1930s when, you guessed it, the state took over. Of course cars are winning, because it is a corporatist (semi-private) industry, versus mass transit which has been completely socialized. Anyone who isn’t Michael Moore’s bedfellow knows that socialization kills things, like dreams for example.

The high-speed train to New York and Chicago was my idea, or at least I thought it was until it showed up on the supplementary map of Future Toronto included with “uTOpia.” Rather than feeling robbed of my IP, I was overjoyed that someone else took that idea seriously regardless of its grand scale and unprecedented nature (in North America). In the book, they run it under Lake Ontario, which may be too costly, but one way or the other,  the northeastern region needs to start behaving like the interconnected creature that it is.

 Again, I recommend this book to everyone. However, if your taste aligns with mine at all, some parts of the book may appear too leftist. The book glorifies Mayor David Miller, who the Toronto culturati see as one of their own. He is considered a reformer, but will by no means increase the economic and political freedom necessary to speed growth. Also, the book celebrates post-punk hipsters as the flagbearers of the new Toronto. While some of their projects are helping the city come into its own culturally, this group also embraces the anti-globalization, pro-socialist religion that has cropped up as a knee-jerk reaction to the rapid change that follows growing freedom. The most troubling part is that Toronto’s current spirit of hopefulness comes from its embrace of global humanity.

Let me add my two cents to the forward visions of Toronto: In a future world where borders are vestigial and political developments are hardly newsworthy, in a future where people are not defined by their citizenship and state interference is close to nil, Toronto could very well be the capital of the planet. It is the least affected by nationalism of any city its size. Socialism still shapes life here, but a Blue Tory revolution could put the Canadian Confederation back on the libertarian path it blazed in the early twentieth century.

Someone mentioned that Toronto should become its own province (it’s own Free State). Why not? There’s a ton of potential in this City among the Lakes. And our lives are just too short to wait.

The Ontario Soccer Association

Expect an email! I would like to get involved. For there is a region bursting with potential to create its own football universe. Ontario is ripe for a proper league system, proper clubs, and proper governance. By proper, I mean the opposite of MLS and Toronto FC. I mean, they’re okay as an exhibition league, but real football goes further than the Laws of the Game. Real football has an entire culture attached, and while North Americans are getting better at imitating it (buying club scarves etc), we’re not generating it.

 Enough critique. Here’s what the OSA can do right now: organize existing leagues and encourage new ones until a full pyramid for play is created. It is my understanding that this has already been done to some extent with youth leagues and amateur leagues. But the key is this: Ontario should push to be recognized as a member federation of FIFA, and in the meantime create and promote a league system rivalling any in Europe. Why do this in spite of Canada? Because association football, like many things, was designed by Europeans. It is meant to function on the level of a European state, which is equivalent to our ‘provinces.’ Europe always shunned superstates like the ones we call Canada and the United States.

So, I would like to see autonomous clubs encouraged throughout Ontario, from the amateur to the professional. Every city neighborhood, every rural town, every church, school, and company could field a team at some level. And if they succeed, then promotion will follow (regardless of financial situation). For if we return to the note on “culture generation,” Ontario’s SA could be the first to ask leagues to provide play facilities matching their status for clubs that have the merit to play at a certain level but not the finances. Of course, the clubs will want to provide their own grounds eventually for purposes of pride and income.

More to come on this topic later…

Got Me Going

America VS Canada

This survey got me going…

I moved to Ontario because I think Toronto is one of the most extraordinary cities on the planet, and because there were opportunities here. Yet, as I work my way into an industry, I remember that I will hit a point here when it’s not worth making more money because the taxes just go up and up.

The survey ranks American states and Canadian provinces by their economic freedom rating, and finds that only Alberta competes with America high up on the list. Ontario is the next province on the list, but only after almost every American state has been exhausted. Except, of course, little gems like West Virginia.

The Fraser Institute, the Canadian foundation that commissioned the study, concluded that federal transfer payments are to blame for the provinces’ poor record of growth and freedom. I couldn’t agree more.

For those who don’t know me, I’m not a big fan of the federalist system that has emerged in America and was copied around the world. My belief is that the ‘US Constitution’ was the first of many small coups against the freedom and self-government for which so many died in the 1770s. I dream of a world of free states, in which humanity defends itself from the twin political evils of nationalism and socialism, as well as the everyday evils of violence and coercion. I will reiterate this point time and again, that America and Canada are not nations. At their best, they were meant to be confederations of self-governing states, in league for their mutual defense from foreign invaders.

I will surely argue that point in more detail later on. For now, let’s take it as a premise, and examine Canada’s federal transfer payments. While ‘federal,’ or imperial, governments have overstepped their bounds in many fields, we should focus on the ethical merits of this particular intrusion. If the provinces are, in theory, sovereign and independent, what business does Ottawa have in stealing from one to give to the others? Does it repel foreign armies? Does it settle disputes between confederated states? Neither of these apply, and nothing beyond these would be in the purview of a proper confederal administration.

Allow me to use this one issue to draw light on the grand picture, and to make a proposal. The grand picture is that theoretically independent states which made compacts for their mutual defense have since become overwhelmed and subordinated by the administrators of said compacts; that they have been subordinated to the status of local government districts within vast, unitary empires; that, as a result, freedom has been curtailed and our oppressors actions differ little from the authoritarian People’s Republic of China; that we have been made to believe that nation-states are the only legitimate states, by the United Nations and its adherents’ worldview; and therefore, that Ontario and every other state whose denizens yearn to gain or regain their freedom, independence, and right of self-government, need a Confederation Society to connect individuals toward their natural cause: liberty!

Brief

I have an interest in advancing an anti-federalist, libertarian model of statehood, in reforming association football in New York and the rest of North America, and in providing a unique view of a million other topics that are widely under-thought. The contributions will be varied, but they will have in common a vision that cuts through mediocrity. For too often my fellow man fails to think grandly because he is convinced that he is small. In any pursuit, I can guarantee that you are not small, but in fact the biggest creative force the universe has ever known.

A ‘blog’ is a podium for excluded voices. Allow me to join the conversation.