Monday, September 03, 2018

South Africa & libertarianism

The South African government is changing the constitution to permit it to take the land of white South African farmers without compensation. Property rights, it seems, don't matter much in the real world if you lose state power to a different group. Even the right to life is not very secure for white South African farmers, with thousands being murdered in farm attacks in the past two decades.

This led me to think some more about libertarianism, a political philosophy that has been influential on the right, particularly in America. I should say from the outset that I have never been attracted to libertarianism, regardless of its real world practicality, because I believe that we fulfil ourselves as individuals (develop toward our natural ends) within unchosen, uncontracted forms of community, such as family and ethnic nation. The individual derives from these the deeper forms of identity and the strongest loyalties and social commitments. We live better, more meaningful lives within these traditional forms of community.

Libertarians prefer to think in terms of the individual developing solo within the market, with the only permissible social commitments being voluntary, contracted ones (i.e. to "civil society" understood to mean voluntary associations, like sports clubs). What South Africa suggests, though, is that this ideal, if it can exist at all, can only survive within a relatively homogeneous society. Property rights and even personal security are much more likely to endure when there is a natural fellow feeling between people who share a common history, culture and tradition, and not when there is a contest within society for power, and the spoils of power, between different groups.

I expect that some libertarians would concede this point. There has been something of a drift lately of libertarians toward the dissident right, with a concern for the securing of borders. Perhaps these libertarians have grasped that their preferred model of society cannot thrive when there is rapid demographic change and the newer groups are self-confidently asserting their own power in society.

Although I welcome libertarians drifting the right way, there is a problem in trying to base a defence of borders on a pragmatic "libertarianism won't work without it". The problem is that libertarianism begins with a concept of man as being an atomised, rights-bearing individual, whose purposes are individual, whose connection with others is voluntarily contracted, and whose best interests are secured by a pursuit of individual ends and personal profit within a free market. This understanding of man, this "anthropology", is blind to communal tradition - it does not tie us, by nature or purpose, to those we share a particular tradition with.

Libertarian anthropology pushes toward open borders, even though libertarianism is more conceivable within a homogeneous, settled society. There is a conflict, in other words, between the anthropology and the type of society libertarianism requires. .


  1. "Libertarian anthropology pushes toward open borders, even though libertarianism is more conceivable within a homogeneous, settled society. There is a conflict, in other words, between the anthropology and the type of society libertarianism requires."

    I don't think there is a conflict between liberalism in terms of anthropology or the society it creates or requires. Liberalism starts in homogeneous societies but it creates a vacuum and weaknesses which undermine it and lead directly to its demise. Liberalism is thus an unstable phase of social decline from the strength of a traditional homogeneous society into a chaotic impoverished deracinated society.

    If one seeks to analyse the causes and mechanisms of the decline, one can start with the family. The primary social organisation is the family and the types of families which are formed, and their stability, determine the type of societies which these families create and the stability of these societies. Strong traditional families in strong traditional societies are not easily subverted. Weak families in liberal societies are easily subverted.

    Liberalism is individualist and hence dissolving of the family which is a weaker, more unstable institution in liberal societies and inevitably becomes incapable of fulfilling its institutional roles of care for the vulnerable, sick and aged. The failure of the family leads to the takeover of these roles by the state which starts to run welfare programmes, child care, socialised medicine, elderly care homes. The state is not capable of performing caring duties well and encourages a dysfunctional society with large numbers of people dependent upon it and pathetically infantile in their behaviour. Several generations of this lead to a subclass which is incapable of independent thought or gainful employment.

    Liberalism therefore creates a vacuum in society and as nature abhors a vacuum, that vacuum becomes filled with something else. The state replaces the family, men become weak and effeminate and are supplanted by women, secularism attracts alien religions like Islam to dominate and conquer and the dissolving of personal and tribal loyalties unleashes traitors who will sell out their fellow people for a few pieces of silver.

    The Afrikaners were sold out by their leaders who surrendered to the west and the black hordes. South Africa appears to be the prototype and dry run for the rest of the west.

  2. South Africa is a vivid example of the perils of free markets. The Afrikaners lost control of the 19th century republics, and the 20th century state due to the migration of labor into the mines and the cities. Household servants are still common among the middle class. Cheap labor sows resentment, which is lethal when the underclass has higher birth rates.

    There is also a clear-eyed contrast between the individualism of Westerners, and the Ubuntu village socialism of Africans. The demand from the ANC/EFF is continuous that whites must "share" more, despite not holding a share of power commensurate with the level of tax being paid. At the same time, activities that would be considered "corruption" by Westerners are considered ordinary patron/client relationships, which we call the Big Man concept. It is obvious that the racial economic disparities must be reduced to reduce instability, but the Afrikaner must receive self-determination in return for paying a "divorce settlement".

    I find it useful to follow Ernst Roets, Willem Petzer and Dan Roodt for insight into the South African politics.

    1. Gareth is also an interesting voice. A left-liberal, he's strangely perceived as right-wing in the South African political spectrum. Note the replies to this on Twitter, it is evidence that disparate peoples cannot coexist well under universal suffrage. The ANC is pure majoritarianism.

  3. Why is forced taking of land from its "owners" about libertarian property-rights-philosophy rather than about unconstrained racism? Is there a libertarian policy debate raging within the black-run SA government and white landowners? Mark makes a cogent argument about the hypocrisy of the black-run SA government. They're taking by force what they don't want a white minority to own so they can feel at home in their own black run "ethnic" (really?) nation . Wonder why whites didn't think of that? This isn't Crusoe takes back from Friday the property that Crusoe gave to Friday. This is forced "out of Africa".

    1. The hypocrisy of the ANC is best established in their barely-concealed intentions to hand over the land to the Chinese. The concern about land ownership also strikes me as feudalist, but the targets are not the feudal black "traditional leaders" that own a sizeable portion of the arable lands, whites are discouraged from living in these areas, though few would want to anyways.

      I don't see it as illegitimate that the ANC wants to confiscate farms, the issue is that they need to pay fair market value. Given that the number of commercial farmers went down from 100K in 1994 to 30K today, I don't think confiscation is an effective policy. Also relevant to note that the proposed constitutional amendment would allow the seizure of any type of property without compensation. South African liberal whites in the suburbs engage in denialism about this, thinking their houses won't be confiscated.

      The South African economy is based on mining, which has been in a ten year bust, and is unsustainable in the long run. Blacks are unwilling to accept the legitimacy of whites earning more than them, and they have the legal power to both forcibly redistribute income via taxation and the ability to exclude whites from employment. The only thing I see that could crack this up is if the ANC turns on the Indians. (The name of the ANC is a copy of the Indian National Congress) India is a very nationalistic country with a clear geopolitical interest to rival China on the African continent. Indians have been the foremost beneficiaries of the quota system (white women were actually included during Mandela's single term as President). Notoriously, some Indians were involved in a major corruption scandal.