Monday, September 17, 2007

Does Britain Need a Libertarian Party?

Apparently, Sean Gabb is offering a £1,000 pound prize for a 2,000 word essay on whether Britain needs a libertarian party. Well, here's my go...

Ausbildung, Ausbildung, Ausbildung

This country needs a libertarian party like a central bank needs a 100% gold reserve currency. As the experience of Murray Rothbard showed in the United States, the best we can expect from such a conflagration of egos is either a snarling nest of ambitious vipers or an odious cloud of intellectual deadbeats. At worst, we will siphon off the most productive energies of a tiny libertarian vanguard and direct them into the usual Byzantine struggle for ultimate control of the coffee grinder.

The lesson to be learned from the United States experience, where the Libertarian Party has fallen to the thrall of becoming a junior wing of the neoconservative Republican Party, is that we should avoid the revolting world of party politics and its perpetual and internecine beauty contests, where we promise to rob one group to pay off another, whilst keeping a hefty commission for our own underpaid uses. We should leave this envious cornucopia of kickbacks and horse-trading to the parasites and the criminals who currently occupy its foetid territory.

If we find ourselves competing for political power we will have let the socialists beat us. For to accept the rules of their game, where a majority can tyrannize a minority through the sleight of hand of democracy, is to become socialists ourselves in the same way that the mighty Lords of Numenor became slavish ring wraiths to their tyrant king, Sauron, after accepting his golden baubles of power. You may feel you can wield a ring of power to do good with it, but in the end the result is always the same; you become the same snake in the mirror that the rest of them become in their do-gooding bid to save the rest of us from ourselves.

No, it is a far better thing to steer clear of the party political system and to remain unsullied by the foul and dreadful stench emanating from the drains of Westminster. So where does that put me then? Squatting upon an ivory tower, alone, shivering, and afraid, with copies of Tolkien nestled at my feet, and nothing but a giant moth for company, like so many sad libertarians before me? No, because I’ll have my copies of Harry Potter up there with me too!

And what I’ll learn from them is that just as with the Ministry of Magic, if you construct an edifice of what we could call a ‘good’ power, to protect yourself from a ‘bad’ power, it remains only a matter of time before the ‘bad’ power will subsume the ‘good’ one. But we can still build our own Last Alliance of Men and Elves, our last Dumbledore’s Army, without resorting to this fools’ paradise of a repugnant political machine.

Because as Lenin himself realised, the way to defeat a greater military force is not through the process of acquiring force oneself, but to create an intellectual vanguard to undermine the bureaucratic state; for what is the state but a heavily gilded beast resting upon a chariot of mistaken and corrupt ideas? Skewer those ideas, and replace them with your own, as Ghandi did to the British in India, and as Thomas Paine did to the British in the United States, and even the mightiest of empires will collapse under the weight of its own hypocrisy.

The best and most successful model of this form, in modern times, is the Ludwig von Mises Institute, based in Auburn in the United States; an organisation far more successful than the United States Libertarian Party and another God-Child of the effervescent Murray Rothbard. Whatever you may think about Uncle Murray, you could never accuse him of ever giving up. Although he failed with the Cato Institute and the Libertarian Party, I think he hit it third-time-lucky with the Mises Institute.

So what does the Mises Institute do that is so powerful? They have taken Ayn Rand at her word and have undertaken a multi-decade attempt to infiltrate American universities, particularly the philosophy, economics, and history departments, with their own intellectual products schooled in the best traditions of Hayek, Mises, Raico, Riesman, and most of all, Rothbard. Armed with nothing but the truth, these students have quietly and stealthily begun to acquire one professorship at a time, in one university after another, until in the perceived end game, they will have unseated the positivists and the Keynesians from every important professorial chair in America, and replaced them all with the intellectual descendants of Menger, Baum-Bauwerk, Mises, and Rothbard, many of them home-schooled away from the state’s brain-washing muppet factories, another important component of the Mises Institute plan.

Control the Universities, said Rand, and eventually you will control everything. This process is underway and has been now for two decades and is clearly beginning to bear fruit. The campaign of Ron Paul to become United States President will almost certainly fail, probably due to a series of rigged ballots or a rogue plane going down, but just as with the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964, the waters this campaign is stirring will generate lasting undercurrents of freedom which could lead to our own salvation here, on the other side of the Atlantic. Even ten years ago Paul’s campaign would already have been over, but through the underground and unrelenting work of Lew Rockwell et al, Paul’s campaign has achieved a tenacious grip and will almost certainly hold steady until the New Hampshire primary next year.

And even if the worst should happen and Paul should fail to beat such intellectual giants as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, Paul should light a fuse which could burn for decades. Being a libertarian, however, means that I’m insanely optimistic about the future, and if Paul should win, we would actually have an Austrian in the White House without their constitution needing to be changed! And none of this would have been possible without the hard work of all those people at Auburn who have spent most of their adult lives creating the underlying substrate of a powerful anarcho-capitalist tradition based upon the Super-Jeffersonian tradition of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, supercharged with the European intellectual powerhouse of the Austrian School. Okay, so even having an honest President conversant with Mises, one who will attempt to abolish the IRS and the Federal Reserve, means we’ll still have a long way to go, but it’s been a long time since Keith Joseph and his cataclysmic decision to avoid breaking up the British state school system to keep the Guardianista status quo on-side. The key to all of this is education, as Keith later realised when it was too late, and as the Gramscians have long known. Even if Paul should treat his tenure as nothing more than a four-year education lesson for the American people, we’ll be far further ahead than if we continue trying to persuade the likes of Gordon Brown and David Cameron to think beyond the tendrils of their own vainglorious ambition with a quisling libertarian party.

Rue these Austrians if you will, but they have certainly been more successful than any of the libertarians of Britain, in the last two decades, who seem to delight more in arguing the toss over the meaning of the word ‘epistemology’, rather than worrying about whether we’re actually getting anywhere in an increasingly collectivized Britain. I would hesitate to use the phrase, ‘effete dandies’, but the few times I have managed to break into the carefully ordained inner circles of the libertarian movement in Britain, it has usually only been long enough to be shown the door for daring to have the temerity to question the ancien regime.

The main problem seems to be the general clubbishness of the British libertarian, and their tendency to try to influence our political masters rather than shun them and move on to something better than the broken democratic model. So where the Adam Smith Institute and the others try their best to influence the Labour and Conservative parties, all they do is get sucked into the maw of the same evil machine they are trying to smash until they become as much part of the establishment as a Guards Armoured Division.

A libertarian party would only accentuate this process of acclimatization into the world of power politics, which is why the Libertarian Party has failed so dramatically in the United States, with its legions of members who believe freedom springs from the barrel of an M1 tank. I would also say that a thrill of hob-nobbing with ‘The Great and The Good’ in Westminster may have spiked the guns of freedom in this country and we must break away from this ego-boosting tendency to be on first-name terms with the Paxmans and Neills of this world, which participation in a libertarian party would help promote. To be sucked into their game is to lose sight of the objective, which is to create a world in which the opinions of career politicians and their cronies are meaningless and worthless, affecting nobody, instead of the current situation where if Gordon Brown or David Cameron has a good or a bad feeling in their gut, we’re all made poorer as a result, or if George Bush gets an itch in his toe, half a million Iraqis die. Intellectuals have always been rewarded by the state, to help bring them into the tent, and these rewards are often more than just money; the feeling of being on the inside is often enough for some, and a libertarian party would quickly be co-opted within the warm comforting womb of the state to help foster this feeling of belonging, where Gordon Brown and his orcish ilk appear to become friends and colleagues rather than the pond scum they are.

And let’s cut to the chase, as our American cousins say. There is simply no point trying to form a political party, because the nature of being a libertarian is to move in the direction of independent anarchism rather than collective mono-culture. None of us agree with each other, and most of us are vehement within the comfort of our contradictory opinions, yet the nature of politics is such that to be successful a 49% minority must always bow to a 51% majority to exhibit collective strength, or in the Bolshevik and Menshevik tradition, split up and then spend the next 20 years trying to murder each other, a Monty-Pythonesque process we can already see repeating itself within the UK Independence Party!

It will be much better if we band together to create an ‘Libertarian Institute’ dedicated to promulgating the intellectual tradition of freedom within the universities, one professor at a time, particularly targeting history, philosophy, and economics departments, just as the Mises Institute has done in the United States. We must smash the strangle-hold that the left has upon the intelligentsia in this country by taking those commanding heights ourselves. It is only once, and if, we can control these commanding heights that we will begin to shake this country out of its welfarist lethargy.

Personally speaking, and rather obviously, I would prefer for this institute to be entirely based upon Austrian Economics, to create a cohesive body of intellectual argument, but I am realistic enough to accept that this may be difficult. At first we can concentrate on merely promulgating the best of liberal tradition, from Bastiat through to Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, and Tame, particularly those overlapping traditions on secession, a live-and-let-live process most of us can agree with.

So is it possible to bring together all the diversities of British libertarians under the roof of a single debating hall? Well, we can but try. Let’s first of all try to bring together the two Libertarian Alliances, and their two small hordes of members who find it difficult to even acknowledge the existence of the other organisation. If that proves impossible, the best plan may simply be for us all to emigrate to Texas or New Hampshire and let Britain sink into a morass of socialism, because if two such ostensibly similar organisations find it impossible to build an institute together, or even a loosely amalgamated debating society, what hope is there for 400 years of British libertarian tradition? We may be best off to simply shut up shop and wait for the American libertarians, the intellectual heirs of David Hume and John Locke, to shake us out of our lethargy when they can finally throw off the fascistic chains of their own neoconservative and democratic rulers.

Do we need a libertarian party? Nein danke. Do we need a libertarian educational institute dedicated to help people free their minds of the poison of the state’s compulsory education system? Ja wohl.

Jack Maturin

If by some fluke of God, this article should win the £1,000 pound prize, every penny will be donated to LewRockwell.Com, to help it support the Ron Paul campaign


Anonymous said...

a very enjoyable essay, thanks. i do hope you win the prize!!

Jack Maturin said...

It will certainly be very interesting to read the text of the winner, when Dr Gabb releases it, and whether his flavour of the Libertarian Alliance tries to morph into a fully-fledged UK political party. Good luck to them, if they do. I merely foresee tears.