The truth about left and right

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Mencius Moldbug reveals the truth about left and right — or, as he refers to them, pronomian and antinomian, meaning for or against the formal promises — property rights and contracts — already in place in a society:

An antinomian is anyone who seeks, consciously or unconsciously, to disrupt or destroy the nomos. He is a breaker of oaths, a burner of deeds, a mocker of laws — at least, from the pronomian perspective. From his own perspective he is a champion of freedom and justice.

I admit it: I am a pronomian. I endorse the nomos without condition.

Mencius is almost a libertarian, and he considers libertarianism the most refined form of modern antinomianism:

Libertarianism is a fine example of the antinomian form, because the elements of the nomos that it attacks are specified with the elegant design sense that one would expect from the founder of modern libertarianism — probably the 20th century’s greatest political theorist, Murray Rothbard.

Rothbardian libertarianism rejects two aspects of the nomos. First, it rejects the entire concept of [...] sovereignty. Rothbardians are called anarcho-capitalists for a reason: they deny the legitimacy of the state, unless operated according to strict Rothbardian principles. Note that they do not require, say, Disney to operate Disneyland according to libertarian principles. This is because, to a Rothbardian, Disney’s title to Disneyland is legitimate, whereas (say) Iceland’s title to Iceland is not.

Rothbard has an intricate system, borrowed originally from Locke, for determining whether or not a title is legitimate. To say that this system is unamenable to objective interpretation is to put it mildly. But the titles of existing [sovereigns] all appear to be illegitimate. This makes libertarianism a revolutionary ideology. Since its antinomianism is so restricted and its lust for blood is minimal, however, it is not an especially dangerous (or effective) one.

Antinomians who reject sovereignty have two main alternatives. Either they support private, amorphous, and even territorially overlapping “protection agencies” (a design whose military plausibility is, to put it kindly, small), or they believe that government is legitimate if and only if it obeys a set of “natural laws.” Again here we see the proximity to the pronomian. But the Rothbardian concept of natural law misses the Hobbesian fact that in the true nomos, there is no party that can enforce a state’s promises to its clients.

This matters, because legalism without sovereignty has a simple result: the personal rule of judges. The error is to imagine the existence of a superhuman legal authority which can bind a state against itself, enforcing a “government of laws, not men.” As the bizarre encrustations of precedent that history builds up around every written constitution demonstrate, this is simply a political perpetual-motion device. All governments are governments of men. If final decisions are taken by a council of nine, these nine are the nine who rule. Whether you call them a court, a junta or a politburo is irrelevant.

(Emphasis mine.)

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