Current Events, History/Culture, Politics/Economics

A Rebuttal To Horwitz’s “Libertarianism Rejects Anti-Semitism”

Introduction

You may recall Steve Horwitz as the self-proclaimed left leaning Austrian economist who has accused the Mises Institute and Jeff Deist as having Nazi sympathies and engaging in Nazi dog whistling.  The most recent example of this was Horwitz’s vitriolic response to Deist’s speech entitled “For A New Libertarian” owing to Deists innocent use of the phrase “blood and soil“.  It seems that since this event, Horwitz has decided to double down on such criticisms and take it upon himself to pen an article entitled “Libertarianism Rejects Anti-Semitism.”  The following will be a critique of said article formatted in a quote/response style:

Rebuttal

“I do not wish to argue that Jewish values should produce a libertarian politics, but it is true that many of the elements of Jewish thinking and practice are strongly consistent with some of the values of the broad liberal tradition. The disproportionate presence and influence of Jews in the libertarian movement should not be that surprising. [Emphasis added][1]

From the outset, we see Horwitz make a similar observation to the one that many other libertarians have been crucified for.  The sole difference is that other libertarians have made such an observation in regards to the disproportionate number of libertarians who are white and how western culture is responsible for this phenomenon.

“Part of the problem is that too many libertarians think that claiming to believe in the Non-Aggression Principle is sufficient to establish someone’s libertarian bona fides. If this summer should teach us anything, it’s that the NAP, while a good rule of thumb and summary of an aspect of ethical teaching, is not enough. Libertarians have apologized far too often and far too long for those who claimed that their anti-Semitism or racism is compatible with their libertarianism because it’s just a “private view” and they don’t wish to enforce it with political power. That excuse making needs to end.” [1]

First off, Horwitz is correct in that a belief in the NAP is not sufficient to establish one’s “libertarian bona fides” but for the wrong reason.  It is the Private Property Ethic which is the foundation of libertarianism, of which the NAP is but a derivative.  It is quite unclear what he means by a belief in the NAP being “not enough” and how Charlottesville or other similar events have in any way exemplified this.  From a strictly libertarian perspective, the Private Property Ethic, NAP, and anything which may be logically deduced from these is absolutely “enough”.  The “anti-discrimination” or “anti-antisemitic” commitment Horwitz is suggesting be tacked on to libertarianism is wholly irrelevant, categorically separate, and certainly not deducible from the aforementioned principles.  (For a more thorough examination as to the fundamental nature and scope of libertarianism see Stephan Kinsella’s “What Libertarianism Is” and my “What Anarcho-Capitalism Is“)

“Anti-Semites and racists have rarely separated their personal views and their political ones so neatly, as the underlying hatred and distrust eventually become political because they are ineffective when done only in private. One need only look at the history of some of the former “libertarians” at the center of events in Charlottesville to see this.” [1]

Whether it’s true that “racists” and “anti-Semites” generally don’t separate their personal views from their political ones has absolutely no bearing on Horwitz’s general claim (as evidenced by his article’s title) that libertarianism necessarily rejects anti-Semitism.  Consider the following analogy: if people who like cheeseburgers generally preferred the State to enforce a “positive right” or “entitlement” to cheeseburgers, it would still not follow from this that simply liking cheeseburgers is antithetical to libertarianism.  Likewise, racial, gender, religious, ethnic, …etc. bigotry alone does not necessarily entail a departure from libertarian principles (i.e. the private property ethic, NAP, and their logical derivatives).

“Plus, exercising those views through political power is not the only way to engage in aggression and the threat thereof. Ask the members of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville if seeing neo-Nazis and alt-righters walking around and observing their synagogue felt like aggression, or the threat thereof.” [1]

It should be patently obvious that “neo-Nazis” simply observing Jewish synagogues does not constitute physical aggression.  As to the claim that such simple observance constitutes an aggressive threat, this is nothing short of a completely misconstrued and purposefully twisted depiction of what constitutes a criminal threat in the context of the NAP.  Murray Rothbard, often considered the father of contemporary American libertarianism, expounds upon what is entailed by such a threat in the following:

“To be a tortious assault and therefore subject to legal action, tort law wisely requires the threat to be near and imminent. Mere insults and violent words, vague future threats, or simple possession of a weapon cannot constitute an assault18; there must be accompanying overt action to give rise to the apprehension of an imminent physical battery.19 Or, to put it another way, there must be a concrete threat of an imminent battery before the prospective victim may legitimately use force and violence to defend himself.”  [2]

It should be very clear that so called “neo-Nazis” simply observing Jewish synagogues does not constitute a threat as such.

“The work that Nicholas Sarwark and Wes Benedict are doing to take away the Libertarian Party’s welcome mat for racists, nationalists, and anti-Semites is an excellent start. This open letter from “Liberty Against Fascism” is also a fine example.” [1]

By including social-justice commitments in addition to the adoption of actual libertarian principles as requirements for membership, the Libertarian Pary is only further ensuring its own irrelevance and impotence in the political sphere.  For more on this see “An Open Letter Regarding The Failed Libertarian Party“.  Moreover, there is absolutely no conflict between libertarianism and nationalism (for more on this see “In Defense Of Libertarian Nationalism“).  Finally, libertarianism is obviously incompatible with fascism defined as “an authoritarian, collectivist political ideology which stresses the importance of the national interest over the rights of individuals.” [3] As libertarianism is individualist insofar as it recognizes the individual should have the final legal say over the use of his own body or privately owned external goods, it is unequivocally antithetical to fascism (This should not be confused with the idea that libertarianism is opposed to all forms or conceptions of collectivism.  For more on this see “Libertarianism Is Not Opposed To All Forms Of Collectivism“).  The issue, unfortunately, is that it seems there has been a concerted effort to broaden, pervert, and muddy the definition of fascism in accordance with the leftist or cultural marxist agenda.  For more on this, see the following video:

“What all of us also need to do is to be mindful of how we make our arguments. It is possible to criticize the Federal Reserve without suggesting that it is a nefarious conspiracy of greedy “banksters.” The language of “banksters” will not help reduce the anti-Semitism in our midst.” [1]

How the term “bankster”, which comes from the combination of “banker” and “gangster”, has a necessary connection to anti-Semitism is beyond me.  Expecting people to alter the language regarding their criticism of a certain practice, such as central banking, simply because it is dominated by a disproportionate number of Jews is the epitome of snowflake hysteria.

“When we point it out, we are told we are too sensitive (or “emotional hypochondriacs” in its 21st-century version), and so we are victimized again with the long-standing anti-Semitic trope of the Jew who is always whining about anti-Semitism.” [1]

Perhaps it’s because Horwitz is being too sensitive and an “emotional hypochondriac”.  Also, is Horwitz attempting to collectivize the experience of Jews?  This is the very same type of “collectivism” that left-libertarian types love to claim is antithetical to libertarianism when criticizing others for making general observations of demographic trends that aren’t related to conservative straight cis gendered white people (See “Libertarianism Is Not Opposed To All Forms Of Collectivism“).  Claiming victimhood for being criticized for making ridiculous allegations of anti-Semitism is an insult to actual victims.

“Anti-Semitism is in contradiction with our fundamental beliefs and values, and there is no place for its ethos in any movement that aspires to build a free society. Naming this for what it is and working to get rid of it is my moral obligation as both a Jew and as a libertarian. I care far too much about human liberty to give a brilliant cause over to the practitioners of the oldest form of bigotry. If nothing else, history should teach us that personal anti-Semitism can easily lead to both private coercion and to some of the worst horrors of political violence that humanity has ever known.” [1]

If by “our” he is referring to libertarians, then it should be Stated clearly that anti-Semitism is absolutely not at odds with libertarianism for reasons stated above.  Rather, including even bigoted individuals in the libertarian community reaffirms our commitment to freedom of association, and if our highest aims are to uphold private property, disempower/eliminate the State, and mitigate aggression in general then we need not turn away any help we can get from those who view these ends as having the utmost importance.  The last thing we need to do is “thicken” libertarianism as Horwitz seems to be suggesting.  Doing so will only rob libertarianism of that which makes it the supreme political philosophy: logical soundness.

Sources: 

[1] Horwitz, Steven. “Libertarianism Rejects Anti-Semitism | Steven Horwitz.” FEE, Foundation for Economic Education, 24 Aug. 2017, fee.org/articles/libertarianism-rejects-anti-semitism/

[2] Rothbard, Murray N. “Mises Institute.” Mises Institute, 22 Apr. 2006, mises.org/library/law-property-rights-and-air-pollution. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

[3] “Fascism.” Fascism – Mises Wiki, the global repository of classical-Liberal thought, wiki.mises.org/wiki/Fascism. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

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