Thursday, September 10, 2009

Libertarians Without Borders (or Property Rights)

If libertarians and conservatives don’t always get along, and I think a libertarian alliance with modern liberals is unwise (because modern liberals obviously prefer things like socialized medicine to the market, whereas the market is the essence of libertarianism), then how about libertarians allying with the European left?

That seems even less plausible to me, but the Institute for Humane Studies — who I love — advertised the Paris Freedom Fest, starting today and lasting through Sunday, thusly:

You will engage in a friendly debate with libertarian comrades, who may not share free market principles, but otherwise fight the state’s intrusions in our daily lives with the same determination.

Did they have to say “comrades”?  I admit, though, that one of the groups running the Freedom Fest is the Manifesto Club, another fine outgrowth of the cabal of London post-Marxists who’ve given us genuinely anti-green, pro-technology, industry-friendly, anti-p.c. groups like the Institute of Ideas and Spiked, who I’ve met and admire.

I’m nonetheless left with the nagging fear that the Freedom Fest might prove to be a mere meeting of homonyms (much like a typical conversation between a classical liberal and modern liberal), since “libertarian” in Europe often means something akin to the term “libertarian socialist” that’s still used occasionally in the U.S. (usually in reference to nineteenth-century figures but occasionally to the still-living): essentially, left-anarchists who dislike the state as much as they dislike the market (and want spontaneous communes), in contrast to all the more-obvious statist socialists out there.

I don’t know if a twenty-first-century version of this coalition will work out any better than the nineteenth-century version did (with most people eventually siding with the market or the state and anarchism becoming a fairly fringe phenomenon) — but regardless, I hate to see “free market principles” made to sound like a dispensable element of libertarianism.  The food will probably be good over there, though.

1 comment:

Steve Davies said...

you need to look at the list of speakers – there isn’t a single person on it who fits the definition of European ‘left-libertarian’ that you describe. Quite the opposite in fact and hardly surprising given that Libertarian International and ISIL are two of the sponsoring organisations as well as Manifesto who you say you like. Also look at the programme – I can’t see anything on it that should concern you.