Why Does Capitalism Now Prefer the Left?

The old bourgeois capitalism, in the dialectical phase, preferred the culture of the Right, with its nationalism, its disciplinary authoritarianism, its patriarchy, its alliance with the altar and its values, at that time functional to the reproduction of the mode of production.

Today, the post-bourgeois turbo-capital of globalization, of the free market and free desire, in the absolute-totalitarian phase, prefers the culture of the Left, with its celebration of anthropological deregulation and of the unlimited openness of the imaginary and of real borders, with its dogmatics of the de-sovereignization of the States and the falsely rebellious deconstruction of the old bourgeois norms. Therein lies—in Preve’s words—the “profound affinity between leftist culture and the fact of globalization.”

Right-wing capitalism, of nationalism, discipline, patriarchy, religion and compulsory military service, gives way to the new leftist capitalism—that is, to progressive neoliberalism—of cosmopolitanism, consumerist permissiveness, post-family individualism and ERASMUS as the new “compulsory military service” for the education of the new generations in the values of precariousness and nomadism, of openness and deregulated enjoyment.

The order of the hegemonic discourse managed by the heralds of the culture of the champagne-Left, on the one hand, celebrates globalization as a natural and intrinsically good reality. On the other hand, with a symmetrical movement, it delegitimizes as dangerous ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions; everything that in various ways calls it into question. However, as Preve has suggested, it would be enough to “gesturally reorient” the gaze to gain a different perspective, from below and for those from below. Instead of “globalization,” we should speak of American-centric capitalist imperialism without borders. And instead of ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions, we should speak of legitimate national and cultural resistance to the falsely humanitarian violence of capitalist globalization of misery and homologation.

It is what Nancy Fraser has called “progressive neoliberalism,” synthesizing well the honeymoon between the class fanaticism of the market economy and the liberal-libertarian instances of the “artistic critique” of the new Left referent in struggle against any figure of tradition and limit, of community and identity, of people and transcendence. The 1960s substitution of the Marxian revolutionary, who fights against capital, for the Nietzschean hooligan rebel, who transvalues the old bourgeois values, provokes this inclined plane that leads to the paradoxical present condition: “the right to reefer” and the “surrogate womb” are conceived by the neo-Left as more important and emancipatory than any act of transformation of the world, or of taking a stand against the neoliberal exploitation of labor, colonial exterminations and imperialist wars hypocritically presented as “peace missions.”

Herein lies the deception of “civil rights,” a noble title used entirely improperly by progressive neoliberalism to: a) divert attention from the social issue and labor rights; and b) lead the Left and the dominated classes to the assumption of neoliberal points of view, for which the only struggles worth fighting are those for the individualistic liberalization of customs and consumption (we repeat, “civil rights” liberal Newspeak calls them), along with the necessary export, by missile, of those rights to areas of the planet not yet subsumed under the free market and its progressive neoliberalism.

Particularly in philosophy, the relativistic and anti-metaphysical nihilism of postmodernist “weak thought” is presented idealiter as the pinnacle of anti-conformism, when in reality it is the ideal Weltanschauung to justify the foundationless society of the liberal-nihilistic globalization of the relativistic fundamentalism of the commodity form. The individualistic liberalization of lifestyles is based on the philosophy of postmodern relativism, thanks to which values and “the immutable”—to say it with Emanuele Severino—are dissolved, and everything becomes “relative,” that is, in exclusive relation to the desires of consumption of the desiring subject.

Nihilistic relativism and anti-veritative utilitarianism are the ideal forma mentis for the liberal-market cosmos, since they imply that all representations can be equally useful, as long as they do not conflict with the market and, in this way, favor it. The postmodernist Left finds its clearest expression in the philosophical work of Richard Rorty—convinced that leftist thought is based on the “ironic” deconstruction of absolutes and metaphysical foundations—and in the apparently very different thought of Slavoj Žižek, a bizarre example of “postmodern Marxism” that, in addition to transforming Marx and Hegel into trash phenomena, ends up delegitimizing resistance to Atlanticist globalization as totalitarian and terrorist.

Gianni Vattimo’s “weak thought” itself, regardless of its ultimate objectives in an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sense—otherwise in contradiction with its basic philosophical presuppositions—owes its success not least to its high degree of compatibility with the new liquid and post-metaphysical structure of capitalism. Theorizing the “weakening” of the fundamental metaphysical and truthful structures, Vattimo outlined, back in the 1980s of the “short century,” the new ideological frame of reference of absolute-totalitarian commercialism, effectively confirming Jameson’s thesis about the nature of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism.

Turbo-capitalist society is no longer based on supposed transcendent truths (Christian religion) or on correspondence with human nature (Greek philosophy). It is based, on the contrary, solely on the verification of the correct capitalist reproduction actually given. For this reason, the turbo-capitalism of the global market society expresses itself economically in utilitarianism and philosophically in relativistic nihilism. As foreshadowed by Preve and as we ourselves emphasized in Difendere chi siamo (2020), the turbo-capitalist society needs homines vacui and post-identitarians, consumers without identity and without critical spirit. And it is the leftism of sinistrash that zealously produces the ideal anthropological profile for capitalist globalization, the postmodern and “open-minded” homo neoliberalis, that is, “empty” of all content and ready to receive whatever the production system wants from time to time to “fill” it with.

In fact, post-metaphysical turbo-capitalism knows no moral, religious or anthropological limits to oppose to the integral advent of exchange value as the only accepted value: the ideal subject of turbo-capitalism—homo neoliberalis—is, then, the left-wing individual, engaged in rainbow battles for the whims of consumption and disinterested in social battles for work and against imperialism; in a word, he is the post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist Nietzschean Superman, bearer of an unlimited will of consumerist power, economically right-wing, culturally left-wing and politically center-wing. It is, to stay in the lexicon of philosophy, the realization of the “protagoric man,” whose subject—understood as a desiring individual is—πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον—”measure of all things.” Thus, politics itself becomes, for the new Left, a struggle against all the limits that in various ways hinder the realization of the subjective desires of that protagoric man.

Moreover, the Left oriented individual is the ideal subject of turbo-capital, since tendentially—let us think mainly of the generation of 1968ers—he is a figure disappointed by the proletarian and communist “illusions.” And, eo ipso, he provides a depressive psychological basis in the name of “disenchantment” (Entzauberung); almost as if he were an ideal “figure” of the Phenomenology of Spirit, historicist disenchantment; that is to say, the loss of faith in the advent of the redeemed society is dialectically invested in the acceptance—depressive or euphoric—of the planetary reification of the neoliberal order. The post-modern can rightly be understood as the fundamental figure of the rationalization of disenchantment and reconciliation with the nihilism of capital elevated to the only possible world, with the addition of the definitive decline of belief in emancipatory “grand narratives.”

For this reason, the liberal new Left also presents itself as a “postmodern Left,” the guardian of relativistic nihilism and the disenchantment of the end of faith in the great narratives of overcoming capitalism: the “strong thought,” veritative and still radically metaphysical of Hegel and Marx, is abandoned by the new Left in favor of the “weak thought” of a Nietzsche reinterpreted in a postmodern key as a sulphurous “hammerer” of values and of the very idea of truth, and as a theorist of the Superman with an unlimited consumerist will to power.

As for relativistic nihilism, which the neo-Nietzschean Left celebrates as “emancipatory” with respect to the metaphysical and veritative pretensions of the Absolutes, this is precisely the foundation of capitalist disempowerment, which turns everything relative to the nihil of the commodity form and, neutralizing the very idea of truth, annihilates the basis of the critique of falsehood and of the insurrection against injustice. Nihilism does not lead to the emancipation of the multiplicity of lifestyles, as Vattimo believes, but rather leads to the disenchanted acceptance of the steel cage of techno-capitalism, within which differences proliferate in the very act with which they are reduced to articulations of the commodity form. From this point of view, Foucault also tends to be “normalized” and assimilated by the neo-Left, which has elevated him to the category of postmodern critic of the inevitable nexus between truth and authoritarian power. And, thus, they make liberation coincide with the abandonment of any pretension to truth.

As for disenchantment, it coincides with the profile of the “last man” thematized by Nietzsche. Der lezte Mensch, “the last man,” becomes aware of the “death of God” and the impossibility of the redemption in which he had also believed, and reconciles himself with meaninglessness, judging it as an irredeemable destiny. This anthropological and cultural profile finds timely confirmation in the existential adventure of the “generation of 1968” and of Lyotard himself, the theorist of the Postmodern Condition. He lost his original faith in socialism (he was a militant of the Marxist group Socialisme ou Barbarie) and reconverted to capitalist nihilism, lived as an inescapable steel cage but with consented spaces of individual freedom (in a rigorously alienated and marketized form, ça va sans dire). For all these reasons, postmodernism remains a philosophy of the rationalization of disenchantment and, at the same time, of the conversion to the acceptance of techno-capitalist nihilism understood as an emancipatory opportunity.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Cut with the Kitchen Knife, collage by Hannah Höch (1889-1978); created in 1919.

End of the Right and the Left: Triumph of Turbo-Capitalism

Following the “adventures of dialectics,” as Merleau-Ponty called them, the transition to turbo-capitalism (or absolute-totalitarian capitalism) can be interpreted as the historical transition from a form of capitalism characterized by the presence of two classes (the bourgeois and the proletarian) to an unprecedented form of “post-class” capitalism, which is no longer distinguished by the existence of classes in the strict sense (as subjectivity in se and per se) and, at the same time, is characterized by generating maximum inequality. This evolutionary process has also determined the profound reason for the obsolescence of the Right-Left dichotomy, “two now useless words.”

By “post-classist” capitalism, i.e., literally “classless,” we should not understand a mode of production devoid of individual and collective differences of knowledge, power, income and consumption. In fact, these differences increase exponentially in the context of neoliberal cosmopolitization (whose mot d’ordre is precisely the slogan “Inequality”). But not forming, in se and per se, “classes” as conscious subjectivities and bearers of cultural and ideal differences. For as “classes,” in se and per se, neither the national-popular Servant nor the global-elitist Lord can be taken into consideration. Paradoxical as it may seem, just when (Berlin, 1989) capital begins to become more classist than ever and to give rise to more radical inequalities than those previously experienced, classes understood as groups endowed with “in-se-ness” and “per-se-ness” become eclipsed.

More concretely, the proletarians do not cease to exist, and even grow in number, because of the increasingly asymmetrical concentration of capital. But they no longer possess the antagonistic “class consciousness” and, strictly speaking, the proletariat itself becomes a “precariat,” condemned to flexibility and nomadism, to mobility and the breaking of all solid ties, according to the new systemic needs of turbo-capitalism. The bourgeois class, for its part, loses its unhappy consciousness and, along with it, also its material condition of existence. It becomes proletarianized and, since 1989, gradually plunges into the abyss of precariousness.

While the capitalist system, in its dialectical phase, was characterized by the division into two classes and two opposing political areas, it was, ab intrinseco, fragile. It was, in fact, crisscrossed by contradictions and conflict, as manifested in unhappy bourgeois consciousness, in proletarian struggles for the recognition of labor, in future-centric utopias of world reorganization, and last but not least, in the “redemptive” program of the Left (whether socialist-reformist, or communist-revolutionary). Hegelianly, capital found itself in its own being-other-of-itself, in its own self-estrangement which it had to dialectically “overcome” in order to be able to fully coincide with itself in the form of overcoming its own negation.

Capital, like the Substance about which Hegel writes, coincides with the movement of self-position and with the process of becoming other-of-itself-with-itself. It is, therefore, self-constitutive equality after the division. To say it again with Hegel, it is the becoming equal to itself from its own being-other. Its essence is not the abstract Selbständigkeit, immobile equality with oneself, but “becoming equal to oneself”: identity “with oneself” is not given, but is achieved as a result of the process. For this reason, like the Spirit theorized by Hegel, Capital can also be understood as das Aufheben des seines Andersseyn, “overcoming one’s own being other.” By developing according to the rhythm of its own Begriff, that is to say—following the Science of Logic—as an ontological reality in dialectical development, capitalism produces an overcoming of both the antagonistic classes, and of the Right-Left dichotomy and, in perspective, of any other dialectical element capable of threatening its reproduction.

In specie, this process, along the slope that runs from 1968 to 1989 and from there to the present, develops—as Costanzo Preve has shown—subsuming under capital the whole sphere of antagonisms and contestations, both from the Right (in primis cultural traditionalism and the protests of the petty bourgeoisie against proletarianization), and—above all—from the Left, whether democratic, socialist or communist (Keynesian reformism, redistributive practices, welfarism, revolutionary praxis, utopia of egalitarian reorganization of society). Right and Left are dialectically “overcome” (aufgehoben), in the Hegelian sense. And they are transformed into abstractly opposed and concretely interchangeable parts of capitalist reproduction. They appear as poles which, alternating in the management of the status quo, deny the alternative. And they deceive the masses about the existence of a plurality that, in reality, has already been resolved forever in the predetermined triumph of the articulated single party of turbo-capitalism.

For this reason, the overcoming of the adversarial Right-Left pair should be understood neither as the simple result of a “betrayal” by the leaders of the Left, nor as a subtle contemporary attempt by the radical Right to infiltrate the “world of the good guys.” It is, on the contrary, a process in actu coessential to the dialectical logic of capital development; and in synthesis, the inability to correctly interpret the real context, constitutes the error of the still generous and naive hermeneutic attempts of the old surviving Marxism; still guided by the illusory pretension of superimposing on turbo-capitalism the schemes of the previous dialectical framework now dissolved, thus falling into the theater of the absurd; a theater of the absurd on whose stage the conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continues to be represented, and consequently, the Left can be “re-founded” through a return to the unjustly forgotten past—when the naked truth is that the really existing conflict, today, is that between “above” and “below,” between “the top” of the financial oligarchy and “the bottom” of the middle classes and the workers, more and more reduced to misery.

The Left cannot re-founded itself mainly for two reasons: a) the historical framework has mutated (which, therefore, requires new philosophical-political paradigms that understand and operatively contest capitalist globalization and progressive neoliberalism); b) it harbors from its origin in a part of itself—as Jean-Claude Michéa has shown—a double fundamental vulnus: 1) the conception of progress as a necessary break with traditions and with preceding ties, i.e., the decisive element that will unfailingly lead it to adhere to the rhythm of neoliberal progress; and 2) the enlightenment individualism inherited from the Enlightenment, which necessarily leads to neoliberal competitive monadology. The defense of individual value against the society of the Ancien Règime is inverted in capitalist individualism and its monadological anthropology, just as the overthrow of traditions en bloc generates the integration of the individual no longer in the egalitarian community, but in the global market of consumer goods.

The foundation of absolute-totalitarian capitalism, in the socio-economic context, is no longer the division between the bourgeoisie on the Right and the proletariat on the Left. And it is not even, politically, the antithesis between Right and Left. The new fundamentum of global-capitalism is the non-classist and omni-homologizing generalization of the commodity form in all spheres of the symbolic and the real. Precisely because it is absolute and totalitarian, capitalism overcomes and resolves—in the capitalist sense, it is understood—the divisions that threaten in various ways its reproduction. For this reason, turbo-capitalism is neither bourgeois nor proletarian. Nor is it right-wing or left-wing. In fact, it has overcome and resolved these antitheses, valid and operative in its previous dialectical phase.

With the advent of turbo-capitalism, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are “surpassed” and “dissolved”—not “in se” and “per se,” as Hegel would say—into a new postmodern plebs of individualized and resilient consumers, who consume commodities with stupid euphoria and endure with disenchanted resignation the world subsumed under capital; that is, a world increasingly ecologically uninhabitable and anthropologically dehumanized. Hence the society of Narcissus, the postmodern god of selfies, of “self-portraits” of sad people who immortalize themselves smiling.

Similarly, Right and Left are “overcome” and “dissolved” in a bipolar homogeneity, articulated according to the now treacherous alternation without alternative of a neoliberal Right dyed in pink and a neoliberal Left dyed in blue. They do not fight for a different and perhaps opposing idea of reality, based on different orders of values and on their irreconcilable Weltanschauungen. On the contrary, they compete to realize the same idea of reality, the one sovereignly decided by the market and the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, with respect to which they now play the role of simple butlers, albeit with livery of a different color. At the top, on the control bridge, there is a new post-bourgeois and post-proletarian class, which is neither Right nor Left, neither bourgeois nor proletarian. It is the class of the cosmopolitan financial patriciate which, more precisely, is of the Right in the economy (competitiveness without frontiers and integral commodification of the world), of the Center in politics (alternation without alternative of the center-right and the center-left, equally neoliberal), and of the Left in culture (openness, anthropological deregulation and progressivism as philosophie du plus jamais ça).

In short, the transit towards the new figure of absolute-totalitarian capitalism develops along a trajectory that has accompanied us from 1968 to the new Millennium, crossing the epochemachend date of 1989. In fact, from 1968 until today, capitalism has dialectically “overcome” (aufgehoben) the contradiction which it itself had provoked in the antithetical-dialectical phase, represented by the double nexus of opposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and between Right and Left. Thus, absolute-totalitarian capitalism of today is characterized on the one hand, by the eclipse of the symbiotic link between the two instances of the bourgeois “unhappy consciousness” and the proletarian “struggles for the recognition of servile labor;” and on the other, by the elimination of the polarity between Right and Left, now converted into the two wings of the neoliberal eagle. Turbo-capital has “overcome” those antitheses, proper to the moment of the “immense power of the negative” (that is, of the being-other-of-itself), and has “subsumed” them under itself, reconquering its own identity with-itself at a higher level than in the thetic phase, as the fruit of the transit through its own self-estrangement.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Mural at Carmelo Street, in Barcelona, Spain, by the anonymous street artist, Blu; undated. The full mural.

Moralism and Immoralism

In an effort to better understand the notion of the individual, often expressed in libertarian discourse, we give here a fresh translation of an essay by Georges Palante (1862—1925), the French philosopher and sociologist. In this essay, Palante articultes the notion of the individual in relation to morality and immorality. Palante was also the first to read Nietzsche outside the reactionary model often employed for the German philosopher. Palante’s work is little known in the English-speaking world, hence also the necessity of this essay.

The spread of Nietzscheanism has given rise to a new problem: that of Immoralism. By this word, we mean a reversal of the traditional scale of moral values; a disregard for the Christian, altruistic and gregarious virtues: obedience, benevolence, mercy, even-handed justice, circumspection in social relations, seeking the esteem of one’s neighbor, submission to the opinion of the herd; and on the contrary, a glorification of the instincts of rebellion and aggression, of combativeness and audacity, of conquest and prey, of harshness and cruelty; an affirmation of triumphant, brutal Human Energy, ruthless to oneself and to others.

At last, a new sound resounded; “the voice of the cicadas eternally singing their old song” fell silent in astonishment. Until now, the most daring moral innovators, including Schopenhauer and Guyau, have upset old principles and provoked many a hue and cry of horror. But after causing much turmoil and commotion, in the end they came to more or less the same practical conclusions as their predecessors: they always restored the Christian virtues: for Schopenhauer, Pity, and for Guyau, Altruism.

Christian morality basically inspired all the morality of the century that has just ended. Monsieur Rémy de Gourmont has finely noted this. The 19th century, despite its airs of freedom, was a religious century. “Wise as a wise child, it never withdrew its hand from the hand of its good mother: religion.” Tolstoy closed this cycle of Thought.

Opposite and antithesis: Nietzsche and Immoralism. The nature of immoralism in Nietzsche’s thought is complex. First and foremost, there is the anti-Christian feeling of a diminution of humanity caused by Christian moral culture. Second, Heine—a precursor of Immoralism—had already expressed this sentiment in almost Nietzschean terms. “We feel,” he says, “a great weakness in our limbs: the holy vampires of the Middle Ages have sucked so much precious blood from us!… We will have to offer matter great expiatory sacrifices so that it forgives us our old offenses. It would not even be a bad idea to institute sensualist festivals and compensate matter for its past sufferings; for Christian spiritualism, incapable of annihilating it, has withered it at every opportunity; it has belittled the noblest pleasures; the senses have been reduced to hypocrisy… We must clothe our women in new clothes and new feelings, and spend all our thoughts in the smoke of perfumes, as after the ravages of the plague” (Heine, De l’Allemagne, Volume I).

Nietzschean Immoralism, too, is precisely the rehabilitation of concern for “things to come,” instead of mystical daydreaming lost in the clouds. It is a horror of the hypocritical disregard for “things to come,” of the perpetual lie that makes us assign pretexts and distant reasons to all our actions: for example, the procreation of children to voluptuousness.

Nietzsche deserves to be called, like Goethe, “a great Pagan.” But Nietzsche’s Paganism is a special kind of Paganism. This Nietzschean paganism goes far back into the past, farther back than that Classical antiquity we perhaps appreciate for its already Christian aspects, for its Socratism and Platonism, precursors of the Church Fathers. Nietzsche’s paganism goes beyond, to the distant source of the initial energies of the Greek race, to that mysterious Dionysian spring where Nietzsche sees the triumphant affirmation of Nature and Life. “What is astonishing about the religiosity of the ancient Greeks,” says Nietzsche, “is the unbridled abundance of gratitude they exuded: they were a very noble species of men, who had such an altitude before nature, before life! Later, when the populace had the upper hand in Greece, terror emboldened religion: Christianity was in the making” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, § 49).

Today, fallen, we are so far removed from this primitive song of triumph of the instincts, that we can hardly picture it. And yet, who knows? Perhaps the law of eternal return is bringing us back to the threshold of renewed vitality. Let us face it, this renewal of vitality—at least those of us who are up to it!

Nietzsche’s immoralist Song, a reminiscence of the ancient Dionysian spirit, rises into the air with the pantheistic serenity of the Goethean song, the song of which Heinrich Heine said: “Spinoza’s doctrine has emerged from its mathematical chrysalis and is fluttering around us in the form of a Goethean song…. Hence the fury of the orthodox and pietists against this song. They try to grasp with their pious bear paws this butterfly that keeps escaping them… For nothing is so lightly winged, so ethereal, as a song by Goethe” (Heine, De l’Allemagne, Volume I.). Similarly, in the dry, fine air of the Midi, in the Italian limpidezza (recall Nietzsche’s love of the Midi, of Bizet, whom he calls the Midi of music), the philosopher’s fine pagan sensuality laughs at the moral heaviness of Kantian and post-Kantian clericalism.

For Immoralism sees in Kantism and its extensions no more than a disguise for the Religious Imperative and, willingly, imitating Swift’s irreverent manner in his The Tale of the Tub, it would show Kant once again re-tailoring the old Christian cloak, already trimmed by Peter of Rome, by John Calvin and by Martin Luther.

The moralist also rejects, and all the more so, the self-righteousness and moral pedantry of the zealots of bourgeois moralism. Indeed, nothing can match the platitude of this apotheosis of comfortable and convenient bourgeois virtues, which their followers have the effrontery to cover with the noble flag of the categorical imperative. This is the maximum debasement of Christianity. “Christianity,” says Nietzsche, “has left aside God, Freedom and Immortality; all it has retained is a precept of social benevolence and decent living…. This is the euthanasia of Christianity…”

But democratic and demagogic moralism finds no more favor with Immoralism than bourgeois moralism. Heinrich Heine had already noted the affinity between moral Kantism and authoritarian democracy. In De l’Allemagne, we recall the witty comparison he drew between Kant’s moralism (basically a shaggy, despotic clericalism) and Robespierre’s suspicious, guillotine-like moralism. There is, however, a difference to be noted on this point between Heine and Nietzsche. Heine believed in democracy as much as Atta Troll could believe in anything. Nietzsche, on the other hand, sees the democratic idea as nothing more than an extension of the Christian ideology, and therefore, like it, an impoverishment of human energy. He identifies democracy with the gregarious spirit.

[We do not insist on the intellectual and sentimental kinship between Heine and Nietzsche. This kinship exists to some degree. Both are passionate, restless, slightly sickly glorifiers of Life. Nietzsche would agree with Heine: “I am the most faithful son of Life” (Romanzero)].

This is where the radical individualism that lies at the heart of Nietzschean immoralism emerges. Basically, what Nietzsche hates in all Christian or Kantian moralism is Herd morality, the annihilation of the Individual, the Isolated, the Independent, the Original; it is the negation of individual egoism in favor of the hypocritical, preachy egoism of groups. “At present,” says a character in a German novel, an interpreter of Nietzsche’s immoralist theories, “at present those who rule are the least free men and the most incapable of freedom; and if there are a few vigorous intellects among them, they pretend to share Universal Slavery, so as not to risk otherwise setting a dangerous example to the herd. But the time is coming when it will truly be free men who rule.”

The teleologies that form the infrastructure of all Christian moralism, Kantian or otherwise, all have the more or less roundabout consequence of subordinating the individual to the social principle. In the past, this teleology was transcendent; in Kant, it still is, since it is basically God’s will that we fulfill by conforming to the Categorical Imperative. Since Kant, moralism has become naturalistic and scientific, but its fundamental purpose has not changed. For Jhering, for example, social conservation is the goal of law, the supreme law of the individual. Thus, Moralism may change its costume, but its essence remains the same: the subordination of the Individual to the ends of the social group, and through it to the ends of the Race and the Species. And yet what is the social group, if not an abstraction? What is the Species itself, from the point of view of a well-understood Darwinism, if not the result of an enormous accumulation of individual variations! More and more, in biology itself, the concept of Species is disappearing before the concept of Individual. Immoralism is therefore right to shake off the yoke of false teleologies and, in a revolution similar to that of Copernicus, put the Individual back where it belongs: at the center of things.

This is how we can identify these terms: Immoralism and Individualism. Immoralism is—and this is its true and profound moral and social meaning—the vindication of the rights of the Individual, of the freedom of the Individual, against the so-called rights and ends of society.

This is the starting point for judging Immoralism.

Basically, the problem lies in individual consciousness. It is a question of knowing which instincts in individual consciousness are truly profound, truly dominant, those that are destined to absorb the others.

For the philosopher, the problem of lmmoralism and morality is transformed, as Monsieur Fouillée strongly emphasized in his fine article in the Revue philosophique, into the ancient problem of the relationship between Egoism and Altruism A. Fouillée, “Les Jugements de Nietzsche sur Guyau,” December 1901). Nietzsche affirms the primacy and indestructibility of the instincts of struggle and prey, and their necessary role in the evolution of life; Guyau affirms the future gradual disappearance of egoism before altruism.

In our opinion, the question of which is primordial, egoism or altruism, is an indecipherable metaphysical enigma somewhat reminiscent of the question of whether the egg comes first or the chicken.

There is only one experimental way to solve this enigma. It would be to question individual consciences. But the answers would vary too widely. Napoleon and Francis of Assisi, Bakunin and Tolstoy would speak very different languages.

From a factual point of view, all that can be done is to observe the fundamental reducibility of certain types of human character. Despite transitions and nuances, they are found everywhere, and it is with good reason that Schopenhauer makes such a classification the foundation of his moral psychology. For Schopenhauer, egoism, malice and pity are the three fundamental human exemplars. In an admirable analysis, Schopenhauer emphasizes the difference between simple egoism and wickedness. The first principle,” concludes the philosopher, “is rather bestial; the second rather diabolical…. It is always one of these two that prevails, or the other, except where Mercy dominates… Hence the broad outlines of a moral classification of characters. Moreover, there is no man who does not fit into one of these three types” (Schopenhauer, Le Fondement de la Morale, p. 110).

The simple egoist, the wicked man who rejoices in the evil of others, and the helpful and generous man—these are the three types of humanity that each of us has encountered and experienced in life.

Monsieur Ribot, for his part, sets us on the path to a similar classification of human types, according to their moral dominance.

Going as far back into the problem of egoism and altruism as we can on the basis of facts, Monsieur Ribot points to two fundamental tendencies or directions within egoism itself: one destructive, the other constructive, one combative and aggressive, the other helpful and peaceful. Man can pour out the expenditure of his activity on things; he cuts, prunes, destroys, overturns; this is a destructive activity; he sows, plants, builds; this is a conservative or creative activity. It can be applied to animals or men; it insults, harms, mistreats, destroys; or it helps, heals, saves. Destructive activity is accompanied by pleasure, but pathological, because it is the cause of an evil; conservative or creative activity is accompanied by pure pleasure, which leaves no painful feeling after it” (Th. Ribot, Psychologie des sentiments, p. 287-238).

It seems to us that, on the basis of this psychological distinction, we could recognize two human types: one, where the aggressive and destructive tendency dominates; and one, where the opposite tendency dominates and asserts itself as the continuous fabric of individuality. Moreover, we find it difficult to regard the destructive type as pathological, if we give the word pathological its empirical meaning, which is synonymous with infrequent, uncommon; for in fact, this type seems to be very widespread in humanity, and probably about as widespread as the opposite type.

In our view, Schopenhauer’s classification of human traits into three types (simple egoism, malice, helpful kindness), or into two types (destructive and conservative or creative), must remain irreducible. If there are mixed, floating, inconsistent individualities, there are also, according to a remark by Monsieur Ribot, immutable types of character. “True character,” he says, “does not change” (Ibid., p. 39).

These characters, with their more vigorous expression, seem to personify in a particularly striking and symbolic way the various forces that stir in the depths of the will-to-live and introduce so much turmoil and tragic violence into the human drama.

We do not believe we can hope with Guyau that the day will come when wolves will become sheep, when moral unity will be achieved in humanity. Such moral unity would be neither possible nor even conceivable. It would be the very end of movement and life. Nietzsche, speaking of the sacrifice of lovers, one to the other, says that absolute renunciation on the part of both is impossible. “If the two lovers were to renounce themselves for love, the result would be I do not know what—perhaps the horror of emptiness” Nietzsche, The Gay Science, § 363). Perhaps the same applies to an ideal of absolute charity in humanity.

[It seems to us that the exact point on the Guyau-Nietzsche debate is given in the following passage by Mr. Jules de Gaultier: “Guyau found the equivalents of Duty in the need for expansion that results from an intense condensation of life, in a surfeit of strength eager to employ itself. Thus, in a noble way, he reconstituted the social virtues to which Christianity had assigned humble origins, rooted in feelings of weakness and resignation. Guyau can be criticized for remaining attached to an ideal too close to the one opened up by Christian perspectives and the culture developed by them. The future undoubtedly entails greater randomness, more risks and changes at sight, which will delight those who are no better satisfied than the old lethargic Eden, the humanitarian paradises of sociology. Nietzsche, in his hypotheses, has left more room for chance, by which he better satisfies our instinct to play (Jules de Gaultier, “État de la Philosophie en France,” Flegrea, Nov. 20, 1901)].

Faust left the question open: “I do not want to hear any more debates,” he said, “about whether in the world to come one still hates or loves, and whether in those distant spheres there is also an above and a below” (Faust, Part I).

The movement of life seems to indicate that these forces—egoism, wickedness, creative goodness—will eternally entangle their action; they will multiply their points of application; they will capitalize on their effects; they will widen to infinity the weft they weave on the noisy loom of time; but they will remain eternally immutable in their essence and also in the hearts and works of men.

The essay first appeared in Revue philosophique, September 1902.

Freedom as a Fetish

Paraphrasing Ernst Jünger, it seems undeniable that we are at the midnight hour of history, and that, the clock having already struck twelve, we contemplate in the twilight the contours of what has not yet been unveiled, or what is the same, in the words of Antonio Gramsci: “the old world is dying. The new is slow to appear. And in that chiaroscuro monsters emerge.” Engaged in a blind flight forward, we barely glimpse, from the desolation of wars and general bewilderment, a future without a proper name or defined features, which, when we try to apprehend it, fades away, ungraspable, in the mist of our own demons.

This midnight, an instant full of signifiers, and emptied of meanings, makes our fortunes emerge from the lack of intentions, and the randomness of the lack of reasons, resulting in living for the sake of living, beating around the bush, Macbeth’s ” petty pace from day to day;” the tale of a fool, full of noise and fury, signifying nothing.

A consequence, in fact, of having renounced some time ago to fight the battle of ideas, in exchange for the single thought that pays obeisance to the golden calf of profit and loss accounts and pursues the myth of commutative justice, based on social relations mediated by normative and contractual links, which, although they protect us to freely carry out individual transactions and mercantile interactions between people, overlook the personal and moral dimension of human interactions; dignity and rights in personal relationships, in order to, turning Wittgenstein on his head (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1.1), enthusiastically accept that the world is the totality of things, not of facts, which we detest to the point of fabricating tailor-made “alternative facts.”

It would seem that we have taken Theodor Adorno so literally (“after Auschwitz there is no place left for poetry”) that we have immersed ourselves in legalistic prose to normativize the moral, perhaps because, as Erich Fromm said, we take refuge in political structures and legal systems that provide us with peace of mind by sparing us from personally facing the consequences of ethical judgments, and so we let the asepsis of the civil code be the guide of our social behavior.

We have reached, in short, a state of affairs whose crux was already vehemently answered by Donoso Cortés in his important speech of 1849 (“Discurso sobre la dictadura”), in which he replied to Don Manuel Cortina, then Minister of the Interior, that, faced with the litany of the Government of the time of “legality, everything for legality, everything for legality, legality always, legality in all circumstances, legality in all circumstances; legality on all occasions,” he placed “society, everything for society, everything for society, society always, society in all circumstances, society on all occasions.”

Underlying this statement of Donoso’s principles, so applicable to today, is the conviction that “formal freedoms” are insufficient to maintain stability and justice in society, and that a legal codification cannot serve as a moral basis against injustice and inequality because of its “lack of spirituality” (Geistlosigkeit).

We find, one hundred years later, this same concern for morality as the foundation of life and society in the work of the Madrid philosopher George Santayana, Dominations and Powers, in which, following Donoso, Santayana questions formalist liberalism, centered on adherence to abstract principles and rules, which, by emphasizing the notion that the individual and his rights prevail over society and its needs, weaken cohesion and collective well-being. The Englishman Scruton more recently maintained the same thesis as Donoso and Santayana, affirming that the value of individual freedom is not absolute, but is subject to other higher values that arise directly from the sense of belonging to a continuous and pre-existing social order, which is fundamental in determining the virtue of our actions.

There is in all these assertions a more or less veiled criticism of Pelagianism, the thesis that “the possibility of defection from the good belonged to the essence or perfection of freedom,” or what is the same, the sacralization of the freedom of the will, safeguarding the right of each individual to exercise self-determination, deciding what is morally right, and the conditions for satisfying appetites—rational or irrational—since, whether these are in accordance with morality or transgress it, every personal choice is an expression of free will. This position contrasts radically with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which holds that freedom makes man a moral subject, responsible for his actions, and that the conscious and deliberate decisions we make as individuals are susceptible to positive or negative ethical judgments (Catechism of the Catholic Church, PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST. In: The vocation of man: life in the spirit. Chapter One: The dignity of the human person. Article 3: The freedom of man. Paragraph 1734).

This essential principle is made clear in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum, expressly rejecting the idea that consent between employer and worker is sufficient with respect to wages or working conditions: the worker’s freedom does not lie in being able to accept an agreed wage, but in receiving fair remuneration for work that corresponds to his dignity, i.e., “To consent to any treatment which is calculated to defeat the end and purpose of his being is beyond his right.”

We can thus clearly glimpse the ultimate intentionality of the title of Santayana’s book, Dominations and Powers: Starting from this allusion to the angelic order, in which the Dominations form part of the hierarchy of celestial beings, and the Powers play the role of maintaining cosmic equilibrium, as well as overseeing the boundary between the spiritual and physical worlds, Santayana emphasizes the Virtues, which in the aforementioned celestial hierarchy represent moral excellence; purpose, and adherence to universal ethical principles. This position contrasts radically with the premises of Pelagianism already alluded to, on the one hand, and Lutheranism, on the other, insofar as both reaffirm the human capacity to discern religious truth and morality independently.

On the contrary, the philosopher from Madrid argues that genuine values live only in the vertical perspective, in a deeper dimension of human experience that cannot be reduced to a mere by-product of aggregate subjective constructions, but have a profound and universal nature, which Santayana connects with the concept of virtue.

Santayana, who abhors the idolatry of reason and the cult of individual autonomy (which is not without fundamentalisms that advocate being free, even to stop being free, as long as it occurs within the framework of the law), stresses that this Pelagianism made political does not primarily aim at the pursuit of prosperity, but centers its focus on the pursuit of progress; a progress that is closely linked to individual freedom, which implies that each individual has the full capacity to make spontaneous and independent decisions to move in the direction he chooses, supported by those who share his vision, and free from coercion by those who do not.

Ironically, the myth of progress has become a dogma of secularism, endowed with a metaphysical perspective, based on the belief in following a teleological path in pursuit of a higher stage, whose benefits are renounced by those who voluntarily marginalize themselves by not following the direction prescribed by the determinism of transcendental freedom, hypostatized as ultimacy, as an end that dispenses with the use of moral means to achieve it. It is freedom as a fetish; freedom for freedom itself. Against this naïve idealism, Santayana argues that, on the contrary, it is the individual who claims unlimited power over his own life who alienates himself from virtue, because it is virtue, after all, that embodies shared ethical values, interwoven in reciprocity and social interdependence.

Turning again to Roger Scruton, it is worth noting that he, along with the Englishman Philip Blond, holds postulates basically analogous to those of Santayana, as regards the importance of cultivating institutions, culture and traditional values in order to reap the fruits of social cohesion and stability, just as strong roots ensure that the tree bears fruit, according to the popular Vietnamese saying, gốc có mạnh cây mới tốt.

All of these thinkers are supported in a more organic way by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, emphasizing that without these strong roots, without “social capital,” we fail to understand the underlying causes of social injustice, presenting it as an inevitable and immutable phenomenon that does not concern us, something that leads us to collective irresponsibility and indifference to inequity.

This attitude of detachment manifests itself in the need to justify our own inhumanity to society, rationalizing the lack of charity and compassion, attributing poverty to the fatalism of natural causes. We also tend to assign personal responsibility for misfortune to those who suffer from it, diverting attention from the social and economic structures we use to evade responsibility for their existence. Thus, not only do we tend to blame the most unfortunate, but in an exercise of manifest myopia, we allow impoverishment to become a socially acceptable form of precariousness based on mirages that are often accepted or even desired by those who, although vulnerable, are dazzled by the glitter of a superficially opulent technological society, built on illusory images, disconnected from human existence, behind which lurks a reality hostile to society.

In this regard, the Italian philosopher and thinker Danilo Castellano characterizes these mirages as the tendency to create an illusion of individual freedom and material well-being, disassociating these notions from the complex social interactions and responsibilities that make us human (Castellano, “Qué es el liberalismo,” in Verbo, 489-490(2010), pp. 729ff).

The Italian argues that the emphasis on subjectivism as an axiological foundation generates results contrary to the ideals it proclaims, since in practice, the exaltation of the drive to submit reality to the will in order to shape it according to subjective desires ends up making us too human, to the point of distancing us from the Aristotelian “rational animal” (Aristotle, Politics, 1253: “The human being is a ‘political animal’ because he has logos”: διότι δὲ πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ζῷον, δῆλον… λόγον δὲ μόνον ἄνθρωπος ἔχει τῶν ζῴων), in order to satisfy the irrational part of our nature, disintegrating along the way our human condition, reducing it to a set of disjointed impulses, which makes good Hume’s statement that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (A Treatise of Human Nature, 2.3.3 p., 415). But what this implies, in fact, is to separate desire from any other element, such as the good, reducing wanting to a purely instinctive force; unreflective, which is equivalent to equating wanting with power, thus distorting the capacity to want the good and to be able to desire it.

All of which ultimately leads to Nietzsche’s “will to power,” which focuses on seeking power for the sake of power itself, without the need to attain something additional such as truth or value. What is pursued is the ability to will and to have the capacity to desire more, which implies an increasing relationship between will and power—to seek more power in order to desire more. This notion includes wanting not only what is desired, but also the act of desiring itself, with the purpose of increasing the capacity to desire, or desire itself as a form of power.

None of this escaped the insightful Santayana, who noted that, although the ideal of the cult of reason does not lie in a return to nature, if the inherent premises of transcendental freedom are taken to their ultimate consequences; animals—especially non-gregarious ones—could be granted a status of perfect freedom, because these beings follow the dictates of their inner impulses completely and unrestrictedly, enjoy complete autonomy of consciousness and expression, and are intrinsically motivated by their own interests.

That is, they are precisely in that “state of radical independence and autonomy” to which Hobbes alluded, to justify the need to codify human relations by means of a social contract in which people give up much of their individual freedom in favor of sovereign government, in exchange for security and order necessary, for negative liberty and free trade.

Santiago Mondejar Flores is a consultant, lecturer and columnist on geopolitics and international political economy. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Invidia (Envy), by Giotto; painted in 1306.

Libertarian Autobiographies: Moving Toward Freedom in Today’s World

The following is an amended excerpt from Libertarian Autobiographies: Moving Toward Freedom in Today’s World, co-edited by Jo Ann Cavallo and Walter E. Block. The book gives voice to 80 libertarians from around the world who share their hopes, fears, expectations and achievements, in their efforts to acheive a freer world. Please consider supporting the work of Professors Cavallo and Block and purchase a copy of this inspiring work.

It is our fervent belief that libertarianism is the last best hope for humankind with regard to economics, liberty, justice, prosperity, peace, and thus even survival (pardon us for hyper-ventilating, but we maintain this is indeed the case). This belief of ours is predicated upon the crucial importance of the non-aggression principle (NAP): proper law should allow all people to engage in whichever acts they prefer, with the one exception being any behavior that violates this precept or any threat thereof. Thus, murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, fraud, and similar evil actions should be prohibited, and virtually everything else should be legally permitted.

But why assemble a collection of autobiographies penned by libertarians? Why not, instead, offer a collection of scholarly articles demonstrating the benefits of liberty? Many of the contributors to this volume have published just that sort of work on numerous occasions. Why not do so one more time? Although people may gain an understanding of this philosophy via rational argument, it cannot be denied that autobiographies, too, are important for the promotion of liberty. The personal touch may reach some people not approachable via any other means. Additionally, we all want to know the libertarian stories of people such as those who appear on these pages. Indeed, we find that libertarians have the most interesting stories to share because they often embrace this philosophy as the result of intense encounters with foundational texts or life-changing experiences.

One of the big “problems” we have with some of the best-known libertarians throughout history—such as John Locke, Lord Acton, Ludwig von Mises, Isabel Paterson, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, and Murray Rothbard—is that they never wrote an autobiography. Of course, if they had, alternative costs being what they are, they would likely not have been able to write other precious publications of theirs. But what about libertarians alive today? Would they be willing to share their stories? We already have the example of two volumes of libertarian autobiographies: Why Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace & Freedom (Cobden Press), with 54 autobiographies edited by Marc Guttman, and I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (Mises Institute), with 82 autobiographies edited by one of the co-editors of this present volume, Walter Block (available as a free pdf at https://mises.org/library/i-chose-liberty-autobiographies-contemporary-libertarians). Both volumes were published over a decade ago, however, in 2010. We wanted to learn more about the lives of contemporary libertarians not covered in these two volumes and of others who have emerged since the time of these publications.

We therefore reached out to a number of influential scholars, activists, professors, journalists, and cultural icons who have worked toward a freer society across the globe, inviting them to write a brief autobiography for this collection. We asked them to articulate, for example, what their lives and thoughts were before they embraced libertarianism; which people, texts, or events most influenced their intellectual formation; what experiences, challenges, tribulations, and achievements they have had as participants or leaders in this movement; and how this philosophy has affected their personal or professional lives.

A volume of autobiographies on the part of libertarians immediately raises the question of precisely what constitutes this political economic philosophy. In our “big-tent” view, it comprises several strands. They all have something in common, such as an appreciation for individual liberty, private property rights, the rule of law, and free enterprise, but there are also discernible differences. That is why if you get ten libertarians in a room and ask them a question, you’ll likely get eleven (or more!) different responses. In this volume, we invited libertarians across the political-philosophical spectrum, including (1) anarcho-capitalism; (2) minimal government libertarianism, or minarchism; (3) constitutionalism; (4) classical liberalism; (5) thick libertarianism. The contributors to this volume range over the five main viewpoints mentioned above, and also fill in the gaps between them. Their essays express different perspectives on many issues even while articulating the same core principles. In fact, it is our desire that their very differences of opinion on some matters will invite readers to think for themselves. What we have sought to present is a sampling of the myriad individual journeys toward libertarianism, however defined.

Although the majority of contributors to the volume live in the United States, we are grateful to the libertarians from around the world who accepted our invitation to share their stories. This volume thus includes voices from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

It is the hope and expectation of the editors that by bringing together a range of contemporary voices from outside the dominant left–right paradigm, this volume will contribute to the viewpoint diversity that is crucially needed in today’s public discourse. Moreover, these personal and intellectual journeys not only offer compelling insights into their individual authors and the state of the world in our lifetime, but may also serve as an inspiration for the next generation who will feel called upon to make our society a freer one.

Libertarian Party Votes

In the last election, in 2022, there were squeakers in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. There was a run-off in the latter case.

What do all three have in common besides being state voting Johnny-come-latelies? Members of the Libertarian Party played a role in all three.

Election results: Arizona Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 7:07 p.m. CST
Kelly* (D) 51.3%
Masters (R) 46.5%
Victor (Libertarian Party)2.2%
67% of the votes are now in

Election results: Nevada Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 6:57 p.m. CST
Laxalt (R) 49.9%
Cortez Masto* (D) 47.2%
None of these candidates 1.1%
Other candidates1.8%
77% of the votes are now in

Election results: Georgia Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 6:51 p.m. CST
Warnock (D)* 49.4%
Walker (R) 48.5%
Oliver (Libertarian Party) 2.1%
98% of the votes are now in

Let me explain, since there are some complications in this statement. First, Marc Victor is indeed a libertarian, and ran as such. He was polling at no less than 15% for a while. However, he officially dropped out of the race several weeks ago. He did so in favor of the Republican Blake Masters. Despite that fact, he still took in some 2.2% of the vote.

There is no formal Libertarian Party candidate listed on the Nevada results. However, “none of the above” reeks of libertarianism. That party is the only one to feature this option for its internal votes. Chase Oliver is indeed a member of the LP and was certainly heavily involved in the Georgia results. He is the sole reason for the December run-off.

If there were no libertarian presence in either of these three races, the majority of the votes garnered by the libertarians would have gone, heavily, to the Republicans, not the Democrats. My estimate is a 90% – 10% split in favor of the former. If true, Walker would now very likely be the declared winner of the Senate seat in Georgia. Something similar occurred in the last election in that state between Perdue (R), Ossoff (D) and Shane Hazel (LP). As well, without the Libertarian Party participation the Republican candidates in Arizona and Nevada would have been given a small but significant boost

Needless to say, the Republicans are more than just a little bit miffed (that is putting it pretty mildly) with the Libertarian Party. Stated Dov Fischer (not a spokesman for the GOP, but certainly a conservative in good standing):

“P.S. And thank you, Libertarian Party of Georgia, for once again denying the Republican conservative the 50.01 percent majority that could have secured a win for smaller government and less government interference in our lives, instead forcing a runoff to save the Democrat ‘progressives’ plans.”

I have some advice for them; it may not help at all this time around, but there are other elections coming up. I have been a member of the LP since 1969 and have run for office twice (you’ll never guess? No, I didn’t win either time); nonetheless I cannot speak officially for the LP. But I can certainly have my say. Free speech and all that.

Right now the Republicans give the back of their hands to the LP. They challenge their right to be on the ballot in the first place, and this costs the latter time, money and effort they would rather spend on getting out their message of free enterprise, private property rights, very limited government. Why not be nicer? Stop this harassment. Allow the LP to run unopposed in heavily Democratic districts, or for mayor of Duckberg, USA, population 300. In return, the LP would stop being the spoiler in races such as the three mentioned above (there are dozens more examples out there).

There is indeed precedent for this sort of thing in the US. For example, in New York State, the Democrats engaged with the Liberal Party as their junior partners, as did the Republicans, for the Conservative Party. I don’t say a deal of this sort can be consummated, but at least it bears thinking about. This sort of thing occurs in many other countries (Israel, Italy come to mind); why not here? Doesn’t a party that reliably garners 1% of the vote and sometimes double and triple that deserve some respect? The Libertarian Party is the Rodney Dangerfield of politics.

To be fair, I must say that the LP is not always closer to the Rs than the Ds. During the VietNam war, the very opposite occurred. It takes place, also, nowadays, when issues such as the legalization (not necessarily support) of drugs or sex for consenting adults arises. But in the present circumstances, with wokeism, cancel culture, socialism, etc., libertarians are much closer to Rs than Ds.

It behooves the GOP to at least think of doing something about this problem, rather than confining itself to regretting the situation, while exacerbating it with its enmity toward the LP.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Featured: “Stump Speaking,” by George Caleb Bingham; painted in 1853.

Should The Libertarian Party Disband?

Edward Ring opens up his call for the abandonment of the Libertarian Party with this powerful criticism: “Siphoning off voters from the side that’s fighting the hardest to preserve individual liberty and economic freedom is not principled. It is nihilism.”

He follows this up with the second of his strong one-two punches:

“If you want to find a Libertarian Party organization that has achieved relevance, look no further than Georgia. That’s where Shane Hazel, running for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian, garnered 2.3 percent of the vote in November. Hazel’s showing may have been insignificant, but the Republican candidate, David Perdue, only needed 0.3 percent more votes to have avoided a runoff, where he lost… All that Perdue needed was for one in seven of Hazel’s voters to choose him instead, and the GOP would still control the U.S. Senate…”

So, is it true? Would the cause of liberty be helped by the termination of the LP?

I think not. (Full disclosure: I have been a member of this party ever since 1969 when I ran for New York State Assembly, two years before the creation of the national party in 1971).

First of all, it is not that clear, as this author contends, that the Republicans are all that closer to libertarian principles than are the Democrats. Yes, indeed, they are, on economic issues. The Elephant clearly beats out the Donkey in terms of lower taxes, regulations, private property rights. This despite the fact that socialist Romney care started in Massachusetts. Neither party favors ending the fed or a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations. Mr. Ring charges libertarians with “Killing American Jobs: Libertarians support ‘free trade’ without first insisting on reciprocity.” Here, he just reveals his lack of economic sophistication. I recommend that he read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” or, for a more modern analysis of tariffs, Milton Friedman’s splendid work on this issue.

Free trade is necessarily beneficial to all participants at least in the ex ante sense. If Jones purchases a shirt for $10, it must be because at the outset, he values it at more than that amount, for example, $15. So, he earns a profit. The salesman Smith valued it at less than that amount, otherwise he would have not accepted the deal. If he placed a value on that shirt of $2, he gained to the tune of $13. Both sides benefit. And it matters not one whit whether Jones and Smith are in the same or different countries. This logic applies domestically as well as internationally .

But if Jones purchases a shirt from abroad, does that not mean lessened sales for the domestic supplier Smith? Yes, it does. So fewer shirts will be created locally, and more in this other country. But hat will the foreign shirt manufacturer do with the money paid to him by Jones? Why, turn around and buy something else in the domestic country! If it is good economics to protect Smith, from foreign competition, then it makes sense for, say, Colorado, to protect its industry from the “incursions” of manufacturers in Texas, for instance. That’s nonsense on a stick. No, one of the reasons the U.S. is so wealthy is because we have a gigantic free trade zone. No internal tariffs. These economic principles apply in all realms.

What about the minimum wage? The Democrats want to raise this to $15 per hour. The Republican plank on this matter? To $10 per hour. Both are horrid, albeit the former slightly more than the latter. The higher it is, the more unskilled persons it precludes from employment. The economically illiterate (and here, unfortunately, I include several Nobel Prize winners in economics) maintain that this law is like a floor under wages; the higher it is raised, the greater will be salaries. If so, why limit this to a mere $15 per hour? Why not $50, or $1000, or $1 million for that matter? In that way, we could all become rich! Why not eliminate foreign aid to poor countries, and advise them to inaugurate and then raise their minimum wage levels to the skies? No, this law, rather, is akin to a hurdle, or a high jump bar. The higher it is, the more difficult it is for unskilled workers to obtain any employment at all. Not only should it not be raised, it should be eliminated entirely. At its present national level of $7.25, it consigns to joblessness all those with lower productivities.

But economics is only one of the three dimensions of political economy on which all philosophies must take a position.

The second one is personal liberties. And here the Democrats are much closer to the liberty position than are the Republicans. The latter are still being dragged into the 21st century in terms of legalization of marijuana; only Oregon, has made tiny steps in this regard with even harder drugs, and we all know which party is in charge there. Mr. Ring asks “Have libertarians recognized the consequences of tolerating use of these drugs?” Evidently, he does not recognize the horrendous effects of prohibition. Maybe he’d like to put alcohol on the banned list again? That substance, too, has deleterious effects. The Republicans are the paternalistic party. On the other hand, they are way better than the other organization on not defunding the police and gun control.

A similar pattern exists with sexual relations between consenting adults for pay. Legalization of prostitution is anathema to most politicians in the red states. The blue-staters are at least a bit more ambivalent on this and other such issues.

The third dimension is foreign policy. Here the libertarian view is the one articulated by Ron Paul, as also occurs in the other two cases. This former Congressman advocated a strong defense, but no “offense” at all. No more roughly 800 military bases in some 200 countries; bring the troops home, all of them. How do the Redsters and the Bluesters stack up on this non-interventionist policy? A mixed bag can be found on both sides of the aisle. There are Democratic warmongers such as Hillary Clinton, and also Republican ones such as Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz. There are also Democratic office holders such as Bernie Sanders and Republican ones such as Rand Paul who are much closer to the libertarian position. Indeed, the two of them have cooperated with one another on such issues. Tulsi Gabbard is another Democratic Ron Paulian on foreign policy. Both parties were roughly equally responsible for the anti-libertarian wars in Afghanistan and Viet Nam. Call this is tie as far as the libertarian sweepstakes are concerned.

So, what is the final score? If this were a chess match, I would rule one win for the Democrats, one of the Republicans, and a drawn game. That is, 1.5 points for each. Nothing much to choose here for the libertarian.

There is one point Mr. Ring overlooks that might incline libertarians in the direction of the GOP: the Federalist society. This is an organization in which conservatives do not merely tolerate libertarians but actively cooperate with them, work with them, befriend them. (This is in sharp contrast to the Young Americans for Freedom in which libertarians were roundly condemned as “lazy fairies,” a takeoff on the phrase “laissez faire capitalism” favored by the freedom philosophy.)

If Mr. Ring is serious about obviating future experiences such as provided by Shane Hazel, libertarian hero, he would urge Republicans to offer Libertarians an olive branch instead of the usual smack upside the head. Instead of making it difficult for the party of liberty to get on the ballot through endless lawsuits, for example, make a deal with the Party of Principle. Allowing them to run for some minor offices without Republican opposition, or, even, dare I say this, support. In return, the LP might agree not to run candidates in races expected to be very close. I cannot of course speak for the Porcupine Party (its nickname in New York State), but I don’t see offers of this sort even being contemplated. Nor is there a lack of precedent for this sort of thing. In New York state the Republican Party cooperated with the Conservative party along similar lines.

No, it is not “nihilism” to insist that the message of liberty be brought to the American electorate. Neither major party fills that role.

Addendum: Mr. Ring is mistaken in taking the platform of the Georgia state libertarian party as descriptive of all libertarians. Immigration, for example, is a hotly debated issue amongst its members.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows, “La liberté (Freedom),” by Jeanne-Louise (Nanine) Vallain; painted ca. 1793-1794.

The Minimum Wage Law Is Wrong

In the bad old days of outright, in-your-face racism, the bigots favored the minimum wage law as a means of destroying the economic prospects of black people. For example labor unions in the bad old apartheid South Africa explicitly favored such legislation in order to exacerbate the unemployment rate of this demographic. Blacks, in their view, were getting too “uppity” and had to be taken down a notch or two. Or three. They were daring to compete with more skilled white labor; the best way to nip this challenge in the bud was to price them out of the market. Raise the wages of black labor by government fiat so high that employers would no longer look upon them as a bargain.

Nor was our own country exempt from this sort of evil. Former president John F. Kennedy, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, favored the minimum wage law on the ground that cheap African-American labor in the former confederate states was too competitive with more highly-skilled New England workers. He thought, correctly, that the best way to deal with this challenge was, again, to end this through minimum wage legislation. He stated: “Having on the market a rather large source of cheap labor depresses wages outside that group too – the wages of the white worker who has to compete. And when an employer can substitute a colored worker at a lower wage – and there are … these hundreds of thousands looking for decent work – it affects the whole wage structure of an area…”

Give the devil his due, these vicious people were good economists. They faced a challenge: the competition of low-skilled black workers. They knew exactly how to obviate this opposition. Pass laws that seemingly helped them, but they full well knew had the diametric opposite effect.

Nowadays, matters are reversed. The people who now favor this legislation are filled with the milk of human kindness, at least for the most part. But their understanding of economics is abysmal. And this does not only describe Democrats such as AOC or Bernie or Schumer or Pelosi or Biden who are staunch supporters of this malicious legislation. It even includes Republicans such as Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton who have just introduced a bill to increase the national minimum wage to $10 an hour over the next four years, in gradual steps. One would have thought that at least members of the GOP would be a bit sophisticated about economics, but in the event this just ain’t so.

The flaws in this enactment can best be explained starting with an analogy from the animal world. The deer is a very weak animal. This species would have long ago gone extinct except for its speed. In similar manner, the skunk and the porcupine would be greatly endangered, but for their saving graces, smell and sharp quills (How do porcupines make love? Carefully).

Now put yourself in the place of a young black kid who can’t find a job. (Before the advent of the minimum wage law in 1938 the unemployment rate of blacks and whites, youngsters and middle-aged folk, was about the same; at present, the rate of joblessness for African American male teens is quadruple that of white males aged 25-55). Young black teens have a poor reputation as workers, at least in the minds of many employers. What is their analogous secret weapon? The ability to temporarily work for a very low wage – or none at all.

Under free enterprise, this young black kid could march up to an employer, look him straight in the eye and say: “I know you don’t think much of me as a potential employee. But you’re wrong. Hiring me will be one of the best commercial decisions you’ve ever made. Just give me a chance. In order to take the risk off your hands, let me tell you what I’m gonna do. I’ll work for you for $5 per hour for a week. Then, if I pass this trail period in your estimation, you can raise my salary. Heck, I’ll do it for $2 per hour, can’t say better than that, can I? No, wait, I’ll go myself even one better: I’ll work for you, real hard, for zero, zip, nada, for free. Then, after a week, when you see what a treasure I am, you can adjust my wage accordingly.”

It is hard to see why this would not be a very successful statement in terms of (eventually) getting on the payroll. However, if this young enterprising person said anything of the sort, he would be breaking the law. He might not be put in prison for doing so, since, probably, an economically illiterate judge would view him as a victim; but, still, he would be in violation of the minimum wage law. In contrast, if the owner of the firm accepted this offer, woe betide him. He would be tossed into the clink, and the key to the prison would be thrown away (This is an exaggeration, but only a slight one).

The point is, the minimum wage law steals from the worker who is discriminated against his one “secret weapon”: the ability to impress the business firm with this type of offer. That’s the Horatio Alger story.

An analysis of basic supply and demand analysis as taught in economics 101 will demonstrate that when you impose a floor under wages, this does not necessarily raise them. Rather supply is now greater than demand, and the difference is a surplus; in the labor market this is called unemployment. No, a floor under wages does not boost them; rather it constitutes a barrier over which the job candidate must jump in order to obtain employment in the first place. If mere legislative fiat could really boost compensation, why stop at $10, or $15? Why not help the needy with a wage, or, oh, $100 per hour, or even $1,000? Then, we could stop all foreign aid, and just tell needy countries to institute, and/or raise their minimum wage levels.

Sophisticated advocates of this pernicious legislation will point to “monopsony” or “oligopsony” (one, or just a few purchasers of labor, in this case). True, according to neoclassical theory, there is in these cases a window in wages, such that they can only be raised so high before unemployment once again rears its ugly head. Even if this were true (it is not, but that is another story) it is simply inapplicable to relatively unskilled workers. If it applies at all, it is to workers with such specialized skills that only one or a very few firms can hire them. We are now talking about specialized engineers, computer nerds, physicists, etc. They earn multiples of the minimum wage levels being contemplated. Those who push brooms or ask if you “want fries with that?” have literally hundreds of thousands of potential employers, not just one or a few.

The minimum wage should not be raised. It should not stay at its present $7.25 level. It should not be lowered. Rather, it should be abolished, and those responsible for its existence be deemed criminals, since they are responsible for the permanent employment of people with productivity levels lower than that established by law. Suppose someone’s productivity is $3 per hour. Anyone hiring him at $7.25 will lose $4.25 hourly. He cannot be profitably employed. Case closed.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows “Work,” by Ford Madox Brown, painted in 1873.

Libertarian Errors: A Critique Of Hoppe And von Mises

A fundamental belief of libertarianism/liberalism [from “classical liberals” to anarcho-capitalists] is that there exists a certain human nature, the observation of which allows one to draw a certain objective conception of the “good life,” with that conception being seen as the only objective one possible, and the only possible, valid one. Also, the observation of human nature allegedly allows one to draw an objective categorical norm with regard to the right model for the positive law (with that categorical norm being seen as the only possible objective categorical norm, and the only valid categorical standard, as concerns the right model for the positive law); and objective instrumental standards for the purpose of the “good life.” Namely, moral ownership of oneself and of what one acquires non-violently as concerns the alleged objective categorical norm for the model of the positive law; rational and peaceful subsistence as concerns the content of the “good life;” and prioritized, peaceful pursuit of (material) subsistence, property, non-violence, responsibility, savings, mutual charity within the social division of labor as concerns the alleged objective instrumental standards for the purpose of the “good life.”

Another fundamental belief of libertarianism is that human conduct, while being not subject to any law as to its content (by reason of the alleged free will of humans), is nevertheless characterized by a number of laws as to its structure. Those laws are allegedly the object of what Ludwig von Mises called “praxeology;” and are allegedly apodictic. Thus completing—with an apologetic goal—praxeology with an investigation of the content of human action, Hans Hermann Hoppe endeavored to show that the experience of the type of human action that is argumentative action is necessarily the occasion for any human individual engaged in a given argumentative action to notice the existence of apodictic truths (i.e., that their terms are sufficient to render true, and which are therefore true by right and true whatever may be) in the domain of the knowledge of good and evil; and not only in the field of formal logic with the allegedly apodictic laws that are notably identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded third.

The Claim Of The Non-Aggression Principle’s Apodicticity

In addition to coming as an outgrowth of praxeology, Hoppe’s thesis intends to complete, or even replace, the jusnaturalist libertarian defense of the categorical principle of non-aggression, i.e., the defense of the categorical principle of non-aggression as a law that allegedly lets itself be deduced from human nature. While a loophole of libertarian jusnaturalism lies in its violation of the logical impossibility of deducing a categorical imperative (for instance, the principle of non-aggression) from an alleged state of affairs (for instance, human nature such as libertarianism represents it to itself), Hoppe’s thesis intends to fill that gap. And to prove the purported objectivity of the principle of non-aggression despite the impossibility of deducing an ought (in a categorical sense) from an is, i.e., without trying to deduce a categorical ought from an is.

According to Hoppe, in substance, the moral law non-aggression (i.e., the categorical principle that every man is the sole moral possessor of himself and of the goods which he acquires peacefully, and that no one is therefore morally entitled to showing violence towards someone, his integrity or his property acquired without violence) takes on the character of an apodictic truth just like the logical laws in the first-order logic (i.e., identity, non- contradiction, excluded third party, etc.). The performative contradiction that Hoppe judges to be necessarily associated with the contestation of the principle of non-aggression is alleged to endow the principle of non-aggression with a character of apodictic truth, i.e., to render the principle of non-aggression true by its sole terms, true whatever may be, true by right.

It is worth specifying that in first-order formal logic, the criterion necessarily retained to judge the apodicticity of a proposition consists of knowing whether it is tautological (i.e., true for any distribution of the values of truth), the laws of first-order logic serving as laws followed and assumed by the calculation of truth values. The incremental criterion contingently retained consists of knowing whether a proposition is reducible to a tautology via relations of synonymy, that second criterion being contingent in that it is conditioned on the recognition of those propositions, reducible (to tautologies) as being propositions themselves tautological.

Likewise, it is worth specifying that at least two modes of performative contradiction are conceivable. On the one hand, the act of acting in such a way that one proves in spite of oneself that one considers to be false some statements one however makes at the moment of the concerned action. On the other hand, the act of acting in such a way that one proves in spite of oneself the falseness of statements which one however makes at the same time. At last, it is worth specifying that the categorical form in a categorical statement—whether it is a moral law (for instance, the non-aggression principle) or a logical law (for instance, the identity principle)—does not endow such statement with an objective or apodictic character.

The Hoppean Fallacy

Hoppe’s argument in favor of the alleged apodicticity of the categorical principle of non-aggression, an argument known as “the ethics of argumentation,” does not consist of undertaking to prove the tautological character of the non-aggression principle or its reducibility to a tautology. Instead, it consists of affirming that the fact of displaying an argumentation for (or against) a given thesis necessarily supposes subscribing to the principle of non-aggression; and that the performative contradiction in the first above-evoked sense (i.e., in the sense of the saying of words that contradict the beliefs that the conduct accompanying those same words supposes and manifests) associated with any argumentation against the non-aggression principle proves, in spite of itself, the aforesaid principle’s apodicticity.

Those two assertions are false. On the one hand, far from the fact of displaying an argumentation necessarily supposing that one adheres to the principle of non-aggression, such an activity can very well suppose (for example) that one agrees as an Arian to listen to (and dismantle) the pro-Trinitarian arguments of his slave; but that one does not recognize him as having the right to express himself again on that subject (once the conversation is over), let alone quietly leave the palace to which his servitude attaches him. On the other hand, a performative contradiction (in the above-evoked sense), whatever it is, never proves that the belief one reveals in spite of oneself through the conduct consisting of contradicting that belief (or accompanying the fact of contradicting it) is true, even less apodictic. It only proves that there is an adherence to the aforesaid belief (whose true or false character remains to be determined).

Even if, indeed, the fact of engaging in some argumentation necessarily implied adhering to the principle of non-aggression, that assumption would only amount to believing (in spite of oneself) in the truth of the principle of non-aggression, not to proving (in spite of oneself) the aforesaid principle’s apodicticity. To put it in another way: even if the principle of non-aggression were necessarily a belief underlying any argumentative activity (and therefore, were necessarily be a premise, secret or avowed, of the statements held within the framework of some argumentative activity), the fact of arguing against the principle of non-aggression would only amount to inferring conclusions, contradicting the premises that one reveals in spite of oneself when drawing those conclusions. That would not render apodictic (i.e., true by their sole terms, true whatever the reality, true by right) the aforesaid premises.

A Variation Of The Hoppean Argument—And How It Is Fallacious As Well

Another attempt to prove the non-aggression principle, inspired by the “ethics of argumentation,” consists of invoking the second mode of performative contradiction: namely the fact of adopting a behavior such as to prove the falsity of statements one makes at the very moment of the aforesaid conduct. While it is no longer a question here of proving the alleged apodicticity of the non-aggression principle, the offered argument is nevertheless not less unsatisfactory than is the attempt to demonstrate the aforesaid apodicticity. The argument in question consists of asserting that the fact of arguing against the non-aggression principle, therefore the property of oneself, is an action that mobilizes, if not the voice or a pen, at least the mental abilities; and which, like any action, proves that one is in possession of one’s own body (including one’s brain). That relation of possession allegedly proving, in turn, that any suffered aggression is immoral—given it undermines the aforesaid possession of oneself.

Here again, each of these two statements is false. The fact of acting only shows that an order is given to the body (and executed), and not that the aforesaid body finds itself to belong to the aforesaid order’s author. (We will leave aside whether the author in question merges with the brain, the nervous system, or the soul). As for moral possession, i.e., the entitlement to be the possessor of a given good, therefore to hold it (and use it) without suffering any coercion, does not derive from factual possession as such (i.e., the actual possession of a good regardless of whether or not one is entitled to possess it), nor from the earliest factual possession (i.e., the fact not only of owning a given good, but of being the first to own the good in question). Even if a human (or another animal) were actually the factual possessor—and a fortiori the first factual possessor—of his own body, the aforesaid factual possession would in no way imply moral possession; therefore an entitlement not to be subjected to violence nor to a deprivation of liberty.

The act of arguing against the principle of non-aggression does not reveal the alleged moral possession (or even the alleged factual possession) of oneself any more than it does reveal the aforesaid principle’s alleged apodicticity. More generally, the moral possession of oneself is not more ascertainable or provable than the principle of non-aggression is apodictic. The fact of observing human nature, taken or not from the point of argumentative action, does not more allow us to notice the alleged moral (or even factual) possession of oneself any more than the principle of non-aggression is reducible to a tautology, or than the contingent presupposition of the principle of non-aggression in any argumentation attacking the truth of the aforesaid principle confers on the aforesaid principle an apodictic character.

That is just as true for the laws of first-order logic: the fact of observing reality does not more allow us to notice the ontological counterpart of the aforesaid logical laws (including the alleged necessity for any entity considered in a given respect at a given moment to be what it is rather than what it is not) than their contingent presupposition in any argument attacking the truth of the aforesaid logical laws does confer on the aforesaid logical laws an apodictic character. They are only assumed—rather than true by their terms alone or demonstrated.

Two Expected Objections

An objection from a proponent of “the ethics of argumentation” may be that the laws of first-order logic—just like tautologies (i.e., propositions remaining true for any distribution of truth values) or propositions reducible to tautologies—are indeed apodictic; nevertheless, insofar as the aforementioned laws are objectively evident by themselves (and only insofar as they are objectively evident by themselves). Whereas tautologies and propositions reducible to tautologies are apodictic insofar as they are demonstrable as true for any distribution of truth values (and only insofar as they are demonstrable as true for any distribution of truth values). And whereas the reducibility of propositions effectively reducible to tautologies may consist, for those propositions, of being reducible insofar as their terms are synonymous, but also of being so insofar as they are likely to be revealed via a performative contradiction, i.e., likely to be the object of an adhesion likely to get revealed in spite of oneself via a performative contradiction.

Another objection may be that the laws of first-order logic—identity, non-contradiction, excluded third, etc.—are certainly assumed (rather than demonstrated or true by their sole terms), and that they are assumed, if not by any argumentative activity, at least any senseful argumentative activity; but that denying the apodicticity of the aforesaid laws, or one of the propositions which those laws suffice to render true, is precisely senseless for our reason, insofar as those laws are a necessary condition of any senseful argumentative activity. Just like it is allegedly senseless for the reason to deny the apodicticity of the principle of non-aggression, insofar as the prior supposition of that principle is a supposedly necessary condition, if not of any argumentative activity, at least any senseful argumentative activity.

That ultimate argument in favor of holding the non-aggression principle and the laws of the calculus of predicates as apodictic does not pretend to prove their alleged apodicticity. It proposes that we act as if they were apodictic, i.e., proposes that one conventionally holds them as apodictic; and that, on the grounds that they are allegedly necessary conditions for any senseful argumentative activity. (In other words, that argument proposes that the first-order logical laws and the moral law of non-aggression be held to be apodictic conventionally rather than sincerely, i.e., by convention rather than conviction. It happens, nevertheless, that the same argument, which can be qualified as performative, is mobilized in favor of sincerely holding as apodictic the first-order logical laws and the moral law of non-aggression. In that case, the fact that those logical and moral laws allegedly come as necessary conditions of any objectively senseful argument allegedly proves that those laws are objectively apodictic).

How Performative Contradiction Is Not Tantamount To Tautology

Regarding the previous argument, the fact of adhering conventionally or sincerely to the laws of first-order logic (also called the calculation of predicates), i.e., the fact of holding them to be true by convention or by conviction, does not imply one adheres sincerely or conventionally to the idea that performative contradiction is a criterion of reducibility to a tautology.

Whereas the propositions that first-order logic is necessarily led to consider as true propositions by the operation of laws alone are the sole tautological propositions (i.e., true for any distribution of truth values), the propositions that first-order logic is contingently led to consider also as true propositions by the only operation of the logical laws include only those propositions reducible to tautologies via synonymy. Those propositions which are revealable via a performative contradiction, but which are neither tautological nor reducible to a tautology, are necessarily excluded outside the propositions that the calculation of predicates is necessarily or contingently likely to consider as true propositions by the sole operation of the logical laws.

To put it in another way, the revealability of a given proposition via a performative contradiction (i.e., via an action which proves that one implicitly adheres to that proposition even though one is in the process of denying it at the time of said action) does not render that proposition reducible (to a tautology) any more than it renders it tautological. Given that only a proposition reducible to a tautology is contingently conceivable as tautological (within the framework of first-order logic), and given that a proposition revealable via performative contradiction is not necessarily a proposition reducible to a tautology, performative contradiction cannot be a criterion of apodicticity in first-order logic: neither necessarily nor contingently.

Or again, adhering to the laws of first-order formal logic necessarily implies adhering to the idea that the tautological character of a proposition is a criterion of its apodictic character, and contingently implies (i.e., implies in the case where we admit that a proposition reducible by synonymy to a tautology is also render tautological by the sole fact of its reducibility) of adhering to the idea that the characteristic of a proposition to be reducible to a tautology is an additional criterion for apodicticity. Nevertheless, it does not imply adhering to the idea that performative contradiction is a criterion for apodicticity—and that, given that a proposition revealable through performative contradiction is not rendered reducible to a tautology by the sole fact of being revealable through performative contradiction.

Or again, in the eyes of the first-order logical laws, the fact of articulating a given statement (for instance, the negation of the non-aggression principle) while acting in a way that reveals one subscribes to the opposite of such statement only amounts to, simultaneously, expressing (verbally) a thing and (behaviorally) its contrary. It does not amount to proving the apodictically true character of the statement behaviorally expressed. The joint fact of expressing verbally the negation of the non-aggression principle and subscribing behaviorally to the non-aggression principle does not more render the non-aggression principle apodictically true than it proves the wrongness or the truth of the non-aggression principle. Expressing (verbally) p and (behaviorally) non-p does not more prove the wrongness or the truth of non-p than it renders p apodictically true. It only amounts to expressing two things excluding each other.

(As for the idea that the laws of first-order logic are self-evident: introspection allows us to see that those laws are not self-evident nor seem to be self-evident. The fact of being seemingly self-evident is, instead, a characteristic of what can be called the alleged ontological counterpart of said laws, i.e., a characteristic of the alleged ontological facts that are, for example, the impossibility for a given entity not to be what it is in a given respect and at a given time).

The Conventional Character Of Logic Laws

Regarding the argument that the moral law of non-aggression and the logical laws of first-order logic (i.e., identity, non-contradiction, excluded third, etc.) are both necessary conditions for an argumentative discourse which be genuinely senseful, and that it is therefore senseless to deny their apodicticity (despite the fact that said apodicticity is neither provable nor self-evident), the laws of first-order logic and the principle of non-aggression admittedly have in common that they claim to be the necessary conditions for an argument that makes sense. But precisely, the fact that an argument makes sense in the opinion of the laws of first-order logic only proves that it makes sense in the opinion of said laws: just as the fact that an argument makes sense in the opinion of the principle of non-aggression (in that it supposes and respects the categorical imperative to refrain from the slightest coercion towards the interlocutors and towards anyone) only proves that it makes sense in the opinion of said principle.

The fact that the laws of first-order logic or the principle of non-aggression serve as necessary conditions for arguments which are meaningful in their opinion does not imply that they serve as necessary conditions for argumentations which be objectively senseful. An argument which supposes a formal logic refusing all or part of the aforementioned laws will make sense in the opinion of the own laws of its own formal logic, which will not prove that it is objectively senseful: just like the fact that an argumentation assuming other categorical imperatives than the principle of non-aggression makes sense in the opinion of its own moral presuppositions does not prove that it is objectively meaningful.

It is worth pointing out that (convinced or conventional) adherence to the idea of the apodictically true character of the laws of first-order logic does not imply adhering (sincerely or conventionally) to the idea of the apodictically true character of the principle of non-aggression (and vice versa); and that the sincere (rather than conventional) adherence to the idea of the objectively true character of the laws of first-order logic is, sometimes, both motivated by the two reasons Aristotle proposes for sincerely adhering to the (idea of the) objective truth of the logical laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded third. Reasons that are performative (i.e., the laws in question are, in Aristotle’s opinion, necessary conditions for a senseful argumentation, what allegedly renders them apodictic) and ontological (i.e., the laws in question are, in Aristotle’s opinion, also founded by their ontological counterpart: for example, any entity, according to the respect considered and the moment considered, is necessarily what it is rather than what it is not).

Finally, one cannot but notice the failure of the performative argument in favor of the idea of the insane character of rejecting (by convention or conviction) the apodicticity of the laws of the first-order logic, or the law of the non-aggression principle, i.e., the argument consisting of pointing out the alleged necessity to assume (by convention or by conviction) both the laws of first-order logic and the principle of non-aggression so that an argument be objectively senseful.

It makes perfect sense to believe that the conformity of a given argument to the principle of non-aggression does not render the aforesaid conformity objectively senseful. Just like it makes perfect sense to believe that the conformity of a given argument with the laws of first-order logic does not render the aforesaid conformity objectively senseful; or to believe that the objectively senseful character of conformity to the laws of first-order logic—if it were attested—would not prove the objectively senseful character of conformity to the principle of non-aggression.

Beyond Aristotle And Rudolf Carnap

In practice, the performative argument in favor of holding conventionally or sincerely as apodictic the laws of first-order logic is sometimes accompanied by an ontological argument in favor of holding them (sincerely, and only in a sincere mode) for apodictic, which consists of pointing out the alleged ontological counterpart of the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded third middle; and of justifying on the basis of said ontological counterpart the fact of sincerely holding them as apodictic. It also happens that, quite simply, one takes for the alleged apodictic character of the aforementioned laws what is actually the apparent self-obviousness of the ontological counterpart of said laws.

In both cases, the alleged ontological counterpart of the aforesaid laws would render said laws true by their conformity with reality (rather than true by their terms alone). It would not justify considering the aforesaid laws to be apodictic truths: whether by conviction or by convention. The alleged ontological counterpart is itself unfounded: given it is quite simply induced from a certain characteristic common in things and people in the field of reality which is offered to our senses (more precisely, the field immediately offered within what, in reality, is available to our senses). Namely, the characteristic of being necessarily what one is (i.e., the ontological counterpart of the principle of identity); of being necessarily incapable of being both what one is and what one is not at a given moment and in a given respect (i.e., the ontological counterpart of the principle of non-contradiction); and of being necessarily constrained to be either something or something else, but not both simultaneously, in a given respect and at a given moment (i.e., the ontological counterpart of the principle of the excluded third).

Since an induction is not a valid inference, it is wrong to generalize such characteristic to all the entities that inhabit reality on its various stages. Given the human mind is capable of conceiving the Trinity (which necessarily violates the laws of non-contradiction and of the excluded third), or the included third in quantum mechanics (with the fact for a photon of being simultaneously a wave and a particle, or for an electron of occupying two distinct positions simultaneously); it is nevertheless able (to a certain point and only in some people) to extract itself from those logical laws in order to try to apprehend the nature of the entities inhabiting other floors of reality.

To the Aristotelian thesis that the logical laws of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded third have a not less performative foundation (i.e., they are allegedly the necessary conditions for a senseful discourse, from what it supposedly follows that they are apodictic) than ontological (i.e., they are allegedly based on the impossibility for a given entity to be both what it is and what it is not in a given respect and in a given moment, etc.), incidentally respond the following Carnapian remarks. Namely, that it is “a sure sign of a mistake if logic has need of metaphysics and psychology—sciences that require their own logical first principles;” and that in logic, “it is not our business to set up prohibitions, but to arrive at conventions,” Rudolf Carnap explaining, in this regard, that “prohibitions can be replaced by a definitional differentiation” and that “in many cases, this is brought about by the simultaneous investigation (analogous to that of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries) of language-forms of different kinds—for instance, a definite and an indefinite language, or a language admitting and one not admitting the Law of Excluded Middle.”

For our part, we defend a synthetic position. Namely that the principles of formal logic are admittedly conventional and that they, admittedly, cannot be proven ontologically; but that while coming as strict convention (instead of serving as objective criteria of what is objectively senseful or insane among the conceivable modes of argumentation), they are nevertheless confrontable with the noticed or soundly conjectured reality, which corroborates them (in default of confirming them objectively) and allows their gradual improvement as they are objectively refuted.

We believe the same applies to moral principles: at least those instrumental (rather than the categorical moral principles), including those designed for the purpose of a “good, viable” life in society. Whereas the categorical moral principles cannot be put to the test (since what is can neither confirm nor invalidate what must be categorically), the instrumental moral principles are confrontable with the reality observed or reasonably conjectured, which is able to refute them and help their enhancement (and even, perhaps, able to confirm them for some of them).

As regards more particularly the rules of law (among the instrumental moral principles effectively contributing to the “good life” in society), we believe that the Aristotelian jusnaturalist approach—ignoring the muddy, chimerical conceptions of a reason folded in on itself and endeavoring to identify, more modestly, the normal rules of law, functional with regard to the natural order (as a scrupulous observation reveals it and as a solidly corroborated imagination guesses it), and those which transgress the order of nature—is transposable and adaptable to a cosmos subject to intra-species biocultural evolution and inter-species biological evolution. It is true that liberalism lays claim to the observation of human nature to prove the alleged objectivity of its categorical ethical principle for the shaping of law (i.e., the categorical moral law of non-aggression), as well as of his conception of the “good life” and of the instrumental ethical principles associated with it. But the idea that it has of human nature is a fantasy and owes nothing to observation or to solidly corroborated imagination. We will come back to that subject elsewhere.

The Fallaciousness Of The Hoppean Criticism Of Logical Empiricism

In addition to his vain pretension to demonstrate the objectivity and the apodicticity of the categorical principle of non-aggression, and his most complete hermetism with regard to a jusnaturalist approach which be properly of Aristotelian obedience, Hoppe is mistaken on logical empiricism. And makes unjustified accusations against the Vienna Circle, the idea he has of the latter coming as a straw man.

The Hoppean argument against logical empiricism (presented in his article “Austrian rationalism in the age of the decline of positivism”) consists of presenting as self-contradictory the claim that any proposition is either a contentless, analytically true proposition, or a synthetic, empirically true proposition, or a normative proposition—so that the knowledge of the world can have no apodictic basis. And the claim that knowledge is always hypothetical to the point that experience can never have any value when it comes to assessing our theories. It turns out that each of two claims is neither self-contradictory nor attributable to the Vienna Circle’s logical empiricists. The first claim implicitly conceives of itself as a synthetic proposition, what is fully coherent with the tripartition it proposes. As for the second claim, it implicitly supposes that it comes as an exception to the rule it formulates: hence it escapes self-contradiction as well.

While the notion that analytical truths are contentless is, indeed, characteristic of the Vienna Circle, the latter nonetheless believed that logical laws served as an apodictic foundation for science. While Wittgenstein (who was not intellectually, institutionally affiliated to the Circle) conceived of the analytical truths as exhibiting the structure of the universe, in default of being endowed with signification, it seems to us that neither Rudolf Carnap nor any other member of the Circle came to endorse the view that analytically true propositions (such as “a bachelor is unmarried” or “two plus two makes four”) served as factual statements. The fact still remains that they did not reject the idea of an apodictic, a priori foundation for science as Hoppe claims. As for the idea that experience is wholly impotent regarding the confirmation of knowledge, it is not more characteristic of the Viennese empiricism—whose research agenda was precisely to show how experience could assess in probabilistic or instrumentalist terms the truth of a scientific statement.

That said, Carnap would come to conceive of formal logic in conventionalist terms. While Karl Popper would come to dismiss induction and to conceive of experience as able only to weaken our theories—and Willard Van Orman would come to dismiss the distinction between analytical and synthetic truths and to conceive of experience as unable to confront our propositions taken in isolation. The Vienna Circle’s project, i.e., the project of establishing the reducibility of meaningful statements to science and the reducibility of any scientific proposition to an empirically testable proposition, was admittedly a failure. But that project had nothing to do with the Hoppean description of the aforesaid project.

Praxeology In The Misesian Sense

Along with jusnaturalism in the Rothbardian or Randian sense, evolutionism in the Hayekian sense, or the Hoppean claim of the non-aggression principle’s apodicticity, praxeology in the Misesian sense constitutes one of the mirages of contemporary liberalism—about which one can say that one of its wrongs is to prefer the illusions of Ludwig von Mises to the clairvoyance of Vilfredo Pareto. Unwittingly, sociology in the Paretian sense addresses and demystifies each of the major axes of Mises’s theoretical edifice.

Praxeology in the Misesian sense, not content with claiming to elaborate propositions a priori true (in the sense of being true by reason of their sole terms), intends to focus exclusively on the structure of human action—and to deduce, progressively, its theoretical corpus from the sole proposition that humans act (in the sense of giving oneself ends and of choosing and using means with regard to the aforesaid ends). Besides, it denies the existence of human instincts and therefore their interference with human action (be it the determination of ends or the choice and handling of means), apart from an alleged instinctual effort of the part of every man to achieve the idea he has of greater happiness.

While denying, in that regard, that the field of the “sociology of instincts” (what, nowadays, would rather be called “sociobiology” or “evolutionary psychology”) can have any relevance, Mises envisages what he calls the “categories” of human action (i.e., the structures inherent in any particular human action) as the fruit of biological evolution in a context of selection by the natural environment. Thus, he paradoxically anticipates what is the fundamental credo of evolutionary psychology as it stands: namely the computational theory of the human mind, i.e., the theory that the human mind is fundamentally composed of “modules” dedicated to information processing, anchored into the human brain, and selected over the course of our species’ genetic evolution.

When it comes to the constitution of human civilizations, Misesian praxeology considers the division of labor as the most fundamental of social bonds: the very cement of society (what does not mean that it denies the rest of social ties, but that it recognizes a secondary place for them). As for the idea that Misesian praxeology has of progress, it notably sees in it the enhancement of the social division of labor (and of the human mutual aid operated within it) via the development of economic institutions (including money)—and via the substitution of “cooperation through contractual bonds” to “cooperation through hegemonic bonds.”

Misesian Praxeology’s Epistemological Claims—And Their Fallaciousness

Since none of the methodological claims of praxeology in Mises’s sense are realistic, none can prove compliant with the actual approach of Mises or his followers. Admittedly, it seems, the facts pertaining to the structure of human action—for instance, the successive assignment of a subjectively homogenous good’s acquired units to less and less priority objectives—are self-evident by reason of the nature of those very facts. But that apparent self-obviousness is precisely an attribute of those discovered facts (which, nonetheless, become self-evident only once they have been discovered and described); not a property of the proposition describing them. If one subscribes to first-order formal logic, the latter is not an apodictic proposition either—given it cannot be reduced to a tautology in the sense of first-order logic, i.e., a proposition which remains true whatever the distribution of truth values.

As for the discovery of the structural facts pertaining to human action, introspection allows us to notice that the discovery process admittedly requires deduction (notably from the proposition that men act); but that deduction is far from being sufficient for the aforesaid process and that a supplement of observation and intuition is both possible and indispensable for it. Most often, the Misesian praxeologist’s inquisitive mind only gives, a posteriori, a hierarchized, axiomatic-deductive presentation to the theories it previously acquired (via inculcation, intuition, or observation), what amounts to assembling the previously discovered pieces of a dispersed puzzle.

The methodological principle that praxeology (and therefore economics as a branch of the latter) only deals with the structure of human action is just as disproven via the examination of the theoretical propositions subsumed by praxeology (at least, in its Misesian version). Outside the praxeological edifice’s most fundamental propositions (such as the assertion that any engaged action tries to select the most suited means and endeavors to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs to a less satisfactory one), praxeology and economics actually deal with the content of (the different types of) human action: especially the content of the type of human action known as entrepreneurship.

Why Pareto (And Not Mises)?

Sociology in the Paretian sense sets itself the implicit goal of covering both the structure of human action (with Pareto’s distinction between actions that are logically structured and those with an illogical structure) and its content, Pareto endeavoring notably to identify the nature of the instinctual “residues” which dictate—often surreptitiously—human ends, as well as the means mobilized for those ends; and that very often generate “illogical actions.”

While Mises conceives of praxeology as a strictly deductive approach whose starting point merges with the sole affirmation that man acts (in the sense of pursuing ends and mobilizing means), Pareto conceives of the study of human action as “logico-experimental,” that is to say, it is focused exclusively on observation and induction. Both converge as concerns the idea that human actions are not necessarily logical and that they sometimes—especially as a result of reasoning processes disoriented by emotion—adapt improperly the choice (and use) of means to the pursued ends.

Mises nevertheless limits himself to identifying rationality’s instrumental function (i.e., the function of determining the respective content of ends and means), while Pareto proposes a more extended analysis of rationality which identifies—in addition to the instrumental function of rationality—a concealment function, which consists of developing fictitious justifications for our illogical acts with the idea of passing off them as coherent. Besides, Mises, quoting Ludwig Feuerbach on that occasion, denies human instincts (and their incidence in human action) apart from a general “instinct of happiness,” while Pareto, thus anticipating sociobiology, imputes human emotions—and the illogicality they do not fail to introduce into our actions—to a web of instincts that we share very widely with animals.

Apart from the methodological pretensions, Pareto is quite superior to Mises on each of the above-mentioned points: Pareto’s only naivety is to believe that the effective methodology of his “sociology” is strictly “logical-experimental,” while the involved process mobilizes intuition and deduction as much as induction. As we have noted above, Mises’ pretension to resorting exclusively to deduction (from the sole assertion that man acts) is not less chimerical—himself coupling actually deduction with induction, as well as with intuition.

Let us add that, unlike Mises, in whose eyes the effect of any economic law is strictly independent of the social context of economic actions, Pareto rightly points out that economic laws—while remaining absolute—see the interdependence between economy and (the rest of) society countering the effect of those very laws. Protectionism thus causing a recomposition of political and industrial elites for the benefit of those individuals the most gifted to encourage the nation’s industrial development, what potentially compensates for the loss income linked to protectionism. Besides, Mises mistakenly imagines the social division of labor, and therefore economic facts, to be the only cement of society, and therefore the most fundamental social fact of all; while Pareto not less lucidly remarks that in addition to the social division of labor, the cement of society also includes, at least, the juridical hierarchical order within which the struggle for political preeminence is constantly being played out.

Yet another cleavage relates to the possibility for human action to create a world leaving behind it the interindividual (or interstate) struggle for physical power and the associated expropriation. Pareto admittedly recognizes a slow progress in the direction of a greater rationality of human actions—in the senses of greater objectivity in knowledge of the world, and greater skill in the choice and the use of means. An impression which emerges from his work is nonetheless that the “cycle of elites” capturing physical power and expropriating the good of others constitutes in his eyes a timeless trait of human societies.

For his part, Mises has the naivety to believe possible, if not inevitable, the entry of humanity into an era in which men will have abandoned the quest for physical power (including political) and in which the violence of states will subsist only to protect persons and their goods (and to chastise assassins and thugs). Thus, he stands at the midpoint of the millennialist hopes of his anarchist heirs (including Murray Rothbard), who believe to be feasible and even inevitable the coming entry of humanity into an era in which states themselves will have disappeared, the protection of persons and goods finding itself henceforth taken charge of by organizations without a coercive monopoly.

Conclusion—And Clarifying Natural Law And Quantum Physics

The revealability of a proposition via a performative contradiction (in the sense of the saying of statements that contradict a proposition whose endorsement is both supposed and manifested by the action accompanying the saying of those statements) is not equivalent to a tautological character nor equivalent to the reducibility to a tautology, i.e., a proposition true for any distribution of truth values in first-order logic. Just like the fact of conforming to certain logic laws or certain moral laws in a given argumentation intended to debunk those very laws does not render them apodictic. Hoppe’s case for the apodicticity of the non-aggression principle, i.e., the principle that no one is entitled to exert coercion toward someone or his non-violently acquired property, is not less fallacious than is his pretension to align the positive legal rules with a categorical, objective norm.

Basically, Hoppe does not better understand natural law (i.e., law based on nature) than do liberal jusnaturalists—even though he avoids the fallacious deducing of an ought from an is. Natural law should not be understood as apodictic, nor should it be understood as an objective categorical principle serving as a universal model for positive law. Natural law is admittedly objective; but it is neither categorical, nor distinct from positive law, nor applicable to the individual (taken independently of society), nor totally universal, nor discoverable a priori. Instead, it comes as a certain modality of positive law: namely those of positive legal rules which effectively contribute to the survival and functionality of a given society in view of the biocultural specificities of that society; but also in view of human nature (as it has been made by biological evolution) and in view of the cosmic order in which any human society takes place.

In other words, natural law is a hypothetical rather than categorical norm. It serves as an imperative required for the survival and functionality of a given society (in intergroup competition). Far from being external to positive law or applicable to the individual taken independently of society, it is only applicable to society and serves as positive rules of law effective for the success of a given society in intergroup competition. Besides, it is partly universal, partly circumstantial. It is universal when it comes to those positive rules of law which, to contribute to the success of society (in terms of survival and functionality), take into account human nature or the cosmic order. It is circumstantial when it comes to those positive legal rules which, in order to contribute to the success of society (in terms of survival and functionality), take into account the biological specificities of a given society or the cultural traditions of said society. Those same traditions finding themselves constrained to take into account human nature, cosmic order, and the biological specificities to ensure the success of said society (in terms of survival and functionality).

Natural law is not discovered via conjectures independent of experience. Instead, reason discovers it—imperfectly—via careful and comparative observation of the different human societies; as well as via the identification of the functional societies and those dysfunctional (as concerns their rules of law) and via the connection of functionality (and dysfunctionality) to cosmic order and to human nature such as observation and solidly corroborated imagination allow us to conceive them. In a sense, the same applies to logical laws—namely that they are not discovered via a priori, independent conjectures (i.e., conjectures which are both independent of experience and independent of science), but via conjectures both confronted to the experienced reality and to the scientifically, solidly conjectured reality. In that sense, Quine’s epistemological holism, i.e., the claim that experience only confronts a theoretical edifice (from its logical laws to its protocol sentences) taken as a full-fledged unit, is true.

As for praxeology such as devised and bequeathed by Mises, it is inept for many reasons: including its apodictic pretension; its rejection of the interference of instincts with human action; its frivolous treatment of the difference between rational and irrational actions (which ignores Pareto’s residues and derivations); its ignorance of the interdependence between economic and social facts; or its laicized millennialism. But also, its restriction of the field of action (i.e., the field of behaviours defining and deciding to reach some goals, and determining and using some means for those goals) to human beings alone.

Instead of action being unique to conscious beings (and a fortiori humans), quarks, atoms, bacteria, and the cosmos itself (taken as a whole) have made decisions and acted long before the onset of consciousness—as our friend Howard Bloom says in essence. A particle takes decision about the selection and the realization (via quantum decoherence) of one of the different states it simultaneously maintains—just like a homo sapiens when acting selects and realizes one of the possible futures of his action. And just like the cosmos itself has been deciding at each incremental level of emergence—starting with the emergence (known as inflation) which saw the cosmos going from nothingness to immensity and accomplishing a primordial decoherence, i.e., a primordial decision as to the one of the simultaneous states which would be retained.

Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. His work and interviews often appear in the Postil.

The featured image shows, “La récolte des pommes à Éragny (Apple harvest at Eragny),” by Camille Pissarro, painted in 1888.

An Open Letter To President Biden

Dear Mr. Biden:

You have several times said you intend to be the President for all the people in the United States, not only those who voted for you. You have expressed yourself as wanting to bring us all together, to unite the country. Well and good. If 2021 were a little less “interesting” than 2020 due to such efforts of yours, most Americans would be extremely grateful.

So, a few suggestions, if I may, as to how to accomplish this task; mainly, by leaning over backward and complimenting Mr. Trump and his many followers. Stop thinking about your first debate with him. I have no doubt it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. No one likes to be bullied, and he was certainly guilty of just that. Think, instead, if you must, of the second debate.

What, specifically, can you do, and not do?

First, do not move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. Instead, welcome this change, promised by several of Mr. Trump’s predecessors, but never fulfilled. Thank him for that; it wouldn’t kill you.

Second, you missed a bet when you changed the name of your predecessor’s vaccine program from “Warp Speed.” Why alienate Star Trek fans? Why not give at least partial credit where partial credit is due? What’s in a name? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is not now too late to reverse course on this error of yours. Reinstitute that name, and pursue whatever policies on this front you deem best. You do want to bring the country back together again. You don’t want to sacrifice much of anything substantive to you, right? The name change costs you virtually nothing. It will seem big of you to admit a mistake, and rectify it.

Third, express appreciation for the Trump administration’s successes in the Middle East. Thanks to him, and it, Israel is now on far better terms with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Morocco. Nancy Pelosi dismissed all of this as a “distraction.” Well, that was then, this is now. If she refuses to retract this statement, you, at least, can take a different and more conciliatory tack.

Fourth, spurn revenge. According to a recent headline: “Actress Debra Messing Vows Ad Boycott for Any TV Show or Network that Platforms Kayleigh McEnany.” Stated this actress: “If I ever see [Kayleigh McEnany] on a panel on a news show or hired by a network, I am immediately ceasing to support every single advertiser on that network…” The same applies to the initiative to prohibit book deals for outgoing members of the Trump administration on the part of high profile Democrats in the publishing industry.

You can have your “Sister Souljah” moment on this issue if you publicly reject this type of initiative. You, of course, cannot stop the likes of Debra Messing, Alyssa Milano and Dave Bautista for lashing out at Trump supporters. But you can publicly take a different path.

It sends entirely the wrong signal to punish White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She is not responsible for what you see as the shortcomings of the 45th president of the U.S. Even if she were, this sends entirely the wrong signal in your healing effort.

Fifth, Mr. Trump favored increasing the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. This is certainly in line with your principles. Acknowledge this. Show him, and us, your mettle.

Sixth, adopt the “Make America Great” motto as your own. Buy into it. It is only a slogan. Doing so will not in the slightest deter you from what you want to accomplish. Might as well implement your program under this rubric as well as any other. Score some additional points with an opposition in this way rendered more loyal.

Seventh, if you really want to unify our country, not only do not support the arrest of Donald Trump, but actually grant him a pardon for any criminal acts of which he might in the future be accused! If this doesn’t bring about domestic peace, then nothing will. I full well realize this would be a gigantic step for you. There are those in the Democratic Party who will deprecate you for any such overture. But just think of the optics of it! Yes, this is by far the most radical of my suggestions. This makes the first half dozen an easy sell! This will bring discomfort to many, including left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore who said: “we are not done with him… Trial. Conviction. Imprisonment. He must pay for his actions – a first-ever for him.” That is no way to promote unity.

Eighth, China has just announced sanctions against 28 Trump officials and their families. Included is Pompeo who has sharply criticized China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Here’s a no-brainer way to promote unity: sharply rebuke the government of the People’s Republic of China for this initiative of theirs. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs justified this action based on “crazy actions that have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

Ninth and last, the elephant in the room: how to react to the second impeachment of the 45th president of the U.S.? This is a tough one. Let us break this up into two aspects: short and long run unity. In the former case, if the 46th president of the U.S. were to strongly signal he opposes this effort, that would clearly bring about short run unity. It would take much of the wind out of the sails of the die-hard Trump supporters. They would be grateful, and their opposition to the legitimacy of the Biden election would atrophy at least somewhat. On the other hand, another failed impeachment would enable now private citizen Trump to run for president in 2024, continue to mold public opinion, remain as the titular head of the Republican Party. To say that this would undermine unity would be an understatement of large proportions. My prudential judgement: the short run outweighs the long run; therefore you should put a spoke in the wheel of this effort.

P.S. If you’ll forgive my informality, here’s an “attaboy” to you for characterizing the letter left to you by your predecessor as “ very generous.”

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows, “A Man Writing at his Desk,” by Jan Ekels, panted in 1784.