Classical liberals, and especially the current of thought we today call “libertarianism”, accept as an article of faith the notion that peace and well-being are brought about through economic developments. The pattern of thinking is very understandable in itself: since capitalism and free trade are the only internal and international economic and political systems capable of preserving propitious circumstances for the great mass of people, classical liberals tend to believe that all beneficial economic and political developments have indeed been brought about by commerce and free trade, and secondly, that all people in all situations inherently strive towards the establishment of a free society, and will readily adapt the moral assumptions needed to bring it about. Primitive moral and economic codes, in this view, are simply the product of corrupt institutions, the coincidences in history, or repressive foreign intervention. Lift these restraints on human development, and it is only a matter of decades before the world will live in the unlimited peace of a universal free market.
There was a time when I shared these opinions. Now, however, I have come to see that many of their premises are very faulty and superficial, and that, in a certain awkward sense, these classical liberal daydreams make one think of the Marxist theory of paradise on earth. Just like Marxism, classical liberalism assumes that people at all times act on purely economic impulses, in the first case collectivist, in the second tending towards more freedom. In a trivial way, of course, behavior is always determined by economic calculation, in the sense that people will only adopt a course of action if it seems beneficial to them. But let me stress the word “seems”. The fact that a human being perceives a certain goal as beneficial, does not in the least mean that this goal is objectively good, and neither does it implicate that all human beings will necessarily perceive the same goals as good, namely, workers’ solidarity in the communist view, or free market economics in the classical liberal view. The first world war perfectly illustrated this naivete of both economic schools: socialists and communists were convinced that workers would not butcher their brothers to satisfy the pretensions of bourgeois and noble politicians, and classical liberals were equally convinced that economic ties between the elites in different countries, as well as the general importance of economic motives, would prevent the bourgeoisie from ever seriously considering war. Obviously, both had miscalculated, because they failed to take into account other than economic goals in the lives of humans, and obvious factors of influence like upbringing.
It is characteristic of libertarians as well as the old classical liberal school of the 19th century, that they lacked any real sense of historical consciousness (it would be unjust to say that they lacked historical knowledge, because many classical liberals were erudite men; only, they did not seem to have appreciated the real value of history, namely as guide of human motives, and not as an interesting artifact). Von Mises remarked that the gradual erosion of liberalism toward the end of the 19th century first of all had its cause in a beatific view of human nature, precisely the illusion that could have been remedied by studying the motives of historical actors more closely. They wondered who, in this century that had revealed the enormous benefits of a free economic and political system, would ever be stupid or malignant enough to doubt that it was the way to proceed for the rest of man’s existence on earth; laborers, intellectuals, and politicians alike would find it to be in their own best interest to pursue this course. But of course it was not that simple. History abounds of examples in which people chose to sacrifice the most obvious economic interests to the pursuit of delirious utopias and religious schemes; the spread of Islam is the most eye-catching, but certainly not the only, big example of this phenomenon. It is perfectly possible that first of all useless and discontented intellectuals, the so-called “intellectual proletariat”, do not choose to adopt the economically most rational way of life, and to prosper in a useful occupation without constraining anyone in their activities. It is perfectly possible that the masses of the people, through propaganda, come to believe that their real salvation lies in other solutions than that of the free market and democratic capitalism. In short, the malignity of the few is, at any moment in history, ready to combine with the group instincts of the uneducated masses to bring about economic and political evolutions entirely opposed to the true interests of mankind.
Islam is a very interesting example of such an ideology, and all the more so since the motivation behind it, and the problems which it poses, have not changed since its invention in the seventh century. Also, we can see clear parallels in the way modern libertarians perceive these problems, and the way classical liberals perceived the rise of socialism and communism: they believe it to be a fad, a hoax speedily to be unmasked when the inhabitants of Islamic countries, through capitalism and free trade, will begin to understand where their true interests lie. Fundamentalism is simply the result of economic hardship, a cultural superstructure as it were of economic conditions. Hans-Herman Hoppe optimistically asserted that the only remedy to Islamic fundamentalism is “unrestricted free trade with the West”, and that the increase in welfare will make Muslims understand the senselessness of fundamentalism and of the sharp edges of Islamic doctrine in general. Mr. Hoppe seems to forget that the gulf nations, which have benefited greatly from trade with the West, and have all the money they need to enjoy life and forget about terrorism, discrimination of women, and application of Sharia law, are among the most rigid Islamic societies and are the main sponsors of international Islamic terrorism. In the case of the modern libertarians, we are perfectly justified in saying they live in a historical vacuum, lacking so much as a knowledge of basic events in western, let alone Islamic history. The fact that the Arab tribes in the seventh century could have prospered infinitely more from trade with the countries they chose to conquer and often laid waste, has totally escaped their analysis; and they haven’t the slightest notion of what has been going on in Islam since the interwar years, and which strands of fundamentalism and conquest strategies have been growing in the decades after the second world war.
Another common fallacy concerning the Islamic threat should also be discussed here, namely the idea that the growth of Islamic islands within West-European nations has as its root cause the welfare state and the obvious implication that immigrants do not need to adopt western ways of life to touch the benefits of our economic system. This is a very appealing thought, but it is only slightly less naive than the argument I attacked in the paragraph above. Simply abolish the welfare state, and all immigrants, however backward their ideas initially may have been, will readily adapt to the liberal, capitalist way of life and mentality dominant in the West. Especially Americans like this argument when talking about Europe: we have brought our immigration problem upon ourselves, by giving Muslims such a warm welcome. However, the facts just contradict this view. First of all, other, non-Islamic ethnic groups that have settled in welfare states don’t share the problems of the Islamic communities. Take Hindus in the UK: (but there also are significant communities in other European countries) the only aspect in which they differ from Pakistanis and Bangladeshis is their religion, but nevertheless this appears to be the crucial factor, a lot more important than the implications of the welfare state. The Hindu community does not show the same crime rates, does not have the gigantic integration problems of Islamic communities, and Hindu children are exemplary students. It seems the welfare state did not have any of the disastrous effects on Hindus as on Muslims, and the same can be said about other non-Muslim groups in varying degrees. I believe we should at last wake up to the hard truth that civilizations indeed can differ in mentality. Enough has been written on the differing mentality of the Japanese and Chinese, because in these cases the differences are rather more quaint than alarming, let alone dangerous; it has proven possibly for western and eastern civilizations to interact peacefully through a certain consensus. But this does not in the least mean that such consensus can be reached between all cultures, and history has made clear that Islam is, by its very nature, incapable of finding any form of consensus with any civilization on which it borders. The simple reason for this is that Islam is not an actual civilization, but a totalitarian doctrine –unlike other non-western civilizations that are receptive to rational arguments concerning the welfare of their members. Muslims consider adherence to their creed more important than any economic benefits. The welfare on which most Muslim immigrants in Western Europe live has of course exacerbated the problem greatly, but does not lie at the root of it. American Muslims are among the more wealthy citizens of their country, (often misinterpreted as a sign of successful integration, thanks to the more efficient American immigration model) but in the US we see the same other trends at work as in Europe: increasing seclusion and radicalization of Muslim communities, and a steeply rising number of instances of Islamic intolerance and/or aggression towards non-Muslims. As Christopher Caldwell noted, if America would have as large an Islamic population as France, no matter the supposedly superior integration model of the US, the country would be in the doldrums just like France was in 2006. Western Europe simply had the bad luck of suffering a labor shortage after the war and having made the, after all, forgivable mistake of importing large numbers of Muslims from population-rich Turkey and Northern Africa; and at present, there is no other reason for the flooding of Europe rather than America by Muslim immigration, than the simple fact that Europe is so chillingly close to the Islamic world.
Thus, the libertarian approach to Islam, which can be seen as a general left-liberal outlook, is not only very mistaken but worrying to all who are genuinely concerned with the future of the West. But no less worrying is another manifestation of left-liberal superficiality, namely the attitude toward the construction of the European Union. Although the EU is clearly becoming an increasingly dictatorial contraption, left-liberals seem to laud economic and political development toward greater integration of the union. Indeed, criticism of the octopus of the EU is chiefly coming from conservative libertarians and, not rarely, from ex-socialists and various other political categories. Left-liberals, however, tend to see European integration as, at least in part, a recommendable striving toward more economic freedom on the international as well as national level, and gladly close an eye for the dirty, undemocratic and oligarchic practices that abound in the upper echelons of Brussels – just like they gladly close their eyes to the increasing barbarity and aggressiveness of Islam in the last years. They believe that the economic benefits of the union will, in the long term, outweigh the costs, and that any dictatorial tendencies of the EU elite will be eliminated by the time economic freedom has been achieved, not in the least because those very elites will be concerned with promoting the good economic and political system. Apart from that curious twist of the mind that makes the left-liberals believe we need a supranational, dictatorial government to enforce economic freedom, we must again realize that elites are not necessarily interested in the obvious, long term benefits of a free market, even if these would bring enrichment to themselves, simply because an autocratic system which guarantees quick benefits, is far more sure to bet on than the complex order of democratic capitalism. And then there is the simple truth on which left-liberals and our pro-European education system wish to maintain a deadly silence, namely that Eurocrats are in essence collectivists, often disillusioned hippies and communists like Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who are not really interested in much else than dominating the human herd and constructing their utopias with human clay. They are, in a sense, the Lenins and Trotskys of cultural Marxism: no bloodbath, at least not directly, but a careful strategy of indoctrination and exhaustion of the public through that gift of heaven for progressives, the European Union.
For other reasons also, it is unlikely that sound economic reasoning will save Europe, even if it exists to a great extent. As Spengler notes, great economic developments and expansion have been caused by political decisions, not the other way around. The men who created the circumstances that made England a great industrial nation, were the Tory and Whig nobles with their sense of public duty, not the merchants and industrialists. Capitalism brings peace and well-being in plenty, but what it does not produce is great administrators who can handle a big crisis. Inevitably, as Schumpeter remarked, the great tragedy of modern democracy therefore lies in the problem that any state with a big government in this post-aristocratic age, will be dominated by inexperienced representatives of pressure groups, be they unions, farmers, or high finance. Countries in which the government is so powerful as it is today, and politicians and civil servants alike are so much devoid of any sense of public good or duty, are doomed to sink away in dictatorship or entire chaos. The common man and the middle class are constantly being squeezed out like oranges by means of taxes and regulations; small enterprises see no future; only parasitical multinationals with government support are growing at a spectacular pace, like the elites of Rome enriched themselves under the late Empire. This the left-liberals see as economic progress, together with the sweeping measures announced by the Eurocrats, which indeed are in themselves very classical liberal in tone: ending trade restrictions, “promoting investment climate”, great infrastructure works. But they do not understand that no supranational structure is needed in the first place for these measures, and completely forget the big swindle that created the present political and economic context. Lulled by the idyllic tone of this spate of European legislation, they ignore the simply reality on the ground, namely that Western Europe is steadily becoming a severely mismanaged economic zone and is well on the way to follow the course of the Roman empire, from principate to dominate and on to disintegration.