Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Left-Libertarianism and Liberal-tarianism’s Distinct Errors

In BleedingHeartLibertarians.com's symposium on "left-libertarianism," Steve Horwitz argues that some in that camp are guilty, ironically, of both (A) denouncing too many aspects of capitalism in order to please the left and (B) blaming too many of those aspects on government in order to prove their own (especially pure) libertarian credentials.

It's not very libertarian (and certainly not very bourgeois-friendly) to denounce most of society until utopia comes – as some of the more radical libertarians I know may sometimes be prone to do (and selective denunciation leads to weird, fashionable outcomes not so different than those that occur when some paleolibertarian types denounce, say, the biotech firm Monsanto but do so only by grasping for libertarian rationales that could as easily be used to condemn almost any firm in the current mixed economy and will likely be used to attack different targets if and when public paranoia over biotech passes).

I think the separate and more familiar group of "liberal-tarians" make a comparable mistake but not quite the same one, namely denouncing aspects of society the left doesn't like and declaring it a necessary part of libertarianism to make such denunciations – even without demonstrating that those things are caused by government (and not fully articulating why else we must denounce them, aside from highly contestable, mostly unspoken, left-liberal assumptions about what aspects of autonomy all good-hearted, enlightened people value or which aspects of non-violent, non-governmental social pressure all good-hearted, enlightened people condemn – without quite daring to take the bizarre position that people cannot exert any kind of even voluntary pressure, such as whining, on one another).

So the left-libertarians may blame too many things on government, and the liberal-tarians may simply be directing blame at too may things in general, without carefully tracing the causes of those things.  Yet the default social patterns of an unharassed bourgeoisie might well be the most utile patterns, long-term – to present a complex, more right-libertarian (and more widely-held) view in one short sentence.

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