Kulturkampf

Some quick comments on Jeff Deist’s latest:

[W]hile libertarians enthusiastically embrace markets, they have for decades made the disastrous mistake of appearing hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institution[s] – in other words, hostile to civil society itself.

This is a dubious package-deal. Many libertarians have been hostile to religion (often for good reason). Hostility to family per se is not terribly common (leaving aside Molyneux), though hostility to family-based oppression is. As for tradition, libertarians – like everybody else – embrace some traditions and reject others.

But the real howler is the alleged hostility to “culture, and … civic or social institutions.” Where are there any examples or evidence of this?

[I]t is reasonable to believe that a more libertarian society would be less libertine and more culturally conservative – for the simple reason that as the state shrinks in importance and power, the long-suppressed institutions of civil society grow in importance and power. And in a more libertarian society, it’s harder to impose the costs of one’s lifestyle choices on others.

As I see it, this gets things precisely backwards. States impose uniformity; civil society, freed of state control, caters to diversity. It’s true, to be sure, that a libertarian society makes it “harder to impose the costs of one’s lifestyle choices on others” – but what is cultural conservatism if not a massive attempt to impose the costs of lifestyle choices on others? (On this point, see my critique of Rothbard on patriarchy here.)

If any evidence is needed of the dangers of cultural conservatism, notice that Deist feels moved to invoke an actual Nazi slogan in his closing paragraph:

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

In response to this, I can’t help thinking of these lines from C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle:

And all the Calormenes banged the flats of their swords on their shields and shouted, “Tash! Tash! The great god Tash! Inexorable Tash!” (There was no nonsense about “Tashlan” now.)

So end all attempts to combine liberty with its opposite.

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10 Responses to Kulturkampf

  1. Brandon Harnish August 1, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    I would dearly love to know what possessed Deist to use that phrase.

    • Jeff August 1, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

      The point Deist is that trying to convince a man to abandon his devotion to his family and community aka blood and soil is a foolhardy mission. We should instead convince those people that libertarianism is better for protecting his family and community than the state. The reason the title of his article was called that was because he believes too many libertarians are trying to change man’s nature to make the libertarian man, and that we should instead understand a man’s nature so that we are better equipped to convince that person to see why libertarianism will be to his benefit.

      He was saying that if we ignore the fact that it matters to people, we will become irrelevant.

      I look forward to Longs follow up piece apologizing for the allegations.

  2. David Gordon August 1, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    The slogan “blood and soil” was indeed used by the Nazis, but it was made popular before them by Oswald Spengler, who opposed Hitler.

    • Jason August 1, 2017 at 8:33 pm #

      David,

      That doesn’t seem to help a whole lot, considering that

      1.) Post-1945 use of the phrase “blood and soil” is almost always intended to evoke Nazism in one way or another,
      and
      2.) Spengler was, despite opposing Hitler, also a far-right, arch-illiberal figure pretty highly revered among today’s self-described fascists.

  3. Juan Fernando Carpio August 2, 2017 at 12:48 am #

    Prof Long: Conservatives are anti-engelians and libertarians are anti-marxists. Thus, the emphasis on family as originator of property or viceversa is the true conundrum.

    Greetings, your former student from MU2003

  4. Wade McMaster August 5, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    I’m not sure I understand your disagreement with Deist. If you aren’t against civil society, why do you suppose Deist is speaking against you? Are you sure he was talking about left-libertarians? Because I’m a regular old Mises-Rothbard-Woods-Caplan-whoever else AnCap and I thought he was talking about Objectivists and the like. I don’t know if Objectivists are your ideological bunkmates or not, but I’m guessing not. And cultural conservatism in approbation is vastly different from cultural conservative statism. Very much like how it’s good to give to charity but wrong to force someone to give to charity.

    Finally, using the phrase “blood and soil” to describe what people in general care about isn’t exactly damning. People like Wagner and Nietzsche without being fascists or Nazis. How much less can we infer fascism (or a Nazi fetish or whatever) from simply borrowing a phrase?

    Am I missing something? Has Deist betrayed his closet fascism and I’m in denial?

    -Big tent libertarian ancap

    • Wade McMaster August 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      Ok, I’ve read (or at least skimmed) Horwitz’s reply to the same Deist talk, and I feel I understand the disagreement better now. Still, I would like to posit that there are likely some people (the political equivalent of stem cells) who could become alt-right nationalists or libertarians, and using a term like “blood and soil” to describe to true libertarians some of what matters to those people (the political stem cell folks) is at worst in poor taste, and possibly useful and informative. Horwitz wrote, and I’m summarizing here, but I think I do so in good faith, that we should not attempt to court alt-right types. Ok, I agree, and I believe Deist would agree as well, that we don’t want those types associated with libertarianism or libertarian groups. What Deist seems to me to be trying to say, is that there are people who value their sense of nationality and even their race, who need to be convinced of libertarian ideas, or else we’ll lose them to the alt-right. Isn’t that clear in his talk? I read it, maybe I missed something in the tone. I’m certain I missed the intertextuality of earlier disagreements between left-libertarians and Deist. I think we can reconcile this rift, if everyone wants to.

  5. ax123man August 6, 2017 at 8:19 am #

    It seems odd to me to choose a title like that. I wonder what feeling drove it?

    It would seem to me a better approach to the Deist speech, especially among those I’ve looked up to for years, including Prof Long (Horowitz left me awhile go), would be a questioning response. There are obviously different ways the speech could be taken. To deny that is to deny ones position as an intellectual.

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