Power & Market
Libertarian Autobiographies, edited by Jo Ann Cavallo and Walter Block, delves into the trials, tribulations, intellectual formation, and accomplishments of 80 libertarians from around the world—in their own words! The following is an amended excerpt from the introduction written by the co-editors:
It is our fervent belief that libertarianism is the last best hope for humankind with regard to economics, liberty, justice, prosperity, peace, and thus even survival (pardon us for hyper-ventilating, but we maintain this is indeed the case). This belief of ours is predicated upon the crucial importance of the non-aggression principle (NAP): proper law should allow all people to engage in whichever acts they prefer, with the one exception being any behavior that violates this precept or any threat thereof. Thus, murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, fraud, and similar evil actions should be prohibited, and virtually everything else should be legally permitted.
But why assemble a collection of autobiographies penned by libertarians? Why not, instead, offer a collection of scholarly articles demonstrating the benefits of liberty? Many of the contributors to this volume have published just that sort of work on numerous occasions. Why not do so one more time? Although people may gain an understanding of this philosophy via rational argument, it cannot be denied that autobiographies, too, are important for the promotion of liberty. The personal touch may reach some people not approachable via any other means. Additionally, we all want to know the libertarian stories of people such as those who appear on these pages. Indeed, we find that libertarians have the most interesting stories to share because they often embrace this philosophy as the result of intense encounters with foundational texts or life-changing experiences.
One of the big “problems” we have with some of the best-known libertarians throughout history—such as John Locke, Lord Acton, Ludwig von Mises, Isabel Paterson, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, and Murray Rothbard—is that they never wrote an autobiography. Of course, if they had, alternative costs being what they are, they would likely not have been able to write other precious publications of theirs. But what about libertarians alive today? Would they be willing to share their stories? We already have the example of two volumes of libertarian autobiographies: Why Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace & Freedom (Cobden Press), with 54 autobiographies edited by Marc Guttman, and I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (Mises Institute), with 82 autobiographies edited by one of the co-editors of this present volume, Walter Block (available as a free pdf at https://mises.org/library/i-chose-liberty-autobiographies-contemporary-libertarians). Both volumes were published over a decade ago, however, in 2010. We wanted to learn more about the lives of contemporary libertarians not covered in these two volumes and of others who have emerged since the time of these publications.
We therefore reached out to a number of influential scholars, activists, professors, journalists, and cultural icons who have worked toward a freer society across the globe, inviting them to write a brief autobiography for this collection. We asked them to articulate, for example, what their lives and thoughts were before they embraced libertarianism; which people, texts, or events most influenced their intellectual formation; what experiences, challenges, tribulations, and achievements they have had as participants or leaders in this movement; and how this philosophy has affected their personal or professional lives.
A volume of autobiographies on the part of libertarians immediately raises the question of precisely what constitutes this political economic philosophy. In our “big-tent” view, it comprises several strands. They all have something in common, such as an appreciation for individual liberty, private property rights, the rule of law, and free enterprise, but there are also discernible differences. That is why if you get ten libertarians in a room and ask them a question, you’ll likely get eleven (or more!) different responses. In this volume, we invited libertarians across the political-philosophical spectrum, including (1) anarcho-capitalism; (2) minimal government libertarianism, or minarchism; (3) constitutionalism; (4) classical liberalism; (5) thick libertarianism. The contributors to this volume range over the five main viewpoints mentioned above, and also fill in the gaps between them. Their essays express different perspectives on many issues even while articulating the same core principles. In fact, it is our desire that their very differences of opinion on some matters will invite readers to think for themselves. What we have sought to present is a sampling of the myriad individual journeys toward libertarianism, however defined.
Although the majority of contributors to the volume live in the United States, we are grateful to the libertarians from around the world who accepted our invitation to share their stories. This volume thus includes voices from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.
It is the hope and expectation of the editors that by bringing together a range of contemporary voices from outside the dominant left–right paradigm, this volume will contribute to the viewpoint diversity that is crucially needed in today’s public discourse. Moreover, these personal and intellectual journeys not only offer compelling insights into their individual authors and the state of the world in our lifetime, but may also serve as an inspiration for the next generation who will feel called upon to make our society a freer one.
N.B. The publisher’s link to the book is: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-031-29608-6. Both the hardcover and the ebook are available for purchase internationally. Get 20% off the printed book or eBook by entering the following coupon code at checkout on link.springer.com: H5DoMQW47RT2HD (valid until Oct 13, 2023). In addition, the MyCopy version (printed ebook) is available at a low cost ($39.99 in the US) to individuals who belong to a university subscribed to SpringerLink. If your university subscribes to SpringerLink, you can also read the book online for free. (If you’re not on a university-sponsored device, a VPN, or the school’s WiFi, you might have to access the book through your university’s library page.)
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, LewRockwell.com was established as one of the most important blogs in American politics. In the late 90’s, the blog was a unique voice against the tyranny of the Clinton administration, keeping alive the spirit of the printed Rothbard Rockwell Report earlier in the decade. While the site became a home for a number of talented libertarian voices, including a young Ryan McMaken, the work of Rockwell himself stands out for continuing clarity and relevance.
In the late 90s, LRC's antiwar message found common cause with many conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, who wanted to dismantle the American empire in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It looked like conservatives and Rothbardian libertarians might find unity on foreign policy for the first time in decades.
This changed following the events of 9/11 and the rise of George W. Bush’s War on Terror. With the images of the collapse of the World Trade Center and the charred hole on the side of the Pentagon, the American right shifted away from the growing 90’s era skepticism of the American regime and became the loudest advocates for the Republican president’s construction of a new national security state.
This result is one that Lew Rockwell predicted.
In an article published on December 24th, 1999, Rockwell warned that the successful execution of a terrorist plot blamed on Middle Eastern terrorists would eliminate the gains of the 1990s.
Rockwell began the article, titled “Memo to Terrorists of the World”, with this:
The U.S. State Department and every other official agency is telling us to be on the lookout for terrorist attacks from you guys. The attacks could come in any form, say the press releases, from a letter bomb to a truck bomb. Security at airports and U.S. borders is tighter than ever. But it is not just you swarthy foreign types who are under suspicion, but also regular Joe citizens. We are all suspects.
It’s hard to know what to make of these warnings. You might not be plotting anything at all. This could just be propaganda designed to instill fear in the American people. All governments know that people living in fear of attack are more likely to be obedient. Or it could just be an excuse to step up violations of civil liberties.
Rockwell also warned about the fruits of US foreign policy, driving the anger to provoke such an attack:
On the other hand, these warnings may indeed be justified. Because of its foreign policy, imperial military reach, and global arrogance, the U.S. government is the most hated in the world. It’s not surprising that some of you might want to vent your anger. But before you do so, you should consider this: what the U.S. government has done to you and to everyone else in the world has nothing to do with the American people. Don’t blame us for the actions of the government.
You are undoubtedly outraged at the bombings and ongoing sanctions against Iraq. It’s true that these actions are grossly contrary to morality. It’s also true that tens of thousands of civilians have died because of them. But these actions were undertaken by the dictatorial executive branch, and with only the tacit approval of the Congress. No one asked the American people if we wanted this. Thanks to the long, progressive seizure of power by the presidency, the Clinton administration can act on its own, and pursue its own agenda apart from the will of the American people.
The same goes for the bombing of that pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. It’s true that this was a ghastly crime. It’s an outrage that the Clinton administration has still not issued a formal apology or offered to compensate the factory’s owner for the property damage. But here again, the American people were not asked if they wanted to lob bombs on innocents. The decision was undertaken at the highest levels, in consultation with half a dozen un-elected bureaucrats.
Rockwell went on to consider a different path from the one the US would be on just less than two years later:
What can be done about it? You may propose violence, but that would be wrong, and it can only lead to more bombings, more interventions, and more crackdowns on liberties, at home and abroad. Indeed, terrorism can only play into the hands of the government because it seems to validate everything the Clinton administration is saying.
There’s a better way. The American people do not revere their leaders as they once did. In every way that is permitted, and some that are not, the American people are systematically withdrawing their consent from the powers that be. As we saw in Eastern Europe ten years ago, in Iran under the Shah and India under Gandhi, or in the American colonies in the 1770s, no government can continue to hold power once the people withdraw their consent.
So be patient. The U.S. military dominance of the world will not last forever. Give it some time; we’ll curb the power of the Leviathan. In the meantime, refrain from blaming the American people for the actions of our government, and from the violence that can only aid the empire.
While the chances for a peaceful overthrow of Clinton-style governance may seem fantastical in our current cynical age, it is worth revisiting the landscape of 90’s America. The disillusionment of the public for Washington, fueled by the lingering remnants of the lies of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and tyrannical agenda of the Clinton Administration helped fuel the rise of widespread distrust of Washington.
Crackdowns on gun rights fueled anti-DC militia groups around the nation. The sinister characters of the Clinton administration and their capture of the corporate press fueled the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and the alternative media of talk radio. The X-Files, whose ratings in the 90’s trump almost all non-sports television programming in 2023, offered Americans regular programming of how the highest levels of government we capable of the greatest evils imaginable.
Paul Cantor, an acclaimed media critic and student of Ludwig von Mises, noted in a journal article “This Is Not Your Father’s FBI: The X-Files and the Delegitimation of the Nation-State” just how subversive the message of this pop cultural phenomenon truly was:
The X-Files strongly suggests that our public officials are just figureheads, manipulated from behind the scenes by mysterious power brokers. It is remarkable how small a role prominent officials such as the president or central institutions such as Congress have to play in The X-Files. It is obscure government agencies that have the real power, such as the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), which, according to one conspiracy theorist in the X-Files movie, forms “the secret government” of the United States and will take over openly once the planned alien invasion finally begins. Arguably the most extraordinary message The X-Files has for its audience is that the public figures they see in Washington, who seem to represent the nation-state in all its flag-waving glory, are in fact inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. According to The X-Files, it is people whose faces we do not know who in effect govern our lives, and they do not do so in the name of the nation-state...History made by unknown men standing in the shadows—that is the governing vision of The X-Files and its ultimate subversion of the ideology of the nation-state.
In 2023, 1990’s politics seems to have far more in common with current political discourse than the age when Bill O’Reilly dominated cable news. The top terrorist concern of Washington is once again an organized political right, from parents upset with public school officials and those skeptical of “fortified” elections.
It is the tools created by Bush-era Republicans, applauded for their use against possible Islamic terrorists in our borders, now being wielded against Republican voters. As Rockwell predicted, the expansion of the regime’s power is weaponized against what will always be its greatest threat: domestic forces in conflict with the prevailing ideology of the political elite. 9/11 was the perfect catalyst for not just the neoconservative vision overseas, but the domestic agenda of the professional unelected class Fox Mulder and Dana Scully regularly sought to foil.
This would hardly shock fans of the work of The X-Files universe, whose writers ended up being just as prophetic as Rockwell. In the pilot of its spinoff program The Lone Gunmen, aired just months before 9/11, the show’s protagonists thwart a government conspiracy to run a plane into one of the World Trade Center towers to justify a new war serving the financial interests of the military-industrial complex.
On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chair Powell delivered a speech titled Financial Stability and Economic Developments, in which he drew comparisons between the current economic situation and the last two recessions. His first comparison was to the Great Recession of 2007-09, stating that it required:
… extraordinary interventions by governments around the world … including $700 billion in taxpayer funds to recapitalize banks, a suite of Fed emergency liquidity facilities, as well as government guarantees on bank transaction accounts and money market mutual funds.
He then acknowledged that despite this great intervention, the recession “brought misery to countless millions.”
The 2020 recession was then cited, although specific figures on the level of support provided by the Government or Federal Reserve were not mentioned. However, he did emphasize that:
Ultimately, the authorities had to support financial markets again as part of the extremely forceful monetary and fiscal response to the public health emergency. The banking system, however, was now far more resilient than it had been before the reforms and thus well positioned to absorb the shock.
According to the Washington Post, Congress authorized $4 trillion in spending, highlighting:
The $4 trillion total of government grants and loans exceeded the cost of 18 years of war in Afghanistan.
As for the Fed, its balance sheet grew by nearly $5 trillion during the 2020 "crisis." While this chart may be second nature by now, it is still worth referencing to observe the comparison between the 2007-09 recession and the 2020 recession.
It remains crucial to emphasize that we have yet to see any indication from policy makers, Federal Reserve members, or Chair Powell that suggests a departure from their strategy in response to the next crisis. Whether the response involves another $10 trillion in monetary expansion, give or take $5 trillion, is anyone's guess, but it would be a tough sell to say the Fed will take no action of its own accord after a century of intervention.
Powell concludes by discussing the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), two other undisclosed banks, and the failure of Credit Suisse, which was a globally systemic important bank until it collapsed. This is the point where the true nature of the situation is revealed, as we are presented with nothing but excuses and corporate missteps, which facilitated the need for government intervention.
Powell offers some explanations:
… SVB's vulnerability came not from credit risk, but from excessive interest rate risk exposure and a business model that was vulnerable in ways its management did not fully appreciate, including a heavy reliance on uninsured deposits.
When SVB failed it was clear that a number of standard assumptions, even though they were informed by hard experience, were wrong.
Even though it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, what should be clear is the recurring pattern in the Fed's crisis playbook. When something inevitably goes wrong, the Fed avoids taking responsibility and shifts the blame to factors such as corporate greed, oversight, or unforeseen errors. They then argue that the only solution is to implement unprecedented levels of intervention. Policy makers will swear that many lessons were learned, and it won’t happen again, but that’s only to buy them time until the following crisis.
Larry Summers affirms the Rothbardian critique of fractional-reserve banking on Twitter...
SVB committed one of the most elementary errors in banking: borrowing money in the short term and investing in the long term. When interest rates went up, the assets lost their value and put the institution in a problematic situation. https://t.co/HxsgqpZOuL— Lawrence H. Summers (@LHSummers) March 14, 2023
...but then takes it back...
Responding to some of the comments here: Of course banks borrow short and lend long, but properly managed and supervised banks limit duration mismatch between liabilities and assets so their capital position is not gravely compromised by rising long-term interest rates.— Lawrence H. Summers (@LHSummers) March 14, 2023
...and free banker George Selgin breathes a sigh of relief at "Prof. Summers" retraction.
I'm glad to see, upon reading on, that Prof. Summers explains himself in the comments. Still, I was taken aback upon first seeing this tweet by him attributing SVB's troubles to its having done what all banks always do! https://t.co/EAAYc4ZrOS— George Selgin (@GeorgeSelgin) March 14, 2023
A large bipartisan contingent of Wisconsin legislators seek to end Wisconsin’s controversial practice of levying sales tax on purchases of gold and silver.
Senate Bill 33, primarily sponsored by Sen. Duey Strobel (R - Saukville) and Sen. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R - Appleton), and cosponsored by Rep. Shae Sortwell, enjoys wide support – and would align Wisconsin with the policies of 42 other U.S. states.
Senate Bill 33 would exempt “precious metals bullion,” defined as coins, bars, rounds, and sheets that contain at least 35% gold, silver, copper, platinum, or palladium.
In 2019, Rep. Shae Sortwell (R - Two Rivers) introduced a similar measure that did not receive a hearing. But upon introduction this year, Senate Bill 33 already has seven Senate sponsors and 16 House sponsors.
Imposing taxes on the exchange of Federal Reserve notes for monetary metals (i.e. gold and silver) has become an unusual and outmoded practice in the United States... only 8 states still engage in it.
With 42 states now having eliminated sales taxes on purchases of gold and silver, the Badger State may be the next state to do so – although similar bills are moving forward in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Maine.
Passage of SB 33 would remove a major disincentive to holding gold and silver -- a move that has become especially pertinent at a time when inflation is ripping through the economy and wreaking havoc on family budgets.
Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution prescribes that gold and silver are money, and imposing a tax on the exchange of one money for another is inherently illogical. But there are other strong public policy reasons why so few states still impose sales tax on precious metals purchases:
- Levying sales taxes on precious metals is inappropriate. Sales taxes are typically levied on final consumer goods. Computers, shirts, and shoes carry sales taxes because the consumer is "consuming" the good. Precious metals are inherently held for resale, not "consumption," making the application of sales taxes on precious metals inappropriate.
- Studies have shown that taxing precious metals is an inefficient form of revenue collection. The results of one study involving Michigan show that any sales tax proceeds a state collects on precious metals are likely surpassed by the state revenue lost from conventions, businesses, and economic activity that are driven out of the state.
The harm is exacerbated when you consider that all of Wisconsin’s neighbors (Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan) have already stopped taxing gold and silver. This harms in-state businesses. Most recently, Tennessee ended this tax in 2022, and Arkansas and Ohio eliminated this tax in 2021.
- Taxing precious metals is unfair to certain savers and investors. Gold and silver are held as forms of savings and investment. Wisconsin does not tax the purchase of stocks, bonds, ETFs, currencies, and other financial instruments.
- Taxing precious metals is harmful to citizens attempting to protect their assets. Purchasers of precious metals aren't fat-cat investors. Most who buy precious metals do so in small increments as a way of saving money. Precious metals investors are purchasing precious metals as a way to preserve their wealth against the damages of inflation. Inflation harms the poorest among us, including pensioners, Wisconsinites on fixed incomes, wage earners, savers, and more.
Currently Wisconsin is tied for 45th out of 50 in the 2023 Sound Money Index. Passage of SB 33 would significantly improve Wisconsin’s standing.
In my research into Leonard Read’s writing, I recently came across his “Look to the Miracle!” in the May 1963 Notes from FEE. It struck me that what he had to say almost half a century ago about how his Foundation for Economic Education worked to advance liberty and how it resisted pigeon-holing in traditional ways is at least as relevant today.
Read first pinpoints the source of the pigeon-holing problem.
Having grown used to master plans, political and economic blueprints, and collective cure-alls, many persons can no longer conceive of a philosophy broader than any one of man’s handmade panaceas.
That aspect of the intellectual world seems far truer today, in a world increasing viewed as a bi-polar battle between the left and the right. But advancing liberty is not part of that dynamic that threatens to tear America apart.
Students of Liberty
We are as far from social, economic, and political authoritarianism as anyone can get! …Individuals who set out diligently in pursuit of what’s right…[with] no label more descriptive than “students of liberty.”
The answers…fit no preconceived pattern simply because our arsenal includes no panacea or blueprint or plan or man-concocted gimmick.
The thoughts…run along two lines. Some people might think of the first as negative. But is it really “negative” to call something black when blackness is, in some quarters, represented as white? Is it negative to expose fallacies?...deflating the claims, promises, and pontifications of little Caesars who strut across the American stage; perhaps “debunking” better describes this phase of what we do.
Our nation’s would-be rulers, in and out of the political arena, haven’t the slightest doubt about their ability to improve our lot--if only we’d turn our lives over to their management!...These would-be masters are from all walks of life but they tend to concentrate in the federal bureaucracy.
Collectivists would extend the dependencies of the parent-child relationship to society at large. It is our view, on the contrary, that no person or group, regardless of how organized--as government or otherwise--has any competency whatsoever forcibly to control the creative energies of any person or persons. Those who presume almightiness are no more than destructive pretenders--fallacy mongers--and we try continually to expose, not the pretenders themselves, but the shallowness of their pretensions…criticism--necessary, yet useless by itself.
Restoring Faith in Free Men
The other phase of thought…is of a positive, probing nature and outranks the former in importance, interest, and difficulty. Its goal is to discover how to restore a faith in free men.
Why the need for a faith in free men?...such faith, today, is at low ebb…more and more of our citizens are losing faith in themselves to achieve, through voluntary action, the good ends they have in view.
Reliance on people voluntarily and cooperatively organized is being replaced by a growing reliance on the arbitrary management of human affairs by government. With increasing faith in coercion as a means of creative achievement, faith that free men can do things by their own efforts correspondingly diminishes…It follows that there can be no reversal of the trend away from freedom except as faith in free men is restored.
Must not [one’s] attitude call for a planned economy of the statist variety? No other conclusion is possible…there is no remedy for this kind of thinking except as we restore faith in what men can accomplish when free to act creatively as they please and on their own responsibility.
Now, this is where the miracle comes in...which transcends man’s know-how… am I not warranted in believing I live by phenomena far beyond my ken? There is, indeed, justification for my faith.
The Problem with the Miracle
Yet, this is the point where difficulty begins. Blest with Nature’s miraculous outpourings--an infinite abundance our finite minds can but dimly grasp--we live our lives more or less unconscious of the elements on which our existence depends. We tend to become aware of these blessings only as they are restricted or taken from us.
We tend to be ignorant of what we are and what sustains us. The same blindness afflicts us as we look toward our economic world. We tend to ignore or be skeptical of that which transcends our know-how.
Almost everyone will concede that only God can make a tree, but most of us will not as readily concede the miraculousness resulting from “millions of private economic decisions being made independently of each other”…The evidence of the miraculousness in the economic sphere, as in Nature, is so profuse, so omnipresent, that we lose sight of it. In this unaware state, we let ourselves be taken in by the little Caesars.
The Miracle’s Secret
[None can] explain the miracle of the market, but we do know its secret: freedom in exchange.
As molecules miraculously configurate in Nature to form…the infinite variety of her manifestations, so do varied creative human energies automatically, spontaneously, miraculously configurate to form the goods and services we live by. There is one necessary condition: that these creative energies be unfettered.
Those who can see the freedom miracle at work have faith in the countless wonders it will accomplish…help others see this phenomenon by which we live.
“Following the Science” on Freedom
Fortunately, all the evidence is on the side of freedom in exchange; all is against the pretenders and their schemes of dictated or administered or authoritarian exchange. We repeat, look to the miracle! Meanwhile…post direction signs for all who are anxious to behold this wonder of wonders.
In a city that looks like Paris meets the Iron Curtain, with nice restaurants, city tours, and where I was even able to shoot an AK-47 at a gun range (after going through training and while under supervision), I attended the 2022 Liberty in our Lifetime event in Prague. Last month the “City of 100 Spires” hosted an international gathering of who’s-who of libertarians, Austrians, and others in the free market crowd. Parallel Structures, referring to the creation or use of a voluntary system instead of or in replacement of an involuntary one, was the conference theme, a concept foreign to most, but not for long.
Cryptocurrencies exemplify this idea. For better or worse, cryptocurrencies are used for exchange when two parties do not want to transact in a national currency. Bitcoin is probably the most well known parallel structure, but this can be applied to any new system which attempts to escape the State’s monopoly of force.
Homeschooling is another parallel structure. Consider that property taxes are typically used to support State sponsored schooling. But schooling for some is socialist indoctrination for others. For those able and willing, homeschooling offers a viable solution; the caveat, like all parallel structures, is that the onus is on the individual for success or failure.
Fortunately, little things have a way of turning into much bigger things. With the emergence of parallel structures, their continual implementation and eventual growth provides solutions the world desperately needs, with the possibility of eventually supplanting the State entirely. One day, we may very well find ourselves living in the world's first Free Private City, as written about by Titus Gebel in his book Free Private Cities, who also presented at the event.
There appears to be two methods these structures can be implemented. I alluded to this a few weeks ago, about how something needs to change or else socialism will consume us all.
Either we change the system from within, or remove ourselves from the system entirely; if not by internal change or external flight, eventually we’ll be consumed by it.
At the conference, there were some groups wanting to create private dwellings in the ocean on moveable pods which could be physically joined to form communities. There were other groups promoting the “digital nomad” lifestyle, for those who have the option of living and working in various countries across the globe. The idea of flight is understandable, and historically a winning strategy under repressive regimes, in which a societal transformation seems all but impossible.
However, there were also those who wanted to stay, essentially fighting the government to better society. One non-profit organization in South Africa called Sakeliga describes itself a “club of businesses, professionals and investors together taking up their constitutional duty to resist state power, help establish a just commercial order, and form thriving trade and financial networks.” I was fortunate enough to meet the Executive Director Russell Lamberti, an Austrian economist, author, and investor who has written several articles for the Mises Institute. In his presentation he made it clear that South Africa is his home, and his organization intends to use litigation and all legal means to thwart government corruption and overreach.
The involuntary nature of government will always make it a force for evil. The real question is whether it’s possible to escape the system through fleeing or fighting it head on. Luckily, the beauty of a parallel structure is that its potency can transcend physical location. Wherever in the globe it is being implemented, it will always act as a force against State power through competition.
No one size fits all approach works best. But if some in the liberty crowd seek greener pastures elsewhere, while others seek to change society from within, the rise of parallel structures, such as work, media, culture, education, finance, and eventually a political or social system itself, will continue to exist as a beacon of hope.
Combine the rise in these new structures against the inevitable failure by the State, there becomes a real opportunity this decade to create a monumental shift towards a voluntary society and to find that “unbridled capitalism” we so long for.
Imagine living under one of the 19 nations in Europe who share the same currency and have little to no autonomy over their own monetary policies. Then, making matters worse, the latest inflation reading comes in at 8.6%, forcing the European Central Bank (ECB) to invoke a rate increase!
In the words of one expert on CNBC:
For the first time since 2011, the Bank has hiked interest rates and did so with a bang.
It was announced on Thursday that the ECB:
…surprised markets by pushing its benchmark rate up by 50 basis points, bringing its deposit rate to zero.
That’s not a typo, they increased rates to 0%. As explained:
The ECB had previously signaled it would be increasing rates in July and September as consumer prices keep surging, but it was unclear whether it would go as far as bringing rates back to zero. The bank’s deposit rate is now 0%.
This is the world we are living in, where rates can be increased to zero to “fight inflation” at 8.6%.
North of the border, Canada recently increased rates by 100 basis points (1%), bringing rates to 2.5% to fight its latest inflation reading of over 8%. According to the Bank of Canada, these high inflation readings are still everyone else’s fault, explaining:
Global inflation is higher, reflecting the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ongoing supply constraints, and strong demand.
Very rarely does “strong demand” get the attention it deserves. When it’s mentioned, it’s in name only, but hardly explored in-depth, which is a shame since money creation and increase in demand go hand-in-hand.
And this Wednesday, Chair Powell of America’s central bank will raise rates; there is no question about that. The real question is, “by how much?" The CME Group has a Countdown to the FOMC tool, showing the current Fed’s target rate at 1.50 to 1.75 percent, and currently assigns a probability of 76% that rates will be raised to 2.25 to 2.50 percent.
Even if rates are 2.5% a few days from now, it’s still historically low. (Price) inflation will still be historically high. To reiterate my position once again: when the stock market falls below some indeterminate threshold, or housing prices across the country collapse, the rate hike to “fight inflation” talk will be abandoned to support a new narrative.
Meanwhile, in China, it appears that tanks are positioned outside of a few banks… in order to “protect banks.” This has been largely absent from the mainstream media, but can be seen on social media and lesser known news sources. According to one outlet:
The Chinese government has deployed tanks on the streets to protect the banks after the Henan branch of the Bank of China declared that the people’s savings in their branch are now ‘investment products’ and can’t be withdrawn.
If the wealthiest nations in the world can barely get their houses in order, it gives little hope that the rest of the world will ever be able to do the same. We’re seeing zero percent rates to fight inflation in Europe. We’re seeing 2% rates to fight inflation in Canada. And in America, no one wanted to raise rates last week, or the week prior, but this week will do. All the while, the other world’s superpower, China, is freezing customer deposits because they asked for their money back.
Maybe all these little cracks here and there are manageable at the moment, but eventually it will all come to the forefront; the world is not there yet, but that time is coming soon. When the next crisis hits, we’ll enter a Brave New World of monetary policies, and more civil unrest, since all global monetary policies are destined to fail.
It’s been already two weeks since I began my own fellowship at the very Mises Institute. During this time a lot of things have already happened, both in the local American scene as well as in the rest of the world--my own country, Ecuador, included.
Given my own affinities with ideas from various sources in the political right, from the classical liberalism of Mises and Hayek and the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard and Hoppe to the traditional conservatism of Burke and Scruton and the novel post-liberalism of Deneen, Vermeule and Ahmari, I was amazed and intrigued to read a fairly recent article by Mises Institute President, Jeff Deist, discussing the rise in the popularity of this last group and of its ideas.
For a person like me, who tries to navigate the muddy waters between libertarianism and conservatism, ideological tags have become meaningless. In Ecuador, where media and academia are dominated by the progressive left and its liquid culture, politics has become synonymous with nepotism, corruption, and inefficiency.
There have been instances where I have tried to combine my libertarian and my conservative leanings into a single philosophy, as some kind of liberal illiberalism; an economic skepticism of the organization of the modern State; a practical and moral defense, from a socialist and nationalist perspective, of the existence of private property; and even a conservative interpretation of the tenet of the Austrian School of Economics. But none of these attempts seem to get to the point where a viable mix of libertarianism and conservatism is developed.
In a spontaneous coincidence more than a deliberate attempt, Jeff and I have been thinking about the same issues. This is not the first time he has theorized on ways to introduce free market and sound money ideas into the school of conservative thought that seems to be fashionable in the moment.
But Austro-libertarianism paradoxically seems to follow the Burkean way, in which our intellectual development as a doctrine expands with moderation and prudence. Conservatism, or at least, American conservatism, has adopted the old leftist vice of infighting, reducing itself into warring factions against each other, where the least difference in theory (or the popularity of a certain leading figure) is reason enough for the movement to break its fragile peace or for a new faction to arise.
For conservatives and libertarians in the ground, working 8 to 5 jobs while trying to get involved in local and grassroot politics-- and most importantly, struggling to survive with freedom and dignity in a world where the most ridiculous whims of our ruling classes get imposed with legislation and enforced with the state’s monopoly on taxation and violence--petty conflicts within the conservative intellectual and managerial class seem truly unimportant. They not only demonstrate the instability of a movement that lacks power, but also steal our most precious and irreplaceable resource, which is time.
Nonetheless, there seems to be something different about the rise of post-liberalism, even with its internal differences and with career politicians trying to capitalize on its apparent success.
It may be because its leading figures, having learnt from the Donald Trump experience and from his successes and mistakes in the American presidency, have become wiser in the handling the conservative movement.
For instance, the political Catholicism of the likes of Vermeule, Deneen and Ahmari don’t seem to be at odds with the Aristotelian nationalism of the Claremont Institute, and in many senses both end up embraced by institutions like Hillsdale College or the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. They don't shiver to invite people like Jordan Peterson, Michael Rectenwald, or SCOTUS Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (all of them cancel culture victims) speak at its events.
With the notable exception of the neocons, well represented by opportunistic career Republicans like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney (both of whom seem despised and rejected by all factions of this new American Right), the conservative movement looks to be building bridges, both internally and externally. It is creating platforms like NatCon conferences to allow their ideas to spread indiscriminately, and promoting them in countries with likeminded governments (like Orbán’s Hungary) to get connected to their fellow figures (like Nigel Farage or Marion Maréchal) in Europe.
But the Austro-libertarian movement is missing on the opportunity to participate in the development of this new New Right, even if this could be the right opportunity for a true paleo revival, without the mistakes in economic doctrine that made the first attempt fail. Rothbard pushed for his free-market vision, while Pat Buchanan twisted his view on economic protectionism into an outright state-planned economy.
In two occasions, while hosting my podcast for the Spanish newspaper España - Navarra Confidencial, I had the chance to discuss the possibility of a new libertarian-conservative fusion, the first one with our aforementioned Jeff Deist and Hillsdale professor Brad Birzer. The common ground between the two views were that the state was indeed a danger for freedom and community, and that a neo-fusionist movement could indeed work to recover culture, family values and decentralization.
In here, the term neo-fusionist that both Jeff used and I am now using is a clear reference to the doctrine of Frank Meyer, considered by President Ronald Reagan as his most intellectual influence, a political philosopher who tried to unite elements of libertarianism and traditionalism into a single philosophical synthesis of the two. This received much criticism from both libertarian and conservative figures like Harry V. Jaffa (the intellectual father-figure of modern Claremonters) Paul Gottfried (a paleoconservative thinker and now the editor of the Chronicles magazine), along with our own Murray Rothbard (who saw in Meyer a rather lost and confused libertarian).
The second time was in another podcast discussion, with our own Mises Wire assistant editor Tho Bishop and his peer at Chronicles, Pedro Gonzalez where the main focus was the political strategy for a paleo revival considering the cultural and demographic changes in the US since the 90s. Both of them agreed with me on most issues, from local political action and the main problems to tackle, to the immediate use of state power to solve those problems, given there was no private alternative, and that, moreover, the private sector was caught itself into the woke madness.
In the US, there is a genuine opportunity to allow for right-libertarians a space into the post-liberal Right. Outside the US, the libertarian name is getting tarnished by the inoperancy, alienation and cluelessness of beltway libertarian-influenced politicians such as my own country’s president, Guillermo Lasso, and his advisors, whose public policy ideas are as unrelated to the local situation, with its many security and poverty problems, as DC staffers are unrelated to the issues of Common Joe in Middle America.
Quoting from the end words of Jeff’s essay, "Have we lost "liberal" forever? Maybe. If liberalism is dead, then liberals killed it. I'm doubtful we can ever reclaim it. Perhaps we need a new word for organizing society through property, peace, trade, and sound money”, but I also add, have we lost “libertarian” too?
While I am not as pessimist with that, and I still believe there is chance for right-libertarianism to be a force for political action, I wouldn’t call myself as such, not only because there is a concern for me to be put into the same bag as my unlikely-to-get-reelected local government, but because it is only half of what I believe.
I do think, though, that we should remember and apply what Jeff proposed in his “For A New Libertarian” speech, that is, to fight for what matters for the common man, understanding that these fights, pretty much unrelated to libertarianism, are what form the basis of the abstract freedom libertarians strive for.
We cannot forget both Rothbard and Hoppe began with the most absolute individualistic rationalism in their thinking to end up admiring the freedom of traditional medieval order in Europe in his first volume of his Austrian. Perspective on the History of Economic Thought and developing a rather reactionary and aristocratic communitarianism in his magnum opus, Democracy: The God That Failed, respectively.
Neither should we forget that the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, came from a fairly liberal and Whig background, both as an intellectual and as a statesman, without that getting into conflict with his Anglo-Irish and Christian (both Anglican and Catholic) roots.
At last, more as an anecdote than as an example, both great English traditionalist of the late 19th century, G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were involved with classical liberalism while maintaining their own religious and traditionalist beliefs. Chesterton stated in his book Orthodoxy that "I was brought up a Liberal, and have always believed in democracy, in the elementary liberal doctrine of a self-governing humanity”, while Belloc was elected as a Member of the British Parliament supported by the British Liberal Party.
I would like to finish by bringing up John Adams famous words about the US Constitution, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. […] The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.”
John Adams understood that self-government, decentralization, and individual freedoms needed a moral framework to thrive, to develop to its full potential, for their respect was not enforced by an all-powerful government, but by a shared common tradition that guided the lives of all under their same provisions.
It was the moderation and tolerance of the Christian tradition in the Anglosphere the created the right conditions for classical liberalism to be applied and be the framework for the establishment of the American Republic, and the Catholic virtue of the Habsburgs in their rule over the Spanish and Danubian Empires that led to the development of the Salamanca and Austrian Schools.
On the other hand, it was the excesses of the Continental Liberals, as christened by F.A. Hayek, with their hyper-rationalist constructivism that led from Revolution, Jacobinism, expansive nationalism, and Marxist Socialism up to the horrors of Bolshevik Leninism, Soviet Stalinism, and German Nazism.
Continental Liberalism, as extreme as today’s Progressive Liberalism, also lead to the radical ideas of ultramontanism and dictatorship promoted by Maistre and Donoso Cortés and later taken up by Carl Schmitt.
It is better for us libertarians and conservatives to be together and follow Burke and Meyer into a neo-fusionist path, before our bona fide conservative intellectuals, pushed to the extreme by our corporatocratic elites and their loyal woke hordes, decide to follow the Counter Enlightenment path.
So even if libertarians and conservatives seem opposed at times, we both belong together as different sides of the same golden coin, counterbalancing each other excesses, and recognizing each other’s value.
Only through virtue, we can get order and freedom, understood as self-government, and only through free self-government we can get prosperity. There is no other way.
The use of symbols and language to spread ideologies have been practiced for thousands of years. The first symbols to represent ideas were religious ones and were used to spread the teachings of deities. During the 19th century political symbols started to emerge and today almost every political party and ideology has its own. Symbols share the same advantage as pictures - namely, they are worth a thousand words. It is through repeated viewing that symbols serve their purpose.
It does not matter whether the viewers know what the symbols represent or not. Should they know the meaning of a symbol and agree with what it represents it would most likely fortify their beliefs. For those who do not agree with what the symbol represents it could change their minds or at least make them getting used to it. If the viewers are not familiar with a particular symbol, then in some cases it can awaken a certain curiosity which ultimately could change their minds. So, symbols are very much like company logos; they are used for marketing.
The development of language is derived from human action and has been influenced by various cultures. Each culture has developed their own type of language as a reflection of that culture. The relationship between culture and language goes both ways: culture affects the use of language and vice versa. Language and the use of words have a powerful impact on our lives and perception of the natural and social world around us.
Historical and Present Day Usage
Some of the most familiar political symbols is the swastika. It originates from Asia and is used as a symbol for luck or for the sun. In the West we know the 45° rotated version of it as a symbol for National Socialism (Nazism). What many people don't know, is that the Nazis also took control over the German language using euphemisms and slogans. A mass-murder operation, for instance, was called aktion meaning 'action'.
Though the political agenda has swung and mass murder of certain people is no longer on the agenda, we see the same things happening today on a whole new level. In Sweden, where I live, left wing egalitarians started to take control over the use of Swedish during the early 2010s. The rainbow flag and female gender symbol were heavily adopted during this period and are increasing in popularity.
Regarding the use of language, there are lots of words in the Swedish language which have been almost banned to fit the egalitarian view. The Swedish spelling dictionary Svenska Akademiens Ordlista (SAOL) is gaining new egalitarian words to its glossary each year and losing older "less including" and "negative" words. The most discussed new word in Swedish is the gender-neutral personal pronoun hen. Up until recently, we would use han, meaning 'he', and hon, meaning 'she'. Even though Swedes still use the words for 'he' and 'she' the gender-neutral hen is being used more frequently. Especially in mainstream media and woke circles.
What Libertarians Can Learn
Symbols and words are proven to be powerful tools and I strongly advocate that libertarians use these as well. Unfortunately, libertarianism does not have a specific symbol. Although, not originally a libertarian symbol, the Gadsden flag has been adopted by many libertarians and is perhaps the most used and recognized symbol for libertarianism.
Like any other political ideology, libertarianism has its different types. Thus, the anarcho-capitalist flag and the agorist a3 symbol may also be used. The question is, does libertarianism need its own symbol or should we stick to the good old Gadsden flag? Since the Gadsden flag is already associated with libertarianism, it has an advantage over a potential new symbol. However, the Gadsden flag is a rather complex symbol to either draw by hand or make jewelry, such as pendants out of. A new symbol, therefore, could come in handy.
As of language and semantics, I think libertarians should brush up their vocabulary and call things for what they are. I will present a few suggestions for what libertarians can do to improve their rhetoric and everyday speech.
First of all, there is no private sector existing other than in the black markets. The private sector as most people know it, is merely pseudo-private since it is heavily regulated and taxed.
Second, a proper use of the term ownership is needed to make non-libertarians understand the meaning of true ownership. Libertarians share a sound understanding of what ownership is. Thus, we recognize that there is no such thing as common ownership. Again, call it by its name; common utilization. Our public enemy number one, the state, deserves a more suitable name like the mob or the monopoly on violence/force.
Lastly, I want to challenge libertarians and Austrians to avoid using the term capitalism. Over the years, the term has gotten so misinterpretated and negatively used that there is no gain in using it. We must also recognize that we live in a mixed economy, and that there is no true capitalism in any country at this day. I propose using the terms free market, laissez-faire or voluntary exchange (market) when talking about true capitalism.