Tag Archives: classical liberalism

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Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

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The New Renaissance HatCamilo Gómez
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With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.

Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.

For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.

This changed after the international financial crisis of 2008, which led all three Icelandic commercial banks to default. The crisis generated massive anger as Icelanders didn’t know what was going to happen with their savings. This led to massive protests that culminated in the resignation of the Prime Minister who was a member of the Independence Party.  Consequently, in April 2009, a left-wing coalition by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement formed a government together for the first time in the country’s history.

This grassroots activism led to the appearance of outsider political projects like the now defunct Best Party, which started as political satire but ended with its leader Jón Gnarr winning the mayoral election in Reykjavík in 2010. More importantly, grassroots activism was further encouraged by the Panama Papers, which revealed that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson of the Progressive Party and his wife, had an undisclosed account in an offshore tax haven. The ensuing protests became the largest in Iceland’s history, and made the Prime Minister resign. This led the way for the Pirate Party — a loose collection of anarchists, hackers and libertarians — to rise in prominence. Because of the Pirates, the national discussion shifted to a more socially tolerant narrative of a society willing to be open to the world.

Thus, Iceland’s 2016 elections presented very different options from the relatively traditional Independence Party and Progressive Party or the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. In addition to the Pirate Party,  voters could also choose from the Bright Party, an eclectic socially liberal party, and the Reform Party, a new liberal party formed by defectors of the Independence Party. The elections led to a center-right coalition between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and the Bright Party.

Rather than blaming immigrants for their problems, Icelanders confronted the political class and created new parties that didn’t resemble the wave of far-right populism. Now even the government realizes that Iceland needs immigrants, skilled and unskilled, to fulfill the demand in different aspects of the Icelandic economy. Contrary to other countries in Europe, and despite its size, Iceland had been willing to receive refugees, and the number of immigrants in Iceland keeps growing year by year. In times of demagoguery, Iceland remains friendly to foreigners. One can only hope that the world learn from this small country that foreigners bring prosperity.

Camilo Gómez is a blogger at The Mitrailleuse and the host of Late Night Anarchy podcast. He can be found in Twitter at @camilomgn. He is a Young Voices Advocate.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

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The Only Good Politics Are Boring Politics – Article by J. Andrew Zalucky

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The New Renaissance HatJ. Andrew Zalucky
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If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that boring politics are the best politics. A staid political culture is a sign of a healthy society, as it allows humanity’s passions to flourish outside of the coercive and violent realm of political power. Those who say we should look to our leaders to inspire us, or that politics should be the engine of “progress,” are unwittingly calling for the destruction of civil society.

The Joy of Boredom

Since the end of the Cold War, for example, the political climate of northern and western Europe has been characterized by the yawn-inducing push and pull between liberal democracy and social democracy (with a side of Christian conservatism here, a dash of old-school leftism there). Both sides share a broad commitment to stability and market economics, but may have marginal scuffles over the size of the welfare state and the extent of government regulation. Political factions are more likely to fight about numbers and the wording of a law than engage in grand, sweeping oratory over revolutionary manifestos. Prior to the migrant crisis, this order was rarely disturbed – even by the troubles within the Eurozone.

While this doesn’t get the blood rushing in the way that romantic mass-movements did in the past, it’s also a good backstop against the bloodletting that those movements produced. People here exercise their passions through sports, music, and entertainment. Nods to historical glories and national myths are safely cordoned off in powerless, symbolic royal families, rather than ecstatic throngs yearning for a “dear leader.” While political life in this “end of history” scenario doesn’t make for epic storytelling, it helps to produce the world’s happiest societies.

For the most part, this reality exists in the “Anglosphere” as well, as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia all enjoy a situation similar to that of the Eurasian peninsula. And yes, even Great Britain and the United States broadly share this state of affairs. We can tell when this order has been disrupted in the wrong way. I remember hearing pundits and journalists decry the 2012 election as “bitter” and “divisive.” Well, here we are in 2016. We’ve seen America’s own centre-right party swallowed whole by a candidate’s cynical campaign of nationalism and a narcissistic cult of personality. Meanwhile, factions of our centre-left party have shown an affinity for unilateral executive power and ideologies that should have crumbled with the Berlin Wall. The most awful political campaign of our lifetimes makes 2012 look like the pinnacle of sane, democratic discourse.

Inspired into Misery

By contrast, look at the countries with the most passionate, ideologically-charged and “inspirational” political cultures. Chavismo-style socialism has led Venezuela into a grave economic crisis and turned one of the most resource-rich countries on Earth into a humanitarian disaster. There’s no need to exaggerate the effect of the Kim-dynasty cult in North Korea, with its toxic mix of Marxist-Leninism and the legacy of the Japanese Emperors: famine, malnutrition, and the stultification of the mind that comes with any closed society. Theocratic societies may do a great job at fulfilling humanity’s need for spirituality and transcendence, but are abysmal in terms of civil liberties, women’s rights, and any sense of pluralism.

To the extent that life has improved in places like China, it is due to the regime moving away from its motivating ideology, not a misplaced loyalty to it. Ideas like property rights, limited government, and sovereignty of the individual may seem mundane to those in the West who’ve been conditioned to take them for granted, but once people abandon these ideas for the sweeping romantic ecstasy of leader-worship, national supremacy, or prostration before a man-made god, they become more willing to see their fellow citizens as numbers or a means to a political end. It’s this ecstatic frenzy that makes people comfortable with deportations, torture, show trials, and mass murder.

Libertarians and classical liberals would do well to read the advice Alan Wolfe gives in The Future of Liberalism. Though Wolfe is a liberal more in the New Deal/Great Society sense of the word, he still provides valuable insight for maintaining a stable political culture:

On matters of the heart, romanticism touches on the deepest emotions, expands the human imagination, and produces world-class music and art. But however much romanticism can serve as a corrective to liberalism, it ought never to be a substitute for it. “Politics,” Max Weber wrote, “is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.” That does not sound very dramatic, but its undramatic quality is what makes politics a blessing in disguise. When liberal politics works – either at home or abroad – fewer people are killed in the name of a cause, and fewer lives are disrupted to serve as characters in someone else’s drama.

He’s right to note that romanticism can be a corrective, as ideas are still important, but he wisely splits the difference in showing that proceduralism must still prevail over lofty notions of “getting things done.” He goes on to say that liberals

… ought to be aware of the powerful attractions of militarism, nationalism, and ideology, and they ought to be strong enough to resist them. Let the passions reign in the museums and concert halls. In the halls of government, reason, however cold, is better than emotions, however heartfelt.

In much the same vein, Robert O. Paxton wrote in The Anatomy of Fascism that

Fascism rested not on the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader’s mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related to romanticist ideas of national historic flowering and of individual artistic or spiritual genius, though fascism otherwise denied romanticism’s exaltation of unfettered person creativity. The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experience sensually: the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny, and power; the excitement of participating in a vast collective enterprise; the gratification of submerging oneself in a wave of shared feelings, and of sacrificing one’s petty concerns for the group’s good; and the thrill of domination.

We’re right to be worried at the impulses at work in this election cycle. As Adam Gopnik wrote in the New Yorker earlier this year, “The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak.” When examining the two major party candidates, the American electorate is indeed left with a terrible choice. Still, we can survive, resist, and undermine the inevitably bad outcome.

J. Andrew Zalucky

J. Andrew Zalucky is a Connecticut-based writer focused on politics, history and cultural issues. Since 2011, he has run his own website, For the Sake of Argument. In addition, he writes about extreme music and is a regular contributor to Decibel and Metal Injection.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Where Does the Term “Libertarian” Come From Anyway? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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The word “libertarian” has gained new prominence due to the strange politics of our time. According to Google Trends, its use as a search term in the US is at a 10-year high.

It’s long. It’s awkward. It always needs explaining. In America, it’s a word for both a party and an ideology. And the wars over what it actually means never end.

What I haven’t seen is a serious investigation into the modern origins of the use of the term that might allow us to have a better understanding of what it means.

Thanks to FEE’s archiving project, we now have a better idea. As it turns out, libertarianism is not a strange new ideology with arcane rules and strictures, much less a canon of narrowly prescribed belief. It predates the Libertarian Party’s founding in 1972. The term came into use twenty years earlier to signal a broad embrace of an idea with ancient origins.

To be sure, if we go back a century, you will find a 1913 book Liberty and the Great Libertarians by Charles Sprading (reviewed here). It includes biographies of many classical liberals but also some radicals in general who didn’t seem to have much affection for modern commercial society. It’s a good book but, so far as I can tell, the use of the term in this book is an outlier.

Apart from a few isolated cases – H.L. Mencken had described himself as a libertarian in 1923 –  the term laid dormant on the American scene for the following 50 years.

The Liberty Diaspora

Toward the end of World War II, a small group of believers in liberty set out to fight and reverse the prevailing ideological trends in media, academia, and government. During the war, the government controlled prices, wages, speech, and industrial production. It was comprehensive planning – a system not unlike that practiced in countries the US was fighting.

A flurry of books appeared that urged a dramatic change. In 1943, there was Rose Wilder Lane’s Discovery of Freedom, Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine, and Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead. In 1944, there was F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, Ludwig von Mises’s Omnipotent Government, and John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching.

These powerful works signaled that it was time to counter the prevailing trend toward the “planned society,” which is why Leonard Read established the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946. It was the first institute wholly dedicated to the cause of human freedom.

As of yet, no word was used to describe the ideological outlook of this group of thinkers. To understand why, you have to put yourself back in the confusing period in question. The war had entrenched the New Deal and dealt a serious blow to those who wanted the US to stay out of foreign entanglements. The political resistance to the New Deal was completely fractured. The attack on Pearl Harbor had driven the anti-war movement into hiding. The trauma of war had changed everything. The pro-liberty perspective had been so far driven from public life that it had no name.

Resisting Labels

Most of these dissident thinkers would have easily described themselves as liberals two decades earlier. But by the mid-1930s, that word had been completely hijacked to mean its opposite. And keep in mind that the word “conservative” – which had meaning in the UK (referring to the Tories, who were largely opposed to classical liberalism) but not in the US – had yet to emerge: Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind wasn’t published until 1953.

In addition, Leonard Read resisted labeling the pro-freedom ideology, and for good reason. An ideological system with a name seems also to indicate a plan for how society ought to be managed and what a nation ought to strive for in detail. What he and others favored was exactly the opposite: the freedom for each individual to discover the right way through an emergent process of social evolution that never stops. There was no end state. There was only a process. They rightly believed labels distract from that crucial point.

We Need a Word

And yet, people will necessarily call you something. The problem of what that would be vexed this first generation after the war, and the struggle was on to find the right term. Some people liked the term “individualist,” but that has the problem of de-emphasizing the thriving sense of community, and the vast and intricate social cooperation, that result from a free society.

Kirk’s book on “conservatism” appeared in 1953, but this term frustrated many people who believed strongly in free markets. Kirk had hardly mentioned economics at all, and the traditionalism he highlighted in the book seemed to exclude the classical liberal tradition of Hume, Smith, Jefferson, and Paine. The book also neglected the contributions of 20th century advocates of freedom, who had a new consciousness concerning the grave threats to liberty from both the right and left.

In 1953, Max Eastman wrote a beautiful piece in The Freeman that discussed the reversal of the terms left and right over the course of the century, and deeply regretted the loss of the term liberalism. Among other suggestions, Eastman proposed “New Liberalism” to distinguish them from the New Deal liberals. But in addition to being awkward in general, the phrase had a built-in obsolescence. He further toyed with other phrases such as “conservative liberal,” but that had its own problems.

We are Liberals but the Word Is Gone

They were all struggling with the same problem. These people were rightly called liberals. But the term liberalism was taken from them, and they were now homeless. They knew what they believed but had no memorable term or elevator pitch.

A solution was proposed by Dean Russell, a historian of thought and a colleague of Read’s who had translated many works of Frédéric Bastiat. In May 1955, he wrote the seminal piece that proposed that the term libertarian be revived:

Many of us call ourselves “liberals.” And it is true that the word “liberal” once described persons who respected the individual and feared the use of mass compulsions. But the leftists have now corrupted that once-proud term to identify themselves and their program of more government ownership of property and more controls over persons. As a result, those of us who believe in freedom must explain that when we call ourselves liberals, we mean liberals in the uncorrupted classical sense. At best, this is awkward and subject to misunderstanding.

Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian.””

So there we have it: libertarian is a synonym for what was once called liberal. It meant no more and it meant no less. It is not a new system of thought, a new ideology, a new revelation of some highly rarified political outlook with detailed answers to all of life’s problems. It was proposed as nothing more than a term to describe a tradition of thought dating back hundreds of years in the West and with even ancient origins.

Liberalism = Libertarianism

Liberalism is a term that describes the general conviction that freedom is the best solution to the whole problem of social interaction. Put another way, liberalism celebrates the primacy of freedom and rejects power and central authority as both ineffective and morally corrupting.

Russell then goes into specifics. Libertarianism is “the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence—legal or illegal—to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person.”

A libertarian believes government should “leave people alone to work out their own problems and aspirations.”

A libertarian, continued Russell, “respects the right of every person to use and enjoy his honestly acquired property—to trade it, to sell it, or even to give it away—for he knows that human liberty cannot long endure when that fundamental right is rejected or even seriously impaired.” A libertarian “believes that the daily needs of the people can best be satisfied through the voluntary processes of a free and competitive market” and “has much faith in himself and other free persons to find maximum happiness and prosperity in a society wherein no person has the authority to force any other peaceful person to conform to his viewpoints or desires in any manner. In summary: “The libertarian’s goal is friendship and peace with his neighbors at home and abroad.”

Chodorov Weights In

He must have made a persuasive case. Frank Chodorov came on board, making exactly the same point in an essay in National Review, printed on June 20, 1956:

“The bottle is now labeled libertarianism. But its content is nothing new; it is what in the nineteenth century, and up to the time of Franklin Roosevelt, was called liberalism — the advocacy of limited government and a free economy. (If you think of it, you will see that there is a redundancy in this formula, for a government of limited powers would have little chance of interfering with the economy.) The liberals were robbed of their time-honored name by the unprincipled socialists and near socialists, whose avidity for prestige words knows no bounds. So, forced to look for another and distinctive label for their philosophy, they came up with libertarianism — good enough but somewhat difficult for the tongue.”

Read Comes Around

Even Leonard Read himself came around to using the term. He used it freely in his famous 1956 essay “Neither Left Nor Right.” Then in 1962, Read wrote The Elements of Libertarian Leadership. He again made the point that a libertarian is no more or less than a substitute for the term liberal:

“The term libertarian is used because nothing better has been found to replace liberal, a term that has been most successfully appropriated by contemporary authoritarians. As long as liberal meant liberation from the authoritarian state, it was a handy and useful generalization. It has come to mean little more than state liberality with other people’s money.”

A Big Tent

There you have it. The content is nothing new. It is a broad umbrella of people who put the principle of freedom first. In its inception, libertarianism included: constitutionalists, believers in limited government, objectivists, anarchists, localists, agorists, pacifists, brutalists, humanitarians, and maybe monarchists too. It included deontologists, consequentialists, and empiricists.

The term was designed to apply to everyone who was not a partisan of central planning. It did not refer to a narrow doctrine but to a general tendency, exactly the same as liberalism itself. And that liberal principle was that individuals matter and society needs no overarching managerial authority to work well.

Nor does it need to refer only to people who have a consistent and comprehensive worldview. Let’s say you want lower taxes, legal pot, and peace, and these are the issues that concern you. It strikes me that you can rightly call yourself a libertarian, regardless of what you might think on other issues once pressed.

For this reason, the endless fights over who is and who isn’t a libertarian are beside the point. There are better and worse renderings, better and worse arguments, better and worse implications, and it is up to all of us to do the hard work of discovering what those are. Whatever the results, no one can lay exclusive claim to the term. There are as many types of libertarians as there are believers in liberty itself.

To be sure, there are still plenty of problems with the term. It is still too long, and it is still too awkward. It will do for now, but notice something: the left-wing partisans of central planning don’t seem to embrace the word “liberalism” as they once did. They prefer the term “progressive” – a misnomer if there ever was one!

Does that leave the word liberal on the table for the taking? Maybe. That would be some beautiful poetry. I say again, let’s take back the word “liberal”.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

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How Viennese Culture Shaped Austrian Economics – Article by Erwin Dekker

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The New Renaissance HatErwin Dekker
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Schools of thought are frequently named after their country or place of origin. The Chicago School, the Frankfurt School, and the Scottish Enlightenment are just some of the many examples. The geographical place is a simple shorthand for something that would otherwise be difficult to specify and name. That is also the case for the Austrian School of Economics. Or at least that is what we commonly believe. Austrian is nothing more than a shorthand for a school of economics that focuses on market process rather than outcomes, emphasizes the subjective aspects of economic behavior, and is critical of attempts to plan or regulate economic processes. Sure it originated in Austria, but it is largely neglected there today, and currently the school lives on in some notable economics departments, research centers, and think tanks in the United States. The whole ‘Austrian’ label is thus largely a misnomer, a birthplace, but nothing else.

But what if Austrian, or more specifically Viennese, culture is essential to understanding what makes this school of thought different? What if the coffeehouse culture of the Viennese circles, the decline of the Habsburg Empire, the failure of Austrian liberalism, the rise of socialism and fascism, and the ironic distance at which the Viennese observed the world, are all essential to understanding what the school was about? It would be exciting to discover that the Vienna of Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, and Adolf Loos, would also be the Vienna of Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. And if that is so, how would that change how we think about this school and about the importance of cultural contexts for schools of thoughts more generally?

That is the subject of my recent book The Viennese Students of Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2016). It demonstrates that the literature, art, and cultural atmosphere are all essential ingredients of Austrian economics. The Viennese circles, of which the most famous was the Vienna Circle or Wiener Kreis, are the place where this type of economics was practiced and in which it came to maturity in the interwar period.

The hands-off attitude first practiced at the Viennese Medical School, where it was called therapeutic skepticism, spread among intellectuals. They dissected a culture which was coming to an end, without seemingly worrying too much about it. As one commentator wrote about this attitude “nowhere is found more resignation and nowhere less self-pity.”¹ One American proponent of the Viennese medical approach even called it the ‘laissez-faire’ approach to medicine.² The therapeutic skepticism, or nihilism as the critics called it, bears strong resemblance to the Austrian school’s skepticism of the economic cures propounded by the government. Some of the Austrian economists, for instance, have the same ironic distance, in which the coming of socialism is lamented, but at the same time considered inevitable. That sentiment is strongest in Joseph Schumpeter. But one can also find it in Ludwig von Mises, especially in his more pessimistic writings. In 1920, for example, he writes: “It may be that despite everything we cannot escape socialism, yet whoever considers it an evil must not wish it onward for that reason.”³

That same resignation, however, is put to the test in the 1930’s when Red Vienna, the nickname the city was given when it was governed by the Austro-Marxists, becomes Black Vienna, the nickname it was given under fascism. The rise of fascism posed an even greater threat to the values of the liberal bourgeois, and at the same time it demonstrated that socialism might not be inevitable after all. One of my book’s major themes is the transformation from the resigned, and at times fatalistic, study of the transformation of the older generation, to the more activist and combatant attitude of the younger generation. Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper, Peter Drucker as well as important intellectual currents in Vienna start to oppose, and defend the Habsburg civilization from its enemies. That is one of the messages of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, of Hermann Broch’s novel The Death of Virgil, of Malinowski’s Civilization and Freedom, of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Drucker’s The End of Economic Man, and of course Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies. It is also the message of the most famous book of the period on civilization The Civilizing Process by the German sociologist Norbert Elias. These intellectuals fight the fatalism and the acceptance of decline, and instead start to act as custodians or defenders of civilization.

In the process the relationship between natural instincts, rational thought, and civilization undergoes a major transformation. Civilization — our moral habits, customs, traditions, and ways of living together — is no longer believed to be a natural process or a product of our modern rational society. Rather, it is a cultural achievement in need of cultivation and at times protection. Civilization is a shared good, a commons, which can only be sustained in a liberal culture, and even there individuals will feel the ‘strain of civilization’ as Popper put it. That is the strain of being challenged, of encountering those of different cultures, and of carrying the responsibility for our own actions. Hayek adds the strain of accepting traditions and customs which we do not fully understand (including the traditions and customs of the market). Similar arguments are made by Freud and Elias.

If that is their central concern then the importance and meaning of their contributions is much broader than economics in any narrow sense. That concern is the study, cultivation and, when necessary, protection of their civilization.

To some this might diminish the contributions of the Austrian school of economics for they might feel that they were responding to a particular Viennese experience. The respected historian Tony Judt for example has claimed that: “the Austrian experience has been elevated to the status of economic theory [and has] come to inform not just the Chicago school of economics but all significant public conversation over policy choices in the contemporary United States.”⁴ He maximizes the distance between us and them, saying that they were immigrants and foreigners with a different experience than ours. But that response only makes sense if the alternative is some disembodied truth, outside of historical experience.

My book, to the contrary, argues that what is valuable, interesting, and of lasting value in the Austrian school is precisely its involved, engaged approach in which economics is one way of reflecting on the times. And those times might be more similar to ours than you might think, as the great sociologist Peter Berger has argued. Troubled by mass migration, Vienna experienced populist politics. The emancipation of new groups lead to new political movements which challenged the existing rational way of doing politics. A notion of liberal progress which had seemed so natural during the nineteenth century could no longer be taken for granted in fin-de-siècle and interwar Vienna. That foreign experience, might not be so foreign after all.

Viennese-Students-Civ

For more information on my book, The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered, click here.


Erwin Dekker is a postdoctoral fellow for the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He is assistant professor in cultural economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


References

1. Edward Crankshaw. (1938). Vienna: The Image of a Culture in Decline, p. 48.
2. Maurice D. Clarke. (1888). “Therapeutic Nihilism.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 119 (9), p. 199.
3. Ludwig von Mises. (1920). Nation, State, and Economy. p. 217.
4. Tony Judt. (2010). Ill Fares The Land. p. 97–98.

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Brazil’s Lost Decade: We Must Free Our Economy – Article by Felipe Capella

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The New Renaissance HatFelipe Capella
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It was a lost decade for Latin America. Years of populist governments combined with a commodity boom turned out to be our oil curse, our Dutch Disease. This disastrous mix made bad public policies look like temporary successes, pushing developing countries to an unsustainable path. The collectivist ideology monopolized the debate for more than 10 years, and now that the natural resource party is over, the harm of these policies have become clearer: deep economic crisis generated by a utopia whose greatest achievement was turning toilet paper into a rare-earth product.

Populist and authoritarian South American regimes have set up government bureaucracies aimed at pleasing special interest groups that provide political support while tirelessly harming the population as a whole. These groups are divided into several small groups with special rights and privileges: judges, civil servants, members of parliament, friendly businessmen. These factions are getting their more-than-fair share while the unprivileged citizen foots the bill.

Latin American politicians played it very well during these favorable times. Cronyism and populism greatly benefited some chosen groups, while the harms were diffused enough throughout the whole country and difficult to measure during favorable economic winds. Brazil is just the biggest and clearest example of that.

How We Got Here 

For many years Brazil’s road to serfdom was being paved by the left through a combination of the world’s worst ideas: a Venezuelan-like project to subordinate decisions of the Supreme Court to the ratification of Congress; an Ecuadorian will to regulate and control the free press; a Russian compassion for cronies handpicked by the executive; Greek style benefits for public servants; Southern European pension costs (for a much younger population); Argentinean barriers for international trade, and an American/EU taste for subsidies.

The former — and now failed — cherry-picked billionaire darling of the regime Eike Batista was showered with tax funds while ordinary entrepreneurs lacked governmental support; friendly national industries were heavily protected, while people were taxed up to 50 percent on food and health supplies. Oi Telecom, a multibillion dollar mobile company, is just the most recent example of Lula’s national-champion policy (the company has just filed for bankruptcy, with 17 percent of its debt held by state-owned banks).

That was the result of 10 years of left-populist government in Brazil, all of them enjoying the applause of the international press. For years The New York Times constantly published articles with a pro-Dilma/Lula tone. Right after Dilma’s reelection — which is now known to have been funded by money siphoned from state-owned companies — The NYT published a piece half-mocking 48 percent of voters that were concerned about Dilma’s economic and political approaches.

The good thing about bad journalism is that reality eventually catches up with it. Since that 2014 article, Dilma has since lost her job and is about to be impeached for illegal budgetary schemes and deep corruption. Her top aides are all in jail or about to be thrown there, accused of stealing dozens of billions of dollars, including former Ministers and three former treasurers of her Labor Party (which some people now deem to be the most dangerous job in the world). Brazil is in its worst economic crisis since the 1930s, which has been worsening since 2014 (while Dilma was coming up with her now-famous accounting tricks to fool the Brazilian voters). Lula had even become a frequent contributor of The Times after his presidency, but now faces criminal charges and has seen the federal police knock on his door with a coercive trip to the criminal courts.

In its recent opinion page about the failed Rio Olympic Games preparation, The NYT’s favorite Brazilian correspondent Vanessa Barbara wrote that “political turmoil has paralyzed the country and frozen the economy.” This rhetoric of blaming “political turmoil” for Latin American calamities does not help to set the record straight. The problems with the Olympic games stem directly from Dilma’s and Lula’s incompetence and corruption. But the problem also lies on media vehicles like The Times, always ready to turn a blind eye to mismanagement and corruption in the name of ideology.

So here we are. Brazil is a failing state after a decade of populist presidents, misguided policies and commodity boom, all under the auspices of the progressive press.

The Need for Laissez-Faire Liberalism

For a long time, Brazil has been a place where liberalism (i.e., the ideology of freedom and free markets) was mostly marginalized, despite its positive track-record. In the minds of most Brazilians, being liberal was conspiring for the wealthy, being socialist is taking care of the poor.

But if The Times does not want to recognize its mistakes, apparently the Brazilian population is more willing to deal with self-criticism. There is now a strong resurgence of liberalism throughout the country.

Partido Novo (“New Party”) is a new political party created with a clear liberal approach to the economy, and it is just one of the recent examples of how liberalism is growing in the country, waking up millions of Brazilians who were orphans of a liberal political leadership. Many creative and hardworking people that do not think that socialism (or heavy-handed South American social democracy) will make our countries more prosperous. There are substantial constituencies that want public policies driven by research, metrics and actual public interest.

Free Trade Is the Key

The European Union has no appetite and no urgency to negotiate any comprehensive trade agreement with Mercosur or other Latin American countries. The United States faces a choice between a populist protectionist and a trade-dubious democrat (to put it mildly).

It is essential for the world that someone — anyone — pushes forward the liberal pro-trade agenda. As we natives well know, it is never wise to bet on Brazil as a global force for good. But maybe — just maybe — because we are suffering first-hand the harms of a decade of interventionist, protectionist, and corrupted government, we can somehow understand that populism is an illusory lucky charm that actually curses a country for years to come; and maybe — just maybe — we can do something to redeem ourselves.

Now that international trade seems under constant attack from all places and political spectrums, and no big world economy wants to step up and bluntly defend the liberal track record — including the United States — maybe Brazil could become the champion of good policy at last, pushing for reforms throughout Latin America and holding the liberal torch high in these dark times.

As Roberto Campos advised decades ago, for us Brazilians there are only three ways out of the current mess: Rio’s airport, Sao Paulo’s airport, and Liberalism.

Felipe Capella is an attorney turned entrepreneur. He is a former law professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil), former attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell (New York) and the Inter-American Development Bank (Washington, DC), has Master degrees from UPenn/Wharton and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (Spain), and holds an MBA from FGV (Brazil).

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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The Orlando Bloodbath and the Illiberal Mind – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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Society is forever threatened by individuals with corrupt hearts

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The horrifying events at the Pulse bar in Orlando, Florida, the worst mass shooting in American history, illustrate what is meant by the term terrorism. It is violence designed to shake our sense of security and safety, to instill fear, to remind us how fragile is the very existence of what we call civilization. One moment, people are dancing and enjoying the music. The next they are covered with blood amidst unspeakable carnage, and wondering when the bullets are going to tear through their own flesh.

A nightclub—a conspicuous symbol of commercial ebullience and progressive cultural creativity—becomes a war zone in the blink of an eye, and why? There is no final answer to such a gigantic question, but there are strong suggestions based on the identity of the killer and recent experiences with Islamic extremism. It stems from intolerance, leading to seething hatred, resulting in violence, leaving only devastation and fear in its wake. One corrupt heart, driven to action through profound malice, turns a dance club into a killing field.

No Political Solution

It is political season, so of course the tragedy will have implications for the direction of politics. Islamophobia gets a boost, which helps the cause of religious intolerance and nativism, even though the killer was an American citizen and in no way represents the views of a billion and a half peaceful and faithful Muslims struggling for a better life.

Two nights earlier, beloved YouTube star Christina Grimmie was shot dead by a man having no motivations related to Islam. Fear drives people to seek political solutions, so the details of the case in question are not likely to matter. Political control over our lives and property will undoubtedly follow this catastrophe just as they did after 9-11.

And yet there are no political solutions, at least none readily at hand. Yes, the radicalization of some sectors of Islam might never have taken their present course had the U.S. not made egregious foreign-policy blunders that incited the drive for vengeance among millions. Looking back over the decades, back to the 1980s when the most extreme ideologies received U.S. encouragement from the U.S. as a Cold War measure, all the way to the destabilization of Iraq, Syria, and Libya, one sees how the violence of war has fed the violence of terrorism in repeating cycles.

Still, no one can say for sure that absent such blunders, someone like the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, would not come into existence. Society is always threatened by individuals with corrupt hearts and the malicious intent to purify the world of sin. We try to protect ourselves. Security systems respond by becoming ever better at what they are supposed to do. The horror has already re-started the debate between gun rights and gun control (however: by law, that bar was a gun-free zone, meaning that people could not protect themselves or stop others who are intent on killing). And yet, in the end, there is no system of politics and no system of security capable of ending all such threats to human well being.

Toleration as a Virtue

The answer lies with the conversion of the human heart.

Where does this begin?

Given that the driving force here is related to religion, we can turn to the very origins of liberalism itself. It was once believed that society, in order to function properly, required full agreement on matters of faith. But after centuries of warfare amounting to nothing, a new norm emerged, some half a millennium ago, which can best be summarized in the term toleration.

You can’t kill capitalism without killing people. The insight was that it is not necessary for people to agree in order that they find value in each other and get along. A society can cohere even in the presence of profound religious disagreement. We all have a greater stake in peace with each other than any of us do in winning some religious struggle. As 19th century liberal cleric John Henry Newman put it, “Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to Heaven.”

This was the profound insight, and it led to a new enlightenment on a range of issues beyond religion: free speech, free press, free trade, freedom of association. The insight concerning toleration planted a seed that led to a new realization of how humanity can enjoy progress. Voltaire’s Treatise on Toleration, which summed up the case, appeared a mere twenty-one years before Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Their core idea was the same: we have more to gain from toleration, exchange, and freedom than we have from vanquishing the foe from the earth.

So it should be no surprise that the attempt to revert that progress and bring back a new age of tribal warfare would begin by questioning the core insight of religious liberty. Instead it seeks to purify the world of heresy and save souls through violence, if not by centralized authority, then by individual action. It is a premodern manner of thinking, one that seeks to end the lives of those who use freedom in ways that contradicts its own views of what is right and proper.

And notice too how the rise of intolerance has targeted such a conspicuous sign of capitalist consumerism: the dance clubs, and, particular, one that caters toward the gay community. Capitalism is the economic realization of the idea of human freedom, one in which people choose their partners, their music, their mode of expression. No one harms anyone; everyone is free to enjoy, to stay out late, to drink liquor, to move and sing as an expression of individuality.

The illiberal mind loathes such freedom and wants it destroyed. This is why, in the end, it is always capitalism itself that is in the crosshairs. And you can’t kill capitalism without killing people.

Resist Fear

What are we left to think and do when faced with such a bloody tragedy? Remember the foundations of what made us who we are, the philosophical underpinnings of what made the modern world great. Seek peace. Tolerate, even celebrate, differences among us. Find value in each other through trade. Defend human rights and freedom against all who seek to stamp them out.

Resist fear. Reject hate. Defend institutions that help all of us realize our dreams. Turn away from revenge fantasies and recommit ourselves again to living peacefully with others, treating even our enemies as if someday they might be our friends. Building a world free of violence and terror takes place in the conversion of one human heart at a time, beginning with our own.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Interest in Libertarianism Explodes – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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 Johnston / Weld

For forty years, the Libertarian Party has worked to survive. Then, in what seems to be a brief flash of time, it is suddenly at the center of American political life. It’s absolutely remarkable how quickly this has happened.

It’s a perfect storm that made this happen. Party A has become a plastic vessel for pillaging pressure groups, with a phony at the top of the ticket. Party B has been taken over by a cartoonish replica of an interwar strongman. Like beautiful poetry, or like the third act of a 19th-century opera, the Libertarian Party has risen to the occasion to represent a simple proposition: people should be free.

And that theme seems interestingly attractive, enough to draw more media attention to the Libertarian Party in the last week than it had received in the previous 40 years combined. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But a Google News search generates 600,000 results right now, and more recent coverage than I could read between now and midnight. Meanwhile, the Johnson/Weld ticket is polling at 11% nationally, which is essentially unprecedented.

Given today’s information flood, do you know how difficult this is to accomplish? It’s unbelievably difficult to cause anything to trend in this world. That this has happened is amazing. Plus, “libertarian” is a weird word to most people. In some ways, for a party that represents a beautifully simple idea, and the most important idea in the history of the world, this is word is a handicap.

And yet it is happening anyway.

Libertarian_Interest

Friends of mine have taken issue with this or that position held by Gary Johnson and William Weld. This is not the point. Every time I speak to either them, they are immediately quick to clarify that this election is not about them as people or the particulars of their policy positions. It is about representing an idea and a body of thought — an idea that has otherwise been nearly vanquished from public life. They admit to being imperfect carriers of that message. But this humility alone contrasts with the arrogance of the other two parties.

Nor is this really about getting Johnson/Weld elected. It is about clarifying the very existence of an option to two varieties of authoritarianism that the two main parties represent.

This ticket is not an end but a beginning.

For many months, I watched in horror as the only home that tolerated something approaching the old liberal idea has been taken over at its very top by a political force that now has had nothing good to say about liberty.

I’ve looked for an upside but had a hard time finding.

Now I do see the upside. The purging of freedom-minded people from the national end of the Republican Party has created an amazing opportunity. And the Libertarian Party is stepping up to play its historical role.

What is that role? Here has been the controversy for many years. Initially, many people believed it could actually compete with the two parties. When it became obvious that this was not possible, the role became one of ideological agitation and education. Thus ensued a 30-year war over purity of ideology. After all, if the point is not to win, and rather only to enlighten, it becomes important to offer the most bracing possible message.

But that conviction alone does not actually solve the problem. Which version of libertarianism, among the dozens of main packages and hundreds if not thousands of iterations, should prevail? This becomes a prescription for limitless factionalism, arguments, personal attacks — which is pretty much a description of how people have characterized the party and libertarianism generally over the years.

It is for this reason that the Johnson/Weld run this year is so refreshing. They are sometimes called moderates. I don’t think that’s right. It is more correct to say that they are interested in the main theme of the party, and that theme is freedom. No, they are not running to implement my vision of what liberty looks like in all its particulars. But they are on message with the essentials: freedom is what matters and we need more of it.

There was a time when such a message was redundant of what was already said by the Republicans and, perhaps, even the Democrats. But with the whole messaging of the two-party cartel having become “what kind of tyranny do you want?” there is a desperate need for someone to change the subject.

All issues of ideological particulars aside, this is what we need right now. And it will make the difference. Having this ticket become a part of the debate structure can provide that needed boost to liberalism as an idea, saving it from the desire on the part of the Trump/Clinton to drive it out of public life.

These are enormously exciting times. Six months ago, I would have never imagined such opportunities. As I’ve written elsewhere, the choice is at last clear, and clearer than it has been in my lifetime.

We can do socialism, fascism, or liberalism. Which way we take forward will not be determined by who gets elected but by the values we hold as individuals. And here, at long last, national politics can make an enormous contribution to changing hearts and minds.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was originally published on Liberty.me.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Donald Trump and Obi-Wan’s Gambit – Article by Daniel Bier

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The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier

You Cannot Win By Losing

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the last Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is confronted by his former pupil, Darth Vader, as he races to escape the Death Star. The two draw their lightsabers and pace warily around each other. After deflecting some heavy blows from Vader, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber flickers, and he appears tired and strained.

Vader gloats, “Your powers are weak, old man.”

The hard-put Obi-Wan replies, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Obi-Wan backs away from Vader but finds his escape cut off by storm troopers. He is trapped. He gives a mysterious smile, raises his lightsaber, and allows Vader to cut him in half.

This is Obi-Wan’s gambit, or the “win by losing” strategy. Lately, it has emerged as a distinct genre of commentary about Donald Trump.

Take, for example, “The Article About Trump That Nobody Will Publish,” which promotes itself as having been rejected by 45 publications. That’s a credit to America’s editors, because the article is an industrial strength brew of wishful thinking, a flavor that is already becoming standard fare as a Trump presidency looms.

The authors give a boilerplate denunciation of Trump (he’s monstrous, authoritarian, unqualified, etc.), but then propose:

What would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize — and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. …

On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place.

Our daring contrarians predict, Trump “may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.”

You can’t win, Donald! Strike me down and I shall be… forced to completely reorganize and/or roused from dogmatic slumber!

The authors assert these claims as though they were self-evident, but they’re totally baffling. Why would a Trump win force the GOP to abandon the voters and rhetoric that drove it to victory? Why would it reorganize against its successful new leader? Why would a Hillary Clinton loss empower moderate liberals over the “reality-defying fringe”? Why would the left turn away from the progressives who warned against nominating her all along?

This is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe these rosy forecasts would materialize under President Trump. That is not how partisan politics tends to work. Parties rally to their nominee, and electoral success translates into influence, influence into power, power into friends and support.

We’ve already seen one iteration of this “win by losing” fantasy come and go among the Never Trump crowd: the idea that Trump’s mere nomination would be a good thing, because (depending on your politics) it would (1) compel Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, (2) propel Clinton to a landslide general election victory, or (3) destroy the GOP and (a) force it to rebuild as a small-government party, (b) split it in two, or (c) bring down the two-party system.

But, of course, none of those things happened. Clinton has clinched the nomination over Sanders (his frantic protests notwithstanding). Meanwhile, Clinton’s double digit lead over Trump has evaporated, and the race has narrowed to a virtual tie. Far from “destroying the GOP,” Trump has consolidated the support of the base and racked up the endorsements of dozens of prominent Republicans who had previously blasted him, including Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The GOP is not being destroyed — it is being gradually remade in Trump’s image, perhaps into his dream of a populist “workers’ party,” heavy on the protectionism, nativism, and authoritarianism. Meanwhile, knee-jerk partisanship and fear of Clinton are reconciling the center-right to Trump.

Moderates win by defeating the fringe, not by losing to it. Yet, for some reason, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all like to fantasize that the worst case scenario would actually fulfill their fondest wishes, driving the nation into their losing arms — as though their failure would force the party or the public do what they wanted all along. This is the bad-breakup theory of politics: Once they get a taste of Trump, they’ll realize how great we were and love us again.

But the public doesn’t love losers. (Trump gets this and has based his whole campaign around his relentless self-promotion as a winner.) Trump’s inauguration would indeed be a victory for him and for his “alt-right” personality cult, and a sign of defeat for limited-government conservatives and classical liberals — not because our ideology was on the ballot, but because all our efforts did not prevent such a ballot.

Trump embodies an ideology that is anathema to classical liberalism, and if he is successful at propelling it into power, we cannot and should not see it as anything less than a failure to persuade the public on the value of liberty, tolerance, and limited government. Nobody who is worried about extreme nationalism and strong man politics should be taken in by the idea that their rapid advance somehow secretly proves their weakness and liberalism’s strength.

This does not mean that we’re all screwed, or that a Trump administration will be the end of the world — apocalyptic thinking is just another kind of dark fantasy. As horrible as Trumpism may be, it cannot succeed without help. And here’s the good news: Most Americans aren’t really enamored with Trump’s policies. The bad news is that they could still become policy.

Classical liberals who oppose Trump should realize that things aren’t going to magically get better on their own. We cannot try to Obi-Wan our way out of this. We will have to actually make progress — in education, academia, journalism, policy, activism, and, yes, even electoral politics.

If this seems like an impossible task at the moment, just remember that the long-sweep of history and many trends in recent decades show the public moving in a more libertarian direction. It can be done, and there’s fertile ground for it. We have to make the argument for tolerance and freedom against xenophobia and authoritarianism — and we have to win it. The triumph of illiberalism will not win it for us.

Daniel Bier is the site editor of FEE.org He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Trump and Sanders Are Both Conservatives – Article by Steven Horwitz

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The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Shared Visions of Fear, Force, and Collectivism

Those of us who reject the conventional left-right political spectrum often see things that those working within it cannot. For example, in “Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the ‘F’ Word” (Freeman, Winter 2015), I argue that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, seen by many as occupying opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, both embrace the thinking of economic nationalism, if not fascism.

They also share a different political tradition. It may seem to contradict their shared fascist pedigree, but Trump and Sanders are both, in a meaningful sense, conservatives.

Trump, of course, has been lambasted by many self-described conservatives precisely because they believe he is not a conservative. And Sanders, the self-described “democratic socialist,” hardly fits our usual conception of a conservative. What exactly am I arguing, then?

They are both conservatives from the perspective of classical liberalism. More specifically, they are conservatives in the sense that F.A. Hayek used the term in 1960 when he wrote the postscript to The Constitution of Liberty titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There he said of conservatives,

They typically lack the courage to welcome the same undesigned change from which new tools of human endeavors will emerge.… This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.… The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules.

That description would seem to apply to both Trump and Sanders. They share a fear of uncontrolled and undesigned change, especially in the economy. This is most obvious in Trump’s bluster about how America never “wins” and his desire to raise tariffs on Chinese imports and close the flow of immigrants, especially from Mexico. Economic globalization is a terrific example of uncontrolled change, and using foreign workers and producers as scapegoats for that change — especially when those changes have largely benefited most Americans — is a good example of this fear of the uncontrolled.

Those policies also show the much-discussed economic ignorance of Trump and his supporters, as shutting off trade and migration would impoverish the very people Trump claims to care about — those who are, in fact, supporting him. International trade and the free migration of labor drive down costs and leave US consumers with more money in their pockets with which to buy new and different goods. They also improve living standards for our trade partners, but Trump and his followers wrongly perceive their gains as necessitating American losses.

The same concerns are echoed in Sanders’s criticisms of free trade and in his claim that immigration is undermining good jobs for the native-born. Trump’s rhetoric might be more about how the US needs to “beat” the Chinese, and Sanders might focus more on the effects on working class Americans, especially union workers, but both fear the uncontrolled change of globalized markets, seeing commerce as a zero-sum game. (See “Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere,” FEE.org, January 20, 2016.)

For Sanders, fear of change also bubbles up in his criticisms of Uber — even though he uses the service all the time. Part of Hayek’s description was the fear of change producing “new tools of human endeavor.” The new economy emerging from the reduction of transaction costs will continue to threaten labor unions and the old economic understanding of employment and the firm. Sanders’s view of the economy is very much a conservative one as he tries to save the institutions of an economy that no longer exists because it no longer best serves human wants.

In addition, both Trump and Sanders are more than willing to use coercion and arbitrary power to attempt to resist that change. These similarities manifest in different ways, as Trump sees himself as the CEO of America, bossing people and moving resources around as if it were one of his own (frequently bankrupt) companies. CEOs are not bound by constitutional constraints and are used to issuing orders to all who they oversee. This is clearly Trump’s perspective, and many of his followers apparently see him as Hayek’s “decent man” who should not be too constrained by rules.

The same is true of Sanders, though he and his supporters would deny it. One need only consider his more extreme taxation proposals as well as the trillions in new spending he would authorize to see that he will also not be bound by constraints and will happily use coercion to achieve his ends. This is also clear in his policies on trade and immigration, which, like Trump’s, would require a large and intrusive bureaucracy to enforce. As we already know from current immigration restrictions, such bureaucracies are nothing if not arbitrary and coercive. Both Trump and Sanders believe that with the right people in charge, there’s no need for rule-based constraints on political power.

Hayek also said of conservatives that they are characterized by a

hostility to internationalism and [a] proneness to a strident nationalism.… [It is] this nationalistic bias which frequently provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism: to think in terms of “our” industry or resource is only a short step away from demanding that these national assets be directed in the national interest.

As noted, Sanders and Trump share exactly this hostility and proneness. And despite being seen as political opposites, their distinct views converge in the idea that resources are “ours” as a nation and that it is the president’s job (and the state’s more generally) to direct them in the national interest. For Trump, that interest is “making America great again” and making sure we “beat” the Chinese. For Sanders, that interest is the attempt to protect “the working class” against the predation of two different enemies: the 1 percent and foreign firms and workers, all of whom are destroying our industries and human resources.

All of this fear of uncontrolled change and economic nationalism is in sharp contrast with the position of what Hayek calls “liberalism” or what we might call “classical liberalism” or “libertarianism.” In that same essay, Hayek said of classical liberalism, “The liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

This is why classical liberalism rejects the idea that the path toward progress entails electing the right people (the “decent men”) and the cult of personality that frequently accompanies that idea, as we’ve seen with Trump and Sanders. Classical liberalism understands how, under the right rules and institutions, progress for all is the unintended outcome of allowing each to pursue their own values and ends with an equal respect for others to do the same, regardless of which side of an artificial political boundary they reside on.

If we want to live in peace, prosperity, and cooperation, we need to recognize that progress is a product of unpredictable, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable change.

Trump and Sanders can stand on their porches telling us to get off their lawn, but we’re going to do it in an Uber imported from Asia and driven by a nonunionized immigrant, because we classical liberals welcome the change they fear.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Where Is Speech Most Restricted in America? – Article by George C. Leef

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The New Renaissance HatGeorge C. Leef
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Tolerance of speech and thought is being throttled here first

A good argument can be made that free speech is least safe on private college campuses.

At public universities, the First Amendment applies, thus giving students, faculty members, and everyone else protection against official censorship or punishment for saying things that some people don’t want said.

A splendid example of that was brought to a conclusion earlier this year at Valdosta State University, where the school’s president went on a vendetta against a student who criticized his plans for a new parking structure — and was clobbered in court. (I discussed that case here.)

But the First Amendment does not apply to private colleges and universities because they don’t involve governmental action. Oddly, while all colleges that accept federal student aid money must abide by a vast host of regulations, the Supreme Court ruled in Rendell-Baker v. Kohn that acceptance of such money does not bring them under the umbrella of the First Amendment.

At private colleges, the protection for freedom of speech has to be found (at least, in most states) in the implicit contract the school enters into with each incoming student. Ordinarily, the school holds itself out as guaranteeing certain things about itself and life on campus in its handbook and other materials. If school officials act in ways that depart significantly from the reasonable expectations it created, then the college can be held liable.

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) puts it, “There is a limit to ‘bait-and-switch’ techniques that promise academic freedom and legal equality but deliver authoritarianism and selective censorship.”

With that legal background in mind, consider a recent case at Colorado College. If Franz Kafka or George Orwell had toyed with a similar plot, they’d probably have rejected it as too far-fetched.

Back in November, a student, Thaddeus Pryor, wrote the following reply to a comment (#blackwomenmatter) on the social media site Yik Yak: “They matter, they’re just not hot.” Another student, offended that someone was not taking things seriously, complained to college officials. After ascertaining that the comment had been written by Pryor, the Dean of Students summoned him to a meeting.

Pryor said that he was just joking. What he did not realize is that there are now many things that must not be joked about on college campuses. Some well-known American comedians have stopped playing on our campuses for exactly that reason, as Clark Conner noted in this Pope Center article.

In a subsequent letter, Pryor was informed by the Senior Associate Dean of Students that his anonymous six word comment violated the school’s policy against Abusive Behavior and Disruption of College Activities.

Did that comment actually abuse anyone? Did it in any way disrupt a college activity?

A reasonable person would say “of course not,” but many college administrators these days are not reasonable. They are social justice apparatchiks, eager to use their power to punish perceived enemies of progress like Thaddeus Pryor.

For having joked in a way that offended the wrong people, Pryor was told that he was suspended from Colorado College until June, 2017. Moreover, he is banned from setting foot on campus during that time. And in the final “pound of flesh” retribution, the school intends to prohibit him from taking any college credits elsewhere.

With FIRE’s able assistance, Pryor is appealing his punishment. Perhaps the college’s attorney will advise the president to back off since its own “Freedom of Expression” policy hardly suggests to students that they will be subject to severe punishment for merely making offensive jokes on a social media site. If the case were to go to trial, there is a strong likelihood that a jury would find Colorado College in breach of contract.

Even if the school retreats from its astounding overreaction to Pryor’s comment, the administration should worry that alums who aren’t happy that their school has fallen under the spell of thought control will stop supporting it.

This incident is emblematic of a widespread problem in American higher education today: administrators think it’s their job to police what is said on campus, even comments on a social media app. Many colleges and universities have vague speech codes and “harassment” policies that invite abuse; those positions tend to attract mandarins who are not scholars and do not value free speech and unfettered debate. They are committed to “progressive” causes and will gladly use their power to silence or punish anyone who doesn’t go along.

American colleges have been suffering through a spate of ugly protests this fall. Among the demands the protesters usually make is that the school mandate “diversity training” for faculty and staff. Instead of that, what most schools really need is tolerance training, with a special emphasis on the importance of free speech. Those who don’t “get it” should be advised to find other employment.

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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