How Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard Took Liberty Down the Wrong RoadSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:09
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?
- - - - -