Four questions for “anti-capitalist” libertarians

Sheldon Richman, one of the best libertarian writers of the last decade and an all around excellent human being (I’m a grateful person and as my teacher at FEE in 2003, I must say he was by far the most fun and persuasive of the lecturers in an already very good set of speakers) has jumped on the wagon of the Left-’libertarians’ latest initiative to decry and abandon the use of “Capitalism” as a term by our movement.

Hereby I would like to address his post at The Freeman but also his subsequent retorts on Facebook to my objections on such a linguistic and strategic initiative, by asking him and others including Gary Chartier, Roderick Long and Kevin Carson these four questions:

Since words are not doomed to be deformed when born deformed in the same way they are not free from bad usage even if their origin is noble (see “Liberalism”).

  1. Well then, what do we want it to mean from now on?
  2. Is there another word that describes the full and complex system that is the real promise (and hope) behind a free society?
  3. Yet another unanswered question is: why won´t the next term be hijacked or deformed by the (socialist/statist/authentic) Left?
  4. And the last question Sheldon, Chartier, Carson and others haven’t addressed is: how will be keep a word pure when no social system is pure nowadays (if ever) unless we coin a term only when we have a pure system so it corresponds to a pure reality and cannot be misconstrued? Of course we need a term for an ideal so we walk towards it, unless I’m missing something here.

Stephan Kinsella keenly added to the discussion:

“What some left-”libertarians” oppose is the economic order most standard libertarians favor and expect to accompany an advanced free society–whatever word you slap on it. Thus they go on about mutual aid, wildcat strikes, the workers, localism, self-sufficiency, they condemn the division of labor, mass production, factories,employment, firms, corporations, “hierarchy,” international trade, not to mention “distant” ownership, landlordism, “alienation,” industrialism, and the like. Their agenda is not required by libertarianism–most of it is not even compatible with it, I’d say, so is unlibertarian. But this is a debate we can have–it’s on substance. I think this is a large motivation for their hostility to the word “capitalism”–they mean capitalism like we do, and dislike it. I don’t mean crony capitalism–but actual libertarian-compatible laissez-faire capitalism. They want libertarians to stop saying capitalism because they want us to adopt their substantive unlibertarian, Marxian agenda. Yet they pretend it’s just for strategical or lexical concerns–which it’s not. This is yet another reason I think we should dig our heels in and not give in: they will then count it as a substantive victory for unlibertarian, leftist ideas.”

This bit of course is completely relevant when an attempt (some bona fide would be a requisite for it) to answer these four questions is made.

Anti-capitalists: the ball is now on your side of the court.

10 comments… add one

  • Juan, see also my update at the end of Capitalism, Socialism, and Libertarianism, and other comments from Sheldon s FEE blogpost Is Capitalism Something Good? and also from the facebook page:

    It seems to me that a legitimate definition of capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production, and that there is no doubt that any advanced economic order of a libertarian society would have capitalism so defined. Even if it has private-collective worker-owned firms, co-ops, kibbutzes, and the like existing in isolated pockets sort of like the Amish still do today. And in fact even such communalist enclaves are built on private ownership of capital–it’s just that the members of the co-op voluntarily co-own the property privately. So we can view the co-ops etc. of a free society to be a (probably marginal) subset of capitalism; and in any case they are certainly compatible with capitalism since the economic order of a free society can have a wide diversity. In my view there is little doubt that there will always be a dominant and significant role for corporations, firms, employment, mass production, the specialization and division of labor, international trade, and so on–though there well may also be more opportunities for self-sufficiency, localism, communalist experimentation, and so on.

    It is also true that the word capitalism nowadays has non-libertarian connotations like corporatism and crony capitalism. So where does this leave us? Capitalism, defined carefully, is a significant aspect of the economic order of a libertarian society. Even if defined carefully capitalism does not fully describe libertarianism or a libertarian society, but only one aspect of its economy. So I do not think we should use capitalism as a strict synonym for libertarianism (for this reason I use the term “anarcho-libertarian” nowadays instead of “anarcho-capitalist”), and when we do use it, we obviously have to be careful that we do not give the misleading impression that we are condoning crony capitalism or corporatism–so we can add a modifier if necessary, like “laissez-faire” or we can make it clear that we favor capitalism but condemn corporatism, etc.

    So: do not use capitalism as a synonym for libertarianism; keep the word around for use in describing an aspect of a libertarian social order; but use it carefully in a way that does not connote crony capitalism.

    A final note: we should not bash capitalism since this will be taken by anti-libertarians as siding with their hostility to property rights and the free market. And we should definitely not employ the word socialist, either, to describe our views.

    Another comment of mine on the FEE blog:

    @Little Alex:

    “@Carpio: Your “eternal-teen-rebel” rhetoric is making you look silly and evasive. Placing capital in a hierarchy above the liberty of self-management to define a social system is regression. (http://wp.me/pnWUd-2rW)”

    Libertarians view property rights as the only rights. Liberty is defined in terms of property rights. The libertarian conception of property rights immediately implies that all property, including “capital,” is privately owned. Thus “capitalism,” defined as a system in which capital is privately owned, is compatible with libertarianism and indeed an important aspect of any reasonably advanced libertarian society. Conceptually identifying this feature of the economic order of a libertarian society and attaching a name to that concept is not “Placing capital in a hierarchy above the liberty of self-management.” To the contrary, it is simply rational and honest explication and conceptual analysis of social and economic systems. As such, I can understand why it may rankle some leftists given the left’s hostility to rationality and clear thinking (and by saying this I do not mean to vindicate the right; they are both dishonest, wicked, confused views. Thank God we standard libertarians have escaped the left-right straitjacket).

    “I’d never read Clarence Carson’s article, but you continue to ignore this rationale that many have echoed: “linguistically, it does not stand for private property, free enterprise, and the free market. It is false labeling to make it appear to do so. Capitalism means either a system in which capital holds sway, which is largely what Marx apparently meant, or an ideology to justify such a system”.”

    “a system in which capital holds sway”–such vague, amorphous phrases are often trotted out and used for equivocation. We libertarians believe in property rights. Qua libertarians we need have no Marxian type opinion on whether any given feature of a free society “holds sway.”

    “@Kinsella: RE: “It seems to me that a legitimate definition of capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production”

    “Why? Assertion?”

    This debate is at least partly about the meaning of terms–semantics. I think many leftists are reluctant to admit this because although in disingenuous fashion they at first seem to acknowledge this, this is quickly dismissed and substantive issues are smuggled in via equivocation. Well if someone says a word is inappropriate, then a semantical inquiry into what the meaning of the controversial term is, is warranted. Thus if I state that a legitimate definition of a word is X, this is not an “assertion”–it’s understood to be an appeal to standard methods of determining what definitions of given words are. That is, resorting to a dictionary or the like. And if you consult dictionaries, or encyclopedias, you’ll see that a very common definition of “capitalism” is “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.”

    Or similar. This is not “assertion.” It’s a reasonable way to find out what a word means in a language. Now given this technical definition, as I argued, it is of course NOT incompatible with libertarianism and individual rights, and in fact is a crucial feature of any reasonably advanced libertarian society. As I acknowledged, it is not a good synonym for libertarianism but rather describes on part of the economic order of a libertarian society. It is associated with libertarianism because you cannot have true capitalism without a libertarian order (because capitalism requires property rights to be respected, and only libertarianism consistently does this); and you cannot have any reasonably advanced, productive, modern, prosperous, libertarian society without capitalism. So, they imply each other–so it is no wonder some people use capitalism as a stand-in for libertarianism, perhaps as a form of metonymy, in which “a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept”.

    I also acknowledged that “capitalism” has other connotations that are incompatible with libertarianism, namely what we libertarians who try to keep concepts and definitions straight would call “crony capitalism” or perhaps “corporatism” or “mercantilism.” And because of these connotations and because of ambiguities and confusions (some of them caused by leftists and left-libertarians, perhaps), we have to be careful when we use the word capitalism: we should use it not as a synonym for liberty, but for a critical feature of the economic order of a free society; and we should be clear to use it in a context or way that makes it clear to the audience that it is the libertarian, free-market, anti-corporatist, technical, and libertarian-compatible meaning of capitalism that we have in mind.

    So what if we need to do this? Such caution is (perhaps unfortunately) necessary for many of the radical ideas we advocate, which turn off the masses and the malicious–when we use free market, profit, individualism, self-interest, property rights, rationality, reason, economics, welfare, government, and so on. We have to deal with such misanthropes and ignoramuses, unfortunately, but we do not have to join them.

    “RE: “It is also true that the word capitalism nowadays has non-libertarian connotations like corporatism and crony capitalism.”

    “Nowadays? No, sir. Always.”

    So what? It still has a technical definition in economics that in fact accurately describes a crucial feature of any advanced economic order that will arise when property rights (liberty) are respected. And for anyone who seeks any economic understanding at all, we need a word that correlates with this concept. There is a word; it’s useful; there is no reason whatsoever not to use it–so long as one is careful as I have adumbrated above–and as most libertarians are, already–once again showing that the left has almost nothing to teach us libertarians. Where the left is correct, we libertarians already know it (as Rothbard, say, recognized long ago in criticizing Rand’s bemoaning of Big Business as being America’s most persecuted minority). And where the left is original, or non-libertarian, it is wrong (e.g., its crankish economics, silly views on alienation, etc.–not that every aspect of Marxism is incompatible with libertarianism–see Hoppe: Marx was “Essentially Correct”).

    I must say I have about had it with left-leaning libertarians having the gall to tell standard libertarians to learn from leftism–we are better than leftists, far better. It is they–these economically illiterate, individivual-hating, totalitarian-supporting, murderous, collectivist cranks–who should learn from us. Leftism, sir, frankly, is rank evil. Libertarianism is good. I know which side I’m on. The only thing I want from the left is for them to drop their crankism and misanthropy, acquire some economic literacy, and join us in respecting individualism and property rights. Other than that, I have no use for leftism/socialism, and am reminded of a comment by Sudha Shenoy in this regard about what socialists are really good for (this is said tongue in cheek, mind you).

    “The usage of “capitalism” in the Randian/Misesean sense wasn’t intellectually honest; whether or not they admit it, it was purely political, they got away with it for a bit, but the crisis of actually existing capitalism has come back to bite genuine free marketeers in the ass.”

    We will have to disagree on this. As a libertarian who appreciates the critical role of Mises in the fight for economic understandng and for individual liberty and property rights–and I also appreciate Rand’s role in the beginnings of the modern libertarian movement–I find such accusations to be completely appalling. Mises defended the private property order–the free society, whether left-”libertarians” realize this or not–and defended it proudly, using terms adequate to convey ideas–using terms that are part of the language, yes, using terms hurled pejoratively against us. The left also “accuses” us of favoring economic inequality (we do!), individualism (we do!), property rights (we do), self-interest (we do), and so on. I think Mises et al. are to be commended and appreciated for having the courage to proudly stand up for the goodness of the property-rights order that libertarianism favors. Mises fought for your rights, sir, and you call him dishonest? Utterly appalling.

    In any case: your argument here is yet another apparently attempt to pretend like your are making only a semantic point, while the underlying motive, the passion, etc. are clearly political and activist oriented. The origin of the term is irrelevant. A word acquires a certain meaning in a given time in a given community; this is what dictionaries are for. It is clear beyond cavil that one standard, accepted meaning of the word “capitalism” is a system with private, as opposed to state, ownership of the means of production. And it is clear also that such a system is an inextricably important and good aspect of a libertarian society. Yes, the word has other meanings and connotations, but this only means we have to be careful and vigilant.

    Another commentator on fcebook has a good comment too:

    Gerardo Caprav Being jewish i have many relatives that did the Kibbutz experience, one of them is my cousin who lived in a Socialist Kibbutz where the NAP system suppouse to work as a principle.Well, he realized that he was working really hard and he was receiving the same amount money that the rest of the other people living there and were working with less … See Moreeffort. After a couple of years he realized(he’s not even libertarian or anything) that even he was living in a NAP society that wasn’t still enough to live in a real liberty system, he realized that and moved to a private kibbutz, the socialist kibbutzim are almost all in bankrupt and most of them nowadays are own by companies who rent the land or make private neighborhoods, why? Because the NAP principle doesn’t work if you don’t understand that the capitalism is the consecuence of a full libertarian society. Leaving the terms that identify ourselves won’t help, if you are really sure of what you deffend the best way to do it is using those terms and explain it, if we think people won’t understand them is that we don’t even believe in our principles that I think is even worse.

    By the way, i’m from Argentina, if we stop using the word capitalism our work here to spread the libertarian ideas is going to be harder.

    Reply
  • Well then, what do we want it to mean from now on?

    Well, there are a few options:

    a. Use it to mean capitalism-2.
    b. Use it to mean capitalism-3.
    c. Use it to mean the amalgamation of capitalism-2 and capitalism-3.
    d. Reject the term as unusable (unless qualifying adjectives are attached).

    I’m not sure why this problem has to be solved in order to accept the critique of the tern “capitalism,” though.

    Is there another word that describes the full and complex system that is the real promise (and hope) behind a free society?

    Almost anything would be better than “capitalism.”

    There used to be a”National Socialist Party” in what is now Czechoslovakia, back in the 1910s. (Jaroslav Hasek, of all people, was a member!) They called themselves that because they were nationalists (they wanted to secede from the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and they were socialists. Suppose they were still around — wouldn’t there be good reason for them to call themselves “National Socialists” today?

    Yet another unanswered question is: why won’t the next term be hijacked or deformed by the (socialist/statist/authentic) Left?

    The implied contrast in “next” makes it sound as though “capitalism” was hijacked or deformed by the left. But “capitalism” has had the implications we’re complaining about since the early 19th century.

    And the last question Sheldon, Chartier, Carson and others haven’t addressed is: how will be keep a word pure when no social system is pure nowadays

    I don’t know why we should be expected to address this, since we’ve never promised or imagined that any word can be kept pure. When someone points out that you’re eating tainted meat, “how can you guarantee that I won’t encounter some impure food in the future?” is a puzzling response.

    It seems to me that a legitimate definition of capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production

    On this, see POOTMOP and POOTMOP Redux.

    I have about had it with left-leaning libertarians having the gall to tell standard libertarians to learn from leftism–we are better than leftists

    We’ve said, over and over, that libertarians and leftists need to learn from EACH OTHER. Each is better on some range of issues where the other is worse.

    Reply
    • Berserkrl,

      I’ll let Juan reply as to his part; I’d be curious if you agree w/ my own proposals about “capitalism” and its use.

      “I have about had it with left-leaning libertarians having the gall to tell standard libertarians to learn from leftism–we are better than leftists”

      We’ve said, over and over, that libertarians and leftists need to learn from EACH OTHER. Each is better on some range of issues where the other is worse.

      It’s not symmetrical. We are basically right; the left is basically confused at best, evil at worst. I would not mind a quick summary of 3 or 5 things we libertarians can learn from the left–things they know, that are important for libertarianism, that we do not know, or that we are wrong on.

      Reply
      • Some anonymous left-lib replied here (why are they so often anymous or nyms?). A few replies. First, they point out that:

        Modern libertarianism is a direct descendant from classical liberalism. Since classical liberalism was (and as we argue still should be) considered a left-wing ideology this question doesn’t work on at least one level. “I would not mind a quick summary of 3 or 5 things we libertarians can learn from the classical liberals” would be quickly met with “virtually everything considered libertarian” yet that’s not far from what he’s asking of us. Moreover a great number of causes now considered “leftist” were originally championed by the classical liberals. The left-libertarian argument is simply that modern libertarianism can learn from its predecessors. That’s almost a tautology so I don’t see why we need to make such a fuss about it.

        I asked what can we learn from leftism? My view they can learn from us. But what can we learn from them? This paragraph argues that our origins are in the left. But so what? And that we can learn from our predecessors. Oh? Like what? This is not an answer. Plus it assumes too much and is too vague. We have lots of “predecessors”. And it’s not clear we are “from” the “left” especially the modern left. Or not only from the left. And if we came from them maybe we evolved, took the best parts, abandoned the nonsense. This is really weak, IMO.

        From a purely consequentialist perspective, the fate of those the left usually worries about is hardly an irrelevant issue. Why should we care about those with less than average wealth? Because they make up half the planet is why. If we can’t show why these people will be better off, or even just not worse off, in libertopia then we have only ourselves to blame when lots of people start saying they don’t like libertarianism. The same goes for vulnerable minorities, it’s not logically necessary for libertarians to care about them but the world would be much happier if they were less vulnerable. Kinsella, like me, is not a consequentialist so I wouldn’t expect him to be convinced by this alone, like I’m not, but I figure it’s worth mentioning in the same way Austrian economics is.

        But we libertarians already care about the poor and vulnerable minorities and everyone else. This is not a leftist concern. Or if it is, we libertarians already have it. Still waiting to hear what we have to learn from the left. In fact we care more about the poor and minorities since we oppose policies that harm them, while the g*ddamned left does not. Yeah, we have something to learn from the left: don’t callously advocate policies that harm the very people you pretend to care about (see, e.g., Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy).

        So the second point has also not shown that we can learn anything from the left.

        Finally I’ll present some theoretical arguments about libertarianism and autonomy. For the sake of keeping this short this won’t be as specific as I’d like it to be. I highly recommend this if you’re interested in a detailed analysis of what I’m talking about. Libertarianism is by definition in support of political autonomy. Does this lead to a support for other kinds of autonomy? I think it does, though exactly how it does depends on how you ground your libertarianism. There are a number of theories people derive their support for liberty from but they all have one common factor; they all believe that the only ethical use of violence is to protect political autonomy. In my case it’s very simple, libertarianism is derived from already valuing autonomy, but even when the argument follows a less direct route the fact remains that to be a libertarian requires believing that self-direction is something worth defending so some of the best arguments for liberty are also strong arguments for autonomy. As for how this relates to libertarians and the left learning from each other:

        Well, libertarians can learn from leftists about – well I think that when libertarians and leftists sort of split up in the XIXth century, libertarians began specialising in understanding the benefits of market-oriented, for-profit solutions, while leftists specialised in understanding the benefits of non-profit, cooperative ways of associating.

        Libertarians understand perfectly well the benefits of mutual cooperation an exchange. Businessmen, entrepreneurs, etc. can become experts at setting up particular institutions in a free society. But I’ll grant that left-libs seem more interested in living in coops, etc., so maybe they will explore this as a viable model. But I am not sure why this is a libertarian concern. We libertarians favor the conditions that give freedom and recognize property rights, that are necessary for leftists to attempt their social experiments. What they do with their freedom is up to them.

        And likewise, libertarians specialised in understanding the evils of State-based forms of oppression, and leftists specialised in understanding the evils of non-State-based, private forms of oppression.

        We don’t need leftists to tell us this. We oppose all forms of aggression: institutionalized; private; and we also oppose and are quite aware of the intermingling of the state and business (and other interest groups like unions and so on).

        So I think what each has to learn from the other is – the leftists have to learn from libertarians good things about the market that the Left doesn’t understand and bad things about the State that the Left doesn’t understand. What libertarians need to understand is bad things about forms of private power, that libertarians tend to think ‘well, if it’s not directly supported by the State then it doesn’t matter from a libertarian point of view’

        This is a caricature. Libertarians do not say this. They have never been only about the state itself. We are aware of various forms of statism (what we may call “socialism”). E.g., Rothbard’s criticism of Rand’s bemoaning of Big Business as being America’s most persecuted minority; and Hoppe’s discussion of various forms of socialism as described i nthis post, from Socialism Russian-Style, Socialism Social-Democratic Style, the Socialism of Conservatism, and the Socialism of Social Engineering.

        and also, some of the benefits of forms of voluntary association that aren’t for-profit. [apparently a quote from Roderick Long]

        Libertarians have never focused only on for-profit institutions and behavior. The Chicago school might but we do not. We have highlighted the benefits of freedom for one’s spirit, civil liberties, private life; we have explained over and over again how there would be more peace, cooperation, charity, brotherhood, civility, prosperity, achievement, progress, women’s rights, minority rights, and so on, under conditions of freedom. Just part of this is concerned with catallactics. Again, we have no gaps that need filling.

        I asked a simple question for someone to give me a few things we can learn from the left. I hear “well we can learn from our predecessors” (general and without specificity), “we need to care about the poor” (we do), “we should care not only about profit” (we know); “we should realize direct state action is not the only way to commit aggression” (again, got it); “there are ways of setting up communities along coop lines and those details are interesting” (to libertarians qua libertarians?).

        Reply
        • Thanks for the response. First things first,

          why are they so often anymous or nyms?

          You only had to ask, my name is James Briggs

          I asked what can we learn from leftism? My view they can learn from us. But what can we learn from them? This paragraph argues that our origins are in the left. But so what? And that we can learn from our predecessors. Oh? Like what?

          My point was we already have picked up lots of useful concepts from the left. I should hope we have taken the best parts and abandoned the nonsense; we do this with libertarianism too, like you said, so what? We’re still making use of leftist ideas. As for what we can specifically learn from our predecessors I think one of the things they, the leftists, got right but modern libertarians seem quite weak on is to stress more than rights violations as libertarian qua libertarian issues. To avoid repeating myself I’m going to argue for why this is the case in the third point but basically it’s thick libertarianism I’m advocating.

          I’m well aware of the fact this point is a little general and unspecified but so is your question. What can “libertarianism” learn from “leftism”? Do you want a comprehensive list of every leftist ideology, every libertarian ideology and every relevant concept each one has to the others or can we agree that some generalised concepts can still have validity?

          But we libertarians already care about the poor and vulnerable minorities and everyone else. This is not a leftist concern. Or if it is, we libertarians already have it.

          This is, in a word, nonsense. Not a leftist concern!? Why don’t you ask some leftists whether they agree with that statement? I agree completely with your argument that what most leftists advocate is very ineffective, even harmful, but I refuse to believe you don’t understand the difference between ends and means. What I’m saying is libertarians ought to take these ends more seriously. Some do, this I’m not disputing, but being insensitive to the poor is such a common argument against us and willful ignorance can only go so far. The uglier elements of actually existing capitalism are too often defended via free market principles; here is a great example from Gary Chartier’s blog. Stossel’s Myths. More importantly why are we so frequently labeled “Marxian” (another generalised term?) for pointing this out? What we end up with is some libertarians do care about the vulnerable and you agree that’s a positive trait. Caring about the vulnerable as an end is generally considered leftist. Therefore being a good libertarian involves some accepting some leftist ends.

          You’ve completely misunderstood argument #3. It has nothing to do with co-operatives or profit-making. This is about values that libertarians should support other than the non-aggression principle (thick libertarianism). Unfortunately this is the argument I’m most interested in too, being the most controversial one.

          We don’t need leftists to tell us this. We oppose all forms of aggression

          This is a caricature. Libertarians do not say this. They have never been only about the state itself. We are aware of various forms of statism

          Yeah, like I was trying to argue libertarians don’t oppose aggression. Talk about a caricature! I was arguing there are other ways to oppress someone than aggression and libertarians should pay attention to this. I was quite careful to avoid describing this as aggression and the fact you haven’t differentiated between “oppress” and “aggress” proves my point exactly. This is definitely not something present in some strains of modern libertarianism and maybe it should be. Two quick reasons why. The NAP is derived from a moral system that says “self-direction” is worth protecting so we should look at other ways it’s compromised than aggression. There is likely to be instrumental value in promoting some values over others as a means of maintaining liberty.

          Finally I noticed on my blog a link to an article called “against libertarian sectarianism” and apparently I’m mentioned in it. The link appears broken so perhaps it’s been deleted but I want to make this clear, I’m not trying to promote any kind of sectarianism this is just a debate. That’s why I called the post “challenge accepted” not “war declared”.

          Reply
          • owelcome/James:

            “‘why are they so often anymous or nyms?’
            “You only had to ask, my name is James Briggs”

            The question remains. There is something odd and juvenile about it.

            “My point was we already have picked up lots of useful concepts from the left.”

            Sure, and from other disciplines and ideologies as well.

            “I’m well aware of the fact this point is a little general and unspecified but so is your question. What can “libertarianism” learn from “leftism”? Do you want a comprehensive list of every leftist ideology, every libertarian ideology and every relevant concept each one has to the others or can we agree that some generalised concepts can still have validity?”

            Well, by my quesiton I was trying to elicit a response which would demonstrate my contention that there are virtually no things you can mention that we need to learn from the left, that are uncontroversial. And you provided such a response.

            “‘But we libertarians already care about the poor and vulnerable minorities and everyone else. This is not a leftist concern. Or if it is, we libertarians already have it.’

            “This is, in a word, nonsense. Not a leftist concern!? Why don’t you ask some leftists whether they agree with that statement? I agree completely with your argument that what most leftists advocate is very ineffective, even harmful, but I refuse to believe you don’t understand the difference between ends and means. What I’m saying is libertarians ought to take these ends more seriously.”

            Maybe we should, maybe we shouldn’t. In any case the left, who harms the poor, have no place to tell us this. And no, it’s not a “leftist” concern to care about the poor. Libertarians qua libertarians of course care about the poor.

            ” Some do, this I’m not disputing, but being insensitive to the poor is such a common argument against us and willful ignorance can only go so far.”

            It’s a common–and dishonest–argument from the left. They are the problem, not the solution.

            “The uglier elements of actually existing capitalism are too often defended via free market principles;”

            True; and a principled libertarian ought to condemn the intermingling of the state and business. … As we do.

            “I was arguing there are other ways to oppress someone than aggression and libertarians should pay attention to this.”

            This is the problem. This is where leftists get into an a-libertarian opposition to “hierarchy,” “bossism,” etc. which borders on crankish. Libertarians are opposed to aggression, not vague, amorphous “oppression.” If oppression is aggression, we are already opposed to it. If oppression is not aggresion, then we, qua libertarians, are not opposed to it.

            It is similar re the concept of “harm.” It’s a vague word. We are not against harming people. If you steal my girlfriend or build a Wal-mart next to my mom and pop store, you are “harming” me, but it is your right. Only some types of harm count as rights violations that libertairnas oppose–namely, aggression. Which we already oppose.

            “I was quite careful to avoid describing this as aggression and the fact you haven’t differentiated between “oppress” and “aggress” proves my point exactly. This is definitely not something present in some strains of modern libertarianism and maybe it should be. Two quick reasons why. The NAP is derived from a moral system that says “self-direction” is worth protecting so we should look at other ways it’s compromised than aggression. There is likely to be instrumental value in promoting some values over others as a means of maintaining liberty.

            I find this thickish project to be misguided and confused. In any event particularly leftist to argue that there are strong interrelationships between libertarian ideas and others.

            “Finally I noticed on my blog a link to an article called “against libertarian sectarianism” and apparently I’m mentioned in it. The link appears broken so perhaps it’s been deleted but I want to make this clear, I’m not trying to promote any kind of sectarianism this is just a debate. That’s why I called the post “challenge accepted” not “war declared”.”

            Thanks.

  • Oops – When I wrote “wouldn’t there be good reason for them to call themselves” I meant “wouldn’t there be good reason for them NOT to call themselves.”

    Reply
  • The question remains. There is something odd and juvenile about it.

    This comes across as a bit ad hominem. So what if I’m being odd and juvenile, I’m still right (about being left).

    Sure, and from other disciplines and ideologies as well.

    These aren’t mutually exclusive statements and you didn’t ask anyone to prove leftism is the only thing relevant to libertarianism.

    Well, by my quesiton I was trying to elicit a response which would demonstrate my contention that there are virtually no things you can mention that we need to learn from the left, that are uncontroversial. And you provided such a response.

    A response which you called a-libertarian and crankish, yet contains nothing controversial?

    Also what does this have to do with slightly vague statements and whether they are acceptable or not?

    Maybe we should, maybe we shouldn’t. In any case the left, who harms the poor, have no place to tell us this. And no, it’s not a “leftist” concern to care about the poor.

    Well it’s certainly closer to a leftist concern than a rightist one and I’m not convinced you could find many leftists who would agree they aren’t concerned about poor people, even if their solution is stupid. Again, it’s the difference between ends and means that’s important here. I don’t think I ever implied we should take their advice on the subject.

    It’s a common–and dishonest–argument from the left. They are the problem, not the solution.

    An excessively broad and sweeping statement. Are you denying the possibility that any of them are genuine but just don’t understand the conclusions of what they advocate?

    True; and a principled libertarian ought to condemn the intermingling of the state and business. … As we do.

    Yes exactly, those of us who are principled are “left-er”, on this issue at least, than those who aren’t.

    This is the problem. This is where leftists get into an a-libertarian opposition to “hierarchy,” “bossism,” etc. which borders on crankish. Libertarians are opposed to aggression, not vague, amorphous “oppression.” If oppression is aggression, we are already opposed to it. If oppression is not aggresion, then we, qua libertarians, are not opposed to it.

    But a term being vague is a reason to start defining it not to throw it away. Doesn’t assuming libertarianism should only concern the use of force kinda beg the question?

    It is similar re the concept of “harm.” It’s a vague word. We are not against harming people. If you steal my girlfriend or build a Wal-mart next to my mom and pop store, you are “harming” me, but it is your right. Only some types of harm count as rights violations that libertairnas oppose–namely, aggression. Which we already oppose.

    Actually the problem with a harm principle is it would be weird to oppose harm. Criminals for example can be harmed within reason in order to help or protect their victims. Oppression implies initiating some kind of harm, that the harm is systematic and that it’s related to the victim’s self-direction in some way that doesn’t necessarily involve violence. That’s something we can rationally take an opposition to and bother defining more carefully. I posted a link earlier that was pretty specific about what it defined as autonomy and how it could be violated.

    You’re correct that only certain things count as rights violations, the initiation of force, but since I don’t claim this is an issue of rights I don’t see that as relevant. Just because someone has the right to do something doesn’t mean we should endorse it or refrain from opposing it via non-violent means.

    I find this thickish project to be misguided and confused. In any event particularly leftist to argue that there are strong interrelationships between libertarian ideas and others.

    I find it well thought out and insightful. Now we have two assertions, I backed mine up with a couple of arguments though and I’d like to hear your thoughts on those. Granted we aren’t the only ones with ideas on what the rest of a libertarian morality (outside of rights) should look like but I don’t remember saying we were. I said our version makes more sense from a libertarian perspective.

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    • “Well it’s certainly closer to a leftist concern than a rightist one and I’m not convinced you could find many leftists who would agree they aren’t concerned about poor people, even if their solution is stupid. Again, it’s the difference between ends and means that’s important here. I don’t think I ever implied we should take their advice on the subject.”

      Libertarians already have welfare of the poor as an end, and have the proper means to boot.

      “An excessively broad and sweeping statement. Are you denying the possibility that any of them are genuine but just don’t understand the conclusions of what they advocate?”

      Some of them are genuine but just stupid or dishonest or ignorant. Yes.

      “‘True; and a principled libertarian ought to condemn the intermingling of the state and business. … As we do.’
      “Yes exactly, those of us who are principled are “left-er”, on this issue at least, than those who aren’t.”

      We just disagree on this. The left is not against the intermingling of state and the economy. We are.

      “But a term being vague is a reason to start defining it not to throw it away. Doesn’t assuming libertarianism should only concern the use of force kinda beg the question?”

      No, it’s a reasonable definition of what this political philosophy is.
      I agree we should not throw “oppression” away. It’s got its uses.
      “Oppression implies initiating some kind of harm, that the harm is systematic and that it’s related to the victim’s self-direction in some way that doesn’t necessarily involve violence. That’s something we can rationally take an opposition to and bother defining more carefully. I posted a link earlier that was pretty specific about what it defined as autonomy and how it could be violated.

      You’re correct that only certain things count as rights violations, the initiation of force, but since I don’t claim this is an issue of rights I don’t see that as relevant. Just because someone has the right to do something doesn’t mean we should endorse it or refrain from opposing it via non-violent means.”

      I agree. And as decent people, we ought to oppose “genuine” oppression. It’s just that I don’t agree that all the typical examples of oppression given by the left are really oppression. Employment, hierarchies, “bossism.” If you can make a coherent argument that a given behavior is immoral, because it is a type of real oppression, sure, I’d oppose it too. At least morally.

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  • Libertarians already have welfare of the poor as an end, and have the proper means to boot.

    Some do, some don’t. There’s nothing in the NAP saying we should worry about it which makes it external t0 what the “libertarian qua libertarian” would know. Obviously I agree the libertarians who “get it” are more correct than those on the mainstream left.

    We just disagree on this. The left is not against the intermingling of state and the economy. We are.

    They’re definitely selective about it but some very insightful work on government/business collusion has come from the Left. Gabriel Kolko for example, cited by Rothbard in the link you posted.

    I was referring to having they end of helping people out of poverty though.

    No, it’s a reasonable definition of what this political philosophy is.

    It is, though arguably an incomplete one.

    I agree. And as decent people, we ought to oppose “genuine” oppression. It’s just that I don’t agree that all the typical examples of oppression given by the left are really oppression. Employment, hierarchies, “bossism.”

    With employment and hierarchies it’s a little more complicated than either side of the debate wants to make it. On the one hand it’s just another mutually beneficial exchange but as the same time we should perhaps be vary of one group having too much decision over the actions of another. I think a much better example would be opposition to tradition for the sake of tradition. A culture that places little value on reflection will be more likely to succumb to some kind of intolerance and less likely to accept rational ethics (ie. libertarianism).

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