Ch.II | Ethics and Justice

Contra Libertarians, A Post-Liberal Critique

Ch.ICh.IICh.IIICh.IV

The Libertarian tells us; Who are you to judge what someone else does with their property (implicitly also their body), insofar as it doesn’t infringe upon another?

Nozick states that  if the world were wholly just the only people entitled to hold anything, that is to appropriate it for use as they alone wished, would be those who had justly acquired what they held1. Friedman writes that;  

The consumer is protected from being exploited by one seller by the existence of another seller from whom he can buy and who is eager to sell to him.2

Aside from the fact that this notion already presupposes “self-ownership”, there are further problems with this sentiment ー with the NAP. When someone engages in a socially destructive manner ー in the privations of reason that are the vices, but they are permitted insofar as they do not “infringe upon others”, we are presented with what we call negligence. Apathy is a vice. Libertarian morality is such that there is a fundamentally negligent ethos coded into a system of morality ー a fundamentally vice-ridden scheme. Libertarianism venerates Mao’s 8th type of Liberal that;

…see[s] someone harming the interests of the masses and yet [does] not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue.3 

Evidently, by “dissuade”, Mao doesn’t mean solely through polite argument, but with force or the threat of it as well, which is another thing; the exercise of force isn’t an evil in and of itself. It has its place beyond mere self-preservation and of the defence of property rights as we shall explore later. The fundamental problem, however, is the lack of reference to moral desert inherent in a scheme predicated upon negative rights. A (perhaps our mentally ill modern from Fisher’s example) enters into a contract, willingly with B (perhaps our predatory pharmaceutical companies from Fisher’s example) in which B is allowed to exploit him in some manner ー even in scenarios where A is aware of such exploitation. This is perfectly fine under the libertarian conception morality, and no punitive measure is to be taken for the objective wrong being done to A. A acted purely voluntarily.

It’s not about A’s feeling of approval of what B does to him or her that makes such a contractual, yet exploitative relationship right, which is the fairly recursive Emotivist view, but rather it is about the objective good and as to whether this relationship actualises or robs either of them of this. There must be poena (punity) in response to culpa (evil) for there to be dikaiosune (justice). But it is worse than just that. 

Goodness itself is a perfection in some manner, evil a privation ー privatio boni

The perfection of the human being is the end to which every healthy social institution must be subordinated, and it must be promoted as much as possible.4 

The Libertarian social order is one that is at best apathetic to the cultivation of human perfection and at worst antithetical to the achievement of eudaimonia. Desiring one’s perfection is intrinsic to human nature but perfection cannot come about through the self-actualisation of the individual by itself, from itself. For A to become more than A, A cannot rely merely on A. A must know how to become perfected, which presupposes being taught. Being taught presupposes a teacher ー some authority. To perfect a society it naturally follows you must have some authority to capture the attention of the entire populace and to be able to organise it as such that it may begin to even grasp this perfection ー a socially harmonious and healthy centre. Though, because humans are not without privations, we are not perfect (to be as such would be to be God) the closest one might get is thus in the eudaimonia of theosisーintimacy with and knowing of the perfect divine. Per Plotinus’s formulation of divine simplicity;

I. There must be a first principle of all if there is to be an explanation of why the world exists.

II. If the first principle of all were composed of parts, then those parts would be ontologically prior to it.

III. But in that case it would not be the first principle of all.

IV. So the first principle is not composed of parts, but is absolutely simple.

V. If there were a distinction between what the first principle is and the fact that it is, then there could be more than one first principle.

VI. But in order for there to be more than one, there would have to be some attribute that distinguished them.

VII. But since a first principle is absolutely simple, there can be no such attribute.

VIII. So there cannot be more than one first principle.

IX. So there is no distinction in the first principle between what it is and the fact that it is.

X. So the first principle is not only absolutely simple but utterly unique: the One.5

As this first principle per privatio boni is purely simple, it lacks privations and is thus purely good. Lacking in privations it is lacking in limits, and is thus unbounded. Yet, as so above, so below ー we should then see that achieving unity with God is in the cultivation of a unity of human goodness, a full capturing and blossoming of which must encompass the life of the person. Quite the opposite formulation of libertarianism, which not only refuses to see the unity of such a lifeーfocusing in on the atomised individualーbut also cares not for requisites for theosis, and consequently of ultimate human happiness or eudaimonia. Libertarianism is actively opposed to the subordination of institutions to the ideal of perfection because it would appropriately require coordination from a central authority which would mean the exercise of force. However, authority is not entirely constituted by the capacity to exercise force as we shall explore later. Note that this order aimed at human perfection doesn’t require levelling centralisation, the circumventing or destruction of intermediaries/subsidiaries, but of their cooperation rather than competition. As St. Thomas writes, this human perfection that culminates in eudaimonia is the highest good;

Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence. To make this clear, two points must be observed. First, that man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek: secondly, that the perfection of any power is determined by the nature of its object. Now the object of the intellect is “what a thing is,” i.e. the essence of a thing, according to De Anima iii, 6. Wherefore the intellect attains perfection, in so far as it knows the essence of a thing. If therefore an intellect knows the essence of some effect, whereby it is not possible to know the essence of the cause, i.e. to know of the cause “what it is”; that intellect cannot be said to reach that cause simply, although it may be able to gather from the effect the knowledge of that the cause is. Consequently, when man knows an effect, and knows that it has a cause, there naturally remains in the man the desire to know about the cause, “what it is.” And this desire is one of wonder, and causes inquiry, as is stated in the beginning of the Metaphysics (i, 2). For instance, if a man, knowing the eclipse of the sun, consider that it must be due to some cause, and know not what that cause is, he wonders about it, and from wondering proceeds to inquire. Nor does this inquiry cease until he arrive at a knowledge of the essence of the cause.

If therefore the human intellect, knowing the essence of some created effect, knows no more of God than “that He is”; the perfection of that intellect does not yet reach simply the First Cause, but there remains in it the natural desire to seek the cause. Wherefore it is not yet perfectly happy. Consequently, for perfect happiness the intellect needs to reach the very Essence of the First Cause. And thus it will have its perfection through union with God as with that object, in which alone man’s happiness consists, as stated above (Articles 1 and 7; I-II:2:8).6

We can only be satiated in coming to know what is itself truly unlimited; in participation in and knowing pure goodness, through faith and the exercise of the virtues in works, culminating in the vision of, and unity with, the Divine Essence. As this is purely good in and of itself, it is appropriate to not only exercise influence, but force as appropriate to cultivate a social order conducive to the realisation of our respective telos. However, this isn’t merely to prepare us for some external existence to that of the world you currently inhabit. I must stress that there is a reflective aspect to eudaimonia. For our highest perfection to be theosis, we must first participate in the fullness of our possible being in goodness as we live in the world. We must play the game of life as best as possible, in the most perfect manner. This is the role of the virtues. There is no guarantee for our theosis as such, and so our worldly existence must be of virtue for the fulfilment of our telos ー enabling the person to pass from a present state to a true end;

We thus have a threefold scheme in which human-nature-as-it-happens-to-be (human nature in its untutored state) is initially discrepant and discordant with the precepts of ethics and needs to be transformed by the instruction of practical reason and experience into human-nature-as-it-could-be-if-it-realized-its-telos. Each of the three elements of the schemeーthe conception of untutored human nature, the conception of the precepts of rational ethics and the conception of human-nature-as-it-could-be-if-it-realized-its-telosーrequires reference to the other two if its status and function are to be intelligible.7

To assert the goodness of something then is not merely reducible to an assertion of personal approval, but rather it is an evaluative term as it relates to the ergon or function of a thing, which is dependent on social context which ordains the manner of the fulfilment of goods. Another essential problem with this entire scheme predicated on free choice in this regard is a Schmittian one. Liberalism is fundamentally an eternal injunction against anyone ever making a final decision as to what is most sacred and valuable, in favour of perpetual and thus an ultimately pointless conversation about it, which can never reach these goods, either internal to practices for which virtues are cultivated for, or in our final end (or does so only incidentally for a few select people independent of said decision). I’m sure you’d rather our conversations to be fruitful, you would want the best for other people and want a functioning political order that mediates resentments instead of selecting for their acceleration ー all of which means that at the end of the day, we need to have a shared understanding of the good, and the goods that allow participation in higher goods ー an ordering of the goods that we can all agree upon. To draw together our previous discussion on centralisation’s creation of the individual and the vacancy of decision, I present you some ancient Chinese wisdom as a dash of irony considering our favourable dealings with elements of Maoist thought;

When the ruler’s seat is insecure, the great ministers revolt and the smaller ones pilfer. Punishments are then made severe, laws become irregular, rules of ceremony uncertain. Then the people do not turn to what is right.8

To return to Mao and the discussion of force, setting aside his aversion to anything other than scientific materialism, this shared good, homonoia, from which a just social order may be built upon is exactly what should be defended with force ー and because social orders and their unity are never contracted into as we shall later explore, this view of the moral use of force transcends the use seen appropriate by the NAP. Force in poena also has its place in defence of, and employment for, the cultivation of higher goods as we shall now see.

The Libertarian tells us; Justice is only possible when we consider the individual in and of himself and his acts from self-interest. The individual is the smallest minority and is also the truest, most fundamental measure of humanity.

To make the subject of political justice the individual abstracts away from all the identities that comprise an individual identity itself. Again, you’re left with matter without form, ousia without eidos. A just social order requires social harmony, social unity ー homonoia. The Libertarian forces you into a gestalt that renders these very identities which would allow for the cultivation of a just polis, invisible. This gestalt bears similarities to the Rawlsian veil of ignorance in trying to grasp a kind of noumenal individual-in-itself. However, the veil of ignorance is also deficient in conceptualising justice as the veil of ignorance could never actually be operated within. As Alasdair MacIntyre argues, if the rational actor behind the veil of ignorance neither knew;

…whether and how his needs would be met or what his entitlements would be, ought rationally to prefer a principle which respects needs to one which respects entitlements…, the immediate answer must be [that] we are never behind such a veil of ignorance.9

Operating in a contextual vacuum, one has denied the necessary social contextualisation needed to be able to decide whether the capitalist or the worker, the trans person or the conservative, the white man or the black man, is more deserving of compensation for a given injustice, as what is just must first be informed by inquiry into moral desert ー the lack of which, coupled with individualistic premises being what Nozick and Rawls both share. 

The truth is in the whole, fulfilled in its result, but the result cannot yet be reached in denial of that which comprises the whole. A deprivation of context frustrates any fulfilment of justice by denying an adequately informed assessment of desert. Thus the project of justifying morality from an “original position”, from an attempt at evaluating the “the individual” fails, and by extension, so does Libertarian attempts at formulating a conception of justice as they both preclude critical components for the attainment of truth itself. As MacIntyre illustrates in his exploration of the two;

Nozick is less explicit, but his scheme of justice being based exclusively on entitlements can allow no place for desert. He does at one point discuss the possibility of a principle for the rectification of injustice, but what he writes on that point is so tentative and cryptic that it affords no guidance for amending his general view point. It is in any case clear that for both Nozick and Rawls a society is composed of individuals, each with his or her own interest, who then have to come together to formulate common rules of life. In Nozick’s case there is the additional negative constraint of a basic set of rights.

In Nozick’s argument too, the concept of community required for the notion of desert to have application is simply absent.

It is, from both standpoints, as though we had been shipwrecked on an uninhabited island with a group of other individuals, each of whom is a stranger to me and to all the others. Nozick’s premise concerning rights introduces a strong set of constraints; we do know that certain types of interference with each other are absolutely prohibited. But there is a limit to the bonds between us, a limit set by our private and competing interests. This individualistic view has of course…, distinguished ancestry: Hobbes, Locke…

Thus Rawls and Nozick articulate with great power a shared view which envisages entry into social life as – at least ideally – the voluntary act of at least potentially rational individuals with prior interests who have to ask the question ‘What kind of social contract with others is it reasonable for me to enter into?’ Not surprisingly it is a consequence of this that their views exclude any account of human community in which the notion of desert in relation to contributions to the common tasks of that community in pursuing shared goods could provide the basis for judgements about virtue and injustice.10

Ah, so both Nozick and Rawls are back to being premised on the idea of the individual as prior to social existence. The ghost of Locke walks their pages. In counter to the Libertarian position, Aristotle illustrates that the virtue of friendship, of the shared good and social willing of goodness which Libertarianism is made inimical to, is the foundation of a functioning polis, preceding justice; 

Friendship seems too to hold states together, and lawgivers to care more for it than justice; for unanimity seems to be something like friendship, and this they aim at most of all and expel faction as their worst enemy; and when men are friends they have no need of justice, while when they are just they need friendship as well, and the truest form of justice is thought to be a friendly quality. 11

It is unity, homonoia, through agreement that constitutes the healthy polis. The reason for Aristotle’s assertion is that justice is the virtue of rewarding desert within an existing social order. The rewarding of desert also implicates the social distribution of poena. Friendship, which homonoia is treated as the political expression of in a shared conception of ‘the good’, is required for this civil constitution. Threats to this unity should be placed at the end of the barrel of a gun in order to preserve justice.  We also have overwhelming empirical verification as to the detriments that the decline of homonoia, and its causes bear12. Population heterogeneity decreases social cohesion. As homonoia is the necessary prerequisite to justice, unrestricted movement of labour, of individuals ー immigration which would lead to population significant heterogeneity, threatens the very basis of justice within the polis. Given an already unified polis, population heterogeneity decreases cooperation substantially, in other words compromising the necessary social constitution of friendship from which justice proceeds.

After all, you are more inclined to will the good of another that you know, that you share a common social existence with, than someone totally alien to such social existence and shared understandings. Here we see quite clearly the moral imperative for the state to obstruct the free movement of labour with force to uphold immigration laws and border enforcement in the preservation of homonoia.

Katz’s accusation of individualism as “gnostic theology” is in full viewーthe psychopathy of individualism is in revolting against an ill-perceived evil ー against the unity of the social order of which is a fundamental political goodーfor something beyond that, which cannot exist, namely the sovereignty of the individual. Moreover, it becomes clear how a competitive social order of the minorities of individuals against each other in their self-interest would be inimical to the kind of ethical life that Aristotle correctly proposes; that of a decision and affirmation of shared goods. Imperium in imperio13 itself;  what Aristotle calls ‘faction’, the checks and balances of countervailing power, implicitly the competition between power centres, is intrinsically hostile to the social cooperation homonoia demands. The social virtue of friendship, human perfection and man’s attainment of eudaimonia has been repeatedly compromised and frustrated by divided power & centralisation of which the futile ideological exercise of Libertarianism only serves to exacerbate in both its minarchist and nonsensical anarchistic forms.

~ • ~

[Notes]

[1] Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Oxford: Blackwell, 2017, 151.

[2] Friedman, Milton, and Rose D. Friedman. Free to Choose: a Personal Statement. Paw Prints, 2008, 228.

[3] Mao, Zedong. Mao Tŝe-Tung’s Quotations; the Red Guard’s Handbook. Nashville: International Center, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1967, Combat Liberalism, Selected Works, Vol. II, 31-32.

[4] Evola, Julius, Guido Stucco, and Michael Moynihan. Men among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. Inner Traditions International, 2002, 139.

[5] Feser, Edward. “Plotinus on Divine Simplicity, Part I.” Plotinus on Divine Simplicity, Part I (blog), January 15, 2010. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/01/plotinus-on-divine-simplicity-part-i.html.

[6] Aquinas, Thomas, and Timothy MacDermott. Summa Theologiæ: A Concise Translation. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1989. Prima Secundæ Partis, Q:3:8, 178.

[7] MacIntyre, Alasdair C. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, p.53.

[8] Max F. Muller. Sacred Books of the East. London: Routledge, 2004, Li Ki, Lî Yun, 2.11.

[9] MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.288-289

[10]  ibid., p.298-290, 291

[11] Aristotle, and Jonathan Barnes. The Complete Works of Aristotle: the Revised Oxford Translation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk.VIII.I, 1154b20-28, 1825.

[12] Quite a few resources linked here but here are some choice selections. On the micro-scale;

In this article we tested whether ethnic diversity in one’s immediate residential surroundings has an impact on social trust. Using survey data merged with data from the national Danish registers, our results show that ethnic diversity of the micro-context— measured within a radius of 80 meters of a Downloaded from asr.sagepub.com at University of Otago Library on April 23, 2015 16 American Sociological Review person—has a statistically significant negative impact on social trust, controlling for a large number of potentially confounding variables. When expanding the size of the context, the effect of ethnic diversity is diluted, and we take this as an indication that interethnic exposure—which is inevitable in the micro-context, but not in more aggregate contexts—is the mechanism underlying the negative relationship between residential ethnic diversity and trust.

Dinesen, Peter Thisted, and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov. “Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust.” American Sociological Review 80, no. 3 (2015): 550–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122415577989, 15-16.

On the macro-scale;

Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that violence between groups can be inhibited by physical and political boundaries. A similar analysis of the area of the former Yugoslavia shows that during widespread ethnic violence existing political boundaries did not coincide with the boundaries of distinct groups, but peace prevailed in specific areas where they did coincide. The success of peace in Switzerland may serve as a model to resolve conflict in other ethnically diverse countries and regions of the world.

Rutherford, Alex, Dion Harmon, Justin Werfel, Alexander S. Gard-Murray, Shlomiya Bar-Yam, Andreas Gros, Ramon Xulvi-Brunet, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. “Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 5 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095660.

Why does violence erupt in some ethnic conflicts but not in others? To answer this question, I introduced a theory of ethnic war called the theory of indivisible territory. I argued that the likelihood of ethnic violence rests on how a conflict’s principal antagonists—a state and its dissatisfied ethnic minority—think about or value a disputed territory. Attempts to negotiate a resolution short of war will fail when, [1.] the ethnic minority demands sovereignty over the territory it occupies, and, [2.] the state views that territory as indivisible. Ethnic war is less likely to break out if one condition only is met, and very unlikely if neither condition is met. 

Toft, Monica Duffy. Geography of Ethnic Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, 127.

  1. As we shall explore later, such demands are only truly spurred by political patronage, irrespective of Toft’s categorisation of them as ‘charismatic demagogues’ or ‘representative statesmen’, which is made accessible for, and actively selected by, centralising power in situations of power insecurity.
  2. A centralising authority would never, and does not ever delegate territory to subsidiaries in such a manner that make territory divisible.

Liberalism has various mechanisms at its disposal to keep civil conflict from emerging, namely the fact that the demands of the periphery are conditioned and directed by centralising authority, and of course various technological developments, from money to surveillance, which make this easier. Nonetheless, it follows that population heterogeneity could be and, as Toft explores, is exploited repeatedly for centralisation.

[13] Here is Bond’s elaboration upon imperium in imperio, and power security;

In categorising unsecure power and secure power Mencius Moldbug correctly identified that the primary motivations for power centers to engage in leveling conflict were the insecurity of their positions and the blocks they faced, they simply could not, and cannot, govern in a direct and concise manner. This has many further ramifications which we shall cover later, but for now it suffices to note that as these power centers were placed in positions of chronic conflict within society. The centers were unable to engage in actual direct conflict to resolve the tension, so the alternative option was, and still is, to pursue that of advancing their attempts at centralisation and conflict against competing power centers by appeal to greater societal good.

Secure power in contrast is power which is not placed in a position of conflict. This conflict can take the form of either the balancing of institutions against one another, such as with the republican structure and the balance of power it enshrines, or by claims of law or human rights being bounding, thereby placing the judiciary as a competing institution – there are many variants of imperium in imperio.

In pursuing this line of investigation over a number of years, an extremely accurate and effective model of the current liberal power structure was developed on the Unqualified Reservations blog which managed to trace the development of power by virtue of ignoring the frames of analysis which current political theories take as relevant. This analysis neither took the human individual as the relevant point of analysis, nor did it take current political institutions such as nation states as relevant. Instead, by placing the analysis on the manner in which internal institutions have been allowed to operate in a state of permanent surreptitious conflict, a picture emerged of a strange governing entity which centred around the Ivy League universities, media, the civil service and additionally non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society foundations in a systemically logical conflict against all other intermediary structure which have been under sustained and continued destruction. The key point to note is that the systemic conflict provides all of these centers with the context within which their decisions are enacted, rendering their actions predictable to a large degree. This is why we can see all the progressive institutions acting in a similar manner without need of a central governing body. Unsecure Power is then definable as power acting in a system designed on (or degraded to) internal conflict.

Secure Power in contrast is Power acting within a system in which institutions are complementary and not conflicting. Authority flows down only. Similar entities are seen in the form of corporations, the very same entities which actors in governance have been engaging on ever greater levels as a means to provide effective and efficient services, something which the national governance structure of the modern state has been unable to maintain. The great expansion of private military companies and privatisation in everyday walks of life are premised on the idea that the profit motive is a strong driving force for competence, but fails to take into account that the profit driven companies are first and foremost driven on a model of governance which is a rejection of imperium in imperio, thus ensuring a means of management which allows for clear and effective action. No one creates a business with an imperium in imperio design. 

The modern system has managed to ingrain imperium in imperio not as a solecism, but as an unalloyed good. Institutions in unceasing conflict are assumed to balance out society and ensure no center in particular may hold total power…., Jouvenel’s great observation [was that] this division of power has led to continual and unceasing conflict between internal institutions using the concept of equality as a means of undermining competitors.

Bond, Chris A. “The Patron Theory of Politics.” The Journal of Neoabsolutism (blog), May 2, 2017. https://thejournalofneoabsolutism.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/36/.

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