Northern Racism

New article over at The Resist Daily on racism in Northern states using Ohio as an example. I recently became one of the managing editors there, so expect more soon. Here is an excerpt:

Lancaster has produced domestic terrorists. Case and point is Lancaster resident Larry Wayne Harris, who was convicted in 1998 for violating Section 175, Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits the possession of a biological agent for use as a weapon. Harris, a member of the National Alliance and the Aryan Nation, claimed to have military grade anthrax and, according to the FBI, had made threats to release it in a New York subway station. After discovering that he mistakenly obtained vaccine grade anthrax, he was only charged with probation violations. This all occurred after his 1995 arrest when he attempted to obtain samples of bubonic plague. Because of a tip off from the laboratory he attempted to obtain them from, he never received it. He was only convicted of wire fraud (he created a false laboratory and misrepresented his credentials in going about obtaining Bubonic Plague). Judge Joseph Kinneary only placed Harris on probation for 18 months, ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $50. Needless to say, this is a slap on the wrist, but what more could you expect from a highly conservative part of Ohio?

Not mentioning “libertarianism in print” and Nazis: Libertarian Block (2000) on Objectivist Schwartz (1986)


Walter Block

Ayn Rand herself had a few choice words about libertarians and I will eventually cover that, but lets focus on Objectivist Peter Schwartz’s 1986 booklet Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty. It advances the classic Objectivist criticisms of libertarianism such as the claim it lacks a coherent foundation, that it’s too heterogeneous, that it’s prone to anarchism, that it’s nihilistic, that it’s isolationist, and that it’s too supportive of student movements. Some of these conclusions may or may not be true, but this booklet is important for historical reasons due to it being widely received within Objectivist circles. It more or less sums up the modern Objectivist consensus on libertarianism.

The most interesting response I can think of to Schwartz is Walter Block‘s article in Reason Papers in 2000, which, in addition to adding his own, summarizes past replies by people like see Miller and Evoy (1987) and Bergland (1986). Another response is Kevin McFarlene’s 1994 essay. Walter Block is a senior fellow at the Luwig Von Mises Institute and best known for his book Defending the Undefendable. I found the quote below from Block’s article to be very interesting:

For many years, Rand and the Randians would not mention libertarianism in print. To do so would be to give sanction to what they regarded as a mischievous and misbegotten political philosophy. Happily, this profoundly and intellectually source ended with the publication of Schwartz (1986). This was a no holds barred attack on several libertarian thinkers, including myself. It is a pleasure defending the philosophy of libertarianism in the present reply.

Schwartz’s article is a vicious attack on libertarianism. When I first read it I cringed, not because of the ideas, which are not really that challenging, but because it is so nasty as to be almost unprecedented in what passes for scholarly writing. Rand (1964, 1967) criticized authors such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant as “whim-worshippers,” “muscle-mystics,” “Huns,” and “Attillas,” and Schwartz is an apt student of hers in this regard. Such verbiage is hardly welcome in rational discourse.

Another section I found this interesting since it demonstrates the tensions between the two camps. Then there is this strange story about neo-Nazis from Murray Rothbard that Schwartz uses to argue that libertarianism and Nazism are compatible. Block discusses it in his response too:

 I once ran into some Neo-Nazis at a libertarian conference. Don’t ask, they must have sneaked in under our supposedly united front umbrella. I was in a grandiose mood, thinking that I could convert anyone to libertarianism, and said to them, “Look, we libertarians will give you a better deal than the liberals. We’ll let you goosestep. You can exhibit the swastika on your own property. We’ll let you march any way you wish on your own property. We’ll let you sing Nazi songs. Any Jews that you get on a voluntary basis to go to a concentration camp, fine.”

Of course this is horribly out of context, but it definitely turns heads. I suggest reading the original essays by Block and Schwartz.

“making smoking a moral obligation” (1972): Rothbard on Why Ayn Rand was Not a Libertarian

objectFact: Ayn Rand was not a libertarian and that claim is relatively uncontroversial among historians. Rand believed in US intervention in the Middle East and supported western conquest of “primitives“. More importantly, the entire framework is different between most interpretations of right-libertarianism and Rand’s Objectivism. Objectivism claims to be a holistic worldview, not merely a political system. Rand argues that logic alone leads to egoism. Capitalism (in a minarchist form) is then argued to be consistent with said egoism. Any belief in principles like non-aggression (Anarcho-Capitalism), economic laws (Austrian Economics), or self-evident natural laws is entirely secondary and inferior to that of egoism. Thus, if libertarianism is to be defined as the belief that “liberty” is the primary political virtue, Rand Objectivism cannot be described as libertarianism.

I will be turning this into a series on the historic tension between libertarianism/objectivism and what better place is there to start than showcasing an article by Murray Rothbard? As I have mentioned before, Rothbard wrote a letter in 1957 to Rand to praise her for a book Atlas Shrugged. However, by 1972, Rothbard had changed his mind and labelled Rand’s Objectivism a cult of personality. In his essay Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult, Rothbard argued that “not only was the Rand cult explicitly atheist, anti-religious, and an extoller of Reason; it also promoted slavish dependence on the guru in the name of independence; adoration and obedience to the leader in the name of every person’s individuality; and blind emotion and faith in the guru in the name of Reason.” That is pretty harsh words coming from a fellow atheist.

Though it uses hypocritical arguments at times (for example Rothbard also engaged in purging in the 1980s, albeit for different reasons), Rothbard makes some pretty good points. I highly recommend reading it. My favorite part is when Rothbard discusses Objectivism’s pro-smoking stance:

The all-encompassing nature of the Randian line may be illustrated by an incident that occurred to a friend of mine who once asked a leading Randian if he disagreed with the movement’s position on any conceivable subject. After several minutes of hard thought, the Randian replied: “Well, I can’t quite understand their position on smoking.” Astonished that the Rand cult had any position on smoking, my friend pressed on: “They have a position on smoking? What is it?” The Randian replied that smoking, according to the cult, was a moral obligation. In my own experience, a top Randian once asked me rather sharply, “How is it that you don’t smoke?” When I replied that I had discovered early that I was allergic to smoke, the Randian was mollified: “Oh, that’s OK, then.” The official justification for making smoking a moral obligation was a sentence in Atlas where the heroine refers to a lit cigarette as symbolizing a fire in the mind, the fire of creative ideas. (One would think that simply holding up a lit match could do just as readily for this symbolic function.) One suspects that the actual reason, as in so many other parts of Randian theory, from Rachmaninoff to Victor Hugo to tap dancing, was that Rand simply liked smoking and had the need to cast about for a philosophical system that would make her personal whims not only moral but also a moral obligation incumbent upon everyone who desires to be rational.

I will continue this topic next post.

Carl Watner on Libertarianism and Slavery (1979): Remember When Libertarians Argued for Reparations?

In 1979, Carl Watner, one of the founders of The Voluntaryist, wrote an excellent article entitled The Radical Libertarian Tradition in Antislavery Thought for the Journal of Libertarian Studies. Watner surveys individualist-anarchists, from which modern american libertarianism is partially descended from, such as Lysander Spooner to make a case that the libertarian anti-slavery tradition included the following: (1) immediate abolition of the institution of slavery, (2) support for armed insurrection by slaves, more specifically those modeled after John Brown’s 1859 uprising, and (3) the immediate transfer of plantation property to slaves based on the homesteading principles, also known as reparations. Below are some excerpts from the article:

absol 1

absol 2

Watner ends the article by claiming the all true libertarians should follow these examples and always support abolition.absol 3

Take note that the definition of libertarian has changed radically over time within the American context. It is only until very recently that it became synonymous with Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Luwig Von Mises. Watner’s influence on the modern Libertarian Party was minimal due to Rothbard’s policy of isolating voluntarists from the larger libertarian community. Their call for non-violent revolution clashed with the official strategy of the LP, which favored electoral politics.

Even if Watner is completely wrong about the relationship between modern right-libertarianism and mid-1800s individualist anarchism, the fact remains that Watner was supportive of radical abolitionism, including reparations, at that moment in 1979 and that opinion was published in the premier right-libertarian periodical of it’s day. This alone demonstrates how the term “libertarian” is in fact very fluid.

“I Got A Home In That Rock”

“I Got A Home In That Rock” is an old negro spiritual about God sending slave-owners to Hell. For those unfamiliar with the passage of the Bible in question, this is based on Luke 16. Also, I really love the creative use of Noah’s rainbow. God said He wouldn’t punish the wicked with *water* anymore.

“I got a home in that rock, well, don’t you see?
Way between the earth and sky
I thought I heard my Savior cry”

“Well-a poor Lazarus poor as I
When he died he had a home on high
He had a home in that rock don’t you see?”

“The rich man died and lived so well
When he died he had a home in Hell
He had no home in that rock, well, don’t you see?”

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water but the fire next time
He had a home in that rock, well, don’t you see?”

“You better get a home in that rock, don’t you see?”