What is a cultural libertarian

Capitalism and freedom

Part 2: The Vienna School of Economics and its American students

At the end of the 19th century, anarchism and classical liberalism were still considered irreconcilable ideological opposites. After all, from 1864 to 1872 many anarchists were organized together with Karl Marx in the First International. But in addition to anarchism, whose influence is dealt with in Part 1 (it sounds like a mixture of "liberal" and "pubertal"), there are also elements of classical liberalism in the roots of libertarian ideology. In general, however, the forerunners in this area are overrated. Classical liberalism before the appearance of the Vienna School of Economics differs in essential points from libertarian ideology, even if the latter likes to refer to it in its family tree.

Influences of classical liberalism on libertarian ideology

Adam Smith in particular is often referred to as the inventor of libertarian ideology because of his remarks on the "invisible hand" of the market and its role model for libertarian ideas of self-organization and "spontaneous order." relatively incompatible with libertarian ideologies of the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, the Scot assumed the existence of an ethic beyond self-interest; Likewise, his works always emphasize the role and task of the state.2 Edmund Burke's "A Vindication of Natural Society" is also sometimes seen as an early forerunner of libertarian ideology. However, it is controversial whether Burke's early work was not written as a satire on the political philosophy of his contemporary Lord Bolingbroke

One point through which classical liberalism indirectly influenced libertarian ideology is its importance for the founding fathers of America. Libertarians refer to both Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine ("government at its best is a necessary evil, at its worst an intolerable evil") speak of the need for state order, of which the most convincing is undoubtedly the construction of the USA.

In contrast, the English sociologist and creator of the expression "survival of the fittest", usually attributed to Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, worked out actual principles of libertarian ideology. In his book published in 1851 Social Statics he assumes an adjustment process of human societies towards more freedom. From this starting point, Spencer derives his opposition to, among other things, trade restrictions and colonial trade as well as indirect taxes and interventions in wages and prices.5 Spencer's path of developing the rights of the individual leads through an evolutionary theory and constantly increasing functional differentiation, which in turn results in constantly growing complexity :

A primitive type of society with a very low division of labor is followed by a military type of society with a higher division of labor and enforced conformity. This second type is replaced by the effects of industrialization by a third type of society, which, characterized by a high degree of complexity and professional differentiation, offers the possibility of nonconformity. "But despite all the emphasis on individual rights, one still exists in Spencer's complex society State that has a limited number of obligations.

The market as an anthropomorphic and at the same time god-like being

From the economic premises of classical liberalism, the Vienna School of Economics developed at the beginning of the last century, which was already much closer to libertarian ideology than classical liberalism. For the development of libertarian ideology important economists of this economic direction are Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, both of whom advocated the state's complete withdrawal from the economy.

Born in Lviv, Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), whose economic theories are often used by libertarians to underpin their ideology, postulated the state's complete withdrawal from all economic areas, including currency. This rejection of currency sovereignty is the decisive difference between Ludwig von Mises' theory and the Chicago school, the monetarists, which was influential in neoliberal economic policy. Mises, who taught in Vienna from 1918 to 1934, saw the gold standard not as a compliant tool of a government, but as the starting point for a currency produced solely by the market that would not be exposed to inflation or redistributive tendencies of a government. According to Mises, the consequences of such a "private" currency are falling prices with increasing productivity.6

According to Mises, the cause of economic crises lay not in the mechanisms of the market, but in harmful interference from outside, i.e. from the state. The economist showed that inflation, i.e. the increase in the supply of money, is a process of "taxation" and the redistribution of wealth.7 According to Mises, the inflationary supply of money on the part of the government leads to overinvestment in the capital goods and underinvestment in the consumer goods industries .

The necessary consequence of this is recession and depression, whereby the market tries to cleanse itself of harmful external influences.8 Ludwig von Mises' belief in the healing powers of the market, strengthened by the economic consequences of the First World War, left the realm of pure economy.

In his essay "Liberalismus", published in 1927, Mises tried to establish a connection between unregulated markets, civil liberties and world peace. Little noticed in Europe, Mises went to the USA and from there railed against the social market economy in the Federal Republic of Germany in his late work "Human Action". The late Mises speaks of the freedom of the market as of the freedom of a person, the market becomes an anthropomorphic and at the same time god-like omnipotent being, whose salvific power, however, is spurned by humanity, who instead puts the market in chains. In the style of a human rights organization for the liberation of political prisoners, the fate of the market is lamented:

That [the social market economy] means that the market is free as long as it does exactly what the government wants it to do. He is free to do what those in power consider 'right', but not what they consider 'wrong' [...]

Despite this radical position on economic issues, Mises was not an anarchist: he suggested that an anarchist society would be at the mercy of the individual. A society cannot exist if the majority of the population is not prepared to prevent minorities from destroying the social order by using or threatening violence. At Mises, this task falls to the state. 10

Freedom over democracy

A student of the Lvivans finally achieved even greater importance among libertarians: Friedrich von Hayek. The Austrian, who put freedom above democracy, saw liberalism in its development interrupted and prematurely abandoned. According to Hayek, mixtures of planned and competitive economies were worse than any economic form in itself. In his opinion, monopolies did not arise through economic processes, but through the "support of state power." Hayek saw unions as harmful workers monopolies. Hayek rejected the term "libertarianism" (but mainly for aesthetic reasons) and preferred to refer to himself as "Old Whig." Economically, however, it was already firmly rooted in libertarian ideology. 11

Milton Friedman, the father of neoliberalism, is also sometimes counted among the libertarian economists. But although one of his books bears the libertarian slogan "There's no such thing as a free lunch", and he was a student of Friedrich von Hayek in Chicago, he has to be classified as conservative (especially in non-economic questions). Friedman spoke out against a private currency on the gold standard, for environmental taxes, for a uniform income tax rate of 20% with simultaneous tax exemption of the subsistence level, for antitrust laws and (conditionally) for a "negative income tax" as a form of social assistance. Many of Friedman's ideas came true under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Within the political coalition that brought Reagan to power in the 1980s, Friedman embodied more of the libertarian spectrum. After all, he also advocated the freeing up of drug trafficking and the abolition of conscription

Despite his conservative attitude, Friedman liked to flirt with libertarian ideology. Like Robert Heinlein in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", he compared insurance with bets, and when Playboy magazine stated that he wasn't an anarchist after all, Friedman replied: "No. Although I wish the anarchists luck, because they are on their way to where we should go. "13

A view shared by many Americans in the mid-1970s, with a maximum tax rate of 70%. Friedman became the hero of the popular television series "Free to Choose" and the theorist of the Tax Rebellion of 1978, the referendum (Proposition 13) that limited tax increases in California and ushered in a tax and socio-political turnaround: the top tax rate in 1975 was 70% it is now 39%. For the self-employed, freelancers and homeowners in particular, American tax law with its subsequent reviews was not without risk and could lead to considerable debt.

Former high earners like country musician Willie Nelson have been ruined by tax debts. The use of the IRS, the American federal tax authority, with politically unwelcome people after 1945 did not make the authority more popular. Detective writer Dashiell Hammett was jailed after refusing to cooperate with the HUAC, the committee on un-American activities. When he was released from prison, he found that the U.S. government was claiming all copyrights in his novels over tax debts and that any money he could still make from his novels would likely go to the IRS coffers. 14

But back to Mises, Hayek and the consequences: The two economists gained a far greater hearing in America than in Europe with their theses. It was there in the 1940s that their economic premises began to be expanded into comprehensive ideologies that are not limited to the economic sector. The first organized form of libertarian ideology was Ayn Rand's "objectivism". Ayn Rand, a Russian Jew who emigrated to the USA in the 1920s, began as a screenwriter there until she started writing "The Fountainhead" (1943), a novel about an architect based on Frank Lloyd Wright, and finally her main work " Atlas Shrugged "(1957) was able to gather a growing following who imitated their views and habits. In her rejection of any state interference, the Mises admirer spoke of the American governments as "hated collectivist governments" as early as the 1950s and 60s. Nixon just saw them as the "lesser evil". Reagan despised her for his stance on abortion.

Human as a word without plural

"'Human' is a word without plural" was one of her slogans with which she described the "philosophy" she created. This philosophy was based on an Aristotelian rationalism, on the basic assumption that there is an objective reality that is recognizable for humans. From this "rationalism" the doctrine of the primacy of human self-interest was developed, from this in turn the rejection of any collective and thus also state interference in the rights of individuals: "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but one of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason "15 she summarized the stages of her conception of knowledge. She spread her message with religious zeal, choosing the dollar sign as the symbol of her movement, for her the symbol of free trade and thus of free man

Ayn Rand's admirers achieved some leading positions in American business life. For example, the chairman of the American Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, formerly a member of the Class of 43, was Ayn Rand's close following and wrote for the magazines she edited.

While Ayn Rand's radical individualism in the social and cultural area remained rather theoretical and had cultural links to conservatism, the other significant trend that summarized the postulates of Viennese economists into a comprehensive theoretical structure broke, namely Murray N. Rothbard and the Libertarian, which he significantly influenced Party, complete with the cultural and social heritage of conservatism. The Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, not only adopted some of the supporters of the youth and minority protest of the 1960s, but also a good deal of their rhetoric, which led to sharp arguments with Ayn Rand's objectivists.

Minarchists and anarcho-capitalists

Murray Rothbard recognized in the anti-authoritarian demands of the American student movement, which in the 1960s united various anarchist and protolibertarian varieties up to the "Psychedelic Liberation Front", as well as in the counterculture "Laissez-faire-Rhetoric" 17 and tried this potential for to channel his ideas shaped by Mises and Hayek. His efforts fell on fertile ground: In an article entitled "In Praise of Decadence", the former editor of the Libertarian Review, Jeff Riggenbach, sums up the demands of the counterculture of the 1960s: hippies and student movements fought for the freedom to smoke marijuana, one To have abortion carried out, against military service and for not being disturbed in their self-realization by the public school system. He notes that these are exclusively personal freedoms, never demands for economic redistribution.

The American students (unlike the French) did not take to the streets to demand that the factories be turned over to the workers or that the poor of America receive a guaranteed minimum income. Instead, they called for an end to the war and an end to state-induced discrimination against women and blacks. Riggenbach quotes the former student leader Carl Oglesby as saying: "We were perhaps less of a new leftist than new individualists."

The cornerstones of both the hippies and the American student movement were their anti-authoritarian character and hedonism. Often times, the counterculture supporters of the 1960s took the path of the small business owner in the 1970s, confronted with bureaucracy, taxes and inflation and, especially in California, opened up to the economic policy ideas of Rothbard, who postulated that competitive capitalism was an inherent one Have a tendency towards permissiveness and constantly question the authority of conventions.

In their foreign policy ideas, too, Rothbard's libertarians differed considerably from the conservatives. In the 1970s and 1980s in particular, many American libertarians saw their own government as the main enemy of freedom, since it, as the military guardian of the status quo, guaranteed what they believed to be a non-free world order. Murray Rothbard even preferred the foreign policy of the Soviet Union to that of the USA.19 When the last American troops had to withdraw from South Vietnam in 1975, Murray Rothbard celebrated this as a happy event, despite the defeat against the Moscow-oriented Viet Cong, as the "death of a state." 20 The US invasion of the island of Grenada was condemned in libertarian circles, 21 just as the activities of the PLO were hailed as the "struggle for rights and property". 22

With Ayn Rand's objectivists and the radical wing of Murray N. Rothbard's Libertarian Party, the two main factions within the libertarian ideology structure are covered, the minarchists and the anarcho-capitalists. Not every advocate of a completely unregulated market is at the same time an opponent of every state order: Minarchists are libertarian advocates of a residual state with a few tasks. Among other things, Ayn Rand's objectivists are part of this sub-area of ​​the libertarian spectrum, which is also known as minimally governmental. In her essay "The Nature of Government", Ayn Rand argues analogously to Hobbes that a night watchman state must provide police, courts, a legal system and a national defense. Since taxes are viewed as institutionalized theft, libertarians believe in funding such public duties through user fees, lotteries, and foundations.

A coalition of minorities

Robert Nozick made another attempt to classify law and order in a libertarian model. The Harvard professor is considered to be the most important theoretician of libertarian ideology. In addition, Jan Narveson, Loren Lomasky, Douglas DenUyl and Tibor Machan are considered serious academic advocates of libertarian ideas.

With "Anarchy, State and Utopia" Nozick wrote the theoretically most sophisticated work of the libertarian movement. Nozick argues that the supply of police and judicial services is a natural geographical monopoly and that consequently a remnant state performing these tasks would arise again and again by itself through the spontaneous order of the market.23 On the other hand, the anarcho-capitalist position takes the position that police and the law are absolutely necessary and desirable, but that these tasks could and should be carried out by the free market instead of a state.24

Another very controversial point of view within libertarian ideology is the principle that any laws that "discriminate" against people on the basis of their age are inconsistent with libertarian principles. Radical libertarians like Marc Joffe therefore believe that members of NAMBLA, the North American Man / Boy Love Association 25, which advocates the legalization of sexual relationships between boys and adult men, are among the “most oppressed individuals by the state "in the US. 26

So although - as we have seen - there are certainly internal disputes among libertarians, the diversity of adherents of libertarian ideology is generally seen as an advantage. Libertarians like to think of themselves as a coalition of minorities. According to Walter Block, one of the strengths of libertarian ideology is that it can cover an extremely wide range of supporters because of its emphasis on individual rights. In Block's libertarian worldview there is room for many, e.g. also for pimps, who, in his opinion, performed a meaningful and useful task by mediating "transactions". Their brokerage activity is even more honorable than that of stock exchange or insurance brokers because, unlike them, they cannot rest on state restrictions of competition. 27

However, following both lines of development of libertarian ideology, classical liberalism and anarchism, does not provide a satisfactory answer to why and under what conditions a synthesis took place from the 1940s onwards. Complete libertarian models of society first emerged in popular culture before they penetrated the academic arena. It is therefore necessary, in the search for the answer, to turn to the breeding ground for libertarian ideology, popular culture in general and its interface with technology in particular. (Peter Mühlbauer)

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