Skip to content

Ignore The Ideologues

14 December 2012 @ 10:42

Several Libertarians [please note the capital ‘L’ for future reference] have come out in opposition to Right To Work laws.

Iain Murray posts about this over at The American Spectator and is worth quoting in full:

There’s been a lot of fuss recently from respected libertarian thinkers like J.D. Tuccille and Jonathan Adler about whether or not right to work laws are libertarian. They are offensive to the principle of freedom of contract, the argument goes, and so no right-thinking free marketeer should support them.

Up to a point, Lord Copper. Tuccille and co. are right that they are offensive to freedom of contract. Should an employer so wish, he should be able to enter in to an exclusive negotiating arrangement with a union and require that all his or her employees join that union if they want to have a job at that company.

So far so good. Yet the possibility of such arrangement does not exist. The default position of federal labor law is that if a union gains a simple majority of votes cast in a workplace (50 percent plus one), it is authorized as the exclusive bargaining representative for all workers in that bargaining unit, including those who voted against the union. This is also demonstrably unlibertarian.

States cannot overturn U.S. law. That is why, as my colleague Ivan Osorio explains, states pass right to work laws. They are the only practical option for those who find the framework damaging to worker freedom.

Yes, it would be better to repeal or reform the Wagner Act, but that is extremely unlikely to happen at present. Passage of right to work laws allows some relief from that oppressive statute and also makes the eventual reform of the Wagner Act much more likely. When enough states have passed right to work laws (there are currently 24, including Michigan) then there might be enough groundswell to overcome the entrenched opposition of the union bosses in D.C.

As CEI founder Fred Smith has said, when you are in enemy territory the route back to safety is not always a straight line.

I see such statutes as Right To Work laws as a holding action meant to minimize the damage caused by a force that, at this time, cannot be defeated. It is my understanding that this was the reasoning used by Robert Taft in his crafting of the Taft/Hartley Act.

Mr. Tuccille shows that he is a Libertarian rather than a libertarian — the distinction is important. It is the difference between an Ideologue and not being a slave to a system of ideas, not being an unyielding purist.

Ideologues are committed to their system of ideas and, therefore, carry said ideas to their logical ends [logic is neutral; it is merely a process of thinking and it is neither Good nor Evil in and of itself].

J.D. Tuccille and those who agree with him are slaves to abstract principles that were developed in the sterile laboratories of the mind, far away from Reality. Such creations are fragile – they can shatter at any moment – and must be protected from the messiness that is Real Life. Therefore, the Ideologue is compelled to follow the logic of his positions [and demand they be followed by everyone else] and that requires he delegitimize the views of those who disagree with them, because, if he doesn’t, the whole structure of his Ideology comes tumbling down. Such is the fate of anything created and developed in a vacuum.

The fact is: Life does not follow logic. It often defies it.

The Ideologue demands perfection because of the fragile nature of all ideas created away from Real Life. The trouble is: nothing in Life is perfect. Perfection can only ever be an aspiration for Human Beings.

Mr. Tuccille and those who agree with him make a fatal error when they enslave themselves to ideas rather than their own experience and, more importantly, the experience of those who have come before us.

In their pursuit of perfection, the Ideologues reject Right Reason, Prudence, Morality, and Tradition and set themselves up for the inevitable dissatisfaction and disappointment and depression [often sparking a descent into Nihilism]. As long as those results are restricted to the individuals who believe in the Ideology, that is fine. It is when they impose their Will To Power on others that they cause misery and death.


I turn to Russell Kirk to explain the difference between Libertarians and libertarians.

The small ‘l’ variety:

…a number of the men and women who accept the label “libertarian” are not actually ideological libertarians at all, but simply conservatives under another name. These are people who perceive in the growth of the monolithic state, especially during the past half century, a grim menace to ordered liberty; and of course they are quite right. They wish to emphasize their attachment to personal and civic freedom by employing this 20th century word derived from liberty. With them I have little quarrel – except that by so denominating themselves, they seem to countenance a crowd of political fantastics who “license they mean, when they cry liberty.”

The capital ‘L’s’:

…For the ideological libertarians are not conservatives in any true meaning of that term of politics; nor do the more candid libertarians desire to be called conservatives. On the contrary, they are radical doctrinaires, contemptuous of our inheritance from our ancestors.

They rejoice in the radicalism of Tom Paine; they even applaud those 17th century radicals, the Levellers and the Diggers, who would have pulled down all the land-boundaries, and pulled down, too, the whole framework of church and state. The libertarian groups differ on some points among themselves, and exhibit varying degrees of fervor. But one may say of them in general that they are “philosophical” anarchists in bourgeois dress. Of society’s old institutions, they would retain only private property. Th y seek an abstract Liberty that never has existed in any civilization – nor, for that matter, among any barbarous people, or any savage. They would sweep away political government; in this, they subscribe to Marx’s notion of the withering away of the state.

Cooperation Aids Prosperity. One trouble with this primitive understanding of freedom is that is could not possibly work in 20th century America. The American Republic, and the American industrial and commercial system, require the highest degree of cooperation that any civilization ever has known. We prosper because most of the time we work together – and are restrained from our appetites and passions, to some extent, by laws enforced by the state. We need to limit the state’s powers, of course, and our national Constitution does that – if not perfectly, at least more effectively than does any other national constitution. The Constitution of the United States distinctly is not an exercise of libertarianism. It was drawn up by an aristocratic body of men who sought “a more perfect union.” The delegates to the Constitutional Convention had a wholesome dread of the libertarians of 1786-1787, as represented by the rebels who followed Daniel Shays in Massachusetts. What the Constitution established was a higher degree of order and prosperity, not an anarchists’ paradise. So it is somewhat amusing to find some old gentlemen and old ladies contributing heavily to the funds of libertarian organizations in the mistaken belief that thus they are helping restore the virtuous freedom of the early Republic. American industry and commerce on a large scale could not survive for a single year, without the protections extended by government at its several levels.

Rousseau’s Disciples. ‘To begin with unlimited freedom,” Dostoevsky wrote, “is to end with unlimited despotism.” The worst enemies of enduring freedom for all may be certain folk who demand incessantly more liberty for themselves. This is true of a country’s economy, as of other matters. America’s economic success is based upon an old foundation of moral habits, social customs and convictions, much historical experience, and commonsensical political understanding. Our structure of free enterprise owes much to the conservative understanding of property and production expounded by Alexander Hamilton – the adversary of the libertarians of his day. But our structure of free enterprise owes nothing at all to the destructive concept of liberty that devastated Europe during the era of the French Revolution – that is, to the ruinous impossible freedom preached by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Our 20th century libertarians are disciples of Rousseau’s notion of human nature and Rousseau’s political doctrines….

So, when I refer to ‘libertarians’, I mean the former; when I write ‘Libertarians’, I mean the latter.

As Mr. Kirk points out, the former are really conservatives who, for whatever reason, do not wish to be labeled ‘conservative’. The latter are Ideologues who are just as dangerous as the Leftist versions.

UPDATE on 15DEC2012 at 1819…

Jeff Goldstein expands on his comment below and quotes from this post over at his joint.  Thanks, Visigoth.  And thanks to all of his readers who left comments of their own.

  1. 14 December 2012 @ 12:20 12:20

    Small l libertarians / minarchists are very closely associated with classical liberalism, itself these days more often referred to as “constitutional conservatism” — the New Left having appropriated “liberal” for its illiberalism. The lie of contemporary liberalism gives rise to these attempts to recalibrate labeling. When I first started blogging, I was called conservative by leftists even when I myself thought I was a classical liberal with a strong libertarian streak. I was shocked. But here we are: now I’m not only not the liberal I thought I was, but I’m a far right-wing fringe Hobbity extremists Visigoth. Who knew?

    • 14 December 2012 @ 19:34 19:34

      The Left love to throw language curve balls. I suppose we can’t blame them for stealing the term ‘Liberal’, after all, by the 1920’s and most especially by the 1930’s, the term ‘Progressive’ had become so rightfully discredited. Of course, the term ‘Progressive’ was adopted in the late 19th Century because the term ‘Socialist’ was so disliked in America.

      I suspect the ‘Liberal’ name was adopted for two main reasons: (1) it sounded so ‘open-minded’, ‘hip’, what we now label ‘cool’ and (2) what other term was left to the Left [‘Populist’ was seen by then as denoating Huey Long types]. Now that I think of it: they may have also favored the name because it offered a false historical connection to the Classial Liberals.

      I went through a Classical Liberal phase in the early and mid-1980’s, but I could never feel comfortable being one. The Conservative Impulse was too stong I guess. I always felt more at home with John Adams and the low-Federalists. Of course, I have always been a cynical SOB about my fellow men [and myself], so this may explain quite alot.

      But, I must say, I am quite pleased that I am now considered a Hobbit and will proudly declare that I am one of those crude Franks the Byzantines complained about [Charles Martel and Vlad The Impaler are heroes of mine, as is Charlemagne].

  2. Adobe_Walls permalink
    14 December 2012 @ 14:04 14:04

    I fail to see any benefits of one Utopian scheme over another I read Alder’s article found the fantasy view of how Labor Unionism actually works compared to today’s reality to be the only striking takeaway from that bit of tripe. Utopian Ideologies whether creating (Marxian and apparently big L Libertarianism) or restoring a past utopia as the Islamists wish will be the death of us.

  3. Ernst Schreiber permalink
    14 December 2012 @ 17:17 17:17

    So. Any thoughts on what Kirk would say about Hayek’s conscious rejection of both the conservative label and ideological Libertarianism?

    • 14 December 2012 @ 20:28 20:28

      From my readings of Russell Kirk, he seemed to have the attitude that Mr. Hayek was guilty of a small flaw in his usally near-flawless Right Reason.

      -From The Politics Of Prudence:

      Incidentally, although Dr. F. A. Hayek abjured the term “conservative” along with the terms “liberal” and “libertarian”, nevertheless he acknowledged his discipleship to both Burke and Tocqueville, calling himself an Old Whig, as did Burke; so perhaps he was more conservative than he pretended to be.

      Having studied Mr. Kirk for over twenty years, I’d say he was gently chiding the good Doctor with that paragraph.

      -From the same book:

      …Both Dr. F.A. Hayek and your servant have gone out of their way, from time to time, to declare that they refuse to be tagged with this label [Libertarian]. Anyone much influenced by the thought of Edmund Burke and of Alexis de Tocqueville – as are both Professor Hayek and this commentator – sets his face against ideology; and libertarianism is a simplistic ideology, relished by one variety of the folk whom Jacob Burckhardt called “the terrible simplifiers.”

      We all, I think seek the best possible label for ourselves, one that succinctly expresses in one or two words how we wish to be though of. In my case, I like to say that I’m an 18th Century Conservative because I find I agree with people like John Adams and Edmund Burke more than I do with a lot of modern conservative philosophers.

      • 15 December 2012 @ 11:57 11:57

        John Adams is actually one of the Classical Liberals. The stuff that came from Jeremy Bentham has little in common with the Classical Liberals that founded this country. What used to be classical Liberalism, however, has become modern conservatism. The problem we have to day is that the Gramsciians have made their march through the institutions and, combined with radical feminism, has basically taken over the country.

        My son, who holds an MSEE, and is unmarried, although he would really like to rectify that situation, is seeing just how deadly feminism is. A saying, usually attributed to an Indian, say “no nation is defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” With radical feminism (as opposed to the traditional family feminism) the women are being advanced and men are being held back. As a result women, more and more, are deferring marriage because they are finding they are unable to marry up, and they are taught to compete with men. Those of us who are married know that competitive women are death to marriage.

        One major factor in Mittens loss was the loss of single women. Single women vote for leftists because they are looking for someone to take the place of a husband they likely will never have. My son has been through 3 women in less than 18 months and dropped all three in disgust when they started playing power games with him.

        I wish my son much luck, but I’ve had to tell him, with a great deal of sadness, that it is likely he will never find an American girl worth marrying.

  4. 15 December 2012 @ 00:28 00:28

    I doubt that anyone can choose any political – ideological label and actually sustain wearing it for a lifetime. So many variables that change as one ages and sees things differently from just scant years before. So I choose the broadest label possible; I am, for the most part, not evil.

  5. Ernst Schreiber permalink
    15 December 2012 @ 21:27 21:27

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Kirk.

    Quartermaster, I like Spengler’s version of that proverb

    “Universal Law #8: A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women

    and, of course:

    “Universal Law #9 A country isn’t beaten until it sells its women, but it’s damned when it’s women sell themselves.

    • 15 December 2012 @ 22:09 22:09

      And, feminists do sell themselves. It’s inherent to there damnable philosophy.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: