Back in 2010, I posted:
Einstein had great insight into science and man, but was a socialist. Mikhail Bakunin was a great enemy of the oppressive state, but was wrong about economics. Alexander Hamilton understood that even democracy could be tyrannical, but he was a central banking, quasi-statist, proto-Keynesian.
I know the left specializes in the ad hominem, but I separate the message from the man - for wisdom can be gleaned even from the unwise.
This was in response to a rejoinder from a leftist blogger who found it quizzical that I would quote Emma Goldman. Her husband also took offense at a libertarian’s quoting of Nietzche because - as he put it - “nietzsche is on our side.”
But, you see, wisdom need not only be found in those with whom you always agree with. Despite everything else, Emma Goldman was an outspoken activist against war and found great value in the individual - in a way that is admirable to libertarians. Whatever Nietzche was, he was certainly an individualist. And in this arena, we can learn from his thoughts.
In neither case did I “claim” Goldman or Nietsche to “our side.”
In a back and forth earlier tonight with another blogger, I offered a link pondering whether Mohandas Gandhi fit in “the libertarian tradition,” which in context meant anti-statism, individualism, non-aggression.
Though my initial comment included a tongue-in-cheek knock against Reason and their recent streak of fairly un-libertarian commentary (which apparently was not read as such), there were ultimately no definitive declarations made.
And I reiterated the initial point I made with this post: “If we all only valued those who were pure in ideology, we’d learn nothing.” In other words: if we insulate ourselves from the insights of those we’d otherwise disagree with, what kind of static and intellectually stunted “society” would result?
[H]e’s not an individualist,
I defer to the original link that I offered: In contrast to the supposedly Oriental view that the individual counts for nothing, Gandhi argued that “the individual is the one supreme consideration.” “No society,” Gandhi wrote, “can possibly be built upon a denial of individual freedom. It is contrary to the very nature of man. Just as a man will not grow horns or a tail, so will he not exist as man if he has no mind of his own. In reality even those who do not believe in the liberty of the individual believe in their own.”
His concern for the collective seems to have sprung from his concern for the individual, some argue.
and he doesn’t follow the libertarian ‘non-aggression’ principle.
Again from the original link: It’s true that libertarianism is not pacifism — at least, not necessarily. On the other hand, pacifism is libertarianism. If you abjure all violence, you must abjure the state.
The non-aggression principle was never mentioned. Pacifism is simply a form of non-aggression, particularly his anti-statist pacifism.
He’s only an anti-statist. But you claim him because “If we all only valued those who were pure in ideology, we’d learn nothing.”
I never “claimed” him. For those who believe in communal property rights, leftists sure say “mine!” a lot. I thought sharing was principal to the ideology?
I therefore claim that Mises lived in socialist tradition, and that many people can follow these jagged guidelines and classify as living in ‘libertarian tradition’.
I’d be interested to hear this argument. I, for one, invite leftists to read Mises and Rothbard and Hoppe and Spooner and see if there are any points of agreement. I think that would make for some compelling discussions.
In fact, that’s part of the libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/voluntaryist argument: we believe our ideology is instinctual. Indeed, it would be uncontroversial to suggest that most people would be opposed to “theft, assault, battery, murder, slavery, rape, fraud, trespass, destruction of property, and the threats thereof” - which are all the basic violations of the non-aggression principle, and the “laws” that would naturally arise in a voluntary society. We believe most people can sympathize with at least some elements of the libertarian philosophy, and, since we also believe ours to be a logically consistent ideology, calling attention to points of agreement can bring better understanding to the points of disagreement.
If one only needs to follow one out of the three requirements, then every individualist (and thus most conservatives) is a libertarian. Anti-statist? Most progressives and anarchists. Non-aggression? Almost every buddhist/hindu/follower of eastern philosophy.
There you have it, a shit ton of people live in ‘libertarian tradition’.
Good thing most of them don’t support Ron Paul.
And here is where logic unsurprisingly fails. Perhaps it’s an incorrect interpretation to suggest Gandhi was an individualist, and perhaps you’d invalidate the common impulses of non-aggression because the philosophical origins are different… but that doesn’t mean that the original argument, which was about multiple points of correlation, can now be distilled to one singular point. That would, indeed, be meaningless - and an irrelevant conclusion.
(And Ron Paul was never mentioned.)
I have great admiration for Mohandas Gandhi. He expressed reservations with private property and capitalism, to be sure, though many of his criticisms of “capitalism” can be understood as critiques on colonial mercantilism (or what we’d consider corporatism, today - hardly a free market). In fact, I doubt Gandhi would be opposed to the free, consensual exchange of free individuals, which is what a free market is. So perhaps Gandhi can be seen as at least a mutualist?
(Update: whakatikatika makes his case that even Gandhi’s private property reservations are not as pronounced as generally understood and there may be more points of commonality with libertarians.)
In any case, I need not “claim him” to value his wisdom, and to consider him an inspiration in fighting against the oppressive nature of the state. If we can put aside his domestic shortcomings to appreciate his life’s work, we can also find individual elements we value as separate from the whole.
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