There is a 9,000 pound gorilla inside the tent of the Liberty movement…
And he grows heavier every day.
This gorilla is increasingly restless, and is starting to jump onto people’s backs. Who let the animal in, and what is he nourishing on?
I am talking about the divide between those who profess the ideals of Personal Choice, the Non-Aggression Principle and Freedom of Association as desirable attainments for their own sake, and those who profess the same things for ulterior, demonstrably ugly reasons. Jeffrey Tucker explains exactly what I am talking about in Against Libertarian Brutalism, a beautiful essay.
Humanists & Brutalists
Tucker submits that there are basically two types of people who advocate for the philosophy of Liberty: the “Libertarian Humanists” and the “Libertarian Brutalists“.
From the article:
Why should we favor human liberty over a social order ruled by power? In providing the answer, I would suggest that libertarians can generally be divided into two camps: humanitarians and brutalists.
The humanitarians are drawn to reasons such as the following. Liberty allows peaceful human cooperation. It inspires the creative service of others. It keeps violence at bay. It allows for capital formation and prosperity. It protects human rights of all against invasion. It allows human associations of all sorts to flourish on their own terms. It socializes people with rewards toward getting along rather than tearing each other apart, and leads to a world in which people are valued as ends in themselves rather than fodder in the central plan.
But they are not the only reasons that people support liberty. There is a segment of the population of self-described libertarians—described here as brutalists—who find all the above rather boring, broad, and excessively humanitarian. To them, what’s impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on “politically incorrect” standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms.
It saddens me to say that I have witnessed this in local gatherings of ‘Liberty’ advocates.
The comments beneath Tucker’s essay are telling. People seem to either fully agree, or are expressing outrage and disgust at Tucker’s observations. For my part, I suspect that much of the contempt for the essay is due to this part in the middle:
Brutalism can appear in many ideological guises. Bolshevism and Nazism are both obvious examples: Class and race become the only metric driving politics to the exclusion of every other consideration. In modern democracy, partisan politics tends toward brutalism insofar as it asserts party control as the only relevant concern. Religious fundamentalism is yet another obvious form.
So let’s say you have a town that is taken over by a fundamentalist sect that excludes all peoples not of the faith, forces women into burka-like clothing, imposes a theocratic legal code, and ostracizes gays and lesbians. You might say that everyone is there voluntarily, but, even so, there is no liberalism present in this social arrangement at all. The brutalists will be on the front lines to defend such a microtyranny on grounds of decentralization, rights of property, and the right to discriminate and exclude—completely dismissing the larger picture here that, after all, people’s core aspirations to live a full and free life are being denied on a daily basis.
I think most of us can agree that a large proportion of the Liberty Movement is composed of people from the so-called “Right Wing,” whom include many social conservatives and fundamentalist Christians. In part this is a natural outgrowth of the fact that Constitutionalism, limited government, and entrepreneurism are rallying points, at least ostensibly, for the “conservative” camp.
Ron and Rand Paul have contributed further to this trend by retaining Republican Party identification and urging Liberty activists to ‘work from within’ to ‘get the Republican party back on track.’ In many ways, the Liberty Movement has been increasingly shoehorned into a partisan camp.
But that is a whole story in itself that deserves an investigation. For now, I want to get back to Tucker’s idea of the Humanist vs. Brutalist camps of Liberty.
“This is the biggest piece of shit that I have ever seen leave the desk of Jeff Tucker.”Comment by “Matt Roach” on www.fee.org
As can be seen from the last quote, Tucker’s assertion that religious fundamentalism is “another obvious form” of Brutalism is going to get many people hammering on the keyboard, spittle peppering their monitor in between howls of indignation. The space beneath the essay is already full of comments accusing Tucker of being a “purist,” a “fraud,” and “disruptive.”
But methinks they doth protest too much.
The hard truth of the matter is that Brutalism, as Tucker describes it, is present. The contradictory statements of a significant proportion of Liberty advocates reveal this presence. The easiest way to see the contradictions are to examine the Non-Aggression Principle and how it relates to the social views the Brutalists hold, vis-a-vis their lofty speech of how “The Principle of Non-Aggression and of Liberty is the most important thing to us.”
“May the Lord have mercy on your soul…”
Here are some typical things that we may see the Brutalists condemning as evil:
- Sexual promiscuity (may include non-monogamous or poly amorous relationships)
- Cultural diversity
- Ethnic diversity
- Atheism and/or Agnosticism
While not usually held as evil in full, the following activities may be held as inadmissible to a righteous society by the Brutalists:
- Drinking alcohol
- Narcotics (may even include tobacco)
- “Provocative” dancing
- Performing arts
- “Suggestive” clothing
The Brutalist will usually attempt to explain the vileness of such things in terms of some sort of “rational” way. There will be accusations of “cultural Marxism” and “Man Worshipping Man,” Egoism, Vanity, Nihilism, Scientism and Libertinism.
Now, of course anyone has the right to hold such beliefs. Everyone also has the right to choose who they do and do not want to associate with. This is not the critical thing. What is critical is to ask ourselves:
“Do any of these behaviors violate the Principle of Non Aggression?”
It can be shown as irrefutable that they do not.
Nonetheless the Brutalist, whilst ranting from the rooftops about “tyranny” and “collectivism”, and praising the absolving philosophy of Liberty and its’ core axiom, the Non Aggression Principle, will brow beat, verbally (and sometimes physically) assault and otherwise let it be known that persons who partake in the aforesaid “evil” activities are not welcome within the Movement for Liberty.
The Brutalist will ignore the fact that these individuals are not violating the Principle of Non Aggression, and will instead condemn them as outcasts undeserving of fighting for Liberty.
For the Brutalist, the struggle for “Liberty” is driven by a desire to attain the social environment in which they can go about assaulting others’ liberties unfettered by the norms of decorum, civility and justice.
What are we truly fighting for?
Is this the type of environment we hope to create with a Free Society? We must ask the tough question: why are we fighting for Liberty to begin with?
Do we value Liberty for all humans, knowing that in others’ exercise of liberty we see a reflection of the Beautiful, Just and Good we hope to cultivate in ourselves, or are we fighting for liberty merely as an enabler to more easily cultivate the Hate, Ignorance and Unreason that lurks in the dark areas of our hearts?
Put another way: do we seek Liberty because it grants everyone the freedom to become our highest selves, or to become our most vile selves?
– Please share your thoughts! Comment below –