People used to ask me if there’s any libertarian movement in East Asia. And there really isn’t. Nothing. The very concept is very foreign to them. It hardly registers at all. Try to explain it to a random native and odds are they won’t even get what you’re trying to say.
The whole concept is so bizarre that I promptly forgot about the whole thing after living her for some time. I used to be a Mises.org reading teenager, and I have to thank my Asian hosts for making it so hard to parse the ideology that I also lost interest myself.
Now I guess there’s many theories about why is that the case; besides the obvious one that libertarianism is retarded, and the burden of proof is in Westerners to explain why they came up with that strange idea that the people would be free without the state. Whatever that means. I guess I’ll put up my own theory: Asians are not into theology. They’re into history. These are exceptions of course (the weird shenanigans of Neoconfucianism), but in general the study of history has been much more prestigious and pervasive than arcane discussions about social metaphysics.
And of course history is but a compendium of anecdotes about why libertarianism makes no sense. So let me show a very short and illustrative one.
Gengis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and its Chinese branch, what became the Yuan Dynasty, left a lot of historical records about the great Mongol enterprise. These dynastic histories, especially when they concern the story of a newly risen tribe, tend to start by detailing the foundation myth of the tribe.
Tribal foundation myths often have a common theme, about the tribe having a single common ancestor, or sometimes a couple, this ancestor being some supernatural being who just came down the sky. The Mongols, claimed that Gengis’ 10th degree ancestor, Bodonchar Munkhag, was their great founder.
The story of this Bodonchar guy is very interesting. Let’s start by the name, which Wikipedia translates as “misbegotten simpleton”. Or in other words “stupid bastard”. This stupid bastard was born of Dobun Mergen and Alan Gua. Dobun Mergen was a fine lad, second of two sons, and was fooling around with his elder brother. His elder brother being blind of one eye, compensated by having eagle-vision with his one eye, and he saw a carriage of people on the distance. Among them was a very fine girl, who appeared single. So big brother said to Dobun Mergen, his dear brother, “hey this girl is single, I’ll go ask them to give her to you”.
And so the half-blind older brother with game, got this beautiful girl for his healthy yet gameless young brother, and they were married. Dobun Mergen and Alan Gua had two healthy sons, Belgunudei and Bugunudei. Years passed and their father Dobun Mergen died, leaving Alan Gua alone with her two sons, and one bondservant they had acquired some time ago.
As time passed Alan Gua had three more sons. Her two elder sons by his husband obviously started to suspect. ”Hey Mom hasn’t remarried and she’s bore three sons. The only guy around is this slave dude, they must be his”. So they wen’t to confront their mother, who completely denied the facts and said that some yellow light in the form of a man came to visit her at night, touched her belly, and that’s how she got pregnant. My young sons are sons of Heaven, you see, so don’t be bigots and be nice to them.
Eventually Alan Gua died, and her 5 sons had to decide what to do with the inheritance. They decided to divide the property in 4, and give a part to each of the elder sons. The youngest son, that is Bodonchar Munkhag, was given a flint stone, some rope, and a horse, and that’s it. On his protests of unequal treatment he was told that he was stupid so no inheritance for him. That’s the moment where I guess he got his name. Stupid bastard, go take a hike.
And a hike he took; he got his horse and left his tribe, finding a good hunting place and building a grass tent to live by himself. He then saw a hawk hunting small game, and seeing that he could use some of that, caught the hawk and domesticated it. This led him to became a pretty proficient hunter. Eventually he cought more game than he could eat, and found a nearby tribe living around, the Uriankhai. So he went by, and exchanged some game for mare milk, which he dearly missed. They never asked him where he was from nor treated him badly; he came every day, traded game for milk, and went back to wherever he lived.
Awesome, right? That’s individual grit and the free market working its magic. Lonely teenager must fend for himself, so he learns useful skills; then uses the product of his labor to trade for things he can’t make for himself with his neighbors. And nobody bothered to ask who he was, what he was doing living there by himself. This was a commercial transaction were both sides profited. Beautiful story. This stupid bastard should be made the patron saint of the economics profession.
But the story goes on. After some time one of his older brothers (also a son of the light, not of her mother’s husband, of course）felt sorry about his little brother and went looking for him. He then stumbled upon the milk-providing tribe, who told him they knew of his brother. He’s out there hunting with a black hawk; if you see a black hawk in the sky, your brother can’t be far.
So the brothers met, they hugged, cried, “sorry bro for sending you away”, “it’s ok man so glad to see you”, you get the picture. Big bro tells little bro to come back home, and so they pack up their stuff and get moving. But on the way little brother Bodonchar was kinda restless. After a while he told his brother:
“You know, this tribe I got the milk from. They have no leader, no man above all of them. They would be very easy to conquer, we could grab their stuff and have an easy life”.
Big brother approved of the suggestion, and just on getting back home, he recruited a bunch of able bodied men, put Bodonchar on command of them, and rode forward to conquer the tribe of the Uriankhai. They stole their livestock and their women, killed the men and enslaved the children to work for them. Bodonchar was a great hero, he had tens of sons born from the concubines he captured, who went on to found the various tribes of the Mongol people, among them the great Gengis Khan, who looked up on his ancestor Bodonchar, the great hero who destroyed the tribe that had been giving him milk when he was needy. He admired him so much he was especially written on the first page of all dynastic histories!
So that’s what free trade does to you. If the Uriankhai had grabbed this Bodonchar kid, cut his head off and got his hawk for themselves, they’d still be alive, and would have a game-hunting hawk as well. Because they didn’t, and let a stranger into their midst, they were all killed, their women raped, and their children enslaved for eternity.
Trade is mutually beneficial. But some things are much more beneficial.