The Libertarian Ideal: For Secession, Decentralism, Mutualism and Organic Tradition
The original intent of my website was to simply talk about libertarian theory, applying it to my interests and ideas as they evolved. There was no necessary coherence apart from what I was thinking about at the time. However as my ideas have developed further, delving into libertarian and non-libertarian concepts and coalescing around particular points that can be considered a general ideology, I think it would be best to provide a foundational document for my website that best explains its reasoning and understanding in short form.
The most important aspect of libertarian thinking is its trenchant critique of the state as a coercive arbiter that fails far too often and tends to centralise economic and political activity under its auspice, leading to widespread discontent and poverty. Through libertarian thinking, ideas such as subjective valuation theory, the economic calculation problem and the knowledge problem all present the world as a complex and heterogeneous place. It is a world that is impossible to fully plan and map out, being delineated by different flows of culture, information and capital which cannot possibly be captured. No arbiter, whether it be a state, an international organisation or an economic monopoly, can possibly root out all the problems that it faces. It inevitably decays and crumbles, and thus calls out for more power and authority so as to maintain its societal position. Libertarianism’s formal recognition of the coercive nature of the state means that its cuts through the nonsense of political theory that suggests the state is the natural form of political and social organisation, showing that all its variables are constructed.
However, many libertarians who follow this critique then go on to defend the modern capitalist/market system. They suggest, that while imperfect, many elements of market competition exist and that if we remove a few regulations here and there, the overall system will maintain itself under a voluntary order. This not only effects the beltway libertarian think tanks and academic centres that are normally useful idiots for state-subsidised corporations, but also the more radical groups like the Mises Institute and the Property and Freedom Society. They come out with articles and speeches that defend corporations like Wal-Mart and Microsoft and suggest that the existing relations of private property and economies of scale are generally legitimate, hampered only by distortions that come directly from states. Such a position ignores the vast effects of statism that have constructed much of the existing economy, from transportation infrastructure and land theft which favours artificially up-scaling economies beyond their natural diseconomies of scale, to currency monopolies and IP systems which favour largesse and the privileging of stasis over creative destruction. These innate monopolies have huge distortive effects that rubbish the claim that the existing socio-economic system is in any way close to a libertarian order of free markets and private property.
A libertarian cannot look at the historical and modern evidence of state-based subsidies and incentives which make nearly all markets unfree, and produce a system where corporations and modern business (both those who directly engage with the state and those who do so only indirectly) cannot be truly indicative of the forms of organisation that would and could develop in a truly libertarian society. Thus it is my conviction that libertarians should stop congregating around these companies as if they are saints, and stop producing narratives that suggest we shouldn’t criticise modernity and its latent aspects. At the same time that doesn’t mean theorising romantic nonsense that suggests hierarchy won’t exist, power relations will melt away, and we’ll suddenly live in a classless society as many left-libertarians seem to think.
With the current crises that affect both the market system and the state, there can be room for a radical theory of critique that goes beyond criticising the state to criticising most centralised forms of organisation and activity, from subsidised corporations to independent regulatory authorities. Such a theory can pry open the false dichotomies of our time, from the nonsense of left vs right to the more recent nonsense of globalism vs nationalism. Libertarianism in this regard would need to move beyond simply talking about the beneficence of markets, private property and the non-aggression principle, toward something more integrative and forward thinking. Instead of talking about markets, it should talk about the many forms of market and non-market organisations and institutions that could develop in a truly free system, looking at interstitial movements as varied as the Mondragon cooperatives, the Shanzhai economy in China, the forms of political organisation developing in Spain and Greece, and the other movements that focus on individual and collective empowerment and the decentralisation of political and economic authority. Instead of focusing on private property, it should focus on strategies of radical privatisation that produce multiple property forms, from voluntary commons and collectives through to hierarchical political relations such as neo-cameralist city-states. It should be about cultivating a full world of neo-medievalism that defines property in a variety of ways, rejecting the existing statist modes of private property. Instead of focusing purely on the NAP, it should look at different ways for individual and collective empowerment, whether they be non-violent or violent in their means of opposing centralising forces. The NAP may be one strategy of resistance, but for stateless tribes in Africa and Southeast Asia or peasant groups in South America whose land is regularly taken by corrupt states, the NAP may not have much to say when they engage in protracted armed conflict.
Fundamentally, it should be anti-praxis in the sense of rejecting any one pathway toward a freer, decentral future. It should instead focus on cultivating multiple networks of engagement and activity, combining where necessary and doing their own thing the rest of the time. It is anti-universal, instead allowing different populations to develop their own relations of property and markets and whatever other economic and political forms that they can be can come up with. The libertarian ideal is about always aiming at exodus from any system an individual doesn’t want to be involved in. The best means as I understand them are set out in the subtitle of this article.
Secession, in the sense of always aiming at a form of creative destruction within governance that allows for people to leave when they want and form their own organisations and political discourses. Decentralism, in the sense of always seeing power as best derived from the ground-up and being distributed across a number of networks and nodes, making sure it cannot be centralised under any particular authority (whether that be private or statist). Mutualism, in the sense of always cultivating mutuality between and within different governments and peoples, whether they be vertical or horizontal relations of power and governance. And organic tradition, in the sense of looking at the past as a guide for particular political forms that can push us forward. This doesn’t mean looking nostalgically at the past as some bygone age of near-perfection, but instead recognising that modernity is no swansong either, and that in efforts to cultivate a libertarian society we should look at past structures and develop understandings from them for movements critical of modernity today. None of these are attempts at creating a praxis, but are instead overdetermined concepts that have different meanings in different contexts and are applicable to a variety of scenarios.
This short article sets out my beliefs about what the libertarian ideal is. Libertarianism should be neither left nor right, globalist nor nationalist and should aim at a world beyond the current horizons of modernity. It should not support any one system of governance or economics, instead pushing forth new ones and accelerating their dynamics so as to further processes of creative destruction and multi-scalarity. Above all, it should aim at decentralisation and with it the means to exodus, the ability to exit modernity and allow for new realities to develop in the liquid nature of subjectivity and organisation.
And thus the point of my website in engaging with this project, this libertarian anti-praxis, is to examine the multiple delineations and forms of organisation and institutionalism that exist both within theory and the real world. It is look at ways to attain exodus from both states and the forces of capital, aiming toward an anarchic non-order of multiplicitous polities, economies and social realities, focusing on the micro and linking it into a loose macro-analysis of anarchism and libertarianism that provides tool to those constructing their own alter-modernities.