The following text is the talk I delivered at the London Forum on October 3, 2015. I wish to thank Jez Turner, the London Forum team, and their faithful audience for making this talk possible.
Libertarianism is the politics of individualism. Individualism is both a metaphysical and a moral position.
Metaphysical individualism is the thesis that only particular men exist. Groups are just collections of individuals, with no independent reality or meaning.
Metaphysical individualism is connected to universalism, which is the idea that there is only one race, the human race, which is just a collection of individuals. Universalism implies that there is no meaningful distinction between ingroups and outgroups, between us and them.
Universalism has two important implications.
First, since politics as Carl Schmitt defines it arises from the distinction between us and them, universalism implies that politics is merely a temporary phenomenon, based on the waning illusion of meaningful distinctions between ingroups and outgroups. When these distinctions disappear, politics will as well.
Second, nationalism, patriotism, and any other form of partiality for one’s ingroup over an outgroup is morally illegitimate, since there is really no us and them, just me and you. This leads us to the ethical dimension of individualism. How do you and I get on together? If groups are just collections of individuals, there are no group values, just individual values. The purpose of social institutions, therefore, is to facilitate individuals pursuing their own aims.
The great facilitator of individuals pursuing their aims is capitalism. If you and I have something to offer each other, we might trade. If we have nothing to offer each other, we just walk on by. The marketplace requires only a minimal “nightwatchman” state to protect us against force, fraud, breach of contract, and the like.
Ethical individualism requires us to treat individuals as individuals, not as members of various morally unimportant groups handed to us by history or nature. We must be “blind” to race. We must be “blind” to class. We must be “blind” to sex. We must be “blind” to religion. We must be “blind” to nationality. We must be “blind” to all things that divide us. The only thing we must see are individual merits.
The individualism game is highly advantageous for all players. Individualism unleashes creativity in science, technology, and business. But paradoxically, the greatest strength of individualism is the form of cooperation it fosters. Each individualist comports himself as a member of a potentially global society. This means that social cooperation can scale up to the global limit as well, making possible the wholesale transformation of the world we call modernity.
Collectivist societies, however, are hampered by ingroup/outgroup splits. If people behave as members of groups, trust and cooperation are confined to ingroups, which severely constricts the scale of social institutions and corrupts their functioning with favoritism toward ingroups and discrimination toward outgroups.
In honest contests, the individualist game can outcompete the collectivist game, which is why individualistic European societies conquered virtually the entire globe with superior technologies and forms of social cooperation.
But the competition for global domination is rarely honest. Thus when Western individualist societies conquered and absorbed collectivist ones, it was only a matter of time before the more intelligent tribes learned how to cheat.
How does one cheat an individualist? By pretending to be an individualist while working as a member of a group. You demand that individualists give you a fair shake in every transaction. But whenever possible, you give preferences to members of your own tribe, and they give preferences to you.
Imagine playing a game of cards in which your opponent can play a wild card but you can’t. That wild card is their tribal membership. It does not matter how great an advantage you might have over him in terms of chips at the start, because the rules give him a systematic advantage, and as long as you play the game, you will lose. But individualists are slow to catch on to the scam, because they are blind to groups.
It is interesting that the most important founder of modern race- and nation-blind individualism was Ayn Rand, born Alissa Rosenbaum, and the leadership of her Objectivist movement just happened to be overwhelmingly Jewish, including a number of first cousins and married couples. Obviously, this was not individualist meritocracy in action. Yet Rand’s followers were blind to this fact as a matter of high moral principle.
There will never be a libertarian society. But libertarian ideology still performs a function within the existing system. And although libertarianism is superficially opposed to the Marxism of the Frankfurt School, both are Jewish intellectual movements that perform the same function: They break down the resistance of high-trust, European individualist societies to duplicitous tribal groups—what John Robb calls “parasite tribes”—preeminently Jews. Libertarians preach individualism, whereas the Frankfurt school stigmatizes white ethnocentrism and extols “inclusiveness” toward “marginalized” groups. But the result is the same. Both doctrines promote Jewish upward mobility and collective power while blinding the rest of society to what is happening.
What kind of people preach blindness as a virtue? People who are up to no good.
Ultimately, I would argue, individualism is a product of the biological and cultural evolution of European man. Individualism goes hand in hand with low ethnocentrism, i.e., openness to strangers, the universalist idea that ultimately there is just one group, humanity, to which we all belong. The European mentality was beautifully encapsulated in a saying of Will Rogers: “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met.” I doubt very much that an equivalent phrase can be found in Hebrew or Arabic. In other words, there is fundamentally no us and them. There is just knowledge and ignorance, friends we know and friends we don’t.
This openness is highly advantageous because it allows us to increase the number of people with whom trust and cooperation are possible. But openness to strangers is also risky, of course, because they might not reciprocate. Thus taking the risk of sociability—extending the hand of friendship—is deeply engrained in our sense of moral high-mindedness. But when we meet people who do not reciprocate our openness, but instead regard it as a weakness to be exploited, then our virtues are no longer advantageous, and if our elites persist in high-minded openness to such enemies, they must be relieved of their powers and responsibilities.
Individualism blinds its followers to collectivist cheats. Thus the only way to save individualism is to become aware of groups. But that sounds like collectivism. Once we become aware of parasite tribes, we have to exclude them. But that sounds like statism. If individualism is ultimately a European ethos, then individualism requires that we preserve European societies and exclude non-Europeans, which sounds like racial nationalism.
This is the refutation of libertarianism. It is a form of self-refutation. To save individualism, we have to repudiate universalism, reintroduce the distinction between us and them, and start acting collectively. Individualism only works as part of a collective of like-minded people who must exclude collectives that don’t play by the same rules. This is how some people start out as libertarian individualists and become racists, anti-Semites, and fascists in the end.