Anarchy and Civic Nationalism: Is a Debate Even Possible?


At the end of October, Adam Kokesh, a libertarian who leans more toward anarchism than the Libertarian Party, debated Lauren Southern, a sort of post libertarian nationalist. Kokesh is running for president, his platform being based around dissolving the federal government and resigning. Lauren Southern is an independent journalist who caused an uproar a few years ago when she made a video criticizing feminism. It was hard to determine the exact trajectory of their debate. Open borders vs. borders? Libertarianism vs. Nationalism? You decide. The video is below (sound quality is horrible. If anyone knows a better recording, let me know). 

Kokesh seems like a more experienced debator, a skill which can smooth over even his highly ideological, evangelistic style.

  Southern made the mistake people on the Right will inevitably start making now: she overestimated the effect that her antinomian talking points would have on her opponent. She tried to bait him with Islam and the welfare state.

  What she missed was ultimately the context of the type of open borders Kokesh proposed. In his brand of society, based on the principle that people have the right to own and defend their own property, and that commerce would benefit from free movement and free association, what we ultimately have is a world order not unlike the nineteenth century in most of the world. Kokesh's vision, untenable though it may be, ironically ends up looking a bit more conservative than Southern's, at least from this position.

  Southern says that Kokesh has an unrealistic, utopian worldview. No argument here. Kokesh says that, ultimately, Southern's brand of civic nationalism would simply result in the type of socialism she abhors; I tend to agree with this too.

  Where both of their world views are doomed, from where I'm sitting, is that they are both fundamentally based on rights.

  The problem with the Non Aggression Principle is that it requires one to accept a definition of force which is fundamentally morally determined, not by its direct result, but by the result it wants. Kokesh says in his segment that 'Principles are pragmatic,' in order to counter Southern's contention that his ideal world sounded nice 'in principle,' but that it was ultimately not pragmatic. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the operational standard used by everyone claiming to work from 'principle,' or that one's principles are even defined by anything which can be called pragmatic. More often than not, it seems that principles arise entirely independently of their pragmatic value. The very need for their debate was a matter of differing principles.

  People argue, not from the position of preference and affinity, but from the authority of their ideological positions, an authority which is flimsy at best, and which can always be uprooted through a few quite simple narrative adjustments or appeals to the emotions.

  At one point, Kokesh even uses the word 'conversion' and rests certain that, with time, everyone will become a libertarian. The thing he seems to overlook is that you could say this about absolutely any position at all. If the whole world could just be convinced that everything would be easier if the whole world was the same, then of course the idea in question would 'work,' so to speak; at least for a time.

  But let's specifically take the Non Aggression Principle in the libertarian context in which it is usually rendered. Their definition of theft is completely different than a socialist's definition. A libertarian says that taxation is theft, full stop... A socialist, on the other hand, takes the abstract view that the act of maintaining personal property is an act of aggression against the very potential abundance which could be enjoyed by people adjacent to the property owner.

  We can see here that it's not a matter of trying to prove which is the more forceful definition of force. What needs to be done, rather, is that there needs to be an agreement that force, as such, exists, and that there can be no abrogation of force where there cannot be agreement concerning its semantics.

  What few people are willing to concede to is that sets of principles such as these, ultimately, principles which are not compatible as they define the same terms in fundamentally opposite ways, would do best to find their proper domains in which they can part ways. Kokesh's enunciation of the Non Aggression Principle would have to rather enunciate his position on defense in a stronger fashion if his ideal society were to have Southern's ideal civic nationalist state as a neighbor. One thing is certain: no one position will ever triumph over the other through war or sheer persuasion. The world is fragmented at any given time. Why not admit this and work with the current, rather than against it at the expense of lives, well being and sanity?