Thursday 15 November 2007

I'm a Real Fascist Bastard!

Now I've got your attention let me explain.

Back in the old days people who believed in liberty were called "liberals". Those who didn't approve of liberty were not called liberals.

Liberty exists when you are free to live your life in any way you like so long as you don't interfere with the equal rights of others. Liberals don't initiate the use of force or fraud. Using force to get what you want means that you're not a liberal. Getting a third party - including government - to use force to achieve your ends means that you're not a liberal.

So far, so straight forward.

The trouble is that the enemies of liberty started to call themselves liberals. Why? Because people saw that liberty was good, so why not pinch its name? And now, in the English-speaking world anyway, liberalism means the opposite of liberty. It means government force.

Some folk attempt to get round this by claiming that there are two types of liberty. This is nonsense as is stated here:

"Negative liberty" IS liberty. "Positive liberty" seems to mean, in practice, appropriating someone else's resources - or perhaps confiscating someone else's wealth - or, to be blunt, stealing someone else's money. "Getting grants" for Paul means paying coercive taxes by Peter. It may even be a good idea, but it's got f... all to do with liberty.
Correct, except that it's not a "good idea".

Real liberals - faced with the theft of their good name - rebranded themselves as "libertarians". And people saw that libertarian ideas were good, just as the same ideas had been when they were called "liberal".

And now it's happened again. The enemies of liberty are increasingly describing themselves as libertarians. Or, rather, "left libertarians" - a completely meaningless concept under which force is freedom and coercion is liberty. Come back George Orwell.

I have a solution.

We (real) liberals should now market ourselves as "Real Fascist Bastards".

Fascism is today's big No No - in polite society anyway. So we'd have the term to ourselves. We could then proclaim, "Yes, we're Real Fascist Bastards and proud of it." Our name would be theft-free.

Or would it?

I can see it now. A few years down the track some naive youngster would come across a piece by an obscure and much persecuted group of "Real Fascist Bastards" that explained how personal freedom was necessarily linked with economic freedom. These RFBs appeared to support a form of limited government that didn't promise "positive freedoms". It even seemed that some countries had once operated on more-or-less RFB principles and had prospered mightily.

And then it would start all over again. Some Guardian columnist would claim to be a genuine Real Fascist Bastard and not one of those "so-called" RFBs. Before you could say "Hayek" or "Mises", the chat shows would be full of right-on, or rather left-on, Real Fascist Bastards.

Perhaps then we could call ourselves Liberals again.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Not entirely on topic:
Friends have been discussing how to make a right-wing government electable. Suggestions included renaming the UK Conservative Party.

I think we should play them at their own game, and start calling ourselves socialists!
25 December 2007, 19:30:36 GMT – Like – Reply

Roger Thornhill
DavidF, but we know that this rapidly degrades as if you are "against property" there is little hope of them respecting your property rights!
20 November 2007, 10:05:01 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer
Left anarchists or anarcho-socialists are against state and against property, but as long as they do this on their own and not with my property, it`s fine.

Correct. Any form of voluntary society is compatible with libertarianism. Economics explains which types of society are more likely to produce material wealth but people are free to pursue alternative ends - with their own property.
19 November 2007, 12:17:20 GMT – Like – Reply

Oh, there are also libertarian anarchists, calling themself anarcho-kapitalists (e.g. Hans-Hermann Hoppe), thinking that even a minimal state is too much and a society can be organised by free trade only.

Anarchism means just that nobody rules or is above someone else against the others will. But it does not mean chaos.
Left anarchists or anarcho-socialists are against state and against property, but as long as they do this on their own and not with my property, it`s fine.
18 November 2007, 23:47:23 GMT – Like – Reply

Neil Craig
I don't think 19thC Liberals said the state should never use force. They wanted it limited & they very much wanted it to use it only within its rules & not for the benefit of established power - equality under the law including for those enforcing the law. "Using force" is what government does & I don't think Gladstone could have served as PM if he thought government shouldn't exist. I suppose this is where we define the difference between classic liberals & libertarians.

I do agree that the term has to be rescued from the hands into which it has fallen. I consider myself a "classic liberal" - a term I think not easily disputable I'm not sure what term could be agreed to cover the LibDems, neo-liberal usually means whatever the speaker dislikes. I would say Pseudo-Liberal but I suspect they would not accept the term.

One of the problems of politics is that everybody has an incentive to adopt words & use them to describe things they didn't used to.

For example a sustainable building should be one that doesn't fall down & a sustainable job, one that doesn't depend on endless subsidy.
18 November 2007, 14:27:37 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

I like the punchline.
17 November 2007, 18:16:16 GMT – Like – Reply

Mr Eugenides
I recently encountered someone [online] who describes himself as a "libertarian socialist".

When I asked what the hell that is, he was admirably frank; "it is a euphemism", he said, "for anarchist".
16 November 2007, 22:32:44 GMT – Like – Reply

Joshua Holmes
In America, people who believe in civil liberties, but not in the whole libertarian program, are called "civil libertarians". We use "left-libertarian" to describe folks who are pro-liberty but anti-capitalist, such as Kevin Carson and Brad Spangler. I think that makes much more sense.

As for the term "libertarian" itself, it was originally used to describe those who believe in free will. During the 19th century, socialist anarchists on the European continent called themselves "libertarians". So, it was around long before it meant "radical free market advocates".
16 November 2007, 22:23:39 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer

I'll do a separate post on that over the weekend.

The short answer to:
Putting it another way: Do you believe in voluntary association, and that a club, organisation or society should have the right to reject those applying to join it? is Yes.
16 November 2007, 19:38:48 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David B. Wildgoose
Society is the result of the voluntary interaction of individuals.

The crux of this argument is whether or not you consider a stable society, legal system and any other societal infrastructure to be property rights or not, and to which the existing members have some say in how they are treated.

Putting it another way: Do you believe in voluntary association, and that a club, organisation or society should have the right to reject those applying to join it?

I do, and it is this distinction that seems to set me apart from whose whom I am describing (hopefully not pejoratively) as "purist" libertarians. It seems to me that this latter group hold the State in such disdain that they (to my mind) erroneously extend the antipathy from the Political State to the Nation State. These two States may appear coterminous but they are actually disjoint, something that may be obvious to a Kurd say, but less so to those of us lucky enough to live in a Political State/Nation State with closer delineated borders.
16 November 2007, 17:10:48 GMT – Like – Reply

J.C. Ernharth
I think real liberty minded liberals ought to stick with some word or prhrase that suggests we respect others rights to say no thanks to our wants and desires --- and make sure the real fascist bastards (the neo-mercantilists and corporate parasitic types who are enamored with big government and all the wealth and freedoms that have been neatly packaged and are for sale to the highest bidders to whoever has the votes and money to buy it (whew!)) are the ones labeled with the sludge terms they deserve.
16 November 2007, 16:58:03 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer
David B. Wildgoose

There’s a lot there to be dealt with. By “Left-Libertarian” I mean those who think that we can have civil liberties without respecting property rights in their totality. Libertarian writers (like Hayek and Mises, whom I mentioned) explain why that can’t work. Property rights are the ultimate form of civil liberty. Indeed, all civil liberties are property rights.

I’m with you when you favour “a society growing organically from below rather than being imposed from above”. But what do you mean by “above”? Libertarians take “above” as being the state – the only institution that can force people to do things. Non-state institutions are part of civil society and not “above” anyone. Of course, that includes private companies so long as they aren’t subsidised or given special powers by the state.

You say: “A "purist" Libertarian (presumably like yourself) doesn't accept the idea of the existence of a wider society (and culture) beyond atomised individuals and so rejects this viewpoint.”

Of course there’s a wider society and culture. The point is: is that society the result of the voluntary interactions of individuals or is it imposed, from above if you like?
16 November 2007, 16:17:16 GMT – Like – Reply

Well argued, David. The terms have been rendered meaningless.
16 November 2007, 08:55:01 GMT – Like – Reply

Peter Briffa
I regard myself as a reactionary: a reactionary liberal.

And I'm proud of it.
16 November 2007, 08:35:06 GMT – Like – Reply

David B. Wildgoose

16 November 2007, 07:55:01 GMT