You’ve heard it said several times, here it is again: the publication’s name can’t be Austro Libertarian forever. The site can– and should – remain with this name. The publication, however, needs a separate name. As we continue to grow and raise funds and, one day, perhaps years down the road, seek to compete with JacobinMag, we need a broader appeal. Not in content, but in marketing and positioning. Here is my thinking on this matter:
Austro Libertarianism is a glorious phrase. This was re-instilled in my mind as I’ve been obsessing over the name of the Magazine itself. For one thing, it captures the “one-two punch” against statism that I mentioned in the Spring Issue’s editorial, Our Biases and Inclinations. For another, it has a historical moment of creation (the late 20th century, United States) and, unlike “liberal” and “liberty” and even “libertarianism” itself, hasn’t been very corrupted yet.
If this publication is going to reach a wider swath of people than the current libertarian echo-chamber, the title itself needs to be less ideologically daunting. Of course, the content within the magazine should never, and will never, betray principles– ideological or otherwise. I’ll see to it that it remains pure. But Austro Libertarian as a phrase appeals only to those that are already aware of the development of the theory; who are already in the camp and who therefore are predisposed to this type of content. This puts an immediate and everlasting ceiling on our reach.
I’m not against echo-chambers in the least. I think they are important for the development of the “remnant” for the strength and betterment of those who want to grow themselves within the doctrines of our ideals. But the purpose of this magazine is to reach people that are looking for alternatives in ideas and who, quite frankly, are put off by the left-libertarian domination of the libertarian world. Or perhaps it’s not even a left-libertarian domination alone; perhaps it is also a weakening of the libertarian himself as a social participant.
To create better libertarians, we need to reach better people. Libertarianism, of course, is for all who are willing to come to terms with the ideas; it does not turn anyone away except those who demand that the propositions themselves be altered and betrayed. But outside of the theory itself rests the realities of the social context in which libertarianism seeks to be applied. In this light, we need better thinkers, contemplators, and socially competent men and women to hold the tide against an impending social upheaval that brings the tendencies of collectivism, cultural revolution, and dystopian egalitarianism. We need to appeal to people beyond the libertarian movement as it has become.
And who, outside of the libertarian movement, such as it is, is going to rush to the support of a publication called Austro Libertarian?
So I’ve thought about other options. “Liberty” as a title is overused and a bit tired out. “Freedom” has been taken over by boomer neocons. “Libertarian quarterly” suffers from the presumptions about the libertarian personality that dominates (perhaps with some unfortunate justification) the world outside the libertarian community. I thought about “The Austrian” but a much better Institution already uses that and it would be horrible to encroach. “Misesian” is lovely, but too focused. With reference to Nock, “Remnant” was suggested, but it is already being employed by two other organizations.
I thought about Faire as in Laissez-Faire. I thought about The Physiocrat, because it sounds cool. I thought about Aristoi (H/T to Trey Smith for this) because it appeals to our anti-democratic mob tendencies. I thought about The Capitalist (sounds like a business magazine), and Capitaliste (French). Meh, not quite.
Then I thought about more mundane and sophisticated: “Ideas.” “Discourse.” “Reflections.” “Commentary.” I feel like we’d have to be in a different place in life to live up to these. Few want, or deserve, “commentary and reflections” from a Californian in his 20s.
Three others have stood out to me more than the above:
Precipice, from my recent articles on the fact that the failure of Government interventionism as a social arrangement is completely falling apart. As socialism, nationalist conservatism, and other tendencies rise to fill the gap of Center-Left Establishmentarian, I feel that the Western world is on the precipice of something much different than we are used to in the west. Would that capitalism and traditionalist decentralism be the solution, though admittedly, this is unlikely. Nevertheless, we sit on the precipice of Interventionism’s failures.
Then there’s Palisade. This has more of a “defend the walls,” “just save the books,” the “barbarians are at the gates” feel to it. Perhaps it’s a bit audacious. As if we are actually going to do anything about it.
Finally, Paradigm. Rothbard once described Mises as the paradigm for our age. We live under conditions of a leftist-statist narrative. Capitalism has failed. Property rights are backward and bigoted. Democracy is the hope of the world.
To quote Rothbard:
Basically, [Thomas Kuhn] states that scientists, in any given area, come to adopt a fundamental vision or matrix of an explanatory theory, a vision that Kuhn calls a “paradigm.” And whatever the paradigm, whether it be the atomic theory or the phlogiston theory, once adopted the paradigm governs all the scientists in the field without being any longer checked or questioned — as the Whig model would have it.
The fundamental paradigm, once established, is no longer tested or questioned, and all further research soon becomes minor applications of the paradigm, minor clearing up of loopholes or anomalies that still remain in the basic vision. For years, decades, or longer, scientific research becomes narrow, specialized, and always within the basic paradigmatic framework.
But then, gradually, more and more anomalies pile up; puzzles can no longer be solved by the paradigm. But the scientists do not give up the paradigm; quite the contrary, increasingly desperate attempts are made to modify the particulars of the basic theory so as to fit the unpleasant facts and to preserve the framework provided by the paradigm.
Only when anomalies pile up to such an extent that the paradigm itself is brought into question do we have a “crisis situation” in science. And even here, the paradigm is never simply discarded until it can be replaced by a new, competing paradigm which appears to close the loopholes and liquidate the anomalies.
Hence, it is all the more easy for philosophers or social scientists to fall into tragically wrong and fallacious paradigms, and thus to lead themselves down the garden path for decades, and even centuries. For once the sciences of human action adopt their fundamental paradigms, it becomes much easier than in the physical sciences to ignore the existence of anomalies, and therefore easier to retain erroneous doctrines for a very long time.
But if one believes, as the present author does, that the fundamental paradigms of modern, 20th-century philosophy and the social sciences have been grievously flawed and fallacious from the very beginning, including the aping of the physical sciences, then one is justified in a call for a radical and fundamental reconstruction of all these disciplines, and the opening up of the current specialized bureaucracies in the social sciences to a total critique of their assumptions and procedures.
The answer — which obviously cannot be documented in the compass of this article — is simply and startlingly this: that Ludwig von Mises offers to us nothing less than the complete and developed correct paradigm of a science that has gone tragically astray over the last half century. Mises’s work presents us with the correct and radically divergent alternative to the flaws, errors, and fallacies which a growing number of students are sensing in present-day economic orthodoxy.
Many students feel that there is something very wrong with contemporary economics, and often their criticisms are trenchant, but they are ignorant of any theoretical alternative. As Thomas Kuhn has shown, a paradigm, however faulty, will not be discarded until it can be replaced by a competing theory. Or, in the vernacular, “you can’t beat something with nothing.” And “nothing” is all that many present-day critics of economic science can offer.
But the work of Ludwig von Mises furnishes that “something”; it furnishes an economics grounded not on the aping of physical science, but on the very nature of man and of individual choice. And it furnishes that economics in a systematic, integrated form that is admirably equipped to serve as a correct paradigmatic alternative to the veritable crisis situation — in theory and public policy — that modern economics has been bringing down upon us. It is not exaggeration to say that Ludwig von Mises is the Way Out of the methodological and political dilemmas that have been piling up in the modern world. But what is needed now is a host of “Austrians” who can spread the word of the existence of this neglected path.
I personally like Precipice or Paradigm. As in, Paradigm: An Austro-Libertarian Publication. Email me: cjay.engel90 [at] gmail [dot] com with suggestions or whether any of the above interest you.