0 votes

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

- - - - -

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

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.

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.

That would be quite a sentence!

-

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.

-

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

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.

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.

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...

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

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.