Reason Podcast

National Conservatism and the American Identity Crisis

What does it mean to be an American, and what do individuals owe to the country in which they live?

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"Today we declare independence…from neoliberalism, from libertarianism, from what they call classical liberalism. From the set of ideas that sees the atomic individual, the free and equal individual, as the only thing that matters in politics," said Yoram Hazony, author of The Virtue of Nationalism and chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation, in a speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference also featured Tucker Carlson, Peter Thiel, and Sen. Josh Hawley (D–Mo.).

But do libertarians really view atomized individuals as the "only thing that matters in politics"? This week's roundtable of Nick Gillespie, Peter Suderman, Eric Boehm, and Zach Weissmueller try to grapple with that question and discuss the increasingly common tendency on the right and left to accuse one's political opponents of being anti-American, whether it's Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller telling Fox News that Democrats will turn the U.S. into Venezuela or it's #RandPaulHatesAmerica trending on Twitter after the Kentucky senator questioned the budgeting specifics of a 9/11 compensation program. They also discuss the trade war, Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax, Peter Thiel's suggestion that the FBI probe Google for possibly providing material support to the Chinese military, and the enduring wisdom of Albert O. Hirschman's Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Music Credit: Kaiser Friedrich March played by the United States Marine Band

Relevant links from the show:

"The New Conservative Nationalism Is About Subverting Individual Liberty," by Stephanie Slade

"American Manufacturing Is Growing, but Trump's Tariffs Aren't the Reason Why," by Eric Boehm

"Why Elizabeth Warren's Wealth Tax Won't Work," by Peter Suderman and John Osterhoudt

"What HBO's Veep Gets Right About Politics," by Zach Weissmueller

NEXT: Paul Krassner: The Lost Interview

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  1. “Today we declare independence from those who would leave us alone and mind their own business!”

    1. How dare libertarians leave us alone and not butt into our private business! The nerve of those people!

      1. I hear they leave children in cars when they run errands!

        1. That is indeed very unlibertarian. Those children should be at home, polishing monocles.

    2. Maybe it would help if you could point to a libertarian endorsed policy that actually resulted in our being left alone to mind our own business.

      Now bake that cake, comrade!

  2. But do libertarians really view atomized individuals as the “only thing that matters in politics”?

    The bigger problem is that non-libertarians seem to believe that politics is the only thing that matters. To quote Bastiat:

    Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

    We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

    1. Libertarians (or classical liberals) have got to stop attributing everything bad to ‘socialism’ or any other ism. Bastiat was the one who started that bad habit cuz the utopian ‘socialists’ (basically romantic-era Rousseau types) first became prominent in 19th cent France. But no one uses ‘socialism’ nowadays for that utopian version – and the version of that that took hold in the US was ‘communes’. People who set themselves aside and created their own rules to govern themselves (from the Amish to Shakers to New Harmony – to Galt’s Gulch) – which is entirely compatible with classical liberal ideas. And may actually be necessary now to keep those values operational.

      The key imo is whether the association is voluntary or involuntary. Some involuntary association is necessary. eg everyone who lives along a river is in an involuntary association with everyone else who lives along that river to keep it in a condition that everyone can agree is ok.

      But in order to keep involuntary association limited only to where it is necessary, those who advocate for an alternative damn well need to understand ‘association’ and what it can do. de Toqueville understood that – and marvelled at its use in America then. Nock was still a classical liberal who called that ‘social power’ (vs ‘the state’) but he was himself antisocial so to him they were just words. Since Nock, classical liberals no longer even bother trying to understand the term and instead pretend that it is the individual v the state.

      1. “”eg everyone who lives along a river is in an involuntary association with everyone else who lives along that river to keep it in a condition that everyone can agree is ok. “”‘

        What happens if everyone doesn’t agree on what the condition should be?

        1. Well then the real world often becomes a situation of two not-great options – and where classical liberals who understand ‘association’ might be helpful in coming up with better alternatives.

          But ‘veto of one’ is not ever really an alternative.

          1. Historically – Poland is a country that shows the pitfalls of that veto of one (liberum veto)

          2. Doesn’t have to be one. Could be 49 vs 51.

            If it was one, is the only option take it or leave it?

            1. 49 v 51 – then there’s a whole bunch more that needs to be done re coming up with better options. Hell every ‘middle child’ has experience dealing with that situation.

              only one? the only issue is whether there is some basic individual right being infringed. Otherwise – yeah it is take it or leave it cuz there is no rational reason apart from the above for the one to have veto power over the many. That is simply a perverted upside-down approach that leads nowhere.

              The thing that the US was pretty good at in the 19th century was in allowing ‘the few’ (ie ‘voluntary association’) to leave without leaving. We were lucky in having a frontier as an escape hatch which also allowed for that whole ‘commune’ type governance. That no longer applies unless we can figure out how to restore it – and the Constitution is not a help there either cuz it only recognizes ‘states’ which is an involuntary association not a voluntary one.

              Maybe one solution now would be to be more open to states splitting up. That would actually go well with greatly expanding the House which is a century overdue.

              1. the more I think about it, the more I think what we need is a form of classical liberal that focuses as much on making governance changes to institutions as it does on ideological ‘policy’ stuff. The policy stuff can’t happen inside the DeRps anyway – and the only thing the DeRps agree on is keeping the institutions broken to the changes that are necessary.

              2. “”yeah it is take it or leave it cuz there is no rational reason apart from the above for the one to have veto power over the many.””

                Wasn’t this Trump’s point?

                1. Oh FFS why do you clowns always have to make this about trump.

                  Godwin’s Law needs an orangish corollary.

        2. Generally speaking? Whoever has more money gets the government to support them, and poor folks have no option but to accept it or leave.

          The good of the many outweighing the good of the rich is pretty rare.

  3. >>>Today we declare independence … from … the set of ideas that sees the atomic individual

    fuck you don’t let the door hit you, Borg.

  4. > chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation

    Burke is rolling over in his grave so hard you could attach some magnets to him and power a small town.

  5. whether it’s Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller telling Fox News that Democrats will turn the U.S. into Venezuela

    Yeah, that’s not an example of calling your opponent anti-American.

    That usually happens after some lefty announces they hate the flag or the founders or the Constitution

  6. Speaking as an individual, I prefer to not be atomized. Bodily integrity is rather important to me.

    That said, good riddance to these supposed “allies” that are actually authoritarians.

    1. You will report to the disintegration chamber with a smile on your face!

      1. The smile is the last thing they atomize. That’s where Dickens got the idea.

        1. Think you mean Carroll. Cheshire cat, right?

  7. Typical Leftist political discussion.

    Circle jerk talking *about* the politics of people they disagree with instead of *with* people who have politics they disagree with.

    1. And the scare tactics.
      “National Conservatism everyone! Sounds sort of like National Socialism, hint, hint. You should be frightened.”
      To be expected of neo-Reason, though.

      1. I know, right? How dare Reason quote directly from the giant sign on the podium!

        1. That’s right, they made NSDAP innuendoes about themselves from the giant sign on the podium.
          WTF Chemleft.

      2. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

        But, hey, if the shoe fits…

  8. “Today we declare independence…from neoliberalism, from libertarianism, from what they call classical liberalism. From the set of ideas that sees the atomic individual, the free and equal individual, as the only thing that matters in politics,”

    Read that quote very carefully. And tell me the political spectrum isn’t being put through a blender.

    1. So basically that quote is a long-winded way to say “State Uber Alles”.

      1. Or…
        Everybody is ignoring the word ‘ONLY’
        Don’t know the context, but hard to disagree with the standalone statement that the atomic individual isn’t the ONLY thing that matters in politics.
        As for neoliberalism – yes, that’s right out
        Libertarianism? Depends on the details. Seems there’s a lot of disagreement there. Reason brand crony libertarianism is out.
        Classical liberalism is pretty good.

        1. I have my own style of libertarianism. Militant national libertarianism. Summed up simply as ‘leave me a,one, or else’.

          Progtards lost any right to hide behind the NAP a long, long time ago. They kept pushing, and now shit’s about to get very real for them.

          1. This has to be a troll post…

            “Militant national libertarianism”

            cmon man, that’s not a thing

            1. Think grumpy old man standing on his porch yelling “Get off my lawn!” except instead of waving a cane, he’s waving a shotgun.

              1. More like an M4 with a scope, and not waving. The point is that I’m a libertarian that considers execution of a slaver agenda to be sufficient provocation to set the NAP aside.

                Libertarian doesn’t have to mean ‘doormat for the progtards’. When they hit, we must hit back ten times as hard.

  9. I maintain that the primary cause of the separation between libertarians and other anti-socialists on the right is about the unnecessary and counterproductive hostility so many of my fellow libertarians show towards democracy. Populism is not a mystery. In all its different flavors, it’s always a reaction to elitism–to contempt for average people. Half of the national market is necessarily made up of people with below average intelligence. No way libertarians, who understand that markets will always outperform elitist planners anyway–should have contempt for the wisdom of average people. Reading half the stories I see around here, you might think the people having their say on policy were a cause for a national day of mourning.

    When democracy steps outside its proper bounds, of course, it becomes a platform for authoritarianism, but when democracy, within its proper purview, us denied , it creates the very environment in which authoritarianism thrives. On the one hand, “Congress shall make no law”, per the First Amendment, on issue x, y, or z, or the government will become authoritarian. On the other hand, if we ignore what the people want on issues like treaties, naturalization policy, wars, etc., then the people will support authoritarians who promise them what they want–as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.

    Opposing authoritarian ideas is among the most important duties of libertarians–especially when those ideas are within the proper purview of democracy, see wars and closed borders as examples. Supporting people who would deny the people what they want within democracy’s proper purview, on the other hand, is carrying water for authoritarianism–whether you realize it or not.

    Because you oppose a democratically declared war is not a good reason to oppose democracy within its proper purview. Declaring war is and should be subject to democracy. Because you oppose a democratically constructed naturalization policy is not a good reason to oppose democracy within its proper purview either. All you end up doing, in those cases, is alienating the people we want to influence and discrediting the argument against that war or for open borders. That’s an excellent way to undermine the argument to achieve either of through goals through democratic means.

    No need to scratch our heads wondering why people who successfully rally voters and achieve real power are turning ever further away from us than before. Maybe it’s because, no matter how we imagine ourselves, the voters and the people who appeal to them see straight through us. They see our elitism and our contempt for democracy–even within its proper purview. Why would the people support those of us who hold them in contempt?

    1. IQ isn’t an average it’s a median.

      1. If your only complaint is with the observation that half the people are below average, then I must have done okay.

    2. Ken, while I don’t agree with you across-the-board, good job. One thing: populism tends to result in elitists being in power — just elitists of a different shade. This is why I tend towards anarchism in its purest sense (shades of Taoism), which, of course, is not chaos, or the lack of laws, but simply the lack of “rulers.” Why do free individuals need “leaders.” We are all, even those of less-than-genius intelligence, more than capable of running our own lives, which is what good governance should promote. I don’t want a “leader” or a “ruler” in charge of anything — give me a good “manager” who works to keep the government machinery running and on-track to serve it’s most basic functions – protecting the rights of the people — and I will be happy.

  10. Today we declare independence from those who would leave us alone and mind their own business! http://www.moschinooutlets.com/sunglasses.html

  11. The draw for the 3rd qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League was held on Monday at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. It is at this stage of the competition that the first of two representatives of Ukraine, Dynamo Kyiv, enters the fight.

    UEFA Champions League Dynamo will start its way to Europe

  12. Definitions:
    F-ing Liberal or Libitard- anyone a hair more liberal than me.
    F-ing Conservative or Cuckservative -Anyone a hair more Conservative than me.
    Rino – Anyone claiming to be a Conservative that doesn’t have exactly my opinions.

    1. You spelled ‘Loather’ wrong.

      1. He loves liberty like a pedophile “loves” kids.

        1. I’m pretty sure Liberty Lover is AmSoc.

  13. Being an American means you can fart in a crowded elevator and not be shipped off to the local gulag?
    Americans owe taxes so the ruling elitist turds from both political parties can live high off the hog at our expense.
    Any more questions?

  14. Josh Hawley is a Republican, not a Democrat. The article names him, “Sen. Josh Hawley (D–Mo.).” as of 7/24/19 at 16h30 CST.

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