BM and Liberalism Again

Bionic Mosquito replies to my comments on his liberalism piece. I’ll make this short. Bionic Mosquito’s struggle is this: 

As Joe Salerno has noted, one of the principles classical liberalism stressed, in its original context, was the “nationality principle.” So therefore BM wonders [italics original]: “can the term “classical liberalism,” or even its more purified successor “libertarianism,” be defined (or ever realized) without the concept of a “nationality principle.”?”

Here is what I was trying to say about how liberalism was eventually purified by libertarianism. I think it helpful to think of the nationality principle as part of the definition of liberalism; but libertarianism stripped that nationality principle from its own definition. That’s why I brought in Rothbard’s interaction with Frank Meyer and stated that liberalism was “thicker” than libertarianism which, as a result of Rothbard’s contributions, was more narrow.

Thus:
Liberalism: broad[er]
Libertarianism: narrow

BM wrote:

Rothbard is not including the requirement of a “nationality principle” in the definition of libertarianism, yet his admonition must mean something; he makes it for some purpose.  Why would he advise contemporary libertarians on this issue unless it mattered to the benefit of libertarianism?

Of course it means something. The nationality principle is still important, vital, for a thriving body of political insight. This doesn’t mean it is part of the definition of libertarianism. But this is not bad or deficient. It makes things clearer. Strategy is distinct from the doctrine itself. Look at his phrase in the italics in the second paragraph: “be defined (or ever realized).” These are two different things. Being crystal clear on what something is does not take away from how to implement it or the conditions which make its “application possible.”

I must not be interpreted, ever, to be saying that my rejecting non-NAP principles as part of the definition constitutes my considering them irrelevant and unimportant to libertarianism’s application. This is, or should be, quite clearly also Murray Rothbard’s position.

As for BM’s final paragraph, this will have to be addressed in a future essay. After all, I did not offer a definition of the intellectual contributions I think applicable to the issue, nor did I explain how to connect them to the medieval model. Thus, there is nothing yet to defend.

I hope the reader and Bionic Mosquito understand: I don’t really see any disagreement with what Bionic has written. I hope he realizes we are on the same page. I formulate the problem as above in my attempt to unravel these issues.

  • a Texas libertarian

    “I must not be interpreted, ever, to be saying that my rejecting non-NAP principles as part of the definition constitutes my considering them irrelevant and unimportant to libertarianism’s application. This is, or should be, quite clearly also Murray Rothbard’s position.”

    Nuance. The truth has it, and that will always be our great struggle as libertarians in explaining liberty to others.

    I get exactly what you are saying. The nationality principle is important in the application of liberty, not the definition. This is what I just posted at Bionic’s site in response to his article. I suggested to him that perhaps what forms the link between what was desirable in the European middle ages and what was desirable in the classical liberalism of the enlightenment was the idea of natural law.

  • bionic mosquito

    You will forgive me; I offered basically the same reply to ATL at my blog (and also here) as your points were similar.

    “The nationality principle is still important, vital, for a thriving body of political insight. This doesn’t mean it is part of the definition of libertarianism.”

    We have the non-aggression principle: don’t hit first (yes, I know; don’t pick nits). Libertarian theory is built on this. But is it a complete theory?

    Let’s see what Rothbard says:

    “The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith.”

    http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-trees.html

    So…for the theory to be made manifest – to work in practice – it requires “consensual blood and soil…a strong culture that backs it.” So, do we have a good theory absent these features? Because “if it cannot work in practice” it “should be discarded forthwith.” Maybe instead of discarding libertarian theory we might define it with characteristics that will allow it to work in practice.

    “I hope the reader and Bionic Mosquito understand: I don’t really see any disagreement with what Bionic has written. I hope he realizes we are on the same page. I formulate the problem as above in my attempt to unravel these issues.”

    I understand this. I am exploring this with you and appreciate your engagement.

    • C.Jay Engel

      That’s a slippery move: I didn’t separate theory and practice. I separated definition and application. I made the logical distinction between what it is, and how it is to be applied:)

      • bionic mosquito

        You split hairs mighty thin. Words (theory, definition) put into action (practice, application). We are speaking of a political philosophy that we would like to think will have practical application in a world of humans.

        If the words (theory, definition) of libertarianism are to be put into the action (practice, application) of libertarianism, what, exactly, are those words (theory, definition)?

        😉

        • C.Jay Engel

          Let me try this another way. I wasn’t separating between “theory and practice” as Rothbard critiques. I was making a logical distinction between the “theory of rights” and the “theory of implementation.” Theory is a broad word, is my point. Rothbard’s criticism would be more applicable to those who say: “yes we could apply libertarianism in theory but not in the real world.”

          All I’m doing is making a distinction between the answer to the question “when is the use of force legally justifiable” (libertarianism is a particular answer to that question) and “what are the conditions that make society able to adopt libertarianism?” Theory is a vague word. It could apply to both together, or, as I was using it, one of them (the theory of the use of force). Take your pick. As long as it is possible to see the distinction.

          • bionic mosquito

            “All I’m doing is making a distinction between the answer to the question “when is the use of force legally justifiable” (libertarianism is a particular answer to that question) and “what are the conditions that make society able to adopt libertarianism?””

            That might be what you are doing, but it isn’t the question I am asking. Because I am not struggling with the question you raise. I am struggling with the following: If the words (theory, definition) of libertarianism are to be put into the action (practice, application) of libertarianism, what, exactly, are those words (theory, definition)? Rothbard’s admonition suggests something is perhaps lacking in the theory, as the idea of “ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions, ” which is the real world, cannot be found by building on the NAP.

            And we are additionally admonished by Rothbard to not separate theory from practice.

            I think we are going in circles.

          • bionic mosquito

            C Jay, my last statement sounds glib, not my intent. I think I am not explaining myself well enough, and will have to work on this – hence, circles.

            Thanks

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