Why Libertarians Are Hopeless
I’ve come to some revelations as of late which have radically altered my worldview. It has been as upsetting as it has been exciting. For several years I have expressed my frustrations against certain elements of the libertarian movement which might most recognizably be categorized as leftist. I am far from the first to see their presence as a disaster and even dangerous. This is a very old problem, and it gets worse by the day. I have recently become convinced (and I welcome your efforts to convince me otherwise) that this is a natural and inescapable biological phenomenon, which dooms our efforts in man’s present evolutionary state.
Before explaining why I believe this to be the case, I should note that I speak here of libertarians, not of libertarianism. The philosophy and economics brought to us by great minds like Murray Rothbard and Hans Hermann Hoppe is as sound as it ever was. If people began behaving rationally, tomorrow we would live in a world where the word libertarian was synonymous with the word human. In this philosophical sense, I am still very much a libertarian. This is how the world ought to work. In a more strategic sense, I cannot make the same claim. I am coming to grips with the reality that this is not in fact how the world does work, and that this is likely to remain the case until long after everyone alive at the time of this writing is dead.
Libertarians, to our credit, have worked very hard to spread our ideas by way of reasoned logical arguments. Frantically banging away on keyboards, in forums, blog posts, and social media, we have rushed to debunk the fallacies of State propagandists and economic illiterates the world over. The entire time, we are met with jibberish rebuttals, silence, and threats of force instead of reasoned responses, and the entire time we scratch our heads in bewilderment as to why our fellow human beings, and even our purported fellow libertarians, appear impervious to reason.
We have worked to better educate ourselves and refine our arguments, convinced that in accordance with our philosophy of personal responsibility, this must be a failing on our part. Rather than blame others for their irrationality, we blame our lack of capacity for convincing others, and work to better ourselves. Some of us spend many years attempting to correct our own failings, and as we do, things get continually worse in perpetuity.
In so doing, we have largely overlooked the crux of the issue. We have attempted to understand the realities of the universe and make better libertarian arguments, without trying to understand the flaw in our fellow man which prevents him from understanding reason. It is that inquiry which has led me to my startling conclusion, that libertarians are hopeless.
If libertarians are interested in reason, logic, and evidence, then they should start processing the evidence that reason and logic have nearly zero relation to modern social and political discourse. When one refuses to process a reasoned argument, giving them more reason is a senseless exercise in futility. Hence the great frustration of so many libertarians who might study themselves into the grave, never understanding why they have not saved mankind from his own irrationality.
But the libertarian too, exercises a great deal of irrationality in doing so. It is as if he were trying to teach a dog to speak Japanese, and then condemning himself for a lack of teaching skills, when the creature simply lacked the biological capacity to learn such a skill.
The startling reality of the human social condition, is that freedom, reason, and logic have nothing to do with our social and political affairs. The evidence, is that these affairs are directed by power. Libertarians are understandably uncomfortable with exercises of power which involve the initiation of force. They may even rightly claim a moral high ground by rejecting such power as having any moral legitimacy. But when power comes to be exercised against the libertarian, his argumentation ethics will do nothing to stop it. Only by wielding power of his own, can he hope to stop it.
This involves the use of violence. While libertarianism would embrace the use of violence in self defense, libertarians have rejected it in all but the most limited of circumstances. Meanwhile his rivals have accepted use of initiatory violence on a scale so vast it is scarcely discernible who is actually wielding force. We would commonly think of it as quite unjust to use interpersonal violence against our political enemies, even as those enemies are waving a metaphorical gun around in their attempts to wield the violent force of the State against us. The libertarian attempts to reason with people who threaten him with violence, he loses nearly 100% of the time, and then acts confused as to why. The answer is obvious, power.
The motivations for the exercise of that power, and the irrational nature of its use, well, that is a whole other level of frightening.
Old Dogs, New Tricks
If you haven’t heard it, you owe it to yourself to listen to episode 429 of the Tom Woods show. In that episode, Tom interviews Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided over Politics and Religion“. A revelation made in the course of that discussion was a groundbreaking discovery for me. The analogy made is that of “the elephant and the rider” in which one’s reasoned logical thought process is a human being, riding an elephant which consists of more primitive survival instincts and emotions. To make a long story short, that rider can desire the elephant to go straight all he wants, but if the elephant decides to turn right or left, the human rider has little practical say in the matter. The elephant is stronger than the human rider. The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant, not vice versa. When human beings evolved the capacity for language and reasoning at some point in the last million years, the brain did not rewire itself to hand over the reins to a new and inexperienced charioteer. Rather, the rider (language-based reasoning) evolved because it did something useful for the elephant.
This is why people behave like animals. Because that’s exactly what they are. They are animals who happen to have various levels of language and reasoning skills evolved within them, but the animal comes first. We are evolved as systems on top of systems. One analogy to this is that you have three brains.
There’s your reptile brain. This handles just the basics: hunger, temperature control, fight-or-flight fear responses, defending territory, keeping safe — that kind of thing. We’re not getting far without basic biological functions of breathing, temperature regulation, food, water, and avoidance of predators and other perils. As much as we might like to think of ourselves as quite rational, this survival center will win nearly 100% of the time if made to compete with other brain processes. This is not something to complain about either, because absent our survival instincts, we can’t have this conversation because we’re all dead.
As we evolve further into social animals with group centric or “pack” instincts, we develop what some would describe as the dog brain. The limbic system, or emotional center serves a very important part of our lives, and comes well before our higher reasoning ever comes into play. We develop emotional attachments to our families, friends, and other group members. We act in defense of one another. We share with one another. We compete with other groups, as a group, and we are infinitely more competitive as a result.
As we evolve even further into thinking creatures, we develop what some would describe as our human brain, or the cortex. With this we can do things that horses and cows cannot, like complex social interactions and advance planning (such as planning an attack on a neighboring troop). In humans the cortex has grown to a huge size, somehow in association with our development of language.
With each evolution, the pre-existing systems are not rewired or redesigned. They are systems on top of systems. The survival center, or reptilian brain comes first. The emotional center, or dog brain comes second. And the reasoning center, or human brain comes last. The emotional center serves the survival instinct, and the reasoning center serves the first two. This makes perfect sense, because you can’t serve your group if you don’t survive yourself, and language is almost useless if you have nobody to talk to.
When one attempts to reason, not taking all these things into account, he may well come up with flawlessly logical arguments, but these have all the effect of throwing rocks at a tank when he attempts to communicate them to others. The emotional and survival centers of the brain are more powerful than the reasoning center, and attempts to bypass this are largely futile.
As an example of the “systems on top of systems” concept. Most animals do not have independent finger movement. Human beings do, but this is a latter developed system. When you attempt to move your fingers independently, your brain is actually telling your entire hand to move, but a more advanced portion of the brain is telling the seemingly uninstructed fingers to remain still, and there is a great deal of unconscious muscle coordination at work. The part of your brain that moves all fingers as one is still there, and is actually still dominant as can be demonstrated by certain hand exercises, but your ability to flip someone off is a later development facilitated by a higher system.
Competing Human Survival Strategies
Something that has really rocked my understanding of politics and social interactions is a concept known as r/K selection theory. While far from flawless and in some degree of contention, it is at worst a great analogy, and at best a rock solid explanation of modern political discourse.
For a brief overview of the concept, Stefan Molyneux has a playlist discussing the phenomenon on YouTube. For a more in depth look at the subject, check out “The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics” by Anonymous Conservative.
To briefly summarize for the uninitiated, man is the undisputed ruling species of this planet because of his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Varied conditions involving climate, resource scarcity, disease, predators, and even intraspecies warfare have done little to slow our advancement. Today we live in a world where, for all intents and purposes, we are our only enemy. Man fears no predator, save for other men.
In nature, there are two primary reproductive strategies, here represented by the mathematical symbols of r and K. The r strategy favors rapid reproduction, early sexualization, low investment parenting, to create as many offspring as possible in response to high resource availability, and random predation. The K strategy favors less reproduction, later sexualization, and high investment parenting, to create offspring more capable of adapting to changing conditions of resource scarcity, to prey and to fight off other predators.
An example of r-strategists would be rabbits. Rabbits in a field of grass will almost never run short of resources. Short of some catastrophic change in conditions, rabbits are not prone to starvation. Their primary survival concern is owls and other predators which may swoop down and pick them off one by one in a manner which is to them, quite random. They cannot fight their predators, and so concerning themselves with doing so is quite senseless. They cannot control the availability of resources, and so concerning themselves with resource limitations is quite senseless. It provides no evolutionary advantage. The only thing for the rabbit to concern himself with is creating more offspring as to pass on his DNA, and running from danger whenever he does recognize it. They are non-monogamous, invest little into the offspring they produce, have little to no in-group preference, and perceive no intraspecies threat.
An example of K-strategists would be wolves. Wolves do not feed on endless fields of grass, they feed on animals which do. To do this, they must hunt, and starvation is a very real threat as a result. They need not only be faster and stronger than their prey, but also faster and stronger than their competitor wolves. As such, they breed more selectively, produce fewer offspring, and invest a great deal into making sure those offspring are fit for survival. Since they have to compete for resources with other wolves, they perceive intraspecies threats and will fight other wolves for territory and resources. To improve their competitive advantage, they do so as a group (pack) and have a high ingroup preference, imposing social norms to maintain group cohesion.
The analogy made by Anonymous Conservative is that leftists evolved from an r-strategy, and rightists from the K-strategy. It is in some ways a spectrum of behaviors, in which many will find themselves adapting some traits from one and some traits from another, but if one were to zoom out far enough, two distinct groups emerge.
Liberals, like rabbits, have little concern for the concept of private property. What libertarians and conservatives view as an out of control welfare state is in fact quite moderate to them. Even socialism or communism don’t fully represent the liberal worldview. On the extreme, we’ll see concepts like the “Venus Project” and other “post scarcity” movements. This is an attempt to create the rabbit like existence they are bred for, a field of endless clover upon which to feed. They are prone to promiscuity, and favor early childhood sexual education, because to their simple biological drives, sex is the whole entire point. They are irrationally averse to warfare and other forms of competition, because there is little point in fighting over a particular piece of dirt when there is endless grass upon which to feed. Trying to claim territory or even a mate for oneself is bizarre to the leftist, and so violence in defense thereof is nothing short of mental illness.
Rightists, like wolves, will fight, kill, and die to defend property because scarcity is in the genes. Failure to defend property is a death sentence, and so from a Darwinian perspective one is no better off letting his property be taken than he is dying in defense of the property. That competitive instinct means offspring have to be fit for competition, and leaving bastard children all over the place with no male role model is as much to his Darwinian advantage as is masturbation. He has to compete, and can compete more effectively as a group, so social norms are imposed on the group for the betterment of group cohesion, and among those social norms will be sexual ones. Delaying sexualization of offspring so that they choose mates in a time of prime fitness, maintaining monogamous relationships to limit ingroup conflict and raise fitter offspring, honoring the outcomes of ingroup competitions, and the like are second nature to the K-selected wolf-like rightist.
It should come as no surprise that wolves and rabbits living in the same habitat will come into a great deal of conflict. When human beings take on traits and survival instincts which resembles such creatures, we should be no more surprised that these groups of human beings also come into conflict. Were it not for our aversion to cannibalism, the rightist would quickly make a meal of the leftist, but a market economy has a similar if seemingly less gruesome effect.
The competitive rightist quickly finds himself atop the food chain in a competitive market economy. He is the entrepreneur, the leader, the captain of industry. He calculates his actions, delays gratification, and impacts his environment in ways the leftist can scarcely begin to comprehend. The leftist, as evidenced by his perpetual demands for a higher minimum wage, is reduced to begging for scraps in exchange for favors. The rightist profits from the leftist’s incapacity to compete with him, as the leftist is compelled to servitude.
Introduce democracy, and things get interesting. The leftist is geared toward greater numbers, and is averse to any other type of competition. A contest of majority vote is about the only contest he can win against his conservative competitor. So while the rightist may have established governments for the purpose of facilitating fair competition and ingroup defense, democracy has subverted that intention in favor of the leftist. By his superior numbers, the leftist lives at the expense of the rightist as would a parasite. As a result, we live in a world where the rabbits rule and feed upon the wolves, and the insanity of that unnatural order is being displayed by increasingly catastrophic outcomes.
The wolves can, and may, upend that system at any time through force. The superior numbers of the rabbits mean little as the wolves’ teeth shred the flesh and crush the bones of rodents. The wolves quite happily pay taxes to the State while under the impression they are simply benefiting their group, but as they become aware they are being preyed upon by an outgroup force, they will defend themselves against the threat, much to the detriment of the rodent class.
It is a biological phenomenon of evolutionary psychology, not some top down scam imposed on us by governments as so many libertarian seem to think.
The Libertarian Flaw
While this interpretation is flawed from an informed libertarian perspective, a common theme amongst self described libertarians is that the right wants to control our social behaviors, and the left wants to control our economic behaviors. Understandably this seems like utter nonsense to libertarians, who would seek to be free of either set of controls. This is flawed for a number of reasons.
Firstly, to draw a separation between social and economic behaviors is farcical. How we choose to interact with one another, including how we breed, are economic behaviors. Levels of ingroup preferences, how many offspring one produces, how those offspring are raised, and other factors people like to think of as quite separate from stock markets and interest rates, are in fact quite closely tied together. A preference to “buy American” as opposed to saving a few bucks by importing something from China for example, has a profound impact on all manner of economic indicators. A preference for the instant gratification of drug use, over the delayed gratification of saving, has obvious economic impacts. The notion that how many human beings a group produces, or how those individuals are raised to behave, could possibly be without impact on the economy, is simply too stupid for the thinking man to take seriously.
Additionally, while leftists would like to pretend they are the less judgemental political order, we can see in ever increasing fashion that this is not the case. Their attempts to thought police the populace, from insane cries of racism and misogyny and homophobia, to demands that standards be lowered and subsidies increased for the sake of greater inclusion, express a profound imposition of social norms on the members of the society. Clearly, the leftist rhetoric of free speech, academic freedom, and other civil libertarian views was merely an appeal to the emotions of the previously right leaning social order, so that they might gain traction for their own value system in the society.
Both groups are simply trying to advance their particular brand of social norms as to make their particular breeding strategies dominant. They do so because this is to their Darwinian advantage, be they conscious of it or not.
Social behaviors are economic, and economic behaviors are social. So this commonly misinterpreted libertarian view of the left/right paradigm is profoundly flawed. Without viewing it through a biological lense, one cannot understand the nature of modern political discourse. The libertarian can reason until he is blue in the face, but the wolves and rabbits care not. The libertarian thinks himself quite above all of this, and in a sense he might be. Unfortunately for him, the social nature of man prohibits his accomplishment of his political goals.
Suppose a libertarian finds a particularly open minded rightist, and convinces him that market competition is best served by the abolition of State intervention in the economy. Suppose he finds a leftist, and convinces her that only by the abolition of the State can her sexual liberation finally come to fruition. What do each of them do come election time, when the rest of the wolves and rabbits head off to the polls to elect rulers to impose each of their wills upon the other?
As Lysander Spooner put it;
In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defense, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot – which is a mere substitute for a bullet – because, as his only chance of self- preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defense offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him.
The wolves and the rabbits will compete for control of the State apparatus no matter what philosophical enlightenment the libertarian minority manages to obtain. Whatever rabbits and wolves he recruits to his side will be few in number since their biological drivers outweigh their logical thought processes, and even their logical thought processes see the problem of allowing the other group to gain control of the State apparatus. Each seek to advance the interests of their species at the expense of the other, and they will be in eternal competition until one of two things happen.
1. The other side is exterminated.
2. The State apparatus is no longer an option.
One of these outcomes is more likely than the other, much to the dismay of the libertarian.
Why Libertarians Are Corrupted By The Left
I should again explain, I am discussing libertarians, not libertarianism. The following critique would rightly be met with complaints by well read Rothbardians as containing a great many falsehoods. I have made these complaints repeatedly myself.
In their efforts to grow their numbers, and in the face of perpetual frustrations in getting wolves and rabbits to shrug off their evolutionary psychology, libertarian groups have resorted to recruiting non-libertarians into their ranks. This presumably was perceived as a competitive advantage in a political system which favors numbers over reasoned arguments or factual correctness.
In the course of so doing, it is my perception that leftists are particularly more prone to swing toward libertarian social circles than rightists, due primarily to a lack of ingroup preference. It is not that they become libertarians or suddenly shrug off their rodent like evolutionary psychology. They are simply more prone to novelty seeking ,and lack any group loyalty or attachment to any particular idea. They are still rodents, but they realize they can have a higher social status in this smaller group than in their larger openly left wing group. A left libertarian blogger may become the envy of his left libertarian peers, but would accomplish absolutely nothing when competing against the vast expanse of mainstream liberal media.
The rightist on the other hand is less prone to novelty seeking, has a higher ingroup preference, and is more averse to radical changes in the existing social and economic order. Additionally, he is aware that his inferior numbers make his absence in a democratic contest far more consequential than that of the leftist. So he is far more averse to radically altering his thinking, his social circles, or his political activity to favor a more libertarian order.
Thus, while libertarianism as a well thought out philosophy would be more appealing to the rightist than the leftist, the leftist gains undue influence in the libertarian social and political scene. That leftist influence dilutes the body of thought as left tainted media is produced and distracts from the writings of the Rothbards and Hoppes of the world. They focus on equality and diversity, which are not libertarian goals in the slightest. They will favor recruiting women and non-whites into libertarian scenes, even as these demographics tend to work against libertarian goals. More leftists are attracted to the left tainted libertarian media, and so more leftists are introduced into the social and political circles and thus the cycle perpetuates itself to a point where economics are barely even part of the discussion, and instead it descends into senseless race baiting, feminism, and dare I incur the ire of my regular readers by saying it, irrational hatred of military and law enforcement.
Why Leftist Influence Makes Libertarian Failure Certain
I mentioned earlier that rabbits and wolves would compete for control of the State apparatus until either one side was exterminated, or the State apparatus was made no longer available. Libertarians would clearly be averse to half the population meeting a violent demise, and far prefer the State apparatus be made unavailable. Unfortunately left wing influences on libertarians make the former inevitable, and the latter impossible.
While leftists are quite fond of State violence and have even been known to violently attack political opponents during otherwise peaceful demonstrations, they are, at least rhetorically, pacifists at heart. Rabbits do not fight wolves, they scurry into holes in the ground fearing for their survival as their weak little hearts beat rapidly.
Simply put, the only way to bring about the abolition of the State apparatus is a violent overthrow of said apparatus, followed in short order by a culture of resistance preventing the establishment of such an institution in the future. The passive nature of the rodent class which occupies the libertarian space at present forbids such violence, and certainly lacks both the mental and physical capacity to take on the wolf in so much as a single non-democratic contest, much less a violent and protracted one.
A left infiltrated libertarian movement will be incapable of battling a violent State, because its members will be pacifistic and feminine. Were its numbers to grow so miraculously as to facilitate this impossible phenomenon, the rodent class would simply occupy the seats of power in a French Revolution style egalitarian disaster.
Enter The Neoreactionaries
The wolves who found libertarianism attractive, met with the nonsensical leftist dogma of the rodents, and abandoned libertarian strategies in view of this inevitable failure. Other wolves simply avoided it from the gate. Between them both, they formed another unit which became increasingly wolflike with time.
Labeled by some as misogynists, racists, homophobes, and right wing extremists, they are in reality the inevitable outcome of the path society has taken. The awakening, or as some have called it “dark enlightenment” that democracy will no longer serve the interests of the wolf, and that the wolf is more fit to rule, vote counts be damned.
They are the embodiment of a quote commonly misattributed to Alexander Tytler;
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
The time for a dictator and monarch is upon us, and however much this may displease the libertarian matters not. His goals were sabotaged by his acceptance of the rodent, and the time of the wolf has arrived. I fear the best we can hope for is that our ruler be benevolent, and that under his reign a better humanity emerges.
But with history as my guide, I won’t be holding my breath for such an outcome.
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