I was listening to a lecture by Roderick Long this morning, entitled “The Moral Standpoint” which is part of the series “Foundations of Libertarian Ethics: A Philosophy Seminar” (Available from Mises.org).
In this lecture, Dr Long (who I enjoy and admire, not the least of which because he is very funny and charming in person) attempts to analyze the reasons for the popular rejection of libertarian solutions to political problems.
And while I agree with Long’s arguments, as far as they go, I also understand, that the resistance to libertarian solutions, of which there are many, is the preservation of status that comes from the fog of our current, ambiguous, and unclear political order.
In general, libertarian solutions propose fact-generating, and evidentiary solutions that expose causality. I tend to talk about these category of solutions as ‘calculable’ in the sense that they provide sufficient information to assist us in making decisions, and they do not permit the ‘laundering’ of causailty by the pooling of accounting information.
THe problem with the clarity of libertarian solutions is that people enjoy the ‘fog of reality’. THe same way we all believe we are in the upper ten percent of our fields, we all believe we are contributing members of society, when in fact, we cannot all be in the upper ten percent of our fields, and it’s quite demonstrable that the only contribution most people make to society is to cause work for others, to provide local clerical or manual labor, to refrain from stealing so that we can create the institution of property, and to fill land so that others don’t take the earth’s potential from us.
We do not want a clear mirror in which to see our true reflection, but a foggy one, that preserves our self-illusions – illusions that help us exist in a division of labor where indeed we may have little importance or relevance to one another, while at the same time, benefiting from the vast decreases in costs that such a division provides for us. We trade our ability to perceive causality for our mutual prosperity.
Our status, which is, effectively, our access to mates, and often access to social groups, is more important for the political and lower classes than it is for the high performance (merchant and finance) sectors, who achieve that status by causal means in a division of labor, under the institutions of trade and exchange.
My argument, which is contrary to general libertarian propositions, is that redistribution of profits from interest are the only means of resolving this status conflict – we have to pay other classes.
And that the libertarian political strategy is effectively to propagate it’s value system, under the guise of moral or religious traditions, which it cannot, because it is against the status advantage of the less meritocratic classes.
And while the libertarian position is to return to the gold standard, or some variation of it, the problem with that position is that, as the division of labor and knowledge increases, and especially as we urbanize, credit is the only means of preserving the social order – which means respecting property – as well as an identity for encouraging cooperation that was perviously created by nation, religion, village, tribe and family. Just as laws are a punitive system that apply to all equally (hopefully), credit is an incentive system that is more effective than law, because it does not require policing, just recording. And incentives under credit, are positive, and under law, negative.
Furthermore, we need insurance provided through fiat money, or at least common money.
Otherwise we are privatizing wins and socializing losses. The problem with the Rothbardian concept of banking and money is that in the end, it privatizes wins and socializes losses. This is justified in that model under a number of guises.
however, what Rothbards model (and Mises as well) ignores, is that in order to create the institution of property people must forego their opportunity to employ violence. This redistributes violence across people who DO respect property. And therefore, any group of people who deny violence in order to create property, redistribute their violence and thereby pay opportunity costs. As such, a failure of profits from credit to be redistributed are a theft, and redistribution is mandated.
By avoiding this conversation (or not understanding it) Mises and Rothbard, as well as libertarians in general, circumvent the problem of maintaining land, and creating the institutions of property.
The poor, as long as they are not immigrants (who under this model are thieves – explaining peoples reaction to immigration) by respecting property, and denying violence, are due redistribution, which explains their use of violence (their repossession of their contributions). And a failure to redistribute a portion of profits is simply theft from them. CRedit and interest are the means by which we can do so, if, in the end, we are borrowing from them.