Attention, Libertarian!

The sage Lew Rockwell wrote this piece in 1996, during another one of those tribal conflicts we call federal presidential elections.

It is important reading for those of us who quickly call ourselves ‘libertarians’, accepting the pessimism and hopelessness that hangs on that label. It reminds us that we are part of a proud tradition that has proven its success and popularity worldwide since the Age of Enlightenment, and even back to antiquity: liberalism. Continue reading

Forward: A Sane Voice on Travel Security

The National Post’s editorial board wrote a piece that pretty well elucidates my response to the Greyhound Bus attack in Manitoba.

I’m glad someone in this nutty world isn’t calling for more ‘security measures’ every time something bad happens.

Why are the NDP wrong on every issue? I hear they now want to take ownership of your organs, unless you specifically opt-out.

Don’t get me started on the issues down south. Have you ever heard of millimeter wave scanners? They’re coming to an airport near you to digitally expose your spouse’s and children’s naked bodies. Someone ought to arrest those creeps at the TSA, each and every one of them. More on that later.

I am a liberal. They are not.

It’s amazing how many different words the statists have used, over the years, to dress up their same, tired philosophy. They’ve called it Conservative, Progressive, Fascist, Nationalist, Communist, Socialist, Egalitarian, Centrist, Third Way, Green, Monarchist, Loyalist, Revolutionary, but, here in North America, the one that really grinds my gears is liberal.

Liberal is our word, the ‘our’ being what are presently called libertarians. People are identified as libertarian if they are “socially-liberal and economically-conservative.” It seems in this parlance, liberal means free on the social spectrum and conservative means free on the economic spectrum. Doesn’t that seem like a language trick to confuse people? The powers-that-be give you two labels from which to choose: liberal offers you social freedom and economic slavery, and conservative the opposite. That way, if you believe in something like social AND economic freedom, you either have to take on one of the existing labels with some silly modifier (market liberal, paleoconservative, et al) or accept a less-catchy term like libertarian.

The great injustice is that the term liberal was outright stolen from libertarians by the socialists of the early 20th century. ‘Liberal’ comes from the latin root liber, meaning free. A liberal has always meant someone who believes in freedom, in other words a modern libertarian. In Continental Europe, it is still largely used in this manner. Over here, the early socialists had a problem they didn’t face in Europe: no one believed their bullshit. Americans discovered political liberty, and it had served us well. So, the socialists figured out how to turn our own language against us. They called our notion of liberty ‘negative liberty’ and their notion of government interference ‘positive liberty.’ You see, now it wasn’t enough to have the potential to fulfill your desires, you were now entitled to fulfill them. What that meant for the people who now had to work toward YOUR goals was ignored, as was the debate over whose goals would be pursued (usually it translates into the politically well-connected). So, now we had moved from liberals to negative liberals. Once the socialists got their foot in the door linguistically, many people found a way to justify their instinctual drives for cheating and violence. Soon after, liberal came to only mean socialist, and lost all of its libertarian connotation.

Some of us now call ourselves classical liberals, while a great many others identify as true conservatives. The latter is laughable, though it has translated into electoral success, because libertarians have always fought the conservatives – those who wanted to maintain their grasp on power through monarchy, aristocracy, theocracy, or else-wise. Even the modern ‘conservative coalition’ is just a nonsensical mix of libertarians, nationalists, and christian democrats set up by a man that I would call a (classical) liberal: Ronald Reagan.

Well I say we ditch the epithet and take back our word. I am a liberal: I believe in severely-restricted government, reforming our electoral system, returning power to the States, voting independent, and increasing personal and economic liberty in every way. I do not vote Democrat: those people are socialists. I do not vote Republican: those people are nationalists. I am neither left-wing nor right-wing, left-leaning nor right-leaning, for the only true dichotomy is between freedom and slavery. I do not believe there is such a thing as positive liberty, except insofar as all liberty is positive if you exclude other ideologies masquerading as liberty. I am a liberal, a libertarian, a free-marketeer, a propertarian, a minarchist, but mostly I am a liberal. And they are not.

The Vocabulary of Post-Modern Freedom

Libertarians often feel that they are fighting a reactive war on enemy turf. This is often true, but to what extent is it our fault. In other words, what can we control to make the political environment more suitable for liberty. Vocabulary, the language of political discourse, should be our main target.

Libertarians hardly realize that they are often using the language of authoritarians. Partly, this is due to our movement lacking a comprehensive political theory. We certainly surpass the Greens and others in having an original policy proposal for every political issue, but we noticeably overlook questions of the form of government and answers phrased in words illustrative of libertarian thought.

Liberatic, or Free State, Theory seeks to address this. It seeks to formulate a political theory, vocabulary, and worldview for libertarians in the postmodern age.

For example, libertarians should start by taking back the word ‘liberal.’ It described us from its coinage to its cooptation by socialists in liberal clothing. When we speak of liberals, we will mean the ‘big tent’ of people in the libertarian quadrant of the Nolan Chart. Correspondingly, libertarians might forego recent tradition and work within ‘liberal’ parties rather than ‘conservative’ parties.

Which brings us to another point. Libertarians are not conservatives, right-wingers, or nationalists. Though they seem to find us more comfortable bedfellows recently than socialists do, we are not them and have traditionally opposed them. Conservatism is a chronological ideology: it seeks to preserve the recent past, regardless of what that was. That’s why it is so hard to define across states and time periods. It’s opposite is not liberalism, which is a philosophical ideology, but progressivism – which seeks to move politics toward the next fashion. Libertarians will be conservatives in places like the States, where libertarianism is losing ground to authoritarianism, but they will be progressives in places like Italy, which have no recent period of widespread libertarianism. Does this make sense? Right-winger has the same problem. As you can see on the Nolan Chart above, the right-to-left political spectrum is designed to exclude libertarianism. It allocates half of the libertarian program to the right and half to the left. This has caused great damage to public understanding of what liberty is, as it isn’t taught in government schools. If we are anything, we are ‘up-wing,’ and totalitarians are ‘down.’ That sounds about right, doesn’t it? We are the ‘light-side,’ and they are the ‘dark.’ Traditional politics is endless shades of grey. Finally on this point, we arrive at the term ‘nationalist.’

This hits at the heart of the lesson. With reference made to The Ethics of Secession, which informed the liberatic position, let us all understand that fighting for a ‘nation,’ promoting ‘nation-states,’ supporting the ‘United Nations,’ or even using the word ‘international,’ are all very un-libertarian things to do. A nation-state is a particular political order, dominant in the modern world, that identifies the principle right of self-determination not by the voluntary cooperation of sovereign individuals but rather by the correspondence between a state/political class and a particular socio-ethno-linguistic group. Democrats do the same, but their group is called the ‘demos’ instead of the ‘nation,’ and its only requirement is that is be identifiable and constant. Both ideologies have an utter duopoly on political theory, and we are almost forced to use their language. That is why liberals are often called ‘liberal democrats,’ and why centrist Americans support ‘freedom and democracy’ – as if they were inextricably linked.

So, we don’t want to promote concepts like: democracy, nationalism, internationalism, the nation-state, federalism, social liberalism, conservatism, socialism, etc. Then we must have our own vocabulary. What does the postmodern liberal, the liberatic libertarian, want to see in the world?

He wants to see unitary ‘free states,’ or ‘liberacies,’ based on individual sovereignty, existing not to serve a nation or demos but to protect the liberty of all human beings within a territory. These liberacies will permit secession, incorporate sortition and other power-mediating strategies, follow an agreed system of law with no legislative capacity for the government, subordinate and divide the executive, focus only on night-watchman functions, but will remain as strong as possible in counteracting aggression. They will evolve by four methods: confederation, union, accession, and secession. Confederation is a league of two or more states, with each sending a delegation to a Congress, to provide for mutual defense. Union is the creation of one new liberacy from two, both of which are subsumed into a new government for the whole territory. Accession is the joining of one liberacy into another, where the former is subsumed into the latter. Secession is the withdrawal of a territory from a liberacy, the exercise of which is a right of all free people.

Liberacy itself is a latin construction from the root ‘liber,’ meaning freedom, and the suffix ‘-acy,’ to indicate being in the state of. Therefore, to live within a Liberacy is ‘to be in a state of freedom.’ This is similar in meaning to ‘being in a state of happiness:’ a matter-of-fact statement on the way things are. This is differentiated from other forms of government, which have terms ending in -archy or -ocracy. These latter forms indicate the rule of a state by a particular group. For example, democracy means ‘rule of the people’ or ‘rule of the majority.’ The term ‘free state’ is something of an English translation, already in use by The Free State Project. The adjectival form of liberacy is ‘liberatic,’ while the noun is liberal or libertarian. So now, I expect to see libertarian parties support liberacy (the libertarian state) over democracy (the majoritarian state) or nationalism (the nation-state). I expect talk in libertarian clubs to discuss globalization, a libertarian phenomenon, over internationalism, a statist phenomenon. In parallel, terms like ‘interstate,’ ‘intercontinental,’ or ‘global’ should entirely replace ‘international’ as a term of art.

We should be talking up concepts like sortition, like private mass transit, like private urban design, like anti-federalism or confederalism. Here in the Canadian Confederation (notice my use of liberatic terminology to describe Canada), we should be pushing for the elimination of the Canadian House of Commons, the expansion of the Senate with a delegation from each province (selected by whatever method that province chooses), the reduction of the role of the Confederal (currently Federal) government to defense, the end of the monarchy, the changing of the term ‘province’ to ‘free state,’ the welcoming of all immigrants and even new members to the confederation, the use of sortition for free state offices, the end of the RCMP, the end of the Social Insurance Number, the institution of free banking (or rather, the de-institution of central banking), and more.

But it all starts with how we speak. We have to affect the worldview of our local cultures. Most people can’t imagine a world without nations, without fiat currency, without zoning. First, libertarians must examine their own vocabulary and worldview, then spread the words. So spread the words!