Thursday, May 28, 2009

Marching Orders - The Property and Freedom Society

Jack Maturin, recently

There are very few 'mainstream' Austrian men or women in England. When I say mainstream, I mean 'Misesian', in the mould of the Mises Institute in Alabama.

Yes, via the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the London School of Economics, there is a large Hayekian presence, particularly in and around London, which is probably due to Hayek's immense intellectual stature. Intellectualism is a very important commodity in the British libertarian tradition and Hayek appears to appeal much more to us Brits, mainly because of his perceived high intellectual stature, as a sort of right-wing equal to Keynes.

But is Hayek really more of an 'intellectual' than Mises? Or is this a mirage caused by the total intransigence of Mises, allied to the much greater conciliation of Hayek? Mises never really minded who disliked him so long as he held his own position in a steadfast manner, whereas Hayek was much more affable and polite, particularly when in the company of those statists who brand themselves 'Minarchists'.

Like many non-British hardcore Austrians, I find this Hayekian conciliatory approach to the state lacks the necessary jolt of caffeine to get me up in the morning. The much more uncompromising Mises is much more my cup of tea.

Unfortunately, this leads to the sad situation where the Mises/Rothbard line in England is very thin, consisting mainly of Anonymous, myself, and perhaps a few others of whom I am completely unaware, and a strong sympathy to the Misesian line from the (smaller) Libertarian Alliance, of which I am a camp-following occasional member.

Virtually everyone else belongs to a myriad of other libertarian positions, mostly statist/minarchist as summarised on the frontispiece of the Samizdata blog site:

We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, 'Porcupines', Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.
I used to write a long time ago for the Samizdata site, as a wild-eyed anarcho-capitalist under an assumed name, but there was not much toleration for that position, which admittedly was very fluid as I worked out where my end game was going to be on my own long road from socialism.

This wild-eyed anarcho-capitalism, combined with several other factors too boring to mention, eventually forced me to leave. Indeed, here are two Samizdata definitions for the kinds of people who recently attended Professor Hoppe's conference, including my good self [note my italics]:

Barking moonbat
noun. Someone on the extreme edge of whatever their -ism happens to be.

(coined by Perry de Havilland)

Usage:"Definition of a 'barking moonbat': someone who sacrifices sanity for the sake of consistency"
-Adriana Cronin

Although the term (often rendered simply as 'Moonbat') is very popular with conservative and libertarian bloggers who appropriately use it to describe the Chomskyite Left, it was always intended as a much more ecumenical epithet and has been correctly used to describe certain paleo-conservative and paleo-libertarians views. (also see 'idiotarian').

noun. A term of abuse for an advocate of what are deemed to be irrationalist and subjectivist values that have very little reference to the workings of the real world. Idiotarians are often socialist (quintessentially Noam Chomsky), but can also be paleo-libertarian or paleo-conservative. The defining phrase of idiotarianism is "it is all the fault of the United States": this is usually applied to geopolitics but is sometimes encountered with regard to cultural issues, economic issues, environmental issues, the weather, socks lost in the laundry etc.

The term is obviously highly partisan but is in quite widespread use by many blogs. However it is not a term used exclusively by the neo-conservative 'right wing' and many well left of centre or libertarian blogs have used it describe the more surrealist wings of their particular branch of political thought.
Given that there is such British intellectual hostility to the Paleo-libertarian, Paleo-conservative position, as advanced by the Austrian school, particularly as advanced by Professor Hoppe, my main question to him this week was how I could help advance the Austrian (Misesian) position in England, from my relatively time-constricted position of being an armchair economist?

The answer was interesting; it was to help Dr. Sean Gabb as much as possible and his work with the (larger) Libertarian Alliance. Being a constellational member of the (smaller) Libertarian Alliance, I found this a little difficult to accept at first, but he talked me round.

(If this seems a little strange, then you need simply imagine that you're in the Monty Python film, 'Life of Brian', and that I am a member of the Popular Front of Judea, and that Sean Gabb is the leader of the People's Front of Judea - Who obviously are the real splitters.)

Incidentally, not only was Sean Gabb himself present at the conference, he shared the final speaking platform with the Professor, as a pair, even making the keynote address on the nature of the enemy ruling class. So if Professor Hoppe has this much confidence in the leader of the People's Front of Judea, then the only thing this member of the Popular Front of Judea can do, is to take his marching orders and simply to accept them.

So hopefully, in the next few months or so, you may see me popping up in various places in London, under various assumed names, helping Sean Gabb in his various endeavours, should he so wish me to do so.

Time, obviously, will tell.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jack,

It sounds like you had a great time. As for Sean and the two LA's - well we are all pretty much chums now and people from both organisations attend each others events. Sean has spoken to the smaller LA recently and vice versa.

We need to go to as many libertarian events as we can reasonably manage and criticise the arguments of our less radical comrades until they see the error of their ways.

There is of course no need ever to make any intellectual compromises.

Hope to see you again soon.

Paul Coulam

Jack Maturin said...

Thanks for the comment above, Paul.

Things are pretty tough on the business front at the moment, so I'm having to spend quite a bit of time abroad trying to rustle up some cash, but given the opportunity, I'll be popping up in a salon near you, real soon! ;-)

Paul said...

I will not comment on what kind of libertarians there are in UK. Most of them are strange but most of their countrymen are even stranger in a bad way.

Just wanted to share my own reflection on my own anarco-capitalisticness (probably got it wrong). I do not think myself as moonbat, I was one for a few months after reading "Atlas Shrugged" but that was years ago. I'm just a man who does not buy the propagandas that are out there, most of which are about state. I'm in a postition where I do not need to compromise (except maybe on the color of tapestry, on that subject I'm actually not allowed to have much opinion) because I'm not that relevant currently and so I can see the world as it is.

So I don't lie myself about the state any more and in my mind that is exactly what minarchists are doing. And it's only natural, we lie to ourselves all the time about many things (our weight mostly) to survive in this world.

P.S. As I am new here, little background - I'm an estonian anglo/amerophilic anarcho-capitalist.

Jack Maturin said...

Whenever anyone starts resorting to plain insults, such as 'Barking Moonbat' or 'Idiotarian', you know they are on shaky ground.

I do this myself when I lack a thorough understanding of the topic under question, so I recognise the symptoms! ;-)

I do think there's hope for the English, however. Although we are smothered from birth in an unbelievably dense layer of statism, at the core lies a deep belief in freedom. This has been twisted and distorted to an extraordinary degree, but it's still there.

Unfortunately, this does sometimes manifest itself as drunken orgies around Talinn on 'boys weekends', but although this isn't a comfort to anyone on the streets of that city, this is the steam coming out as this inner core of freedom fights with the large outer core of imposed statism.

I hope that this outer core can one day be removed from many people here and we get back to being civilised again.

It's a slim hope, I'll admit, but the same Anglo-Saxon feelings which drove the rebellious Englishmen of North America to revolt to create the early libertarian United States is still here. Just.

Sean Gabb said...

Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to seeing you again in the near future. Regards, Sean (Chief Imperial Wizard of the People's Front of Judea)