Bill Evers: How to Convince a Socialist to Become a Libertarian

Is America Still on F. A. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”? – Richard M. Ebeling

A little more than seventy years ago, on March 10, 1944, there appeared in Great Britain one of the most amazing and influential political books of the twentieth century, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek, which forewarned of socialist trends in Britain and America that ran the danger of leading to tyranny if taken to their logical conclusions.

The Road to Serfdom

Written during the Second World War, Hayek’s main and crucial thesis was that many of the ideological and economic trends that had culminated in the triumph and tragedy of German Nazism could be seen developing and taking hold in Great Britain, where Hayek was then living, and also in the United States.

Hayek did not argue that either Great Britain or America were inevitably and irretrievably heading for a totalitarian state exactly like the National Socialist regime then existing in Hitler’s Germany, and against which the combined economic and military strength of Great Britain and the United States were at that moment in mortal combat.

But as I shall try to explain, the threat against which Hayek was warning was that there were certain underlying political philosophical and economic policy currents at work in these two bulwarks of Western civilization that if continued ran the risk of moving these countries further away from being societies of freedom.

Great Britain and the United States, Hayek argued, were increasingly becoming politically controlled and managed states in which the individual human being faced the danger of being reduced to a cog in the machine of governmental planning. Individual liberty would be lost in societies of socialist paternalism and centralized economic direction of human affairs.

Read the rest via Is America Still on F. A. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”? – The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Squandered Lives and Snuffed Out Genius: Mises, Tolkien, and World War – Dan Sanchez

Recently in The Times, Richard Morrison discussed, “The musicians silenced in the carnage of the Great War,” this being the centennial year of World War I. Morrison explored the war’s, “cataclysmic effect on the musical world,” and how “it left an indelible mark on musical composition—partly because almost a whole generation of brilliant young composers were killed, and partly because those that survived were changed for ever.” Morrison ends on a poignant note:

Human Action

 “As with so many of that horribly ill-fated generation, you wonder what might have been—had mankind not slaughtered so many of its brightest and best.”

 This sentiment can be extended beyond music to all fields of human endeavor. Every life is precious for its own sake, but we can only have a full accounting of the costs of war if we also reflect upon the squandered potential of its victims.

 Of course we can never know exactly what was lost to civilization in a war, but one way of getting an idea is to consider what we almost lost.

For example, World War I might have easily cost us most of the contributions of Ludwig von Mises, the greatest economist, and one of the greatest champions of liberty, who ever lived. In his wonderful biography of Mises, Guido Hülsmann wrote of how much danger Mises was in as an artillery officer on Austria-Hungary’s Northern Front:

“Artillery was not only the main agent of destruction, but also one of its prime targets. Mises’s battery constantly had to change position, often under fire. Heavy rainfall set in, hampered their movements, and proved that k.u.k. uniforms were not waterproof.”

As I have written in my biographical essay about Mises, this was an incredibly close call for humanity:

“One of history’s greatest geniuses was a single air burst away from having his career nipped in the bud.

How tragic that would have been! Mises had not yet even written his great 1920 essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, which contained the single most powerful argument against central planning that had ever been formulated.”

Neither had he yet elaborated the true, praxeological foundation of sound economics (which he would accomplish in the 1930s) or reconstructed on that foundation the entire edifice of economics as a rigorous, systematic, and complete science of the market (which he would accomplish in the 1940s). Imagine how subsequent Austrian economists would be have had to grope in the dark had he never made those discoveries. There would have been no Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, a book that forever changed the life and career of Friedrich Hayek (who also might have died in the World War I), and no Human Action, a book that forever changed the life and career of Murray Rothbard .

Read more via Squandered Lives and Snuffed Out Genius: Mises, Tolkien, and World War I « Antiwar.com Blog.

Left Wing Individualism – David S. D’Amato

Perhaps because I live in Chicago, perhaps because I work with other attorneys, in my day-to-day life I’m surrounded almost exclusively by people who identify with the mainstream, American left, centrist Democrats for whom mere mention of the word “libertarian” calls forth nightmarish imaginings of the Tea Party right. Regrettably, identifying myself as a libertarian stops any meaningful dialogue with this set before it starts; for them, libertarianism is associated with the extreme right wing of a one-dimensional American political spectrum that they have been successfully trained never to question. They often know just enough about Ayn Rand to regard libertarianism as an oversimplified and merciless case for corporate greed, for an economic status quo that finds the one percent growing ever richer while the “middle class” contracts and the poor suffer in sheer destitution. Ironically, this kind of centrist Democrat probably understands capitalism and its effects better than many libertarians, seeing economic predation for what it is and looking (however unsystematically) for something to step in and pull back on the reins. What they haven’t taken the time to understand, however, is either libertarianism as a real philosophy or the cavernous gulf that separates the economic system of the present moment from real free markets.

Benjamin R. Tucker, who suggested that anarchi...

Because of this reflex revulsion at the mere mention of libertarianism, experience has inclined me to describing my politics as “left wing individualism.” This characterization, I have found, invites questions rather than angry diatribes, preparing the ground for a fruitful conversation as opposed to a futile debate. I borrow the phrasing “left wing individualism” from Eunice Minette Schuster, who made “A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism” the subtitle of her dissertation, Native American Anarchism. Schuster’s book follows Native American Anarchism from its nascent, prototypical forms to its blossoming as a distinct and fully realized philosophical system and movement. Her study is important insofar as it illumes a strain of political philosophy that can seem confusing and oxymoronic within the context of today’s mainstream political debates.

The individualist anarchists that Schuster discusses in the section of her book that treats anarchism in its “mature” state were both extreme individualists and socialists, architects of a project which we at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) undertake to continue today. As advocates of unhampered freedom of competition, property rights, and the sovereignty of the individual, individualist anarchists are a part of the history of the contemporary libertarian movement. At the same time, like C4SS today, this group opposed capitalism and regarded socialism as, in the words of radical reformer Ezra Heywood, “the great anti-theft movement” of their day. Unlike today’s free market libertarians, who often demonize the poor as welfare receiving “takers,” thinkers like Benjamin Tucker, Ezra Heywood, and Josiah Warren (just to name a few) saw the rich as the true idle, freeloading class, the beneficiaries of privileges that allowed them to game the system and put a stop to real market competition.

These early libertarians saw that freedom and competition work for all the reasons that are familiar to us today: division and specialization of labor, the massive amounts of information distilled in prices, and accordingly the folly of attempting to plan the economy through the greatest monopoly of them all, the state. They argued that genuine competition in a free market is the best, surest way to ensure that labor is paid with its full product, that is, to solve what was then often called the Labor Question; this made them socialists, even if they fit uncomfortably with much of the socialist movement. Their fit with the liberal advocates of free trade and competition — the political economists — was no less uncomfortable, finding the individualist anarchists constantly compelled to school the economists in their own doctrine, to point out the errors and inconsistencies that characterized so much of what passed as defenses of free trade.

Read more via Center for a Stateless Society » Left Wing Individualism.

The Distinction Between Government And Society

Frédéric Bastiat

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” Frederic Bastiat