Watching, reading, listening, thinking further on the talk given last week by Jeff Deist and the reaction it has generated and my corresponding journey so far on the intersection of libertarianism and culture. Not that these will be the last loose ends on this topic….
Coincidently, I watched a new (for me) video by Jordan Peterson, the third one in his continuing Biblical Series, this one entitled “God and the Hierarchy of Authority.” His presentation is about two hours long, with another 30 minutes or so for Q&A. He is so early in Genesis that even in this third two-hour lecture he still hasn’t introduced Adam and Eve.
As suggested in the title of the lecture, Peterson is developing the basis for the hierarchy of authority – a topic clearly on point when it comes to understanding libertarianism and culture.
Now, before some of my atheist readers get up in arms, I will clarify: Peterson does not present his thoughts in the framework of “God said it, so it must be so.” He doesn’t believe this. Instead, he offers: the Bible – and in this case, the earliest verses in the Bible – merely capture the stories passed down from generation to generation since man was first able to both develop and pass down a story. You are free to decide on your own how long ago that might have been and under what circumstances.
That these stories survived out of the countless and unknown stories from time immemorial is a testament to the importance of these stories to man’s understanding of how must act in order to survive.
What is Peterson’s point? Man has survived because he has developed this hierarchy of authority; to think that man can survive without such a hierarchy is not only naïve, it is dangerously foolish if not destructive. He explains why he believes this to be true; he describes examples in the animal world that also demonstrate this to be true.
Which is what makes the belief of communists and many left-libertarians laughable. Both want to create a new man – one that, if he ever existed, did not survive even one generation; a man for whom hierarchy and authority are irrelevant.
And this is what makes critics like Steve Horwitz worthy of both derision and mockery when they suggest that Jeff Deist’s words such as family, religion, tradition, culture, civic or social institutions make him a Nazi fascist.
Speaking of Steve Horwitz, I thought I would look up something of his work. I have found enough to understand that he is pro-immigration and pro-open borders. I also found an interesting piece: “Anti-State” or “Pro-Liberty”? Some Thoughts on Israel. Up front, I will say that I do not disagree with all of what he writes. I merely want to focus on one item – germane to this cry for the “universalism” of western liberal values.
Beyond the obligatory (by him) smashing of Rothbard (you have to wonder why the obsession; jealousy? Guilt?), to make a long story short, the government in Israel might be bad but compared to what? Look at the other governments in the neighborhood.
Fair enough…from his western, liberal point of view. Why do I say this? From Horwitz:
Let me be blunt: there is one and only one state in the region that rests on broadly classical liberal values and that is Israel.
Who cares? Who says this is the standard that those who live there must accept? Unfortunately, I must go back to a time before the United States destroyed both Iraq and Syria…
I have talked to many people who live in (or, more often, used to live in) these two countries – too many people to count. To a person, they enjoyed the life they had in Aleppo, Damascus, and Bagdad. They felt safe; they owned businesses; they could practice their religion freely; their children went to school; they were able to travel.
They knew that as long as they didn’t directly challenge the government, their life would continue in this manner (as if this caveat is unnecessary in Israel or the United States). They appreciated and believed that their government was no western liberal democracy but it worked – and was necessary – for the society over-which it governed.
Which offers one more example of why this idea of the universalism of western liberal values is dangerous – and ignorant. The universe doesn’t want these values; they are (or, sadly, in the case of Syrians and Iraqis, were) quite happy under their previous scheme.
Iraq has held several elections since 2005. Do you think the people of Iraq feel better about life today because they now enjoy western liberal democracy? Why haven’t the elections brought peace and stability? Don’t tell me about the war; all of the factions kept in check by Hussein and Assad never cared about the outcome of elections.
As an aside, Horwitz listed the many liberal characteristics of Israel as compared to its neighbors:
It has the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a more or less market economy that protects private property, not to mention a higher degree of ethnic/religious inclusiveness in its political institutions.
While I disagree with portions of this list when compared to the pre-war Syria and Iraq, notice what isn’t on the list?
Has Horwitz ever advocated for open borders for Israel? I don’t know. If he has, it offers an extreme example of the liberty-robbing insanity of this idea. If he hasn’t, is it fair to ask: why not?
Finally, Horwitz has penned a reply to all of the criticism he has received for his comments on Deist’s speech. Almost all of the highest rated comments take issue (or worse) with Horwitz’ view. As to Horwitz’ comments, he clarifies that doesn’t think Deist is a Nazi. Further:
…the problem with Deist’s talk, and the Mises Institute more generally, is not that they are Nazis, but that they appear to have no problem with making arguments that are appealing to neo-Nazis and the rest of the unsavory elements of the right.
Because terms like family, religion, tradition, culture, civic or social institutions appeal to “the unsavory elements of the right”? I don’t get it. Because, to normal people, these all sound pretty savory.
No, no, no – Horwitz clarifies; this is not what he means:
…name a libertarian who has written more about the family and its importance for a free society than I have. …for the kind of libertarian who supposedly doesn’t care about religion or civil society, I sure do spend a lot of time doing volunteer work for synagogues and schools.
So, it was just the “blood and soil” term that got Horwitz spun up? All words affiliated to anything any Nazi ever said are now off limits? Do they use different words for “blood and soil” in Jerusalem? Should Deist have said “the Promised Land” instead?
Or is it OK to support synagogues, but not a church? Is that Horwitz’ point?
In any case, I have a thought for libertarians who mock those who support family, religion, tradition, culture, civic or social institutions, to borrow from and paraphrase Horwitz’ above-cited statement:
…the problem with Horwitz’ comments, and the left, bleeding heart libertarians more generally, is not that they are communists, but that they appear to have no problem with making arguments that are appealing to communists and the rest of the unsavory elements of the left.
As Horwitz offers:
Our history is one of liberal tolerance, universalism, and cosmopolitanism, putting the freedom and harmony of all people ahead of the supposed interests of any parochial sub-group, and especially ones defined by the artificial boundaries of nation-states and their subsets. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.
Libertarianism is not this complicated or obtuse. It is respect for private property rights and the abstention from initiating aggression. Nothing more.
Tolerance is the objective of Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School; there is no universalism when it comes to man’s subjective values; cosmopolitanism means rootless, easily rounded up into herds; there will always be parochial sub-groups (start with family and let your mind wander from there) unless they are destroyed by force; while boundaries of nation-states are often artificial, boundaries of nations are most certainly not. Ask Tel Aviv.
There are many nations (whose political boundaries correspond accordingly) who will not survive the “tolerance,” “universalism,” and “cosmopolitanism,” required of Horwitz’ version of libertarianism. I belong to one of these; Horwitz, presumably, does as well (not mine!). Horwitz might want to destroy these nations, but the people who live in these most certainly do not feel the same way.
Horwitz can be confused with Antonio Gramsci. Horwitz offers world government; he is doing the bidding of communists. It is most certainly not the language of Ludwig von Mises; he knew better…firsthand. Mises’ views on this topic were much more nuanced than Horwitz would like you to believe.
And this is the bidding that Horwitz is doing. I know he will protest: “this is not my objective.” I am certain that Horwitz’ ends and Gramsci’s ends are different; yet their means are identical – and once these means have done their work, it is simply a matter of which side will win. Which side do you think will win if that day comes?
One cannot say the same about the means of the Mises Institute or Jeff Deist corresponding with the means of Nazi fascists. Certainly, the hoped-for ends are virtually polar opposites.
In his talk, Jeff Deist’s point was so simple and obvious; it is unbelievable that it can be so misconstrued and lost: family, culture, and homeland – these all matter to people and always will. Bleeding heart libertarians, at least those like Horwitz, are irrelevant to those who desire a reasonably free world because they mock this.