Libertarianism Presupposes the Absence of Any Common Cult

In a libertarian society, everyone agrees to disagree, and to leave each other alone in their disagreements. It would not be important that people should leave each other pretty much alone, so that each might go his own way as he saw fit, unless they had no cult in common, that brought them naturally to agreement about how best to live life. The purely libertarian society is the zero of commensality, and of ecclesiality. There is in the purely libertarian society no gathering, no agora; for, even the disputations of the agora presupposed a basic patriotism under the bonds of extended familiarity.

Libertarianism then is identity politics reduced to its limit: the individual. In the purely libertarian society, every man is a faction. Libertarianism is a cease fire in a Hobbesian war of all against all.

But it is at best a cease fire; the war continues, and threatens ever to boil over.

The Peace of Westphalia was libertarian in this sense. Princes could go their own religious way, by each other and the Pope unmolested; and so likewise could everyone within their lands go his own way unmolested. The Peace was the defenestration of cult as an important factor of national character. It was thus a praeparatio for the elimination of nations. It was the first step toward the EU; toward, i.e., tyranny.

Libertarianism is ever the precursor to tyranny. For, it proposes the maximum proliferation of disparate cults, that – precisely because they are compelling cults respecting First Things – cannot but condemn and abjure each other, and wish each other deleted, and so sooner or later find themselves at hot war. Tyranny then is needed, to maintain social order.

The maximum of unconstrained individual liberty requires a tyrannical rule of law. It requires anarcho-tyranny, in which no one is allowed to offend anyone else.

In a society characterized by a strong national commitment to the national cult, libertarian ukases against interfering with other people are simply irrelevant; inapposite; superfluous. No one worries about his own rights vis-à-vis the rights of others when everyone agrees about how things ought properly to be done. Liberties then, and rights, are in such cultures simply not an issue that occurs to anyone to worry about. There is in a coinherent cultic society no *problem* of social adjustment of the individual to the group, and no need therefore to protect the individual from the interference of the group. Nor then likewise is there any  reason to devise a way that the verdicts of individuals can be fairly expressed in the dictates of the state. In a strong cultic society, the individual finds in his participation of the group the fullest expression of his own individual will to goodness; he pursues his own happiness by pursuing the agenda of his group as it pertains to him; and his group coordinates the acts of its member individuals in such a way as to optimize their personal happiness, mutatis mutandis. Cults care for their members, and vice versa. Or else, they die: cults and their members, too. Under a common cult, group and individual then are, not at war, but at peace, in their mutual agreement each emphasizing and glorifying and magnifying and helping the other.

In no way does that sort of social peace constitute an elimination of the individual, or his immersion in the ocean of the society. On the contrary; that sort of disappearance and moral meaninglessness of the individual – of his alienation, loneliness, and anomie, ending at last in despair – is far more prevalent and dire in societies that have no strong common cult, wherein libertarian protections are therefore so crucial.

In a society with a strong cult, individuals are more apparent, more meaningful, their idiosyncratic differences glorified by contrast with their basic agreements, and magnified in virtue of their basic agreements. In a society coordinated under the aegis of a strong cult, individuals then are more at liberty than they could have been in a disordered libertarian society.

There is a strong analogy here to royal monarchy: in no other form of government than royal monarchy might any man’s personal liberties be more secure, or more broad. Likewise, only as constrained under the terms of a common cult, that sets the proper bounds of the social solution space, might any man move properly, and thus powerfully and freely.

32 thoughts on “Libertarianism Presupposes the Absence of Any Common Cult

  1. Pingback: Libertarianism Presupposes the Absence of Any Common Cult | @the_arv

  2. > [The Peace of Westphalia] was thus a praeparatio for the elimination of nations. It was the first step toward the EU; toward, i.e., tyranny.

    It was the exact opposite of the EU — it abrogated supranational commitments that interfered with its execution, e.g. Ch CXXI:

    That it never shall be alledg’d, allow’d, or admitted, that any Canonical or Civil Law, any general or particular Decrees of Councils, any Privileges, any Indulgences, any Edicts, any Commissions, Inhibitions, Mandates, Decrees, Rescripts, Suspensions of Law, Judgments pronounc’d at any time, Adjudications, Capitulations of the Emperor, and other Rules and Exceptions of Religious Orders, past or future Protestations, Contradictions, Appeals, Investitures, Transactions, Oaths, Renunciations, Contracts, and much less the Edict of 1629. or the Transaction of Prague, with its Appendixes, or the Concordates with the Popes, or the Interims of the Year 1548. or any other politick Statutes, or Ecclesiastical Decrees, Dispensations, Absolutions, or any other Exceptions, under what pretence or colour they can be invented; shall take place against this Convention, or any of its Clauses and Articles neither shall any inhibitory or other Processes or Commissions be ever allow’d to the Plaintiff or Defendant.

    Under your reasoning, I could trivially argue that Protestantism was a nationalist revolt against papal globalism. Such are the follies of applying modern taxonomical categories to old contexts where they do not fit. The Peace of Westphalia was an essential prerequisite to the political expression of nationhood, which had more to do with raison d’etat, ethnic homogeneity and doctrines of civic equality than with “common cult,” though of course the absence of the latter is harmful.

    • Protestantism probably was indeed a nationalist revolt against papal globalism, at least in part. It is hard to miss in it the resentment of the German princes over the annual flow of gold from their domains toward the Vatican. Ditto a fortiori for Henry VIII. Not that Protestantism is especially to blame for this sort of thing; the same envy was at work in the persecution of the Templars by Philip the Fair.

      It’s the human touch. Not the fault of Protestantism so much, or of the overweening transnationalists of Rome, but rather of Adam.

      The ostensible palmary objective of the Peace was to end the European wars of religion by establishing the doctrine of cuius regio, eius religio. And in this, it succeeded, at least for a time – say, until the Napoleonic wars, which were *essentially* religious. But a second tenet of the Peace – happy as that Peace was in its early returns – was that of religious toleration, within limits, and within each principality. That second tenet ensured that no established religion in any principality could remain too long quite securely established. Tolerate dissenters, and you tolerate the dissension of the nation. Even absent the French Revolution, that second tenet would have spelled the doom of the Peace. For, it would have rent each nation in herself asunder, in myriad disputes over her proper common cult.

      In that internal dissension of every nation lay the seeds of something like the EU. If the nation cannot agree on her cult, then must the Empire agree for her, and on her behalf. Dissolve the national cults, and so dissolve the nations: all that is then left is individuals, and the transnational entities, whatever the details of their characters.

  3. Pingback: Libertarianism Presupposes the Absence of Any Common Cult | Reaction Times

  4. Pingback: Libertarians (Wrongly) Presuppose Common Values | The Anarchist Notebook

  5. Kristor, nice post.

    In a strong cultic society, the individual finds in his participation of the group the fullest expression of his own individual will to goodness; … Under a common cult, group and individual then are, not at war, but at peace, in their mutual agreement each emphasizing and glorifying and magnifying and helping the other.

    In no way does that sort of social peace constitute an elimination of the individual, or his immersion in the ocean of the society. …

    In a society with a strong cult, individuals are more apparent, more meaningful, their idiosyncratic differences glorified by contrast with their basic agreements, and magnified in virtue of their basic agreements.

    Excellent. I had written a comment for a blogpost (here) at a different site, but comments were closed before I was able to post. It seems fitting here, however:

    Man is a social animal. As part of his nature, he forms families and communities, and these form part of his identity. Community acts as a vehicle through which man grasps truth and gives man a sense of place in the world. Community in its proper form sustains and augments social harmony by binding us together through common customs and traditions, expectations, and roles, and through these things by pointing us to higher truths.

    Therefore, when one says that man can identify either with nobler modes of self-identification or baser modes of self-identification, I think that to imply that identifying in terms of ethnicity and sex is a baser mode of self-identification is a false dichotomy: rather, it is through these ‘baser modes’ that man is able to ascend to and participate in the nobler modes of ‘self-identification’. It is through community and family for instance, that man fully flourishes as an individual and fully actualizes his potential. These lower modes, in fact, are made more real when they are subordinated to and help fulfill the nobler modes. A father, for example, is more fully a man when he fulfills his duties as husband to his wife and father to his children, and acts as a vehicle to a higher truth by being an icon of God in the just exercise of his authority and in his love for his wife and children.

  6. This post seems rather odd. True libertarianism, like true communism, exists only in a Platonic realm, where everything is ideal and pure, and so, of course, there is no tyranny. Libertarianism, a political ideology that appeals to maybe 3 percent of the American population, and has no hope of taking the nation.

    The problem of libertarianism proceeds from the nonaggression principle: who defines what is “aggression” and what is “self-defense”. Everything else follows from the identity of who decides, not the substance of libertarian ideology. Perhaps this week, shooting drug dealers is “self-defense”, perhaps next week, shooting the people who shoot drug dealers is “self-defense”. It amounts to a particular style of rhetoric employed to legitimate the individual or group exercising power.

  7. Once one recognizes that preemptive aggression before an opponent gets too powerful is the best self-defense, the nonaggression principle morphs into the aggression principle. Since every action one would rationally seek to carry out (e.g. get them before they get you) is aggression, then everything is forbidden. When everything is forbidden, then it follows that everything is permitted as the notion of forbidden actions are parasitic on actions being permissible. When everything is permitted, you are no longer in the realm of normative political theory.

    • Following out the idea of the libertarian sovereign, the sovereign, in self-defense, would have to eliminate all potential enemies of the regime. Not only those actively involved in sedition (who threat today), but those who might become seditious in the future, and thereby threaten the sovereign.

      To do so, the sovereign would have to restrict the rights of the subjects to speech, association and property, else the subjects might become a threat to the libertarian order. It would ultimately look a lot like Stalinism I am afraid.

      • As a practical matter, basic liberties like speech, association, and property are there because people need to be productive so the sovereign can tax them and pay off cronies. Given sufficient oil wealth or natural resources for pay offs to supporting elites, there is no need to treat the people as anything more than slaves. Trying to take the State out of the equation is backasswards. Liberty exists to the extent it serves the interests of the rulers. There are always rulers, as the weak have no choice but to accept the rule of the strong.

      • Thank you, KD, for these trenchant and penetrating insights. I note that they appertain to the sort of society we now inhabit. Namely, a society already almost completely atomized, in which there is no common cult other than nihilist modernism, so that each man is at basic enmity with all others. It is in such societies that libertarian policies are most needed to maintain social order – to prevent or damp the conflicts that naturally arise between men not united to each other as familiars or members of the same cult, and who therefore tend to interpret things differently, ergo antagonistically.

        Difference + proximity → war.

        Kinship & commensality → peace.

        Naturally we interpret all previous societies, or all potential societies, under the terms most accessible to us from our own. I.e., we interpret them as exhibiting the same sorts of exploitative power relations that so often characterize modern societies such as our own. But this is a temporal prejudice, no? It is anachrony.

        I have for the last couple years been struggling to understand a different sort of society, that might be possible to us: the familiar society. In the familiar society, we’d all be on the same side. We would not be at war with each other. We’d be brothers, uncles, nephews. And, as sharing the same familiar cult, we’d be in pretty complete agreement about the right thing to do next, each of us individually and all of us together. We’d understand each other’s behaviour better, and sympathize with each other more. We’d be more generous, and trusting, and relaxed.

        Politics in such a society would be an altogether different sort of thing than we have grown used to, to the point that we think it natural to man.

        The Hobbesian war of all against all is not basic. Familiarity and commensality are basic.

  8. Another thing about libertarianism is that, in renouncing any cult except the Rousseauvian cult of the individual, it necessarily renounces history. History has a relation to consciousness. It is through history, as guarded and transmitted by the cult, that the individual transcends the limitations of his personal mortality, and thereby enriches his identity with experiences beyond his own. Libertarianism is, like most other manifestations of modernism, anti-consciousness. Its outcome can only be a kind of meaningless Brownian Motion of atomized people.

    • Ha, ha. Try to think of it in terms something like this – “If protecting one’s daughter against rape and other forms of sexual abuse and manipulation were truly the best way of doing so, then why do you suppose she rebelled against her father in the first place?”

      Seriously, don’t be stupid.

      • It’s the true answer. It would be idiotic to abolish fatherhood on account of bad fathers. So likewise is it idiotic to abolish kingship on account of bad kings.

      • It depends on the specifics of the particular monarchical form. There are lots of ways to do monarchy. Some of them are wicked. Some work pretty well. All are susceptible to depravation by human sin.

      • What is it about monarchy across all it’s forms that makes it a better form of government that all the others in your estimation? (Thank you for your civil and reasonable responses btw. I am legitimately interested in understanding your line of reasoning).

      • Not all forms of monarchy are better than all the others. Tyranny, for example, is (in my opinion) worse than aristocracy.

        It is kingship that is better, because kingship seems to be natural to man. There is always a social hierarchy, and to every hierarchy there is a top. So there is always a monarch of some sort. Best then if the monarch and his people understand him as the father of the nation – “king” is “kinning.” The king is as it were the patriarch of patriarchs. As father, the king is bound to his people by a mutual bond of love, even unto self-sacrifice.

        But not all kingship is truly fatherlike. And just as there are abusive fathers, so are there abusive kings; just as there are selfish fathers, so are there selfish kings; just as there are despotic fathers, so are there despotic kings.

      • Winston:

        You should take this line of reasoning somewhere else. Very seriously, it is WAY beneath the level of discourse here. It is the prerogative of the site administrators to entertain it, or not, of course, but it is a fruitless exercise at the end of the day; I know it, they know it, and even you probably have an inclination of it. You’re not ready for serious intellectual discussion at the Orthosphere just yet, that is the point.

  9. Unfortunately, according to John Mearsheimer, modernity develops through the concentration of power into the State, which is strong enough to enforce a monopoly on violence. [Probably necessitated by the rise of money and cash economy, so soldiers can be paid directly through the State, cutting out the middleman and eliminating feudalism.] The State is then weaponized through “democracy” AKA Nationalism, so now you have “government by the People” and this fools the rubes into a willingness to fight as part of conscript armies. Napoleon really demonstrated the military superiority of the “Nation-State” model. The monarchies, relying on mercenary armies, ultimately disappeared because they were not strong enough to resist the nation-state. Modern European authoritarian regimes, like the Nazi’s and the Italian Fascists, never rejected popular sovereignty, they claimed their systems were the highest expression of popular sovereignty.

    The interesting contemporary development is that through technology, an elite professional (e.g. mercenary) fighting force is more effective than a conscript army, and with drones and AI, e.g. military automation, the need for human capital is even lower. The former problems that the European monarchies contended against have been erased by technological progress. Thus, it may be that the golden age of democracy draws to a close.


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