Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When Weighty Philosophical Endorsements Are Not Enough

David Gordon, the most dangerous man with a computer keyboard, writes:
In a recent speech delivered at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas and published in The Daily Bell, Mr. Nelson Hultberg identified what he took be a crucial defect in the thought of Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard.Both of these thinkers, it transpires, sinned against Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean.
In what way did they do this? Rothbard missed that the mean between Totalitarianism and Anarchism is Constitutional Republicanism. Only this system allows objective law, and Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism would lead to “thousands of private defense agencies. . . . guided by arbitrary rules.” Rand likewise in her defense of egoism erred by excess. Against her, Hultberg thinks that Traditional Individualism, as taught in the Judeo-Christian Ethic, is the mean between Total Self-Sacrifice and Total Self-Concern.
Aristotle did indeed write about certain virtues as means between vices of excess and defect; courage, as Hultberg notes, is in Aristotle’s view a mean between rashness and cowardice. But to say that what is correct is the right amount between “too much” and “not enough” doesn’t help us discover the “right” amount. Rather, it is only when we already know what the correct view is that we can identify excess and deficiency. A cook who wonders how much salt to put in the pot won’t be helped much by being told not to put in too much or too little.
 If Hultberg has an argument that shows that anarcho-capitalism leads to lawlessness, it is not evident in his speech. To present us with a chart in which the position he favors occupies the middle space does not suffice. Perhaps the argument is to be found in Hultberg’s book The Golden Mean, written, he tells us, “in non-technical language.” Though the book carries the weighty philosophical endorsements of Mark Skousen and Robert Ringer, I doubt it.


  1. Yep, if the "mean" is so great, why shouldn't everyone be striving for the "mean" in their job performance, income, etc.

    It's sad that Gordon has to waste his time pointing out the obvious.

    Just because some concept has Aristotle's name attached to it doesn't mean:

    #1 It's "truth"

    #2 That it has been done in any kind of context

    1. Indeed. As I pointed out over at Bionic Mosquito's blog, who, by the way, also nicely eviscerated this empty intellectual, no Catholic, Protestant, or Jew strives to be "just an OK" Catholic, Protestant, or Jew. A central tenet of each faith is "to be the BEST X, Y, or Z" one can.

      Moreover, no one ever achieves ANYTHING without striving to be the BEST. No one who gets anywhere says, "meh, 50% will make me a millionaire."