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12/14/2012

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Why bother with nullification when leading proponents of libertarianism (see below) extend their "government is evil by definition" to all levels of government - state and local.

This is where I see the problem with anarchists and likeminded libertarians. They are entirely preoccupied with criticing government (which is easily a full-time and in moral terms highly rewarding job for any intelligent person concerned with freedom), and forget the even harder task of making it better. The implication more or less smuggled in being: who needs that nuisance (government) to begin with.

Well, it is there, and it won't go away easily.

Read my brief comment here:

http://cafehayek.com/2012/12/quotation-of-the-day-490.html

I think the anti-state position of libertarians is essential. There exists a full-time task of ridicule due to the ubiquitous nature of government these days and there needs to be a counter argument against the apologists, lobbyists, propagandists, etc.

If the very nature of government is not perceived by many as detrimental in its entirety or, in your case Georg, in part, then it can be applied to all areas of life with its one-size-fits-all solution: socialism. And as Charles Kors reminds us, "No cause, EVER, in the history of all mankind, has produced more slaughtered innocence, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead."

Your wish to make government better presents a challenge. In medical parlance, one must rid oneself of a vastly critical and spreading cancer without killing the patient. Remember too that those areas which you deem essential have been corrupted by socialism so they too would need to be amenable, somehow, toward changing back to a rule-of-law (ROL) mindset and its the smaller capacity accorded to it. Given that most governments start out based on ROL, the next hurdle is to ensure that they do not entice the people into use as expedient problem solver - then morphing into their mature form later on as handler-of-all-things.

The full-time complainers then, imo, have their place so that there can be agreement for the shrinking of government - not the betterment of it - because it now exists in all areas and is therefore at its most misanthropic. Solutions can hopefully follow in market form but only if marketable, meaning government must not exist as forced competitor to allow advantages for some over others. There has never been a law passed, in all of its existence, where government didn't deem new laws necessary and beneficial - from the sedition acts to the enabling acts, to corn laws to cap & trade. They possessed the cover of societal beneficence. An anti-government conscience must exist to counteract such laws and the thinking which allows them, for it is society that ultimately buys into such rhetoric and few desire to stand alone in defiance, wishing instead to fall back on the group.

The libertarians provide the group wherein such discussion and agreement can exist. When market solutions are then offered, they are not without support by some faction of the country.

Nullification is such a solution and is a vital tool against those who would usurp the ROL in this country. It is based on federalism, where the states experiment, legally, for solutions rather than the central government. Most libertarians with whom you disagree philosophically are supportive of nullification and its implication of the sovereign nature of these united states and their agreed constitutional contract with a central power, if for no other reason than having the legal decision made closer to the people, reflecting a better form of agreement due to a more local consensus and the freedom allowed (voting with one's feet). The idea of nullification exists and thrives today in large part because of those anarchists with whom you disagree.


I am glad I can ventilate my dissent with someone of your calibre, Eric, a highly respected friend and discerning mind.

There is quite a number of libertarians, I am beginning to find out, that are so flabbergasted, even offended by my thoughts they simply call me names, or just turn away at the unspeakable nonsense I tend to utter.

Outside of our circle here at RSE, I have discovered an intra-libertarian political correctness that rests on poorly supported dogmas and a high irascibility when these dogmas are called into question. But this is a topic for another exchange or blog entry. However, one thing I have learnt thanks to this discovery: never exempt a fellow libertarian from the most penetrative analysis that you are capable of. We are fallible, and there are huge areas in which our thinking is weakly developed, including political theory and the theory of the state.

But let me finally turn to the main message:

It seems, increasingly the new default position of liberals (original meaning of the word) as to the future and form of liberty is wishing for the magical disappearance of the state.

Originally, liberalism (original meaning) was first and foremost concerned with the utility of the state and the need to reduce or neutralise its toxic potential. The consitutional documents, e.g., strike me as an effort at ensuring good government and the advantages of a non-toxic (combination of) state(s on different levels).

I suspect that the advanced degeneracy of liberalism (original meaning) in America as manifested, for example, in the sad development of the Republican party, as well as the "social democratisation/Europeanisation" of the American mind, have a lot to do with the fact that liberals (original meaning) have increasingly withdrawn to an attitude of only complaining about government and refusing to partcipate in "the dirty game" of politics, let alone seeking positions and influence inside the state.

By refraining from participation in politics and the conquest of the state, both of which tasks are indispensable to defend and enforce liberty, the liberals have left the battlefield entirely to those who care much less about liberty, if at all.

Little wonder, liberty is so weak.

The underlying fundamental error is the inability to comprehend and face the fact that market type behaviour is not capable of creating the preconditions for market-type behaviour and that liberty is incapable of generating liberty out of herself.

Markets and liberty must be fought for in the political field before they can be, and liberals must occupy the state if its toxicity is to be effectively restrained.

To make a statement like the above one is associated with a high liklihood of instantly becoming persona non grata amongst modern libertarians, as I increasingly experience (outside of our circle at RSE).

There are immense affective barriers of this kind that have become part and parcel of the socialisation of the contemporary liberal.

As a leading anarcho-libertarian scholar told me recently, he conceives of a division of labour between the anarcho-capitalists and the minarchists, and within that division of labour "we are happy to leave politics to the minarchists."

In the meantime, I am beginning to understand that liberty is far more difficult than I used to think -- especially when it comes to defending and recreating liberty practically (as one needs to every day anew).

I discover more and more, being a liberal is not a good role to choose for someone who likes to be right all the time about everything.

Liberty is an ongoing experiment and those who make the effort to build her within the political process and inside the structures of government and the state will achieve some, perhaps even big success, they will also most certainly experience terrible defeat and make enormous mistakes. Our success is not a foregone conclusion. I suspect, many libertarians are afraid to get entangled in this fuzzy-ended world, in which libertarians can terribly fail personally and as a movement, and prefer to relish a comfortable sense of being backed by the best thought through ideals.

Liberals used to be defusers of explosives that physically dealt with and tried to deactivate explosives, and actually used them if they could serve a good purpose; today, the defusers demand that there be no explosives, to begin with, and only swear at them when they see some.

To the extent that parts of this comment may seem perhaps even vitriolic they do not relate to my friends at RSE - to the contrary, I was drawn to and continue to feel at home at RSE, as Laura Ebke has managed to bring together people of very different approaches to liberty, and we have been friends all those years and remain friends today and surely in the future.

Actually, I seem to be undergoing the process of a certain Ebkefication as far as my approach to liberty is concerned.

Thanks, Laura.

Thanks also to Eric Parks, whose superb blog entries and commentary have often "forced" me to look more carefully into issues I had previously taken for granted or entirely ignored.

You make me change and develop, and I am grateful to you for it.

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