The Libertarian Dilemma

In years past I often described myself as a libertarian, accompanied by the now burned out expression of “socially liberal, fiscally conservative.” However, after some critical thought on libertarianism and the core philosophies beneath it, I have changed my mind, particularly within the last year or so. When reading this, please bear in mind that I am not attacking any individuals who would describe themselves as having libertarian-oriented beliefs, nor am I attacking individuals who would describe themselves as sticking to beliefs of any other political or philosophical persuasion. Much of this is an exercise, as I still hold many (albeit less) libertarian views.

A Fiscal Structure for Addressing Social Issues

Libertarianism is a system that is composed entirely of negative positions and doctrines. In this context, negative doctrines are those which do not promote doing, but instead advocate for avoiding behavior which would be detrimental to the proper functioning and execution of the system of which the doctrines comprise. In other words, negative doctrines, ideologies, systems, promote inaction as opposed to action that would aid in facilitating the end goal of the philosophy as a whole. Two good examples of negative doctrines in libertarianism include voluntarism (not forcing exchanges on others against their will – i.e. taxation), and the non-aggression principle (do not use coercion or violence on others unless in self defense).

My concerns with libertarianism have very little to do with fiscal proposals, as I mostly agree with economic conservatism; my concerns lie in the application of the aforementioned negative doctrines in relation to social issues. One of my largest concerns here is that these negative doctrines promote the idea of a moral standing where one is good enough, and as long as he abides by these negative doctrines, he is a morally good person. This is opposed to positive-oriented philosophies, which serve to help one to constantly attempt to be better than being good enough.

Within the libertarian framework of inaction regarding social issues, one should have no qualms with doing antisocial, immoral, and unnatural things, as long as he does not violate the liberty of others – this is not the way to produce and uphold a healthy and functional society. This is not to say that libertarians themselves are necessarily immoral or antisocial people, as many of them are quite the opposite. It is to say, however, that the libertarian structure itself does not discriminate between decent and indecent ways of life, and to follow and promote the social wing of libertarianism is to urge others to follow the doctrine of happiness.

One thing to note here: I do understand that for many, libertarianism is not the be-all-end-all to one’s entire philosophical worldview. Libertarianism can be an effective modifier when combined with other ideologies that do seek to explain and provide solutions to social and cultural issues, but quite often libertarianism is not accompanied by or blended with other viewpoints. As such, he who subscribes to libertarianism and little else is decidedly susceptible to nihilism, hedonism, and the orientation of one’s values such that the pursuit of pleasure is the primary goal of being.

The 1931 novel A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley provides an example of the negative doctrine taken to an absurd and dystopian extreme, where the pleasures of life become so universally acceptable that they are nearly no longer pleasurable. For example, A Brave New World shows us a society in which sexual promiscuity is rampant, so much so that it is nearly enforced, and any intention of procreation is completely removed from sexual intercourse. The novel also references the characters’ constant consumption of a happiness producing drug called soma, which is taken whenever a character experiences even the slightest bit of discomfort.

The Inevitability of the State

One of the most important pillars of libertarianism is the notion of a highly limited state government, however there seems to be a spectrum within libertarianism whereupon advocates sit regarding size and scope of government. On one end of the spectrum sit those who I would consider classical liberals (in an American context), and generally accept a larger government than other libertarians, but who still support the limiting of government to its basic functionality. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who I would consider anarcho-capitalists, and generally advocate for the abolition of government in its entirety. Anarcho-capitalists propose the replacement of essential government roles (i.e. police, firefighters, etc.) by privately owned organizations.

It seems the anarcho-capitalist form of libertarianism is not particularly viable, given the inevitability that not every person will necessarily adhere to the principles of the AnCap. However, the primary reason for its impossibility is the eternal presence of government. This may be a tragic notion to both libertarians and anarchists of all stripes, but systems of government will always arise in any society once such society becomes large enough. The State will always exist primarily because it is a highly effective way for those who fiercely desire power to be able to work their way into positions of authority. Acquiring power within a capitalist system requires work, strategy, and intelligent investment into one’s organization – not necessarily through charisma and bribery (though there are exceptions, especially in the system of faux capitalism in the U.S.). Yet, acquiring positions of authority in government is often reducible to charisma and bribery. That being said, not all people who are elected to government office have malicious intent, but most systems of government reward deceitfulness.

To add to the inevitability of the presence of government, there is also an inevitable growth of government.

The Issue of Tolerance

The pure libertarian worldview allows for (and in many respects requires) tolerance of the actions of others, so long as those actions do not infringe upon one’s own rights, or violate the non-aggression principle. A common refrain one may hear from libertarians is something to the effect of “I want gay couples guarding their marijuana crops with rifles.” Phrases like these show the libertarian’s dedication to advocate for the rights of others to do as they please, and advocate for their own rights by proxy. Leaving the question of morality or social acceptability aside, excessive tolerance will inevitably lead to the decay and weakening of a social or political movement. Seeing as libertarians and anarchists are perhaps the most tolerant of all social or political movements, it is easy to understand why they have never been a force to be contended with on the national level, and are often disregarded completely in discussions about the political future.

For a movement to become a force to be contended with, it must have some degree of intolerance toward its opponents. Bear in mind that “intolerance” does not necessarily mean prejudice towards others regarding immutable characteristics as the connotation of the word often suggests. It is important that any group, or individual for that matter, retain some sort of intolerance if such a group or individual wishes to not become easily intimidated and in a perpetual state of apology. To try and shed the connotation from the concept of intolerance, I’ll provide some examples here from both the “left” and the “right” in the United States. Note that these examples are not indictments of either political alignment, and only serve to outline the concept.

Left Wing Intolerance:

Though many would consider the left wing the epitome of tolerance, they are quite intolerant when it suits their interests, and this has proved to be invaluably effective for their cause. More specifically, take the generic left wing’s advocacy for the approval and acceptance of the homosexual community, or perhaps its support for radical egalitarianism. Those who make disparaging comments about homosexuals or perhaps make stereotypical jokes about people of other races will be swiftly and severely punished. The left’s ability to deplatform, socially isolate, and pressure employers to terminate those who make such disparaging comments or jokes showcases the effectiveness of their intolerance. Again, I am not casting judgment on the morality of this intolerance, I am simply calling it as I see it. It is my understanding that many of those on the left who practice this intolerance do so because they will not tolerate those who are intolerant of their agenda.

Right Wing Intolerance:

Though the generic right wing was once (up until the early 2000s) highly effective in asserting their intolerance of dissent, they are now almost completely ineffective at doing so, most likely because of the highly liberal climate in the West. This is not to say that there is no intolerance within the right wing – it is to say that, in the court of public opinion, nobody cares what the right wing will and will not tolerate. Yet, there have been a few occasions of right wing intolerance that have been somewhat successful in recent years. For example, it’s easy to see that the National Rifle Association believes that there is a slippery slope regarding the regulation of firearms and firearm modifications/accessories. The NRA has been (mostly) successful at pushing back against the regulation of firearms, even regulations that seem very inconsequential and minor in nature. However, their intolerance of what they believe to be infringements on the constitutional rights of their members has been effective in swaying public opinion.

The Point

There are some ideas and behaviors which (taken at face value) seem harmless and innocuous, but when tolerated for long enough, they pick up steam and become aggressive to the point of infringing on one’s personal liberties. The most obvious and most relevant example of excessive tolerance leading to the infringement of liberties is the issue of internet censorship. There are a great deal of political figures on the internet – many of whom used platforms such as YouTube as their means of income – who have recently been banned from using these platforms because of their ideologies. The libertarian might contend that social media corporations are private entities, and have the right to censor and deplatform as they wish. The libertarian might also assert that if the banned user had used a given platform as their means of income and intend to continue to rely on internet activity as their means of income in the future, that they should “build their own” platform. Personally, I would usually be inclined to agree with the sentiment, but the circumstances regarding censorship are far different than they were in the past.

The user bases of platforms such as YouTube or Twitter, as well as the public at large (including libertarians for the reasons listed above), generally tolerated the banning and deplatforming of many internet figures. Some did decide to build their own platforms, and websites such as Gab.ai, BitChute, and Hatreon were created. But it did not take long before access to online payment processing through PayPal and Stripe (together having overwhelming dominance of the payment processing market) had been revoked. The market dominance of PayPal and Stripe (which frequently operate in lock-step, nearly cornering the payment processing market) is what is important here. Though it is obviously difficult, one can create an alternative platform where they can host content for themselves and others like them; however, to ask for one to create an alternative media platform as well as a payment processing system within a market where practically no competition to the dominant companies is able to go anywhere is an absolutely absurd proposition. Tolerating the deplatforming of any person who was (within their constitutional rights) operating on platforms which are now the de facto public square is the cause of a new wave of censorship that has now targeted libertarians themselves for banning and removal from these platforms.

I understand that the above example of internet censorship is somewhat long-winded and complicated, however, I personally find it preferable to taking the heat over explaining an example like the baking of wedding cakes for homosexual marriages, or the legal requirement to refer to people by using their “preferred pronouns.”

In summation, I don’t believe that libertarianism is something that is deeply flawed, nor do I think that it is a system of political and social thinking that is without value or merit. But there is a reason why the peak success of libertarianism and ideas like it took place long ago during a time of exploration, pioneering, and occasional lawlessness. In a low density population the idea is quite good, yet with the way things are now, it is increasingly obvious that not everyone can be convinced of free market principles and the value of the individual through simple logical explanation, and those people who cannot be convinced will inevitably band together into a collective and utilize the power of the state in one way or another to infringe upon your liberties.

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Royal Esoterica: Metaphysics and Archetypes in Monarchy

Monarchism and kingship are concepts that – in the current political and philosophical climate – are seemingly beyond the point of unthinkable. This is most likely due to a plethora of historical examples so archaic that monarchy is often inextricably tied to the epochs in which it existed; the implication being that, were a monarchic system to arise, it would be swiftly crushed by modernity. The unending criticism of monarchy aside, I felt that it might be interesting to explore, and it certainly has been. I am not now, nor have I ever been an advocate of monarchy or totalitarianism in any of its forms, yet I am interested in the metaphysical underpinnings of the components of monarchism. Here, I will be using Revolt Against the Modern World, published in 1934 by the Italian philosopher and esotericist, Julius Evola, as a tool for exploring these components. Though Revolt Against the Modern World is about much more than monarchy on its own, many of the other topics are not relevant to this subject specifically.

Every traditional civilization is characterized by the presence of beings who, by virtue of their innate or acquired superiority over the human condition, embody within the temporal order the living and efficacious presence of a power that comes from above

One of the first things to note about Evola’s chapter entitled “Regality” is his description of pontifex – essentially a type of being referenced in the above quote. Pontifex (traditionally identified as a king) means “‘builder of bridges’ or of ‘paths’,” bridges and paths which connect the realm of the natural to that of the supernatural. The monarchs’ connection between these two realms indicates they are the “personification of life ‘beyond ordinary life’.” The foundation of authority for these monarchs was the reality that they were imbued with transcendent and nonhuman qualities. The roots of such authority were understood to be of an inherently metaphysical character and the idea that this authority would be bestowed upon some man by a community subject to his decrees was a foreign idea in the world of monarchic tradition. On the contrary, the roots of a king’s power were of spiritual authority; that kings were of divine origin, given power to execute “law from above.”

Themes, Rites, and Symbols of Kingship

One of the many recurring symbols in traditional monarchism is the sun, as well as solar features and associations, both visible and invisible.

In Tradition, kingship was often associated with the solar symbol. In the king, people saw the same “glory” and “victory” proper to the sun and to the light (the symbols of the superior nature), which every morning overcome darkness.

Solar symbolism is certainly not exclusive to European monarchism, as these same symbols are distinguishable in – if not essential to – ancient Egyptian, Persian, Indo-Aryan, Roman, and Zoroastrian religious and hierarchical traditions. However, the conception of solar “glory” or “victory” is not merely a symbol, but rather designated a metaphysical reality. The association with the metaphysical realm was commonly “identified with a nonhuman operating force, which the king did not possess in and by himself.” Some ancient Roman representations of kingship combined the auxiliary properties of the sun such as glory, light, and heavenly fire, with the planetary characteristic of a sphere, which denoted universal authority and dominion.

Ancient Egyptian tradition combined the aforementioned auxiliary elements of solar properties (i.e. glory, victory), with the scepter.

In the oldest texts, the scepter is portrayed as the zigzag bolt of lightning. The regal “force” thus appears as a manifestation of the dazzling, heavenly force. The combination of signs represented the concept of “life-force” (anshus), form a word for “fiery milk,” which is the nourishment of the immortals. This word is not without relation to uraeus, the divine flame, at times life-giving, at other times dangerously destructive, which crowns the head of the Egyptian king in the shape of a serpent.

Another element present in many traditional monarchies around the world is that of the “nonterrestrial power or fluid (sa).” The sa is the convergence of the solar metaphysical components into a consecrating power which “gives witness to the solar, triumphant nature of the king,” and from one king, is bestowed upon another in his ascension.

The theme of the king as the “son of heaven” is not only relegated to Europe and the Middle East, but also appears in Far Eastern tradition. Though the source of the “mandate of heaven” bestowed upon the “son of heaven” (in Far Eastern tradition) is not that of biblical authority (i.e. heaven in the biblical sense), the end results still show a plethora of similarities to Christianity and European Paganism.

This force [mandate of heaven] that comes “from heaven,” according to Lao-tzu, acts without acting (wei wu wei) through an immaterial presence, or by virtue of just being present… When this power is unleashed, the forces of common men, according to Meng-tzu, bend under it as blades of grass under the wind. Concerning wu wei, a text says:

“By its thickness and substantiality, sincerity equals earth; and by its height and splendor it equals heaven. Its extent and duration are without limit. He who possesses the sincerity, without showing himself, he will shine forth, without moving he will renovate others; without acting, he will perfect them.”

Similarly to European monarchs, the Chinese monarch also acted as the “center” between heaven and earth, through which the “mandate of heaven” could be imparted to his subjects. The concept of the monarch as the third power between heaven and earth is perhaps the most frequently recurring idea across all time and throughout all peoples, nations, and kingdoms. This role of centrality was dubbed “Immutability in the middle,” the meaning of which may imply that the middle is precisely where the virtue of heaven is manifested.

The last symbol of kingship which seems relevant to discuss here is that of the circle or wheel. In the center of this wheel is the monarch, who acts as an immovable pole that spins the worldly forces around him, yet keeps them in orbit. This, of course, is an abstraction of one of the prime functions of a king, in that all earthly things move around him, as he is the son of heaven, on earth to execute the mandate of heaven. There are two excellent examples of this to be found in history. The first example is that of the Indian Cakravartin:

We may consider the Hindu notion of the cakravartin, or “universal king.” The cakravartin may be considered the archetype of the regal function of which various kings represent more or less complete images or even particular expressions whenever they conform to the traditional principle. Cakravartin literally means “lord” or “spinner of the wheel.” This notion brings us back to the idea of a center that corresponds also to an inner state, to a way of being, or better yet, to the way of Being.

Another historical example of the archetype of the wheel is the samsara or the “stream of becoming,” which the Hellenes called the “wheel of generation” or “the wheel of fate.” The center of the wheel remains motionless, symbolic of the balance and stability of the monarch, who is not subject to samsara, and can subordinate the activities of lower natures (non-aristocratic citizens) to the higher power by which the king is imbued. Further explanation of the archetype of the wheel is found in the writings of Confucius in The Analects: “The practice of government by means of virtue may be compared to a polestar, which the multitudinous stars pay homage while it stays in its place.” That which orbits around the center of the wheel is subject to the concept of “revolution,” or “the motion occurring around an “unmoved mover”.”

The concept of the wheel is certainly similar to (and was depicted as) a copy of, or a part of the cosmic order, where a central being (the sun in the case of the universe) sits, and around this being, all things move. Some of the attributes of regality in this polar model of monarchy are glory, centrality (polarity), stability, and peace. It must be noted that the notion of peace is specifically defined by inner peace, and not by peace which one might call forced or external. Perhaps another model of the archetype of the wheel could be a “3D model” in the sense that multiple rings, as orbital paths, revolve around the center. In this case, the orbital path of a higher dimension could contain another point or pole (nevertheless subject to revolution) that represents the sacred; whereas the orbital path of the lowest dimension could contain a third point or pole also subject to revolution which would be representative of the human and earthly. Yet, this is only tangentially relevant to the subject matter at hand. In closing, here is another quote regarding Plato, and his writings on Zeus as the center of all things, as well as the cakravartin.

Plato’s reference to the place where Zeus holds counsel with the gods in order to reach a decision concerning the fate of Atlantis: “He accordingly summoned all the gods to his own most glorious abode, which stands at the center of the universe and looks out over the whole realm of change.” The abovementioned notion of cakravartin is also connected to a cycle of enigmatic traditions concerning the real existence of a “center of the world” that exercises this supreme function here on earth. Some fundamental symbols of regality had originally a close relationship with these ideas. One of these symbols was the scepter, the main function of which is analogically related to the “axis of the world.” Another symbol is the throne, an “elevated” place; sitting still on the throne evokes, in addition to the meaning of stability connected to the “pole” and to the “unmoved mover,” the corresponding inner and metaphysical meanings. Considering the correspondence that was originally believed to exist between the nature of the royal man and the nature produced by initiation, in the classical Mysteries we find a ritual consisting of sitting still on a throne.

All quotes within this essay were taken from Revolt Against the Modern World, written by Julius Evola and translated from the original Italian manuscript by Guido Stucco. This translation was published in 1995 by Inner Traditions International.

Post-Irony and Post-Postmodernism

The Abstract

Postmodernism, as well as similar ideological movements such as Critical Theory, Marxism, and Cultural Marxism, appears to be generating ideological reactions from the entirety of the philosophical spectrum. Such reactions have emerged into many fields; yet more so within liberal arts (i.e. Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Art, etc.). More narrowly, these reactions are meant as movements towards some type of change, or as a response to the postmodern plateau or end of history which we find ourselves in. This essay will not be a critique of postmodernism, but rather an illustration of the linear path of “reactionary” schools of thought.

It is important to note, the definition of reaction here is not aligned with the reactionary or neoreactionary right-wing as a vessel for a return to traditionalism. Rather, in this context, reaction is a description or category of an ideology, philosophy, or any other structure of thought and action which seeks to change the cultural, political, or conceptual paradigm.

The Problem

Modern man does not do as much as he thinks about doing. He is held back by existential anxiety and an overwhelming apprehension with being wrong or failing.

Though the armchair philosopher will badger one in vague cliches to overcome these anxieties, this does not get at the root of the problem. This is not to say that some, if not many, will never overcome such anxieties, but that the paradigm in which one thinks will remain the same across his every endeavor. What use is there in shedding one’s fear of the fire if one cannot breathe through the smoke? The modern man has been conditioned to be gracious of those who shatter his will and destroy his future; as the punishment for stepping out of line to question intention leaves him with less than what little he had before. Yet there seem to be some who cross this line without actually crossing it.

Not a Solution – Not a Problem

Modern day humor seems to be a fairly accurate parallel to the manner in which this line is crossed, while maintaining the illusion that it has not been crossed. Before the vast application of postmodernism and related theories, humor was quite straightforward and could be evaluated and understood on a basic level. It was sincere and meant to be taken at face value. However, once postmodernism began to take hold of various cultural norms and societal institutions, the prevailing method of humor changed to an ironic and indirect form. Its meaning was implied, yet the implication was strong and easy to decipher.

Now a new form of humor has begun to emerge and become immensely popular, and it is principally influenced by metamodernism or post-postmodernism. The humor centers around the concept of post-irony. Within the post-ironic framework (or lack thereof) the comedy is not only aware of itself and its intentions, but is also aware of the viewer and the disorientation which the viewer experiences. Post-irony takes a ridiculous concept (often a postmodern idea applied ad absurdum) and makes it serious so that it is no longer obvious what is funny and what is not. It relies often on nihilism and dark humor in an attempt to get one thinking, to bridge the gap among shared experiences, and to expose or alleviate dread. It does seem that there most certainly is intention behind post-irony, but it is quite difficult to analyze, and that is part of its purpose. It acts as an “oscillating” reaction to modernism and postmodernism at the same time.

Two great examples of this brand of comedy are Sam Hyde and Million Dollar Extreme, as well as Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s work with Adult Swim.

This is another experimental essay, but it seemed like a good idea to parse out these ideas in this format. Part of my inspiration for this essay was from a YouTube video called “Why Is Millennial Humor So Weird?” which is in itself a response to an article on The Washington Post, thus making my response to a response part of the post-ironic maze.

On Linguistic and Aesthetic Warfare

Social Engineering

The way in which mankind evaluates his being, his nature, his potential – and consequently, his values and his actions – could be compressed into any number of terms, but for reference and simplicity these self-reflective evaluations will be encapsulated here as the Images of Man. I have abridged this definition from the source that will be used as the foundation for the conclusions below. The Changing Images of Man is a 1982 publication procured by The Center for the Study of Social Policy and SRI [Stanford Research Institute] International, which outlines the process by which mankind’s “images” (i.e. conception of his physical self, societal formation, and metaphysical surroundings) change over time, as well as how they can be potentially steered in another direction.

I’ve often found myself, particularly in the last five or six years, fielding questions from older generations in regards to the present day culture and its inability to foster sincere and productive communication. It appears evident that The Changing Images of Man addresses many of the sources behind our cultural phenomenon, and so I will attempt to describe two of these causes to the best of my ability.

Language & Abstraction

Historically, much of mankind’s group cohesion is predicated on a limited dialectic and a common linguistic foundation in an objective truth. We can observe that groups of citizens within the most productive civilizations generally held the same worldview, and were thus able to pursue a common interest with little friction. Yet this common interest often proved far less potent in the aftermath of excessive conquest or invasion. This example is not meant to serve as an argument for cultural relativism, but rather as parallels to a “viral” model in which the spread of the very idea of radical relativism becomes a kind of disassociative to the societal union; that which is highly corrosive to interpersonal trust and accountability.

One of the most critical necessities for language arises from a need to communicate complex metaphysical and philosophical abstractions. Spreading into the West from such institutions as The Frankfurt School, the critical theorist seeks to undermine these abstractions and change their conceptions in order to erode social cohesion. Though I will not describe this much further, many of us can easily observe the effects of the changes in abstraction. For example, complex ideas like gender or race are now so diluted that one almost dare not speak of them for fear of retribution. The point here with regard to The Changing Images of Man is that the confusion over language is almost entirely intentional.

It must be noted that this is not speculative. The Changing Images of Man was written by the Urban and Social Systems Division of Stanford Research Institute and was written with the intention to provide insight into ways in which mankind’s “image” could be influenced to provide outcomes that would be desirable to whichever organization gave funding and inquiry to a study on social engineering.

Aesthetic Terrorism

The field of aesthetics is one which has been debated for millennia, yet more recently, has taken strange and unpredictable turns. The deconstruction of aesthetic beauty naturally follows the deconstruction of linguistic and philosophical concepts, as a sense of nihilism overtakes the artist who has denigrated reality to the point where all is meaningless and nothing is beautiful.

What follows the complete deconstruction and eventual disregard for aesthetics is the antithesis of beauty; art which, by design, is meant to conjure feelings of disgust, shock, and hopelessness in the consumer. Where before, artistic images were meant to illuminate virtue and characterize and beautify truth, now many such images only perpetuate the notion of a relative sense of artistic appreciation.

This is not to say that art is not somewhat subjective, nor is it to say that artists ought not have their own styles and influences. It is to say, however, that on the heels of a disillusion of social trust and the abolishment of objective truth and beauty, we have gone from the stoicism of The School of Athens or the kaleidoscopic magnificence in the roots of Byzantium to the nude feminist vomiting on a canvas or the piles of rusted cans that somehow represents “the hatred of the American dream.”

The function of aesthetics here serves as a literal visual representation of the effects of the corrosion of objective concepts such as truth or beauty. If within man’s image of himself he concedes his beliefs and capitulates to radical relativism, his children and his grandchildren will suffer the consequences of his cowardice.

Conclusion

I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to read this. Though this is more of an experimental essay, I will provide the link to The Changing Images of Man below.

The Changing Images of Man – Global Vision Foundation