My first in a series of weekly videos about up and coming issues. This week: net neutrality.
An article was recently published on the libertarian blog Radical Capitalist that sparked a lot of controversy within the libertarian community. Even the title itself is divisive: There is Nothing Unlibertarian About White Nationalism.
Considering Radical Capitalist’s previous articles, it comes as no surprise to me that they would take such a tolerant stance towards ethno-nationalism. At its core, the article is right in one way: libertarians believe in freedom of association, and as long as it is never becomes violent in nature, there is nothing we can morally do to prevent white nationalists, or any other type of racially discriminatory group from existing in a libertarian society.
However, as a person who often finds myself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend libertarianism against accusations of racism, articles like this do nothing to help my cause. Therefore, I would like to look at this issue from the opposite side. Though there is nothing unlibertarian about white nationalism, there is also nothing white nationalist about libertarianism.
I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning: I think racism and its practice in ethno-nationalism are ultimately useless and detrimental to society. This is my personal stance. However, as I have previously mentioned on this blog, libertarianism, and more specifically, anarcho-capitalism are “thin” political philosophies. They are concerned with economics and non-aggression, and leave the rest up to the individual. That means that in a libertarian society, there might be white nationalists, but there would also be black nationalists, racial diversity advocates, feminists, mens’ rights activists, and even communists. That’s right, even people with views directly antithetical to libertarianism would be allowed to live in a libertarian society as long as they abided by the non-aggression policy.
The positive side of this is that, in a libertarian society, discrimination-based movements are effectively neutered by virtue of the non-aggression policy. The worst they can do is cut off their association with a specific race, something most people in society frown upon anyway. Any racial violence these groups would commit would be met with punishment or retaliation just like any other NAP violation. The de-clawed version of white nationalism takes away some of its negative aspects, but I, and most other people in a libertarian society would still find it morally reprehensible. The proportion of white nationalists to non-white nationalists is likely to be similar to what we have in modern America. The KKK is allowed to exist, but its members account for .00002% of the population (by the generous estimate of the SPLC), and the organization is almost universally despised. Our societal opposition to racial hate groups is not informed by government, and as has been proven recently, people are so wary of racism and nationalism that they ensure people lose their jobs if they are accused of it.
Still, although the Radical Capitalist article, at least in its title, is true, I fail to see how it does anything but divide the Libertarian movement. Out of all the subjects he could choose, Ethan Chan chose this one while representing libertarianism on a libertarian blog. Unsurprisingly, most things are not “unlibertarian.” Chan could have written an article called “There is Nothing Unlibertarian About Pickles,” and still have been right. He chose white nationalism as his subject deliberately to defend its values from a libertarian perspective. By doing so, he is doing the same thing as Stefan Molyneux. He is taking advantage of the simplicity of libertarianism to attach his own opinions and beliefs. While Chan said, “There is Nothing Unlibertarian about White Nationalism,” if he wanted to be truly objective, he could have said “White Nationalism and Libertarianism Have Nothing to do with Each Other.”
I cannot claim that Ethan Chan is not within his right to do this. He is allowed to support whatever he wants as a libertarian. However, that does not mean that I will not speak up when I see an article that begs its readers to conflate libertarianism with white nationalism. I am quite suspicious of Chan’s claims that libertarianism is not opposed to all forms of collectivism. He claims that libertarians who support such things as organized religions and western values should have no issue with ethno-nationalism as well. It is here that I would draw a clear distinction between those two things.
Organized religions, like companies, are voluntary hierarchies built upon the natural human need for spiritual enrichment. This is their product, and it is usually give away for free provided members voluntarily donate to them. Christianity-based Western values emphasize the autonomy and responsibility of the individual, in the same way libertarianism does. This is why so many Christians tend to be Libertarians or Conservatives. This is a very different thing from ethno-nationalism, which collectivizes people based on the arbitrary characteristic of their skin color and where they were born. This practice forms the “organic nations” described by Rothbard himself as collectivist and unlibertarian. Though there is disagreement on this in the libertarian community, it doesn’t mean that any one person is right.
Unlike many other political philosophies, libertarians cannot and should not consider themselves as part of a collective in regards to politics. One of the cornerstones of libertarianism is praxeology, the science of human action, which claims that group action must be understood in terms of individual actions. So when one libertarian steps forward to defend white nationalism, it is important to remember his view starts and ends only with him. The opinion of one libertarian is not the opinion all libertarians accept.
As far as where I personally stand, I reject concepts of ethno-nationalism. They fail to unite people on anything that is actually meaningful, but consider the circumstances of their birth more important than the actions they choose to make in their lives. This counters the voluntaryist principles that libertarianism is built around, and therefore, I do not believe that nationalist movements have any conscionable place within it. At the very least, the two are unrelated and should not ever be conflated. Saying this doesn’t make me a bleeding heart left-libertarian as Chan might say, it just makes me a decent human being.
Ah, Stefan Molyneux. Professed anarcho-capitalist, men’s rights activist, and purveyor of the most insane concepts in the right wing sphere. He claims forgiveness is useless, all negative societal behaviors are the result of early childhood abuse, and the family itself is a system of said abuse. As one of the internet’s most outspoken AnCaps, he really sets the standard for what a lot of people think about the philosophy. Thanks to Molyneux and people like him, many people see AnCaps as radicals so insane, even the Libertarian party rejects them. However, pointing to Molyneux as the example for how most AnCaps behave would be like showing moderate Christians this video from the Westboro Baptist Church and saying “This is what you guys believe, right?” Unfortunately for more rational libertarians, our political stance does tend to attract the crazies. As Murray Rothbard said, “marginal movements attract marginal people.”
Perhaps addressing the internet’s most insane anarcho-capitalist would be considered reaching for low-hanging fruit, but as someone devoted to the core principles of anarchism and the free market, I feel it is my duty to separate myself, and anarcho-capitalism, from someone who I believe does not actually support it. Molyneux can call himself an AnCap, but his more radical beliefs prove contrary to the individualist core of the philosophy. His conspiracy theories are just one case in a larger problem within libertarianism. Because it is a “thin” political philosophy, people tend to connect their own personal views to it, even if those personal views prove to be destructive.
Here is an excerpt from Molyneux’s treatise on the family. It is here that his least individualist beliefs rear their ugly heads. Take this quote, for example:
“You are told to repair things with your parents, but that is an impossible task—a complete waste of time that will also make you crazy. Since they hurt you when you were young, you cannot fix the relationship. To make the point with an extreme example, if you are raped by a man, you cannot cure him of his desire to rape. Maybe someone else can, but you cannot. Since your parents bullied or bribed you into blind obedience, you cannot help them become better people. Maybe someone else can. A therapist perhaps. But not you. You have no hope, since their guilt about how they treated you will always muck up any attempt at honest communication.
And really, it is impossible to forgive someone who has bullied a child. Forgiveness is for repairable events, like being distracted or breaking a vase. A bad childhood cannot be repaired or returned intact. Where restitution is impossible, forgiveness is impossible. Don’t even try.
Does this sound too radical? Do you think it extreme for me to say that almost all parents are horribly bad? Perhaps it is. However, if you look at the state of the world—the general blindness and the slow death of our liberties—the challenge you take on by disagreeing with me is this: if it’s not the parents, what is it?
Either the world is not sick, or parents are. Because, as my wife says, it all starts with the family. If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.”
Could there be anything more contradictory than a so-called individualist anarchist claiming that the power wielded by an abusive parent is so great, it is beyond the individual’s control to forgive or repair? That there are some relationships so damaged, it is better to cut them off than work to fix them, or else you will forever be a victim? Additionally, how can he reasonably blame the political beliefs of the children on the actions of the parents? A true individualist would reason that each man, regardless of his upbringing, is responsible for his own beliefs. If anything is to blame for the “slow death of our liberties,” I would claim it is the entitlement complex of the individuals asking for restrictive government policies, not the abusive nature of their parents.
Even more outrageously, Molyneux provides no defense for his claim that bad parenting is the cause of increasingly oppressive political motions. His “proof” for this is that politics are getting worse and everyone’s parents are terrible, and because these two events are happening at the same time, they must be related. A classic case of correlation not implying causation.
All the problems with how Molyneux makes his argument aside, the idea itself is unsound. He is just as misguided as anyone else who justifies morally reprehensible behavior for the sake of politics. By saying that it is politically justifiable to abandon your family, he forgets the reason why most people support political philosophies in the first place. I’m not an AnCap because it sounds edgy, or even because it would benefit me personally. I’m an AnCap because I want everyone to be free and have their best shot at success. I believe in the power of the individual. That’s why I don’t like it when people like Stefan Molyneux make political statements that are anti-human. To me, you believe in politics because of people. I think Molyneux can say whatever he wants, but he would be wrong to connect his philosophy to anarcho-capitalism. Not only does it have nothing to do with anarchism or capitalism, but his theories would actually be detrimental to a stateless society.
Many people mischaracterize anarchism as an abandonment of morality. They presume that since anarchists don’t believe in laws, they must therefore condone the violence and abuse that laws are made to prevent. These people fail to realize that just like everyone else, us anarchists believe what we do because we care very much about morality. In fact, anarchism couldn’t exist without it.
It is not an opposition to order that separates anarchists from statists. It is an opposition to a government monopoly on order. Anarchists challenge the paradigm that justice is something only the state can provide. From an outside point of view, the concept of government as a force to stop crime seems absurd. Normal, moral people don’t need lawmakers to tell them not to rape, murder, or steal, and immoral people who do these things already don’t hold themselves accountable to society or the law. Therefore, it would be irrational to claim that declaring something illegal on paper would stop those immoral people from doing it.
So what would anarchists offer in favor of a state justice system? In order to answer that question, we must look at what actually keeps people from committing crimes. As has been proven in numerous studies, a person’s family situation is the single greatest indicator as to whether or not they will go on to be a criminal. The statistics are dramatic: according to studies from the U.S. Census Bureau, children from broken homes are 5 times more likely to commit crime, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and according to the U.S. Justice Department, correlations between single-parent homes and juvenile delinquency have existed since the 19th century. According to this data, the best way to reduce crime would not be putting more laws on the books, but protecting family structures.
Not only is the family our most effective defense against crime, but it is also the best way to raise future generations of responsible people. Statistics show that children with married parents perform significantly better in school, and show more responsible behavior. According to psychologist Oliver James, families are essential in teaching children how to be functioning members of society. He says, “We start off as Barbarians and what makes us civilised is being loved and looked after.” and goes on to prove that children who spend large amounts of time in daycares rather than with their parents are more likely to exhibit violent behavior. YouTube political commentator Dave Cullen takes this a step further, claiming that the rise of millenial social justice warriors is due to the disintegration of the family. Parents with little time for their children feel guilty for not being there, and are more likely to compensate for this by spoiling them. As a consequence, children who learn early on to capitalize off their parents’ guilt ultimately learn to do the same in regards to government and society. This is one explanation for the millenial generation’s tendency towards socialism and emotion-based social justice politics.
To summarize, all evidence on this subject points in the opposite direction of Molyneux’s claims. By telling people to abandon their families, he advocates for the destruction of our best alternative to state-run justice, and if anything, it is a lack of family involvement, not a surplus, that turns children on to oppressive political philosophies. As someone who came from an unstable family himself, who certainly has access to the large amount of research done on the subject, Molyneux should be able to make a distinction between those families that are abusive and those that are not, but he chooses not to. He is wrong in every way he could be wrong, and has no place connecting ideas like this to anarcho-capitalism. He can’t even seem to develop his claims beyond grand assumptions about society.
So Stefan, if you’re out there, you ought to consider that maybe there’s a reason even other AnCaps are disagreeing with you these days. It probably has less to do with society and more to do with your ideas. It’s not anarchism, capitalism, or opposition to child abuse that people are opposed to. It’s your misrepresentation of all of those things.
Promoting the two tenets of anarcho-capitalist philosophy can be a difficult balancing act considering the attitudes of most people. Those who believe in capitalism typically despise anarchism for failing to protect big business, and those who believe in anarchism typically revile capitalism. That leaves anarcho-capitalists in the unfortunate situation of having to defend both of their main principles to the other side. It is the anarchist criticism that I would like to take issue with today, the claim that anarcho-capitalists are not anarchists at all.
The argument typically goes something like this, usually spewed from the mouth of an enraged AnCom filming a video in his parents’ basement: “Those filthy anarcho-capitalists are not anarchists because they believe in hierarchy. While AnCaps misinterpret anarchism as solely an opposition to government, it was historically a left-wing philosophy that included opposition to all forms of hierarchy, including capitalism. AnCaps stole our word!”
Aside from the hilarious contradiction of communists treating the word “anarchism” as if it were their private property, there are a few other problems with this argument, the main one being that even the most staunch believers in a horizontal society still participate in hierarchy.
Most anarchist philosophies act like hierarchy is inherently wrong, but provide little evidence as to why. In reality, hierarchy, cannot be avoided. Even the most radical anti-hierarchal anarchist would not want to do away with such relationships as parent and child, or teacher and apprentice. These basic relationships are predicated on the fact that one party, the teacher or parent, has more experience, and therefore has some claim to respect from the other party if they provide them with valuable information they will need in the future. It goes without saying that humans need these things. Children begin life helpless without their parents, and a student’s skills can improve rapidly with the influence of a good teacher. In these situations, an acknowledgement of the hierarchal nature of these relationships is not only harmless, but beneficial. If these hierarchies are beneficial, what differentiates them from the voluntary contract between an employer and employee?
Anti-hierarchal anarchist views resist this reality, and deny it in two main ways. First, they falsely equate every hierarchy to a master-and-slave relationship. Such views pretend that the positive forms of hierarchy shown above are just as bad as the oppressive systems of the state. However, a truly realistic system would only regard hierarchies that achieve their power through threats and violence as oppressive. This would rule out anything voluntary, leaving only slavery, the state, and any organization that sanctions authoritarian power as unacceptable.
Secondly, a truly anti-hierarchal society would insist that you esteem a newborn and an elderly person as the same in experience, and judge the world’s best brain surgeon and the barista who forgets your coffee order as having the same value to society. Without hierarchy, one man could work twice as hard at his job as another, and contribute several times more value to the company, and the two would still be paid the same and be seen as equals. Denying any semblance of hierarchy would mean forcing the naturally unequal masses of humanity to adapt to the lowest common denominator. It would be like pretending it’s perfectly fair to allow Dream Theater to enter a high school battle of the bands, and then accusing the voters of being unfair when they win.
That is the mistake these critics of anarcho-capitalism make. The voluntary hierarchies seen in an anarcho-capitalist system do not exist to oppress those on the lower rungs, they only exist to ensure that those who improve society are paid their worth. Unlike any other anarchist philosophy, anarcho-capitalism accounts for life’s natural tendency towards hierarchy, but holds as one of its key tenets that any use of force to maintain that hierarchy is unjustified. It safeguards against the forced equality that kills work ethic, and provides the natural societal structure that allows any individual to better themselves on their own terms. If anything destroys a society, it is neither capitalism nor anarchism, but a devotion to the false idea that equality is maintained by force.