Left Libertarians Attack Mises Institute Speech

Last week, Mises Institute president Jeff Deist delivered what has become a controversial speech at a libertarian conference in Malta. The controversy around the speech, which was full of common sense advice for libertarians, centers around the use of the phrase “blood and soil”, which was used by the Nazi government to emphasize the importance of culture and land. While nobody can condone the behavior of the Nazis, simply using the phrase, which was actually a reference to a recent Jeffery Tucker article that also used the phrase, is hardly grounds to be called a Nazi. After reading and hearing the speech, it’s obvious that this is another case of hyperbolic faux outrage typical of “left libertarians”.

Here are some interesting points of the speech.

Because while libertarians enthusiastically embrace markets, they have for decades made the disastrous mistake of appearing hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institution — in other words, hostile to civil society itself.

Deist begins by making the point that some libertarians hostility toward cultural and social institutions is misplaced. The reason is simple: those things can and do act as a bulwark against the power of the state.  Strong families don’t need the government. People that help each other through religious and other voluntary mutual aid groups don’t need the government. Private and religious schools don’t need government.

Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian. Is it our goal to convince them all to become thorough Rothbardians? Should libertarians care about gay marriage in Saudi Arabia, or insist on the same border arrangements for Brownsville, Texas and Monaco? Should we agitate for Texas-style open carry laws in France, to prevent the next Bataclan?

Or would our time be better spent making the case for political decentralization, secession, and subsidiarity? In other words, should we let Malta be Maltese?

This is hardly “libertarianism for me, but not for thee” as some of Deist’s critics argue. Deist’s speech is one of uncompromisingly radical self-determination, which is as far away from Nazism as it gets. His point is that as libertarians, we believe that we don’t know what is best for other people and shouldn’t force our preferences, be they political or cultural, on others. With that in mind, libertarians should abandon the “universalist” mindset and instead focus on self-determination, that is, allowing people to choose their own political and social arrangements.

He ends with this point (emphasis mine):

what would you fight for? The answer to this question tells us a lot about what libertarians ought to care about.

By this I mean what would you physically fight for, where doing so could mean serious injury or death. Or arrest and imprisonment, or the loss of your home, your money, and your possessions.

I’m sure all of us would fight for our physical persons if we were attacked, or for our families if they were attacked. We might fight for close friends too. And perhaps even our neighbors. In fact we might like to think we would physically defend a total stranger in some circumstances, for example an old woman being attacked and robbed.

How about an abstraction, like fighting for “your country” or freedom or your religion? This is where things get more tenuous. Many people have and will fight for such abstractions. But if you ask soldiers they’ll tell you that in the heat of battle they’re really fighting for their mates, to protect the men in their units–and to fulfill a personal sense of duty.

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

Does that sound like a Nazi hate speech? Of course not. Aside from those three words, what’s the issue? Replace “blood and soil” with “family and property” and no one bats an eye. Not to mention, his point stands: if libertarians refuse to acknowledge that most people care about their culture and don’t want to see it demolished, then they are going to continue to have a hard time drawing converts and affecting change. There is no incompatability between libertarianism and culture. Realizing that doesn’t make you a Nazi, regardless of what left-libertarians think or say.


On Cultural Relativism

Walter Williams on Western culture and cultural relativism:

Intellectual elites argue that different cultures and their values are morally equivalent. That’s ludicrous. Western culture and values are superior to all others. I have a few questions for those who’d claim that such a statement is untrue or smacks of racism and Eurocentrism. Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value? Slavery is practiced in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan; is it morally equivalent? In most of the Middle East, there are numerous limitations placed on women, such as prohibitions on driving, employment and education. Under Islamic law, in some countries, female adulterers face death by stoning. Thieves face the punishment of having their hands severed. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in some countries. Are these cultural values morally equivalent, superior or inferior to Western values?

Cultural relativists are quick to say that as Westerners we have no right to judge other cultural values. After all, to relativists, post-modernists, and other cultural marxists, there are no objective truths and if there are no objective truths then there are no universal ethics; that is, no standard by which to judge our own behavior. Without universal ethics, people are free to create their own ethics and morality. Williams clearly shows this viewpoint is ludicrous.

Much of the Muslim world is at war with Western civilization. Islamists’ use multiculturalism as a foot in the door to attack Western and Christian values from the inside. Much of that attack has its roots on college campuses among the intellectual elite who indoctrinate our youth. Multiculturalism has not yet done the damage in the U.S. that it has in Western European countries — such as England, France and Germany — but it’s on its way.

Even a cursory glance at the madness happening on American college campuses show that this fight is already here.