Libertarianism comes in for a reasonable amount of criticism on this side of the great divide, mostly for its tendency to side with the Left on cultural issues. Libertarianism, at its best, is low-tax liberalism. The common and well-supported form of libertarianism is the version that functions as lipstick on the pig of corporate excess. The people who claim to champion individual rights always seem to be defending those rights being trampled by massive global companies answerable to no one.
There are some exceptions within the libertarian fever swamp. Ron Paul is still remembered fondly by many on this side of the great divide. He was their guide into the world of political realism. He was always careful to avoid taboo subjects, but there were plenty of paleocons in the baggage train to help guide those swept up in the Ron Paul moment toward sensible politics. The Ron Paul moment turned out to be a waystation for what is now the dissident right.
Another exception is the libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Greg Hood and Chris Roberts from American Renaissance have posted a new podcast on Hoppe and his most popular work, Democracy: The God that Failed. It is a good discussion of Hoppe, his brand of libertarianism and the arguments in his book. This podcast is part of a series on various writers relevant to dissident politics. The show on Wilmot Robertson is especially good, as few remember him.
One thing that was missed in the review of Hoppe’s book is that he was one of the first people to notice a peculiar feature of democracy. That is, as soon as the idea of democracy is planted in a society, the franchise expands rapidly. Societies can reject the core idea of democracy, but still have limited participation through elections, which was the case in early America. Once the society accepts the idea of democracy, all limits on the franchise quickly give way to democratic zeal.
Hoppe observed this in his book, but he offered no explanation for it. He just accepts it as a force of nature, noting how the franchise expanded in every Western country as soon as democracy was introduced. We saw this in America. In the 20th centur,y as the country transformed from a republic into a social democracy, the franchise quickly started to expand to include all men, then women, then blacks. Now we are extending the vote to criminals, foreigners, and the imaginary.
One reason for this is the very nature of democracy. In a world of fifty percent plus one there will always be a large minority unhappy with the result. In order to avoid conflict, the natural elites form parties, which allows them to form a consensus around a set of compromises on the important issues. This is something that was the norm in the 20th century, whether it was in multi-party parliamentary systems or the two-party bicameral system in America. Liberal democracy was about consensus.
While that greatly reduces the number of people who feel left out of the result, it creates a new problem. Reformers now need to break the consensus in order to get the changes they think are required. That is difficult, so they instead look to increase the number of those outside the consensus. Put another way, the reformer looks for new voters, rather than trying to challenge old voters. Get enough new voters and the outsiders can challenge the prevailing consensus.
In America, expansion of the franchise parallels reform efforts. The social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century were also the driving force behind expanding the franchise to women. Extending the franchise to blacks came with social reforms like the elimination of free association. Today, the people chanting about democracy are also demanding the vote be given to foreigners. Open borders are a way to create a permanent revolution against the prevailing consensus.
Again, this is not something Hoppe addressed, but it does suggest that the primary reason libertarians favor open borders is they share the same reformist impulse that exists on the Left. They instinctively seek to break the consensus, which in their case is their idea of statism. The fact that libertarians never try to think through the ramifications of open borders suggests they are not acting on practical considerations, but rather on an instinctive sense that it is good for them.
Of course, there is a natural limit to democracy’s expansive tendency. Once every human on earth can vote for the next American president, there are no more worlds to conquer for the democrats. Long before that, however, democracy becomes too unstable to maintain a consensus of any sort for any duration. That seems to be happening now, when half the country in unhappy with every election result and the consensus that is implied in the result. America is shaking itself to pieces.
Hoppe is a good reminder that even the most ridiculous ideas can be useful in the right hands, if only as a warning. In the case of libertarianism, its utility was always in its use as a critique of liberal excess. Libertarian economics was an excellent antidote to central planning. Natural rights are useful in challenging authoritarianism. In the case of Hoppe, his economic defense of monarchism is useful in understanding the inherent dangers and defects of liberal democracy.
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