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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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An arbitrator is a ruler?

An arbitrator is a ruler? What about the people that revise software licensing agreements? What about enforcers and modifiers of contracts?

The point is that if the government is of delegated and limited powers then it is fulfilling a contractual function only. The difference being that government "runs with the land" so that you must leave its jurisdiction in order to breach or rescind the contract.

I am in no way saying that government is not coercive, only that you risk defining "rulers" into non-existence by applying it too broadly.

Ventura 2012

Government as contractor

1. An arbitrator is not a rule-maker; he is a contract-enforcer enforcing rules that his clients have mutually agreed upon. He is a true contractor-employee, not a governor.

2. I don't understand the issue of software licensing agreements -- you'll have to explain that to us non-lawyers.

3. People who enforce and NEGOTIATE the modification of contracts (rather than unilaterally imposing changes, as governments do) are likewise contractor-employees.

4. A "government" of delegated and limited powers might not be a "ruler," I agree. How fortunate for me, then, that such a "government" does not exist in the real world, and arguably never has or could.

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

1. Actually arbitrators are

1. Actually arbitrators are entrusted to use broad discretion, including equitable considirations. The point is that they are "rules" within their delegated sphere, like members of Congress or whatnot.

2. Think Itunes, how you accept new terms every time you want to use the thing.

3. So are politicians acting within their expressly limited functions.

4. You're aggregating far too much. A government can act legitimately within the scope of its powers or it can act illegitimately outside of it. Many government functions even today are legitimate Constitutionally delegate functions. This is true for performers of any contract.

Again, you are going to be bound by "rulers" put in place by economies of scale and mass consumerism in an anarchy, so for your own argument's sake I would refrain from the inane criticism of minarchists as "wanting rulers".

Ventura 2012

So what you are saying Bill

Is that the law is your “ruler” (your words not my) and if you choose to break it you are accepting the consequences? So your ethics are defined by the laws. But if your neighbor had a hot daughter that was 18 years old you would do her because is it legal, even though it would be immoral (depending on your age and hers). So the only standard of your character is the laws which other men make acceptable and you still get to choose which ones you follow. If you saw money flying out of an armored car, would you pick it up to return it or keep it? Would you assist someone that had been beaten; you know there are Good Samaritan Laws? Would you offer your neighbor a place to stay after a fire? This is volunteerism. Would you like to live there…..because you can’t write enough laws to create this place……but millions of us do live there and it’s not because of any law…..we have to have laws from people that think like this “as far as my 'ruler,' i follow the law except where i know i can get away with it”

None of us can escape God's law

It is the law of nature and persists regardless of the system of governance that is in place. That is what I choose to live by and it provides a way for all the examples you have given.

Of course it can be ignored at peril like the Constitution has been but again, it is my belief that it is inevitably inescapable. It is best to live in the reality of that and form moral government informed by it.

Others have ways to define their moral codes absent of a ruler certainly.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
www.yaliberty.org - Young Americans for Liberty
www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery - Stop Deploying Traumatized Troops

I didn't agree with everything in the "The Golden Mean"...

... but at least I read the darn book, instead of trying to nitpick quotes off of a Daily Paul post. I suggest that more of you do the same.

That "libertarians" and "conservatives" have failed to stem the rising tide of socialism and tyranny is simply a fact. That BOTH groups have adopted poisonous principles that keep them eternally divided and working at crossed purposes should be evident to anyone who has spent more than ten minutes reading comments on the Daily Paul.

I am very sorry that the train of thought that he follows cannot be adequately distilled into a Tweet; especially when it must overcome the psychological resistance born of years of propaganda and misplaced zealotry.

"The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values" is a fabulous book and Nelson Hultberg, its author, is a genius.

******************************
The Virtual Conspiracy

Golden meaningless

Tell me why you think the golden mean concept has any validity.

I'll bite.

Seems like the end result of political efforts if they are to be successful. Do you deny this?

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
www.yaliberty.org - Young Americans for Liberty
www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery - Stop Deploying Traumatized Troops

Allegory's picture

Crickets...


http://youtu.be/xnMI64kXQA8

allegory - ˈalɪg(ə)ri/ - noun - 1. a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

A related post

www.dailypaul.com/291455/public-vs-private

Rothbard and Rand were strong advocates for keeping the public out of private, but perhaps we need both and the founders knew this?

I see confused people

1) Ayn Rand was not an anarchist. Ayn Rand was vehemently opposed to anarchism.

2) Roy Childs WAS an anarchist. His "Open Letter to Ayn Rand" was meant to show that any government will violate the non-agression principle. Hultberg interprets is as the converse of the non-agression principle being wrong because we need government. Uh, say what? That's like saying that government needs to kill people sometimes to retain power and since we need government, killing is sometimes ok.

3) When the golden mean is shown to be inapplicable to moral questions with the example of murder, Hultberg responds by saying that it is only applicable to some situations. He does not, however, demonstrate that it is applicable to laws and government. Are not laws related to moral questions?

4) Hultberg claims that there can be no objective law in an ancap society. First, there can be no objective law under government, because the government is, by definition, ABOVE THE LAW. Why? Because the government is the judge in all lawsuits that involve the government. Second, it is not objective law for which we should strive, since this is an impossibility anyway. All decisions are subjective. What we should strive for is IMPARTIAL law. And impartial law is only possible if you have multiple producers of law.

5) Hultberg says "Liberty, via the non-aggression principle, has become the fundamental value from which culture is to evolve in an anarcho-capitalist world. This puts the cart before the horse so to speak, for liberty is not a fundamental axiom. Right metaphysical values come first, out of which then evolves a culture of liberty. Liberty is a result of a specific type of culture that stems from certain metaphysical views that have been handed down through the centuries via the Judeo-Graeco-Christian worldview."

Two problems. Who decides on the right metaphysical values? If liberty is the result of the specific type of culture that stems from the Judeo-Graeco-Christian worldview, why has most of the history of the Judeo-Graeco-Christian societies been characterized by tyranny?

That's enough for now. I only made it half-way through this mess and am tired.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Michael Nystrom's picture

Destined to be a classic

Since most of the comments are negative, I thought I'd remind everyone of this one - not by an anonymous screen name - but by none other than esteemed Austrian economist, and the founder and producer of Freedom Fest, Mark Skousen

"The Golden Mean is an extremely important book that I believe is destined to be a classic …[It] made me think and gave me answers I've never thought of before. Mr. Hultberg is a very gifted writer and has written a fantastic book that needs to be read by all defenders of freedom."

– Mark Skousen, former professor of economics, Columbia University, author of The Making of Modern Economics.

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.

We'll see , it's a specific prediction that Skousen is

making, that it will become a classic.

Skousen is a quasi-Austrian at best

Also, he pissed of many libertarians when he invited Giuliani to be the keynote speaker at FEE. That choice has to make you wonder.

I consider David Gordon the gold standard on logical thought and consistency. Here is Gordon taking down Skousen's "The Making of Modern Economics:"

https://mises.org/daily/668

EDIT: Then there is this gem from Skousen's wikipedia article:
"Skousen was an economic analyst for the CIA from 1972 to 1975." Hmm...

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Argument from authority

You're using the argument from authority. Instead, try to argue against the logic-proof posts below where the Golden Mean is shown to be worthless mumbo jumbo.

double post

total newb move.

HA! NAILED! BOOYA!

(he runs away shouting)

WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO DID YOU JUST SEE THAT? OOOOOOOH YEEEEEAHHHHHHHHH!

South is the new way up! Major trend for 2014: Latin America. Start checking out South American investment, it's part of our future now.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Smudge Pot, you crack me up

No one can do it like you.

Wooo! Check that out. A mantra!!!

No one can do it like you.

Reminds me of that old Zen story about the guy who goes into the meat shop and asks the butcher for his very best cut of meat. The butcher replies, "But they are all my very best cut of meat." At which point the guy instantly becomes enlightened. (And runs away shouting, just like you did.)

No one can do it like you.

That applies to you, and you, and you, and you. And you too. Never forget it.

No one can do it like you.

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.
Michael Nystrom's picture

"Fantastic book...needs to be read by all defenders of freedom"

Since most of the comments are negative, I thought I'd remind everyone of this one - not by an anonymous screen name - but by none other than esteemed Austrian economist, and the founder and producer of Freedom Fest, Mark Skousen

"The Golden Mean is an extremely important book that I believe is destined to be a classic …[It] made me think and gave me answers I've never thought of before. Mr. Hultberg is a very gifted writer and has written a fantastic book that needs to be read by all defenders of freedom."

– Mark Skousen, former professor of economics, Columbia University, author of The Making of Modern Economics.

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.

There is a mistake in the

There is a mistake in the "list": The "tyranny/freedom/anarchy" line commits the same error as the "left/right" political spectrum. I am unsure if this was a typo or confirmation bias towards conservatism.

If this wasn't a typo, then the author's entire attack on NAP is about to be ripped apart by myself. however, I shall correct it thusly( If the word "anarchy" causes an emotional response in the reader, that is not my problem):

Tyranny --> Anarchy --> Freedom

Now we have too much, too little, and just the right amount of our virtue, liberty. You can't maximize liberty under a tyrant, or surrounded by people who are "free" to assault you. Both the parental tyrant and the irresponsible person without boundaries can diminish an individual's liberty.

BTW, NAP, or even liberty are NOT first principles, as the author suggests. The first principles are increasing the satisfaction of life, and the axiom of human action. NAP, and liberty, are logical deductions based on the fact that satisfaction is strictly subjective. We know humans act, and we know humans expect their actions to cause a more satisfactory future than not acting, and we know that ONLY the individual can judge his satisfaction. From this, we can deduce(with perfect accuracy; scientific deductions, in contrast to scientific experimentation/empiricism, do not suffer from the "problem of induction") the concept of liberty, or, as Randians call it, the non-aggression principle.

I'll have none of that "defense is aggression" crap. They are obviously different, which starts to reveal the irreconcilable( and violent) flaw of conservatism... but that's another conversation entirely.

"I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual."

Libertarians are Liberals who Reject Marx in favor of Adam Smith

libertarians are liberals, not conservatives.

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

not Adam Smith but

Carl Menger!

Adam Smith was not a very good economist. He promoted the labor theory of value, like Marx, and was actually quite pro-government in many ways.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Putting down Adam Smith

as an inferior economist is like putting down Isaac Newton as an inferior physicist. Smith pretty much invented modern economics, back in the late 1700s, laying the foundation on which others have built. Menger's improvements came a hundred years later.

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

Please read this

and form your own opinion.

The Adam Smith Myth:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard104.html

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Very interesting, thanks.

I haven't read Smith's Wealth of Nations, myself, so I'm not going to further defend his claim to fame, which indeed may be undeserved.

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

correct

correct

Ventura 2012

Send in the clowns.

On one of the rare occasions when we agree on something, we're both wrong.

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

We're right actually.

We're right actually. Rothbard was obsessed with revisionist history and he does it again here. Adam Smith was a good economist for his time.

Ventura 2012

Have you read Smith?

I have not; I was just repeating "common knowledge" about his reputation. ("Common knowledge" being the world's greatest liar.) I've never even heard of the economists who preceded Smith, so I can't assess the validity of Rothbard's critique. Can you?

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

Yes. The fact is that Smith

Yes. The fact is that Smith made lassaiz faire economics easily understandable to the mainstream and his fame basically proves this point. No one has heard of Cantillon(unless you are a Ron Paul supporter). Likewise we can call Art Laffer a fraud for "stealing" the Laffer Curve from ancient Arab economists but we need to give credit to Laffer for reviving it. How right or wrong these economists were does not really bear on their stature historically, even Marx deserves some credit.

Ventura 2012

Not so. Adam Smith gets lots

Not so. Adam Smith gets lots of credit for CLASSICAL economics, but MODERN economics is based upon the fact that value is subjective, and shows that consumers determine ALL prices. Modern economics also explains why diamonds are more expensive than water, even though water is more "useful".

Adam Smith, and his peers, could do none of this with their methodology. These were the "inventions"(deduction is the correct term) of Carl Menger, the FATHER of MODERN economic science.

"I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual."