Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alex Peak: The Two Lefts

I have some running thoughts that I’d like to share on the nature of the left-wing. This post shan’t be well-formulated, I must warn the reader. It will not constitute good writing. It won’t even be well-argued, since my intention is not to prove that I am right, but rather merely to quickly and effortlessly convey the thoughts swimming through my head at the moment. Let us begin.

We learn from Rothbard in 1965 that libertarians and classical liberals are members of the true, radical left. Richman, in 2007, makes the point that “[o]ne could say that the Left itself had left and right wings, with the laissez-fairists on the left-left and the state socialists on the right-left.”

McElroy, in 1982, points out that libertarianism has grown thanks to the introduction of Austrian economic thought, particularly the introduction of the subjective theory of value. It’s essentially the same libertarianism that existed in the nineteenth century, and it’s just as individualistic today as it’s ever been, but it now has a better foundation in understanding the nature of value.

I often make the point, particularly when I’m speaking to conservatives, that there are two rights and two lefts, an anti-establishment right exemplified by the likes of Ron Paul and a pro-establishment right exemplified by the likes of G. W. Bush. On the left, I would say there is an anti-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Mike Gravel and a pro-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Barack Obama.

But really I’m being disingenuous. Ron Paul and Mike Gravel both occupy the same place on the spectrum: the left. Neither are on the absolute left, where I am and where Rothbard, McElroy, and Richman more or less are, but they are both certainly on the left. Likewise, both Bush and Obama occupy the same place on the spectrum: the right. Neither are as far right as Mussolini or Mao, but both are certainly on the right.

So we find ourselves with two lefts, an anti-establishment left (the libertarians) and a pro-establishment “left” (the pseudo-“liberals”).

Enter John Markley, who recently wrote on his blog: “I expected most of the American Left to lose interest in the war issue once Obama was in office, and especially once Obama started to escalate American military efforts in Afghanistan. Similarly, I expected them to start finding torture, attacks on civil liberties, and unrestrained executive power much less bothersome once they were wielding those weapons themselves. Perhaps above all else, I expected their whole ‘dissent is patriotic’ shtick to fade away as well. However, I really didn’t expect the change to be quite so abrupt. It’s a demonstration of an important lesson libertarians need to keep in mind—neither liberals nor conservatives are actually very good on the issues they’re supposedly on the right side of.”

Liberals, with whom do you want to associate? The establishment “left” that tells us we must “respect the office of the presidency”? The pro-war “liberals”? The so-called “left” that want you to believe it is unpatriotic to question the government or to yell at politicians (whether at townhall meetings or elsewhere)? The so-called “liberals” who are only outraged at oppressive government when the red team is at the helm, not also when it is the blue team at the helm?

Or would you rather associate with us radicals, we who fail to see the difference between Obama’s statism and Bush’s statism, we who still believe that dissent is patriotic, we who mourn the deaths in Afghanistan, we who demand that Guantánamo be shut down this week instead of a year from now, we who refuse to support a man who voted in favour of illegal wiretapping and renewing the USA PATRIOT Act, we who believe that this administration doesn’t care about homosexuals? Sure, by siding with us, you will be siding with people who reject Obamacare, but at least we don’t reject it for the same reasons as the right. We don’t reject it out of some irrational fear of immigrants being treated as equals in our society, we oppose it because we reject the underlying tenets of imperialism and statism. We reject it because we are consistent.

Liberals, you have every reason to join us libertarians on the radical left. After all, unlike the establishment “left,” we’ll never ask you to pledge your loyalty and servitude to the president, regardless of to which party she belonged. All we ask is that you never initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, that you never hire some gang to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, and that you never ask a government to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human.

Hopefully you will join us because—that other “left”?—they are looking more and more like the right every day.

Alexander S. Peak


  1. I don't believe there is a Libertarian Party beyond local government. If Ron Paul or someone else ran as a Libertarian for a federal position, I might buy it.

    Libertarianism is just a feeder ideology for the Right Wing. You could call it anything you want, it's nothing but moving power from elected officials to private nobles... I mean citizens.

    After all, "deregulation" and "laissez-faire" both get a Libertarian's and Republican's nipples hard. There's really no difference.

    A Libertarian reign would be worse than any Republican or Democrat.

  2. A Libertarian reign would be worse than any Republican or Democrat.

    Ron Paul did run for President as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988.

    If you seriously mean that you'd prefer George W. Bush ("any Republican", to quote you) as President over Ron Paul, than you truly are a hopeless Statist.

  3. I'm not sure how much just the presidency can give.

    In fact, Libertarian strategy ought to be focused on gaining just a few house and senate seats. If they hold the swing votes, they can determine the outcome of nearly every vote.

    From my point of view, this would be more disasterous than a Libertarian president. From your point of view, we would be heading towards rapid deregulation with either a moderate Democrat (Clinton), Republican (Bush), or Libertarian (Paul) president.

  4. Dear Ginx,

    I don't believe I ever brought up the Libertarian Party in the piece. My piece is in reference to libertarianism, an ideology or philosophy. There needs not be any Libertarian Party member in the U.S. federal government, or even any organised Libertarian Party on earth, for my comments to be "bought."

    Libertarianism has nothing to do with the right wing. Historically, the right wing was the wing defending the statist status quo, the ancien regime. Classical liberalism arose in opposition to conservatism and monarchical absolutism, and libertarianism evolved out of this classical liberalism. In America, the libertarian movement arose, just as did feminism, in the abolitionist movement. This libertarianism or individualist anarchism continued to evolve as the 20th century advanced, incorporating new ideas such as the Austrian School view on value as a subjective rather than intrinsic phenomenon, but it never lost its radical individualism. From Garrison to Tucker to Rothbard, we see American libertarians maintain a consistent disdain for infringements upon self-ownership.

    No offense, but your bringing up the Republican Party seems entirely irrelevant The Republican Party was born out of a right-wing desire for greater government control, more trade restrictions, and central banking. And on the one issue on which they were even half-way decent, namely slavery, they were moderates at best, arguing against abolition and merely in favour of keeping slavery from expanding into any new states. As such, the Republican Party was explicitly non-libertarian from day one.

    Yes, some Republicans speak of deregulation and laissez-faire, but how many of them actually believe in either? How many even understand the radical implications of these terms? Conservatives only ever adopted these terms and classically-liberal policy initiatives (insofar as they have) to appear more progressive than they actually are. By usurping the term privatisation and perverting it to mean governmental sub-contracting, conservatives have done more harm to libertarians than Marx.

    As far as you do wish to discuss the Libertarian Party, and its proclivity for running Presidential candidates in the U.S., it's probably worth noting that the party does so because doing so helps to gain media recognition to the party and its ideas which in turn helps local and state candidates who have an actual potential for winning in the near future. Failure to run a presidential candidate would thereby hurt local Libertarian candidates who, unlike the presidential candidate, rarely get much if any media coverage.

    Sincerely yours,
    Alex Peak


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