Monday, May 02, 2011

Libertarians: communities have no rights

Libertarians can be very hostile to communal traditions. Take a recent discussion on immigration at the libertarian Reason magazine (hat tip VFR). One commenter bravely took a stand against open borders:

What about the rights of a community of individuals to decide that they don't want their culture to be overwhelmed and subsumed by an alien culture, with widely divergent norms, language, etc?

The response? Well, there was this:

In a Libertarian World that community should have no trouble purchasing an apartment building and requiring that any tenants are only WASPy WASPs. I'll enjoy mocking them while eating a burrito.

An apartment building? Tenants? Is that how libertarians conceive of a national tradition holding together?

It reflects the libertarian idea that a society of millions of atomised individual wills can be regulated through the market, specifically through property rights (a form of radical right liberalism). So the libertarian quoted above assumes that if you're going to have any kind of communal existence it will be through an assertion of individual property rights (a group of individuals buying a building and deciding who can be tenants).

Another libertarian posted an equally extreme reply:

What about the rights of a community?

No such thing, dumbass. Every individual has the right to not be Mexican. That's it.

Americans have no right to assert their existence as Americans, states this libertarian. There is only an individual right to not have a particular ethnicity or group identity.

This view was then challenged by a commenter who wrote:

So Israel *should* allow a right of return to any Palestinian? (Hell, I guess it should allow any Arab, even one whose ancestors didn't come from Palestine, to come to Israel.) Since the members of the community have no more than the right of its individuals not to be Arab.

The libertarian answer?

Yup. The fake "right of a community to exclude others from entering its vicinity" is not a property right.

The focus is so much on individual property rights, that there is no other collective right to assert national sovereignty - not even when there are important issues of security at stake.

Another libertarian put the issue like this:

"What about the rights of a community of individuals to decide that they don't want their culture to be overwhelmed and subsumed by an alien culture, with widely divergent norms, language, etc?"

Then each of those individuals, respectively, can refuse such people use of their property. What they can't do is tell willing neighbors what to do with theirs. That's the issue.

Again, individual property rights trump everything else. There is no national sovereignty or collective decision making. There's just me as an individual property holder deciding what I'll use my property for. Libertarians value being an individual property holder more than they value being an American.

Here's another libertarian:

Rights are individual and inherent...communities have no rights.

What if I'm an individual who wants to live in a community? How am I supposed to protect this communal existence? Libertarian answer:

Strong property rights so you can buy some land, build an underground bunker and seal yourself away from the scary people who look and talk different than you.

Individual property rights again, plus hostility to the idea that people might want to preserve a distinct tradition of their own.

Another libertarian explained it slightly differently. He saw an advertising sign in his American town which was entirely in Spanish - no English. That was great in his view, because it showed that the market was responding to what people wanted:

The other day I was sitting at a light and above me was a large, prominent billboard advertising a food product (don't remember) entirely in Spanish. The whole billboard: Spanish. No english whatsoever.

As a libertarian my immediate thought was how cool that is. This is capitalism at work. No one forced them to write the sign in English and Spanish. No one is forcing them to take it down (yet). No legislative process took place to force advertising that was previously ignoring a minority community.

Sorry dude, capitalism (when it's allowed to work) figures out what the needs and desires of a community are, and that's that. If that means my "culture" is "overwhelmed and subsumed", too bad for me. I'll get over it and brush up on my Spanish.

This guy so much believes in the regulation of society by the market, that if it means the extinguishing of his own national tradition, then that must be a good thing that he should just adapt to.

Another libertarian commenter:

Restrictions on immigration violate the property and contract rights of Americans. If I want to hire or rent to some guy from Guatemala, it should be between him and me, period.

And another:

if the population of Saudi Arabia could all find and legally acquire places to live, then yes, they could all immigrate to the US. It is the right of property owners to rent or sell their property to whomever they want.

One commenter objected that open borders might lead to overcrowding and he asked how many people the libertarians thought America could hold. The answer?

Hong Kong -- which is not too crowded at all, has virtually no natural resources but quite a bit of parkland, and was the most laissez faire place on earth for decades -- has more than 3000 persons per square mile. That density would allow the US's 3.8 million square miles to hold over 10 billion people.

10 billion? That really is open borders to the max.

Somehow we in the West have to get over this kind of politics. It's a politics which claims to deliver freedom, but it ends up being a very limited kind of freedom, in which about the only thing I'm free to do is to dispose of my property as I wish.

You cannot regulate a society through individual property rights alone, any more than you can regulate it effectively by a class of state bureaucrats.


  1. Excellent Post. Thank you for pointing out the crazy libertarianism stuff. I don't understand why Ron Paul keeps attaching himself to these people.

  2. It's interesting how liberals say there is nothing objective and then turn around and demand we submit to their rules of thought. I'm really starting to think that my previous belief that liberalism emerged first as a form of thought rooted in women's thought was perhaps accurate.

    Libertarians, the brothers of liberals, are crazed types as well. Unfortunately the asylum has taken over the West and truly believes itself to be good.

    Don't underestimate their suicidal tendencies. The only way to weaken them is to do what the traditional patriarchy does: lead and never back down. Don't let them demoralize you and ignore them if you can as well.

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  4. I think this is similar to the 'to each their own' kind of logic so long as non-aggression and property rights are not violated.
    But what happens if a large outside force collectively attacks a libertarian community? Is each household supposed to defend itself individually against such an attack? I also don't think the libertarians have an argument against child porn.

    I surmise that the reason communities evolved beyond atomized individuals and along racial, cultural and gender specific lines is evidence that libertarianism doesn't understand the basic instincts of members to cleave to their own traditions. What libertarianism and liberalism have in common is to dismiss traditionalism as irrational because it does conflicts with both ideals. Since the libertarian and liberal both regard their ideals as ipso facto 'good' it follows that all conflicting ideals are 'bad'.
    I think conservatives have to do a better job advocating Natural Law and making black and white distinctions between it and pretenders to the throne.

    Speaking about Ron Paul, he thinks the right to life is LESS important than the states' rights: he says that even though he is against abortion, he would not support a federal amendment banning it but would leave the decision up to the states.

  5. I left the libertarian cult some time ago, and I bear it ill will, but you are being very unkind here. There is a standard libertarian answer to your objection: covenant communities.

    In Libertopia, a real estate developer would be free to buy up a big farm, subdivide it for residential/commercial/industrial uses, write restrictive covenants (for example, no blacks, only Latin-Mass-going Catholics, etc) into the property deeds, and then empower a community association to enforce the covenants. This is done all the time now in the US: it's just that many things are not permitted in contemporary covenants ("no blacks" being the standard example of a verboten covenant). In less extreme versions of Libertarian thought, local (very local) governments take the place of the real estate developers. Ave Maria, FL, is sort of an example of what they suggest.

    So, they have a reasonably good answer for you. If your vision of the good life is actually right, you should be able to set up covenant communities and to attract an ever larger proportion of the population, as everyone figures out you are right. But, as the libertarian movement has drifted ever leftward, they have steadily de-emphasized this particular aspect of their ideology.

  6. But what happens if a large outside force collectively attacks a libertarian community?

    Good point. I had a similar thought. What if a large outside force immigrates and wants to share in the property they see others having and start to make claims on it. Can the libertarian system of individual property rights then be defended on a individual level, one by one? I wouldn't have thought so.

    Even in the unlikely event that libertarians got the system they wanted, they would be ripe for the plucking.

  7. Mark,

    Even in the unlikely event that libertarians got the system they wanted, they would be ripe for the plucking.

    I fully agree. I also think the libertarian system would change 'one man one vote' into a property based system where only those who own property can vote and those who have bigger properties have more votes.
    Such a system only works in a sin-free world with an entirely meritocratic system and where those with more votes wouldn't abuse their advantage.

  8. Eh. Libertoonians are a mutual-congratualation society, a sort of vanity press in politics.

    I cannot recall the last time a Libertarian candidate drew more than 10% of the vote in a national election, and cannot recall the last time that they won a local election .... the latter logically may have happened, I just cannot recall any case.

    They really aren't a factor in US politics. Debating them can be entertaining, I suppose, just as debating vegans, or UFO researchers who claim to be Vegans, can be entertaining, but it's really irrelevant. As their immigration posture shows, if any true Libertopia came into being, it would cease to exist in less than a generation. Likely much less...

  9. I would say libertarians have quite a lot of influence as the good "anti-left" alternative.

  10. Strong property rights so you can buy some land, build an underground bunker and seal yourself away from the scary people who look and talk different than you.

    Libertarian talking points, liberal attitude.

    There are a lot of these jokers on militia websites over here. You know you're talking to a libertarian when he objects to the "we" in We The People. Any reference to "we" or "us" is derided as "collectivist" thinking. "Collectivist" is the favored epithet, and although no two people can agree on exactly what the term means, libertarians divide the world between individualists and collectivists, with every person on Earth in one or the other camp. This allows the libertarian to discard obvious differences between people as "collectivist."

    MLK and Malcom X are often venerated as heroes because they stood up to the state.

    But what happens if a large outside force collectively attacks a libertarian community? Is each household supposed to defend itself individually against such an attack?

    They assume that their fellow libertarians will band together to answer the threat, after which they'll go back to being individuals. That's not a joke, either. It's the answer I've been given each time I've posed the same question.

    With their antipathy for everything having to do with the state, one wonders how a libertarian country would deal with crime. Tax-funded cops are obviously out, so I guess each community would be expected to contract out to a private company. Call 911 and Blackwater goons in webgear show up (not that I'm a particular fan of cops). The corporation who handles security would probably branch out into providing judges and court officers as well. Ditto for prisons.

  11. This discussion reminds me of a libertarian radio commentator in Texas who was incensed because a town council in a community more than 100 miles distant shut down a swingers' club in a residential area.
    "How dare they place limits on what consenting adults can do?" reverberated through the libertarian echo chamber.
    But what I found most telling was that his listeners all took heart in the conviction that the Supreme Court would get involved and protect the individual rights of the poor swingers against the tyrannical city council.
    Atomized individualism is not the opposite of statism. Community is the opposite of statism. Individualism is the prerequisite and the spur for the ever more powerful state, and the state is always happy to champion the rights of individuals against their community, family, or other collective that poses a threat to its power.

  12. I would say libertarians have quite a lot of influence as the good "anti-left" alternative.

    LOL, it should be obvious from the original post that libertarians are at best "leftism lite" (indeed, prior to this century their anti-national ideas would be considered radically left) and in practice amount to enablers of leftism.

    The Left's ongoing project to destroy the West has been significantly easier because a number of libertarian retards on the Right refuse to oppose Leftism for exactly the stupid reasons advanced here. Don't look to them to save you from the Left.

  13. Anonymous believe me I wasn't supporting them.

  14. It is pretty clear that those who criticized Ron Paul have never read what he has written or clearly don't understand them.

    Some of the quotes are kind of unfair to libertarians who have thought some of these issues through. These people may be just as bad as the leftist that wish to disarm me, foist government health care on me, and various other ideas that violate my property.

    I'm more of classical liberal, which I think is what the founders intended with the US Constitution. However, even that has been perverted so we are to the point where we don't any real law or rights.

  15. sth_txs,

    Can you explain Ron Paul's position on abortion to me? As I understand it, he claims to be pro-life but yet wants to leave the decision up to the states as to whether abortion should be banned or not. He differs from feminists only in that he has simply moved the mantle of 'judge jury and executioner' wrt unborn humans from women to individual states.

  16. By the way, if there is any group that Mark Richardson's "autonomy" theory actually applies to, it has to be libertarians. These are the sorts of people who would find it not at all unusual to require a contract to be signed prior to visiting them at their house - with obligations and limitations on all parties spelled out. Others that I knew back in the 1990's spent a great deal of time planning how to organize self-governing space habitats, either on the Moon or in orbit.

    When one spends most or all of the day around people of above average IQ, people who grasp abstractions quickly and who would literally never hurt a fly (but would spend ten minutes chivvying it to a window and then outside), libertarianism seems to make sense.

    It's no coincidence that many libertarians can be found in academia, or in high tech industries (usually in small companies). I don't know too many libertarian bartenders, although I did used to know one who worked in a brewpub. There are very few libertarian police officers, although once encountered a Randian cop.

    The point being that libertopia only works, if it works at all, for people of above average intelligence, who have a future-time orientation, with good impulse control. And even there it tends to break down into factions.

    One final note: in my experience, most libertarians do not have children. I suspect that having children changes one's view of human nature - the blank slate isn't so blank after all - and makes libertarianism more and more impractical. Because really, libertarianism is an ideology for 20-something and 30-something fully functional adults. Infants, children, old people and others of limited capabilities (could be physical, could be mental, could be both) don't really fit in to libertopia.

    That's why it is a marginal niche in the political landscape.

  17. I think libertarians have many good ideas, I consider myslef to be one simply because their arguments about big-State solutions make sense.

    But radical individualism is not biologically human.

    Humans are individuals and act as such, but they also have biological, cultural and ideological ties which help to form communities.

    Without any of those these things a society has less cohesion and sense of fellow feeling. This makes it weaker and more vulnerable than it otherwise would be, even without the economic growth that a culture of radical individualism sometimes fosters.

    But I think the Libertarians are deluding themselves. Their idea of autonomy is no better than that of the left-lib nutters. Both fail because they fail to take into account human nature.

  18. More often that not, Libertarians are sheltered, bored, intellectually above average but physically low tier white males who live in overwhelmingly white communities. Almost all of them came to their political conclusions from information on the internet. They are precisely the types that would be eaten alive in the 'free for all' society they advocate. They are complete fantasists.

  19. "Both fail because they fail to take into account human nature."

    Libertarians believe that people are basically good and therefore should be free to do what they want outside of harming each other and breaching property rights.

    Liberals believe that some people are good and others bad, based on who they perceive as oppressor and oppressed. Therefore equality takes precedence over freedom for them.

    Social Conservatives in contrast believe man is fallen but has the potential to be good.

    There is no evidence for the incipient beliefs of either libertarians or liberals and plenty of evidence to support the so-con foundation.

  20. Davout said,

    "There is no evidence for the incipient beliefs of either libertarians or liberals and plenty of evidence to support the so-con foundation."

    Hear hear.