In Pleasantville: Libertarianism and the Cult of Liber, author Ehud Would at Faith and Heritage commits a slew of inaccuracies in attempting to refute libertarianism. I really tire of having to point out that Ayn Rand was not a libertarian and did not like libertarianism; she literally created her own philosophy called Objectivism. Eventually in the piece he gets around to pointing this out, but it’s hard for me to take any critique seriously that includes her beliefs.
Like so many before him, Would attempts to equate libertarianism with libertinism by appealing to etymological arguments; the words sound the same and have similar origins, so they thus must mean the same thing, or at the very least teach the same principle. He also interprets libertarianism doctrine of self-ownership as being incompatible with biblical teachings that man is owned by God.
In doing so, he makes the same error as so many who fail to grasp libertarianism’s limited scope. As Gerard Casey stated quite clearly in his book Libertarian Anarchy, the philosophy is an incomplete moral theory that stresses self-ownership in regards to human relations. In other words, when two people interact, they both have rights that the other cannot violate. This is the basis of property rights.
Libertarianism does not attempt to address spiritual and religious matters, as well as moral and ethical issues. It deals solely with the use of coercion and aggression. Other questions are to be answered by other philosophies or systems.
However, Ehud Would misinterprets self-autonomy as a theological assertion, when it is confined to human relations. Man may or may not be owned by God, but that is irrelevant to the question of whether or not anyone else owns a man other than himself. God may own you, but libertarianism says no other human does. That is why thou shalt not steal; how can you steal if a man doesn’t own something you take from him?
The libertarian view is liberation from the telos of man under God, from all communal identities of nation, clan, race, church, and all other intermediate communities and allegiances, and disencumbrance from all that defines the family itself and, therefore, man himself.
This entire statement is incorrect. There is nothing in the philosophy that says you cannot identity with others on the basis of nationality, race, religion, and other entities. Contrary to what some misguided libertarians believe (perhaps he is critiquing these personal views and not libertarianism itself) the natural order is highly organized and dictates that people form groups on the basis of common identities. They are not and would not interact as hyper-atomized individuals void of any societal, cultural, or national communal ties.
Continuing with his “libertarianism is libertinism” argument, he writes further:
This is why and how they embrace sodomy as a “personal choice,” and so-called gay marriage* as a licit “private contract” rather than a crime. It’s how they dismiss our national borders as “an imaginary line” rather than the lawful bounds of our national jurisdiction. It sanctions adultery, prostitution, incest, miscegenation, and, if consistent, even pedophilia.
Notice Ehud Would uses the word “sanctions,” which means “official permission or approval for an action.” Libertarian does not sanction any action. It only forbids certain kinds of actions, but does not approve of any action, even if it is permissible.
My beliefs forbid me from using force to stop people from making ignorant statements about libertarianism, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are, in fact, ignorant statements that should be refuted.
On a side (and personal) note, placing interracial marriage on the same (im)moral lines as incest and pedophilia is inexcusable. It’s why nuanced, mature discussions about that topic with people on either side are simply impossible.
Further, as anyone who reads this blog can tell you, libertarians are not all on the same page when it comes to the question of national borders. Men such as myself, Lew Rockwell and Hans Herman Hoppe believe open borders to be forced integration and a violation of private property rights.
Like so many libertarian critics, Would either doesn’t know, or pretends these people don’t exist.
Once more, he is demanding something from the philosophy which it does not claim to offer. A private society could easily limit or prevent certain behavior deemed destructive by the people within it through noncoercion means. However, that is up to the people themselves to decide.
But Would presumes that unless state violence is allowed, then everyone must personally approve of the lifestyle. That is like arguing a society which allows people to watch Star Trek must force Star Wars fan to support it, too.
He then goes off the rails and claims libertarianism is borderline satanic.
The laws of Moses and Mises are not the same and cannot be reconciled. Where Moses commands us to love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves, Mises says, in effect, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” Which is also known as the Law of Thelema, the ethic of satanism.
Must I say again that libertarianism is not a complete moral theory? I can do so for the cheap seats, which apparently are full.
Mises was an economist and wrote about economics. He never argued that everyq uestion should be answered by addressing its economic value. A few years back, Tom Woods explained why this has nothing to do with morality or spirituality – for the life of me I can’t find the video.
“Do whatever you want” is not the core principle of libertarianism, and no serious libertarian thinker, including Murray Rothbard, argued that was the case. This is a needless strawman.
He goes to conclude:
But it is the Christian’s job to call out this lie of autonomy in all its iterations, subtle though it may sometimes be. If we hope to drive back this present darkness which encircles us, and restore Pleasantville, we are bound to repudiate not just Hollywood’s mystery cult narrative, but also the ideologies which mirror it on the Right in the likes of libertarianism, Objectivism, laissez faire capitalism, pluralism (the modern reinterpretation of freedom of religion), and so called civic nationalism. These can be overcome only by the power of Christ. All other means, by presumption of personal and noetic autonomy, cede the argument to the enemy from the outset.
Except Would isn’t calling on the power of Christ – he is rationalizing his belief in using state violence to bring about the will of Christ.
I have previously stressed the fact that what I believe about the world is a description rather than prescription, but often people confuse the former for the latter. I have zero – zero – interest in telling other people what to do. That doesn’t bother many; what drives them insane is that I demand reciprocity – don’t tell me what to do with my life or force me to subsidize yours.
It may shock some of you reading this, but I actually dislike talking politics with people, because it is a conversation about how we should force people to do something or not do something.
I see the world as it is, not how I want it to be, and attempting to control its direction through the state is the height of arrogance and folly.
Here, we have an example of the opposite stance.
Would and others like him clearly have a prescription for how people must conduct themselves and want to use the state to coerce them into complying. He emphatically believes that without the state it could not be achieved.
But this opens up a slew of questions, chief of which is this: what gives their government legitimacy over another? After all, if they don’t even own themselves – as they claim God owns them – what right do they have to use violence against others?
I contend that in a free society based upon libertarian principles, the natural order would dictate that beneficial lifestyles would lead to prosperity and harmful, destructive behaviors would be limited because those who engage in it would not be shielded from the consequences as we see today. Those who make bad choices would suffer, and those who made wise choices would flourish.
Those who wage war against nature need the state to shift the cost of their actions onto others.
If a man’s law is in accordance with God’s law, he should not need to engage in aggression or coercion via a criminal entity against others to fulfill it. The undying belief in the necessity of the state to fulfill the natural order perpetuates a cult of imperium.