Month: August 2015

What’s the matter with left-libertarianism?


Left-libertarianism is a peculiar variant of libertarianism. It has some elements in common with the left, but it also supports positions that are at odds with the left in a general sense. I had previously written about its history, and while doing that I found that left-libertarianism is far from a united theory, but a relatively broad realm of ideas about about free markets and achieving and social justice. Karl Hess, Robert Anton Wilson and Samuel Edward Konkin III are big names in libertarianism on their own and also left-libertarians. Today the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left are the new faces of left-libertarianism, most of its writers and members are young activists who despite claiming to be following the paths of the left-libertarians of the past, also raise their own issues.

Left-libertarianism is still unknown to the public. The mainstream media has portrayed libertarianism as something of the right, with an spokesperson like Ron Paul who is pro-life and against open borders, or figures like the Koch Brothers, which are donors to Republican campaigns and the bête noire of a lot of liberals, so isn’t very easy to associate libertarianism with the left. Yet a lot of Ron Paul supporters and those who identify themselves as libertarians are pro-choice, and skeptical of Republican Party. J. Arthur Bloom some time ago argued reflecting on a poll that suggests that young Americans prefer socialism over capitalism but at the same time support a free market system over a government managed economy, my initial reaction was that young Americans could find left-libertarianism interesting, but I wasn’t sure at that moment of the limits of my reflection.

The libertarian movement had been in large part financed by the Koch brothers though institutions like the Cato Institute, Reason, FreedomWorks and Students for Liberty to only mention a few. With the Ron Paul campaign the age-old paleo-cosmopolitan intra-libertarian dispute was reborn. The Ron Paul campaign was closer to the Rothbardians than the Friedmanites and it generated radicals rather than reformers. Despite that some cosmopolitans express his doubts about Ron Paul and the Koch brothers didn’t support or endorse him, I think the Koch brothers were intelligent enough to know that Ron Paul was bringing a lot of young people to libertarianism, something that could be useful to them. That’s why despite the disagreements, Ron Paul has been a main speaker at events organized by Koch-affiliated organizations, they know he energizes the base. Ron Paul and the Koch brothers are capitalist and for different reasons they had a long relation with the GOP. On the left-libertarian side there isn’t much famous politicians or bigger donors. Left-libertarians rely mostly on making new converts at libertarian events, but most libertarians consider themselves capitalists and I don’t think that will change any time soon. There is a solid left-libertarian tradition that young people could find interesting, however, especially in their critic of the corporate capitalism.

I think that it’s better to present my own philosophy before continuing exploring the limits of left-libertarianism. I’m a socialist, not a social democrat whose model is Scandinavia but rather a libertarian socialist whose model are Zapatistas in Mexico or the Kurds in the Middle East. Elections are not the only thing that matters, but I think electoral politics could radicalize the public and also move the left in a more libertarian direction. As far as I know, most left-libertarians come from the libertarian right and the anarchist left, so it’s easy to suppose that few of them ever would be sympathetic to electoral left-wing politics, but history tells us radical libertarians like Karl Hess and Murray Bookchin were involved in third party politics. So to be involved in electoral politics seems more an opportunity than a problem.

The Ron Paul campaign was a better tool for promoting libertarianism than the millions of dollars spent by the Kochs in think-tanks. Sometimes when left-libertarians said: “the dominant left-libertarian aim is to fuse Murray Rothbard with David Graeber,” I think a more interesting goal would be to fuse Ron Paul with Karl Hess. There are limits to the electoral politics, for example most leftists support the minimum wage (there are some left-libertarians that agree but most disagree). Other long time objectives of the left are universal health care (this policy was supported by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Mike Gravel but not for most left-libertarians). But compromise in the search of peace, liberty and justice seems to me a mature political move, along the lines of the one Murray Rothbard hoped for, broad on the left and right.

Here at The Mitrailleuse, there has been some polemic about left-libertarianism. James E. Miller argue that left-libertarianism is closer to left-liberalism than libertarianism, I disagree with that, I think that the fact that some left-libertarians had un-libertarian positions don’t mean left-libertarianism as a whole is doomed. For other part I recognize that the argument that sometimes C4SS sounds like Salon is true, far from joking some time ago I consider seriously writing a response Kevin D. Williamson argument that the Baltimore riots should be blame on the Democratic Party which historically has governed Baltimore, my response was going to be that the riots should be blame on the Republican Party crackdown on the Black Panthers because since then the Afro-American communities lacked radical organizing. When I was thinking where to publish the article, I thought C4SS and Salon. J. Arthur Bloom makes the case that it’s difficult for left-libertarians to gain support in the broad left, I agree a lot anarchists are closer to the Democratic Party.

There is something that should be said — Karl Hess, probably the most radical left-libertarian, was still a man of the Old Right, even when he joined Students for a Democratic Society and Industrial Workers of the World. He was deeply patriotic and inspired from the American history, he was not a cosmopolitan libertarian but a rather a man of a community. The Neighborhood Power of which the New Left speaks was an idea that had on board both the Black Panthers and radical Christians; a self-governing community was a real policy for left-libertarians. Since the New Left era, the idea of liberal identity politics was present and affected the movement. The black power, feminist and LGBT struggles were co-opted by the Democratic Party which, though movements that at some point were anti-statist, become functionally supportive of growing state power.

I don’t think that left-libertarians are going to win that argument by sounding like left-liberals, but by actually accepting that a free society would not be constructed if some day everybody started to think the same, but when one can reach broad agreement about letting communities be free. For example when it comes to immigration, most left-libertarians tend to support Open Borders, and I also do, but I understand that probably cosmopolitan communities like Williamsburg or Echo Park are more willing to receive immigrants than communities in rural Alabama, and a real immigration policy should respect that the communities could have different positions on whether or not receive immigrants. When Karl Hess spoke about education he also had the same argument, he said that there isn’t a problem if a black community decided to teach Swahili to their kids, I think that the same arguments should go for a religious community teaching their kids their values. Radical decentralization really means that abolishing the state or not, the communities at least would be freer to choose their own policies based on their everyday life rather than waiting for a bureaucrat in Washington.

Left-libertarians had an interesting history, in the present they are growing and their future is still unknown. Trying to recruit new members at libertarian events had it limits. With the exception of agorists, most left-libertarians weren’t organized in the past in any specific group but they were in a lot of ways closer to more average New Left radical, not only because of the left was more decentralist back then, but also they more willing to engage in a debate with the radical left. Most left-libertarians are great fans of the Marxist historian Gabriel Kolko, but I listen to very few about the reflections of other socialists. For example, Carl Oglesby the former leader of SDS is considered by the people of C4SS and ALL as a left-libertarian, though he wasn’t an anarchist and supported the minimum wage. Left-libertarians tend to criticize liberalterians saying that they are not radicals because they aren’t anarchist and also supported some state policies, so why do left-libertarians claim Carl Oglesby as one their own, when he probably should be called a proto-liberalterian? I think that a really thoughtful reflection of that would tell us a lot of left-libertarians claim to be radicals, yet still prefer the comfort zone of libertarian conferences rather than, say, going to the Left Forum to speak about free markets and property rights. If they want a revolution they should reject the liberal identity politics of us versus them, the real struggle is between the political elite and the grassroots rebellion.

The Donald, and why the hoity-toity pols hate him

Republished from the Press and Journal

Rick Perry, the presidential aspirant and former Texas governor, recently bellowed this about Donald Trump at a speech in downtown Washington, D.C.: “Let no one be mistaken, Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded.”

“He’s becoming a jackass, at a time when we need to be having a serious debate about the future of the party and the country,” South Carolina senator and fellow 2016 candidate Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Erin Burnett.

“The Donald’s life has been seven decades of buffoonery,” Kevin Williamson wrote in the conservative National Review.

In the vein of Rodney Dangerfield, Donald Trump, the mega-rich real estate mogul and unlikely presidential candidate, can’t get any respect. At least not from the hoity-toity political establishment that sits (or dreams of sitting) along the Potomac.

But out in the hinterlands  what D.C. elites call “flyover country”  Trump’s message and style are actually resonating. And the best part about the Trump phenomenon is that no one in the punditocracy can explain it.


Magicians of the Outer Right, Part Zwei – Power Plays

TRIGGER WARNING: There’s that bit in the beginning of the Book of Genesis about The Tree of Knowledge. The material below is all very well known and available to anyone with a browser. However, the weak of mind are strongly advised to cease and desist.

Ah, I see you’re still here. Very well:

My previous post on Magicians of the Outer Right was, admittedly, occult.

From Outside in’s links digest: “Mirror of obscurity.” Nick B. Steves roundup: “a rather cryptic post.” Some further explication was implied.

Steves also linked this:

The fact is Western culture has its own conception of power, a very naive construct that prevents us from noticing how things actually work. We seem to think people have ideas, and act because they believe those ideas, and power just comes out of the strength of those ideas. Call it faith in Christ, or Protestantism, or liberalism. Our conception of history is the history of ideas.

In the last 20 years or so, with the rise of the Web, this conception has been hyper-reinforced. I post my “Neoreactionary” arguments and evidence about how fundamental “right-wing” changes to society would result in peace, prosperity, less crime, happier children, more intelligence, less obesity and, in the long run, the breeding of unicorns that defecate gumdrops. Some SJW grrrl just out of Wellsley (or more likely, struggling to complete her Womyn’s Studies B.A. at a state university) posts that I’m a POS racist sexist LGBTIQ-phobe whose ideas would lead to death camps for everyone except white cismales. She argues that fundamental “left-wing” changes to society would result in equality, peace, equality, less crime, equal children and animals, equality of intelligence, social justice, racial justice, economic justice, sexual justice and, in the long run, Gaia defecating non-GMO unsalted manna that would feed the world and allow her to pay off her student loans.


GitHub implements policies to please social justice warriors

GitHub is the most popular central repository for open-source projects in the world. They also just implemented a ridiculous terms of use. These highlights seem like parody, but they’re dead serious.

Harassment includes:

  • Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, parenting, drugs, and employment
  • Physical contact and simulated physical contact (eg, textual descriptions like “hug” or “backrub”) without consent or after a request to stop
  • Deliberate misgendering. This includes deadnaming or persistently using a pronoun that does not correctly reflect a person’s gender identity. You must address people by the name they give you when not addressing them by their username or handle

Remember that misgendering is real, and it’s dangerous. Also:

We will not act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’

They also recently removed a repository for having the word “retard” in the code, which seems to be contrary to the spirit of open-source software. Check out GitLab if you’re looking for a good alternative that hasn’t kowtowed to ideological fanatics.

I’m glad these kind of overplayed hands keep happening. The media isn’t going to report on what a joke it is, but it’s going to make more conservatives than the Koch brothers could ever hope to.

What the Latin American left could learn from Ron Paul?


Ron Paul is clearly one of the most influential politicians in America. His presidential campaigns popularized libertarianism in a way no one had  before. Libertarians overseas know him, and a lot of them had a genuine appreciation, but people outside the United States who are not libertarians don’t know him. The foreign media probably doesn’t have a clue why a Republican Party presidential candidate is against war and supports drug legalization.

I’m a Peruvian who came to politics from the radical left but after getting familiar with libertarianism, I think there are a lot of things that the Latin America left could learn from Ron Paul.

Ending the War on Drugs is the most obvious libertarian idea that the left should embrace. Prohibition of drugs was part of an imperialist policy that generated the corruption of Latin American governments and had caused the boom of large narco guerrillas which endanger the civil population mostly in Mexico and Central America but also in Peru and Colombia.

The drug legalization argument could be based on the idea of individual responsibility and freedom of choose, conservatives would sound like hypocrites if they attack these policy on that grounds.

Oppose corporate free trade deals. That’s a position that the left wings in most countries oppose, but Chile, now governed by the Socialist Party, supporting TPP shows that there are exceptions. Even in countries where there is a right-wing government the left should use the argument that free trade deals are just corporate protectionism and have nothing to do with free markets. What could be reaction of conservatives in a parliament if a left-wing congressman argue against free trade while mentioning Ron Paul and the works of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute on the matter? The conservatives would not only look like hypocrites but also ignorant if they continue to support that policy.

Show respect for civil liberties. The Latin American left had a bad experience in the past with coup d’états promote by the United States but I hardly believe that the protests of indigenous people in Bolivia or Ecuador are a product of imperialism. The right of free speech and free assembly should be consider fundamental for any left-wing government.

Stand for anti-imperialism. Imperialism is not a myth of the left but a real policy of global expansion of influence by the United States. Quoting a conservative congressman from United States would made clear that imperialism is not creation of the left but a reality.

Closing U.S. military bases in the region should be a priority, and reducing military spending. The nationalism of Latin American armies is dangerous. A lot of corrupt military leaders had participated in coup d’états in the region. Giving more money and power to them is not a good idea.

While maybe some readers could had been surprised at beginning of the text, there are several policies proposed by Ron Paul that the Latin American left could embrace. In the American context, Ron Paul is to the left of Barack Obama. Ron Paul had spoken that despite not agreeing with the policies of Venezuela, he doesn’t think that sanctions have done any good. Ron Paul has been saying that United States shouldn’t intervene in Latin America and that the embargo toward Cuba must end. He has some fans in the region — probably not part of left — but maybe Latin American radicals could learn something from the Ron Paul revolution.

Why is a libertarian Nobel Prize winner in favor of free college?


Mario Vargas Llosa’s politics are confusing for a lot of people, in Peru some called him a neoliberal and in United States some think he is conservative, but the fact is that he calls himself liberal and he explains that he is classical liberal, not a Keynesian. The Peruvian Literature Nobel Prize winner is a supporter of democracy, free markets, abortion and gay rights.

He sounds like a serious libertarian, but he supports a policy few libertarians would support — free college. How to explain his support for a policy that socialists like Bernie Sanders have embraced? Well, he is man of his own and even criticize libertarians for focusing more on economics than culture. Libertarian bating sites like Salon usually promote the idea that libertarians are only white male readers of Ayn Rand but I wonder that social democrat writers would think of libertarians supporting free college.

Mario Vargas Llosa studied Literature in National University of San Marcos, the most ancient university in the Americas. In Peru, public universities are completely free. Mario Vargas Llosa had spoken that his alma mater was where he convinced himself to be writer and spoken about the fundamental role of the public education in the development of the country. I attended to the same alma mater that Mario Vargas Llosa, I studied Philosophy there and I know that most students and even professors define themselves as leftists. There are not many people there who define themselves as libertarians but a funny anecdote was when social democratic professor of social science propose to privatize the university. So who was the libertarian and the social democrat in that case?

I think that people are more than political labels, independent thinking is always needed. The libertarian icon Karl Hess used to make fun of libertarians who defined themselves as Hayekians or Misesians, saying they were in same trap of Marxists who called themselves Stalinists or Trotskyists. Karl Hess, like Mario Vargas Llosa thought that politics was more than a devotion to a certain political philosopher or only economics but the product of one’s own experience and culture. Mario Vargas Llosa novels might not be as resolutely pro-free market as some libertarians would like, but the fact is that with his diverse visions of liberty, the Peruvian writer teaches a valuable lesson to supporters and critics of libertarianism, a real free individual is one who can think on his own, not someone who repeats like a parrot the things written in a book of economics.