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How Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard Took Liberty Down the Wrong Road

Here is a short excerpt from the latest Daily Bell interview with friend and fellow DPer, Nelson Hultberg, Founder and Executive Director of Americans for a Free Republic.

Daily Bell: You have a new book out entitled The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values. Can you explain briefly what your book is about?

Nelson Hultberg: When it first began in the early 1940s, the freedom movement in America was not split between libertarians and conservatives. It was one coalition unified in rebellion against FDR's welfare state. By 1970, however, the movement had become tragically bifurcated. Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard took libertarians off into anarchy, while the Burkean philosopher Russell Kirk drove conservatives into the complacency of welfare-statism. This split has created two incomplete visions (contemporary libertarianism and conservatism) that are, in their singularity, incapable of effectively challenging the authoritarian mega-state.

What must be done is to reunite these two divisions as they were in the beginning. This will require a rational theory of politics that can bring together the two philosophical streams of John Locke and Edmund Burke so as to restore the original "republic of states" that Jefferson and the Founders envisioned. It is the purpose of The Golden Mean to bring this about.

Only in this way can the forces of freedom become strong enough to check the relentless advance of modern day statism. This unity between libertarians and conservatives is the crucial missing ingredient in our fight to restore America. The Golden Mean lays the philosophical groundwork for its reinstillation.

This unity means a merging of libertarians with TRUE conservatives who believe in limited government, not with today's NEO conservatives who advocate the relentless expansion of government. Libertarians have a common ground with the "Old Republic" thinking of the 1940s, conservative minds like Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, and Frank Meyer.

The Golden Mean is much more, though, than a paean to the history of libertarianism and conservatism. It is a paradigm shifting book that will dramatically change the way one looks at political theory and the idea of a free society. It is meant for both the scholar and the educated layman.

Daily Bell: You have a new book out entitled The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values. Can you explain briefly what your book is about?

Nelson Hultberg: When it first began in the early 1940s, the freedom movement in America was not split between libertarians and conservatives. It was one coalition unified in rebellion against FDR's welfare state. By 1970, however, the movement had become tragically bifurcated. Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard took libertarians off into anarchy, while the Burkean philosopher Russell Kirk drove conservatives into the complacency of welfare-statism. This split has created two incomplete visions (contemporary libertarianism and conservatism) that are, in their singularity, incapable of effectively challenging the authoritarian mega-state.

What must be done is to reunite these two divisions as they were in the beginning. This will require a rational theory of politics that can bring together the two philosophical streams of John Locke and Edmund Burke so as to restore the original "republic of states" that Jefferson and the Founders envisioned. It is the purpose of The Golden Mean to bring this about.

Only in this way can the forces of freedom become strong enough to check the relentless advance of modern day statism. This unity between libertarians and conservatives is the crucial missing ingredient in our fight to restore America. The Golden Mean lays the philosophical groundwork for its reinstillation.

This unity means a merging of libertarians with TRUE conservatives who believe in limited government, not with today's NEO conservatives who advocate the relentless expansion of government. Libertarians have a common ground with the "Old Republic" thinking of the 1940s, conservative minds like Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, and Frank Meyer.

The Golden Mean is much more, though, than a paean to the history of libertarianism and conservatism. It is a paradigm shifting book that will dramatically change the way one looks at political theory and the idea of a free society. It is meant for both the scholar and the educated layman.

Daily Bell: Tell us about your book's title, The Golden Mean, what it refers to and why it is so important for freedom.

Nelson Hultberg: The Golden Mean is Aristotle's famous "doctrine of the mean" in philosophy discovered over 2300 years ago. It is one of the most powerful natural laws that govern existence, demonstrating what is virtue and what is vice in human affairs. It states that virtue consists of the rational course that lies between two opposite and natural extremes, i.e., the Golden Mean.

For example, Aristotle tells us in his Nicomachean Ethics that if a man is confronted with danger, he meets it in one of three ways. He succumbs to the extreme of cowardice or to the opposite extreme of rashness; or he chooses the middle course of "courage," which is contrary to both. In like fashion, a man can choose "liberality," which is midway between the opposite extremes of stinginess and extravagance, "self-control" between drunkenness and abstemiousness, and "ambition" between sloth and greed.

Aristotle's theory was based upon the fact that in most human action, there is a wide range of intensity, all the way from too little (defect) to too much (excess). In between such defect and excess, there lies an appropriate mean – a golden mean – which would be the good, with the two opposites of defect and excess being evils.

There are, of course, numerous values of life (other than the ones Aristotle put forth) that can also be placed on a spectrum to determine a mean. Human life entails a wide array of desires, actions, and needs, many of which can be portrayed in terms of a vice-virtue-vice relationship. Listed below are a few examples that I have put together:

Thus, midway between the defect of apathy and the excess of zealotry, there lies the rational balance of concern. Between vulgarity and prudery, there is the mean of decency. Between treason and fanaticism, there is loyalty. Between strife and humdrum, there is peace. And between tyranny and anarchy, there is a thing called freedom. Precisely how concern, decency, loyalty, peace and freedom are to be defined is often times in dispute, but what is important is that there is infused in reality a spectrum upon which such values can be placed, a spectrum where at some point men's actions become defective, excessive, or proper.

What is so beautiful about Aristotle's doctrine is that it shows all the noblest and most desired values of our existence – such as loyalty, faith, love, peace, order and freedom – to be means. All of the things we value most in life are "means" between two opposite vices. This is the way reality is constructed. Almost always there is a mean between two evils.

. . .

Daily Bell: How did libertarians come to embrace anarchism so fervently? What is the source of this philosophical misdirection, as you would say?

Read the whole interview to find out

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Ayn Rand & Jefferson

Sadly, I don't think Nelson has read Ayn Rand and doesn't really understand her philosophy. I'm sure if he really read Jefferson, he would think he was an anarchist. Compared to the conservatives of today, Jefferson and Madison were relatively anarchist!

Absolutely in love with the concept...

VERY eye opening read and am completely fascinated about its concepts and ideas.

Ron Paul 2012

Government worshipers

Small request, you people that want to be ruled, once you get a hold of that toy called power, would you mind excusing all the rest that doesn't want to participate in your great government thingy? You can keep your laws, regardless of them 2+2 will still be 4, it's just some people don't want to participate or have anything to do with your government/ruler/king/president or whatever else you want to call your system of theft and abuse. We are not trying to impose our views on you, would you reciprocate?

And therein lies the

And therein lies the conundrum.

No, of course they won't allow you to not participate, because if they did and you still benefited from certain govt activites (like true natl defense) then you'd be freeloading, and if they allowed YOU to freeload then many others would want to as well.

So no, you must submit to their govt, and thus to coercion.

And once one accepts the concept of coercion as legitimate we ultimately will end up right back where we are today.

Never trouble trouble til trouble troubles you. Fortune Cookie

Government worshipers

Small request, you people that want to be ruled, once you get a hold of that toy called power, would you mind excusing all the rest that doesn't want to participate in your great government thingy? You can keep your laws, regardless of them 2+2 will still be 4, it's just some people don't want to participate or have anything to do with your government/ruler/king/president or whatever else you want to call your system of theft and abuse. We are not trying to impose our views on you, would you reciprocate?

The "golden mean"...

...is a lame attempt to rationalize the practical necessity for cooperation between conservatives and libertarians. It is laughably flawed. Do not build the libertarian-conservative coalition on that quicksand, build it on a practical understanding that cooperation benefits both parties.

P.S. The author also does not understand anarcho-capitalism.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

Sure he understands it. You

Sure he understands it. You sound like the old Communists, no one can possibly understand your utopia without agreeing with it, lol.

Ventura 2012

Michael Nystrom's picture

Lawrence W. Reed on The Golden Mean

"No one can read this book and not have his thoughts and conscience provoked…It is a profound and passionate effort toward healing a major schism that is long overdue."

Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education. and author of A Republic, If We Can Keep It.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

So

Stretching credulity, this mush of humdrum treason you call freedom is nothing more than an inflation of chaos rising from concern over growing tyranny and stagnation - without honor for the cynicism over the recent strife, prudery getting the better part of puffery, this fanaticism, this pure zealotry represents a regimentation of eccentricity in your new anarchy (but when has decency or loyalty governed the uniformity of abasement you call a faith) - still yet a growth of peace based in order, with a dispassion for that vulgarity you know as your love of individuality shall be the virtue in excess to defect that mean vice.

You win the internet today.

You win the internet today.

LMAO bravo.. you win the

LMAO bravo.. you win the badly translated von mises Award and i present you with 100 scraggly dollhairs and 14 billcoins.

Master Pretzel Twister
https://twitter.com/MenckensGhost

Interesting Thesis

But I have a problem with it. What he's advocating is mere pragmatism, or worse yet, the very superficial 'moderate' politics.

Concerning values and principles, there is no 'mean'. There's just what's right.

I could make this list:

Vice Virtue Vice

Injustice Meh Justice
Consent of Governed If it's not an 'emergency' Subjects
Religious freedom Political Correctness Theocracy
liberty arbitrary constitution security

Some things are just valid principles and values and there isn't a 'mean'. We need to hash out how principles translate into realistic political solutions.

Localism, nullification, etc. is a great paradigm. Go back to Jefferson, throw in Ayn Rand, and hell there are some lefties who see the need for localism too.

There isn't a 'golden' set of ideals for a nation. We possess our own ideals, whatever they are. Instead, there are political solutions that permit us to coexist with our varied ideals.

This smacks too much of inside-the-beltway thinking. As if policy debates can be settled by a golden mean and that therefore represents the direction of modern conservatism/libertarianism.

Inasmuch as libertarians are attached to unrealistic ideals, they need to keep working until they find something realistic - like nullification - rather than abandon their motivating principles for a mean. Likewise, conservatives need to realize that big government and warfare/welfare has nothing to do with their social values against gay people or whatever. There's just no harmony here, that I see, as if there's this spectrum we're all on and we need to seek the middle.

I admire this guy for trying, but again it smacks of Jesse Benton inside Washington baseball type thinking. Maybe the insiders need that? Whatever....

100 Dollhairs to whoever is

100 Dollhairs to whoever is first to use every word in the chart in a sentence.

Master Pretzel Twister
https://twitter.com/MenckensGhost

That would be quite a sentence!

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Free includes debt-free!

Meaningless word game is the center column

That center column of words sounds like the list of Fox News talking points. Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, and every other neocon claim to embrace that center column every day. They are mind-numbing words used to prevent action and change.

There it is

.

Does Hultberg define his terms?

a) what's his definition of anarchy?
b) He assumes that anarchy is an 'excess' as per his diagram. What's the specific criterion he is using to determine if something is an 'excess' or not?

Excess of poverty and

Excess of poverty and savagery.

Ventura 2012

Sound like what we have now with all the central planners.

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Free includes debt-free!

Exactly the point of the

Exactly the point of the article.

Ventura 2012

What's so bad about that?

Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard took libertarians off into anarchy,

What's so bad about that?
Anarchy: without rulers

because its utopian nonsense

because its utopian nonsense that no one will ever take seriously

Master Pretzel Twister
https://twitter.com/MenckensGhost

Except, when it comes to actual practice.

Tell me who your ruler is, the I'll consider your Utopian claim.

Free includes debt-free!

i am the master of my own

i am the master of my own mind and thoughts as much as is possible in the real world.

as far as my 'ruler,' i follow the law except where i know i can get away with it, or am willing to suffer the consequences. i accept the advantages of living in a society with laws and social cooperation, and i follow most of those laws, and all of the major ones. i don't kill and steal or cheat others. i don't deny the legitimacy of the order and law established by society for the defense of the basic security of life and property. this order and legal basis alone is the foundation of liberty in my view, and i prefer it to chaos, anarchy or isolation from society.

by your acts, i know that most or all of you also choose law and society, based on coercion and violence, to freedom from law. you choose the protection of society, and submission to its laws, rather than pick up your possessions and go outside the protection of the law, to find unlimited freedom.

Master Pretzel Twister
https://twitter.com/MenckensGhost

Literally, anarchy means without ruler.

In fact many self-proclaimed anarchist use the same arguments as you just did.

I would say that your proclamation is not utopian but practical. In German practical, is roughly equivalent to moral.

Free includes debt-free!

well the law or legal order,

well the law or legal order, whatever it is, is my ruler, and yours, to the extent we follow it and choose to live within it.

you say anarchy means 'without ruler.' that sounds like more of a personal slogan or affirmation than a real meaning.

if i had to define anarchy based on my knowledge i would say it is the absence of a legal authority able to maintain its laws.

whether it is anarchy by choice (ethical anarchism - we refuse to enforce laws) or by impotence (unable to enforce a legal order) - the result of anarchy in my opinion is a vacuum in which multiple political units emerge to create order via force. that order is likely to be 'pre legal' - not in accord with any predicable or written law, simply brute force to establish conditions of peace - order - essential to basic economic necessity of property, trade, etc.

i see human nature as preferring life to death and basic security of property and life to fantastic notions of unlimited liberty.

history bears that out, of course. revolutions don't last long, and anarchy never lasts more than a few breaths.

Master Pretzel Twister
https://twitter.com/MenckensGhost

Considering political anarchy is the natural condition of the

universe, I'd say anarchy has been lasting just fine since the beginning, whenever that is. It would appear there is no prohibition in nature to men forming regional tribes. It would also appear there is no prohibition in nature for tribes of men to trespass against whomever they decree.

Look at any world map and it is littered with geopolitical boundaries imposed upon the geography. Those nation states are anarchy in motion. The fact the entire political world fundamentally operates in anarchy does not bother me. The fact that anyone can trespass against anyone does not bother me. Equality to trespass seems like a fair system. I don't need to pretend or delude myself anarchy does not underlie everything political in order to feel better. It can not be prevented so what is the use to set about the impossible and coercing the nature of man? Men are good because they choose to be and if good can't be chosen there can be no good.

I am only interested in establishing, ordaining, or joining a tribe that is just which rests upon a solid foundation of the just application of law. Who or what does law apply to and why. If there is no opportunity to participate in a just tribe I shall continue to rely on my own self defense to resist all of the unjust ones by any and all means necessary.

Actually the American Revolution was betrayed by foreign debt.

Then Lincoln smashed the fragile republic, replacing it with a Union that went bankrupt by 1871 or so.

India also threw off British rule, but didn't go in debt to do it.

Joan of Arc also threw out the English and restored the French monarchy.

Not sure that history is clear on this matter.

Being without a ruler does not necessary imply being without laws.

Free includes debt-free!

Neither does government imply

Neither does government imply a "ruler"

Ventura 2012

Jaw falls on floor.

It goes beyond implication, I guess, into the definition itself. If you've got people making rules for others, you've got rulers.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...