Who I Am
Charles Melchior Arthus, Marquis de Bonchamps, was the leader of the rebellion in the Vendee against the first French Republic. Why do I choose this name to blog under? Contradictions will abound. Bonchamps was a royalist fighting against a tyrannical republic; I am a republican fighting against a tyrannical egalitarian technocracy. But just as Bonchamps fought to preserve the ancient traditions and institutions of his country against a marauding egalitarian horde, I fight against a contemporary egalitarian horde to preserve the traditions and institutions of my own country, which are republican and classical liberal (the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, if you like). Bonchamps fought with honor against a merciless enemy; I advocate unapologetic realism as the foundation of political strategy and policy. But Bonchamp’s mercy cost him nothing in the way of strategy, and obtained for him, I believe, immortal glory. Realism is not sadism.
Full racial disclosure: I am half-Anglo-Saxon, half-Lebanese. Half of my ancestors fought their way across the American continent over the course of two hundred years; the other half emigrated from Lebanon a hundred years ago with the Italians and Eastern Europeans. They were Maronite Christians then, as they were for about 1500 years, resisting Islamic rule, supporting the Crusades, and enjoying their cultural ties to France.
What I Believe
There are many dimensions to the great political struggle of our time in the West, but I believe – and call it trite if you must – that it can be reduced to conflict between liberty and equality. This was not an issue for the ancients, but it is the conflict that defines modern market societies. Liberty, because of demonstrable differences in human abilities and talents, invariably means inequality on a scale unacceptable to radical egalitarians. There is a third camp as well, reactionaries and traditionalists of various stripes who would say they are hostile to both. But I believe that libertarians and traditionalists are natural allies. It was Murray Rothbard, the father of modern libertarianism, who wrote that egalitarianism was “a revolt against nature”; what traditionalist could disagree? When liberty is allowed to flourish, most people, though perhaps not all (and that is fine), will choose traditional structures and lifestyles because they are rational. At the least, they will adapt these lifestyles to modern economic circumstances. Widespread cultural degeneracy is not the product of too much liberty, but rather a perverse system of incentives created by the egalitarian policies of the modern welfare/regulatory state. Take away the modern state, and so-called “Social Darwinism” will prevail, but it will not be a war of each individual against all others; it will be a reordering of dependence, from the individual upon the state to the individual upon the family, the church, and the local community. In this condition the people with the most rational values will prevail.
Libertarian realism to me means that while liberty is a goal, it is not something I expect to see absolutized or universalized. America’s founders were realists, meaning that they pursued their ideals in a rational way. For none of us – absolutely none of us – can be free of ideals. But we only become the pathetic caricature of an “idealist” when we would rather see our ideas wiped from the face of the Earth than see them implemented in a less-than-perfect, absolute and universal way. A libertarian realist sees his goal as pushing the frontiers of liberty further and further, instead of establishing an anarcho-capitalist utopia. For history is viewed by our egalitarian enemies as a ceaseless “progress” towards utopia; by realists it ought to be viewed as a repetitive cycle rooted in the immutable characteristics of humanity, which no amount of social engineering can eliminate. The only goal ought to be the fight itself, liberty here and now, more of it today than we had yesterday, another humiliating defeat for our enemies, another vindication of our principles.
Libertarian realism also means acknowledging that liberty is not simply an idea, floating in the ether, waiting to be infused into every human heart. A sustainable and civilized liberty is the product of a specific culture with a long history. I refuse to make the radical claim that it is a racial product, particularly an exclusive product of white Europeans: Hong Kong is the freest state in the world, while white Europeans have leaped into socialism. But it is nonetheless true that some places and cultures are far more adaptive and receptive to liberty than others. One will find liberty-oriented peoples everywhere, but not liberty-oriented cultures. This is among the many reasons why it is madness for libertarians to advocate for open-borders with failed states in the third world.
Considerations such as these bring me to my fundamental point: the maximum amount of liberty we may be able to enjoy may not ever be a sufficient amount of liberty to satisfy pure ideological libertarianism. The pure philosopher quests for total consistency in thought; the political philosopher understands that reality is full of messy contradictions and that those who want to accomplish anything must be willing to give up something. As the founder of political realism, Niccolo Machiavelli, put it: prudence consists of knowing and choosing the least bad option.