While Im half a year late in pointing it out, Gary Chartier has some good discussion of left-libertarianism here and here. I especially like the idea that part of what makes left-libertarianism left is a focus on opposing subordination, exclusion, and deprivation.
Garys recent post on socialism is relevant also.
This is exactly why I’ve never understood the objection to left-libertarianism that says something like “to the degree that it isn’t endorsing aggression, why not just call it ‘libertarianism’? Why ‘left’ unless by that they mean some form of coercive socialism?”. The other objection I hear is something like “There’s libertarianism and the there’s leftism. If you want to be both, be both. But don’t claim that your concerns are somehow the left end of the libertarian spectrum when they are really add-on concepts.” Well, there are really two ways to read a term like “left-libertarian”: I) as the left-end of a spectrum of libertarianism or II) as libertarianism with leftist concerns added. (II) can be further viewed as a) they are linked strongly through thickness concerns or b) they are paired arbitrarily (e.g. aesthetically). I tend to think of LL as II-a. So they may be right that it is “outside” libertarianism (viewed as simply NAP) but that it is still an important (even necessary) alliance for thickness and ethical reasons. What do you think, Roderick?
Obviously, I don’t want to speak for Roderick, but the kind of position I’d want to endorse would be close to what Neverfox identifies as option II-a. For some people, I suspect, non-aggression plays an epistemically foundational role: nothing is more basic. For them, warranting leftist concerns will either have to mean showing that other moral concerns are equally basic or that they follow in one way or another from the one foundational tenet, the NAP. For other people, more basic moral theories—Kantian, Aristotelian, consequentialist, or whatever—will be treated as foundational, and the question will be whether both the NAP and some set of leftist commitments can be seen to follow from these theories. And, of course, for other people, the whole notion of epistemic foundations will seem to be mistaken, and the best way to think about moral principles (and other convictions) will be to see them as linked in mutually supporting fashion in some kind of web, which one can enter at multiple points. My own inclination would be largely to endorse this last approach, though with the recognition that, even on this sort of coherentist model, not all starting points are equally acceptable, and without endorsing what seems to have been Quine’s view that, in principle, everything is up for grabs (I am disinclined to think that non-contradiction is, for instance). In any case, though, the claim that the only conceivable link between leftism and libertarianism is, or could be, a matter of aribtrary preference, unrelated to and unconstrained by principle, seems pretty unimaginative to me.
I should have said: “not all starting points are equally sensible or appealing” rather than “acceptable.”
That’s a bit of a clumsy site, sir. You’ve defined Verdana and Arial (Sans) as your body text font, but in that post you go out of your way to add span tags to change the font to Georgia (serif), except in a few paragraphs where the span tags are left out.
Thanks for the heads-up, Brandon. I suppress page-specific font information when I read stuff using Firefox, so I hadn’t noticed this. The template I’d been using when I started the blog suddenly began having problems–paragraph breaks were inserted before links for no apparent reason–so I changed the template. The problem may have crept in when I opted for the new one. In any event, I think what I’ve done now has fixed the problem, but please let me know if it hasn’t.
Nothing’s changed in that old post. I haven’t used Blugger so I can’t advise you in how to fix it.
Gary, I’m so glad you say that. There are so many bridges between leftism and libertarianism that I find it silly for either side to rule the other out. I agree that non-agression can be a game-breaker for many libertarians because the traditional left have authoritarian tendencies. But the left’s basic assumptions are only–as you put it–different points in a web which contain other points from which to work (non-contradiction, like you say). Somewhere in those webs we can find the seeds of a Kantian Categorical Imperitive–which would lead to non-agression. Or somewhere there’s the Aristotelian belief in eudaimonia. Or somewhere there’s a consequentialist understanding that libertarianism will bring about the best results. And then on the other side: somewhere within the libertarian epistemic foundation there’s the seed of understanding that withdrawing from the political process is just a passive form of aggression (I realize that comment is controvesial in these circles). May a fruitful dialogue ensue.
I still think this whole leftism thing is confused. Subordination unless anchored to aggression is vague and not necessarily unlibertarian, for example. This is mixing the precise, narrow field of libertarianism with other concerns.
MBH: “There are so many bridges between leftism and libertarianism that I find it silly for either side to rule the other out.”
May be right but it’s amazing how some sides see it differently. Gene Healy, e.g., of Cato, today in an editorial writes, “What lessons can the GOP, nominally the party of limited government, learn from all this?”
The very question presupposes the Republicans are a more natural ally to libertarians. It also implies they are nominally for limited government–I don’t think they even nominally are. How can you favor social security and war and muscular gov’t and be for limited government? They are not.
When the Republicans are in power the left seems to have more potential to convert to our side: their sympathies seem better; and their biggest weakness seems to be economic ignorance (unfortunately, similar economic fallacies are also perpetuated by some “left-libertarians”). But when the left comes to power, the leftists–most of them, not all–show they are as bad as or worse than the Republicans in hypocrisy and turning a blind eye to–or favoring–tyranny. The right seems better when the left is in power, because it seems like they are a bit less dishonest when they give lip service to quasi-limited state mantras.
The left are emotivisit, dishonest, hypocritical, and economically illiterate. The right are nationalist, religious, insincere, pro-war, and more socialist than they’ll admit (socialist in the pejorative sense, that is!).
The truth is both are terrible. Equally terrible–who can say. They are terrible in different ways. Neither is a friend of liberty. Neither is libertarian. Left and right are both statist; and this is a classic problem with the left-right spectrum as pointed out by libertarians. It’s not that there are no distinctions; it’s that there are few relevant distinctions between them, from the libertarian perspective. From the libertarian perspective, both left and right are statist–both favor institutionalized aggression. Of course looking at it this way requires a clear-headed return to our libertarian roots: an awareness that what we are opposed to is, in fact, aggression–not “oppression,” not “subordination,” not “bossism.”
And for the same reason the left-right spectrum itself rests on unlibertarian presuppositions, there is little to be gained by confusion and distraction by the right- and left-libertarian subclasses. I am neither right not left qua libertarian. I don’t think most people here are either, despite protests to the contrary. To the extent someone is seriously leftist, to that extent they deviate from libertarianism, in my view.
Stephan, I agree with a lot of what you say–especially when you distinguish mainstream leftism from conservatism. But I take issue with two points.
similar economic fallacies are also perpetuated by some “left-libertarians”
What of left-Rothbardians? Or, since you don’t like ‘left’ and ‘right’ in ‘libertarianism’, what of Rothbardians who root their libertarianism in egalitarianism?
…what we are opposed to is, in fact, aggression–not “oppression,” not “subordination,” not “bossism.”
But aren’t oppression, subordination, and bossism, exactly the patterns of behavior that make aggression the norm? And if they are enablers of aggression–even in the slightest–why not desire to smash them (in the non-aggressive way)? How virulent would aggression be if it were perceived to be the equivalent of smearing your own shit on the wall?