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"The Irony of Libertarianism...

...is that the atomistic individualism it prescribes would quickly vanish once the state is dismantled. In other words, if libertarians were successful in abolishing the modern therapeutic state, man would quickly revert to tribalism, the manner in which he's lived since time immemorial. The therapeutic state and libertarians live in a symbiotic relationship."

Thus spake my homey, Matthew Roberts, over at Alt.Right.

Truer words...&c.

Comments (23)

I didn't find that exact quote at the link, but I'd like to think there is a third alternative besides tribalism and the therapeutic state.

But I suppose it depends on how one defines "tribalism." If a libertine-style "libertarian" thinks its "tribalist" to permit job discrimination against (fill in the blank with the favored victim group of the month), then I guess that sort of "tribalism" is the only alternative to our present Big Brother-ism. Either we're forced to associate with people we don't wish to associate with, either we're forced to express enthusiastic, overt approval of everyone's lifestyle, etc., or we're not. Insofar as libertarianism has become shlibertarianism--statist liberalism with a few special emphases--then shlibertarians aren't going to like the removal of the state that insures that no one ever disapproves of anyone else's choices.

But _I_ wouldn't call America circa 1950 a "tribalist" society. For example, it wasn't possible for a woman's male relatives to kill her without legal repercussions after holding a "family court" if she dishonored the tribe.

I'm not sure all Libertarians do subscibe to individualism. Hans Hermann-Hoppe is someone who doesn't. I think it tends to be Social Libertarians who believe in this view, who tend to find libertarian ideas applied to social policy more important than Economic libertarianism.

A natural order, according to Hoppe, is "characterized by increased discrimination, segregation, spatial separation, uniculturalism (cultural homogeneity), exclusivity, and exclusion.

In addition, whereas states have undermined intermediating social institutions (family households, churches, covenants, communities, and clubs) and the associated ranks and layers of authority so as to increase their own power vis-a-vis equal and isolated individuals, a natural order is distinctly un-egalitarian: "elitist," "hierarchical," "proprietarian," "patriarchical," and "authoritorian," and its stability depends essentially on the existence of a self-conscious natural--voluntarily acknowledged -aristocracy."

So Hoppe seems to see the Tribal manner of a Libertarian society already.

"The therapeutic state and libertarians live in a symbiotic relationship."

The above should be revised to say libertines. Some of us Catholics are libertarian because we see the modern secular state as a force undermining the family, community, and the authority of the Church. Hence, if we want to shore up family, community, church, and our ability to choose the good, we must starve the Leviathan, the secular state. Here is John Zmirak on why Catholics should be political libertarians in response to Obamacare:

"So we must oppose such a system for as long as we suffer under the laws and the courts and the legal and opinion elites who'd force us to fund intrinsic evils with our confiscated wealth. Leave aside any libertarian arguments about the proper limits of the State; this State, our State, is relentlessly secular. Its version of secularism is almost devoid of a true understanding of the Natural Law. Ironically, Natural Law -- our notion of the truths and goods knowable even to pagans -- is rejected out of hand by pretty much everyone but Catholics. Which renders Natural Law arguments pretty much . . . useless. In America, State action will be secular in spirit, utilitarian in execution, and in the service of the modern culture of death. Until and unless we can evangelize and overtly Christianize the State -- I'm not holding my breath -- we are morally obliged to shrink it, squeeze it, entangle in complications and starve it of funds however we can. We are obliged to be libertarians for the duration."


From holding a libertarian political position, it does not follow that one is an individualist. So the "irony" you speak of, is just was a certainset of libertarians are looking for, including the Hoppean variety.

"Either we're forced to associate with people we don't wish to associate with, either we're forced to express enthusiastic, overt approval of everyone's lifestyle, etc., or we're not."

This amused me, because Lydia knows as well as anyone else that the people who say we should be enthusiastically approving of, say, transsexualism and Islam also hold that we should show overt disapproval for the lifestyle of fundamentalist Christians, macho males, and "Appalachian Americans".

I think Mr. Derbyshire's theory is more fitting-- basically, libertarianism works only when there is a shared culture. That can be from tribalism, or from a nanny state, or some other ways....


It seems like the link goes to a Richard Spenser article, not a Matt Roberts article.

Got me fair and square, Bobcat. I should have put 'everyone' in scare quotes, shouldn't I?

Matt Roberts' remark is in the comments following Spencer's article. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to link directly to comments at Alt Right.

Here is the link to Roberts' comment: http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/left-right/up-with-anarchy/#comment-44151752

Unfortunately, they have a poor javascript implementation, so you have to click comments on that page, and then re-request the anchor. You can do that by hitting enter.

Thanks for the mention, Steve.


I meant tribalism in a more general sense - one invoking smaller, non-propositional forms of government. As people are different, it only stands to reason that different groups of people would favor different governing arrangements. As Aristotle pointed out, some people are better suited for a politeia / commonwealth; others for aristocracy / oligarchy; others for monarchy; etc. The reference to tribalism was only meant to illustrate that man would form more natural political arrangements - based in blood and soil and common ancestral traditions - like those we've seen since time immemorial, not an abstract therapeutic propositional state.

Thanks, MA. I think I understand better now--namely, that "tribalism" isn't a negative term as you're using it. Would you say that America as originally founded was "propositionalist," "tribalist," or some of both? It certainly wasn't _therapeutic_, I'll agree with that for sure!

I read the whole article. Maybe Paul is right about revising the sedition act; just wrong about the target :).

"To udnerstand (sic) what I mean, conceive, if you will, of a hypothetical situation (though, luckily, one that's starting to seem more and more plausible each day):

The U.S. federal government collapses under financial strain, and its armed forces lack the will and resources to preserve the Union."

"From this starting point, one can imagine a whole host of new -- or rather old -- social formations arising in the stead of the defunct federal order..."

Humm, social democracy/something beyond Thunderdome? So hard to choose. Is the prospect of universal health care so disturbing that you all need to mentally flee to some dystopian future?

"And, moreover, it would be "un-libertarian" in a way that our current welfare nation-state -- which has war-making, taxing, and spying powers undreamt of by Joseph Stalin -- is not."

A night in the Lubyanka might be instructive. Clearly time wasn't wasted on any pesky history books or classes.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that Boaz doesn't consider any society free if he senses that somewhere, some black person is being discriminated against."

And, all we need to know.

M.Z. - thanks. Unfortunately, your link seems to go to the same place mine did!

Alt.Right is probably the best *looking* right-wing website on the internet - and that's no small matter, in a website. But there *are* some functionality issues.

M.A. & Lydia - I like the description of our present arrangement as "an abstract therapeutic propositional state," except that it misses a crucial element: the subsidized growth of a class of near-feral children of unwed mothers, especially in our inner-city ghettos, who get flattered and pampered in the government "schools" until the age of 18...at which point they get released onto the streets, until they end up doing something so bad & so stupid that they get themselves locked away in prison.

If you haven't already read Charles Murray on the "custodial" state, I'd be happy to provide a link or two.

So let's call it the "abstract therapeutic custodial propositional state."

On the other hand, let's not. It's clunky, and the acronym doesn't work.


al - if you'd like to respond to Richard Spencer's article, the appropriate venue would be alt.right. Comments are open, and you don't even have to register.

As it happens, I'd agree with you on at least one point: Spencer misunderestimates the dreams, and the reality, of Joseph Stalin. He is, after all, a very young man, and it's not like our current "educational" system ever cared to inform him about what a "night in the Lubyanka" might have been like.

So whose fault is that?

But this is all OT.

If you have any views on MA's excellent comment which inspired my post...please do fire away.


I don't think the U.S. was originally propositionalist and would have been tribalist in the sense that it was largely seen as an offshoot of the British Isles and Europe. As John Jay wrote: "Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence."

Samuel Huntington, however, thinks it to be a combination of both: "America is a founded society created by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century settlers, almost all of whom came from the British Isles .. They initially defined America in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and most importantly religion. Then in the eighteenth century they also had to define America ideologically to justify their independence from their home-countrymen."


CTAPS would perhaps work, but is clunky.

Regardless whether one thinks the U.S. is propositional from the beginning or not, I think most would agree that the U.S. after WWII becomes propositional in a manner unseen (whether in type or degree) previously. The Cold War made the U.S. more ideological than she had ever been previously. Just rewind a couple decades to the Immigration Act of 1924, to which there was very little opposition. Barring a few NYC radicals, no one at the time saw the act as a betrayal of some American ideology that the U.S. must serve as a beacon to the world's masses. During the Cold War, this quickly changes.

Just rewind a couple decades to the Immigration Act of 1924, to which there was very little opposition. Barring a few NYC radicals, no one at the time saw the act as a betrayal of some American ideology that the U.S. must serve as a beacon to the world's masses. During the Cold War, this quickly changes.

I'm wondering if WWII itself affected the immigration debate through making immigration seem righteous and just.

A quote from an article:

Roosevelt did virtually nothing to help. He refused to exert pressure to relax the rigid American immigration quotas in order to permit Jews to find refuge from the Reich. It may be said in his defense that the national origins quota system was at that time very popular, and had Roosevelt sought to change it, he would have risked political suicide. But he did not entertain such obvious alternatives as allowing temporary residence, without the possibility of future American citizenship. Neither did he show much interest in efforts to settle the Jews elsewhere. Churchill, despite his frequently expressed sympathy for Jews and Zionism, was little better.

After seeing the suffering that was going on in the rest of the world, people felt the need to extend the good of America elsewhere or let people share a piece of the good. We're now seeing the devasting effects of this thought process.

American ideology that the U.S. must serve as a beacon to the world's masses. During the Cold War, this quickly changes.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883.

I have trouble believing that it was WWII, or the Cold War, that introduced the immigration idea that we are a beacon to other peoples. Maybe there was an ideological stiffening to the already existing pervasive feeling. Maybe there was a pendulum swing forward toward immigration after it had swung backward from 1924, (after swinging forward for decades before that).

"I have trouble believing that it was WWII, or the Cold War, that introduced the immigration idea that we are a beacon to other peoples."

I believe people have always wanted to come to America. I was just thinking that Americans willingness to accept Mass Immigration may have been raised after hearing the stories of suffering and lack of freedom in countries through WWII and the repression of the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. After hearing about the effects of not accepting immigrants during WWII, they may have been more willing to accept them during the Cold War.


As the poem you quote indicates, the idea might have preceded the Cold War, but it didn't become a political reality until the Cold War. In the 19th century, immigration levels, by modern standards, were low:


Excellent video, Matthew - thanks for the link.

For information on what Libertarians are doining or in actually leading efforts to abolish poverty, ignorance and more worldwide, please see: http://www.libertarian-international.org/

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