Problems of Ideology: Praise of Folly Podcast #48

I recently joined Todd Lewis on his Praise of Folly podcast ( to discuss the current state of libertarianism and anarchism as well as his essay critiquing those positions, Contra the Self-Ownership Principle: The Nightmare of Libertopia.

I think this discussion shows the continuing evolution of my political and economic thinking toward something of a post-libertarian, a-centred political understanding of modernity and history. While I have not completely abandoned my libertarian/anarchist thoughts, I am increasingly skeptical of the importance of libertarian concepts such as the non-aggression and self-ownership principles, as well as generally being more favourable toward accepting coercion as an element of the governance of real-world developments. This where me and Todd found significant agreement, realising that statism for all its faults has produced huge scientific advancement (through DARPA and NASA) as well as being an important institution for governing elements of certain things (military, infrastructure, etc.). This is of course not to be uncritical of the state both in its historical abstraction and in its modern realities. Rather it is to recognise both that sovereignty is never wholly coercive and no society real or imagined will ever be truly free of coercive influence.

As me and Todd discussed in the talk, the idea of libertarian governance surrounding social conformity and private property themselves engender dynamics of social exclusion and intra-communal suspicion which have the potential to be more coercive than the act of being jailed in a minimum-security prison. The reality with all these social axioms (coercion, custom, exchange, familial/tribal bonds) is that they exist on a spectrum of possibilisation. Societies and civilisations conform to all of them to varying degrees depending on the scale and development of particular activities. The natural interplay of forces that Burke and Kirk have described cannot simply be made to disappear due to theoretical objections. And the natural interplay of forces present a much greater field of possibility for the decentralisation and dissipation of power (political, economic, etc.) than do the concepts of voluntaryism or any variety of anarchism.

I hope that libertarians recognise that the world they see is not simply malleable to axiomatic constructs and ahistorical understandings of human nature and governmental development.

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