David Gordon is a genius, a man whose intellectual abilities and output exceed mine. I make that claim without any sense of envy. I also claim our unequal conditions are beneficial to each other, and society in general. Because of these declarations, I am a classical liberal in the Misesian sense. Let me explain.
First, I need to define left and right as I see them. To do this, I paraphrase Paul Gottfried and delineate left and right in three aspects: artificial versus organic; egalitarian versus hierarchical; and international versus national.
To put the first divide into perspective, consider prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s. A progressive on the left believed that without alcohol a New Soviet Man would arise. A man who no longer drank his wages, but instead spent his evenings writing poetry and taking his children to operas and symphonies. In contrast, a progressive on the right simply expected life to improve as families had their father’s beer money to use for more appropriate expenses, such as food and rent. Someone on the right would not expect a man’s essence to change, just his actions.
A more recent example would be George W. Bush’s ownership society. This was a left progressive policy that expected a New Soviet Man to emerge as the keys to a home were turned over.
The next divide is a derivative of the first. Only an artificial construct could posit a world where all are equal in abilities and outcomes; a world where natural hierarchies do not arise. As if rearranging the means of production – property – could create a situation where my abilities equal David’s. More on this later.
The third and final divide is also a derivative of the first, an artificial notion that all groups and peoples agree on the very same means and ends. As if all necessarily share the same view of a good life and, hence, force is justified to instantiate that good life.
In the most general understanding, it is the appeal to the artificial that delineates the left and the right.
Based on the above, I am a man of the right. I neither believe in, nor appeal to, artificial constructs, I accept natural hierarchies and believe people tend to sort into groups with shared beliefs. However, being on the right does not necessarily make me a classical liberal.
Classical Liberalism = Property
“The program of liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property, that is, private ownership of the means of production (for in regard to commodities ready for consumption, private ownership is a matter of course and is not disputed even by the socialists and communists).” Mises, Liberalism
The artificial has no place in classical liberalism. Once artificial arrangements are considered, the evil of what Mises termed, the Fourier complex, arises. This is the belief that one’s failings in life are the result of the current structure of the means of production.
I cannot conceive of a different arrangement of property, absent violence, where my abilities would equal David’s. I will never equal David, our differences are God-given, not structural. I do not believe that under the socialist scheme, "the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” So I do not allow myself (paraphrasing Mises) to be overwhelmed and seek refuge in the solace of the saving lie of antiliberalism and socialism. Instead, I accept and find comfort in our relative positions.
The benefit of interpersonal differences and hierarchies
I met David once, years ago – we only shook hands at a Mises event on Jekyll Island, so I know little of him in a personal sense. However, I see and read his intellectual output regularly. He is able to produce succinct and detailed reviews and articles that draw on multiple and varied sources. Sure, I could do that as well. But instead of struggling to produce, at best, one similar article per month, David appears to do two or more per week.
I am willing to accept that David may also exceed my abilities in other areas. While David writes on philosophy and political economy, I produce, inter alia, data flows and reports. It may be true that he could produce twice my output, should he take the time to learn the software tools, etc. However, if he focused on data and reports, leaving me to write in his field, much less would be produced in total.
In fact, such a situation would not be to my liking. I much rather read David’s eight or so articles per month and muse on his insights than struggle for 160 hours to produce just one of them. I am better off by even an absolute advantage in David’s favor – we all are.
Being a classical liberal and man of the right, I am able to withstand the siren’s song of envy that loops endlessly in the mainstream media, arts, politics, etc. In all things, being armed with the truth is the best defense. So, instead of championing the destruction of our society, we must stand against the current ideologies, allowing subsequent generations to enjoy the production that arises from ownership of property and self, even when the distribution of talents and outcomes is unequal.