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Friday, November 27, 2015

Counter-Currents interview

A transcript of my interview with Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents:
GJ: How would you describe your political philosophy and who are some of the intellectual influences on its formation?

VD: I would describe myself as a Christian Western Civilizationist. I’ve been a libertarian for a long time. I was briefly even a card-carrying libertarian. But I was always more of a small L libertarian rather than a capital L one. Mostly because there were certain amounts of libertarian dogma that didn’t quite work out in the real world. Then as time went on it became readily apparent to me as I traveled around the world, as I lived in different countries, as I learned different languages, it became apparent to me that the abstract ideals that we often tend to follow in America in particular are not really relevant to most of the world.

I was being interviewed by a reporter from Le Monde in Paris about two months ago and he had absolutely no idea how to even describe the concept of libertarian to his readers. That’s in France, which is at least Western civilization and so forth. Trying to have a conversation about that sort of concept in Japan or China is just totally meaningless. So, that’s when I really became more cognizant of the importance of the nationalist element.

I think that just as Stalin found it necessary to modify international socialism for the Russians and just as Mao found it necessary to modify international socialism for the Chinese, it’s necessary for every other ideology to also understand that there are nationalistic, tribalistic limits to the abstract application of those ideologies.

GJ: That’s interesting. I’m an ex-libertarian myself. I was not a card-carrying libertarian, but I subscribed to Reason magazine and read lots of Ayn Rand and Hayek and Mises mostly when I was an undergraduate. There were things that led me away from that.

Two books in particular. First, I read Thomas Sowell’s
A Conflict of Visions and the other was Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night, which basically destroyed my liberal optimism about humanity.

What are some of the things that you think don’t work about libertarianism? You said that some of the abstract libertarian dogmas just don’t work, so specifically what are those?


VD: Well, the most important one, as we are now seeing, is the free movement of peoples. What really changed my thinking and it was a process, you know, it wasn’t an immediate thing, although it was a fairly quick process now that I think about it . . . I grew up on Milton Friedman. My father had me reading Free to Choose when I was fairly young, and so I was a big free trade dogmatist and around the time of NAFTA and all that sort of thing I could recognize some of the problems but I bought into the line that the problem is that it’s not real free trade. It’s a free trade agreement, but it’s not real free trade.

Then I read a really good book by Ian Fletcher, and he directly addressed the concept of Ricardo’s comparative advantage, and he really destroyed it. I think he had something like seven major problems with it, and that got me interested, so I started looking into it. I’m very fortunate in that I have a pretty active and intelligent blog readership and they really like to engage and they have absolutely no respect for me so they’re quite happy to argue with me.

Most of them were free-traders as well so we ended up having an on-going two or three week debate about free trade, and it got pretty detailed to the extent that I went through Henry Hazlitt’s entire chapter on free trade just to look at it critically rather than just reading through it and accepting it. Just looking at the arguments. I found that the free trade arguments were just full of holes. Not just Ricardo’s, but also Hazlitt’s. That’s what got me realizing that Ricardo’s argument was totally dependent on the idea that capital could move but labor couldn’t and so what that got me thinking about was the fact that a libertarian society – even if we could convince everyone in the United States that libertarianism was the correct way to approach things – would rapidly be eliminated by the free movement of peoples as people from non-libertarian societies, people from cultures where they have absolutely no ideals that are in common with the Founding Fathers or with libertarian ideals, would rapidly be able to come in and end that libertarian society in much the same way that the Californians have gone into Colorado and completely changed the political climate there.

So, Ian Fletcher’s book is what really triggered that whole shift in thought process. Now I look at the concept of the free movement of peoples, free trade, and those sorts of concepts with a considerable amount of skepticism. Of course, in Europe we’re seeing some of those problems related to the idea of the free movement of peoples just as you see it in the States with the Central Americans coming across the border.
Read the rest of it there. One factual update: the landmark Martin van Creveld essay mentioned will not be appearing in Riding the Red Horse Vol. 2 since I made the mistake of showing it to Jerry Pournelle, who promptly stole it for There Will Be War Vol. X.

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43 Comments:

Blogger pdwalker November 27, 2015 5:58 AM  

since I made the mistake of showing it to Jerry Pournelle, who promptly stole it for There Will Be War Vol. X

*laugh*

That's treacherous age and experience for you.

Blogger Markku November 27, 2015 6:12 AM  

We are the publisher of both series, so the damage is, shall we say, limited.

Blogger Phillip George November 27, 2015 6:22 AM  

Social sciences, economics has always bothered me on account over simplification, reductionist model making premises. Take this one idea on board. No one engages in an economy simply on the basis of perceived self interest alone. It's never just a matter of what's in this for me. At the very least there is opportunity cost which involves aesthetic choice. There's perception of reputation. There is altruism. What's in it for the benefit of others. There also "is it legal, can I get away with it"
Freemarkets, the slogan, presuppose some moral cultural vacuum, some abstract no-where land, where decisions are based on cost benefit and nearly nothing else. We know people don't buy this way. Loyalty to brand is a factor.
I'm nervous about buying American now because how much of any profit is going to end up financing another Ukraine or Arab Spring.
Social Capital has been so under rated the elephant in the room is a rotting carcass. [a blipvert at the end of the world]

Blogger JACIII November 27, 2015 7:07 AM  

@1 The cost of keeping curmudgeons around.

Anonymous 334 November 27, 2015 7:08 AM  

Excellent interview. Wish some of these outlets had greater reach, but it's great to have much of the current discussion on SJWs and immigration in one place.

Blogger ScuzzaMan November 27, 2015 7:34 AM  

I find it fascinating how often you see this pattern played out in a life-time.

I was very attracted to the idealism of libertarian thought, particularly in my youth, even as my own disinclination towards "joining up" kept me casting a wary eye over the whole proposition and never ready to commit to going big L Libertarian.

I still believe there are valuable lessons, critical insights that the libertarians have that others have forgotten or cast aside in favour of more comforting fantasies, but I no longer accept the proposition that ANY human philosophy can answer to all the problems of human nature.

I am now content to resort to the wisdom of our maker, and would sum up my own position as:

"In the multitude of counselors there is safety."

Which dovetails kind of neatly with your own comment about the Ilk.

+++++
@3

The people who make purely rational calculations of that sort are psychopaths. And even they can only do it in a very narrow range of circumstances.

Blogger Rantor November 27, 2015 7:57 AM  

Good interview. Thanks for posting it. Happy Black Friday. I have a large tree in the front yard that I have to decorate... temps should be near 60 today... thankful for global warming;)



Blogger Durandel Almiras November 27, 2015 8:52 AM  

Has anyone here read Celine's Journey to the End of the Night? That is the third time I've seen someone say that book destroyed liberalism for them. Now I want to read it.

Blogger S1AL November 27, 2015 8:57 AM  

Oh come now, Vox - your readership has no respect for anyone. They just have slightly less no respect for you.

Anonymous Geoff November 27, 2015 9:01 AM  

Really good interview.

And we now have a pretty good idea who has been commenting here recently with the "GJ" handle.

Anonymous karsten November 27, 2015 9:37 AM  

Still the best interview Vox has ever done. Intelligent questions, thought-provoking answers.

I rank Counter-Currents second (second to The Occidental Observer, which is paramount) in my regular online reading; though because of the prolific rate of publication, I tend to pick and choose which CC articles I peruse.

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery November 27, 2015 9:49 AM  

I've read Journey to the End of the Night.

Here's a summary:

* French guy is an arsehole
* Everybody else is an arsehole too

Don't get me wrong. It's a well written book, if you like pessimistic, surrealist nihilism.

But Alasdair Gray's Lanark did it better.

Blogger JaimeInTexas November 27, 2015 9:54 AM  

@1. pdwalker

"... I made the mistake of showing it to Jerry Pournelle, who promptly ,,,"

Made me laugh also.

Someone pulled a 4th gen warfare tactic on Vox.

Blogger endwatcher November 27, 2015 10:11 AM  

Counter currents is very anti-Christian. I understand not shooting at them because they shoot at our enemies, but I wouldn't support them. It is a shame, I do like some of the articles, but ultimately if the forces behind CC ever had power they would persecute the faith too.

Anonymous RedJack #22 November 27, 2015 10:12 AM  

Great points about free trade.

OpenID elijahrhodes November 27, 2015 10:24 AM  

I think Vox is losing his edge. He sounded sensible and diplomatic.

Blogger praetorian November 27, 2015 10:30 AM  

Counter currents is very anti-Christian.

Citation?

I haven't seen anything attacking Christianity on their site.

Blogger Were-Puppy November 27, 2015 10:34 AM  

"I made the mistake of showing it to Jerry Pournelle, who promptly stole it for There Will Be War Vol. X."

---

Pournelle the Poacher!

Blogger Doom November 27, 2015 11:05 AM  

"I’m very fortunate in that I have a pretty active and intelligent blog readership and they really like to engage and they have absolutely no respect for me so they’re quite happy to argue with me."

Hmm? I absolutely respect you. Which is why I must, if I see something I disagree regarding, note it, to you. Don't go all squirrelly. I don't bother with those whom I have no respect.

Though you more often swipe at my ideas than the other way, including on the topic of discussion. Took you a while, but I finally came around, at least internationally. Within the states I do believe in free trade, if that hasn't perfectly, and always, been the case. It certainly isn't fully the case today in a number of ways, from health insurance to firearm sales to many other things.

No respect? Pftftftft! I doubt if I am alone, if I also don't care either way.

OpenID denektenorsk November 27, 2015 11:07 AM  

An interesting read Supreme Dark Lord. I admit that I am not familiar with all of the tenants of capital L Libertarian ideology but it seems to me that Liberal values of tolerance suffer from the same fatal flaw. At what point can a truly tolerant and inclusive person tolerate the intolerant?

As an example, look at the violence against Jews in Europe perpetrated by adherants of a certain religion of peace. Jews are leaving Malmo in droves and are opening questioning their future in Europe. Women are routinely discrimated against by the same adherants of peace.

Why do "we" tolerant this behaviour? Why do "we" want more of this?

OpenID denektenorsk November 27, 2015 11:13 AM  

If anyone needs an argument against "free" trade or the TPP in particular, look no further than NAFTA. It already has provisions for companies to sue different levels of governments and has all sorts of provisions that are anti "free" trade. E.g. portions of cars must be manufactured in the various nations, provisions for protecting protectionist aspects of farming in Canada, Softwood lumber disputes, provincial governments being sued for trying to reclaim costs from companies who failed to hold up their end of crony capitalism, etc..

All of the manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and shock, gasp, surprisingly the unskilled middle class has evaporated with it.

How is any of that live by the sword, die by the sword *free* trade?

Blogger Dave November 27, 2015 11:43 AM  

No respect, I tell ya, I don't get no respect around here.



How do you say no to Dr. Pournelle? You don't.

Blogger Were-Puppy November 27, 2015 11:46 AM  

You mean he didn't respectfully poach that paper?

Blogger Randy M November 27, 2015 12:00 PM  

Good interview, thanks!

Blogger Greg Johnson November 27, 2015 12:25 PM  

For the record, I don't comment here as GJ.

Blogger Greg Johnson November 27, 2015 12:27 PM  

RE: Christianity

These are my views: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/04/debate-on-christianity/

Blogger Doc Rampage November 27, 2015 12:37 PM  

@3 About the different motivations in the market: I think one of the differences in Christian culture vs other cultures--and one of the advantages--is that when Christians do business their motivation is not to get the best deal possible and screw the other guy, but to get a deal that makes both people happy.

Now obviously, this isn't universal, but it is fairly reliable, and it has the effect of smoothing out the problems of imperfect information in the market because the more knowledgeable one is not using that information to cheat the other.

There are other economic advantages to Christianity as well. For example, by reducing the amount of envy and pride we reduce the amount of pointless luxury goods so that producers can spend their efforts in more productive directions.

I've always wondered if the explosive spread of Christianity in the early years was not related to these economic advantages. It would have made Christian societies wealthier and would have made non-Christians prefer to do business with Christians.

OpenID jsolbakken November 27, 2015 12:50 PM  

I was a small "l" libertarian from 1972, inspired as many others by Nixon's wage/price controls and his gold policy. I never fully bought into the full blown free trade bs or the no borders bs. I always believed that "liberty" was exactly the same as "tyranny" in that "liberty" had to kill its enemies standing in its way exactly the same as "tyranny" must kill those who oppose it. I always considered the idea that "liberty" could be gained or maintained by purely peaceful means to be rather unrealistic to the point of being psychotic. The benefit of "liberty" is that true moral "liberty" promotes peaceful relations in society in ways that "tyranny" does not. Now I've come to believe that the problems with "libertarianism" are to a great extent to due to crypto-fascists and crypto-Marxists and crypto-assholes who sought and seek to bamboozle the unwary.

I wonder if this makes any sense to others who have found themselves sympathetic to "libertarianism" and yet not completely so?

Blogger kurt9 November 27, 2015 1:11 PM  

VD, your mental evolution is similar to mine in that you intuitively understand that libertarianism such as I subscribe to really doesn't apply to most of the rest of the world. Having lived in East and Southeast Asia for 10 years (and other regions of the world for business) what really comes through to me is that the rest of the world is tribal with a capital "T". I likened the East and Southeast Asian countries to the various fraternities on a collage campus (and how some are more studly than others).

I also agree with you about the borders issue. Libertarianism requires a competent people who believe in liberty. This is not most of the world. Hence, you cannot have such people in a libertarian society.

The main difference between you and me is that you seemed to have dumped libertarianism in favor of some form of religion. I believe very strongly in the concept of self-ownership and individual autonomy in the Rothbard/Rand sense and view religion in any form as inherently incompatible with such. So I can never accept religion in any of its current forms. I am still (and will always be) a libertarian or a Heinleinesque conservative. Consider it libertarianism for the people who can handle it.

BTW, I can play the tribal game as well. My tribe is anyone who is libertarian and is interested in stuff like radical life extension and transhumanism. I interact and do business with the rest of the world (e.g. those that are not of my tribe) on the basis of mutual respect and rational self-interest. However, I would never dream of allowing those who do not share my goals and world-view to have any influence over my long-term personal objectives and personal life future.

It is not a libertarian world out there. But it is a world of contracts, and that works well enough for me.

Blogger GJ November 27, 2015 1:24 PM  

@The other GJ and Vox: that was a great interview.

I was being interviewed by a reporter from Le Monde in Paris about two months ago and he had absolutely no idea how to even describe the concept of libertarian to his readers. That’s in France, which is at least Western civilization and so forth. Trying to have a conversation about that sort of concept in Japan or China is just totally meaningless. So, that’s when I really became more cognizant of the importance of the nationalist element.

It seems to me that the reason why libertarianism doesn't compute to people of almost every culture is that it just doesn't compute. Now this is not an argument I want to fight over but I would certainly be interested in exchanging points of view.

Blogger maniacprovost November 27, 2015 1:47 PM  

I look at it differently. Ideologies are abstract ideals that can't be immediately implemented. Even if we can't disband the police and have free trade tomorrow, that goal informs our policies today. I don't see closing the borders to immigration as antithetical to the desire for free movement. Our society must survive and gradually influence others.

Blogger OldFan November 27, 2015 2:29 PM  

As much as I admired libertarian arguments, I concluded they were ultimately infeasible. The history of the American Frontier (which used to be Albany, NY) is replete with bold pioneers heading westward to build their own societies - all of which either collapsed or converted to the same general limited government model in short order. No special technology is necessary for a libertarian society, but none have arisen in all of human history (OK, except for the pirates of Madagascar, but they only lasted about 20 years).

The main attraction of libertarianism is its principled, steadfast opposition to the reflexive statism (e.g. "OMG, a social problem - let's build a big government program to solve it) that has crept into our society.

Blogger Danby November 27, 2015 2:50 PM  

@29 kurt9
[I] believe very strongly in the concept of self-ownership and individual autonomy in the Rothbard/Rand sense and view religion in any form as inherently incompatible with such. So I can never accept religion in any of its current forms. I am still (and will always be) a libertarian or a Heinleinesque conservative. Consider it libertarianism for the people who can handle it.

BTW, I can play the tribal game as well. My tribe is anyone who is libertarian and is interested in stuff like radical life extension and transhumanism. I interact and do business with the rest of the world (e.g. those that are not of my tribe) on the basis of mutual respect and rational self-interest. However, I would never dream of allowing those who do not share my goals and world-view to have any influence over my long-term personal objectives and personal life future.


Bullshit. you do have a religion, complete with apotheosis, theodicy, and an afterlife. It's entirely bullshit, but I hope believing in unobtainable bullshit gives you some cold comfort in a hostile and yet indifferent universe. I love how you proclaim you're just too fucking special and independent to believe in religion, but here you are, proclaiming your bullshit technology religion.

The problem with your tribe is that when the economy collapses in a few years, you will all either be eaten or used as fertilizer. How many of those people will stand by you when TSHTF or you're under attack?
I'll help you there. None.

Blogger kurt9 November 27, 2015 4:15 PM  

Danby, you seem to have an issue with my personal choice of self-determination. As long as i do not seek to impose my world-view onto you, what does it matter to you what my personal beliefs are. Do they somehow make you feel uncomfortable? If so, why? Perhaps you are projecting your own feelings of doubt and inadequacy onto me. You know what our host says about projection and those that do it. Perhaps you might do well to see a therapist. At minimum, you need to reconsider your own beliefs in a more critical light

Blogger automatthew November 27, 2015 9:07 PM  

you seem to have an issue with my personal choice of self-determination

Get. The. Fuck. Out.

Blogger praetorian November 27, 2015 11:40 PM  

These are my views: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/04/debate-on-christianity

Thank you, greg. I see nothing in your position that I would call anti-Christian. Ambivalence, sure. But many of the churches have well earned that.

Blogger bob k. mando November 28, 2015 1:33 AM  

19. Doom November 27, 2015 11:05 AM
Hmm? I absolutely respect you. Which is why I must, if I see something I disagree regarding, note it, to you. Don't go all squirrelly. I don't bother with those whom I have no respect.



hush, you.

he's twisting a shiv that was already stuck in.

Blogger Laramie Hirsch November 28, 2015 5:52 AM  

The whole Magna Carta, limited government, all that sort of thing is totally and utterly foreign to the European immigrant populations that came in the later waves. I don’t think it’s an accident that if you look at a lot of the crucial changes that took place, especially when you get to the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, I don’t think it’s an accident that you had the Irish grandchildren of immigrants who had a very different perspective on it than the Anglo-Saxons who had settled the country in the first place.

That’s not a hill I’m willing to go to battle on just because it’s a huge subject, and it’s not one that I’ve seen very well studied, but I do think it’s a mistake to assume that all these people coming from Napoleonic law, Roman law traditions, which I see over here because the legal systems here are very, very different than either in England or the States because they came from these different intellectual traditions. I don’t think that they really ever truly grasped some of those concepts and I think that is something that factored in to how the USA transformed over the last 60-70 years.


Dear Lord, Vox...PLEASE read some E. Michael Jones. You MUST read some of his material on this matter. There is so much more to this, and so many times, I see you right on the cusp of grasping onto this trend that I've been watching.

What you are discussing here can be explored further in E. Michael Jones' book, The Slaughter of Cities.

If you need a taste, here is the man himself, just give this a listen while you're doing your house chores or something:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTrBXSwwsdI


I also HIGHLY recommend that you read The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit, followed by Barren Metal


I recommend these works to ALL of the Dread Ilk. You folks will love it. Promise.

-Laramie

Blogger Laramie Hirsch November 28, 2015 5:55 AM  

@35 Here, here.

Anonymous Eric Ashley November 28, 2015 9:06 AM  

When I was twelve, I believed in the Invisible Government; when I was fifteen, I was a Libertarian, but I grew up.

What's the likelihood of our Transhumanist being a good guy to have your back going down a dark alley?

Blogger Danby November 28, 2015 2:16 PM  

What's the likelihood of our Transhumanist being a good guy to have your back going down a dark alley?

About the same as the likelihood that he's going to stop wanking to his photoshop of Ayn Rand's head on the Borg Queen's body.

Blogger Cail Corishev November 28, 2015 2:52 PM  

Danby, where would I find that picture? Asking for a friend.

Blogger Troy Lee Messer November 28, 2015 3:55 PM  

This is an amazingly insightful interview. And it helped me to realize to what degree I've lost some of my libertarianism. Libertarianism assumes other agents are going to follow the Non-Aggression Principle. And if your typical rapey thirld world muslim is any indication, they are not interested in NAP. Libertarianism in nice in the class room, not so much in the real world.

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