Why Southern Reaction? To Southern Libertarians

It seems to us that the vain attempts to define liberty in theory, or to secure its enjoyment in practice, proceed from the fact that man is naturally a social and gregarious animal, subject, not by contract or agreement, as Locke and his followers assume, but by birth and nature, to those restrictions of liberty which are expedient or necessary to secure the good of the human hive, to which he may belong. There is no such thing as natural human liberty, because it is unnatural for man to live alone and without the pale and government of society. Birds and beasts of prey, who are not gregarious, are naturally free. Bees and herds are naturally subjects or slaves of society. Such is the theory of Aristotle, promulged more than two thousand years ago, generally considered true for two thousand years, and destined, we hope, soon again to be accepted as the only true theory of government and society.

George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!

As the GOP continues to shift further Left under the control of the neocons, thinking Southerners who haven’t yet given up some love of the old ways are presented with a problem – where to turn? Which contemporary ideology not only represents their interests, but offers some way out of the modern sociopolitical morass? The answer for many is some flavor of Libertarianism. Here I will endeavor to show that this course can only lead to further destruction and ruin of our society if pursued by the South, even, or maybe especially, if it attains the goals which it pursues.

The root of the problem is that Libertarianism is built on almost purely Leftist principles, namely freedom, liberty, and the inherently benevolent nature of Man (or at least Americans). When followed to their logical conclusion, the adoption of these maxims will simply throw the baby out with the bathwater, by stripping government of its primary function of protecting and preserving society. Allow me to explain further.

There is little doubt but that the Libertarians have reckoned the problem of the Federal Government more or less accurately. USG is bloated, incompetent, and represents the interests of practically none of the 360 million people living under it, except maybe incidentally. The Libertarians are right to oppose it and the construction of it. They err in that the solutions they propose are antithetical both to good government of any kind as well as destructive to society itself.

Government and society are inextricably linked – you can’t have one without the other. Of the two, society enjoys primacy, because it is the end for which government works. Government is instituted for the sole reason of protecting society, which is the natural result of the inherently social character of mankind. Society creates the government, without which the former cannot survive. In his Disquisition on Government, John C. Calhoun noted,

“Although society and government are thus intimately connected with and dependent on each other – of the two society is the greater. It is the first in the order of things, and in the dignity of its object; that of society being primary – to preserve and perfect our race; and that of government secondary and subordinate, to preserve and perfect society. Both are, however, necessary to the existence and well-being of our race, and equally of Divine ordination.”

The problem with Libertarianism is that it places “freedom” and “liberty” as the ultimate ends of government, and therefore places it at odds with the health of society. Total freedom and good government are not only incompatible, but fundamentally opposed. Government is by definition the restriction of freedom. When done right, government limits on freedom serve to protect and preserve society. For example, government restricts the freedom to steal, because thievery is an obstacle to humans happily coexisting with other humans.

Now, clearly Libertarians don’t support the legalisation of thievery (yet). But quite a few, if not most, do support the legalisation of other behaviors which ARE destructive to the healthy functioning of society, like sexual deviancy, drug legalisation, laissez-faire capitalism, and others. Some support these things even after acknowledging their destructive effects on society – why? Because when freedom and liberty are the ends, any time an issue crops up which may restrict one’s individual freedom, the ideology of Libertarianism practically forces one to err on the side of freedom – and every time, the bonds holding society together get weaker. Mr. Calhoun, again:

“Nor can [preventing despotism] be done by limiting the powers of government, so as to make it too feeble to be made an instrument of abuse; for, passing by the difficulty of so limiting its powers, without creating a power higher than the government itself to enforce the observance of the limitations, it is a sufficient objection that it would, if practicable, defeat the end for which government is ordained, by making it too feeble to protect and preserve society.”

Society and government are by definition incompatible with total freedom. One enters a society in order to incur the benefits of social interaction with other people. This entails the surrender of total freedom. Total freedom is only attainable outside of society, as a lone creature. Bears enjoy total freedom, because they don’t live as members of a group. So, when “Freedom” is the ultimate goal for which we work, it cannot fail to destroy society. Over time, the ideology of freedom will destroy one healthy restriction after another, until at last everyone is a lone creature, cut off from all benefits of social interaction.

Leftists target the social bonds directly; Libertarians, perhaps unknowingly, will accomplish the same ends by targeting the institution responsible for maintaining those bonds. The two are animated by the same destructive impulse. This impulse, self-reinforcing like a downhill snowball, looks for more bonds to cut, and more, and more, until at last society fractures and the different elements turn on one another. The cause is the primacy of freedom over society. Libertarians and Leftists alike would have us continue merrily destroying social bonds to solve the problem of bad governance – because to destroy society would necessarily destroy government. This is what I mean by “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

I said at the top that Libertarians are right to oppose the current government. Reactionaries do too. But any alternatives to the current regime must be scrubbed of any traces of Libertarianism. Southern Reactionaries heartily reject the primacy of freedom and liberty. We recognize the primacy of a healthy and functioning society, and acknowledge the necessity of a strong and able government, employed to that purpose. The current of modern Western politics has been the same for the past 200 years – that the world is too little governed. This has been the mantra of the Socialists, the Feminists, the Suffragists, the Abolitionists, the Revolutionaries, and now the Libertarians. George Fitzhugh, quoting Thomas Carlyle, wrote, “‘The world is too little governed,’ and, therefore, is going to wreck.” Unfortunate that no one heeded his call in 1857, for we are now in the final stages of the wrecking.

Like Mr. Fitzhugh, we recognize the problems plaguing us as not too much government, but the deficiency of it. We would, perhaps brazenly, restrict the freedoms which are inherently destructive to society, and thus we work for the society as a whole. We champion the organic State and the principles which have sustained Western Civilization for thousands of years. The traces of these which remain today are the reason for the continual functioning of society, the removal of missing parts is the reason for the dysfunction. We would bring it back in full in order to cure our social ills and save our civilisation from destruction.

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5 thoughts on “Why Southern Reaction? To Southern Libertarians

  1. I have yet to meet a libertarian who was convinced by reasonable discourse, since the essence of that ideology is the illusion that they are the most rational. I find the best tactic, especially with Southerners, is to point out the damage that libertarianism is doing to the things, people, and places they love. Leverage the natural Southern love for their own, and they begin to see past the ideology to the truth.

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  4. “Leftists target the social bonds directly; Libertarians, perhaps unknowingly, will accomplish the same ends by targeting the institution responsible for maintaining those bonds.”

    So are you saying that social bonds are necessarily dependent on government? The Amish have social bonds and limitations on their “freedoms” not because of any federal or state government, but because they govern themselves by their own religion and institutions.

    It seems like you are confusing the words “Libertarianism” and “Freedom” with Left-Libertarianism and total license. I know there are many Right-Libertarians who see the need for morality, social cohesion, and hierarchy, while still favoring little to no government.

    Also, I agree with Fitzhugh’s analysis that different levels and forms of government are appropriate for different types of people. That being the case, some people are capable of maintaining social order with absolutely no government at all. Look at the early American settlers. Of course they have to establish their own internal form of “government,” but this is not necessarily incompatible with the Libertarian outlook.

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  5. The term “government” doesn’t necessarily equate to State or Federal. Any institution or system of institutions which exercises authority over a community or state could rightly be a called a “government.” For the Amish, the church has much more authority over their day-to-day lives than the state, and thus it is their primary government.

    Social bonds arise outside of government, but it is government’s job to police those bonds and keep them healthy and strong. The Amish are a perfect example. True, they don’t have control of a state or federal government, but they exercise strong, nearly autocratic government through the church to maintain their society nonetheless. Anyone who doesn’t toe the Amish line – dictated by their government – gets shamed at best, completely excommunicated at worst. The church, or government, is also the driver of these punitive actions. Seems to me one would have to use a very loose definition of Libertarianism indeed in order to cram the Amish into it. The Libertarian “let alone” doctrine is quite foreign to Amish customs according to everything I’ve read. If the Amish did adopt the principles of Libertarianism, there’s little doubt the community would dissolve, or at least change drastically in character over a short amount time.

    The very fact that one has to distinguish between right and left-Libertarianism is a scathing indictment of the basic premises of the ideology. The problem with a right-Libertarian government is that it offers no real way of preventing the inevitable slide into left-Libertarianism (that I’m aware of, anyway). Any controls it may implement for this reason necessarily pushes said government away from the principles of Libertarianism. Sure, “some people” can operate without a government at all – yet, how many societies today would function were the government to dissolve? Zero. Government is not for “some people,” it is for all the people, and any society is going to have plenty of people, Aristotle’s “natural slaves,” who need government to protect them. (EDIT: Just for clarification, I mean protection as in long-term protection via the health and strength of society, not short-term protection as in welfare, etc; in short, most people need government to protect them from themselves)

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