David Gordon Speaks! By Roderick on December 4, 2008 7 Check out this eight-minute interview with my friend David Gordon reminiscing about Salma Hayek, Robert Novak, and Tony Stark. Or something like that. (Check out also his memories of Jason Robard and his discussion of five books by Tibor Machan.) Left-Libertarian
You mean Murray Rothbard, not Jason Robard[s].
Um … is that the only thing you noticed wrong?
Oh, I get it.
I get jokes.
OT, but I was wondering if you got the chance to read Anthony Gregory’s “Reaching Out to the Left” at lewrockwell.com?
It’s mostly basic left-libertarian stuff, but it’s good to see these ideas getting more exposure to the LRC crowd.
For that matter, is it just me or does Lew seem to be drifting (moderately) leftward these days? The other day he referred to government as “the plutocratic class.”
Thanks for sharing that article. As a leftist becoming increasingly libertarian, I can attest that the libertarianism often portrayed by self-described libertarians is far scarier than libertarianism should be. If by “free market” you mean shredding the safety net while leaving everything else the same, no one in their right mind would support that.
Personally, I would suggest libertarians do three thing:
First, be a lot more patient with liberals. When liberals advocate for more government intervention, remember that what they see themselves as doing is actually quite reasonable: they’re lobbying an organization they belong to (namely, the U.S. government) to change its policies to ones they think of as more humane. Yes, that organization is coercive, in that you can’t opt-out of it, but then that’s not how *they* see it. They’re doing the best that they know how. Libertarians should market their political philosophy as providing a better way to make people better off instead of attacking them for doing what they think is the right thing.
Secondly, be libertarians first, capitalists second. Libertarians all want the same thing — liberty — but various factions have different ideas about what to do with it when they get it. I cannot see why socialism, communism, and other collectivist socioeconomic arrangements are any more or less libertarian than capitalism so long as it’s voluntary, freedom of association is preserved, and nobody demands anybody else help to enforce rights they don’t believe in.
Thirdly, and this is where I’ll probably disagree with everybody here: I recommend that libertarians be (a little) less hostile toward the welfare state. My reasoning is that, firstly, conservatives want to rip up the welfare state to serve their corporate masters, and use libertarian language to paper over the fact that they just don’t care about the poor, and liberals tend to assume that anyone who uses that language is another plutocratic conservative. Secondly, we are in a situation of massive systematic injustice against the non-rich. As with, for example, a hostage situation, actions that would normally be unjust can be just. So, while libertarians and liberals might still disagree about the *desirability* of a large welfare state and universal health care in the short run, I don’t think that one must necessarily have different *principles* to come to such different conclusions.
(And I admit that in the short run, a German-style healthcare plan looks pretty good to me, since it still allows private plans. I read Long’s essay on how the government ripped up the social organizations that used to provide the health care safety net. As I understand it (and I may not), a German-style plan done seems like it could allow those organizations to be rebuilt while in the meantime alleviating the problems of the nearly-all-corporate system we have now.)
“For that matter, is it just me or does Lew seem to be drifting (moderately) leftward these days? The other day he referred to government as ‘the plutocratic class.'”
Mike: I’ve actually seen Rockwell use that terminology many times in the past. And yesterday I saw this comment by him on his blog: “BTW, are there *any* non-statist billionaires? I’m no determinist, but they all seem to be joined at the hip with the state.” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/024297.html) He seems to be a lot more in tune with the harsh reality of the current crony-corporate-capitalist system than some others who write for him and the Mises Institute.
(Though speaking of the Mises Institute, there was this piece by D.W. MacKenzie on the Mises Blog–http://blog.mises.org/archives/009042.asp–in which MacKenzie points out that deflation is very likely elevating the real minimum wage and thus pricing marginal workers out employment, contra the standard Austrian argument that deflation is always good for everyone. In a FREE MARKET, yes, the benefits of deflation would spread wide and far. But in a STATIST market with such wage controls as minimum wage laws–the kind of market we actually live with at present–there could be some people disproportionately hurt, i.e., low-wage workers. [For what it’s worth, I don’t think that the standard Austrian line on deflation is necessarily “vulgar,” just that MacKenzie is pointing out an angle that many Austrians have not necessarily considered.])
Jjensenii: You’ve hit on some crucial points, I think. I was once your standard middling, “centrist” social democrat up until about five or six years ago. (I credit George W. Bush for converting me to libertarianism—by way of his negative example, of course.)
Years ago, when I was much younger, the people who I knew that called themselves “libertarians”, or espoused libertarian-sounding arguments, struck me as pretty much being apologists for Reaganite militarism and the corporate cronyism with which it is naturally entwined, which was pretty much a non-starter as far as I was concerned. (I’m pretty solidly anti-war—I’d say war is my biggest pet peeve.) Had I the access to the broader range of libertarian literature that I do now in this age of the Internets, I’m pretty sure I would have become a libertarian many years earlier. So I agree with you wholeheartedly about being patient. (Of course, considering that most people are not libertarian, we have no choice but to be patient regardless of what kind of non-libertarians we reach out to.)
But I do think that libertarians need to exercise a great deal of discretion when reaching out to some elements of either the statist left *or* the statist right (the right-wing baggage that many libertarians seem too willing to carry is an example). I count myself as a left-libertarian (left-Rothbardian best describes me, I think), but it’s important to recognize whenever we reach out to any stripe of statist that there *are* fundamentally different principles at the core of libertarianism and any kind of statist ideology. The former is based on the principle of non-aggression, while the latter sees fit to initiate aggression for some perceived common good, such as in the disagreement over the welfare state and universal health care. It’s not a matter of mere “desirability.” Free market health care and charity that is wholly voluntary is *constructive* (non-aggression principle), whereas government-run health care and statist welfare is *destructive* (in that it’s coercively funded and separates the user of the service from payment for the service—the “aggression is okay if we say it is” principle).
Now, to be sure, the libertarian answer should not be to abolish the welfare/state-health care and leave the remaining corporate-state military-industrial apparatus mostly intact. The state’s welfare system is the crutches it hands out to its victims after it broke their legs, and as far as crutches go, they’re pretty crappy. They don’t last long and start falling apart after one’s been hobbling along on them for only a few paces—but at least one can get along a few paces. (Certainly a poor single mom who needs penicillin for her sick child can’t be blamed for accepting tax-subsidized penicillin, to use an example.) The corporatist-militarist state should be dismantled from the top down, not from the bottom up. To start from the bottom up would be to cast the state’s victims adrift on the high seas.
But as a left-*libertarian*, I’m as leery of left-liberals who want to keep the state-welfarism intact or reform it in some way as a matter of desirability, as I am of right-conservatives who see no problem with state privilege for big business, because they find that desirable. After all, we’re talking about the weak crutches used to pretend that the state-military-industrial complex actually gives a damn about those whose legs it broke. The libertarian opposition to both welfarism and big business is founded on the non-aggression principle, and libertarian outreach should aim to convert both statist-liberals and statist-conservatives to that core principle.
BTW, Anthony’s piece was great, and judging from a recent posting on the LRC blog, it looks like he’s getting some very positive response, which is wonderful. (See his post on an ex-Bircher’s positive feedback: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/024293.html.)
And I hope everyone’s seen RadGeek’s recent piece on left-libertarian engagement, which links Lew Rockwell’s recent podcast with Naomi Wolf: http://radgeek.com/gt/2008/11/25/leftlibertarian_engagement/.
P.S.: RadGeek has recently pointed up another very, very important reason to keep the state out of health care (I’d say it’s the most important):
It politically privileges physicians at the expense of patients, to some pretty horrific consequences.