Book Review

The Golden Mean:
Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values
By Nelson Hultberg
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Softcover, 412 pages, $19.95

bookcoverThe Golden Mean is an extremely important book that I believe is destined to be a classic …[It] made me think and gave me answers I’ve never thought of before.” – Mark Skousen, former professor of economics, Columbia University, author of The Making of Modern Economics.

“In a world inundated with political / ideological books, Nelson Hultberg’s brilliant work…stands apart from, and above, anything I have previously read in this genre. ” – Robert Ringer, Author of Restoring the American Dream.

“No one can read this book and not have his thoughts and conscience provoked…It is a profound and passionate effort toward healing a major schism that is long overdue.” – Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education.

Restoring the Lost Freedom Movement

When it first began in the early 1940s, the freedom movement in America was not split between libertarians and conservatives. It was one coalition unified in rebellion against FDR’s welfare state. By 1965, however, the movement had become tragically bifurcated. Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard took libertarians off into anarchy, while Russell Kirk drove conservatives into statism. This split has created two incomplete visions (contemporary libertarianism and conservatism) that are, in their singularity, incapable of effectively challenging the authoritarian mega-state.

What must be done is to reunite these two divisions. This will require a rational theory of politics that can bring together the two philosophical streams of John Locke and Edmund Burke so as to restore the original “republic of states” that Jefferson and the Founders envisioned. It is the purpose of The Golden Mean to bring this about.

Only in this way can the forces of freedom become strong enough to check the relentless advance of modern day statism. This unity between libertarians and conservatives is the crucial missing ingredient in our fight to restore America. The Golden Mean lays the philosophical groundwork for its reinstillation.

This unity means a merging of libertarians with cultural conservatives who believe in limited government, not with today’s neo conservatives who advocate the relentless expansion of government. Libertarians have a common ground with the “Old Republic” conservatives like Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, and Frank Meyer.

The Golden Mean is much more, though, than a paean to the history of libertarianism and conservatism. It is a paradigm shifting book that will dramatically change the way one looks at political theory and the idea of a free society. It is meant for both the scholar and the educated layman.

Mr. Hultberg’s central theme is that Aristotle’s Golden Mean is the key to establishing the political IDEAL. What is needed is to expand Aristotle’s doctrine from the micro level (as he formulated it) to the macro level. By doing so we achieve an irrefutable moral-philosophical foundation to validate the Founders’ vision, not just for the nineteenth century, but for all of time.

Summary of Chapters

Rights, Equality and the Vital Center

In the opening chapter, Aristotle’s famous “Law of the Mean” is explained, demonstrating why it must be used to judge the legitimacy of political systems. It is a natural law that operates as powerfully in the intellectual realm as the “Law of Gravity” does in the physical realm. Aristotle’s Mean identifies the universal political good for man, but modern academics and media pundits are oblivious to this unknown truth. Consequently they are teaching a warped concept of reality via a false political spectrum and a false concept of rights. When properly understood, the Golden Mean shows convincingly that the true political ideal is not social welfarism as our schools teach, but limited government based upon equal rights under the law, i.e., objective law. And objective law can only be found at the “vital center” of the political spectrum where strict constitutional government and laissez-faire capitalism prevail. All else is gradations of evil.

The Great Moral Ideal

Ayn Rand’s fundamental message in her 1957 mega-novel, Atlas Shrugged, was that all dictatorial political systems have their roots in the moral code of altruism. Altruism, she maintained, was incompatible with capitalism, which is dependent upon self-interest. Thus it must be replaced with a code of rational egoism if capitalism is to survive. This was provocative stuff, and it launched the modern libertarian movement. The only problem is that Rand, while right about altruism, was wrong about egoism being the antidote that would save capitalism. She couldn’t see that egoism was not the answer to altruism, but merely the opposite side of the same evil coin of extremism under Aristotelian logic and wisdom. Rand was thoroughly confused on this issue and as a consequence led libertarians into a flawed concept of ethics to undergird their movement. TGM exposes her errors, and then corrects them.

Truth’s Trojan Horse

The roots of our modern dilemma lie in numerous philosophical fallacies uncritically accepted during the latter nineteenth century. No doctrine has been more pernicious than Auguste Comte’s philosophy of “positivism.” Its premise, that empiricism is the only valid methodology to establish truth, destroyed reason, history, and intuition as our guides. This has led to the socio-political ailments plaguing our world today. Positivism has descended, like acid rain, upon our lives to obliterate the vital notion of natural law that sustained free civilization for centuries. The monstrous pathologies of the twentieth century can be laid at Comte’s doorstep and his injection of positivism into the modern mind. TGM outlines for the reader this process and explains why the older notion of a universal natural law must be resurrected if we are to restore a free, ordered, and humane way of life.

The Failure of the Non-Aggression Principle

Libertarians were led off into the philosophical forest by the pied piper Murray Rothbard in the 1970s, and they have never recovered from their false path. Rothbard adopted Rand’s flawed “non-aggression principle” and carried it to its logical conclusion, which is anarchy. This has resulted in the irrational utopianism that presently dominates the libertarian movement (“anarcho-capitalism”). Because of their embrace of Rothbardian ideology, libertarians have created a philosophical movement that cannot get successfully launched as it is presently constructed. TGM exposes the major error of Rand’s non-aggression principle and what must be done to restructure the libertarian ideology to give it the strength to prevail.

How then Should We Govern?

Why did the Founders’ Constitution fail to contain the growth of government beyond the nineteenth century? As always, the root of the problem is found in false ideas. In this case, there are several whoppers that have brought about freedom’s downfall in a political sense. But there is one fundamental fallacy that transcends all the subsidiary errors. This is the notion that the state cannot govern effectively unless it has the power to convey privileges to special interest groups so as to “promote the common good.” This theory has been held for thousands of years to be the purpose of government and is championed by all those of the collectivist mindset. Sadly, this toleration for government conveyance of privilege was not adequately addressed in the Founders’ political vision and has led to the dictatorial concept of “arbitrary law” dominating modern America. TGM demonstrates how to correct this flaw in our system and paves the way for restoration of a true “objective law” society in which individual rights are protected rather than manipulated.

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Praise for The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean is an extremely important book that I believe is destined to be a classic. It resolves, in a very satisfactory manner, the battle between libertarians and conservatives. For years I have looked for a book that uncovers the best of these two movements. This one does it. Of special interest is how Mr. Hultberg combines Aristotle’s famous ‘doctrine of the mean’ with Judeo-Christian values to show the weakness of Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard on the one side and Rousseau, Comte, et al on the other. In doing so, he shows us an ideal society of freedom, progress and social justice. His book made me think and gave me answers I’ve never thought of before. I read it from cover to cover and couldn’t put it down. Mr. Hultberg is a very gifted writer and has written a fantastic book that needs to be read by all defenders of freedom.”

- Mark Skousen, Former professor of economics, Columbia University, Editor-n-chief of Forecasts & Strategies, Author of over 20 books, including The Making of Modern Economics.

“In a world inundated with political/ideological books, Nelson Hultberg’s brilliant work, The Golden Mean, stands apart from, and above, anything I have previously read in this genre. It is a remarkably logical and in-depth analysis of political philosophy, why the original American vision was tragically lost in the twentieth century, and how we can recapture it in the twenty-first century. Rigid ideologues of all stripes – libertarians, conservatives, and liberals – are sure to disagree with Hultberg’s penetrating insights and solutions because he dares to expose the most serious flaws in their belief systems. But if every college student in America would read The Golden Mean, the reign of the statists who now control the levers of power in Washington would be in serious jeopardy.”

- Robert Ringer, Author of Restoring the American Dream.

“The Golden Mean contains a wide array of controversial ideas, some of which conservatives and libertarians will love and some they will dislike, and often for very different reasons. But no one can read this book and not have his thoughts and conscience provoked. Mr. Hultberg deserves high praise for this eloquent endeavor to bring together these two intellectual camps who have common and very formidable foes. It is a profound and passionate effort toward healing a major schism that is long overdue.”

– Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education.

“Congratulations to Nelson Hultberg’s The Golden Mean for a wonderful tour de force. He brings together the libertarian and traditional elements of modern conservatism into a new unified position to combat the evil of ever-expanding national government power. His critique of an absolute non-aggression principle and his inventiveness in utilizing Aristotle’s Golden Mean are among the best cases for limited government any author has made in years.”

- Donald Devine, Senior Scholar at The Fund for American Studies, a Vice Chairman of the American Conservative Union, and editor of ConservativeBattleline On Line.

“Nelson Hultberg’s The Golden Mean provides an outstanding explanation and defense of limited government. Its content is sweeping, its analysis comprehensive, its conclusions sound. Libertarians, classical liberals, and conservatives will find a pithy insight on almost every page to engage them, challenge them, enlighten them, and sometimes even exasperate them in the best tradition of critical analysis. This is a work that will goad its readers into thinking seriously about the permanent essentials of the natural political order – and about what needs to be done to restore those principles in America. Nothing could be more timely and important.”

- Edwin Vieira, Jr., Constitutional lawyer and scholar, author of Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution and numerous other books.

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