Archives for posts with tag: Hans Hermann Hoppe

This is Part 2 in my series about different theories of power. My previous article in this series, Theories of Power: Part 1, Pluralism, addresses the pluralist view of power. Pluralism, very briefly, is the view that power is held by various groups in society. It is like the theory of free markets applied to the political realm because both are based on competition. In free markets, capitalists compete with one another for the “votes” of consumers; similarly, in pluralism, there is competition among various interest groups for votes.  G. William Domhoff,  in his article Who Rules America: Alternative Theoretical Viewssuccinctly summarizes what pluralism stands for when he writes, “who controls the state”:

the American public through political parties, elections, interest groups, lobbying, and the force of public opinion as pluralists claim.

The “trick” to make society work, according to pluralists, is to make sure that power is dispersed among many groups. As Domhoff tells us:

Most of these “society-centric” analysts have been pluralists. That means the control of the state by private interests was not to be deplored because many different groups were involved.

Now in this article, I move on to another theory of power, namely, the State Autonomy Theory. The plan for this paper is simply to:

  1. Summarize the major points of the State Autonomy Theory based on G. William Domhoff’s article Who Rules America: Alternative Theoretical Views
  2. Apply the insights of the State Autonomy Theory to the Right Wing Libertarian or Austrian School views on the government and state, because I think there is some noticeable overlap here

The Major Points of State Autonomy Theory

My general impression of the State Autonomy Theory is that it views the state as some sort of super alien being with its own dominant will that is detached from the rest of society. It is as if there is society in one corner of the room and the state in another corner.  Power is not in the hands of the general citizenry, nor is it in the hands of a dominant social class. Instead, the government has “independence from the rest of society” or is considered an “autonomous” entity. Domhoff, echoing what John Taylor Gatto wrote in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, tells us that under the State Autonomy Theory, “the state can and does act in its own interests, which are stability and expansion.” Gatto said a similar thing when he writes that “nearly a century ago a French sociologist wrote that every institution’s unstated first goal is to survive and grow, not to undertake the mission it has nominally staked out for itself” (58). In fact, the State Autonomy Theory seems to even echo some of the ideas coming from a book you can download for free at the Mises Institute, Gunter Reimann’s The Vampire Economy: Doing Business Under Fascism. In Reimann’s book, he mentions how the state seems to take on a “mind of its own” when it gets away from its original architects. Reimann explains how the original big business architects of Nazism had intended to create a Nazi state as their tool; unfortunately for these Nazis, their tool got out of hand and the Nazi state developed a mind of its own:

It was their hope that the Nazi party would serve as their tool. Especially was this the belief of the important industrialists who had feared the loss of their monopolies, and of the big agrarians who could not survive the crisis without fresh State subsidies. Both eagerly sought political power in order to safeguard their positions–not merely against social revolutionary forces, but also against business competitors who attacked their monopolist privileges. They invested huge amounts of money in the Nazis. They did this, or had to do it, on too large a scale. For the power they helped create all too soon became the master of its creators–“authoritarian,” independent of their will and regulation. (291-292, bold emphasis mine)

Since the state is this independent and autonomous unit with its own will, according to the State Autonomy Theory, then “government officials can enter into coalitions with groups in society, whether business, labor, or political parties, if they share the same goals as the state” (Domhoff, Who Rules America: Alternative Theoretical Views). When asked “who controls that state,” Domhoff replies:

elected officials, appointed officials, and career employees as the state autonomy theorists claim.

Domhoff tells us that there are three major reasons that explain how the state becomes this independent monster with its own will (with bold emphasis mine):

  1. its monopoly on the legitimate use of force within the country
  2. its unique role in defending the country from foreign rivals
  3. its regulatory and taxing powers

Finally, the last point I want to mention about the State Autonomy Theory is that it stresses the autonomy or independence of the state from corporate or capitalist power. In other words, the state and capitalism are two distinct entities. We see this very clearly when Domhoff writes the following about how the state and capitalism interact under the State Autonomy Theory:

In a capitalist world, the state’s leaders do their best to keep capitalism healthy because that is in their own interests in terms of state revenues and a happy civilian population, not because they are first and foremost concerned with capitalism and capitalists. (bold emphasis mine)

Applying the State Autonomy Theory to Austrian Economic Views of the State

My sneaking suspicion is that the Austrian School approach to the state and the State Autonomy’s approach to the state share some noticeable points of overlap. Let me explain why I think this overlap exists.

First, notice that the State Autonomy Theory creates this separation between the state and capitalism. This, of course, is the essence of the Austrian school anarcho-capitalism–this view that we can separate capitalism from the state and we can abolish the state while keeping capitalism.

We have the state as this independent will that can enter into “coalitions” or alliances with different groups in society. Domhoff mentioned a few of these possible “alliance partners” with the state: business, labor and political parties. Let’s translate a few of these into “Austrian” lingo:

  1. Let’s say that the independent and autonomous state forms an alliance with labor. Then all these “socialist” type laws will be passed–welfare, unemployment insurance, occupational health and safety laws, minimum wage laws and so on. Then, the reaction will come in the form of Austrian books such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed. Democratic states are just monsters out there ruining the economy by distorting time preference and looting the productive assets of the economy. Or as Hoppe puts it, “it must be regarded as unavoidable that public-government ownership results in continual capital consumption. Instead of maintaining or even enhancing the value of the government estate, as a king would do, a president (the government’s temporary caretaker or trustee) will use up as much of the government resources as quickly as possible, for what he does not consume now, he may never be able to consume” (24).
  2. Let’s say instead that the independent and autonomous state is thinking about forming an alliance with business. Now we have the textbook Austrian School distinction between the “market” entrepreneur and the “political” entrepreneur coming into play. Because capitalism is separated from the state, according to the State Autonomy Theory, then we can have the Austrian “market” entrepreneur scenario, i.e., the story of the entrepreneur who gets rich by only engaging in free market transactions and by never getting any state assistance. The “market” entrepreneur is the “good guy” who totally separates his capitalist enterprise from the state. If, on the other hand, an alliance is actually formed between the autonomous state and business, then we have the textbook Austrian “political” entrepreneur scenario. In the “political” entrepreneur scenario, the “bad” capitalist (unlike the “good” Austrian capitalist) is running to the government for some nefarious alliance, maybe a subsidy or a bailout or protection from foreign competition and so on.  I have written more about this Austrian distinction between the “good” market entrepreneur and the “bad” political entrepreneur in my articles Doubting the Right Wing Libertarian Robber Baron Revisionism and More on James J Hill: Putative Market Entrepreneur Extraordinaire.

The last point I will make is to simply point out that there is some obvious overlap between the Austrian theory of the state and what is offered by the State Autonomy Theory when it comes to the issue of what constitutes “state independence”? In the State Autonomy Theory we are told that “state independence, usually called ‘autonomy’ is said to be due to several intertwined factors.” I listed those three major factors above, but let me reproduce them again. This time, however, keep in mind that I am trying to illustrate the overlap with the Austrian theory of the state:

  1. its monopoly on the legitimate use of force within the country
  2. its unique role in defending the country from foreign rivals
  3. its regulatory and taxing powers

Now let’s go pull out Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s book Democracy: The God that Failed in order to show that all three of the above issues from the State Autonomy Theory are pretty much what Austrians obsess about when it comes to the state.

Chapter 2 in Hoppe’s book begins by saying that

a government is a territorial monopolist of compulsion [sounds like “force” to me]–an agency which may engage in continual, institutionalized property rights violations and the exploitation–in the form of expropriation, taxation and regulation–of private property owners. Assuming no more than self-interest on the part of government agents [the State Autonomy Theory!], all governments must be expected to make use of this monopoly and exhibit a tendency toward increased exploitation. (45, bold emphasis mine)

Well, the overlap isn’t exact, since Domhoff tells us that the state would try to keep capitalism going by keeping capitalism healthy, while Hoppe tells us that the complete opposite will happen when he writes about the “increased” exploitation.  But notice the overlap. Both Hoppe and Domhoff mention that the state is a (1) monopolist, (2) of force or compulsion, with the power to (3) tax and regulate. And notice how Hoppe specifically states that there is “self-interest on the part of government agents.” That is precisely what we find in the State Autonomy Theory: “for the state autonomy theorists, then, the state can and does act in its own interests.

I don’t want to belabor this, but one could find relatively easily Hoppe bemoaning the fact that the state is the monopoly defense provider as well. This, of course, would demonstrate that Hoppe–our Austrian school economist–is in conformity with point 2 of the State Autonomy Theory. This is the topic of Hoppe’s chapter 12, where he begins this chapter by stating that

I will demonstrate that the idea of collective security is a myth that provides no justification for the modern state, and that all security is and must be private (239).

And finally, to conclude my article, I want to point out the significance of linking the Austrian school’s views about the state to those offered by the State Autonomy Theory. This is because it provides for some new approaches to criticizing the Austrian School of Economics. The criticisms that are leveled at the State Autonomy Theory could possibly be turned around and leveled at the Austrian School as well.  If you read Domhoff’s article, it is fairly obvious that he strongly dislikes the State Autonomy Theory; Domhoff is quite convinced that the State Autonomy Theory is wrong mainly because it just does not apply to the United States. I will end my article by citing Domhoff on this very important point:

Even with the idea of potential autonomy available as a way to concede that there is corporate dominance in the United States, they insist on giving the American state considerable autonomy. However, there are many reasons why this potential does not manifest itself in the United States. State autonomy is only possible when a state is unified and relatively impermeable to the employees and representatives of private organizations. But the American government is neither. (bold emphasis mine)

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Can you guess which Austrian school economist said these immortal words? Can you guess which Austrian school of economics book I am citing from when I type:

Their book takes, in the traditional style of historical apologetics, a completely deductive a priori approach.

Was it Ludwig von Mises? It might be. Take a look at one of Mises’s adversaries, the blogger Lord Keynes. Lord Keynes summarizes the Misesian methodological approach by writing in Mises’ Praxeology: A Critique:

Its [i.e., praxeological] statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification or falsification on the ground of experience and fact.

Maybe it comes from Mises’s book on method, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science where we are told that

economics is not history. Economics is a branch of praxeology, the aprioristic theory of human action. The economist does not base his theories upon historical research, but upon theoretical thinking like that of the logician or the mathematician. (66)

Or could it be one of Mises’s followers, perhaps? How about we try Hoppe who tells us Democracy: The God that Failed that

A priori theory trumps and corrects experience (and logic overrules observation), and not vice-versa. (xvi)

Or maybe it is tucked away in the Introduction to the Second Edition of Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market in a section that says something like this:

This explains why Rothbard identified the use of the praxeological method, rather than a loose subjectivist orientation, as the hallmark and acid test of scientific economics. (xxxiii)

Nope! It isn’t Mises, nor is it Hoppe, nor is it Rothbard. It is none of them. In fact, I didn’t cite an Austrian school economist at all! No, my opening quotation comes from Chapter 10 of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, written by Robert M Price. His article has nothing to do with Austrian School economics; instead, it is a review essay of a “landmark work of Gospel apologetics” called The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Price is a Jesus Seminar scholar who was originally quite the Christian if I remember correctly, but he eventually abandoned the faith and became one of the most prolific writers on atheism today. Just to give you a quick flavor of where Price is coming from, take a look at the book he co-authored with Jeffery Jay Lowder called The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, and we see how the “a priori” comes into play in an attempt to establish the historical reliability of the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as opposed to it just being a legend:

It seems to me that there are good reasons to reject Craig’s a priori assumptions about what an empty tomb story would have included if it were legendary. (624/1182, bold emphasis mine)

What struck me was how Price begins this essay–the one my opening quotation is from–by pointing out that Christian apologetics is based on a completely deductive a priori approach, i.e., the Austrian school of economics’s “home turf.”

Now Price’s essay is about, in part, defending the Biblical Form Critics from the attacks leveled against them by the completely deductive a priori Christian apologists. Look at the warm and fuzzy relationship that exists between these two groups when Price writes that

they [i.e., the Christian apologists Boyd and Eddy] sneer at the form-critical axiom that particular forms in which the sayings or stories meet us in any way reflect the Sitz-im-Leben [i.e., the life situation of the church at the time of the creation of these stories] of their use. (Jesus: Myth and Method, 284, bold emphasis mine)

So my educated guess at the moment is this: maybe Biblical “Form Criticism” could be used as another way to dissect and to critique the deductive a priori Austrians.

So what is “form” criticism? Well, if we go to Robert M Price’s book, The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems, we see that it boils down to this: what is useful to a community (i.e., the early Christian church community), is what gets passed down to future generations:

I referred to the central axiom of form criticism: that nothing would have been passed down in the tradition unless it was useful to prove some point, to provide some precedent….all pericopae [i.e., contained units or sayings] of the Jesus tradition owe their survival to the fact that they were useful. (20/428, bold emphasis mine)

Price then gives us the “practical implication” of all of this, namely this: the Church sticks words into the mouth of Jesus in order to give them authority. I will cite Price on this, then I want to compare this to one of the reviews of the Rothbard approach to writing the history of economic thought. They do sound very similar to me. But first, Price:

The closer a Jesus-saying seems to match the practice or teaching of the early Church, the greater likelihood that it stems from the latter and has been placed fictively into the speech or life of Jesus merely to secure its authority. (20/428, bold emphasis mine)

Now let’s turn to the essay I was reading yesterday, which inspired me to write in my notes the following: the reviewer is accusing Rothbard of putting words into the mouth of historical characters such as Cantillon, or the French laissez-faire economists, or Say, etc. It is that expression “putting words into the mouth of historical characters” that got me seriously thinking about this link between Biblical Form Criticism and the Rothbardian approach to writing the history of economic thought.  In Tony Endres’s article in the History of Economics Review, we see the reviewer complaining again and again about how Rothbard is transforming historical characters into things that they were not.  Just as the later Christian church is “sticking words into the mouth” of the earlier Jesus, so too the later Murray Rothbard is “sticking words into the mouth” of the earlier historical characters. That is how I would interpret Endres’s review of Rothbard’s works on the history of economic thought.

For example, Endres writes, how Aristotle becomes an Austrian School economist: “Aristotle’s fragmentary remarks on money are exemplary because they are viewed as ‘predating parts of the economics of the Austrian school.'” Cantillon becomes a defender of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory: “Cantillon ‘provides the first hints of the later Austrian theory of the business cycle’ simply because he understood that ‘expanding credit lower[s] the rate of interest.'” Say turns into earlier version of Mises! This reminds me of how the Joseph of the Old Testament gets transformed into the Joseph (Jesus) of the New Testament. It is a common observation in critical studies of the Bible, namely, older traditions get reworked into later traditions. Another example is how the story of Daniel in the Old Testament gets rewritten into the tomb story in the New Testament (see Richard C Carrier, Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, 199-204, “But even using those criteria alone it’s sufficiently strong to be clear…that Matthew made all this up to equate the tomb of Jesus with Daniel’s den of lions”). As Endres tells us “Say becomes, in Rothbard’s hands, a ‘praxeologist.'”

What it all seems to boil down to is this: our “Old Testament” characters in economic history are all foreshadowing our “New Testament” character of the “marginalist revolution” that ushered in the Austrian School of Economics later in history. And we can see that Endres seems to be thinking that Rothbard is “sticking words into the mouths” of historical characters when he sums up by saying:

As Skinner argues “the only plausible answer is of course fatal to the claim [made by Rothbard] itself; that the author [J. B. Say in this case] did not (or even could not) have meant after all to enunciate such a doctrine.”

Let me mention a few other things quickly, that suggest that this “Biblical Form Critical” approach might be very useful in dissecting the Austrian School of Economics. Notice how Price emphasized that what is useful for the Church is what gets passed down to later followers of Christianity (aka what we get to read about in the New Testament). If it is useful it gets passed down; if it is not useful it gets discarded.  Maybe this will explain some of the “bombshell” observations–i.e., shocking observations–made by the blogger Lord Keynes.  For example, Lord Keynes has a blog entitled Friedrich von Wieser and Eugen von Philippovich von Philippsberg: Austrian Economists and Fabian Socialists and we get this shocker:

And now for what might be a bombshell for some people. Two of the first generation of Austrian economists were clearly supporters of Fabian socialism. Yes, you heard me right: they were advocates of early 20th century Fabian socialism.

Or take a quick look at Lord Keynes’s blog, Rescuing Menger from the Austrians, where we find this rather shocking statement from Lord Keynes:

That book shows that the founder of Austrian economics was worlds apart from the modern cult of anarcho-capitalism.

Why does Lord Keynes say this:

All in all, the founder of Austrian economics appears to have accepted the existence of the state and a number of interventions, perhaps on utilitarian grounds.

One rarely hears from modern anarcho-capitalists the fact that Mises thought that natural law theory would lead to tyranny. In Mises’s Economics as a Bridge for Interhuman Understanding we see Mises dismissing natural law, yet I am told by some that Mises is an anarcho-capitalist (hence Mises is “safely” in the Rothbard natural law camp):

The doctrine of natural rights can be traced back to ancient and medieval philosophy. It was easy to coin this natural rights doctrine into popular catchwords which appealed to the masses [maybe “non-aggression principle”]. It supplied the revolutionaries with fanatical fervor. But its illusiveness again and again frustrated the initial success of the reforms inaugurated, and resulted in terrorism and tyranny. (Ludwig von Mises, Economic Freedom and Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays,258, bold emphasis mine)

So I am thinking, following this Biblical Form Critical approach, that to understand the Austrian school, we have to study how ideas get “passed on” from one generation to the next. What gets passed on. What gets dropped.

And finally, the form critical idea of Sitz-im-Leben or life situation might be relevant for understanding the Austrian school literature. If we look at the Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2nd edition, by Richard N Soulen we see that Sitz-im-Leben means:

setting in life, or life situation…in Form Criticism to refer to that sociological setting within the life of Israel or the early Church in which particular rhetorical forms (legends, sayings, liturgical formulae, psalms, prophecies, parables, etc.) first took shape. (178)

In other words, maybe the Austrian school’s “praxeology” is not so much their “methodology” of science but rather, maybe praxeology is their “rhetorical form” that emerged in a particular Sitz-im-Leben in the past. Praxeology, this “literary form” then gets passed down because of its usefulness in beating off uncomfortable empirical evidence, such as administered prices. What might this particular Sitz-im-Leben be?

I am thinking that one of the comments on Lord Keynes’s blog might be the answer to the question I just asked, what might have been the Sitz-im-Leben behind the “literary form” of “praxeology”? The article is called Barrotta’s Kantian Critique of Mises’s Epistemology, and the comment in particular is by Georg Thomas:

I suspect, Mises was traumatised by the terrible attacks levelled against the Austrian school by the hugely preponderant German Historical School. The latter denied the possibility of a general science of economics, and so Mises developed an exaggerated rationalist ambition to provide an unshakable epistemological foundation for economics, and ended up with his highly questionable praxeology – which really is rather an unsavoury attempt at cornering absolute truth. This attitude attracted truly dogmatic minds, especially that of Rothbard who transplanted Mises rationalistic ambition into his hubristic system building efforts in the area of ethics and political theory.

In other words, the life situation or Sitz-im-Leben for the creation of a “literary form” of “praxeology” might have been the “terrible attacks levelled against the Austrian school by the hugely preponderant German Historical School.”

Please understand that this essay is a collection of inchoate thoughts by me. So I am still developing my ideas in this area. That is why this essay is a bit disjointed and the arguments are not fully developed. That is because I am still developing them in my own mind. But I wanted to write it down and share it with some of you!

James J Hill

In my previous article, entitled Doubting the Right Wing Libertarian Robber Baron Revisionism, I mentioned a review article by William L Lang from Portland State University. His review article directly contradicts the capitalist apologetic version of history found in Thomas J DiLorenzo’s book How Capitalism Saved America. To briefly recap the conflicting theses let me quickly cite the germane points, first DiLorenzo then Lang.

Thus, all of the railroad men of the late nineteenth century have gone down in history as “robber barons,” although this designation definitely does not apply to James J. Hill. It does apply to his subsidized competitors, who deserve all the condemnation that history has provided them. (Also deserving of condemnation are the politicians who subsidized them, enabling their monopoly and corruption). (Thomas J DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America, 120-121)

And now from the review article by Lang, which I also cited in my previous article. If you follow the link to my previous article you can read all the germane quotations that I pulled out for consideration. For this article, let me focus in on the most important part of Lang’s review article:

But the equally familiar story of Hill as the only railroad tycoon who built his lines free of government aid is demolished in this revisionist treatment….In Malone’s perceptive account, we see him as clearly the beneficiary of government investment and action, a far cry from earlier depictions of Hill as the self-made man who built an empire with little more than his bare hands. (William L Lang, An Imperial Ego in the Age of Industrial Capitalism)

The good news is this: I found a copy of Michael P Malone’s James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest. This allows me to check the review article by William L Lang. I mentioned in my previous article that I was a bit worried because I had not checked the originals in order to verify the Lang version of events. But, I can do that now! That is the purpose of this article, to present some of my preliminary results of looking through Malone’s book.

Just as a quick aside, DiLorenzo is aware of Malone’s book because he cites it. On page 115 of How Capitalism Saved America, DiLorenzo writes: “Hill’s Great Northern was, consequently, the ‘best constructed and most profitable of all the world’s major railroads,’ as Michael P. Malone points out.” DiLorenzo ends the sentence with “end note 15” which simply mentions that he is citing page 102 of Malone.

Observation 1: The Kolko Factor as a Source of Austrian Inconsistency

Gabriel Kolko, the New Left historian, seems to be a darling of the Austrian School when it comes to the history of the Progressive Era. In fact, I first learned about Gabriel Kolko’s existence from Thomas J DiLorenzo’s other book, Hamilton’s Curse. DiLorenzo writes the following about Kolko’s book The Triumph of Conservatism:

In the important and influential 1963 book The Triumph of Conservatism, the historian Gabriel Kolko meticulously documented how American businesses, far from resisting political control, sought such regulation because they could use it to their advantage. (Thomas J DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America, 141)

DiLorenzo is not the only Austrian School Economist to appeal to Kolko’s work, in order to defend the Austrian approach to the history of economics, Hans-Hermann Hoppe cites Gabriel Kolko in Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism:

G. Kolko, a left-winger and thus certainly a trustworthy witness, at least for the critics from the left, sums up his research into this question as follows… (210)

Just as I criticized DiLorenzo in my previous article for being too assertive when using the phrase “definitely does not apply to James J. Hill,” so too I will apply this same criticism to the mises.org material on Gabriel Kolko. Take, for instance, Jeff Riggenbach’s article entitled John T Flynn: Revisionist Journalist, where we are told the truth of the Progressive Era. I suppose that all other opinions on the Progressive Era must be rejected as lies, since mises.org has discovered the truth!

The truth is otherwise. The truth is that the New Deal was what the revisionist historian Gabriel Kolko called a “triumph of conservatism.” Kolko used that phrase as the title of a seminal 1963 book in which he showed that the wave of federal regulation of business that came in with the Progressive Era in the early years of the 20th century was in fact spearheaded by large corporations, which wanted the regulations in order to put smaller competitors out of business and enable the large corporations to enjoy a large, virtually guaranteed market share without having to take the trouble to compete in order to get it. In many cases, Kolko showed, the big corporations that lobbied for these new regulations actually wrote the regulations that were eventually adopted. (Jeff Riggenbach, John T Flynn: Revisionist Journalist, bold emphasis mine)

I guess I can shut down my investigation because Riggenbach has given us the truth. Unfortunately, I am not willing to take his pronouncement as the truth. All this talk about “the truth” coming from the Austrian School of Economics’s homepage,  reminds me of another interesting criticism of this school. In his humorously entitled article, Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy, Robert Anton Wilson argues that natural law types–such as the followers of Rothbard–are just a priesthood class pretending to be “philosophers”:

All the arguments in modern Natural Law theory would immediately make some kind of sense if one inserted the word “God” in them at blurry and meaningless places in the jargon. It seems that the word is left out because the Natural Law cultists do not want it obvious that they are setting up shop as priests; they want us to consider them philosophers. (Robert Anton Wilson, Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy, 21/51, bold emphasis mine)

I suppose I will have to play the role of “the heretic” by denying “the truth” as “revealed” to me by my priests over at mises.org. So I will not be able to tell you “the truth” of the Progressive Era. All I can offer is an argument based on some research I did that suggests to me an inconsistency in this entire Austrian school story. Let me present my basic argument in numbered points, followed by some evidence that I have collected:

  1. Paeans to James J Hill by the Austrians as this textbook “market” entrepreneur (who suffers from the vituperative abuse of the historians who mistakenly lump him in with the evil and minacious “robber barons” or “political” entrepreneurs)
  2. Panegyrics to Gabriel Kolko, the (angelic?) bringer of Progressive Era and business regulatory “truth”
  3. Thomas J DiLorenzo praising 1. Hill and 2. Kolko, while citing Malone
  4. The problem comes when we try to reconcile Hill, Kolko, and Malone. This problem arises because Malone makes a rather fascinating claim, namely, Hill contradicts Kolko! 

In other words, I think there is some tension here in the land of Austrian revealed “truth” when one tries to synthesize all of these stories. Let us now turn to what Malone has to say about James J Hill and Gabriel Kolko, and how they contradict each other:

The fact that Hill accepted the inevitability of federal regulationdid not mean, however, that he welcomed it or felt that he really benefited from it. His example fails to uphold historian Gabriel Kolko’s famous assertion that rail executives supported and then secured federal regulation and that they won from it a benevolent federal oversight of the industry, oversight running counter to the public interest. Hill’s perspective tends, rather, to affirm the interpretations of Edward Purcell, Albro Martin, and others: railroad men divided over the nascent Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), grudgingly accepting its political necessity but sharing gains and losses with producers and other interested groups.

Hill and other railroad leaders watched approvingly during the conservative 1890s as the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the ICC lacked the authority to set maximum rates. Similarly, the courts cut the railroads considerable slack regarding Section Four of the Interstate Commerce Act, which nebulously outlawed the notorious “long-and-short-haul,” whereby railroads charged higher rates to inland cities than to ports even when the interior city lay nearer the point of embarkation. (Michael P Malone, James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest, pages 200-201 or 401-403/618 in Adobe Digital Editions, bold emphasis mine)

My suspicion at this point is simply that the Austrian version of economic history contains a serious problem: they are holding two contradictory views simultaneously. They uphold Kolko’s version of history because it lets them create a distinction between the “good clean” capitalists and the “dirty regulatory loving” capitalists. Now they can “blame the government” instead of blaming the market or the capitalist system. They also like Kolko because he let’s them say that government regulation is not the result of “market failure” but rather government regulation is the result of “crony” capitalists using government regulation to shut down competition. But they also like James J Hill because his entrepreneurial life is seen as the apotheosis of the “good” “clean” “market” entrepreneur in action. But if Malone is right–or if these other interpretations from Purcell and Martin are correct–then Hill’s life contradicts Kolko’s thesis. You can’t have it both ways, but that seems to be what the Austrian version of history is trying to do. It seems like they want the good parts of Kolko and the good parts of Hill, because those good parts seem to be consistent with the story the Austrians are trying to weave.

So maybe there is some way to reconcile this apparent contradiction between Hill and Kolko. That would help resolve the problem for the Austrian version of history. Or, maybe there is no solution to this apparent contradiction. Maybe the contradiction is real. Maybe Hill’s life is a piece of evidence contradicting Kolko’s interpretation of federal railroad regulation. Maybe the Austrian version of economic history is based on holding two contradictory views at once. This question needs to be studied in future research, because I honestly don’t know the answer at this point. I still maintain my agnosticism. This is precisely why I objected to DiLorenzo’s bold statement in my previous article when he said that Hill was “definitely” not a robber baron. My point is simply that coming to such a bold conclusion is premature, and probably incorrect. The more I look at this problem, the more problems I find in trying to interpret the life of James J Hill.

Observation 2: He Hates Politics! He Loves Politics! He’s Janus on Politics!

Another inconsistency pertaining to James J Hill is the question of whether he “loves” politics or he “hates” politics. I am not being sarcastic in my section header; this is precisely the problem we are confronted with when we compare DiLorenzo’s book to Malone’s book. Let me begin by mentioning DiLorenzo’s How Capitalism Saved America, in which DiLorenzo paints Hill as some sort of “hater” of politics. This obviously is consistent with DiLorenzo’s thesis, namely, Hill was a “good” market entrepreneur while his competitors were “bad” political entrepreneurs. DiLorenzo tells us that Hill “detested” politics:

While James J. Hill detested politicians and politics and paid little attention to them, things were very different with the UP [Union Pacific]. (Thomas J DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America, 118, bold emphasis mine)

Now we find the direct opposite assertion in Malone’s book, when it comes to James J Hill’s position on politics:

Jim Hill loved politics, both the bare-knuckled manipulation offavors and patronage and the philosophical discussion of the issues. He took it as a fact of life that his sweeping economic power especially political in nature, since it entailed monopolies and near-monopolies over transportation naturally brought with it political interests and sway. Ever since the frenetic days of 1878 79, Twin Cities rumor mills had claimed that he played rough and mean, bribing or otherwise “influencing” politicians when need be. No one ever proved that Hill gave a bribe, and when a radical “Grit” politician from Manitoba made such an accusation, Jim forced him to retract it. However, Hill never hesitated to give politicians favored deals for stocks and properties. Quite naturally, he quickly became a key Democratic power in Minnesota, and that power soon transcended his home state. (Michael P Malone, James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest, page 157 or 317-318/618 in Adobe Digital Editions, bold emphasis mine)

So there you go. DiLorenzo tells us one thing about Hill, but one of DiLorenzo’s source documents–Malone’s book–says the complete opposite. What are we to make of this? At this point in my research, all I want to say is that, once again, DiLorenzo should not be making such bold and “definite” claims about Hill. One of his own source documents seems to be directly contradicting his thesis.

I am going to save a deeper discussion of Hill’s activities with regard to politics–both in his immediate area in the American northwest in areas such as Minnesota and Montana and westward, and also American federal politics–for later articles. Briefly, Malone’s book does not look good for DiLorenzo’s thesis. As I looked through Malone’s book quickly, Hill’s name keeps popping up in rather suspicious places if he were truly the “market” entrepreneur in the manner suggested by DiLorenzo. If I can break from my style of citing sources for a minute and just give a personal hunch for a second, I would say that Hill seems to be involved in politics for land and gold money reasons. He seems to be making a lot of his money–or at least purchasing power of his gold money holdings–from a deflationary depression in the United States. There was a movement to change from gold to silver in the United States. So I suspect that part of his federal American activities are about making more money by protecting his gold holdings and by profiting off the deflationary depression. But this is just my hunch at the moment, and I could be wrong. The reason I mention it is because of the next obvious link to the Austrian school of economics, namely, a defense of gold money holders. In particular, I am alluding to this statement here in Malone:

When the Democratic Party, at its 1896 convention, dumped Cleveland and nominated a Populist-style orator, William Jennings Bryan, for president, Hill joined other conservative Democrats in looking toward the Republicans, who had nominated a safe, gold standpatter, William McKinley. (page 160 or 323-324/618 in Adobe Digital Editions)

Concluding Remarks

I will conclude this essay by saying that the entire DiLorenzo exercise of splitting “robber barons” of the Progressive Era into “good” market entrepreneurs and “bad” political entrepreneurs is probably a dead-end approach to economic historical research. In fact, Malone goes so far as to tell us that it is probably impossible to “classify” James J Hill in any meaningful way. In other words, trying to stick him into the “market” entrepreneur category or the “political” entrepreneur category is most likely a waste of time. Malone tells us that James J Hill–the man–is very mercurial and he defies categorization. This seems to confirm what I said in my previous article, Hill is a mixture of views:

A closer assessment of Hill’s speeches and writings, however, clearly reveals that he in fact was a serious thinker who pursued issues to a logical conclusion and who defied deft categorization. He could be, on occasion, either optimistic or pessimistic, nationalistic or cosmopolitan, materialistic or idealistic. (Michael P Malone, James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest, page 194 or 389-390/618 in Adobe Digital Editions, bold emphasis mine)

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William Graham Sumner

Back when I used to believe in anarcho-capitalism–and “believe” is the right term to use, since it does have many qualities of a religious faith–I remember reading this following quotation from William Graham Sumner. I used to believe it; in fact, I remember sharing it on some Facebook anarchist pages. It comes from a short post on the Molinari Institute’s website, called W. G. Sumner–On Anarchy:

Gentlemen, the time is coming when there will be two great classes, Socialists, and Anarchists. The Anarchists want the government to be nothing, and the Socialists want the government to be everything. There can be no greater contrast. Well, the time will come when there will be only these two great parties, the Anarchists representing the laissez faire doctrine and the Socialists representing the extreme view on the other side, and when that time comes I am an Anarchist.

So the world, according to William Graham Sumner–a man who has been appropriated by the right wing libertarian author Thomas J DiLorenzo in his book Hamilton’s Curse, which incidentally is also a bifurcated argument between the “evil” Alexander Hamilton and the “good” Thomas Jefferson–can be broken down into the two competing camps of

  1. Anarchists who, apparently are ignorant of the history of anarchist thought, are supporters of laissez faire capitalism
  2. Socialists who, apparently are ignorant of the history of socialist thought, are supporters of total government

This theme of dividing the world into two and only two camps is the thesis of the Philip Pilkington paper, which I mentioned before, entitled The Austrian Disease–Poor Scholarship, a Priori Bias. Pilkington’s thesis, to quickly recap, is

Because the libertarian’s world is divided up into ‘good’ ideologies and ‘bad’ ideologies it is inevitable that they should actively seek out some reason that the ‘bad’ ideologies will eventually be punished. When one engages in this sort of moralistic and theological dividing up of the world, it is not surprising that one soon falls back on the old religious ways of thinking about Judgement and Punishment. What is so fascinating is that, not unlike the stories of the anti-evolutionists, this dogma is so impervious to facts.

Let me present some illustrations of this “good” versus “evil” approach in right wing libertarian literature. We have the “good” businessmen and women who use the market mechanism to make their wealth versus the “bad” businessmen and women who use the political mechanism to make their wealth. We see this in Thomas J DiLorenzo’s How Capitalism Saved America

A pure market entrepreneur, or capitalist, succeeds financially by selling a newer, better, or less expensive product on the free market without any government subsidies, direct or indirect….By contrast, a political entrepreneur succeeds primarily by influencing government to subsidize his business or industry, or to enact legislation or regulation that harms his competitors. (111)

  1. The market entrepreneur seems to be just another version of Sumner’s laissez faire capitalist, i.e., no government involvement
  2. The political entrepreneur seems to be just another version of Sumner’s socialist, i.e., with government involvement

I will just mention in passing that this definition of “capitalist” as a person who gets financial success without any government assistance is probably just a textbook example of “special pleading.” Take for example Michael Perelman’s book The Invention of Capitalism. If we look at the book quickly, do we see capitalists getting their wealth by totally eschewing government and state intervention in the economy? Are we going to get this lovely history of market entrepreneurship in action? I when I look at this history book, it seems as though the creation of capitalism involved coercion and violence, and the use of government laws. In other words, it sounds as though the market entrepreneur might be an imaginary creation of capitalist apologetics:

To make sure that people accepted wage labor, the political economists actively advocated measures to deprive people of their traditional means of support. The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy. In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as “primitive accumulation.” (2)

Perelman then goes on to mention some of the laws or “government interventions” that were needed to “create capitalism,” or, in other words, to suggest that the history is more about the “political entrepreneur” than “market entrepreneur”:

Although the origin of the Game Laws was feudal, their application and their ferocity peaked during the Industrial Revolution. They were a useful instrument to separate rural people from a major source of sustenance, adding considerable weight to the pressures to accept wage labor. They also incited many poor people in the countryside to rebel. (5)

Similarly, if we look at Noam Chomsky’s Chomsky on Anarchism, the picture of capitalism’s history does NOT look like the rosy and sanguine history of “market entrepreneurs.” Instead, we see the complete opposite. We see what looks like riot police beating the hell out of the average people. I wonder if capitalist apologists are combing through the history books to find a few examples that might look like their “market entrepreneur” character while ignoring the massive amounts of evidence for the “political entrepreneur” character. In other words, are they turning the exception to the rule into the general norm? That is my suspicion, especially when you read things such as this from Chomsky on our putative “market entrepreneurs”:

It is useful to remember what happened when the laws of economic rationalism were formulated and imposed–in the familiar dual manner: market discipline for the weak, but the ministrations of the nanny state, when needed, to protect the wealthy and privileged. By the 1830s, the victory of the new ideology was substantial, and it was established more fully a few years later. There was a slight problem, however. People couldn’t seem to get it into their heads that they had no intrinsic rights. Being foolish and ignorant, they found it hard to grasp the simple truth that they have no right to live, and they reacted in all sorts of irrational ways. For some time, the British army was spending a good part of its energies putting down riots. Later things took a more ominous turn. People began to organize. The Chartist movement and later the labor movement became significant forces. At that point, the masters began to be a bit frightened, recognizing that we can deny them the right to live, but they can deny us the right to rule. Something had to be done. (206-207, emphasis in the original)

And there are other examples of the bifurcated nature of right wing libertarianism. Let me mention two more for this article, namely, the consumer versus producer sovereignty distinction and the public versus private ownership of the means of production distinction.

1. Public versus Private Ownership of the Means of Production

Obviously, capitalists and other right wing libertarians spend an inordinate amount of time discussing property. The right wing libertarians tend to bifurcate this particular issue by seeing the world as simply:

  1. Private Ownership of the Means of Production
  2. Public Ownership of the Means of Production

Take for example Ludwig von Mises’s assertions about how we can reduce everything down to this simple distinction, from his book Liberalism: The Classical Tradition. Mises makes this distinction very early on in his book, on page 2 in fact! He writes that

we wish to consider two different systems of human cooperation under the division of labor–one based on private ownership of the means of production, and the other based on communal ownership of the means of production. The latter is called socialism or communism; the former, liberalism or also (ever since it created in the nineteenth century a division of labor encompassing the whole world) capitalism. The liberals maintain that the only workable system of human cooperation in a society based on the division of labor is private ownership of the means of production. They contend that socialism as a completely comprehensive system encompassing all the means of production is unworkable and that the application of the socialist principle to a part of the means of production, though not, of course, impossible, leads to a reduction in the productivity of labor, so that, far from creating greater wealth, it must, on the contrary, have the effect of diminishing wealth. (2)

So the world is reduced to communism versus capitalism, public versus private ownership of the means of production. One way to break this black-and-white thinking is to look at the provocative writings of the anarchist writer Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Chapter 4 of Proudhon’s What is Property is entitled That Property is Impossible. Obviously if “property is impossible” or as Proudhon says, “without force, property is null and void” then we have a third option to consider. Proudhon starts with the bold thesis:

It is property which is a contradiction, a chimera, a utopia.

So maybe there is no such thing as property; hence, we might wonder if neither public nor private property exists. Therefore, Mises’s distinction might be rendered as meaningless.

I will mention one other related issue, the question of “just” versus “unjust” property. In a right wing libertarian environment “just” property would be market and voluntarily acquired property while “unjust” property is going to be “socialist” or “communist” public property–i.e., state property.  Consider Hans Hermann Hoppe’s The Economics and Ethics of Private Property where he spells out this distinction between “just” property (private property) and “unjust” property (state or public property).  Hoppe writes (notice again the “good” versus “bad” distinction):

According to them, antagonistic interests do not exist between capitalists as owners of factors of production and laborers, but between, on the one hand, the producers in society, i.e., homesteaders, producers, and contractors, including businessmen as well as workers, and on the other hand, those who acquire wealth nonproductively and/or noncontractually, i.e., the state and state-privileged groups, such as feudal lords. (96)

So this seems to be a version of private versus public property but cast in the form of:

  1. Producers (i.e., private property), versus
  2. Nonproducers (i.e., state or public property)

What is very interesting about this is that it smacks of what is called Producerism. “Producerism” is a model that seems to be a type of right wing populism. It is defined as follows:

Producerism begins in the US with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology.  Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below.  (The Producerist Narrative in Repressive Right Wing Populism)

The big red flag here is the fact that Producerism began in the United States with the Jacksonians. If you pull out right wing libertarian Thomas J DiLorenzo’s book Hamilton’s Curse, you will also see that he spends a lot of time praising the Jacksonians.

The Producerist idea is that the “producers” who got their property “justly” are being robbed by “parasitical” leeches above and below them. These parasites obviously got their property “unjustly.” A picture of the setup is as follows:

So the “justly acquired” property holders in the central circle are being robbed by the “unjustly acquired” property holders from above (the elites) and by the “unjustly acquired” property holders from below (the lower class parasites).  So we have the following parasites or “unjustly acquired” property holders in this right wing populism model:

  1. Elite or Top Parasites such as bankers from the Federal Reserve System and other “political entrepreneurs”
  2. Lower Class Parasites such as people wanting Civil Rights or food stamps for the poor

And of course, the central circle represents the market entrepreneurs of justly acquired property holders.

This suggests to me that one of the reasons for why we are picking up this bifurcated tendency in right wing libertarian thought is that right wing libertarian thought is meant for a class of people who feel squeezed from above and below. It is probably symptomatic of the death of the middle class or the American Dream.

I think this theme of trying to related Producerism to the writings of right wing libertarians from the Austrian school is a good one and I want to expand upon it in later articles.

I will quickly add that this idea of “just” and “unjust” property sounds like a bifurcation fallacy to me. Assuming that property actually exists (recall my point above from Proudhon), I would guess that most people would view the concept of “just” property as a continuum, or scale.

I think this is the case because I am fairly confident that there is no such thing as “purely justly” acquired property. I am sure that if I were to look hard enough and if I were to look far enough back into history, I could demonstrate that all property has some “impurities” to it. In other words, all existing property would fail Hoppe’s definition of “justly acquired property” if we were trying to be “purists.”

For example, if I were to launch a military invasion of Libya in order to steal oil resources, I think most people would agree that I am engaged in a process of “unjustly” acquiring property. This is because I assume that most people would view murdering other people as something that is wrong.

But what about wage labor. Is that an example of “justly” acquired property? I used to be a marker grader and instructor at a university in Ontario.  Now the province created the university through some sort of “enabling” legislation, so the university itself is probably an example of “unjust” property, since it is a creature of the State. Then, the government engaged in taxation to raise money to pay for the university, including my wages. So this would be “unjust” property acquisition again. But, I signed a contract of employment with the university, so that part would probably get classified as “justly” acquired property.  I then engaged in wage labor, which again would be an example of “justly” acquired property. But then I had to pay taxes on my income, which introduces some more “unjustly” acquired property, i.e., unjustly acquired by the governments of Ontario and Canada.  The remainder of the money was deposited in my bank account and mutual funds. Now, I earned interest and dividends on my investments, which might be considered “justly” acquired property if I were a capitalist or it might be considered “unjustly” acquired property if I were to stick with my anarchist views. And so on.

In other words, it seems like all of our daily transactions could be classified as a mixture of “justly” and “unjustly” acquired property.  Maybe there are examples of the “pure” cases of either “justly” or “unjustly” acquired property. I am not sure. It probably depends on how a person wants to interpret a situation. Moreover, it seems to me that these terms are subjective. What is “just” to one person might be considered “unjust” to someone else. So this could be another way to undermine the black-and-white thinking of right wing libertarianism.

2. Producer versus Consumer Sovereignty

A common theme in the writings of right wing libertarian Ludwig von Mises is the distinction between producer and consumer sovereignty. In fact, the first Mises book that I read is called Economic Freedom and Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays, and right on page 4 we see a strong emphasis on the idea of “the supremacy of the consumers”:

The economic foundation of this bourgeois system is the market economy in which the consumer is sovereign. The consumer, i.e., everybody, determines by his buying or abstention from buying what should be produced, in what quantity and of what quality. The businessmen are forced by the instrumentality of profit and loss to obey the orders of the consumers. Only those enterprises can flourish that supply in the best possible and cheapest way those commodities and services which the buyers are most anxious to acquire. Those who fail to satisfy the public suffer losses and are finally forced to go out of business. (4)

The opposite of “consumer sovereignty” is “producer sovereignty,” an idea that Mises dismisses derisively. In one of Ludwig von Mises’s earliest books, the 1919 book Nation, State, and Economy: Contributions to the Politics and History of Our Time, he brusquely dismisses the idea of arranging production around the needs of producers:

One of the great ideas of liberalism is that it lets the consumer interest alone count and disregards the producer interest. No production is worth maintaining if it is not suited to bring about the cheapest and best supply. No producer is recognized as having a right to oppose any change in the conditions of production because it runs counter to his interest as a producer. The highest goal of all economic activity is the achievement of the best and and most abundant satisfaction of wants at the smallest cost.

Preferring the producer interest over the consumer interest, which is characteristic of antiliberalism, means nothing other than striving artificially to maintain conditions of production that have been rendered inefficient by continuing progress.

The ideal of centralist socialism is at least discussible; that of syndicalism is so absurd that one need waste few words on it. (164-165)

I will mention a few issues that undermine this black-and-white way of looking at the world of economics. One way is to question Mises’s initial assertion that the entire capitalist economic system is based on the self-regulation of the profit and loss system. It is one thing to assert a theory about how capitalism “ought” to work; it is another thing to go and check whether this “is” how capitalism works in our world. The blogger Lord Keynes takes a more empirical research approach to studying what capitalism is actually like, by looking at the decision making process of actual business managers, as opposed to looking at the theories of economists. Lord Keynes spends a lot of time discussing the idea of “administered prices,” and some of their important implications, one being that short term profit and loss changes do not have the adjustment effects suggested by Mises. In other words, the highly flexible and adjustable world described by Mises doesn’t exist in most industries. From memory, when Lord Keynes searches for empirical evidence regarding how widespread administered prices are, the numbers cited are usually around 50 to 70% of businesses. In his article John Kenneth Galbraith on Administered Prices, we see that

the first benefit of administered prices to a firm is stability of profit, and a minimum profit level. Truly flexible prices or price wars are shunned by many businesses as a grave threat to stability of profit.

The second point I will make comes from Noam Chomsky’s Chomsky on Anarchism. Instead of looking at the world as either producer or consumer sovereignty, maybe we could look at it as a harmony of these two interests. This seems to be Chomsky’s point in his Chapter 4 article entitled The Relevance of Anarcho-Syndicalism (1976). When asked by the interviewer whether the value of output would collapse under Chomsky’s anarcho-syndicalist ideas that would benefit the workers/producers, Chomsky thinks that making work more meaningful will cause more output to be produced:

And over and above that there is the pride and the self-fulfillment that comes from a job well done–from simply taking your skills and putting them to use. Now I don’t see why that should in any way harm, in fact I should think it would enhance, the value of what’s produced. (145)

And of course, I am only scratching the surface on how one could go about creating a much more nuanced argument with regard to the issues raised by Mises’s consumer versus producer distinction. Just to mention it quickly before I go onto the next section, one could challenge the whole notion of consumer sovereignty, by claiming that it really doesn’t exist under capitalism in the first place.  One place to start would be the article by the Anarchist Writers entitled C.1 What is wrong with economics? In particular, we see a number of objections, the most obvious being “demand management” (or manipulation!) by firms:

While capitalist apologists go on about “consumer sovereignty” and the market as a “consumers democracy,” the reality is somewhat different. Firstly, and most obviously, big business spends a lot of money trying to shape and influence demand by means of advertising. Not for them the neoclassical assumption of “given” needs, determined outside the system. So the reality of capitalism is one where the “sovereign” is manipulated by others.

Concluding Remarks

I fear that the right wing libertarians are losing a lot of nuance in their arguments by trying to reduce the world to black-and-white or good versus evil type arguments. This approach is a great idea if I were running a religion. Preach the gospel of truth and fight the lies of the political economic devils! It provides for clear cut solutions in a world that really isn’t very clear cut. Maybe my views on anarchism are wrong. Maybe we really need coercion for society to work. Maybe capitalism really is the correct system of economic organization. Maybe, maybe, maybe. This is why this “absolutist” approach that seems to permeate the right wing libertarian literature is probably a sign of intolerant dogmatism. I end this post with an interesting and appropriate quotation from Bertrand Russell: