Libertarian Culture

A while back I was talking to someone about the idea of libertarian culture. They were wondering what a libertarian culture would look like in a stateless society.

I didn’t have an answer right away, but later on I realized that is no such thing as a libertarian culture as properly understood.

Culture is defined as follows:

The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

Hence, you have Western Culture, Eastern Culture, and the cultures that fall within them.

The problem with the term “libertarian culture” is that libertarianism itself is not a culture (nor a religion nor a political system nor a complete moral theory) but one of the things that make up and define a culture. It is a philosophy concerned with the legitimate and illegitimate use of force. You can have elements of libertarianism in a culture, or have it reflected in the art itself, but because it is a philosophy it can never be a true culture; it will always be an element, aspect or influence in a culture.

I hope this isn’t misinterpreted as me saying that there is no such thing as literature, songs, posters, and whatnot that reflect libertarian values. What we have to keep in mind is that libertarianism is a value, and art is a reflection of values, and art is what makes up culture. To say libertarianism is the culture is to say that the value is the culture and the culture reflects art.

If you’re wondering why you have revulsion so some types of art, most likely it’s because the artists is trying to do just this, convey art through values. This is called bad art.

For example, this is why there is no such thing as Christian culture because it is a religion. Depending on the region (Asia, Middle East, Central America) cultural values may vary significantly, making the concept of an all-encompassing culture impossible. What you have are religious or nonreligious impacts on a culture, i.e.  Protestant or Catholic influences on how a culture views life. Or, you can have cultural influences on the religion, which is why Western Christianity is profoundly different from Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

But the religion can never be the culture, and vice versa.

Or, an American libertarian is not going to have the same cultural values as a German libertarian or a Japanese libertarian. Better put, they can have different culture values because their shared belief is rooted in political philosophy, not culture.

What you see in entities like the liberty movement are a collection of different cultures united by a common belief in libertarianism, but they are still separate cultures, and libertarianism does not define those cultures.

Culture matters, and I would argue culture supersedes nearly everything else in a person’s hierarchy of association when it comes to who they prefer to interact with. Expecting people of various cultures to unite behind libertarianism only works when the objective is aligned with both cultures.

While thinking about all this I applied this principle to the current schism between various libertarian factions and realized this is the true cause for it. Some might be tempted to think of the liberty movement as a subculture of sort, but really it was a political movement that quickly splintered when cultural differences became too great to maintain unity for the sake of a political goal.

It is very important to realize that given a choice between protecting their rights and preserving their culture, most people will choose the latter. The defense of rights is seen as a means to the end, which is preserving and perpetuating their culture. People will support unpleasant political ideologies and policies if they are justified as bringing about an end result that conforms to a cultural value.

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8 Responses to Libertarian Culture

  1. mattwilson32 says:

    It seems to me that “libertarian culture” could be restated as a “culture of freedom”, in the subset of western culture. I think we do have, even if it is tiny by comparison, a culture where our art, writings and overall attitudes tend towards achieving personal freedom. But you are right that it’s not a culture in the traditional sense.

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    • The Question says:

      That is good point, and I think that is where the confusion begins. People speak of a culture of violence, for example, but they wouldn’t refer to it as violence culture.

      The inspiration for the post was when I was chatting with someone about what a libertarian culture would look like and my response then was “whatever people want it to look like,” but they were thinking of the libertarian culture, as if there was a definite one.

      Libertarians can debate what type of culture a free society would engender, but whatever it would be, it would have to conform to the natural order of things. Yet it would still not be the definite culture.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is true that most people, including likely a majority of libertarians, use their political views, and in the case of libertarianism the NAP and private property rights, as a mere means to an end. Left-libertarians (the so-called “bleeding heart libertarians”, social justice warriors, thick libertarians etc) want to use the NAP and private property rights as a means to a progressive cultural end. Right-libertarians, Paleolibertarians etc want to use the NAP and private property rights as a means to a conservative cultural end (i’m thinking specifically about Hoppe). Especially the latter has become clear to me some time after i already recognized it with the left side of libertarians. I object to both, because liberty to me is not a means, but an end. I do not want to see a particularly conservative, or particularly progressive society, because i think it is utter nonsense that the right kind of culture is one that embraces either one or the other wholesale. Frankly, i see no moral or philosophical difference between conservative and progressive libertarians, when each side argues that liberty ought to be used to achieve a certain cultural end. The question for me is: if these two sides didn’t think that the state as a means is a failure to achieve their ends, and that liberty is the most effective means to achieve it, would they even care about liberty and libertarianism? Are the libertarians means not subservient for them to their cultural ends? If the latter is the case (with libertarians) then i am not on their side and they are not my friends. Because i care about the church, or religion, as little as i do about political correctness. I care about the spouting of egalitarianism as little as i do about the spouting of specifically traditionalist values.
    Libertarianism as a means, will never be safe in the hands of those for whom it is. Once they start believing in a better or more effective means, libertarianism would be discarded.
    The left-libertarian gave itself a specific ”camp” that divided itself from the overall libertarian movement, but i see that the rest are doing the same, openly opposing the left not because of the division, but because they regard themselves as conservatives/right-wing. The stating of a cultural goal is indeed what causes the schisms, and it also has doomed libertarianism as a movement to complete failure.
    I am reaching the point where, whatever i would call myself, libertarian would not be it. Because even the ones i trusted turn out to have specific general cultural ends in mind.

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    • The Question says:

      because liberty to me is not a means, but an end.

      It’s an interesting question; what exactly do people want? I see liberty and my goals as separate but connected to one another. I want to be free to do what I want, but I also know that what I want will naturally happen if I am free. For others, it is not the case. They want to be free but without the state, the natural order of things would create a situation in which their desires could not happen. This is why some libertarians return to their vomit – without the state the “ends” they seek cannot occur.

      The question for me is: if these two sides didn’t think that the state as a means is a failure to achieve their ends, and that liberty is the most effective means to achieve it, would they even care about liberty and libertarianism?

      It really depends on the specific group or person. Telltale signs of a true statist is one who will avoid actual solutions to their problems if those solutions are outside of the state. This is why men like Aaron Clarey got lambasted for writing a book on how black men can get out of poverty without going to the state. They don’t want them freeing themselves.

      However, I do believe that the Left is much more entrenched in statism than the Right, because they value or prioritize things that go against the natural order of things, whereas the Right tends to use the state in reaction to conflicts generated by the Left.

      I am reaching the point where, whatever i would call myself, libertarian would not be it. Because even the ones i trusted turn out to have specific general cultural ends in mind.

      I understand the sentiment; you can perhaps try just summarizing your viewpoint without giving it a title. The advantage of this is they can’t attack you based on stereotypes or misconceptions; they have to respond to actual beliefs. For example, I am very much a proponent of the MGTOW movement espoused by Rob Fedders and I very much live that kind of lifestyle, but I would never call myself a MGTOW now because the term has come to mean something entirely different from the original philosophy.

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      • To give you one example of what i am talking about, i will mention an article by what i considered a previously terrific Christopher Cantwell, whom is very busy confusing libertarianism, which is about nothing more than the NAP and private property rights, with his own conservative, subjective views on “proper” behavior, even going so far as to claim there is a “libertarian case” against non-violent forms of behavior (degeneracy) he disagrees with. This is what i mean when i say that some are regarding libertarianism to be no more than mere means to some personal cultural end. When you then also read he thinks that using the state against the left, by no longer regarding the right to non-violent forms of behavior he disagrees with as defensible from a libertarian point of view (connect this with his “libertarian case against non-violent degenerate behavior”) is the way to go, i am talking about someone whom i feel is looking upon his cultural ends as more important than liberty, to the point where the state itself can also be regarded as a means to achieve this end (even if only out of pure hatred for the left). This is not principled libertarianism, it is utilitarian libertarianism and in some cases not even libertarianism.
        I don’t consider this form of libertarianism to be any different from that which uses libertarianism to achieve progressive, egalitarian ends, because just as with progressives, it presumes to prescribe for society as a whole which – extralibertarian – cultural direction it ought to go, when all such libertarians should do at the most is outline what type of lifestyle they themselves would prefer to lead in an atmosphere of liberty and non-violence.
        Long story short: they are not conveying personal preferences; they are presuming to speak for libertarians in total (again, recall Cantwell’s “libertarian case”, but also Jeffrey Tucker’s “humanitarian libertarianism”), and in doing so show they would like nothing more than to impose their own value system on everyone else.
        Whatever happens in a libertarian society, happens. I do not appreciate any libertarian telling what kind of society i *ought* to prefer or reject even ahead of time. But since there are more and more of these types of libertarians, the time may come for another split off. That of people who sees liberty as an end, to those who see it as a means.

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      • The Question says:

        Could you post the link to that article? I might consider it for a future article.

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      • http://christophercantwell.com/2016/01/02/a-strategic-libertarian-case-against-non-violent-degeneracy/
        I reiterate my point of view that while there may be a subjective, non-libertarian, conservative case against non-violent ‘degeneracy’ (threat to established traditions etc), there CANNOT be a libertarian case against such. Libertarianism means the non-aggression principle, and private property rights. There is no libertarian case against anything that does not violate either of the two, lest libertarianism be about more than these two, which Cantwell himself vehemently opposed when he justifiably condemned the progressive “thick” libertarian camp consisting of Jeff Tucker and Cathy Reisenwitz, among others. Cantwell is now assuming some conservative case against “degeneracy” can be integrated into libertarianism qua libertarianism, but this is no different than trying to smuggle a progressive, egalitarian case against inequality into libertarianism qua libertarianism. Cantwell with this argument has become the other side of the same coin.
        Aside from this, what he deems “degeneracy”, if non-aggressive and non-violative of private property, is nothing more than a subjective opinion on the desirability of behaviors and opinions of others, for which he has no more logical grounding than subjective opinions that progressive ‘libertarians’ have, in the context of libertarianism.

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      • The Question says:

        I reiterate my point of view that while there may be a subjective, non-libertarian, conservative case against non-violent ‘degeneracy’ (threat to established traditions etc), there CANNOT be a libertarian case against such.

        I agree. I wouldn’t call it a “libertarian case,” but I would definitely see the detriments these behaviors have on a society.

        I do, however, empathize with Cantwell’s point; the focus for too many libertarians is on libertine behaviors rather than major issues that guarantee the state’s perpetuity and its stranglehold on society. The state is more than willing to provide an opiate to the masses if it placates them and distract them from their servitude. Far better if they focused on getting the state out of things like the institution of marriage and the family.

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