Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tom Woods vs. Bionic Mosquito: A Rift Over Rifts


By Robert Wenzel

Ok, I am going to jump into the middle of this thing while admitting I haven't listened to the full Tom Woods-Michael Malice podcast under discussion.

Tom's broadcasts are almost always extremely insightful but listening to the first minutes of this one did not leave me with the impression that it was going to reach the high degree of insight that
usually occurs in a Woods' podcast. When it first came out, I listened for maybe three minutes and moved on. Bionic Mosquito, who apparently did listen to the entire podcast, makes this point:
Tom Woods and Michael Malice discuss “Healing Libertarian Rifts.”  They are reviewing an earlier discussion hosted by Malice between Woods and Matt Welch.
There is discussion between Woods and Malice about this rift – let’s say the rift is between the Mises / Rothbard (meaning Rockwell) wing and the Cato / Reason (meaning Koch, although I think they recently disavowed this label) wing.  Woods asks “if we can resolve it, that’s valuable.” 
Malice offers a key comment at about the 8:50 minute mark (captured as best as I can without listening to it ten times):
It’s also just bizarre that a movement that’s rooted in individualism and regards value as subjective is going to be baffled that other people have different priorities and different perspectives, and not only just baffled but insist that those priorities are wrong.
Mosquito appears to me to have hit the vein here of the podcast in draining this Malice comment from the discussion.

The problem that is hidden by Malice's point is the nature of the individualism.  The view of the Rockwell team is much more consistent in applying liberty (though maybe not so much with immigration). The Cato / Reason team deviates very often from the consistent application of liberty. There are just a lot of calls by Cato / Reason people for government interventions all over the place.

Thus, the situation is not about accepting individualism, as the Malice comment implies, but of accepting a Cato / Reason view that often calls for limitations on individuals, that is, the use of government coercion against some individuals. It is the kind of calls for government intervention that correctly result in knee-jerk horror by team Rockwell. It is this kind of attack on individualism by government actors that is the problem.

Malice's framing of  Cato / Reason as just different individualists misses the point that the Cato / Reason departures from team Rockwell are departures in limiting individual choices. To suggest this is just a different subjective view is way off. I can think of some pretty bad actors that have roamed this planet, without going into the specific f├╝hrers, that it could be correctly said had different perspectives and value scales than the rest of us. Are we to support them because they were "individualists"? In other words, the individualism of libertarianism is based on leaving others alone. The minute we bring those who "hold different subjective values" into the libertarian tent who want to coerce others, we are deviating from the core of the live and let live individualism of libertarianism.

I hasten to add that Mosquito does hint his version of libertarianism appears to require some kind of coercion when he writes:
 If libertarianism is rooted in individualism, there is no movement.  No libertarian who holds conservative values will fall on their libertarian sword for your right to have a sausage orgy.
He doesn't come right out and say it but it seems to me that he has a problem with non-conservative libertarians and he objects to this type of subsection of libertarianism even when it doesn't include government coercion.

Well, I am unlikely to raise a sword for any libertarian much less an individualistic subsection practicing sausage orgies. But I am going to leave them alone.

Further, my game is to keep an eye out for the location that allows me to do the most that I want to do and allows me to hang out there with civilized people. If I were to ever take up sword, it would be to smash statists if they really got to irritate me, not because I consider it some libertarian requirement. I consider this, and this is in line with my #PPS live and let live (with a respect for private property) philosophy, my guide.

I really don't care what goes on other properties, sausage orgies or whatever. The people I have a problem with are those that want to institute rules on my property that I want nothing to do with.

Yeah, they have a different subjective value scale but the authoritarian nature of their value scale is the problem.

Mosquito is correct to sting Malice for not understanding this.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of

11 comments:

  1. Very enlightening, RW...the background, the explanation of Bionic Mosquito's perspective (whose rambling posts I was never a fan of), and especially your own analysis and assessment. I'm putting this one in the "Desert Island" folder.
    --Dave Afton

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    1. BM seems very concerned about the fact that the NAP is not an all encompassing philosophy of life. To me, it takes care of about 75% or more of most problems of living which usually concern violence and lying. There's no murder, pillage, theft or rape with private property and the NAP. There's no lying with contracts.

      First things first. Then stand up straight and clean your room.

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    2. I think enlightened Libertarians have instinctively already known that the NAP is not black and white. If you dont then you are in for a world of disappointment!

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  2. TW, please do a show/s on vaccines, health freedom, etc. This is a huge issue and one libertarians must deal with. As far as I know, you have not covered this issue in your 1000+ episodes. I also notice that whenever you have a guest who criticizes big pharma or allopathic medicine you often pipe in with a disclaimer or defense of pharma/allopathic medicine. I don't understand why you shy away from this issue, but will do a show on how the war on fat was misguided or other similar issues.

    Sorry for posting this here, but this is my "rift" with TW.

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  3. Believe it or not, I'm much closer to RW's version of the PPS than some people think. As a practical matter, I see the PPS as THE SOLUTION to the alleged problem of people who are "tribal", racist, hate guns or want to pool their money and property under voluntary socialism. As libertarians, we should give examples that are life-style neutral. If people want to have 72 genders or goose step around to Hitler marches all day, just do it. On your own property.

    Finally, I do not think that taking such a position is necessarily "individualist". PPS involves private property and contracts. That's all the consensus that is required. What goes on and how the contracts are written is for other people to worry about. They can be as tribal or individualist as they can be if they can still make a living without violence and lying.

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  4. Good points, Robert and Bob. I would also point out that neither camp march in lockstep. Some in the Rockwell side cling to the old views on IP, for example. There are some very principled writers who have appeared in Cato and Reason pubs. Long and Soave come to mind.

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  5. Apparently, Malice never liked and never read Rothbard. The first thing I even read about libertarianism was in a senior level Poly Sci class in 1973 and that was “Power and Market”, defense services on the free market and the fundamentals of violent economic intervention. Yes, economic intervention is always violent. That is the meaning of libertarianism.

    CHAPTER 1—DEFENSE SERVICES ON THE FREE MARKET

    CHAPTER 2—FUNDAMENTALS OF INTERVENTION

    1. Types of Intervention

    Why are people still fussing about these basic concepts? If you aren’t a libertarian, go start another movement and go away (not necessarily directed towards Malice).

    https://tinyurl.com/y9jywk6k

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    1. At age 11 I was the second person ever to read Harry Browne's Why Government Doesn't Work. It took at least another 11 years for me to go full AnCap.

      People's minds are boobytrapped. For most people, coming to terms with the nature of the state is like turning your back on an abusive parent. It is not merely an intellectual exercise. It is also a spiritual exorcise.

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  6. Doesn't this all end with the libertarian purity test where the "best" libertarian is someone who forgoes anything and everything that has ever been touched by the state to the point where he is impoverished and isolated?

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  7. I find the screwball anxiety over immigration among the Mises crowd to be alarming. They are bright dudes. Something is clouding their thinking.

    As for Cato, are they actually libertarians? I'm not sure they are.

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    1. I listen to a lot of the Cato podcasts. Cato Daily and Free Thoughts have interesting guests, and often times the right questions get asked, but there is no real anchor principle behind the answers (or at least it's not the NAP), and so I often find the answers and follow-up to be frustrating. I call Cato "libertarian-lite."

      On the other hand, Excursions Into Libertarian Thought is very good, as it's a series of essays by George Smith, who seems to be a very solid defender of the NAP.

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