Fall Right, Swing Left

“I don’t try to make you believe something you don’t believe,
but to make you do something you won’t do.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Over and over, you’re falling, and then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.”
— Laurie Anderson

I’ve written before about the importance of Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions for left-libertarians. Here’s another example.

debate

Left-libertarians and right-libertarians – or mainstream libertarians, or “normal” libertarians, or whatever one wants to call them (I’m tempted by the irony of “modal libertarians” myself) – often get frustrated with each other. Left-libertarians pull their hair out when right-libertarians at one moment acknowledge the existence of pervasive government favouritism to big business, and then at the next moment lapse back into treating criticisms of big business as criticisms of the free market. (Here, for example, is Kevin Carson wondering why John Stossel, who in the past has “tipped his hat to the ideas of corporatism and crony capitalism,” suddenly “smile[s] and nod[s]” when Michael Medved “responds to allegations that big business is corrupt and exploitative, in the corporatist economy we live in, by arguing that ‘it can’t happen, because in a free market ….’”) Right-libertarians, for their part, can’t see why left-libertarians keep harping about corporatist intervention when the right-libertarians have already acknowledged its existence and badness.

I think Kuhn’s discussion of the pendulum may help to illuminate what’s going wrong here. Kuhn writes:

Since remote antiquity most people have seen one or another heavy body swinging back and forth on a string or chain until it finally comes to rest. To the Aristotelians, who believed that a heavy body is moved by its own nature from a higher position to a state of natural rest at a lower one, the swinging body was simply falling with difficulty. Constrained by the chain, it could achieve rest at its low point only after a tortuous motion and a considerable time. Galileo, on the other hand, looking at the swinging body, saw a pendulum, a body that almost succeeded in repeating the same motion over and over again ad infinitum. … [W]hen Aristotle and Galileo looked at swinging stones, the first saw constrained fall, the second a pendulum …. (Structure, pp. 118-121)

For Kuhn, the change from the Aristotelean to the Galilean interpretation represents a “Gestalt switch” associated with a paradigm shift; and I think the dispute over corporatism among libertarians involves something similar.

a pendulum

Aristotle and Galileo both noticed the same two facts about the swinging stone: a) it keeps swinging back and forth for a long time, and b) it eventually stops and hangs straight down. The difference, I would say, lies in what they saw as fundamental or essential. For Aristotle, hanging straight down (or getting as close as possible to doing so) was what the stone is essentially doing, while the period of swinging back and forth is an accidental imperfection – noise in the signal. For Galileo, by contrast, swinging perpetually back and forth in the same arc (or getting as close as possible to doing so) is what the stone is essentially doing, and it’s the gradual shortening of the arc until it hangs straight down that’s the accidental imperfection or “noise.”

One can imagine the Galileans shouting “But the stone keeps swinging back and forth in almost the same arc! Why do you ignore that?” and the Aristoteleans answering “I’ve already acknowledged the forces that constrain the stone in its fall! Why do you act as though I haven’t?”

Ludwig von Mises tells of a similar dispute with his mentor Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, when the Cantillon effects that Böhm-Bawerk dismissed as mere “friction” were for Mises an essential explanatory phenomenon in monetary analysis.

Just as Aristotle and Galileo saw different things when they looked at a swinging stone, and just as Böhm-Bawerk and Mises saw different things when they looked at the expansion of the money supply, so right-libertarians and left-libertarians see different things when they look at the existing economy.

Of course, like Aristotle and Galileo, they both notice (at some level of abstraction) the same facts: there’s a lot of more or less corporatist policies and there’s a lot of more or less free exchange. But for the right-libertarian, free exchange is what essentially characterises the existing economy, while the corporatist policies are so much friction; and just as you don’t constantly mention friction when talking about how a mechanism works, right-libertarians don’t constantly mention corporatism when talking about how the economy works. For the left-libertarian, by contrast, corporatism is a far more essential feature of the existing economy. (Though for most left-libertarians the free exchange is probably essential too, which may be part of what distinguishes us from some mainstream anarchists. So the analogy isn’t perfect. But never mind.)

Thus left-libertarians and right-libertarians are frustrated with each other because they’re arguing from opposite sides of a Gestalt shift, where what looks essential to one side looks accidental to the other; and persuading our opponents may be less a matter of getting them to assent to some specific list of propositions and more a matter of getting them to look at the world through the lens of those propositions. (One reason I find this explanation plausible is that I used to be more of a right-libertarian than I am now, and it rings true to my recollection of my own self-understanding.)

Now Kuhn often gives the impression of thinking that in cases like this neither side is more right than the other – that the Aristotelean and Galilean interpretations of the swinging stone are equally valid, and the choice between the two is a matter of nonrational commitent. It’s controversial whether at the end of the day that is precisely what Kuhn thinks, but let’s leave questions of Kuhn interpretation aside. Whether or not that’s Kuhn’s view, it’s not my view, and I don’t think that anything Kuhn has pointed out forces us to such a relativist position.

Duck-Rabbit

So I don’t want to suggest that this disagreement between left-libertarians and right-libertarians is a matter of a merely optional difference in perspective, like the Duck-Rabbit or the Necker Cube. Unlike Kuhn (perhaps), in such disputes I think both sides don’t recognise all the same facts, or at any rate don’t equally fully register the significance of those facts. Just as I regard Galileo’s interpretation of the swinging stone as explanatorily superior to Aristotle’s (explaining a broader range of facts, for example), and likewise Mises’ interpretation of monetary expansion as explanatorily superior to Böhm-Bawerk’s, so I think that the interpretation of the existing economy that sees corporatism as systematic and all-pervasive is explanatorily superior to the view that sees it as mere friction in an essentially free-market mechanism.

Right-libertarians could, of course, agree with the analysis I’ve just given of the disagreement, but insist that they’re the Galileo/Mises and we’re the Aristotle/Böhm-Bawerk. That would be a fair enough response; nothing I’ve said in this post supports the left-libertarian view of what’s essential over the right-libertarian view of what is so.

I do think, of course, that there’s a lot of important left-libertarian work out there that does make the case for the explanatory superiority of seeing corporatism as essential – including, obviously, Kevin Carson’ two books. (See also Charles Johnson’s recent summary of the nine ways in which corporatism operates.) But that goes beyond the aim of this post, which is simply to offer a way to think about this dispute of ours.

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91 Responses to Fall Right, Swing Left

  1. Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Safari MacIntosh

    I agree with the criticism of Stossel. But I disagree with the idea that libertarians are either left- or right-. In my view, the proper conception of libertarianism rejects the left-right spectrum outright, and also rejects left and right as both confused and fallacious ideas (in my view, leftism is more coherent, but clearly unlibertarian; rightism is less coherent but also unlibertarian).

    We should be non-prefix libertarians. The left-libertarians are trying too hard to graft onto libertarianism their own personal preferences or predictions, and trying way too hard to find leftist insights that libertarians ought to learn from–the left is confused and flawed, and should learn from us.

    • Zanthorus May 15, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      Opera 9.64 Windows Vista

      Well that depends. The original left-right spectrum was a product of the French revolution with the Monarchists being on the right and the Revolutionaries being on the left. The battle cry of the revolution was of course “Liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort!”, something which I don’t think any libertarian would disagree with (I suppose that might hinge slightly on your definition of “equality” though).

      More generally the “right” was the party of reaction while the “left” was the party of progress and rebellion against the old order. In that sense Libertarianism could be said to be not only left-wing but beyond left-wing since it opposes even the established order of leftism.

    • James May 15, 2010 at 9:08 am #

      MSIE 6.0 Windows 2000

      I can respect that. Sometimes I think just plain libertarian would be preferable. However you can draw a distinction between, say, George Reisman and Kevin Carson so in the interest of avoiding conflation it does make sense to introduce some prefixes but not taking them more seriously than necessary.

      • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 9:16 am #

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        James, some might deserve prefixes–the left-libs seem to want one. Some may be “right”-libertarians too. I’m not. I’m a “plain” libertarian. I’m pro-immigration, anti-racism, atheist, pro-tolerance, anti-war, anti-conservative, anti-nationalism, anti-Constitution, anti-founders, pro-cosmopolitan, pro-evolution, and anarchist. How in the world is that “right”? Am I right simply because I think a contract between a landowner (say, a landlord or employer) and others (say, tenants or employees) ought to be enforceable? Are all Lockeans now right-libertarians? Nonsense.

        And you are right that there is more here going on than just terminology: some left-libs are trying to use a semantic and strategic debate as a substitute for more substantive positions.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 9:28 am #

          Firefox 3.6.3GTB7.1 MacIntosh

          I should also add: pro-gay marriage, anti-state punishment (in fact anti punishment in general and pro-restitution, as a practical matter), pro-peace, anti-spanking, pro-Montessori.

          Now it is true I (say) to not believe personally, or qua libertarian, that “bossism” is “oppression” in any rigorous or meaningful way, at least per se; I do not accept hoary Marxian economic and social nonsense about the labor theory of value, alienation, blah blah blah. I don’t have any problem with the division of labor, employment, firms, international trade, and so on–nor with localism and self-sufficiency. Now some libertarians with an overweening obsession for such issues as localism, bossism, “oppression,” alienation, whatever might properly be called left-libertarians. But that doesn’t mean that non-left-libertarians are RIGHT-libertarians (even if there are some “right-libertarians”). Rather it means the left-libertarian either deviates from, or adds to, some “plain” or standard libertarian position.

        • James May 15, 2010 at 9:50 am #

          MSIE 6.0 Windows 2000

          I don’t think I accused you of being a right libertarian, or of all lockeans being right libertarians (in fact i’ve recently been defending lockeans). I was arguing there is a case for having prefixes but taking them with a pinch of salt. I’m sorry if it came off that way but I dunno where you got such an idea from.

          How are some of us trying to use a semantic debate as a substitute for substance?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 10:50 am #

          Firefox 3.6.3GTB7.0 MacIntosh

          James, I didn’t mean you. Roderick himself in his opening post seems to buy into the left-right divide: saying you are either left-, or right-, although he tries to avoid tensions between the factions by positing some of the “right-” types may also be called “normal” or “mainstream” etc. Roderick did not say there are left-libs, rights-libs, AND normal-libs. He said there are left-libs, and right-libs (who might also be called normal-libs). Then he goes on to talk about left-libs and right-libs, as if that exhausts the category.

          I do not deny there are left-libs, even soi-disant left-libs. I suppose there are right-libs too, though I’m not quite sure what they are–if paleo-libs, they are sort of defunct; if vulgar-libs, then okay. But I say that left-libs are a kind of deviation from, or modification of/addition to a basic, standard, non-prefix libertarianism (and this is also true of right-libs, to the extent they exist).

          If I say I’m a standard or normal libertarian, left-libs take this as an insult or disingenuous way of arguing-by-semantics (and they have a point, except that turnabout is fair play). But we non-left, non-right libertarians need a way to refer to ourselves, especially since the left-libs wrongly claim that left-lib IS libertarianism. so we normal libertarians who disagree are now forced to adopt another self-describing label–and we refuse to accept the ghettoizing “right-lib” label the left-libs graciously offer us. So standard, or normal, or regular libetarian is all we are left wiht. Or the unwieldy non-prefix libertarian.

          As for who is saying this–scour various posts here http://www.stephankinsella.com/tag/left-libertarianism/

        • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

          Safari MacIntosh

          some might deserve prefixes–the left-libs seem to want one

          Actually I’m pretty sure most left-libertarians look forward to the day when “libertarianism” just means what today is called left-libertarianism. But pending the finavenko we need something to call ourselves.

        • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

          Chromium 6.0.401.0 Linux

          Kinsella: Am I right simply because I think a contract between a landowner (say, a landlord or employer) and others (say, tenants or employees) ought to be enforceable?

          No. Lots of explicit left-libertarians believe that. The question of whether a form of contract ought to be enforceable or not is distinct from the question of whether it’s desirable, or the question of whether it’s likely to be common in a free society.

          Kinsella: Are all Lockeans now right-libertarians?

          No, lots of explicit left-libertarians (including Roderick) are also explicit (no-proviso!) Lockeans.

          Kinsella: Nonsense.

          I agree that those claims would be nonsense.

          Who’s making them?

        • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

          Safari MacIntosh

          Roderick did not say there are left-libs, rights-libs, AND normal-libs

          Well, left and right are (paradigmatically) relative terms; to left-libertarians, those to the right of them are in some sense or other right- (or anyway farther-right) libertarians, inasmuch as they make some of (what we regard as) the same mistakes as right-libertarians. Likewise, people who are fairly uncontroversially right-libertarians often apply the left-libertarian tag to, say, folks at Cato (on the grounds of their views on immigration or gay marriage, say) who look like right-libertarians or at least mushy moderates to us.

          I suppose instead of “right-libertarians” I could say “to-the-right-of-us libertarians” (thus including both those you’d call right-libertarians and those you’d call normal libertarians), but it’s somehat lacking in euphony.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

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          Rad:

          “The question of whether a form of contract ought to be enforceable or not is distinct from the question of whether it’s desirable, or the question of whether it’s likely to be common in a free society.”

          I fail to see why what you “desire” or what you predict is part of libertarianism. That’s a-libertarian.

          “No, lots of explicit left-libertarians (including Roderick) are also explicit (no-proviso!) Lockeans.”

          Good. As am I, Hoppe, de Jasay, et al.

          “I agree that those claims would be nonsense.

          Who’s making them?”

          Some of your comrades, IIRC.

        • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

          Safari MacIntosh

          I fail to see why what you “desire” or what you predict is part of libertarianism. That’s a-libertarian.

          Okay, but the claim we make, as you know, is that something that isn’t an essential component of libertarianism can still be thickly conjoined with it.

          After all, neither natural rights theory nor free-market economics is an essential component of libertarianism either (i.e, neither is entailed by the nonaggression principle). That doesn’t make them a-libertarian. They’re relevant to libertarianism because they’re among the reasons for accepting it (which is one of the kinds of thickness).

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

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          Roderick:

          “Well, left and right are (paradigmatically) relative terms; to left-libertarians, those to the right of them are in some sense or other right- (or anyway farther-right) libertarians, inasmuch as they make some of (what we regard as) the same mistakes as right-libertarians.”

          I don’t think this is right. The left-lib and, presumably, the (self-conscious) right-lib, both agree there is a left-right spectrum that includes each other. But someone “in the middle” (sort of; as a lib who rejects the coherence of the left-right spectrum itself, we are not “in the middle”, exactly) is to the left of the right-lib, and to the right of the left-lib, but it’s inaccurate to say we are left or right libs.

          ” Likewise, people who are fairly uncontroversially right-libertarians often apply the left-libertarian tag to, say, folks at Cato (on the grounds of their views on immigration or gay marriage, say) who look like right-libertarians or at least mushy moderates to us.”

          Maybe. Mistaken usages by others does not mean we have to emulate it, nor that there is not a non-prefix libertarian position distinct from the left-lib and right-lib positions.

          My views on gay marriage and immigration don’t make me a left-lib. As a factual matter–I am not aware that Cato is often accused of being left-lib, more than sell-out or unprincipled or moderate/minarchist (if that). In fact for the “sellout” type charges, usually it involves feting Republicans like Rudy Giuliani. So this seems like a bad example.

          Anyway, my point remains: libertarians who are just regular, principled, anti-aggression, anti-state libertarians are NOT left or right, per se. I agree with you that the left-libs think their left-agglomerations are some kind of natural extension of basic libertarian principles so that one day left- can be dropped. But this hasn’t happened, and I don’t think it will. But we shall see.

          “I suppose instead of “right-libertarians” I could say “to-the-right-of-us libertarians” (thus including both those you’d call right-libertarians and those you’d call normal libertarians), but it’s somehat lacking in euphony.”

          There is no need, Roderick. It would be disingenuous to call us this, just as it’s disingenuous of the abortion debaters to try to win their argument by using loaded terms like pro-LIFE or pro-CHOICE. A left lib can refer to a non-prefix libertarian by some suitable term (libertarian, standard-, regular-, non-prefix, whatever), and it’s clear that this person is, in the left-libs’ eyes, “to the right” of him, and then refer to right-libertarinas as just that, and then they are even more to the right of the LL. But referring to standard libertarians and right-libertarians as both right-libertarians is more than non-euphonous; it’s inaccurate and misleading. There is much baggage associated with right-libertarianism. It’s unfair to accuse libertarians of this who don’t deserve it–or to insist we adopt a hoary, distasteful label like “left-” to avoid it. We just want to be libertarians.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

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          Roderick:

          “Okay, but the claim we make, as you know, is that something that isn’t an essential component of libertarianism can still be thickly conjoined with it.

          After all, neither natural rights theory nor free-market economics is an essential component of libertarianism either (i.e, neither is entailed by the nonaggression principle). That doesn’t make them a-libertarian.”

          Yes, I realize you guys think this. I am not sure the solution. ONe solution is to use thick-libertarian to refer to libertarians who hold this believe that the “thick-libertarian” viewpoint, approach, whatever you call it, is rigorous enough to have merit.

          I do think that economics is a-libertarian in a sense. I don’t see a problem with recognizing this, since in recognizing this we also all realize that none of us are just libertarians, and we realize that knowledge is interconnected. Insights of biology, sociology, psychology, play a role in our understanding of various core libertarian principles. they relate to each other. Life and knowledge are interconnected. But economics studies one thing, libertarianism another. Economics is useful to buttress some of our arguments, etc. Sometimes there is overlap.

          One reason I’m leery of thickism, besides its notorious malleability and lack of rigor, is that I see it leading to the same kind of problem that positive rights, or IP rights, do. POsitive rights are not just new rights given to us in addition to neg rights; they are always at the expense of real rights–if you have a right to education, someone else now has an obligation to provide it to you, infringing their negative rights. IP rights if granted necessarily eat into one’s existing rights in scarce resources.

          Likewise, if you go too far and say libertarianism “is” “about” something other than, or “in addition to”, non-aggression, etc., then you are in danger of the conservative mistake. What is that? That is the idea that non-aggression is just one value among many. They say no no nooo, we are like you libertarians against aggresssion–of course we are! but we are not so simpleminded as you guys–we realize it’s just one value among many; it’s your supreme value, for us, there are many values.

          In other words, to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs. in other words, they are willing to violate rights–to commit aggression–in some cases, “for a reason.” Fine. Aggressors always have a reason.

          to my mind, either you are oppose to aggression, on principle, or you are not. If you are, you’re libertarian. If not, then you are not. If you start saying we are against oppression too… then you are in danger of infringing on the rights correlative with the NAP, just as in the IP or positive rights case, or just as with the conservative who lets “other considerations” outweigh NAP in some cases.

          Now you may say no no no, we would never say aggression is warranted, no matter what–well then all this other stuff is toothless then.

          None of this is to deny the close connections of some ideas to libertarianism, or their importance to us as decent or truth- and knowledge-seeking humans. None of this denies that there are various (even a-libertarian) prerequisites to achieving our libertarian goals–hell, we have to have gravity to achieve it. And the earth has to be just close enough to the sun. And people have to be intelligent and social enough. Etc. And wealthy enouhg, perhaps; and educated enough about basic economic principles. And being able to communicate, and hav a language, would seem to be indispensable too. Studying all this can also be interesting and enlightening, and even important. If you want to call *that* thickism, fine by me.

        • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

          Safari MacIntosh

          I understand that libertarians who reject the usefulness of the “left-right” spectrum aren’t going to see the label “farther right” as applying to them. But of course we who call ourselves left-libertarians do see some (albeit limited) point to the “left-right” spectrum, so to us it does seem accurate to call those who (as it seems to us) share some of the mistakes of the right-libertarians “farther right.”

          But I agree that it would be useful to have some neutral term that doesn’t beg the question rhetorically in favour of either side — something to use when we’re not being polemical. What should it be?

          “Normal libertarian” obviously isn’t going to do it for us. “No-prefix” libertarian won’t either, since (apart from the fact that “no-prefix” is a prefix), it begs the question in favour of the “no-prefix” libertarians’ self-understanding (since they don’t seem so to us). Likewise for “plain” libertarian; since we think that what we’re more or less forced to call left-libertarianism is the most natural development of libertarianism, from our point of view we’re the plain libertarians. “Mainstream libertarian” isn’t too helpful either, as it’s also contested (mainstream libertarianism is either Mises or Cato or the LP, depending on who you ask); plus we aspire to become the mainstream and so don’t want to tie that term up with a rival position.

          So can you think of a good term for what you call the “plain” libertarians that doesn’t presuppose either the left-libertarian view of them or their own view of themselves?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

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          Roderick, not sure. How about just “libertarian”?

          Or non-left libertarian? spectrum-rejecting libertarians?

          I’ve got it–Anarcho-capitalist? :)

        • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

          Safari MacIntosh

          Some folks who call themselves anarcho-capitalists would count in my book as left-libertarians.

          Maybe “nonleft” is actually the simplest solution.

        • Little Alex May 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

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          Stephan, I don’t think you’re straw-manning and there are different points from different left-libs to target.

          A common thread in responses I’ve read of yours dating back a couple of years now does relate to the NAP–that because value is subjective, a society plagued with valued customs like racism, sexism, isolation, religious fundamentalism can be accurate called a libertarian society. I won’t speak for others, but I don’t associate the left portion of the libertarian spectrum as proposing violating the NAP, but understanding that ‘as long as its voluntary’ is a near-sighted view of situations, gauging the liberty of individuals. That a free market stateless society isn’t libertarian simply because exchanges aren’t physically forced/coerced and there’s no monopoly of force. That a libertarian society is one with values of maximizing liberty and individual sovereignty are of high value. The cultural elements treated in a relativist fashion by right-of-moderate and moderate plumbliners that conflict with this value can be argued as a-libertarian, but these values are unlibertarian in practice.

          Some spontaneous destruction of the State doesn’t create a libertarian society simply if another State doesn’t erupt and exchanges are free of physical force. A libertarian society is one of people where self-determination, self-management and free association are of high value over their counterparts. Where the rational elements of cooperation are valued and the irrational tribalism and objectification of people are not. ~My $0.02 rant

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

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          Alex:

          “Stephan, I don’t think you’re straw-manning and there are different points from different left-libs to target.”

          I don’t think I’m straw-manning either… thanks? And I don’t think you are beating your wife either.

          “A common thread in responses I’ve read of yours dating back a couple of years now does relate to the NAP–that because value is subjective, a society plagued with valued customs like racism, sexism, isolation, religious fundamentalism can be accurate called a libertarian society.”

          I really don’t have a rigorous category for “libertarian society”. I am interested, qua libertarian, in people respecting each others’ rights As a decent human I want them to be decent in other ways as well. As a libertarian I want them to be decent, if and to the extent this is complementary to libertarianism, makes it more likely or likely to be more stable, etc. This is really not that complicated.

          I think we will only achieve a more libertarian society by people becoming more tolerant, rational, individualist, and economically literate. I have every reason to think that as this happened, and as humanity became more and more prosperous and sophisticated and educated, bigotry, meanness, etc. would also fade away. This is all great.

          “A society that somehow
          I won’t speak for others, but I don’t associate the left portion of the libertarian spectrum as proposing violating the NAP, but understanding that ‘as long as its voluntary’ is a near-sighted view of situations, gauging the liberty of individuals.”

          I can’t tell what you are trying to say. No regular libertarian is going to be in favor of or even ambivalent about a bigoted, mean, nasty, but “libertarian” society–none I know of. None is proposing it or working for it. But it’s a commonplace among libertarians that you don’t violate someone’s rights by being bigoted toward him, and if the question is: what are people’s rights, then that answer is relevant in some cases. I don’t see the controversy, at least to clear-thinking people who know how to focus on one issue at a time and who are not so mired in emotion and strategy that they can’t answer a straight question without changing the topic and talking about something else.

          “That a free market stateless society isn’t libertarian simply because exchanges aren’t physically forced/coerced and there’s no monopoly of force.”

          If you define libertarian that way, then I guess I don’t care about having a libetarin society. I care, as a libertarian, about having a society where people don’t commit crime; and I care, as a human, about many other things.

          ” That a libertarian society is one with values of maximizing liberty and individual sovereignty are of high value. The cultural elements treated in a relativist fashion by right-of-moderate and moderate plumbliners that conflict with this value can be argued as a-libertarian, but these values are unlibertarian in practice.”

          This is too abstract to treat. I don’t condone bigotry. BUt I recognize racism per se doesn’t violate rights. I recognize a bigoted society is unlikely ever to be libertarian, and if it somehow was, it might be a nasty place to live. What else do you want?

          “Some spontaneous destruction of the State doesn’t create a libertarian society simply if another State doesn’t erupt and exchanges are free of physical force.”

          Sure. tha’ts why we used to say anarcho-capitalist until your side started playing games with words and strategy. But anyone who thinks about this realizes that you have to get there *by some process* and this has to involve some kind of increasing economic literacy (as well as other ideas becoming more prevalent).

          “A libertarian society is one of people where self-determination, self-management and free association are of high value over their counterparts.”

          See, to me this is metaphorical, flowery, colorful, non-rigorous. It is fine in some loosey-goosey sense to talk about your aspirations but for me I stick with the rigorous notions of aggression as being the unconsented-to use of others’ property.

        • Little Alex May 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

          I’m completely open to the notion that I incorrectly ‘eudaimonize’ libertarianism. If I come to that conclusion, I’ll couple it with not wasting energy with such a narrow political philosophy.

          “I think we will only achieve a more libertarian society by people becoming more tolerant, rational, individualist, and economically literate. I have every reason to think that as this happened, and as humanity became more and more prosperous and sophisticated and educated, bigotry, meanness, etc. would also fade away. This is all great.”

          I consistently sympathize with most of your personal expressions, especially relating to criminal justice, which is why I wanted to make it clear I didn’t think you were straw-manning (as I see that as a common criticism from people reacting to your comments). Perhaps why I ‘eudaimonize’ libertarianism. I take issue with making relativist classifications of values we agree are detrimental to the conditions necessary for liberty. If I’m misunderstanding you, please let me know.

        • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

          Chromium 6.0.401.0 Linux

          Kinsella:

          Kinsella: As a factual matter–I am not aware that Cato is often accused of being left-lib, more than sell-out or unprincipled or moderate/minarchist (if that).

          Rothbard routinely used just those words late in his life, when he had both split from Cato and turned to the pseudopopulist Right. Here’s a couple of examples:

          “David Boaz, a leader in the most prominent left-libertarian think-tank, Cato, wrote an astonishing op-ed piece [on gay rights] in the New York Times …”

          “On December 16, [Bill Kristol] headed a panel of Official Con/Left Libertarian think-tankers on “What to Kill First: Agencies to Dismantle, Programs to Eliminate, and Regulations to Stop.” Despite previous bold talk by Kristol and the others about “principle” and rolling back the welfare state, left Libertarian think-tankers, under King William’s watchful guidance, decided to suddenly “mature,” to “grow in stature,” to “accept the responsibilities of power,” as the liberal media always like to dub sellouts to statism….”

          Rothbard’s usage has often been followed in forums like LRC, although this is dropping off now that people who actually call themselves “left-libertarians” are becoming more prominent in the debates. But, for example, here’s:

          Marcus Epstein: It is well known that left libertarians often look towards the benevolent and freedom-loving federal government to destroy the “grassroots tyranny” of state and local governments. Usually they have the decency to admit that they support centralization. Cato Institute fellow, Alan Reynolds, takes a novel approach to the issue in the Washington Times claiming that he supports decentralization and federalism, but opposes the concept of States Rights … [1]

          Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Let me begin with a proposal made by the editors of the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute, and various left-libertarian writers of an “open” or “no” border policy – not because this proposal has any merit … [2]

          J.H. Huebert: More Lies From the Libertarian Left: … Some of the Institute’s other “libertarian” detractors – particularly those who make their living in the nation’s capital – are apparently so used to inside-the-beltway tactics that they don’t attempt anything even superficially resembling rationally reasoned discourse when attacking the anti-political Mises Institute. [3] (in the LRC archives, this article is listed as “Never Trust a Left-Libertarian”).

          Karen De Coster: However, many readers got the notion from LRC’ers that agnostics/atheists are a disease on the movement, and quite often, they feel that here they are, eschewing the Beltway-Libertine-Left libertarianism and Convenience Statism madness that prevails at think tanks, in the Beltway, and in the blogosphere, but then they feel they are assaulted quite unfairly by Christian paleolibertarians. [4]

          I notice that a few years ago Lew Rockwell also titled an article written by one N. Stephan Kinsella “Left-Libertarian Lincolnites: Freedom-lovers who love federal coercion.” The story is a response to some stupid pro-Federali nonsense penned by Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar Timothy Sandefur. Of course, you may not have personally chosen that title for the front page. But it’s certainly part of a broader pattern of use.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

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          Alex: Thanks for the kind words.

          “I take issue with making relativist classifications of values we agree are detrimental to the conditions necessary for liberty. If I’m misunderstanding you, please let me know.”

          I’m sorry, but I’m not following what you are trying to say.

          Could you please re-state or clarify?

          Rad Geek:

          “Kinsella: As a factual matter–I am not aware that Cato is often accused of being left-lib, more than sell-out or unprincipled or moderate/minarchist (if that).

          “Rothbard routinely used just those words late in his life, when he had both split from Cato and turned to the pseudopopulist Right.”

          Could be. That is way in the past. He died in 1995. Anyway I’m not Rothbard (to say the least), and I don’t think of Cato as left-lib.

          “Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Let me begin with a proposal made by the editors of the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute, and various left-libertarian writers of an “open” or “no” border policy – not because this proposal has any merit … [2]”

          I don’t see here that Hoppe is accusing Cato, or the WSJ, of being left.

          The Huebert post–good point. But I know for a fact Huebert has backed off of such charges.

          “I notice that a few years ago Lew Rockwell also titled an article written by one N. Stephan Kinsella “Left-Libertarian Lincolnites: Freedom-lovers who love federal coercion.” The story is a response to some stupid pro-Federali nonsense penned by Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar Timothy Sandefur. Of course, you may not have personally chosen that title for the front page. But it’s certainly part of a broader pattern of use.”

          No, I didn’t; but you have a fair point. I just didn’t recall. I don’t regard Cato as left. I actually respect the serious, principled left-libs. I don’t respect sellouts or moderates as much.

        • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

          Chromium 6.0.401.0 Linux

          Kinsella: Anyway I’m not Rothbard (to say the least), and I don’t think of Cato as left-lib.

          That’s fine. I’m just supplying details on the usage that Roderick was referring to above.

          Kinsella: The Huebert post–good point. But I know for a fact Huebert has backed off of such charges.

          I think I might not have been clear about my point. My point wasn’t that Huebert (or Hoppe or Epstein or De Coster) was “charging” ALL-style left-libertarians with anything. As far as I know, he wasn’t talking about ALL-style left-libertarians at all (the post I quoted from is from 2002). My point is simply that he was using the words “left-libertarian” in order to refer to a different position and a different group of people — which is the kind of usage that Roderick was referring to when he said that “people who are fairly uncontroversially right-libertarians often apply the left-libertarian tag to, say, folks at Cato … who look like right-libertarians or at least mushy moderates to us.”

        • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

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          Little Alex: I won’t speak for others, but I don’t associate the left portion of the libertarian spectrum as proposing violating the NAP, but understanding that ‘as long as its voluntary’ is a near-sighted view of situations, gauging the liberty of individuals.

          I think the important point to make here is just that “As long as it’s voluntary” is not a complete sentence. “As long as it’s voluntary” … what?

          If it’s supposed to be, “as long as it’s voluntary, don’t beat on their heads for it,” well, obviously. That’s basic civilized conduct, and I happen to take one of the more absolutist interpretations of the NAP.

          If it’s supposed to be, “as long as it’s voluntary, you shouldn’t do anything to try and stop it,” then that’s a stupid claim, and doesn’t follow from anything in libertarian principle or its application. There are lots of things which are worth nonviolently criticizing or acting against (by means of social protest and boycott, culture jamming, free-market competition, etc.), even though they are strictly voluntary, because they are obnoxious, foolish, wasteful, narrow-minded, mean, or otherwise rotten things to do.

          Kinsella: I can’t tell what you are trying to say. No regular [sic] libertarian is going to be in favor of or even ambivalent about a bigoted, mean, nasty, but “libertarian” society–none I know of.

          Oh, come on Stephan, don’t be obtuse. I can name some specific libertarians you know of who have argued in favor of “ethno-cultural” segregation and
          “the necessity of discrimination in maintaining a free society” and “its importance as a civilizing factor” (including specifically intolerance, segregation, and social boycotts against religious minorities and gay people). Maybe you don’t think such practices would qualify as “bigoted,” “mean,” or “nasty,” but returning for a moment to a more strictly descriptive level, I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the kind of discrimination, segregation and intolerance that Little Alex is concerned about.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

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          Rad:

          “My point wasn’t that Huebert (or Hoppe or Epstein or De Coster) was “charging” ALL-style left-libertarians with anything. As far as I know, he wasn’t talking about ALL-style left-libertarians at all (the post I quoted from is from 2002). My point is simply that he was using the words “left-libertarian” in order to refer to a different position and a different group of people — which is the kind of usage that Roderick was referring to when he said that “people who are fairly uncontroversially right-libertarians often apply the left-libertarian tag to, say, folks at Cato … who look like right-libertarians or at least mushy moderates to us.””

          What I’m disputing is that everyone who is not a soi-disant left-lib is a right-lib. I don’t think of Cato as left-lib and never have. I think they have other problems (and honestly, I am not even sure Sandefur is a libertarian, not to mention other problems). And if some have unfairly accused some of left-lib in the past, or have unfairly accused left-libs of things, or whatever, that should not be done. I am all for trying to find whatever common ground we can between unadorned libertarianism and left-libertarianism (and right-libertarianism for that matter). I don’t deny the left-libs have made some good points in recent years, at least some useful emphases.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 9:47 am #

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          Kinsella: You said that “we will only achieve a more libertarian society by people becoming more tolerant, rational, individualist, and economically literate”adding you “have every reason to think” the prosperity, sophistication and education of humanity is what’s eroded at social conventions of bigotry, meanness. I agree and why I have problems with labeling values of tolerance, reason, individual sovereignty, economic literacy as ‘a-libertarian’ — but also conventions of this bigotry and meanness.

          I add that because libertarian goals require the dismantling of immoral authoritarian institutions, it’s narrow (for lack of a better word here) to assign degrees of importance to the paradigm shift necessary to progress toward a free(r) society beneath what would be required to bring libertarianism past the lecture hall and blogosphere.

          Hoppe’s name came up (re: Charles, as well) and this is actually not so worrisome. It is a extension of “Hoppe’s thickness”, but it’s very conservative — it goes beyond accepting very dangerous, socially regressive, mean, bigoted, superstitious conventions to actually assign positive value to them in how they relate to a free(r) society. On a spectrum, this conservatism is probably more radical than the conservatism of constitutionalists and minarchists, but when we agree there, we agree that there is a spectrum one can create under the ‘libertarian umbrella’.

          All political philosophies can have a general spectrum. You’re using Leftists and Rightists as they’re conventionally used, though they are both statist and immoral, but we agree one branch is somewhat less conservative than the other and we have ourselves a spectrum. Within popular culture, this is an extremely narrow spectrum within the broader range of an accurate bipolar political spectrum, but the spectrum can be constructed and used. It’s learned early in political science but the irrational modeling by the intellectual class doesn’t mean a rational model can be constructed — with a margin of error minimized — that can be used to express the relations of all political philosophies. This may be irrelevant to some, but to political scientists, philosophers and activists, it’s a useful tool.

          My isolated sympathies for some French writers aside, that construction of left and right isn’t useful to become like the left wing of that Parliament, be more like modern-day ‘progressives’, etc. It’s simply the most accurate basis in forming a rational model for a political spectrum — the bipolar opposites of conserving the power of institutions and liberating the people from institutions. These extremes have little value other than to gauge philosophies to those polar opposites. Libertarian political philosophy being rooted from natural law, natural rights, argumentation conclusions where individual sovereignty is accepted, the political practice of libertarianism is to apply strict scrutiny to institutions’ exercises of power, hierarchy, domination; that authority is never self-justifying and because there is no natural right to power over an individual, exercises of such power must always meet a burden of proof.

          Libertarian thought has applied varying meaning to ‘burden of proof’, but this fundamental practice at the root of libertarianism places it on the left on this spectrum. If we flipped the authority-liberty spectrum, sure, it’d be on the right. But all political philosophies fit somewhere on the macro-political spectrum.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:08 am #

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          RE: Rad

          “If it’s supposed to be, “as long as it’s voluntary, you shouldn’t do anything to try and stop it,” then that’s a stupid claim, and doesn’t follow from anything in libertarian principle or its application. There are lots of things which are worth nonviolently criticizing or acting against (by means of social protest and boycott, culture jamming, free-market competition, etc.), even though they are strictly voluntary, because they are obnoxious, foolish, wasteful, narrow-minded, mean, or otherwise rotten things to do.”

          My criticism of ‘as long as its voluntary’ used as a burden of proof is pretty strict that a narrow application of “voluntary” contradicts the strict scrutiny aspect of libertarianism. That’s what makes certain practices — sexual harassment, indentured servitude, wage slavery, and yes, dogmatic theism — not a-libertarian, but un-libertarian.

          And Stephan, I said earlier that I’m not speaking for others when I say wage slavery and I’m not saying all wage labor is wage slavery; just not denying the existence of it as a byproduct of authoritarianism and the necessity for a paradigm shift in how workplace politics are conducted for society with a maximum capability for self-actualization to be creative, innovative, sophisticated, progressive.

      • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

        Safari MacIntosh

        I do think that economics is a-libertarian in a sense.

        Well, it’d have to be a pretty strained sense. I mean, suppose someone signed up to take a course on libertarianism. And then they complained: “Most of the course wasn’t on libertarianism at all! Instead it was largely about reasons for being a libertarian. There were long sections on how natural rights supports libertarianism, and long sections about how economic analysis supports libertarianism, and long sections about how history supports libertarianism. But natural rights, and economics, and history, are all extraneous to libertarianism. I wanted a course that focused on libertarianism! I want my money back!” Would you really think this was a fair complaint?

        POsitive rights are not just new rights given to us in addition to neg rights; they are always at the expense of real rights

        Agreed. I make that point here.

        you are in danger of the conservative mistake. What is that? That is the idea that non-aggression is just one value among many.

        But it is one value among many. I mean, what libertarian seriously denies that? Even Walter doesn’t. (Whether it’s “just” one value among many depends on what emphasis one gives “just.”)

        The conservative mistake is that, first, they see non-aggression and the other values as in competition with one another rather than mutually reinforcing (whereas thickness is all about mutual reinforcement, both causally and conceptually); and second, these conservatives have an essentially utilitarian conception of how to weigh values against one another — i.e., they apparently think tradeoffs among values are always permissible, not recognising that some values might be lexicographically ordered. (This may result from thinking of values as cardinal rather than ordinal; I discuss this here.)

        Now you may say no no no, we would never say aggression is warranted, no matter what–well then all this other stuff is toothless then.

        I don’t see how what comes after the dash is supposed to follow from what comes before it.

        None of this denies that there are various (even a-libertarian) prerequisites to achieving our libertarian goals–hell, we have to have gravity to achieve it.

        Sure, but some prerequisites have a more specific connection to what they’re a prerequisite to. Suppose that having taken Economics 101 is a prerequisite for taking Economics 201. Not being composed of a flaming ball of gaseous matter that would instantly incinerate the economics building is presumably also a prerequisite for taking Economics 201. But the connection is a bit more specific in one case than in another.

      • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

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        Rad:

        “Oh, come on Stephan, don’t be obtuse. I can name some specific libertarians you know of who have argued in favor of “ethno-cultural” segregation and
        “the necessity of discrimination in maintaining a free society” and “its importance as a civilizing factor” (including specifically intolerance, segregation, and social boycotts against religious minorities and gay people). Maybe you don’t think such practices would qualify as “bigoted,” “mean,” or “nasty,” but returning for a moment to a more strictly descriptive level, I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the kind of discrimination, segregation and intolerance that Little Alex is concerned about.”

        Hoppe’s comments here were not as clearly written as normal, but if you read what he said closely and with charity, and keeping in mind his anarchism, and knowing that he is not himself in the slightest anti-gay or even Christian as far as I know–you cannot construe his comments as you say here. He never spoke of boycotting religious minorities or gays. He specifically talked about the *advocates* of certain practices or views; and by that I took him to mean this: he thinks that social authority structures are necessary, esp. in the absence of those of the state; and that for liberty to thrive these private structures, hierarchies, and institutions have to thrive–in a way this is a “thick” view. In his view it’s natural to think there would be a variety of practices and believes practiced in different communities. I believe he envisions a society with regimes in which private property and traditional morality etc. are widely respected, and in which those who vocally oppose and fight against these institutions will not be welcome. Among those, I think, he meant to refer to those hostile to the private property order: communists, etc., and other advocates of such views (too tired to look up the original quote). But he was speaking of advocates. He explicitly said so. Read the quote. I think he in no way meant to imply that gays themselves ought to be discriminated against, any more than a priest. The priest is celibate but does not excoriate society for not being celibate; the priest knows he is living in a world where he is a minority and has to be. He is in favor of the predominate traditional family-based child-producing ethos which is essential to the survival of mankind, even though he is celibate. Likewise a homosexual who lives in a predominately hetero community is no problem, but one who is hostile to this order is a different story. (I am not saying this is my view–in fact it’s not–but I am saying that predicting a social opposition to those hostile to teh social order is not the same as hostility to gays themselves.)

        • Rad Geek May 16, 2010 at 2:56 am #

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          Kinsella: Hoppe’s comments here were not as clearly written as normal, but if you read what he said closely and with charity, and keeping in mind his anarchism, …

          His anarchism has nothing to do with it. I didn’t say that he was advocating the use of state violence against pagans or gay people or “ethno-cultural strangers.” [^1] What I said is that he advocated non-governmental forms of discrimination, segregation and intolerance, acted out through contracts and civil society. Which is, remember, precisely what Alex was worried about.

          Kinsella: He never spoke of boycotting religious minorities or gays. He specifically talked about the *advocates* of certain practices or views

          Don’t be disingenuous. You’ve been beating that horse for a long time, but this it’s obvious pettifogging. Hoppe himself is perfectly happy to say he wants people to discriminate against homosexuals as such, not against “advocates of homosexuality” (whatever that means). Here is what Hoppe actually wrote in the essay he prepared in his own defense, allegedly to clarify what he was really saying in the controversial passage from DTGTF and correct common misunderstandings: “In my book Democracy, The God That Failed I not only defend the right to discrimination as implied in the right to private property, but I also emphasize the necessity of discrimination in maintaining a free society and explain its importance as a civilizing factor. In particular, the book also contains a few sentences about the importance, under clearly stated circumstances, of discriminating against communists, democrats, and habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles, including homosexuals.” (Boldface mine.) Note that he writes including homosexuals, not “including homosexuality”; the “including” refers to “advocates,” not to “lifestyles.” The clear meaning of the sentence is exactly what critics of Hoppe have been taking as his obvious meaning — that Hoppe is identifying homosexuals per se as “habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles.” There is no separate class of non-“advocate” homosexuals that Hoppe is contemplating here.

          Kinsella: I think he in no way meant to imply that gays themselves ought to be discriminated against

          It’s not a matter of “implication.” He directly said that discrimination is necessary to maintain a free society. The bases for discrimination that he offers are (1) political advocacy, (2) religious evangelism (by pagans), and (3) sexuality. Here he explicitly states, quite in spite of your attempts to defend him from himself, that the mere fact of being a “homosexual” is enough to count you in his book as a “habitual advocate [etc.]” and therefore a target for discrimination, ostracism and expulsion.

          Kinsella: one who is hostile to this order is a different story

          Don’t be disingenuous. Hoppe doesn’t say “including homosexuals hostile to heterosexual family life.” He says “including homosexuals.”

          [^1]: He does actually advocate the use of state violence against “ethno-cultural strangers,” in the name of government border laws, quote “as long as the democratic central state is still in place and successfully arrogates the power to determine a uniform national immigration policy,” unquote — that is, as long as it does that, he wants it to assault, imprison and deport completely innocent people. But that’s not my point here. My point is about his other comments, on cultural discrimination.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 16, 2010 at 6:57 am #

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          Rad,

          I’m not being disingenuous at all, and your repeated accusations of this are uncharitable and unjustified. It could be, you know, that we have a legitimate difference of opinion. I agree that Hoppe’s formulation in The Paragraph is a bit murky and confusing, and thus can justify your seizing on it in the way you do.

          You know, people who are bigoted against gays often admit it. They are proud of it–they say God is against it, it should be illegal, they are immoral–that kind of thing. Hoppe is very prolific and you would think if that was his view it would be in his corpus somehwere–it’s not. I know for a fact he is not bigoted against gays–he doesn’t give a damn what sexual orientation people are any more than I do. He associates with them, he is friends with them, they are welcome at this annual PFS conference in Turkey. http://propertyandfreedom.org/ I believe his view is that of most sophisticated, modern, tolerant, cosmopolitan people: what people do is their own business, who cares; militant, state-law-advocating activists are another measure.

          This is tedious to parse (sigh), but you accuse me of disingenuity, so let’s see: he said: “the book also contains a few sentences about the importance, under clearly stated circumstances, of discriminating against communists, democrats, and habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles, including homosexuals.”

          Now you make hay out of the word homosexuals being used instead of homosexuality. To my mind, if anything, this supports my interpretation. It is homosexuals who would be “advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles”. Homosexuality could not advocate. And no, not all homosexuals are such advocates, by virtue of being gay. I believe he clearly has in mind a subset of homosexuals: those who are hostile to the heterosexual family-based order and advocating deviance from it or openly opposing the order (I admit I am not sure exactly what the danger is here, but again, the quesiton is whether he was talking about discriminating against gays per se or not).

          He says: “discriminating against communists, democrats, and habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles”. So there are 3 classes here: commies, democrats, and “advocates.” Then he says “including” homosexuals. He does not mean gays to be a 4th class that should be discriminated against–he’s talking about homosexuals that are included in one of these 3 classes: clearly it has to be the last one: advocates of non-family lifestyles.

          Now, I suppose you could read this to mean that he thinks EVERY gay is such an advocate, by his very … gayness (even in the close gays who don’t even practice it?). But that is uncharitable. Obviously he’s talking about the subset of homosexuals who are certain types of advocates. The one that are not, are not included in his comment. The gays down the street who live as part of the community just like heteros do–who cares? They are not opposed to the dominant family-based ethos of society, any more than a celibate priest is. They are not preaching any kind of message that is hostile to the family-based society–they are no danger to it *just by being gay* any more than the celibate priest is a threat to procreation.

          Re immigration: you say Hoppe “actually advocate the use of state violence against “ethno-cultural strangers,” in the name of government border laws, quote “as long as the democratic central state is still in place and successfully arrogates the power to determine a uniform national immigration policy,” unquote — that is, as long as it does that, he wants it to assault, imprison and deport completely innocent people”.

          You then say it’s beside the point–yes, it is. Let me say that first, probably the majority of libertarians are not fully open-borders; they want some limits on immigration. I agree that this is unlibertarian, but it is a widely held view among libertarians. Second, here is what Hoppe says about immigration policy on p. 148 of his Democracy book: http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/#democracy

          “Abolishing forced integration requires the de-democratization of society and ultimately the abolition of democracy. More specifically, the power to admit or exclude should be stripped from the hands of the central government and reassigned to the states, provinces, cities, towns, villages, residential districts, and ultimately to private property owners and their voluntary associations.”

          Maybe one can disagree w/ this type of decentralist strategy, but it seems a reasonable, anti-state-control-of-immigration position for an anarcho-libertarian to take.

        • Roderick May 16, 2010 at 10:24 am #

          Safari MacIntosh

          So, on discrimination against all homosexuals versus discrimination against just those homosexuals who advocate homosexuality: is the position, then, that gays are fine so long as they don’t speak up for themselves?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 16, 2010 at 10:45 am #

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          Roderick:

          “So, on discrimination against all homosexuals versus discrimination against just those homosexuals who advocate homosexuality: is the position, then, that gays are fine so long as they don’t speak up for themselves.”

          Well, I don’t think this is quite it. As I have said, I’m not sure what is so problematic about an “advocate of homosexuality”–or even what this is. It doesn’t threaten me. I think he had his focus on people who are in some sense enemies of or hostile to the underlying normative order–which Hoppe sees as traditional heterosexual family-based kith-and-kin type morality. I’m not quite so conservative but I can see something to such predictions about how natural hierarchies and social structures would become more important as the state withered away.

          I don’t think Hoppe himself is of the traditionalist/conservative persuasion that he sees as possibly dominating some of the ethos of the private kith-kin covenant communities that would arise in a free market order. I think he was talking about people who are hostile to underlying liberal norms, and the established social norms that thickishly undergird a working liberal society. He was saying they would not be “tolerated”. The point is not whether you or I agree with this (I think you and I both realize Hans is not the ultraconservative intolerant ogre of Tom Palmer’s calumny), but whether he was clearly expressing bigotry and antipathy towards homosexuality per se. Clearly he does not.

        • Neverfox May 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3 Windows 7

          I believe he clearly has in mind a subset of homosexuals: those who are hostile to the heterosexual family-based order and advocating deviance from it or openly opposing the order

          Clearly? That’s quite a valiant effort, Stephan. It’s possible, yes, but it’s easily the least plausible interpretation. The phrase is “habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles…” Any homosexual who supports her own lifestyle fits this definition. To get the interpretation you want, you not only have to reinterpret this phrase to mean “advocating deviance from [a family-based order] or openly opposing the order,” but you also have to get us to buy a peculiar use of the phrase “including homosexuals.” I think that “including X” conventionally implicates something like “and just in case you think I don’t mean X, I do.” But you would have us believe that it means an extremely rare subset of homosexuals and that Hoppe not only thought them worth mentioning, but decided against something much less obviously misleading like “anti-heterosexual.”

          Hoppe is very prolific and you would think if that was his view it would be in his corpus somehwere–it’s not.

          In fact, Hoppe’s own explanation explicitly contradicts your interpretation:

          In its proper context these statements are hardly more offensive than saying that the Catholic Church should excommunicate those violating its fundamental precepts or that a nudist colony should expel those insisting on wearing bathing suits.

          Note carefully that he didn’t say “preaching any kind of message that is hostile to the nudism”; he said, “those insisting on wearing bathing suits.” So it’s not “preaching any kind of message that is hostile to the family-based society”; it’s clearly “those insisting on being gay.” Yes, Stephan, it is about just by being gay as it is about just wearing a bathing suit. Likewise, with the Catholic example. He didn’t say those preaching against Catholicism but those simply “violating its fundamental precepts.” He is clearly including “advocacy by example.”

        • Neverfox May 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3 Windows 7

          he thinks that social authority structures are necessary, esp. in the absence of those of the state; and that for liberty to thrive these private structures, hierarchies, and institutions have to thrive–in a way this is a “thick” view.?

          Stephan, this raises several questions for me:

          * Do you agree with him? If so (or if you at least respect his view), how can you maintain that you are “leery of thickism” in other places?

          * Does his view demonstrate “malleability and lack of rigor”? If not, what Hoppe passages could you cite that demonstrate the kind rigor you find sufficient?

          * Would a simple negation of a rigorous Hoppe passage maintain the ‘rigorous’ property? After all, replace “social authority structures are necessary” with “social authority structures are detrimental” and replace “these private structures, hierarchies, and institutions have to be opposed,” and you basically have left-thickism. So it seems plausible that left-thickism could be rigorous if Hoppean libertarianism is rigorous.

          * Are terms like “social authority structures” or “hierarchies” metaphorical, flowery or vague here? Or is that only the case when they are talked about negatively?

          * Do you think Hoppe thinks of these ideas as a-libertarian?

          * Would you make the same objections about Hoppe’s extra-NAP considerations, e.g. positive rights worries or the conservative mistake? If not, what’s the difference?

          * Do you think that most people, if asked whether Hoppe’s extra-NAP considerations are “generally associated with the right,” would tend to agree? Wouldn’t that lend some credence to the left-right distinction?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

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          Neverfox/Roman:

          “‘he thinks that social authority structures are necessary, esp. in the absence of those of the state; and that for liberty to thrive these private structures, hierarchies, and institutions have to thrive–in a way this is a “thick” view.?

          “Do you agree with him? If so (or if you at least respect his view), how can you maintain that you are “leery of thickism” in other places?”

          I think it makes rough sense, but I am not sure how rigorously this can be developed. Sure, I think social hierarchies and natural authority and even natural elites are natural to society, but my libertarianism doesn’t depend on this. I dont know whether it’s “thick” or not. I’m not leery of making connections or just having interests or knowledge outside libertarianism proper. I’m leery of calling it thickism and making a bigger deal out of it than is warranted. Of treating it like it’sa rigorous discipline. I see no reason to say we are thick libertarians any more than saying some people are or should be thick doctors, thick engineers, thick historians, thick chemists–I mean the fact that we are not just doctors, scholars, etc., if well known; the fact that different fields of knowledge can benefit from others and interlink with them is well known. I see no problem engaging in reasoning, I just doubt teh thick programme as such. If I need to bring in economic insights to buttress a libertarian piont, I just do it; I don’t need to then start theorizing about theorizing.

          “Does his view demonstrate “malleability and lack of rigor”? If not, what Hoppe passages could you cite that demonstrate the kind rigor you find sufficient?”

          I haven’t re-read all that lately but I doubt it’s as rigorous as Hope’s economic writings, his epistemology, his argumentation ethics. And that’s okay–there is a role for a variety of types of reasoning, knowledge, and insights. We just have to be aware of what is what.

          “Are terms like “social authority structures” or “hierarchies” metaphorical, flowery or vague here? Or is that only the case when they are talked about negatively?”

          I think they are descriptive of teh nature of social relations, but I suppose their rigorousness varies widely.

          “Do you think Hoppe thinks of these ideas as a-libertarian?”

          Not sure. I don’t think he bothers to classify it. He is trying to explain or illustrate certain things as part of his reasoning, and draws on whatever makes rational sense in teh course of doing so.

          “Do you think that most people, if asked whether Hoppe’s extra-NAP considerations are “generally associated with the right,” would tend to agree? Wouldn’t that lend some credence to the left-right distinction?”

          Probably would, but I am not Hoppe. I think he does view himself as more *culturally conservative* in his *views*, but I don’t know that he himself is (he’s a secular, modern, cosmopolitan, tolerant type), and certainly holds many substantive views that many people would associate with leftism–such as his drug views, immigration views (yes, despite the smears, he is anarchist and against central state control of this), anarchism, anti-war, class analysis, and so on. This is yet another illustration of the bankruptcy of the left-right “spectrum.”

        • Stephan Kinsella May 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

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          Rad, one more point: in support of the way I was saying Hoppe’s comments should be interpreted, I note that the original comment, on p. 218 of his democracy book, is:

          “In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance towards democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal.”

          I think this argues for my interpretation, because it’s clear he is talking about “in a covenant” for “family and kin”–certain rules would be adopted; and further, the rule is to not tolerate those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. Note the emphasis is on people who habitually promote certain lifestyles. Now, again, I am not defending even this–I am not saying I agree with it–but it seems clear that he is talking not about people who have different lifestyles but about people who are promoting–habitually, at that–because this would be “advocat[ing] ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving” family/kin (and presumably traditional values) — just as, in the preceding passage, he said that in a covenant for protecting private property there would not be tolerance of those advocating ideas contrary to “the very purpose of the covenant of preserving private property, such as democracy and communism.”

          It seems very clear that Hoppe was talking about some traditionalist family/kin based covenant community’s private rules, and that they would tend to be intolerant of those habitually advocating lifestyles contrary to the purpose of the private community. I see no reason to think that he means homosexuals per se are to be considered “habitual advocates”.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

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          And later on that same page ( http://books.google.com/books?id=qARC56X5vxcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=democracy+hoppe&ei=XzT8S4DSB4OezQS9uJjmDw&cd=1#v=onepage&q=habitually&f=false ) — : after saying, “in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal.” — he specifically refers to: “They – the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centred lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism…”

          Note, that contrary to Rad Geek’s argument: “Hoppe himself is perfectly happy to say he wants people to discriminate against homosexuals as such, not against “advocates of homosexuality” ” — Hoppe is very clear that he is talking about advocates of homosexuality–and IN a traditionalist family/kin type private covenant regime. He is not talking about being intolerant of or expelling or discriminating against homosexuals–but against advocates of homosexuality–in a way that is “contrary to the very purpose of” such a traditionalist covenant.

        • Neverfox May 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

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          @Stephan:

          In a comment above (which was probably lost in the mix), I demonstrated why I think your interpretation doesn’t hold up under Hoppe’s own analogies. He clearly has in mind behavior that includes a type of “advocacy by example” which means that Charles is exactly right that “Hoppe is identifying homosexuals per se.” How can you reconcile this with your claim?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2010 at 9:55 am #

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          Rad:

          I asked Hans to confirm my interpretation and he has. See my post Hoppe on Covenant Communities and Advocates of Alternative Lifestyles
          http://www.stephankinsella.com/2010/05/26/hoppe-on-covenant-communities/

        • Roderick May 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

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          But what about Marshall McLuhan?

    • Sheldon Richman May 16, 2010 at 5:29 am #

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      Stephan, I think you’re missing at least part of the point: There can be a left and right spectrum within libertarianism.

      • Stephan Kinsella May 16, 2010 at 7:13 am #

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        Sheldon, I don’t follow you. What do you mean, there “can” be? I don’t deny some libertarians are left-libertarian, and some are right-libertarians. The libertarians who think this way may well think the left-right spectrum is valid, just as modern Democrats and Republicans do.

        This libertarian, like others who accept the basic idea of the Nolan Chart, doesn’t think the left-right spectrum makes any sense. I see the left and rights as just different flavors of statist; libertarianism as anti-statist. So if you are saying that there is a left-rihgt spectrum within libertarianism–such that all libertarians fall on this spectrum: I disagree. For that would make me a libertarian centrist. And that’s something I’ve yet to be accused of.

        What I’m starting to think is that people who think unadorned, plain-vanilla libertarianism isn’t enough, who think we need to supplement it with insights from or part of the programme of an external ideology like leftism, should be called neo-libertarians. So you can have left-neolibertarians, etc. And then we plain-vanilla libertarians can be let be.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:15 am #

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          Off-topic, but you bring it up: Plumbline libertarians would be the neo-libertarians. Anarchist/libertarian thought has always had a heavy focus on social commentary. Relativism, conservatism, reduction of those with decision-making power, narrowing the philosophy to one of basic criminal justice are relatively new phenomena.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 16, 2010 at 10:17 am #

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          Alex: “Off-topic, but you bring it up: Plumbline libertarians would be the neo-libertarians. Anarchist/libertarian thought has always had a heavy focus on social commentary. Relativism, conservatism, reduction of those with decision-making power, narrowing the philosophy to one of basic criminal justice are relatively new phenomena.”

          No deal! :) I’m not against social commentary. It’s the insistence by you guys that there is some thickish connection, and that it be leftish, that I deny is part of libertarianism proper.

        • Roderick May 16, 2010 at 10:29 am #

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          I want to quarrel with the use of “plumbline” to mean “neither left nor right.” Walter Block has started using it that way, but that’s not what it historically means. The term was introduced by Benjamin Tucker, who was definitely a leftist, and was revived by Rothbard during his most thick-leftish period. It’s always meant “never deviating from libertarian principle,” a desideratum which was understood by both Tucker and 1960s Rothbard as being compatible with extreme leftism.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:40 am #

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          Maybe I was unclear with “heavy focus”.

          Social conventions directly influence institutions with the task of dealing with social dilemma. The social commentary within the history of anarchism/libertarianism is not ‘neo’. The “thickish connection” on the back burner or minimized or degradation to slight degrees are more consistent with ‘neo-libertarian’.

          Adult baptism isn’t a neo-Christian convention. Baptizing babies was a deformation of the teachings of Jesus. Different because Christianity proper is directly related to the philosophy of one person, but since theorists have been aiming toward goals of liberty, the connection has historically and progressively been of high value. The plumbline approach is the ‘neo’ concept.

          My problem isn’t a historical one, but a substantial one relating to approaching social dilemma.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:41 am #

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          RE: Roderick

          You’re right. I should be wrapping quotes around it. I’m citing Block.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:46 am #

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          I guess it isn’t a secret that I really don’t see that interpretation as plumbline, but narrow. Probably just going too far to avoid ‘narrow- libertarianism’ triggering knee-jerk reactionary distractions.

          Fuck it, I’m using it.

        • Rad Geek May 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

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          Like Alex, I’d find it rather odd to start describing a bunch of people who quite often spend all their time talking about Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner and Voltairine de Cleyre, or what Proudhon meant by “capitalisme” in 1860, or Nock’s approach in OUR ENEMY THE STATE or what Rothbard and Hess were writing in 1968 as “neolibertarians.” If these ideas are “neo,” how far back do we need to go to get to the old libertarianism? The Levelers? Lao Tze?

          “Neotraditionalist libertarians” might be more appropriate. Also funnier.

        • Sheldon Richman May 16, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

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          Roderick’s post sets out sign posts for a left-right spectrum within libertarianism. Re-read the post.

          If in our economy you see free exchange as dominant despite some corporatist friction, you are a right-libertarian. If you see corporatism as dominant despite whatever free exchange exists, you are a left-libertarian. If you have no position whatsoever on this, I guess you are a vanilla libertarian.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 8:22 am #

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          Sheldon:

          “Roderick’s post sets out sign posts for a left-right spectrum within libertarianism. Re-read the post.”

          Yes. I don’t agree that we all have to be one or the other. In fact I think the proper, “standard” or unadorned libertarian position is explicitly non-left and non-right.

          “If in our economy you see free exchange as dominant despite some corporatist friction, you are a right-libertarian.”

          That is your position as a left-libertarian, not as a libertarian, and I do not agree with it, for a number of reasons. For one, it’s not clear what you mean by “dominant.” There is a good deal of “free exchange,” but it heavily impinged on by fascism-corporatism-statism.

          “If you see corporatism as dominant despite whatever free exchange exists, you are a left-libertarian. If you have no position whatsoever on this, I guess you are a vanilla libertarian.”

          I don’t say I have no position whatsoever on this but I am not sure it is a conclusive or rigorous one. My main position as a libertarian is to oppose all forms of aggression including state aggression, which includes various forms of interventionism, corporatism, and so on. Understanding and opposing this involves identifying when and where it is occurring, of course, and this is also pretty elementary: thus we standard libertarians oppose protectionism, IP, pro-union legislation, minimum wage, even state grants of incorporation, etc. All of it. We already know it’s a corrupt, criminal thing done by the state, and we oppose it. None of this requires one to make a definitive judgment or determination about whether the free exchange “is” or “is not” “dominant” (whatever that means). Mises laid out a useful rule of thumb that an economy is essentially free if there are still functioning stock markets; but even this is not uncontroversial (it relies on the dominant mode of production being joint-stock firms) or easy to rigorously apply. As a libertarian I’m not sure one has to, or even can, rigorously apply these classifications–as libertarians we simply say the state is involved in things it should not be, and we oppose it to that extent.

        • Roderick May 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

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          Sheldon,

          If in our economy you see free exchange as dominant despite some corporatist friction, you are a right-libertarian. If you see corporatism as dominant despite whatever free exchange exists, you are a left-libertarian.

          I think on reflection I’d want to say something weaker than that. I mean, Keith Preston probably meets your stated criterion for being a left-libertarian, but I think we’d agree he isn’t one. So if taking the left-libertarian position on economics isn’t sufficient to make one a left-libertarian (though it might be necessary), then I guess taking the right-libertarian position on economics shouldn’t be sufficient to make one a right-libertarian.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

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          Roderick, okay here’s my last offer. You can choose any of the following: standard-, gold standard-, plumbline, ordinary, super-, hyper-, unadorned, no-frills, no-nonsense, non-left-, plain, plain vanilla, normal, paradigmatic, pure, arch-, or -non pareil (added after libertarian). [I’ve loved “non pareil” ever since a lefty columnist at LSU, Paul Myers, back in 1988 or so called me a “hack-brain nonpareil” for disagreeing with his argument for nuclear disarmament.]

          But not modal or thin or pansy.

          Deal?

        • Roderick May 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

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          Is a hack-brain someone who hacks into people’s brains and reprograms them? And if so, what does that have to do with candy?

      • Little Alex May 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

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        @Roderick: Yes. There are plenty of Stormfront anti-state, anti-capitalists. Their anti-capitalism, of course, is usually expressed with selective eugenics-induced anti-Semitism.

        @Stephan: There’s still the lingering is assertions like “proper”, “standard”, “super” and “hyper” that such a narrow interpretation of libertarianism is where ‘libertarian qua libertarian’ ought to end. I don’t understand how this isn’t the same mistake minarchists and constitutionalists make.

  2. Kevin May 15, 2010 at 8:54 am #

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    Thanks for the post. The Wittgenstein quote made me long for the previous edition of Roderick, the slavish Wittgensteinian, rather than the current left-libertarian radical model (you are still both; you’ve just changed emphasis).

    Aren’t you working with a feature-bug distinction in this post? Right-libertarians look at the economy and see capitalist features, with corporatist bugs, whereas left-libertarians look at the economy and see corporatist features, with capitalist bugs.

    I must admit I have a hard time getting traction on this dispute. What’s the point of the debate? I’m not saying there is no point, I just want to understand why the answer makes a difference. And by ‘the debate’ I mean the left-right debate about the extent to which the current economy is capitalist.

    So some questions for Roderick:

    (1) What difference does the debate make to libertarian political strategy? (Besides whether we write about our love for Walmart on LRC or our deep concerns about it on ALL blogs.)

    (2) What difference does the debate make to libertarian economy theory?

    (3) What difference does the debate make to libertarian political theory?

    I know it makes a difference to libertarian rhetoric but I need answers to the above questions. I want this debate to be about more than terminology and whether we come down in favor of Walmart or not. Stephan’s reaction to your post made me more worried about whether the debate is just cultural and terminological.

    • Roderick May 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

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      Charles’ recent comments, especially the final installment, address some of those questions.

      • Kevin May 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

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        I don’t think it’s just a semantic debate. And I like Charles’s point that the left-right distinction will shape the questions we ask. But that’s just a heuristic for finding the right questions, no? I’m looking for something meatier, but maybe I should settle for a vegetarian approach to the debate.

        • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

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          Kevin,

          But that’s just a heuristic for finding the right questions, no?

          That’s right. (The remarks are all based on something I had to say in a live gathering within the space of 15 minutes, and I was already running well over that by that point in the talk, so unfortunately I didn’t have space there to offer anything more than a heuristic.)

          But I’d say that the actual specification of the right questions to ask is just something that happens in the left-libertarian literature itself. For a few quick examples of how left-libertarians argue that this different orientation allows us to ask questions that non-lefties often fail to ask, you might look to:

          (1) The recurring “vulgar libertarianism”/conflation debate (e.g. Carson 2005, Long 2008, etc.);

          (2) The common argument that libertarians should focus strategically on corporate welfare and the military-industrial complex rather than on so-called “social welfare” and “progressive” labor legislation; and also the arguments that when we go after “social welfare” and labor legislation we can and ought to attack it from the Left — by pointing out how much these serve to control their nominal “beneficiaries” and how they act to supplant grassroots, mutualistic forms of organization with top-down political institutions. (For a debate over the finer details of that claim amongst LLs, see Tom Knapp 2008, Kevin Carson 2008, and my On Crutches and Crowbars);

          (3) There’s also the special left-libertarian emphasis on government assaults on poor people’s property rights and how government intervention is so often directed by “respectable citizens” against peaceful ways of life that are seen as “trashy” or just aren’t conventionally capitalistic enough to please the Chamber of Commerce and the Property Values mafia; in a historical context, you might look at the Enclosure movement, or local and federal government’s war against the Wobblies in the 1900s and 1910s; in the present context, you might look at the kind of analysis offered in, e.g., “Scratching By.” It’s not unheard-of for non-LLs to take on these kind of causes of their own volition (the Institute for Justice does very good work in this area), but it’s comparatively very rare, and there are reasons why it’s rare.

          (4) Also reasons why a lot of the non-LL activism around these issues tends to fall into half-hearted reforms and compromises with socioeconomic respectability. (E.G.: Insisting on government-regulated “legalization” schemes that aim to force black markets open to government scrutiny; fighting for government-subsidized “private” schools, rather than abolishing educational conscription entirely; fighting for government-controlled Yet Another Damn Account plans rather than encouraging people to resist and evade Social Security taxes; making excuses or even over-the-top praise for insane screwjob corporate privateering schemes, rather than genuine property-to-the-people homsteading; etc.) None of these issues are really strictly determined by the left-right debate (they are also importantly connected with the radical-reformist debate, which has connections with, but is separable from, the left-right stuff). But they all tend to be influenced by it, and I think it’s no coincidence the forms that the “reform” side of the debate tend to favor are so recognizably conservative.

          (5) And I’d argue that one of the reasons for that is also connected with a strategic question about who our natural allies are and who our natural enemies are. This comment is already running long, but I would like to suggest that the free market anti-capitalist orientation tends, for one thing, to produce some very different attitudes about who our natural allies are, who our natural enemies are, where the best working relationships are likely to be, etc. This has some important effects on how market Anarchists might relate to other Anarchists, and helps expose what kind of deep differences we may have, in the end, with “smaller-government” conservatives and other limited-statists. (If many non-Left libertarians have nothing better to offer than corporate privateering and legalization schemes, that’s partly because there’s been so little emphasis, except from overt left-libertarians, on traditional Anarchist alternatives to legislative reformism, like Direct Action, Counter-institutions, grassroots reclamation, etc. And that’s partly because even the Anarchists among the non-LLs spend all their fucking time talking to minarchists and Constitutionalists and conservatives, rather than with other Anarchists, so the crappy governmental-reformist ideas tend to persist by default. For more on all of which, cf. Take the A-Train, etc.)

          Hope this helps. Obviously, it isn’t anything like a complete or exhaustive listing, even taken with all the linked material. But I hope it might give you a start on where some of this goes. Anyway, if not, your response or worries might give me a better idea of what you think is lacking.

  3. Kyle Bennett May 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

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    @Kevin – the difference it makes is in left/right libertarian relations. It’s a way to at least understand the other “side” regardless of whether you see them as friend or foe or something else. How that might affect outward facing strategy is a task for subsequent analysis, but that analysis includes the question of whether that strategy incorporates the other “side” and their Gestalt, or dismisses them.

    @Stephen, your initial response brings to mind Dan Rather defining himself as center a-priori simply because anything he thought unreasonable by his own standards was defined out of the debate as extremist.

    • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

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      Kevin, I’m not against “extremism” at all. I reject the left-right spectrum as a tool used by the state and statists to pretend there is some significant difference between them. We libertarians have long rejected this simplistic way of looking at things. we are truly radical. I don’t want to be called left or right because I despise both. I’m a libertarian because I despise left and right.

      • Rad Geek May 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

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        Kinsella:

        I don’t want to be called left or right because I despise both. I’m a libertarian because I despise left and right.

        You know, part of the problem with being so hostile or dismissive towards “semantic” questions is that you often end up just being repetitive and dogmatically non-responsive instead. When I see two people using a word (“libertarian,” say, or “Left”) in ways that are obviously mutually exclusive, my first thought is to find out whether they are really using the word to mean the same thing, and if not, to see what I can do to alert them to that fact and to bridge the communication gap for the sake of the conversation. But here, again, Stephan, you seem to be content to bull ahead and pretend that whatever you mean by “right” and “left” is obviously the same as what your conversation partner meant by them when she used those words. (Even though you already know — because we’ve already told you — that we mean something different by these terms than what you mean by them — that when left-libertarians identify as Left, and critically describe other libertarians as Right, we’re not talking about factions in partisan politics or about some idiotic continuum from mostly-welfare-statists to mostly-warfare-statists. We’re talking about something else — something more like what, say, Rothbard was talking about in “Left and Right.”) But maybe if you just repeat that you “despise left and right” a few more times your audience will somehow forget the prior explanation, and hence fail to notice all the straw stuffed into your opponent.

        Maybe you think that this tactic is convincing to someone. If it is, I feel sorry for the people who are convinced by it, because what it actually is is just belligerent confusion.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

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          Rad:

          “Kinsella:

          I don’t want to be called left or right because I despise both. I’m a libertarian because I despise left and right.

          “You know, part of the problem with being so hostile or dismissive towards “semantic” questions is that you often end up just being repetitive and dogmatically non-responsive instead. When I see two people using a word (“libertarian,” say, or “Left”) in ways that are obviously mutually exclusive, my first thought is to find out whether they are really using the word to mean the same thing, and if not, to see what I can do to alert them to that fact and to bridge the communication gap for the sake of the conversation. But here, again, Stephan, you seem to be content to bull ahead and pretend that whatever you mean by “right” and “left” is obviously the same as what your conversation partner meant by them when she used those words. (Even though you already know — because we’ve already told you — that we mean something different by these terms than what you mean by them — that when left-libertarians identify as Left, and critically describe other libertarians as Right, we’re not talking about factions in partisan politics or about some idiotic continuum from mostly-welfare-statists to mostly-warfare-statists.”

          To be clear: I was talking about the Left, not about left-libertarians. If you don’t regard the left as evil, then we must have a different definition in mind. I’m thinking of the left as so-identified over the last 50 or so years. Those who favor what we used to pejoratively call socialism: greater state control over life, welfarism, extremely high taxation, state ownership or heavy control of the means of production. This is part of the problem of your side trying to wedge in idiosyncratic usages of terms like socialism, capitalism, and now, I guess, leftism itself. It leads to confusion.

          ” We’re talking about something else — something more like what, say, Rothbard was talking about in “Left and Right.”) But maybe if you just repeat that you “despise left and right” a few more times your audience will somehow forget the prior explanation, and hence fail to notice all the straw stuffed into your opponent.

          Maybe you think that this tactic is convincing to someone. If it is, I feel sorry for the people who are convinced by it, because what it actually is is just belligerent confusion.”

          Maybe in some very isolated corners of your intellectual world leftism does not mean what it means to everyone else. Is there a dictionary you can point me to that I can consult when discoursing with you guys?

        • Kevin May 15, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

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          Charles,

          I think that list is a nice start, but I thought the debate mattered because it would lead to differences about when coercion is justified. And I don’t mean the order in which various forms of statism should be fought.

          I thought the economic debate would come to something more. I know it does for some left-libertarians (Carson?), though not for you and Roderick.

          Here’s a better way to put it: does the economic debate between left and right libertarians lead to the endorsement of coercion with respect to different issues?

          Here’s one example: You probably know about Eric Mack’s self-ownership proviso where when substantive self-ownership is restricted by means that do not violate formal self-ownership, coercion can often be used to resist those restrictions. So, a left-libertarian could point to ways in which state capitalist dynamics violate substantive self-ownership such that coercion could be used to resist it.

          But the right-libertarian could deny that the state capitalist dynamics violate substantive self-ownership. For instance, she might acknowledge the restrictions but attribute them to another source. Or, she might deny that such restrictions exist. Or, she might reject the Mack’s self-ownership proviso, which I think left-libertarians should be more sympathetic towards.

        • Rad Geek May 16, 2010 at 2:18 am #

          Chromium 6.0.401.0 Linux

          Kinsella: To be clear: I was talking about the Left, not about left-libertarians.

          I consider left-libertarians to be a part (the most radical and consistent part) of the Left, properly understood. (Of course, a lot of important work is going on in that “properly understood.”)

          I think that most left-libertarians hold a similar position. It’s not like we just picked the word “left” at random, or as a reference to being left-handed or something.

          Kinsella: If you don’t regard the left as evil, then we must have a different definition in mind.

          I’m pretty sure we do. In fact, I already knew that we do, and told you so.

          Kinsella: ’m thinking of the left as so-identified over the last 50 or so years.

          But Stephan, there isn’t any one obvious monolithic group that you can identify as “the Left” from 1960-2010. There are lots of groups taking up that banner, many of them with obviously mutually exclusive aims and a lot of bad blood between them (from “corporate liberals” like Galbraith or LBJ, to Trotskyists, to SNCC, to the Black Panthers, to Maoists, SDS, and, of course, the Anarchists — among them individualist Anarchists like Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess). Of course, the number of different groups claiming to represent the Left doesn’t mean it’s just all up in the air — any more than the fact that lots of radically different factions have been competing for recognition as the representatives of “libertarian.” As it happens, I think that some factions are definitely right and others are definitely wrong. The details of the reasons for that are beyond the scope of this comment, but looking at some of these folks — SNCC, SDS, Clamshell Alliance, Love & Rage, Murray Bookchin, Karl Hess, War Resisters’ League, CopWatch, Food Not Bombs, or even folks like, say, the Panthers, it strikes me as just obviously wrong to claim that there is some simple equation between being on the Left and being primarily concerned with “greater state control over life, welfarism, extremely high taxation, state ownership or heavy control of the means of production.” Some Leftists (establishment liberals, state Communists) think that. Others don’t, and I think there’s a good argument to be made that those others have the better understanding.

          Kinsella: This is part of the problem of your side trying to wedge in idiosyncratic usages of terms

          Man, again with the non-responsive repetition, and the unsourced assertions that We All Know what these terms are supposed to mean, , which apparently is more or less congruent with the picture of the ideals and composition of the Left that you got from Rush Limbaugh some time around 1993. We keep telling you that it’s more complicated than that, and, while telling you, offering into evidence specific sources for our usages and historical examples of (in this case) well-recognized Leftists who don’t use the word “Left” the way you are sure Everyone Else uses it. You don’t respond to these precedents or examples, no matter how many are provided, or how often. You just keep repeating the same evidence-free assertions over and over again about “idiosyncratic” usage and “changing” terms. Horsefeathers, sir. Come back to the topic when you have something to say about Proudhon’s understanding of “the Left,” or Bastiat’s, or Bookchin’s, or Rothbard’s, or Hess’s, or much of anything else that we’ve mentioned, or with any of the actual arguments which we have given every damned time we’ve written about this subject, and which you have steadfastly ignored or breezily waved off as just so much “semantics” and “idiosyncrasy.”

          Kinsella: Maybe in some very isolated corners of your intellectual world leftism does not mean what it means to [N. Stephan Kinsella]. Is there a dictionary you can point me to that I can consult when discoursing with you guys?

          Start here.

          But, seriously, don’t be obtuse. Every damn time we talk about this we keep telling you exactly what we mean by “Left” and why we mean that and what our historical and political reasons are for that and we list example after example. Then you turn around and act like we’re just saying “BUGGA BUGGA BUGGA!” in some crazy moon-speak and expecting you to follow along somehow.

          In fact, we’ve repeatedly made every effort to communicate precisely what we mean by the terms we’re using, to explain why we use them that way, to point out how this usage reflects the way that many other self-identified “Leftists” have understood themselves, and to show how it gives a better accounting of some interesting and important features of American politics. You’ve consistently met these efforts with blank stares, handwaving about “semantics,” or, what’s most common, simply ignoring what we’ve said over and over again and proceeding to interpret what we say as if nobody had ever explained to you that perhaps what they mean by “Left” is not the same as what you mean by it.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 16, 2010 at 6:36 am #

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          Rad: re leftism, I have in mind the libertarian understanding of leftism as in Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. This is the type of leftism I’m referring to, and why I despise it. As a libertarian, I believe both leftism and rightism are collectivist and statist. I fully understand that the left-libertarians do not embrace these horrendous aspects of leftism but rather other parts of left-associated ideas that you think are congenial to libertarianism.

        • Little Alex May 16, 2010 at 10:19 am #

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          RE: Kinsella

          That interpretaton of “left” doesn’t stand alone because mainstream platitudes dictate it as so. “Left” is no left in political discourse without a “right”. That logic of applying “left” to totalitarians is an argument that libertarians are ‘far-right’. This relates to what I said above itt.

        • Roderick May 16, 2010 at 10:34 am #

          Safari MacIntosh

          Stephan, would you consider this an example of the Left’s advocacy of “greater state control over life, welfarism, extremely high taxation, state ownership or heavy control of the means of production”?

        • Sheldon Richman May 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

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          Hear, hear!

        • Black Bloke May 18, 2010 at 10:44 am #

          Safari MacIntosh

          I have in mind the libertarian understanding of leftism as in Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

          It seems that the “libertarian understanding” of that book in particular is rather contrary to what you’re holding out here. Confer Dr. Raico:
          Conservative Myths in History: Review of E.v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse [PDF Warning]

      • Kevin May 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

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        Surely you don’t mean me.

        • Sheldon Richman May 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3 Windows 7

          My hear, hear came out in the wrong place. It was for Charles’s comment.

  4. Kyle Bennett May 15, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

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    “I’m a libertarian because I despise left and right.”

    Aren’t you then defining libertarianism strictly in terms of negatives, absences? Simply being against the state, or the status-quo left/right, with no vision of what would exist in its absence is just reifying that absence – like saying bald is your favorite hair color.

    If you bring in norms about what should exist, rather than just what shouldn’t, then you are either taking a position outside of what you define as libertarian, or admitting that libertarian includes some prescriptive norms. The burden then becomes to show that only those norms are definitive of libertarian. You’ve asserted so repeatedly, but your justification of them sounds dangerously close, to my ear, to “those other norms are not part of libertarian because libertarian means these norms.”

  5. A nym May 15, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

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    Karen De Coster still reeks of whiskey. What a surprise!

  6. Neverfox May 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Firefox 3.6.3 Windows 7

    Here’s a better way to put it: does the economic debate between left and right libertarians lead to the endorsement of coercion with respect to different issues?

    If by “coercion” you mean “aggression,” no libertarian endorses it. If instead you mean to include non-force forms of coercion (boycotts etc.), or if you mean “have different theoretical conclusions about the boundaries of aggression,” then sure. Isn’t that true even among nonleft-libertarians (e.g. the IP debate)?

    • Kevin May 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

      Firefox 3.6.3.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows 7

      Neverfox,

      No I don’t mean ‘aggression’ by ‘coercion’. Aggression is a moralized political concept; coercion is not (though not entirely). You can rightly coerce, such as when you defend your rightly owned property. It’s harder to see how you can rightly aggress.

      The problem with the non-aggression principle is that it presupposes a background of rights and liberties in order to make sense of what aggression comes to in particular cases. To aggress just means to violate libertarian rights, which is why I find the claim that libertarianism is reducible to one simple principle a bit frustrating because it obscures an important and highly controversial normative framework operating in the background.

      So, with that cleared up, the reasons that libertarians of left and right may disagree about when *coercion* is justified is because they conceive of the implications of libertarian rights differently. So, as I said above, if left-libertarians take Mack’s self-ownership proviso seriously, they might think some capitalist/corporatist dynamics are the primary cause of some violation of libertarian rights or they might simply understand the scheme of libertarian rights as applying differently in some particular case from, say, right-libertarians.

      An example:

      Little Ollie Twist is a self-owner, but he lives in Victorian-era capitalism and suffers wild and severe physical and mental depravations. One might argue that his ability to act as a self-owner is effectively nullified by his place in the social and political world of his day.

      Now, how would right and left libertarians view the issue? I take it the right libertarian would tend to argue that Ollie does not have a complaint against a scheme of property rights that allow him to be employed in the workhouse because it’s not the scheme of property rights in the society that is the problem. Instead, it’s the more contingent features of the market caused by the state that have to be fought by rolling the state back.

      In contrast, the left libertarian could argue that Ollie’s substantive self-ownership is violated by the state because it enforces a property rights system that reliably and systematically leads to such deprivations, and thus Ollie, on self-ownership grounds, has a complaint against the current scheme of property rights. For instance, he might have the moral authority to demand a share in the ownership of the workhouse in order to protect himself against abuse by his bosses.

      The right-libertarian would deny Ollie a share in the ownership of the workhouse because she would deny that, say, Ollie’s position in the property rights order is the cause of his depravation.

      Basically, what I’m trying to demonstrate with Ollie is that because libertarians of different stripes see economic forces working differently to some degree, they will make different causal attributions as to who the culprit is behind some rights violation. Consequently, left and right libertarians may disagree about when coercion may be used to stop rights violations and about who the coercion should be used against.

      However, if left and right libertarians both reject Mack’s self-ownership proviso, then all either one of them cares about on *legal* terms is formal self-ownership. In that case, I think their views are really very implausible. For instance, Zelda would have no complaint if Link built a glass dome around her acre-large farm because he didn’t formally violate her property rights.

  7. Jesse Walker May 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Firefox 3.6 MacIntosh

    Keith Preston probably meets your stated criterion for being a left-libertarian, but I think we’d agree he isn’t one.

    Roderick, you have just stumbled into my chief reason for resisting the “left-libertarian” label. It just means too many different things to be useful without adding a bunch of caveats and qualifiers. There are people who are “culturally” left without being “economically” left (like some of my colleagues at Reason) and people who are “economically” left without being “culturally” left (like Preston), as well as people who are both (such as you and Charles). Even if you peel away all the other definitions of “left-libertarian” (e.g., “anyone who disagrees with Eric Dondero on the subject of foreign policy”) and even if you ignore the rather different ways cultural and economic leftism can manifest themselves (e.g., the rather different lessons that different left-libertarians have taken from feminism), you’re left with a central ambiguity that the left-lib label doesn’t do much to resolve. If I tell someone I’m a left-libertarian, that could construed as meaning I’m anything from an anarcho-syndicalist to a liberaltarian, which would be confusing enough even if I were an anarcho-syndicalist or a liberaltarian.

    • Roderick May 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

      Firefox 3.0.19.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

      I’m not sure it’s any more ambiguous than “bald” is. The less hair one has, the stronger the case becomes for calling one bald; but there’s no precise cutoff point between the bald and the nonbald. All the same, there are people who are definitely bald and people who definitely aren’t.

      Likewise, then, each individual left-libertarian position — be it on culture, or on economics, or military policy, etc. — counts in favour of calling someone a left-libertarian. If they satisfy enough of them, they’re definitely a left-libertarian; if they satisfy too few of them, they definitely aren’t; and, just as with “bald,” there will be some borderline cases in between where we won’t be sure what to say.

      The same thing applies to the term “libertarian” itself. Rothbard definitely is one, Obama definitely isn’t one (apologies to MBH). But what about Mises? Or Hayek? Or even if we confine “libertarian” to people who adhere unwaveringly to the nonaggression principle — does it apply only to people who always apply the principle correctly? If so, then Rothbard and Walter Block can’t both be libertarians, since they disagree about how to apply the principle to certain cases; so that seems too narrow. On the other hand, applying it to anyone who pays lipservice to the principle, regardless of how they apply it, seems too broad.

      • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

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        Roderick, I resent your choice of example (baldness). :)

        seriously: we recognize that baldness is a spectrum; as is libertarianism. Both baldness and libertarianism have clear meanings (at least to us).

        the problem is that “leftism” is so amorphous that some of us disagree that there *is* a spectrum. This is not a continuum problem ,as it would be to ask whether Mises or Friedman are or are not libertarians. I would deny that left-libertarianism is coherent enough to set up a continuum issue. And that the left-right spectrum is not really one. The nolan chart shows why–libertarians are not at either end of the left-right spectrum; we are not in the middle, either: we are orthogonal thereto.

        • Roderick May 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

          Firefox 3.0.19.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

          the problem is that “leftism” is so amorphous that some of us disagree that there *is* a spectrum

          Sure, but the question is whether you’re right. After all, there are people who would deny that “libertarian” is a coherent category either, on the grounds that property rights presuppose a tax-subsidised government to define and protect those rights; but they’re wrong. So the mere existence of people who deny the coherence of a category doesn’t invalidate the category.

          The nolan chart shows why–libertarians are not at either end of the left-right spectrum

          Well, it shows that there’s a left-right spectrum we’re not at either end of. But that’s a left-right spectrum within statism, so of course we’re not on it. But what’s at issue is whether there’s also a left-right spectrum within libertarianism. (By analogy, Snoopy is neither a male plant nor a female plant, but that’s because he’s not a plant, not because he’s neither male nor female.)

          Recall what Rothbard says about socialism:

          Socialism, like liberalism and against conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc.

          In similar spirit, we might, at least as a first approximation, distinguish between people who seek right-wing goals by statist means (right-statists), people who seek left-wing goals by statist means (left-statists), people who seek right-wing goals by libertarian means (right-libertarians), and people who seek left-wing goals by libertarian means (left-libertarians). And that’s how there can be a right-left spectrum within statism, that no libertarian is on, yet also a right-left spectrum within libertarianism.

        • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3GTB7.1 MacIntosh

          Roderick: “In similar spirit, we might, at least as a first approximation, distinguish between people who seek right-wing goals by statist means (right-statists), people who seek left-wing goals by statist means (left-statists), people who seek right-wing goals by libertarian means (right-libertarians), and people who seek left-wing goals by libertarian means (left-libertarians). And that’s how there can be a right-left spectrum within statism, that no libertarian is on, yet also a right-left spectrum within libertarianism.”

          Honestly, I don’t think about it this way. I don’t seek right or left wing goals. I am, as a libertarian, only seeking respect for property rights.

        • Little Alex May 17, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

          Kinsella:

          The Nolan Chart is a great model with added dimensions, but it doesn’t argue that linear spectrums for political ideologies can’t be rational. If two extremes can be established, you have a linear spectrum whether it’s a political spectrum, the biploar (disorder) spectrum or Dawkins’ spectrum of theistic probability.

          Where a linear spectrum can be made, so can a center and varying degrees between the poles and the center. And within the spectrum itself, other spectrums can be theorized to express relativity. Is this really what you’re arguing against?

        • Stephan Kinsella May 17, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3GTB7.1 MacIntosh

          The Nolan chart helps to demonstrate waht is wrong with the modern left-right dichotomy. Poeple ask are you liberal or conservative? left or right? As if you have to choose: civil or economic liberties. But we libertarians believe in both; we believe it’s an integrated, interrelated whole. The entire left-right way of looking at it is confused, and wrong, and unlibertarian. To make it clearer, why not call it a commie-fascist spectrum? Then I guess we’d have to find a way to label every libertarian as commie-lib or fascist-lib? Nonsense.

        • Little Alex May 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

          Firefox 3.6.3.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

          @Kinsella: There’s a consensus throughout this thread that the conventional Democrat-Republican paradigm forms a narrow spectrum where libertarians don’t fit in. That narrow spectrum is within a much wider one.

          This sub-spectrum viewed as a macro, not a micro, is actually the visualization of the need for a paradigm shift to expand the perceived spectrum. When that spectrum is expanded, the distance between the Democrat and Republican poles on the spectrum relatively shrinks. This is why political scientists use linear spectrums — to visualize relativity. To keep repeating that libertarians don’t fit on the spectrum of conventional wisdom is a non sequitur.

          As I wrote above:

          “If two extremes can be established, you have a linear spectrum whether it’s a political spectrum, the biploar (disorder) spectrum or Dawkins’ spectrum of theistic probability.

          Where a linear spectrum can be made, so can a center and varying degrees between the poles and the center. And within the spectrum itself, other [spectra] can be theorized to express relativity.”

          No one’s saying the Democrats and Republicans are the poles between libertarians fit, but that on an macro-spectrum, libertarians are a far distance from the Dem-GOP sub-spectrum, yes, that’s agreed upon. the Dem-GOP sub-spectrum covers a small range of the macro-spectrum that overlaps the LibDem-Labour-Tories-BNP spectrum. Like all political ideals and ideologies, libertarianism has sub-spectrum.

      • Jesse Walker May 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

        Firefox 3.6 MacIntosh

        Roderick:

        Likewise, then, each individual left-libertarian position — be it on culture, or on economics, or military policy, etc. — counts in favour of calling someone a left-libertarian. If they satisfy enough of them, they’re definitely a left-libertarian; if they satisfy too few of them, they definitely aren’t; and, just as with “bald,” there will be some borderline cases in between where we won’t be sure what to say.

        The trouble is that we aren’t discussing one left-right spectrum; we’re discussing several, and someone could be more left on one axis and less left on another.

        The same thing applies to the term “libertarian” itself.

        Yes, but. We can deal with the ambiguities in “libertarian” by adding modifiers — such as “left.” But to be useful the modifier should reduce ambiguity, and I’m not convinced that “left” does that.

        This isn’t necessarily a permanent problem. If we reach the point where ALL-style left-libertarians (or some other tribe of left-libertarians) are sufficiently well known as to become widely identified with the term, the ambiguities will be resolved. But I don’t think we’re there right now.

    • Roderick May 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

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      I’m not sure why these replies aren’t indented.

  8. Roderick May 18, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Safari MacIntosh

    An interesting post by Brainpolice about the left-right spectrum(s).

    • Roderick May 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

      Safari MacIntosh

      Okay, that was weird; that last post of mine didn’t show up anywhere remotely near where I expected.

  9. Gene Callahan May 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

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    Re Kinsella’s options: I vote for “plumbline.” It nicely conveys the idea of a mindless movement along an already mapped out course.

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