How do you solve a problem like the proletariat?


How do you solve a problem like the proletariat?
Keir Martland
19th August 2016

I was particularly struck on reading The Servile State by what appears to be a banal or asinine point:

A man politically free, that is, one who enjoys the right before the law to exercise his energies when he pleases (or not at all if he does not so please), but not possessed by legal right of control over any useful amount of the means of production, we call proletarian, and any considerable class composed of such men we call a proletariat.

Indeed, when lefties come out with such a statement, we are right to ignore them; they usually follow this by advocating state socialism, i.e. centralised control of the means of production by bureaucrats. When someone like Hilaire Belloc writes something like the above, however, I sit up and take note. Belloc, Chesterton, &co advocated not state socialism, nor state capitalism, but distributism, which they saw as the mediaeval economy adapted to modern times. The distributists often have a point, although I’m not necessarily a convert. 

Instead, let’s explore where they have a point: the plight of the poor, or the economically dependent. One of Chesterton’s greatest epigraphs is that the opposite of employment is not unemployment, but independence. At the time Chesterton was writing, the drive towards simply “increasing employment” had begun. Its effects can now be felt, and you need not go much further than the etymology of the word itself; everyone below a certain level of intelligence in this country is “used” or “employed” by a firm, and usually quite a large and faceless firm which might spring up anywhere and not look out of place and almost certainly a firm for whom they have little love. The same goes for almost all of us today as consumers. Gone are the days when you knew the man behind the till at the local newsagents or groceries so well that, if you had left your purse at home, you might be permitted to pay him the next time you saw him. Likewise, gone are the days of other little niceties at most people’s places of work, and indeed it seems the only thing that keeps some firms from wearing their employees down is EU law, but such niceties are inefficient. 

There are always going to be have and have-nots, and there are always more intelligent and less intelligent people. There will always be a problem of social order and a problem of what to do with ultimately useless people.

One solution is the manorial system, with rents paid by villani replacing taxes, and agricultural work replacing wage slavery. This maintains order and a certain amount of freedom, but voluntarily abolishes a market system in which too many people at the bottom will fail and be of no use to anyone.

Another solution is the distributist model of total economic independence and self-sufficiency of every family unit, with every man having three acres and a cow. This is perhaps ambitious, and would take at least a generation to establish. It would require the removal of consent not just from big government but also from big business, and would require intensive vocational training and apprenticeships for the working classes so that everyone had a trade or a profession. Again, there would be a sacrifice of “efficiency” here, but it would be voluntary, for the sake of human dignity and socio-economic stability.

Or there is radical laissez-faire, which might, within a few years, produce so much technology and wealth that nobody would need to do a great deal of physical or mental exertion, scarcity might effectively be abolished, and we would all be in a state of near-permanent bliss, with every area of life, even our most intimate areas such as love – a kind of barter market at the moment – could be provided for by a perfectly competitive market. This would happen if we abolished all state controls on competition and so forth, radically cut or abolished taxes and subsidies, and waited. The only trouble is that we’ve been saying this for a long time now and the reality is that we never get there, but instead as big government retreats, big business steps in and sucks the benefits of the new technology and wealth upwards. Yes, let us have a genuinely freed market, but not before certain structural changes, which may happen without any need for compulsion, but which require the removal of privileges for big business before we can proceed any further.

There are a number of solutions to the problem of an increasingly pointless, undignified, and miserable existence of the poor. Yes, they are getting fatter. Yes, they have flat screen TVs. Yes, they usually have roofs over their heads. But none of these comforts are a substitute for the sense of purpose and the security of work that hardworking members of the working classes had in the 1950s and prior to that.

The solutions to the problem, however, are most certainly not more bureaucracy or more plutocracy or corporatocracy. Freedom, and therefore either genuine independence of means or some measure of dignity, has been threatened since the 19th century in particular by two increasingly powerful and illiberal forces. One of these is the mob and its democratic socialism. The other threat comes from plutocratic elites hostile to the nation and all singing from the same state capitalist and globalist hymn sheet. In their diagnosis and analysis of the basic problem, the distributists are certainly spot on: both state socialism and state capitalism have centralising tendencies, the former by overtly political means and the latter by more subtle economic means, which rob the family unit of dignity, security, and purpose.

Genuine solutions to the problem of the proletariat becoming what Noam Chomsky calls a “precariat” involve, to my mind, voluntarily giving up on the market system but nevertheless within a free market framework, in favour of a politics and an economy based not on money but on land, not on efficiency but on dignity, not on employment but on independence. These solutions do exist, and I think we are, in light of the capital we have accumulated throughout the centuries, and in light of recent technological advances, better able to make something like allodial feudalism or the society of artisans work properly today than ever before.

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28 thoughts on “How do you solve a problem like the proletariat?

  1. Interesting, and I will have more to say, but for now the immediate question arises: Why maintain a feudal system at all?

    As I see it, the problem with your analysis is that you are too attached to ‘property’.

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  3. Before 1989, the prime job of libertarians was to defend actually existing capitalism. Most of us knew, at least some of the time, that this was the shadow of a genuinely free market. It delivered the goodies, and was willing to put up with a high degree of civil liberty, but worked by levelling everyone to the status of atomised worker-consumer. The most likely alternative, however to this system – an alternative pushed by a large body of domestic opinion, and supported by a hostile foreign power – was considerably worse. Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union died, and with it died old-fashioned socialism. This should have been the time when libertarians severed their connections with big business and began pushing for a genuinely free alternative.

    For whatever reason, this mostly wasn’t done. It’s taken a quarter of a century for a proper exploration of these alternatives to begin. Though not myself any kind of leftist, I’ve been impressed by the work of left-libertarians like Kevin Carson. But there are more traditionalist critiques of actually existing capitalism. The main weakness of the Chesterbelloc movement was its disregard for, and even ignorance of, microeconomic theory. Controlling prices and wages really isn’t a good idea. On the other hand, the institutional arrangements within which market forces are allowed to work can take many forms, and some of these are more or less friendly to the individual or small-scale autonomy without which freedom becomes an empty formality.

    Keir’s essay is a good start on exploring some of these alternatives, and I commend it most highly.

  4. [quote]”The most likely alternative, however to this system – an alternative pushed by a large body of domestic opinion, and supported by a hostile foreign power – was considerably worse. Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union died, and with it died old-fashioned socialism.”[unquote]

    But the Soviet Union was not socialist/communist, and to the extent it represented an ‘alternative’, it was just an alternative form of capitalism.

    This is more than just a point of semantics. The misconception that ‘communist states’ (an oxymoron) misdirects the debate about alternatives. There is a non-market alternative to capitalism – i.e. socialism. If it helps, we could call it something different.

    • I won’t argue about the “right” meaning of socialism. I will only say that the Soviet Union was a brutal totalitarian enemy of all civilisation. However you want to describe it, the Soviet system was much worse than our own liberal corporatism.

      • I’m not even convinced about that. In fact, I’m sorry to say I disagree with you again. It’s fashionable to denounce the Soviet system – and similar societies – as immoral, and I certainly wouldn’t like to have experienced the Soviet system as it manifested anywhere – I’ve read about their treatment of Christians, for instance in the biography of Sergei Kourdakov, and though an atheist myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to denounce the brutalities committed. I’m also aware of the problems brought about by enforced collectivisation during the late 1920s and 1930s, and of the Inner German Border and Berlin Wall, etc.

        But this is subjective in the sense that we are judging a system of which most of us are entirely experientially ignorant. Some people commenting on the subject who are from the West may have lived in former Eastern Bloc countries, but this will have been as strangers looking in or as members of the prevailing cognoscenti in those countries. We have not lived as ordinary Soviet or Eastern Bloc citizens, who for the most part will have just led fairly ordinary, uneventful lives like ours and will have felt themselves relatively free.

        I’m very wary of characterisations such as “brutal totalitarian enemy”, which seem more journalistic than scholarly. It’s a bit like when people,say that Hitler or maybe Stalin was a ‘dictator’. What does that mean? What does it tell us? I would suggest it tells us very little, and means nothing.

        In my view, most of what is said about the Cold War is just empty rhetoric. I’m thinking here of remarks similar to the one above about the Soviet Union being a threat our civilisation. There was no such ideological divide, since capitalism and communism have never been opposed other than in the battlefield of ideas. Communism has never existed as an actual practical system, except for in primitive societies. The Soviet system was just a variant on the capitalist system. It existed for economic reasons, to industrialise and modernise Russia and the East, and for political reasons in that it was a means for an emergent middle-class in Russia and other countries to seize political and economic power from a feudal old guard. The Bolsheviks were neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’. They were just people seizing power. They did so under an ideological banner and held out various moral and ethical rationalisations which might have given them the pretence of holding high ideals – and they may even have meant some of it. Power-hungry people like to convince themselves that their actions are for noble motives. They claimed to act in the spirit of Marx, but they were not communists. They were simply capitalists, seizing the means of production and using it largely for their own ends. As such, the moral and ethical basis of the Soviet system, as it evolved in time, was little different from the system that exists in our countries.

        The ‘Cold War’, in so far as we can say it existed, was really a manifestation of a power struggle between two global elites, with the ordinary people on both sides serving as pawns and cannon fodder. One faction of the global elite, the liberal capitalists allied to the United States, put out propaganda that the Soviet countries amounted to an ‘Evil Empire’. The other faction, the Euroasian state-capitalists, pivoted on Russia, put out propaganda that the liberal capitalist countries were ‘fascist’, and sought to impede and undermine capitalist development, especially in the Third World – which became the battleground between proxies of the two competing elites. The liberal capitalists won out, not through revolutions, but through the exhaustion and economic collapse of the Soviet system. In essence, this happened because of a failure by the Soviets to capitalise on the economic and industrial gains under Stalinism. The Gorbachev reforms of the 1980s – “perestroika” and “glasnost” – should have been initiated much earlier, in the 1950s, and had that happened, history could have been very different. As it was, the Soviet Union regressed socially and politically.

        In a 1987 referendum, the putatively “communist” Polish government offered their citizens the chance of ‘radical economic reform’ and ‘deep democratisation’, similar to those that had begun in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. These reforms were long overdue and critical to the preservation of the system, not to stave-off political revolution, but to avoid economic collapse. The Soviet system was failing. The 1987 referendum failed, with a significant number of Poles failing to turn out and vote, thus defying their government. The Poles didn’t want liberalisation and democratisation of state-capitalism because they knew it was just a way of preserving the existing system in a different form. The so-called ‘revolutions’ of 1989 across Eastern Europe were not the result of a revolt against ‘communism’. Communism didn’t exist. They arose from a revolt against capitalism – albeit, capitalism in a particular form. The genuine among the protesters didn’t want more capitalism, they wanted less.

        • I think that the Cold War was rather more serious than you do, having been part of it. As cannon fodder there was a very personal interest. There were thousands of tanks in East German, all designed to swim. That is to designed to by pass bridges that were blown. Those tanks rolled for real in Czechoslovakia. It was more than sabre rattling. Of course the battle of ideas goes on to this day. Universities are enemy outposts subverting our best young minds.

          • I didn’t say the Cold War was “sabre-rattling”. The antagonism was real enough. My contention is with the true nature of it and what spawned this antagonism. Although there were ideological and philosophical differences between the two sides, the ideological difference at issue was nothing other than how to run capitalism.

            One side, centred on Moscow, believed in various models of state capitalism, which were euphemistically (or dysphemistically) called Communism. We can argue about whether this was meant as a transition before socialism proper and a withering away of the state, or whether neo-Marxism was just a rationalisation for power. I believe the former thesis is fanciful. It was surely the latter, and Orwell too thought so when he wrote ‘Animal Farm’, about the Bolshevik revolution, and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, about the Burnhamistic political and economic system it created. If you have not read it already, I would particularly recommend Orwell’s introductory essay to the Ukrainian edition of ‘Animal Farm’, in which he is specially scathing about the philo-Bolshevism of the 1930s British Left, who held the Soviet system up as a utopia and thus did not and could not grasp that it bore no relation to socialist ideas. The best that can be said about the Soviet Union is that Marxism was regarded as the scientific normative position, but even then, it was a distorted version of Marxism.

            The other side of the Cold War, centred on Washington, D.C., believed in some form of free enterprise capitalism, with different levels of state involvement.

            My contention here is that these systems, while nominally opposed, were essentially the same: they are both just capitalism, in various manifestations, ranging from corporate capitalism (USA) to social democracy (UK, Germany) to market ‘socialism’ (Yugoslavia) to pure state capitalism (Soviet Union). There was no actual communism or socialism anywhere.

            That being so, the moral case against the Soviet Union put by people like Dr. Gabb has to be re-assessed. I don’t doubt that the Soviet Union will have been an unpleasant place to live for certain people, but was the Soviet Union an enemy of civilisation? I’m not sure. Wouldn’t it be more accurate and level-headed to simply observe that the Soviet Union arose due to the need for Russia to industrialise and also politically accommodate an expanding middle-class, rather than indulge in this childish notion that it was run by a bunch of cartoon villains? The modernisation of Russia could have been achieved by the Czars, but in the end the Bolsheviks proved to be the more ruthless and effective at seizing and keeping power, and then set about modernising the country, a process that reached its apogee under Stalin. Where the so-called Communists went wrong in the Soviet Union is that they failed to modernise the country socially and politically, which created economic and industrial problems. What Gorbachev set out to do in the late 1980s was create a democratised version of the Soviet system that would be quite similar to the Scandinavian social democracies, but it was too late as the system was already collapsing economically.

            The lesson of the Soviet collapse isn’t that socialism is wrong or cannot work, it’s that a state-centric type of capitalism doesn’t work any better, and is even worse, than the version we have in the West.

  5. Anything that gives strength and dignity to the family is worth considering. The trouble is, the minute this aim becomes a matter of policy — especially centralized policy — the very opposite is the likely result.
    For example, as Charles Murray has shown in Losing Ground, the attempt in the USA in the late 1960s to help minority families, especially inner-city blacks, resulted in the emasculation of the male breadwinner and the bastardization of 3/4 of all children born to black families.

  6. I’ll now give my thoughts on the essay itself, as this is an important topic for me. One of the reasons for my interest in libertarianism – apart from an attraction to greater ordinary freedom – is that I have always wrestled internally with my own intellectual conflict: between nationalism and socialism. I think libertarianism might provide the pivot for a practical resolution of this dilemma.

    Keir Martland’s essay adds to the debate. Chris Shaw’s essay, ‘Left-Wing Paleolibertarianism’ is also important: https://thelibertarianalliance.com/2016/05/05/left-wing-paleolibertarianism/

    Keir opens with a quote from ‘The Servile State’. I agree with the quote and disagree with Keir. I think we live under a social system, capitalism, that originated from wholesale theft and violence against the forerunners of the industrial working class.

    The crux of where I disagree with Keir starts with here:

    [quote]”There are always going to be have and have-nots, and there are always more intelligent and less intelligent people. There will always be a problem of social order and a problem of what to do with ultimately useless people.”[unquote]

    It’s not that I dispute this assertion factually. Plainly, there are differences in capability among people, and this has implications for the way society must be organised. No sensible person can argue with this, and I happen to think natural inequalities are a good thing. But I think Keir is being naive about the shape of these inequalities, which are in reality mostly just different attributes and specialisms. Richard Branson is a very rich man and in his own way very capable, however I highly doubt he is as intelligent as most of the contributors to this forum. Could Richard Branson have got into Cambridge? I doubt it. Not without help. But he does have an excellent business brain, is willing to take entrepreneurial risks and he is a very good manager – that’s why he’s rich. The media often encourage almost a kind of hero worship of people like Branson, as if they are better people because they are rich and more successful than almost everybody else, but in truth Branson is just somebody with a particular mix of qualities. He probably couldn’t solve quadratic equations or explain the Pareto curve or Black Holes or red shift, or discuss intelligently the causes of the War of the Roses. He’s just somebody who is particularly good at something. And there’s nothing wrong that – I happen to think Richard Branson is a very fine individual, but I’m not sure I think it is at all right that Branson, and people like him, should be able to control society’s resources and dictate economic activity.

    Thus we are of the same mind that the system has gone askew. We agree there is a problem. But this is only a surface agreement, since we differ on so many things of substance. You call this corrupted social system a ‘corporatocracy’ or just plain ‘capitalism’ and regard it as a bastardisation of the practised principles of the market. I plainly call it ‘capitalism’ and base this ascription on a precise definition of what capitalism is (i.e. a system with certain descriptive characteristics), so it’s ‘capitalism’ whether it calls itself capitalism or socialism and whether the private property ownership and the market is controlled by a state or merely regulated by a state. I differ from you in that I recognise that since capitalism is based axiomatically on market principles and private property ownership, we should put those concepts and institutions under scrutiny too.

    We have ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ because we choose to continue with a competitive model for the ownership of resources in society. Therefore I disagree with Keir both in regard to his formulation of the problem, and his tentative solution to the problem he poses. He believes there “will always be a problem of social order”, but he doesn’t appear to want to consider thoroughly how and why that problem of social order arises. It arises, I would suggest, because of the competition for resources that the market system creates. Problems of social order exist only because we do not have a social system that addresses human needs. Instead, the market pits us against each other. I believe we are at a stage in human history when this competition has become archaic and unnecessary.

    I would like to suggest the real problem, the real kernel of all this, is what we started with in this discussion – the economic fascism of capitalism, or the tendency towards proletarianisation, in that capitalism creates a society that is ordered on gaping inequality of capital and incomes and a lack of economic independence for the proletariat.

    Let’s look at the posited solutions:

    The solution offered by social democrats (who sometimes call themselves ‘socialists’) is state capitalism (or ‘state-socialism’, if you prefer). This is just a reform of capitalism, and thus amounts to a reorganisation of poverty. It doesn’t address the problem of proletarianisation, it just creates a new form of proletarianisation: which is what the Soviet Union amounted to. I don’t think it is any coincidence that at the height of Soviet industrial development during the Stalin era, the Soviet system was often dubbed as ‘red fascism’. It was a system that paid lip service to the needs of workers but in reality disregarded their needs for the benefit of the new Soviet ruling class. We can see that the social democrats today have joined with the liberal capitalists and that their reformism does not change the capitalist system.

    I would also bracket Keir with the reformists. He believes that since human beings are unequal in the first place, a system that perpetuates inequality is required, albeit Keir wishes to advocate in distributism a resource-competitive system that sounds nicer than the present one, in that private property privileges will be distributed more widely than they have been hitherto. Admittedly, distributism does sound promising in theory and is not all that far removed from socialism proper. But that perhaps is part of the problem. It’s the last resort for the Right once the contradictions and problems of capitalism are surmised, but talk of ‘homesteading’, ‘human-scale economics’ and the abolition of usury amounts to little more than a form of idealism. The essentials of the capitalist system will remain as before, it’s just that it will work on a more equitable basis in that smaller-scale production and community autonomy become materially necessary as people will own their own land, and there will therefore probably be less requirement for usury, etc.. However, the state will still exist, private property will exist and property rights will need to be enforced, and even if everybody owns property, inequalities will continue to be reproduced and there is nothing to stop people from losing their property through failed business ventures or through consolidation of ownership, so the ‘problems of social order’ will continue. How will distributism address the capital needs of society? Due to the existence of the market system, what will happen under distributism is that a working class will re-emergence to provide for these capital needs, so that society can progress technologically.

    In short, just like any other minarchist non-capitalist market society, distributism will degenerate into capitalism.

    I believe that even if human beings are unequal in fundamental ways, both between individuals and groups – and I have every reason to believe we are – there is no need for a global system based on resource competition. It’s unnecessary and redundant, since we now have resources in abundance and the only blockage to efficient and effective production for human use and need is the market system itself, which allocates resources inefficiently.

    To understand this properly, it is necessary to see society in terms of a class analysis. The traditionalist Right holds that classes arise due to natural inequalities and this explains social relationships to resources – i.e. some people are non-owners because they aren’t capable of owning and controlling resources. Echoes of this are found in Keir’s argument. By contrast, in the Marxian sense, classes do not primarily arise due to natural inequalities, but due to social forces that cause particular economic relationships to be constantly reproduced in society. The ‘push-back’ by the working class in the form of a political labour movement and trade unions, etc. is the class war resistance against this entrenched advantage that the capitalist class hold over us in that they own all the key resources.

    Keir is very close to grasping this when he refers to the false dichotomy of employment/unemployment. I’m reminded of the essay by Bertrand Russell, ‘In Praise of Idleness’, and in particular the following paragraph from Russell:

    [quote]”It is obvious that, in primitive communities, peasants, left to themselves, would not have parted with the slender surplus upon which the warriors and priests subsisted, but would have either produced less or consumed more. At first, sheer force compelled them to produce and part with the surplus. Gradually, however, it was found possible to induce many of them to accept an ethic according to which it was their duty to work hard, although part of their work went to support others in idleness. By this means the amount of compulsion required was lessened, and the expenses of government were diminished. To this day, 99 per cent of British wage-earners would be genuinely shocked if it were proposed that the King should not have a larger income than a working man. The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own. Of course the holders of power conceal this fact from themselves by managing to believe that their interests are identical with the larger interests of humanity. Sometimes this is true; Athenian slave-owners, for instance, employed part of their leisure in making a permanent contribution to civilization which would have been impossible under a just economic system. Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.”[unquote]

    (Source: http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html).

    Whether Russell himself realises it or not, and whether or not he would acknowledge it, this is an incipient statement of revolutionary socialism.

    The interesting thing is that I think we are seeing a form of distributism become a reality before our eyes as the digital economy has the effect of devolving the means of production, but I believe this can only be a prelude to socialism. Once you have a situation of dispersed ownership of the means of production – in effect, a system of petit bourgeois-type co-producers – it’s not a huge leap for people to then ask why we should have ‘ownership’ at all, since if there are enough resources to go round, then why compete? Why not just distribute resources according to human need? In the truest sense, I think socialism will evolve into being as the market and private property gradually become redundant and archaic.

    Walford’s systemic ideology and hierarchy of ideologies is perhaps an interesting diversion of relevance to this. Adopting the Walfordian perspective, socialism could be seen as the ‘sociological singularity’ – i.e. the point where all foreseeable social development ends and real human history begins. We have not reached that point yet as we’re still scrambling around and fighting over resources like a primitive people.

    (Just as an aside that may interest some people, distributism – in a variant form – was for a long time a major plank of policy for the National Front (and for all I know, it may still be). The NF policy was, if I recall correctly, a combination of Social Credit and distributism proper).

    • Sean,

      Believe it or not, I have never noticed you were “solid rightists.” I have always assumed that your flirtations with the right are just that, flirtations, and that you are “solid libertarians.” And yes, I know that you’ve always taken Carson seriously.

      Distributism seems to be enjoying a bit of a revival. Just the other day I was reading up on a new US political party, the American Solidarity Party. From the name, I had assumed they were one of the latest crop of “white nationalist” gangs that have been springing up, but it turns out they are distributist “Christian Democrats.”

      • I am not convinced that the Left has a monopoly on opposing corporatism or plutocracy (call it what you will). The distributists were and are on the Right. Pat Buchanan and the American paleocons are on the Right. Nigel Farage is on the Right. Sean Gabb is on the Right. The Traditional Britain Group is on the Right. I will not deny that the most insightful critics of the current economic order (Kevin Carson, Keith Preston, and more) have identified themselves as leftists. However, for one, calling yourself a leftist does not necessarily mean you are an orthodox leftist or indeed part of the Left. Furthermore, the assumption that supporting the corporation, IP, globalism, central banks etc. is a right-wing position is incorrect. By far and away the best writer on just what the terms Left and Right actually mean was Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whose ideas have been presented a little more coherently by Hoppe. To Hoppe, to be on the Right is essentially to promote and support the natural order; it is the promotion of deviations from this natural order (based on private property rights) through any redistribution of income, whether up or down, rich to poor or poor to already rich (i.e. through grants of special privileges or through direct or indirect subsidies), or through centralisation of power, or through an attack on freedom of association etc. that qualifies you as a leftist.

        But of course, we agree on a number of issues, most obviously foreign policy and big business. Where big business is concerned, we both seem to value economic independence and perhaps we at least agree on three of the reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t like the new ruling class which benefits from the current economic order, which we find unjust in practice. Secondly, we believe that the current economic order makes no sense and is unjust even in the abstract. Thirdly, we believe in the independence and the dignity of small units of people, whether individuals, families, or communes.

        Indeed, perhaps the only major disagreement between us is over immigration, which is just another area where I prefer the idea of local control as opposed to central control.

        • “Indeed, perhaps the only major disagreement between us is over immigration, which is just another area where I prefer the idea of local control as opposed to central control.”

          On that we are in agreement. I prefer hyper-local control — control at property lines by property owners (and yes, those property owners might enter into compacts/commons arrangements with others that result in the exclusion of “outsiders” as a matter of course). But I reject Hoppean central immigration planning as a supposed substitute for same “until we get anarchy.” Authoritarian means, when implemented at any significant scale, end up serving as their own justifications, which means they can’t be counted upon to serve libertarian ends.

          I have no opinion as to whether distributism is left or right, for the simple reason that I haven’t studied it carefully (I’ve read a bit of Chesterton but no Belloc). But even if Sean believe himself on the right, I choose to think better of him than that and assume it’s some kind of temporary delusion.

          • Then let me reveal the nature of the delusion, which is long-standing:

            I believe that the traditional population of England constitute a distinct nation; that it is useful for them to regard themselves as such, and to preserve their control over the whole territory of England; and that the people of England would be well-advised to hold to their ancient liberties as individuals and groups of individuals, resisting the encroachments of a hostile ruling class and its associated clients and allies.

            This qualifies me as a libertarian on issues like drugs and sex and freedom of speech and association, and on freedom of enterprise, and on the whole body of common law protections expressed in the phrase “due process of law.” But this is within the context of a belief in the English nation.

            I think this qualifies me as a rightist, or at least a conservative, but explains why I align with certain aspects of the libertarian left.

            Indeed, perhaps we should give up on left and right as useful concepts, and instead look at what people actually believe.

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