Musings to Begin the New Year

Lost in the Cloud.— We are all, today, in all our endeavors, at the mercy of everything we ever did, everything we ever said, and everyone with whom we ever interacted in any way, at any time, under any circumstances. In practice, this means that standing apart from others, or disagreeing in any way with current moral or political orthodoxies, no longer merely entails risking disapproval or rejection from the majority of your peers — the normal and natural price of standing apart — but rather having the entire catalogue of your life rifled through for anything, however unrelated, ancient, or misinterpreted, that may be used to destroy your name and reputation in the present, as though your entire complex existence could be sucked through any tiny hole in its fabric at any moment, thus reducing everything you are to one old mistake, one weakness, one folly, or even the mere allegation of such a thing, whether that allegation pertains to something that occurred thirty years ago, something that occurred when you were a child, something that happened only within the confines of a private conversation with intimates, or something that was of no consequence at all in its time but has only recently been reassessed as an unacceptable thought or deed in the latest turn of the progressive morality ratchet.

And don’t fool yourself: something will be found, if and when the enforcers of orthodoxy deem it necessary. That is never in doubt. The traditional defense that statists of all stripes, from the security-obsessed strain of conservatives on their soapboxes to the leftist intimidation mobs in the public square, have always held up to excuse their preferred forms of intrusive authority — “If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear” — is now as obsolete as it is offensive. Everyone, on today’s standards, has “done something wrong,” because the evils that may be cited against you today need have no relation whatsoever to the matter at hand in any given situation; and truth, context, and proportion are no longer factors in our judgment and condemnation. Their ends and wishes of this or that moment determine all, and are the only standard.

Libertarian Utopianism.— The fundamental and in ultimate effect the only libertarian moral premise is the principle of non-coercion. The logical implication derived from this principle by all true libertarians: All uses and practices of government that are not conducted entirely on a voluntary basis are immoral and unjust. The ideal: A society functioning entirely in accordance with the moral principle of non-coercion, or voluntarism.

The libertarian ideal realized in the practical world would require that non-coercion be everyone’s prime directive, and remain so perpetually. But a world that values non-coercion — and therefore absolute freedom of choice — above all else, is tacitly encouraging everyone to live in accordance with his own personal whims or preferences, “as long as these do not require thwarting anyone else’s equal freedom.” Such a world implicitly promotes, or at the very least facilitates and rationalizes, the pursuit of self-gratifications of any and all kinds, which will inevitably entail the ever-widening habituation of self-destructive and immoderate activities and their corresponding (or resulting) character traits, i.e., vices. Such traits will necessarily lead to an exponential growth in the proportion of people who lack the self-discipline and responsibility to care for themselves reasonably, and who therefore come not only to desire but also to need many things they can no longer provide for themselves, as well as in the number of people who come to view others as indispensable means to their own advantage as a matter of practical necessity and emotional deterioration — which development, and its motivating inclinations, will inevitably cause some men to seek violent or fraudulent (i.e., coercive) advantage over others.

Such a social devolution will in turn eventually draw a majority of ordinary men, by way of the practical reason intrinsic to human nature, to form social compacts of a stricter and more binding sort, in the names of survival and the protection of property and children, and to establish institutions demanding moral restraint and self-denial as means of correcting the destructive excesses of self-seeking fostered by the universal unleashing of mankind’s desires and imagination with no moral or developmental guidance beyond that sacred libertarian premise of non-coercion.

In reality.–

Income tax is arm’s-length slavery, but there is no national political faction on Earth with either the will or the practical means to do anything about it.

Universal education, or rather “schooling,” compelled, controlled, and administered by the state, is by definition authoritarian and illiberal in a way that inherently undermines and counteracts any tendencies toward freedom and self-determination existing within a society — which is to say that a society with such schooling will eventually, inexorably, lose every last one of its genuine liberal inclinations. To submit to the principle of state-owned souls is already to submit to everything, whether those surrendering realize they have surrendered or not.

Art and Progress.– A unifying set of customs and beliefs — not merely habits and conventions, but deeply held beliefs about life and reality — is the minimal requirement for the development of profound popular art. The drive to general economic growth and the private pursuit of wealth are paltry substitutes for a unifying set of customs and beliefs; hence a society, to the extent that it is defined by such aims, will produce only popular entertainment — that is, diversion and trivial amusement, things on which to spend money  and no art at all, unless it be an essentially unpopular art of detachment and isolation, existing primarily in locked drawers or private cellars, and suited to fringedwellers and melancholics only. Locke and Hobbes despised and dismissed art understood as the quest for the beautiful, or for a comprehensive view of life; thus, not suprisingly, the world they engendered has no place for it.

As for the effect of multicultural relativism, it almost goes without saying that a world which proposes egalitarian socialist nihilism as its only unifying and inviolable article of faith will be capable of producing only the most superficial propaganda and popular rationalizations for the latest political trends — unless, once again, there be a few quiet spiders working on antithetical and barely comprehensible webs in lonely basement corners somewhere.

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