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“Touchy Pride” Libertarianism and the Accountability for Implicitly Given Consent

“Touchy Pride” Libertarianism and the Accountability for Implicitly Given Consent

When thinking about Libertarianism, one who is not too familiar with terminological specifics would most probably imagine either a society under which laissez-faire Capitalism is the only present economic system, or, as an even more general rule, an ideology which advocates for individual freedom above all else. While these are, for the most part, accurate depictions of the final form Libertarianism would take when put into practice, what cannot be denied is the multitude of potential meanings behind these surface-level characteristics.

Throughout history, there have been different interpretations of what real freedom is and, even today, we find many forms of Libertarianism still. Some, such as the followers of Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard, would attempt to justify liberty through the philosophy of Natural Rights. Others, like the members of Ayn Rand Institute, claim that Objectivism is the proper philosophy which fully succeeds at justifying laissez-faire economics. Last but not least, we have the Chicago School of Economics, whose members mostly reject moral philosophy in favour of a purely economic approach to Libertarianism, defending Capitalism based on its practical end results. Furthermore, even within these groups (maybe with the exception of Objectivists, who see Ayn Rand’s philosophy as package deal), we can identify different variants of Libertarians – Minarchists, Voluntarists, Anarcho-Capitalists and so on.

The forms that Libertarianism can take are many and complex, which leads to lots of disputes even between advocates of the same system variant. For example, upon learning of Milton Friedman’s claim that economics should be amoral, Rand resorted to calling him a “miserable eclectic” during a public conference where she was asked to briefly comment on his views. “The biggest enemies of Libertarians are other Libertarians”, an internet quote from around 2016 would read.

Regardless, the subject of this article will not be the analysis of every single form of Libertarianism which exists out there, but one of them in particular, which I found to be very fascinating for two reasons: One, it is much older than the popular forms found today and, two, it did not appear as a result of intellectual work and philosophical research. Rather, it came about naturally, as the direct consequence of the political, social, economic, and cultural circumstances surrounding its area of origin. I am talking about what I would like to call Touchy Pride Libertarianism or, should you prefer a less politically correct alternative, Southern Cracker Libertarianism.

Its origins are, thankfully, thoroughly presented in a documentary about the origins of the African-American subculture, made by Thomas Sowell (2022), himself an African-American who is also a Libertarian member of the Chicago School of Economics. My approach in this article will be to first present the historical context which has led to the appearance and manifestation of this “Touchy Pride” among American Southerners and then to explain, by illustrating some of the contributions of both Chicago and Austrian economists, why I consider it to be an attitude which, excessive as it was, could be interpreted as perfectly compatible with Libertarianism. 

Once upon a time in the British Isles 

The simplest explanation for the appearance of the Redneck Culture in the U.S. is, simply put, that this culture was imported directly from Europe. After all, the term redneck did not originate in America, although today it is mostly used in its South in order to describe a financially modest White person, especially with right wing beliefs. Instead, the word came from three areas of the British Isles from the 18th century which, today, belong to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I am talking about the borderlands area between England and Scotland, the Scottish Highlands and the Irish Ulster region. These three areas were, at the time, chaotic and poverty-stricken. For instance, the bordering regions between England and Scotland were considered to be a “No Man’s Land” because, due to the political tensions between the Englishmen and the Scots, no one country wanted to be accused of trespass against the other, so they both maintained those areas as a neutral buffer zone between them.

Naturally, because of the state of Anarchy which dominated those regions, the people who inhabited them developed a very high time preference. Since uncertainty was the only constant in their lives, long-term planning, peaceful behaviours and thorough discipline were not virtues worth acquiring. Rather, the pursuit of simple, immediate pleasures, combined with a jumpiness to defend oneself against the smallest signs of trespass from another (and also to become the trespasser whenever the opportunity presented itself) were the norm amongst those “rednecks”.

It is true that, over time, these chaos-infested zones became much more orderly once political stability had been achieved (although with some exceptions in Ireland). Scotland (as well as Wales) ended up substantially improving living conditions for its people and, starting with the 19th century, Scots were amongst the most educated Europeans. However, it was not those newly-emancipated people who emigrated to the U.S. and formed the hillbilly South, but the ones from the previous century.

In America, the redneck culture, brought by the Englishmen, Irishmen and Scots from the aforementioned areas, would settle in the South and remain intact there for a very long period time – in fact, it is still present today among many poor Whites and formerly-enslaved African-Americans. An interesting book on this issue is “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America”, a 1989 book by David Hackett Fischer linking regional cultures in the US to the origin point of its initial settlers. The attitude specific to this culture, present in the White hillbillies of the time, had pretty much the same characteristics it had back in the British Isles – laziness with regards to work and education, as well as an omni-present touchy pride. The judicial and religious institutions from those areas also played a major role in enabling these attitudes. The courts were filled with judges who would approve of the touchiness of hillbilly self-esteem, even when it went against the law, while the churches would also feature preachers whose way of talking was very loud and dramatic, attempting to constantly hype up their audience – as opposed to the more modest and pious atmosphere specific to the civilised parts of the country.

According to Sowell (2022), this touchy pride can be defined as the perceived self-entitlement to respect for the following three major aspects:

- Private property

- Honour

- Maximum individual independence

It must be mentioned here that any act of disrespect towards any of those values had to be met, under redneck culture, with an extreme response from the disrespected party. The slightest hesitation to do so would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and would bring shame on both said individual and his entire family. For example, the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud, which started, according to sources, either from political differences or a stolen pig, ended with around sixty total victims, as well as over a dozen killed across both families.

In somewhat more fortunate instances, people would agree to settle their disputes in a controlled environment, though still via combat. The Southern aristocracy, pretty much like the one in the North (albeit much more frequently), would engage in shooting duels. Interestingly, those who would be challenged most often were the members of the press, due to the upsetting effect their writings would sometimes have on Southern public figures. Caricature artists would oftentimes depict these journalists in their drawings as carrying a pen in one arm and a pistol in the other.

While duels were popular in their own right, they were not the preferred method of the common folk. The simpler spirits would engage in a so-called Rough ‘n’ Tumble fight. Two individuals who had a dispute would gather a large crowd of people and have them form a circle around them in order to make a rudimentary, improvised ring. Then, they would begin fighting in the most brutal fashion imaginable. The only way to win such a fight was to either kill or severely disfigure your opponent (via eye gouging, lip tearing, castration by hand and so on). It was not uncommon for blunt weapons to be introduced in such fights, or for random members of the audience to enjoy the spectacle so much that they would start fighting themselves.

This brutal way of defending one’s honour was not only common among long-term enemies. In his documentary, Sowell presents a real historical situation in which a young man, under the impression that he had been insulted, challenged his best friend to a duel. After successfully shooting him in the leg, his friend collapsed to the ground. While down, his challenger pulled out a knife and massacred him in front of their audience, who cheered him on. The societal response that young man received was a very positive one – his status in the community having increased radically.

This violent behaviour may have been the result of a degenerate culture, but the bottom line is that people consented to it. Sure, peer pressure and a toxic upbringing may have been the main enablers here, but we cannot disassociate these brutal tendencies from the simple idea that, most of the time, the people who ended up being in a fight knew what they were getting themselves into when they trespassed against their neighbours and triggered their ego.

Before anyone rushes to claim that, legally, there was never such thing as “asking for it”, I would like to point out the fact that some Southern states where these attitudes have remained somewhat acceptable over the course of time have accommodated their legal systems to make room for such principles. For instance, according to the Penal Code of the state of Texas, section 22.06, letter (a), “The victim’s effective consent or the actor’s reasonable belief that the victim consented to the actor’s conduct is a defence to prosecution”. In other words, it may be considered legally acceptable to strike someone if it is reasonable to assume that he was “asking for it” (such as, maybe, in the form of showing disrespect). Naturally, very few people would ever consent, especially implicitly, to being attacked, so it is quite obvious that this law, as Sowell himself pointed out, was made for the sake of those who acted violently in order to defend their honour.

Honour cultures whose members feel the need to avenge any perceived slights are very common in the world, but much less common in Western states, which have moved towards cultures of innate dignity where “turning the other cheek” is considered a virtue and disputes are adjudicated by impartial third parties. The US is an outlier given its wealth and sophistication. Controversial as it may seem, the redneck culture remains an important component of the U.S. history – with some of its aspects surviving to this day. It is not just relevant politically, but also militarily, with Southerners and other borderer descended people vastly overrepresented in the American military. In the second half of this article, I will attempt to further analyse the “touchy pride” attitude that dominated the American South through the lens of modern Libertarianism, by referencing the contributions of Hans-Hermann Hoppe and David Friedman which are compatible with this topic. 

Hans-Hermann Hoppe – Performative contradictions and the societal necessity of rules 

Choosing Hoppe’s work as a starting point for presenting the theoretical framework which might accommodate something as violent as redneck pride would appear shocking to some, given his uncompromising attitude towards the absolute rejection of anything coercive and the sanctity of the so-called Non-Aggression Principle/Axiom (from this point forward, the NAP for short) to which most Austrian Libertarians subscribe. However, in analysing Hoppe’s contributions to Libertarianism, we find two distinct elements which, surprisingly, may be interpreted as perfectly compatible with the hillbilly touchy pride.

First, his Argumentation Ethics political theory, which he developed in 1988, introduced (or at the very least popularised) the critique of performative contradictions to the Libertarian way of thinking. The validity of the political theory itself is not really crucial here – what is relevant to the subject at hand is the idea that when one commits a performative contradiction, thus proving to be wrong by his very own standards of argumentation, he has no grounds for protest when his position is rejected from the get-go. Furthermore, if such errors were to generate costs for the parties involved in the process of argumentation, it becomes a moral imperative that those costs should end up channelled against none other than the very person who committed the error and therefore generated them (I am not exactly sure whether or not Hoppe said this himself, but it is a very logical thing to assume, once you accept his position).

The redneck who defends his honour against the simplest insults by resorting to violence makes full use of this principle and so does the law which backs him up (as seen, for instance, in the Texas Penal Code). The application of the critique of performative contradictions to the defence of the touchy pride’s violent manifestations can be summed up as follows: If a man’s protest against being aggressed would make him look hypocritical and serve only to further embarrass him under the standards of common sense, then the potentiality of such protest must be considered unwarranted (and its actuality completely unexpected and morally null) and thus his soon-to-become “aggressor” gains entitlement to perceive the implicit consent of said man to be “aggressed”. In short, one may not act all tough (e.g. by using trash talk to provoke another person) and then complain when that toughness is physically put to the test, because that complaint would invalidate the very spine he implicitly claimed to have through his behaviour. The reasonable conclusion his interlocutor might draw from his provoking attitude is the desire for a response, so his implicit consent, real or not, becomes naturally perceived. After all, it would appear hypocritical of an instigator to cry and complain after his provocations ended up having the intended effect (intended in relation to the implicit premise of provoking, which is the demand for a reaction from the provoked).

Second, his interpretation of the necessity of rules in a society (interpretation which leads, in his view, to the supremacy of private property rights under an Anarcho-Capitalist system) gives plenty of room to the tolerance and acceptance of “touchy pride” forms of behaviour. In Hoppe’s view, rules exist for the sake of avoiding conflict (or, in other words, maintaining order). As such, they can be seen as tools which determine in a streamlined fashion who is to be considered right and who is to be considered wrong in a dispute. (The potential for moral insufficiency is quite obvious in my opinion – laws should be centred on the idea of individual justice rather than collective order, but regardless, I shall continue with Hoppe’s line of thinking.) Naturally, in order for stability to be maintained under this logical framework, the rules must ensure that the rights which individuals possess are equal and perfectly compatible with those of others. It becomes quite clear then that rights may only be negative, since positive rights would oftentimes come into contradiction with the negative ones, not to mention with each other.

However, where Hoppe’s conclusion may differ from that of many is in the fact that only the NAP can provide full compatibility between individual rights. Sure, it may be one framework for determining who is entitled to what, but not the only one. For example, intellectual property (IP) rights are not perfectly compatible with the NAP, but implementing them in a society would not lead to the impossibility of coexistence between its members (respecting each other’s IP rights is quite easy). Animals may also be able to enjoy some basic rights and so on. My point is simple – as long as personal boundaries are easy to respect and are advocated for by most reasonable individuals, granting them legal recognition may become a serious consideration. In the case of people who suffer from touchy pride, those personal boundaries do indeed appear to be relatively pretentious but, as long as respecting them is required on a cultural level – such as in the 18th and 19th centuries American South, giving them a legal dimension (meaning that violating them becomes legal grounds for self-defence, like in Texas) might be an option which is perfectly compatible with Hoppe’s basic interpretation of the need for rules.

On a slightly normative note, I would like to mention the fact that the excessive violence displayed by anyone as a response to mere verbal insults is morally abhorrent and should never be tolerated. Rather, my reference to the possibility of accommodation for some form of self-defence of one’s honour, especially when said defence takes physical form, is based on the aforementioned law from the Texas Penal Code, which itself only tolerates physical manifestations of touchy pride when they are, at the very worst, of superficial form (non-life or health threatening).

The connection between touchy pride-ness and Hoppe’s moral philosophy might not be readily apparent, but my opinion is that it nonetheless exists. Next, I shall explore some of David Friedman’s views which are compatible with this issue – and which this time will take more of an economic dimension. 

David Friedman – An economic approach to rights 

Perhaps the material which best puts the compatibility between Libertarianism and the right to defend one’s honour into perspective is a video recording of a public talk given by David Friedman (2013) and hosted by the Adam Smith Institute in the UK. Titled “Law Without the State”, Friedman’s speech aims, amongst many other things, to prove that rights are not only legal and moral categories, but also behavioural. Friedman proves that private property existed long before even the human species, albeit in a much more rudimentary form and with a different name – territory. Indeed, we humans see property in the same way in which animals see their turfs. This principle need not only apply to territory in the sense of a geographical delimitation of one’s influence, but also to belongings – a dog will know which toys are his and which objects in the house he is not allowed to touch; a bald eagle (monogamous species) will defend its reproductive rights by attacking any member of the same sex who gets too close to its perceived mate – to give only a few examples.

This sense of entitlement to territory which exists among many species of animals is used by Friedman to further show why territory is not only claimed, but also oftentimes respected by others. Scientific observation has proven that, for instance, birds and fish will fight to the death in order to keep what is theirs, even against tougher rivals. For a trespasser, no matter how strong, this will make the fight not worth it, since the costs associated with the fight (like suffering severe injuries) will be higher than the potential gains in the case of winning – said territory. In Friedman’s own words, “a fight to the death is a loss for both”.

This type of behaviour is exhibited by human beings, too. A bully won’t trouble (and might even grow in respect towards) someone, even a visibly weaker person, as long as they show willingness to put up a fight. What is most interesting is the fact that people won’t hesitate to defend themselves even when victory consists of a higher net loss than defeat. For instance (this is a slightly altered version of Friedman’s own example), if a homeowner decided to dump his trash over his neighbour’s fence, what that neighbour would most certainly do is he would confront the man and, should he refuse to change his habit, take legal action against him. This is more costly than if he were to just pick up the neighbour’s trash and take it to the dumpster himself, which is proof that people engage in territorial/propertarian behaviour even when it goes against their immediate economic self-interest. The explanation is quite intuitive – Showing an uncompromising willingness to hurt those who trespass against you may be costly in the moment, but it will solidify your reputation as a person who shouldn’t be messed with, which obviously leads to long-term benefits.

On a side note, I am well aware of the fact that value is ultimately subjective, so if the man in my example chose to take action against the neighbour who dumped the garbage on his property, then it must be ultimately the economically preferable thing to do. However, when I said that such behaviour went against his apparent interests, I was referring to objective, quantifiable standards (e.g. logistically, financially, hygienically etc).

Examples such as the one above can be used to give rights an economic definition: A right is a principle which the individual who claims to have it is willing to defend even when the costs of doing so are apparently greater than the costs of allowing it to be violated.

Of course, in a complex society, rights must feature the potential to be compatible with each other for an unlimited number of individuals; hence Friedman’s view on the issue is, in some fundamental way, in tandem with Hoppe’s. Friedman also claims that rights exist among the members of a society as intricate clusters of commitment strategies – “I will recognise and respect your entitlement to your property if you recognise and respect my entitlement to mine”.

As such, it becomes easy to understand how this exact same mentality existed among the American Southern rednecks in relation to the entitlement to and the respect of individual honour and independence. As long as one was willing not to utter a single insult against another, or get too friendly with his wife, or show any sign of disrespect whatsoever, he felt entitled that the others should grant him the same courtesy. And should these commitment strategies be broken, a fight to the death became warranted. This mentality, although being a lot more extreme in nature, is perfectly compatible with Friedman’s economic interpretation of rights. 

Closing remarks 

Libertarianism comes in many forms and, while the differences between them might appear marginal, they can lead to great disputes between the advocates of each variant. Also, despite its reputation as being unconditionally opposed to the initiation of force, what cannot be denied is also the crucial role which is played by consent in determining right from wrong. In light of these ideas, while the attitudes specific to the hillbilly South might seem more akin to a crazy, degenerate form of Conservatism rather than a liberty-centric philosophy, I hope to have proven that, at least to some extent, their underlying premises – morally, behaviourally and even economically, do not differ that radically from those of Libertarianism.

And while it is unlikely for the followers of Rothbard or for those of Rand to claim this old species of Libertarianism as one of their own, I believe that they should at least grant it the benefit of not putting it at a longer distance from them than the one which they already keep between each other. After all, while it may not attempt to be as peaceful or as morally pure as the philosophies of Objectivism or of Natural Rights, it is still individualistic and rebellious enough in spirit to be considered their crazier, more unhinged cousin. “Live and let live”, but with deadly consequences. 


Adam Smith Institute, 2013 – Law Without the State | David Friedman. [online video] Available at: [Accessed on June 21, 2023].

Collective author, 2023 – Hatfields and McCoys: American family feud. Encyclopaedia Britannica. [online] Available at: [Accessed on June 19, 2023].

Objectivismo, 2011 – Ayn Rand sobre Milton Friedman. [online video] Available at: [Accessed on June 19, 2023].

Thomas Sowell TV, 2022 - The Origin of Black American Culture and Ebonics | Thomas Sowell. [online video] Available at: [Accessed on June 19, 2023].

Collective author – Argumentation ethics. Libertarianism Wiki. [online]. Available at: [Accessed on June 20, 2023].




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