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libertarianism | politics | Britannica.com

Libertarianism, political philosophy that takes individual liberty to be the primary political value. It may be understood as a form of liberalism, the political philosophy associated with the English philosophers John Locke and John Stuart Mill, the Scottish economist Adam Smith, and the American statesman Thomas Jefferson. Liberalism seeks to define and justify the legitimate powers of government in terms of certain natural or God-given individual rights. These rights include the rights to life, liberty, private property, freedom of speech and association, freedom of worship, government by consent, equality under the law, and moral autonomy (the pursuit of ones own conception of happiness, or the good life). The purpose of government, according to liberals, is to protect these and other individual rights, and in general liberals have contended that government power should be limited to that which is necessary to accomplish this task. Libertarians are classical liberals who strongly emphasize the individual right to liberty. They contend that the scope and powers of government should be constrained so as to allow each individual as much freedom of action as is consistent with a like freedom for everyone else. Thus, they believe that individuals should be free to behave and to dispose of their property as they see fit, provided that their actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

Liberalism and libertarianism have deep roots in Western thought. A central feature of the religious and intellectual traditions of ancient Israel and ancient Greece was the idea of a higher moral law that applied universally and that constrained the powers of even kings and governments. Christian theologians, including Tertullian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, stressed the moral worth of the individual and the division of the world into two realms, one of which was the province of God and thus beyond the power of the state to control.

Libertarianism also was influenced by debates within Scholasticism on slavery and private property. Scholastic thinkers such as Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolom de Las Casas developed the concept of self-mastery (dominium)later called self-propriety, property in ones person, or self-ownershipand showed how it could be the foundation of a system of individual rights (see below Libertarian philosophy). In response to the growth of royal absolutism in early modern Europe, early libertarians, particularly those in the Netherlands and England, defended, developed, and radicalized existing notions of the rule of law, representative assemblies, and the rights of the people. In the mid-16th century, for example, the merchants of Antwerp successfully resisted the attempt by the Holy Roman emperor Charles V to introduce the Inquisition in their city, maintaining that it would contravene their traditional privileges and ruin their prosperity (and hence diminish the emperors tax income). Through the Petition of Right (1628) the English Parliament opposed efforts by King Charles I to impose taxes and compel loans from private citizens, to imprison subjects without due process of law, and to require subjects to quarter the kings soldiers (see petition of right). The first well-developed statement of libertarianism, An Agreement of the People (1647), was produced by the radical republican Leveler movement during the English Civil Wars (164251). Presented to Parliament in 1649, it included the ideas of self-ownership, private property, legal equality, religious toleration, and limited, representative government.

In the late 17th century, liberalism was given a sophisticated philosophical foundation in Lockes theories of natural rights, including the right to private property and to government by consent. In the 18th century, Smiths studies of the economic effects of free markets greatly advanced the liberal theory of spontaneous order, according to which some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously, without central direction, from the independent activities of large numbers of individuals. The theory of spontaneous order is a central feature of libertarian social and economic thinking (see below Spontaneous order).

The American Revolution (177583) was a watershed for liberalism. In the Declaration of Independence (1776), Jefferson enunciated many liberal and libertarian ideas, including the belief in unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness and the belief in the right and duty of citizens to throw off such Government that violates these rights. Indeed, during and after the American Revolution, according to the American historian Bernard Bailyn, the major themes of eighteenth-century libertarianism were brought to realization in written constitutions, bills of rights, and limits on executive and legislative powers, especially the power to wage war. Such values have remained at the core of American political thought ever since.

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During the 19th century, governments based on traditional liberal principles emerged in England and the United States and to a smaller extent in continental Europe. The rise of liberalism resulted in rapid technological development and a general increase in living standards, though large segments of the population remained in poverty, especially in the slums of industrial cities.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many liberals began to worry that persistent inequalities of wealth and the tremendous pace of social change were undermining democracy and threatening other classical liberal values, such as the right to moral autonomy. Fearful of what they considered a new despotism of the wealthy, modern liberals advocated government regulation of markets and major industries, heavier taxation of the rich, the legalization of trade unions, and the introduction of various government-funded social services, such as mandatory accident insurance. Some have regarded the modern liberals embrace of increased government power as a repudiation of the classical liberal belief in limited government, but others have seen it as a reconsideration of the kinds of power required by government to protect the individual rights that liberals believe in.

The new liberalism was exemplified by the English philosophers L.T. Hobhouse and T.H. Green, who argued that democratic governments should aim to advance the general welfare by providing direct services and benefits to citizens. Meanwhile, however, classical liberals such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer insisted that the welfare of the poor and the middle classes would be best served by free markets and minimal government. In the 20th century, so-called welfare state liberalism, or social democracy, emerged as the dominant form of liberalism, and the term liberalism itself underwent a significant change in definition in English-speaking countries. Particularly after World War II, most self-described liberals no longer supported completely free markets and minimal government, though they continued to champion other individual rights, such as the right to freedom of speech. As liberalism became increasingly associated with government intervention in the economy and social-welfare programs, some classical liberals abandoned the old term and began to call themselves libertarians.

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In response to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Russia, Italy, and Germany in the first half of the 20th century, some economists and political philosophers rediscovered aspects of the classical liberal tradition that were most distinctly individualist. In his seminal essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (originally in German, 1920), the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises challenged the basic tenets of socialism, arguing that a complex economy requires private property and freedom of exchange in order to solve problems of social and economic coordination. Von Misess work led to extensive studies of the processes by which the uncoordinated activities of numerous individuals can spontaneously generate complex forms of social order in societies where individual rights are well-defined and legally secure.

Classical liberalism rests on a presumption of libertythat is, on the presumption that the exercise of liberty does not require justification but that all restraints on liberty do. Libertarians have attempted to define the proper extent of individual liberty in terms of the notion of property in ones person, or self-ownership, which entails that each individual is entitled to exclusive control of his choices, his actions, and his body. Because no individual has the right to control the peaceful activities of other self-owning individualse.g., their religious practices, their occupations, or their pastimesno such power can be properly delegated to government. Legitimate governments are therefore severely limited in their authority.

According to the principle that libertarians call the nonaggression axiom, all acts of aggression against the rights of otherswhether committed by individuals or by governmentsare unjust. Indeed, libertarians believe that the primary purpose of government is to protect citizens from the illegitimate use of force. Accordingly, governments may not use force against their own citizens unless doing so is necessary to prevent the illegitimate use of force by one individual or group against another. This prohibition entails that governments may not engage in censorship, military conscription, price controls, confiscation of property, or any other type of intervention that curtails the voluntary and peaceful exercise of an individuals rights.

A fundamental characteristic of libertarian thinking is a deep skepticism of government power. Libertarianism and liberalism both arose in the West, where the division of power between spiritual and temporal rulers had been greater than in most other parts of the world. In the Old Testament (I Samuel 8: 1718), the Jews asked for a king, and God warned them that such a king would take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day. This admonition reminded Europeans for centuries of the predatory nature of states. The passage was cited by many liberals, including Thomas Paine and Lord Acton, who famously wrote that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Libertarian skepticism was reinforced by events of the 20th century, when unrestrained government power led to world war, genocide, and massive human rights violations.

Libertarians embrace individualism insofar as they attach supreme value to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Although various theories regarding the origin and justification of individual rights have been proposede.g., that they are given to human beings by God, that they are implied by the very idea of a moral law, and that respecting them produces better consequencesall libertarians agree that individual rights are imprescriptiblei.e., that they are not granted (and thus cannot be legitimately taken away) by governments or by any other human agency. Another aspect of the individualism of libertarians is their belief that the individual, rather than the group or the state, is the basic unit in terms of which a legal order should be understood.

Libertarians hold that some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals. The notion of spontaneous order may seem counterintuitive: it is natural to assume that order exists only because it has been designed by someone (indeed, in the philosophy of religion, the apparent order of the natural universe was traditionally considered proof of the existence of an intelligent designeri.e., God). Libertarians, however, maintain that the most important aspects of human societysuch as language, law, customs, money, and marketsdevelop by themselves, without conscious direction.

An appreciation for spontaneous order can be found in the writings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (fl. 6th century bc), who urged rulers to do nothing because without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony. A social science of spontaneous order arose in the 18th century in the work of the French physiocrats and in the writings of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Both the physiocrats (the term physiocracy means the rule of nature) and Hume studied the natural order of economic and social life and concluded, contrary to the dominant theory of mercantilism, that the directing hand of the prince was not necessary to produce order and prosperity. Hume extended his analysis to the determination of interest rates and even to the emergence of the institutions of law and property. In A Treatise of Human Nature (173940), he argued that the rule concerning the stability of possession is a product of spontaneous ordering processes, because it arises gradually, and acquires force by a slow progression, and by our repeated experience of the inconveniences of transgressing it. He also compared the evolution of the institution of property to the evolution of languages and money.

Smith developed the concept of spontaneous order extensively in both The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). He made the idea central to his discussion of social cooperation, arguing that the division of labour did not arise from human wisdom but was the necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility: the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. In Common Sense (1776), Paine combined the theory of spontaneous order with a theory of justice based on natural rights, maintaining that the great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government.

According to libertarians, free markets are among the most important (but not the only) examples of spontaneous order. They argue that individuals need to produce and trade in order to survive and flourish and that free markets are essential to the creation of wealth. Libertarians also maintain that self-help, mutual aid, charity, and economic growth do more to alleviate poverty than government social-welfare programs. Finally, they contend that, if the libertarian tradition often seems to stress private property and free markets at the expense of other principles, that is largely because these institutions were under attack for much of the 20th century by modern liberals, social democrats, fascists, and adherents of other leftist, nationalist, or socialist ideologies.

Libertarians consider the rule of law to be a crucial underpinning of a free society. In its simplest form, this principle means that individuals should be governed by generally applicable and publicly known laws and not by the arbitrary decisions of kings, presidents, or bureaucrats. Such laws should protect the freedom of all individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways and should not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Although most libertarians believe that some form of government is essential for protecting liberty, they also maintain that government is an inherently dangerous institution whose power must be strictly circumscribed. Thus, libertarians advocate limiting and dividing government power through a written constitution and a system of checks and balances. Indeed, libertarians often claim that the greater freedom and prosperity of European society (in comparison with other parts of the world) in the early modern era was the result of the fragmentation of power, both between church and state and among the continents many different kingdoms, principalities, and city-states. Some American libertarians, such as Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard, have opposed all forms of government. Rothbard called his doctrine anarcho-capitalism to distinguish it from the views of anarchists who oppose private property. Even those who describe themselves as anarchist libertarians, however, believe in a system of law and law enforcement to protect individual rights.

Much political analysis deals with conflict and conflict resolution. Libertarians hold that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive individuals in a just society. Citing David Ricardos theory of comparative advantagewhich states that individuals in all countries benefit when each countrys citizens specialize in producing that which they can produce more efficiently than the citizens of other countrieslibertarians claim that, over time, all individuals prosper from the operation of a free market, and conflict is thus not a necessary or inevitable part of a social order. When governments begin to distribute rewards on the basis of political pressure, however, individuals and groups will engage in wasteful and even violent conflict to gain benefits at the expense of others. Thus, libertarians maintain that minimal government is a key to the minimization of social conflict.

In international affairs, libertarians emphasize the value of peace. That may seem unexceptional, since most (though not all) modern thinkers have claimed allegiance to peace as a value. Historically, however, many rulers have seen little benefit to peace and have embarked upon sometimes long and destructive wars. Libertarians contend that war is inherently calamitous, bringing widespread death and destruction, disrupting family and economic life, and placing more power in the hands of ruling classes. Defensive or retaliatory violence may be justified, but, according to libertarians, violence is not valuable in itself, nor does it produce any additional benefits beyond the defense of life and liberty.

Despite the historical growth in the scope and powers of government, particularly after World War II, in the early 21st century the political and economic systems of most Western countriesespecially the United Kingdom and the United Statescontinued to be based largely on classical liberal principles. Accordingly, libertarians in those countries tended to focus on smaller deviations from liberal principles, creating the perception among many that their views were radical or extreme. Explicitly libertarian political parties (such as the Libertarian Party in the United States and the Libertarianz Party in New Zealand), where they did exist, garnered little support, even among self-professed libertarians. Most politically active libertarians supported classical liberal parties (such as the Free Democratic Party in Germany or the Flemish Liberals and Democrats in Belgium) or conservative parties (such as the Republican Party in the United States or the Conservative Party in Great Britain); they also backed pressure groups advocating policies such as tax reduction, the privatization of education, and the decriminalization of drugs and other so-called victimless crimes. There were also small but vocal groups of libertarians in Scandinavia, Latin America, India, and China.

The publication in 1974 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a sophisticated defense of libertarian principles by the American philosopher Robert Nozick, marked the beginning of an intellectual revival of libertarianism. Libertarian ideas in economics became increasingly influential as libertarian economists were appointed to prominent advisory positions in conservative governments in the United Kingdom and the United States and as some libertarians, such as James M. Buchanan, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Vernon L. Smith, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. In 1982 the death of the libertarian novelist and social theorist Ayn Rand prompted a surge of popular interest in her work. Libertarian scholars, activists, and political leaders also played prominent roles in the worldwide campaign against apartheid and in the construction of democratic societies in eastern and central Europe following the collapse of communism there in 198991. In the early 21st century, libertarian ideas informed new research in diverse fields such as history, law, economic development, telecommunications, bioethics, globalization, and social theory.

A long-standing criticism of libertarianism is that it presupposes an unrealistic and undesirable conception of individual identity and of the conditions necessary for human flourishing. Opponents of libertarianism often refer to libertarian individualism as atomistic, arguing that it ignores the role of family, tribe, religious community, and state in forming individual identity and that such groups or institutions are the proper sources of legitimate authority. These critics contend that libertarian ideas of individuality are ahistorical, excessively abstract, and parasitic on unacknowledged forms of group identity and that libertarians ignore the obligations to community and government that accompany the benefits derived from these institutions. In the 19th century, Karl Marx decried liberal individualism, which he took to underlie civil (or bourgeois) society, as a decomposition of man that located mans essence no longer in community but in difference. More recently, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor maintained that the libertarian emphasis on the rights of the individual wrongly implies the self-sufficiency of man alone.

Libertarians deny that their views imply anything like atomistic individualism. The recognition and protection of individuality and difference, they contend, does not necessarily entail denying the existence of community or the benefits of living together. Rather, it merely requires that the bonds of community not be imposed on people by force and that individuals (adults, at least) be free to sever their attachments to others and to form new ones with those who choose to associate with them. Community, libertarians believe, is best served by freedom of association, an observation made by the 19th-century French historian of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville, among others. Thus, for libertarians the central philosophical issue is not individuality versus community but rather consent versus coercion.

Other critics, including some prominent conservatives, have insisted that libertarianism is an amoral philosophy of libertinism in which the law loses its character as a source of moral instruction. The American philosopher Russell Kirk, for example, argued that libertarians bear no authority, temporal or spiritual, and do not venerate ancient beliefs and customs, or the natural world, or [their] country, or the immortal spark in [their] fellow men. Libertarians respond that they do venerate the ancient traditions of liberty and justice. They favour restricting the function of the law to enforcing those traditions, not only because they believe that individuals should be permitted to take moral responsibility for their own choices but also because they believe that law becomes corrupted when it is used as a tool for making men moral. Furthermore, they argue, a degree of humility about the variety of human goals should not be confused with radical moral skepticism or ethical relativism.

Some criticisms of libertarianism concern the social and economic effects of free markets and the libertarian view that all forms of government intervention are unjustified. Critics have alleged, for example, that completely unregulated markets create poverty as well as wealth; that they create significant inequalities in the distribution of wealth and economic power, both within and between countries; that they encourage environmental pollution and the wasteful or destructive use of natural resources; that they are incapable of efficiently or fairly performing some necessary social services, such as health care, education, and policing; and that they tend toward monopoly, which increases inefficiency and compounds the problem of significant inequality of wealth. Libertarians have responded by questioning whether government regulation, which would replace one set of imperfect institutions (private businesses) with another (government agencies), would solve or only worsen these problems. In addition, several libertarian scholars have argued that some of these problems are not caused by free markets but rather result from the failures and inefficiencies of political and legal institutions. Thus, they argue that environmental pollution could be minimized in a free market if property rights were properly defined and secured.

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libertarianism | politics | Britannica.com

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Libertarian Party | Minimum Government. Maximum Freedom.

Libertarianism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What it means to be a “libertarian” in a political sense is a contentious issue, especially among libertarians themselves. There is no single theory that can be safely identified as the libertarian theory, and probably no single principle or set of principles on which all libertarians can agree. Nevertheless, there is a certain family resemblance among libertarian theories that can serve as a framework for analysis. Although there is much disagreement about the details, libertarians are generally united by a rough agreement on a cluster of normative principles, empirical generalizations, and policy recommendations. Libertarians are committed to the belief that individuals, and not states or groups of any other kind, are both ontologically and normatively primary; that individuals have rights against certain kinds of forcible interference on the part of others; that liberty, understood as non-interference, is the only thing that can be legitimately demanded of others as a matter of legal or political right; that robust property rights and the economic liberty that follows from their consistent recognition are of central importance in respecting individual liberty; that social order is not at odds with but develops out of individual liberty; that the only proper use of coercion is defensive or to rectify an error; that governments are bound by essentially the same moral principles as individuals; and that most existing and historical governments have acted improperly insofar as they have utilized coercion for plunder, aggression, redistribution, and other purposes beyond the protection of individual liberty.

In terms of political recommendations, libertarians believe that most, if not all, of the activities currently undertaken by states should be either abandoned or transferred into private hands. The most well-known version of this conclusion finds expression in the so-called “minimal state” theories of Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand, and others (Nozick 1974; Rand 1963a, 1963b) which hold that states may legitimately provide police, courts, and a military, but nothing more. Any further activity on the part of the stateregulating or prohibiting the sale or use of drugs, conscripting individuals for military service, providing taxpayer-funded support to the poor, or even building public roadsis itself rights-violating and hence illegitimate.

Libertarian advocates of a strictly minimal state are to be distinguished from two closely related groups, who favor a smaller or greater role for government, and who may or may not also label themselves “libertarian.” On one hand are so-called anarcho-capitalists who believe that even the minimal state is too large, and that a proper respect for individual rights requires the abolition of government altogether and the provision of protective services by private markets. On the other hand are those who generally identify themselves as classical liberals. Members of this group tend to share libertarians’ confidence in free markets and skepticism over government power, but are more willing to allow greater room for coercive activity on the part of the state so as to allow, say, state provision of public goods or even limited tax-funded welfare transfers.

As this article will use the term, libertarianism is a theory about the proper role of government that can be, and has been, supported on a number of different metaphysical, epistemological, and moral grounds. Some libertarians are theists who believe that the doctrine follows from a God-made natural law. Others are atheists who believe it can be supported on purely secular grounds. Some libertarians are rationalists who deduce libertarian conclusions from axiomatic first principles. Others derive their libertarianism from empirical generalizations or a reliance on evolved tradition. And when it comes to comprehensive moral theories, libertarians represent an almost exhaustive array of positions. Some are egoists who believe that individuals have no natural duties to aid their fellow human beings, while others adhere to moral doctrines that hold that the better-off have significant duties to improve the lot of the worse-off. Some libertarians are deontologists, while others are consequentialists, contractarians, or virtue-theorists. Understanding libertarianism as a narrow, limited thesis about the proper moral standing, and proper zone of activity, of the stateand not a comprehensive ethical or metaphysical doctrineis crucial to making sense of this otherwise baffling diversity of broader philosophic positions.

This article will focus primarily on libertarianism as a philosophic doctrine. This means that, rather than giving close scrutiny to the important empirical claims made both in support and criticism of libertarianism, it will focus instead on the metaphysical, epistemological, and especially moral claims made by the discussants. Those interested in discussions of the non-philosophical aspects of libertarianism can find some recommendations in the reference list below.

Furthermore, this article will focus almost exclusively on libertarian arguments regarding just two philosophical subjects: distributive justice and political authority. There is a danger that this narrow focus will be misleading, since it ignores a number of interesting and important arguments that libertarians have made on subjects ranging from free speech to self-defense, to the proper social treatment of the mentally ill. More generally, it ignores the ways in which libertarianism is a doctrine of social or civil liberty, and not just one of economic liberty. For a variety of reasons, however, the philosophic literature on libertarianism has mostly ignored these other aspects of the theory, and so this article, as a summary of that literature, will generally reflect that trend.

Probably the most well-known and influential version of libertarianism, at least among academic philosophers, is that based upon a theory of natural rights. Natural rights theories vary, but are united by a common belief that individuals have certain moral rights simply by virtue of their status as human beings, that these rights exist prior to and logically independent of the existence of government, and that these rights constrain the ways in which it is morally permissible for both other individuals and governments to treat individuals.

Although one can find some earlier traces of this doctrine among, for instance, the English Levellers or the Spanish School of Salamanca, John Locke’s political thought is generally recognized as the most important historical influence on contemporary natural rights versions of libertarianism. The most important elements of Locke’s theory in this respect, set out in his Second Treatise, are his beliefs about the law of nature, and his doctrine of property rights in external goods.

Locke’s idea of the law of nature draws on a distinction between law and government that has been profoundly influential on the development of libertarian thought. According to Locke, even if no government existed over men, the state of nature would nevertheless not be a state of “license.” In other words, men would still be governed by law, albeit one that does not originate from any political source (c.f. Hayek 1973, ch. 4). This law, which Locke calls the “law of nature” holds that “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, or possessions” (Locke 1952, para. 6). This law of nature serves as a normative standard to govern human conduct, rather than as a description of behavioral regularities in the world (as are other laws of nature like, for instance, the law of gravity). Nevertheless, it is a normative standard that Locke believes is discoverable by human reason, and that binds us all equally as rational agents.

Locke’s belief in a prohibition on harming others stems from his more basic belief that each individual “has a property in his own person” (Locke 1952, para. 27). In other words, individuals are self-owners. Throughout this essay we will refer to this principle, which has been enormously influential on later libertarians, as the “self-ownership principle.” Though controversial, it has generally been taken to mean that each individual possesses over her own body all those rights of exclusive use that we normally associate with property in external goods. But if this were all that individuals owned, their liberties and ability to sustain themselves would obviously be extremely limited. For almost anything we want to doeating, walking, even breathing, or speaking in order to ask another’s permissioninvolves the use of external goods such as land, trees, or air. From this, Locke concludes, we must have some way of acquiring property in those external goods, else they will be of no use to anyone. But since we own ourselves, Locke argues, we therefore also own our labor. And by “mixing” our labor with external goods, we can come to own those external goods too. This allows individuals to make private use of the world that God has given to them in common. There is a limit, however, to this ability to appropriate external goods for private use, which Locke captures in his famous “proviso” that holds that a legitimate act of appropriation must leave “enough, and as good… in common for others” (Locke 1952, para. 27). Still, even with this limit, the combination of time, inheritance, and differential abilities, motivation, and luck will lead to possibly substantial inequalities in wealth between persons, and Locke acknowledges this as an acceptable consequence of his doctrine (Locke 1952, para. 50).

By far the single most important influence on the perception of libertarianism among contemporary academic philosophers was Robert Nozick in his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). This book is an explanation and exploration of libertarian rights that attempts to show how a minimal, and no more than a minimal, state can arise via an “invisible hand” process out of a state of nature without violating the rights of individuals; to challenge the highly influential claims of John Rawls that purport to show that a more-than-minimal state was justified and required to achieve distributive justice; and to show that a regime of libertarian rights could establish a “framework for utopia” wherein different individuals would be free to seek out and create mediating institutions to help them achieve their own distinctive visions of the good life.

The details of Nozick’s arguments can be found at Robert Nozick. Here, we will just briefly point out a few elements of particular importance in understanding Nozick’s place in contemporary libertarian thoughthis focus on the “negative” aspects of liberty and rights, his Kantian defense of rights, his historical theory of entitlement, and his acceptance of a modified Lockean proviso on property acquisition. A discussion of his argument for the minimal state can be found in the section on anarcho-capitalism below.

First, Nozick, like almost all natural rights libertarians, stresses negative liberties and rights above positive liberties and rights. The distinction between positive and negative liberty, made famous by Isaiah Berlin (Berlin 1990), is often thought of as a distinction between “freedom to” and “freedom from.” One has positive liberty when one has the opportunity and ability to do what one wishes (or, perhaps, what one “rationally” wishes or “ought” to wish). One has negative liberty, on the other hand, when there is an absence of external interferences to one’s doing what one wishesspecifically, when there is an absence of external interferences by other people. A person who is too sick to gather food has his negative liberty intactno one is stopping him from gathering foodbut not his positive liberty as he is unable to gather food even though he wants to do so. Nozick and most libertarians see the proper role of the state as protecting negative liberty, not as promoting positive liberty, and so toward this end Nozick focuses on negative rights as opposed to positive rights. Negative rights are claims against others to refrain from certain kinds of actions against you. Positive rights are claims against others to perform some sort of positive action. Rights against assault, for instance, are negative rights, since they simply require others not to assault you. Welfare rights, on the other hand, are positive rights insofar as they require others to provide you with money or services. By enforcing negative rights, the state protects our negative liberty. It is an empirical question whether enforcing merely negative rights or, as more left-liberal philosophers would promote, enforcing a mix of both negative and positive rights would better promote positive liberty.

Second, while Nozick agrees with the broadly Lockean picture of the content and government-independence of natural law and natural rights, his remarks in defense of those rights draw their inspiration more from Immanuel Kant than from Locke. Nozick does not provide a full-blown argument to justify libertarian rights against other non-libertarian rights theoriesa point for which he has been widely criticized, most famously by Thomas Nagel (Nagel 1975). But what he does say in their defense suggests that he sees libertarian rights as an entailment of the other-regarding element in Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperativethat we treat the humanity in ourselves and others as an end in itself, and never merely as a means. According to Nozick, both utilitarianism and theories that uphold positive rights sanction the involuntary sacrifice of one individual’s interests for the sake of others. Only libertarian rights, which for Nozick take the form of absolute side-constraints against force and fraud, show proper respect for the separateness of persons by barring such sacrifice altogether, and allowing each individual the liberty to pursue his or her own goals without interference.

Third, it is important to note that Nozick’s libertarianism evaluates the justice of states of affairs, such as distributions of property, in terms of the history or process by which that state of affairs arose, and not by the extent to which it satisfies what he calls a patterned or end-state principle of justice. Distributions of property are just, according to Nozick, if they arose from previously just distributions by just procedures. Discerning the justice of current distributions thus requires that we establish a theory of justice in transferto tell us which procedures constitute legitimate means of transferring ownership between personsand a theory of justice in acquisitionto tell us how individuals might come to own external goods that were previously owned by no one. And while Nozick does not fully develop either of these theories, his skeletal position is nevertheless significant, for it implies that it is only the proper historical pedigree that makes a distribution just, and it is only deviations from the proper pedigree that renders a distribution unjust. An implication of this position is that one cannot discern from time-slice statistical data alonesuch as the claim that the top fifth of the income distribution in the United States controls more than 80 percent of the nation’s wealththat a distribution is unjust. Rather, the justice of a distribution depends on how it came aboutby force or by trade? By differing degrees of hard work and luck? Or by fraud and theft? Libertarianism’s historical focus thus sets the doctrine against both outcome-egalitarian views that hold that only equal distributions are just, utilitarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they maximize utility, and prioritarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they benefit the worse-off. Justice in distribution is a matter of respecting people’s rights, not of achieving a certain outcome.

The final distinctive element of Nozick’s view is his acceptance of a modified version of the Lockean proviso as part of his theory of justice in acquisition. Nozick reads Locke’s claim that legitimate acts of appropriation must leave enough and as good for others as a claim that such appropriations must not worsen the situation of others (Nozick 1974, 175, 178). On the face of it, this seems like a small change from Locke’s original statement, but Nozick believes it allows for much greater freedom for free exchange and capitalism (Nozick 1974, 182). Nozick reaches this conclusion on the basis of certain empirical beliefs about the beneficial effects of private property:

it increases the social product by putting means of production in the hands of those who can use them most efficiently (profitably); experimentation is encouraged, because with separate persons controlling resources, there is no one person or small group whom someone with a new idea must convince to try it out; private property enables people to decide on the pattern and type of risks they wish to bear, leading to specialized types of risk bearing; private property protects future persons by leading some to hold back resources from current consumption for future markets; it provides alternative sources of employment for unpopular persons who don’t have to convince any one person or small group to hire them, and so on. (Nozick 1974, 177)

If these assumptions are correct, then persons might not be made worse off by acts of original appropriation even if those acts fail to leave enough and as good for others to appropriate. Private property and the capitalist markets to which it gives rise generate an abundance of wealth, and latecomers to the appropriation game (like people today) are in a much better position as a result. As David Schmidtz puts the point:

Original appropriation diminishes the stock of what can be originally appropriated, at least in the case of land, but that is not the same thing as diminishing the stock of what can be owned. On the contrary, in taking control of resources and thereby removing those particular resources from the stock of goods that can be acquired by original appropriation, people typically generate massive increases in the stock of goods that can be acquired by trade. The lesson is that appropriation is typically not a zero-sum game. It normally is a positive-sum game. (Schmidtz and Goodin 1998, 30)

Relative to their level of well-being in a world where nothing is privately held, then, individuals are generally not made worse off by acts of private appropriation. Thus, Nozick concludes, the Lockean proviso will “not provide a significant opportunity for future state action” in the form of redistribution or regulation of private property (Nozick 1974, 182).

Nozick’s libertarian theory has been subject to criticism on a number of grounds. Here we will focus on two primary categories of criticism of Lockean/Nozickian natural rights libertarianismnamely, with respect to the principle of self-ownership and the derivation of private property rights from self-ownership.

Criticisms of the self-ownership principle generally take one of two forms. Some arguments attempt to sever the connection between the principle of self-ownership and the more fundamental moral principles that are thought to justify it. Nozick’s suggestion that self-ownership is warranted by the Kantian principle that no one should be treated as a mere means, for instance, is criticized by G.A. Cohen on the grounds that policies that violate self-ownership by forcing the well-off to support the less advantaged do not necessarily treat the well-off merely as means (Cohen 1995, 239241). We can satisfy Kant’s imperative against treating others as mere means without thereby committing ourselves to full self-ownership, Cohen argues, and we have good reason to do so insofar as the principle of self-ownership has other, implausible, consequences. The same general pattern of argument holds against more intuitive defenses of the self-ownership principle. Nozick’s concern (Nozick 1977, 206), elaborated by Cohen (Cohen 1995, 70), that theories that deny self-ownership might license the forcible transfer of eyes from the sight-endowed to the blind, for instance, or Murray Rothbard’s claim that the only alternatives to self-ownership are slavery or communism (Rothbard 1973, 29), have been met with the response that a denial of the permissibility of slavery, communism, and eye-transplants can be madeand usually better madeon grounds other than self-ownership.

Other criticisms of self-ownership focus on the counterintuitive or otherwise objectionable implications of self-ownership. Cohen, for instance, argues that recognizing rights to full self-ownership allows individuals’ lives to be objectionably governed by brute luck in the distribution of natural assets, since the self that people own is largely a product of their luck in receiving a good or bad genetic endowment, and being raised in a good or bad environment (Cohen 1995, 229). Richard Arneson, on the other hand, has argued that self-ownership conflicts with Pareto-Optimality (Arneson 1991). His concern is that since self-ownership is construed by libertarians as an absolute right, it follows that it cannot be violated even in small ways and even when great benefit would accrue from doing so. Thus, to modify David Hume, absolute rights of self-ownership seem to prevent us from scratching the finger of another even to prevent the destruction of the whole world. And although the real objection here seems to be to the absoluteness of self-ownership rights, rather than to self-ownership rights as such, it remains unclear whether strict libertarianism can be preserved if rights of self-ownership are given a less than absolute status.

Even if individuals have absolute rights to full self-ownership, it can still be questioned whether there is a legitimate way of moving from ownership of the self to ownership of external goods.

Left-libertarians, such as Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, and Michael Otsuka, grant the self-ownership principle but deny that it can yield full private property rights in external goods, especially land (Steiner 1994; Vallentyne 2000; Otsuka 2003). Natural resources, such theorists hold, belong to everyone in some equal way, and private appropriation of them amounts to theft. Rather than returning all such goods to the state of nature, however, most left-libertarians suggest that those who claim ownership of such resources be subjected to a tax to compensate others for the loss of their rights of use. Since the tax is on the value of the external resource and not on individuals’ natural talents or efforts, it is thought that this line of argument can provide a justification for a kind of egalitarian redistribution that is compatible with full individual self-ownership.

While left-libertarians doubt that self-ownership can yield full private property rights in external goods, others are doubtful that the concept is determinate enough to yield any theory of justified property ownership at all. Locke’s metaphor on labor mixing, for instance, is intuitively appealing, but notoriously difficult to work out in detail (Waldron 1983). First, it is not clear why mixing one’s labor with something generates any rights at all. As Nozick himself asks, “why isn’t mixing what I own with what I don’t own a way of losing what I own rather than a way of gaining what I don’t?” (Nozick 1974, 174175). Second, it is not clear what the scope of the rights generated by labor-mixing are. Again, Nozick playfully suggests (but does not answer) this question when he asks whether a person who builds a fence around virgin land thereby comes to own the enclosed land, or simply the fence, or just the land immediately under it. But the point is more worrisome than Nozick acknowledges. For as critics such as Barbara Fried have pointed out, following Hohfeld, property ownership is not a single right but a bundle of rights, and it is far from clear which “sticks” from this bundle individuals should come to control by virtue of their self-ownership (Fried 2004). Does one’s ownership right over a plot of land entail the right to store radioactive waste on it? To dam the river that runs through it? To shine a very bright light from it in the middle of the night (Friedman 1989, 168)? Problems such as these must, of course, be resolved by any political theorynot just libertarians. The problem is that the concept of self-ownership seems to offer little, if any, help in doing so.

While Nozickian libertarianism finds its inspiration in Locke and Kant, there is another species of libertarianism that draws its influence from David Hume, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. This variety of libertarianism holds its political principles to be grounded not in self-ownership or the natural rights of humanity, but in the beneficial consequences that libertarian rights and institutions produce, relative to possible and realistic alternatives. To the extent that such theorists hold that consequences, and only consequences, are relevant in the justification of libertarianism, they can properly be labeled a form of consequentialism. Some of these consequentialist forms of libertarianism are utilitarian. But consequentialism is not identical to utilitarianism, and this section will explore both traditional quantitative utilitarian defenses of libertarianism, and other forms more difficult to classify.

Philosophically, the approach that seeks to justify political institutions by demonstrating their tendency to maximize utility has its clearest origins in the thought of Jeremy Bentham, himself a legal reformer as well as moral theorist. But, while Bentham was no advocate of unfettered laissez-faire, his approach has been enormously influential among economists, especially the Austrian and Chicago Schools of Economics, many of whom have utilized utilitarian analysis in support of libertarian political conclusions. Some influential economists have been self-consciously libertarianthe most notable of which being Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan, and Milton Friedman (the latter three are Nobel laureates). Richard Epstein, more legal theorist than economist, nevertheless utilizes utilitarian argument with an economic analysis of law to defend his version of classical liberalism. His work in Principles for a Free Society (1998) and Skepticism and Freedom (2003) is probably the most philosophical of contemporary utilitarian defenses of libertarianism. Buchanan’s work is generally described as contractarian, though it certainly draws heavily on utilitarian analysis. It too is highly philosophical.

Utilitarian defenses of libertarianism generally consist of two prongs: utilitarian arguments in support of private property and free exchange and utilitarian arguments against government policies that exceed the bounds of the minimal state. Utilitarian defenses of private property and free exchange are too diverse to thoroughly canvass in a single article. For the purposes of this article, however, the focus will be on two main arguments that have been especially influential: the so-called “Tragedy of the Commons” argument for private property and the “Invisible Hand” argument for free exchange.

The Tragedy of the Commons argument notes that under certain conditions when property is commonly owned or, equivalently, owned by no one, it will be inefficiently used and quickly depleted. In his original description of the problem of the commons, Garrett Hardin asks us to imagine a pasture open to all, on which various herders graze their cattle (Hardin 1968). Each additional animal that the herder is able to graze means greater profit for the herder, who captures that entire benefit for his or her self. Of course, additional cattle on the pasture has a cost as well in terms of crowding and diminished carrying capacity of the land, but importantly this cost of additional grazing, unlike the benefit, is dispersed among all herders. Since each herder thus receives the full benefit of each additional animal but bears only a fraction of the dispersed cost, it benefits him or her to graze more and more animals on the land. But since this same logic applies equally well to all herders, we can expect them all to act this way, with the result that the carrying capacity of the field will quickly be exceeded.

The tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons is especially apparent if we model it as a Prisoner’s Dilemma, wherein each party has the option to graze additional animals or not to graze. (See figure 1, below, where A and B represent two herders, “graze” and “don’t graze” their possible options, and the four possible outcomes of their joint action. Within the boxes, the numbers represent the utility each herder receives from the outcome, with A’s outcome listed on the left and B’s on the right). As the discussion above suggests, the best outcome for each individual herder is to graze an additional animal, but for the other herder not tohere the herder reaps all the benefit and only a fraction of the cost. The worst outcome for each individual herder, conversely, is to refrain from grazing an additional animal while the other herder indulgesin this situation, the herder bears costs but receives no benefit. The relationship between the other two possible outcomes is important. Both herders would be better off if neither grazed an additional animal, compared to the outcome in which both do graze an additional animal. The long-term benefits of operating within the carrying capacity of the land, we can assume, outweigh the short-term gains to be had from mutual overgrazing. By the logic of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, however, rational self-interested herders will not choose mutual restraint over mutual exploitation of the resource. This is because, so long as the costs of over-grazing are partially externalized on to other users of the resource, it is in each herder’s interest to overgraze regardless of what the other party does. In the language of game theory, overgrazing dominates restraint. As a result, not only is the resource consumed, but both parties are made worse off individually than they could have been. Mutual overgrazing creates a situation that not only yields a lower total utility than mutual restraint (2 vs. 6), but that is Pareto-inferior to mutual restraintat least one party (indeed, both!) would have been made better off by mutual restraint without anyone having been made worse off.

B

Don’t Graze

Graze

A

Don’t Graze

3, 3

0, 5

Graze

5, 0

1, 1

Figure 1. The Tragedy of the Commons as Prisoner’s Dilemma

The classic solution to the Tragedy of the Commons is private property. Recall that the tragedy arises because individual herders do not have to bear the full costs of their actions. Because the land is common to all, the costs of overgrazing are partially externalized on to other users of the resource. But private property changes this. If, instead of being commonly owned by all, the field was instead divided into smaller pieces of private property, then herders would have the power to exclude others from using their own property. One would only be able to graze cattle on one’s own field, or on others’ fields on terms specified by their owners, and this means that the costs of that overgrazing (in terms of diminished usability of the land or diminished resale value because of that diminished usability) would be borne by the overgrazer alone. Private property forces individuals to internalize the cost of their actions, and this in turn provides individuals with an incentive to use the resource wisely.

The lesson is that by creating and respecting private property rights in external resources, governments can provide individuals with an incentive to use those resources in an efficient way, without the need for complicated government regulation and oversight of those resources. Libertarians have used this basic insight to argue for everything from privatization of roads (Klein and Fielding 1992) to private property as a solution to various environmental problems (Anderson and Leal 1991).

Libertarians believe that individuals and groups should be free to trade just about anything they wish with whomever they wish, with little to no governmental restriction. They therefore oppose laws that prohibit certain types of exchanges (such as prohibitions on prostitution and sale of illegal drugs, minimum wage laws that effectively prohibit low-wage labor agreements, and so on) as well as laws that burden exchanges by imposing high transaction costs (such as import tariffs).

The reason utilitarian libertarians support free exchange is that, they argue, it tends to allocate resources into the hands of those who value them most, and in so doing to increase the total amount of utility in society. The first step in seeing this is to understand that even if trade is a zero-sum game in terms of the objects that are traded (nothing is created or destroyed, just moved about), it is a positive-sum game in terms of utility. This is because individuals differ in terms of the subjective utility they assign to goods. A person planning to move from Chicago to San Diego might assign a relatively low utility value to her large, heavy furniture. It’s difficult and costly to move, and might not match the style of the new home anyway. But to someone else who has just moved into an empty apartment in Chicago, that furniture might have a very high utility value indeed. If the first person values the furniture at $200 (or its equivalent in terms of utility) and the second person values it at $500, both will gain if they exchange for a price anywhere between those two values. Each will have given up something they value less in exchange for something they value more, and net utility will have increased as a result.

As Friedrich Hayek has noted, much of the information about the relative utility values assigned to different goods is transmitted to different actors in the market via the price system (Hayek 1980). An increase in a resource’s price signals that demand for that resource has increased relative to supply. Consumers can respond to this price increase by continuing to use the resource at the now-higher price, switching to a substitute good, or discontinuing use of that sort of resource altogether. Each individual’s decision is both affected by the price of the relevant resources, and affects the price insofar as it adds to or subtracts from aggregate supply and demand. Thus, though they generally do not know it, each person’s decision is a response to the decisions of millions of other consumers and producers of the resource, each of whom bases her decision on her own specialized, local knowledge about that resource. And although all they are trying to do is maximize their own utility, each individual will be led to act in a way that leads the resource toward its highest-valued use. Those who derive the most utility from the good will outbid others for its use, and others will be led to look for cheaper substitutes.

On this account, one deeply influenced by the Austrian School of Economics, the market is a constantly churning process of competition, discovery, and innovation. Market prices represent aggregates of information and so generally represent an advance over what any one individual could hope to know on his own, but the individual decisions out of which market prices arise are themselves based on imperfect information. There are always opportunities that nobody has discovered, and the passage of time, the changing of people’s preferences, and the development of new technological possibilities ensures that this ignorance will never be fully overcome. The market is thus never in a state of competitive equilibrium, and it will always “fail” by the test of perfect efficiency. But it is precisely today’s market failures that provide the opportunities for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs to profit by new innovation (Kirzner 1996). Competition is a process, not a goal to be reached, and it is a process driven by the particular decisions of individuals who are mostly unaware of the overall and long-term tendencies of their decisions taken as a whole. Even if no market actor cares about increasing the aggregate level of utility in society, he will be, as Adam Smith wrote, “led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention” (Smith 1981). The dispersed knowledge of millions of market actors will be taken into account in producing a distribution that comes as close as practically possible to that which would be selected by a benign, omniscient, and omnipotent despot. In reality, however, all that government is required to do in order to achieve this effect is to define and enforce clear property rights and to allow the price system to freely adjust in response to changing conditions.

The above two arguments, if successful, demonstrate that free markets and private property generate good utilitarian outcomes. But even if this is true, it remains possible that selective government intervention in the economy could produce outcomes that are even better. Governments might use taxation and coercion for the provision of public goods, or to prevent other sorts of market failures like monopolies. Or governments might engage in redistributive taxation on the grounds that given the diminishing marginal utility of wealth, doing so will provide higher levels of overall utility. In order to maintain their opposition to government intervention, then, libertarians must produce arguments to show that such policies will not produce greater utility than a policy of laissez-faire. Producing such arguments is something of a cottage industry among libertarian economists, and so we cannot hope to provide a complete summary here. Two main categories of argument, however, have been especially influential. We can call them incentive-based arguments and public choice arguments.

Incentive arguments proceed by claiming that government policies designed to promote utility actually produce incentives for individuals to act in ways that run contrary to promotion of utility. Examples of incentive arguments include arguments that (a) government-provided (welfare) benefits dissuade individuals from taking responsibility for their own economic well-being (Murray 1984), (b) mandatory minimum wage laws generate unemployment among low-skilled workers (Friedman 1962, 180181), (c) legal prohibition of drugs create a black market with inflated prices, low quality control, and violence (Thornton 1991), and (d) higher taxes lead people to work and/or invest less, and hence lead to lower economic growth.

Public choice arguments, on the other hand, are often employed by libertarians to undermine the assumption that government will use its powers to promote the public interest in the way its proponents claim it will. Public choice as a field is based on the assumption that the model of rational self-interest typically employed by economists to predict the behavior of market agents can also be used to predict the behavior of government agents. Rather than trying to maximize profit, however, government agents are thought to be aiming at re-election (in the case of elected officials) or maintenance or expansion of budget and influence (in the case of bureaucrats). From this basic analytical model, public choice theorists have argued that (a) the fact that the costs of many policies are widely dispersed among taxpayers, while their benefits are often concentrated in the hands of a few beneficiaries, means that even grossly inefficient policies will be enacted and, once enacted, very difficult to remove, (b) politicians and bureaucrats will engage in “rent-seeking” behavior by exploiting the powers of their office for personal gain rather than public good, and (c) certain public goods will be over-supplied by political processes, while others will be under-supplied, since government agents lack both knowledge and incentives necessary to provide such goods at efficient levels (Mitchell and Simmons 1994). These problems are held to be endemic to political processes, and not easily subject to legislative or constitutional correction. Hence, many conclude that the only way to minimize the problems of political power is to minimize the scope of political power itself by subjecting as few areas of life as possible to political regulation.

The quantitative utilitarians are often both rationalist and radical in their approach to social reform. For them, the maximization of utility serves as an axiomatic first principle, from which policy conclusions can be straightforwardly deduced once empirical (or quasi-empirical) assessments of causal relationships in the world have been made. From Jeremy Bentham to Peter Singer, quantitative utilitarians have advocated dramatic changes in social institutions, all justified in the name of reason and the morality it gives rise to.

There is, however, another strain of consequentialism that is less confident in the ability of human reason to radically reform social institutions for the better. For these consequentialists, social institutions are the product of an evolutionary process that itself is the product of the decisions of millions of discrete individuals. Each of these individuals in turn possess knowledge that, though by itself is insignificant, in the aggregate represents more than any single social reformer could ever hope to match. Humility, not radicalism, is counseled by this variety of consequentialism.

Though it has its affinities with conservative doctrines such as those of Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, and Russell Kirk, this strain of consequentialism had its greatest influence on libertarianism through the work of Friedrich Hayek. Hayek, however, takes pains to distance himself from conservative ideology, noting that his respect for tradition is not grounded in a fetish for the status quo or an opposition to change as such, but in deeper, distinctively liberal principles (Hayek 1960). For Hayek, tradition is valuable because, and only to the extent that, it evolves in a peaceful, decentralized way. Social norms that are chosen by free individuals and survive competition from competing norms without being maintained by coercion are, for that reason, worthy of respect even if we are not consciously aware of all the reasons that the institution has survived. Somewhat paradoxically then, Hayek believes that we can rationally support institutions even when we lack substantive justifying reasons for supporting them. The reason this can be rational is that even when we lack substantive justifying reasons, we nevertheless have justifying reasons in a procedural sensethe fact that the institution is the result of an evolutionary procedure of a certain sort gives us reason to believe that there are substantive justifying reasons for it, even if we do not know what they are (Gaus 2006).

For Hayek, the procedures that lend justifying force to institutions are, essentially, ones that leave individuals free to act as they wish so long as they do not act aggressively toward others. For Hayek, however, this principle is not a moral axiom but rather follows from his beliefs regarding the limits and uses of knowledge in society. A crucial piece of Hayek’s arguments regarding the price system, (see above) is his claim that each individual possesses a unique set of knowledge about his or her local circumstances, special interests, desires, abilities, and so forth. The price system, if allowed to function freely without artificial floors or ceilings, will reflect this knowledge and transmit it to other interested individuals, thus allowing society to make effective use of dispersed knowledge. But Hayek’s defense of the price system is only one application of a more general point. The fact that knowledge of all sorts exists in dispersed form among many individuals is a fundamental fact about human existence. And since this knowledge is constantly changing in response to changing circumstances and cannot therefore be collected and acted upon by any central authority, the only way to make use of this knowledge effectively is to allow individuals the freedom to act on it themselves. This means that government must disallow individuals from coercing one another, and also must refrain from coercing them themselves. The social order that such voluntary actions produce is one that, given the complexity of social and economic systems and radical limitations on our ability to acquire knowledge about its particular details (Gaus 2007), cannot be imposed by fiat, but must evolve spontaneously in a bottom-up manner. Hayek, like Mill before him (Mill 1989), thus celebrates the fact that a free society allows individuals to engage in “experiments in living” and therefore, as Nozick argued in the neglected third part of his Anarchy, State, and Utopia, can serve as a “utopia of utopias” where individuals are at liberty to organize their own conception of the good life with others who voluntarily choose to share their vision (Hayek 1960).

Hayek’s ideas about the relationship between knowledge, freedom, and a constitutional order were first developed at length in The Constitution of Liberty, later developed in his series Law, Legislation and Liberty, and given their last, and most accessible (though not necessarily most reliable (Caldwell 2005)) statement in The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988). Since then, the most extensive integration of these ideas into a libertarian framework is in Randy Barnett’s The Structure of Liberty, wherein Barnett argues that a “polycentric constitutional order” (see below regarding anarcho-capitalism) is best suited to solve not only the Hayekian problem of the use of knowledge in society, but also what he calls the problems of “interest” and “power” (Barnett 1998). More recently, Hayekian insights have been put to use by contemporary philosophers Chandran Kukathas (1989; 2006) and Gerald Gaus (2006; 2007).

Consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are, of course, varieties of consequentialist moral argument, and are susceptible therefore to the same kinds of criticisms leveled against consequentialist moral arguments in general. Beyond these standard criticisms, moreover, consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are subject to four special difficulties.

First, consequentialist arguments seem unlikely to lead one to full-fledged libertarianism, as opposed to more moderate forms of classical liberalism. Intuitively, it seems implausible that simple protection of individual negative liberties would do a better job than any alternative institutional arrangement at maximizing utility or peace and prosperity or whatever. And this intuitive doubt is buttressed by economic analyses showing that unregulated capitalist markets suffer from production of negative externalities, from monopoly power, and from undersupply of certain public goods, all of which cry out for some form of government protection (Buchanan 1985). Even granting libertarian claims that (a) these problems are vastly overstated, (b) often caused by previous failures of government to adequately respect or enforce private property rights, and (c) government ability to correct these is not as great as one might think, it’s nevertheless implausible to suppose, a priori, that it will never be the case that government can do a better job than the market by interfering with strict libertarian rights.

Second, consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are subject to objections when a great deal of benefit can be had at a very low cost. So-called cases of “easy rescue,” for instance, challenge the wisdom of adhering to absolute prohibitions on coercive conduct. After all, if the majority of the world’s population lives in dire poverty and suffer from easily preventable diseases and deaths, couldn’t utility be increased by increasing taxes slightly on wealthy Americans and using that surplus to provide basic medical aid to those in desperate need? The prevalence of such cases is an empirical question, but their possibility points (at least) to a “fragility” in the consequentialist case for libertarian prohibitions on redistributive taxation.

Third, the consequentialist theories at the root of these libertarian arguments are often seriously under-theorized. For instance, Randy Barnett bases his defense of libertarian natural rights on the claim that they promote the end of “happiness, peace and prosperity” (Barnett 1998). But this leaves a host of difficult questions unaddressed. The meaning of each of these terms, for instance, has been subject to intense philosophical debate. Which sense of happiness, then, does libertarianism promote? What happens when these ends conflictwhen we have to choose, say, between peace and prosperity? And in what sense do libertarian rights “promote” these ends? Are they supposed to maximize happiness in the aggregate? Or to maximize each person’s happiness? Or to maximize the weighted sum of happiness, peace, and prosperity? Richard Epstein is on more familiar and hence, perhaps, firmer ground when he says that his version of classical liberalism is meant to maximize utility, but even here the claim that utility maximization is the proper end of political action is asserted without argument. The lesson is that while consequentialist political arguments might seem less abstract and philosophical (in the pejorative sense) than deontological arguments, consequentialism is still, nevertheless, a moral theory, and needs to be clearly articulated and defended as any other moral theory. Possibly because consequentialist defenses of libertarianism have been put forward mainly by non-philosophers, this challenge has yet to be met.

A fourth and related point has to do with issues surrounding the distribution of wealth, happiness, opportunities, and other goods allegedly promoted by libertarian rights. In part, this is a worry common to all maximizing versions of consequentialism, but it is of special relevance in this context given the close relation between economic systems and distributional issues. The worry is that morality, or justice, requires more than simply producing an abundance of wealth, happiness, or whatever. It requires that each person gets a fair sharewhether that is defined as an equal share, a share sufficient for living a good life, or something else. Intuitively fair distributions are simply not something that libertarian institutions can guarantee, devoid as they are of any means for redistributing these goods from the well-off to the less well-off. Furthermore, once it is granted that libertarianism is likely to produce unequal distributions of wealth, the Hayekian argument for relying on the free price system to allocate goods no longer holds as strongly as it appeared to. For we cannot simply assume that a free price system will lead to goods being allocated to their most valued use if some people have an abundance of wealth and others very little at all. A free market of self-interested persons will not distribute bread to the starving man, no matter how much utility he would derive from it, if he cannot pay for it. And a wealthy person, such as Bill Gates, will still always be able to outbid a poor person for season tickets to the Mariners, even if the poor person values the tickets much more highly than he, since the marginal value of the dollars he spends on the tickets is much lower to him than the marginal value of the poor person’s dollars. Both by an external standard of fairness and by an internal standard of utility-maximization, then, unregulated free markets seem to fall short.

Anarcho-capitalists claim that no state is morally justified (hence their anarchism), and that the traditional functions of the state ought to be provided by voluntary production and trade instead (hence their capitalism). This position poses a serious challenge to both moderate classical liberals and more radical minimal state libertarians, though, as we shall see, the stability of the latter position is especially threatened by the anarchist challenge.

Anarcho-capitalism can be defended on either consequentialist or deontological grounds, though usually a mix of both arguments is proffered. On the consequentialist side, it is argued that police protection, court systems, and even law itself can be provided voluntarily for a price like any other market good (Friedman 1989; Rothbard 1978; Barnett 1998; Hasnas 2003; Hasnas 2007). And not only is it possible for markets to provide these traditionally state-supplied goods, it is actually more desirable for them to do so given that competitive pressures in this market, as in others, will produce an array of goods that is of higher general quality and that is diverse enough to satisfy individuals’ differing preferences (Friedman 1989; Barnett 1998). Deontologically, anarcho-capitalists argue that the minimal state necessarily violates individual rights insofar as it (1) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and thereby prohibits other individuals from exercising force in accordance with their natural rights, and (2) funds its protective services with coercively obtained tax revenue that it sometimes (3) uses redistributively to pay for protection for those who are unable to pay for themselves (Rothbard 1978; Childs 1994).

Robert Nozick was one of the first academic philosophers to take the anarchist challenge seriously. In the first part of his Anarchy, State, and Utopia he argued that the minimal state can evolve out of an anarcho-capitalist society through an invisible hand process that does not violate anyone’s rights. Competitive pressures and violent conflict, he argued, will provide incentives for competing defensive agencies to merge or collude so that, effectively, monopolies will emerge over certain geographical areas (Nozick 1974). Since these monopolies are merely de facto, however, the dominant protection agency does not yet constitute a state. For that to occur, the “dominant protection agency” must claim that it would be morally illegitimate for other protection agencies to operate, and make some reasonably effective attempt to prohibit them from doing so. Nozick’s argument that it would be legitimate for the dominant protection agency to do so is one of the most controversial aspects of his argument. Essentially, he argues that individuals have rights not to be subject to the risk of rights-violation, and that the dominant protection agency may legitimately prohibit the protective activities of its competitors on grounds that their procedures involve the imposition of risk. In claiming and enforcing this monopoly, the dominant protection agency becomes what Nozick calls the “ultraminimal state”ultraminimal because it does not provide protective services for all persons within its geographical territory, but only those who pay for them. The transition from the ultraminimal state to the minimal one occurs when the dominant protection agency (now state) provides protective services to all individuals within its territory, and Nozick argues that the state is morally obligated to do this in order to provide compensation to the individuals who have been disadvantaged by its seizure of monopoly power.

Nozick’s arguments against the anarchist have been challenged on a number of grounds. First, the justification for the state it provides is entirely hypotheticalthe most he attempts to claim is that a state could arise legitimately from the state of nature, not that any actual state has (Rothbard 1977). But if hypotheticals were all that mattered, then an equally compelling story could be told of how the minimal state could devolve back into merely one competitive agency among others by a process that violates no one’s rights (Childs 1977), thus leaving us at a justificatory stalemate. Second, it is questionable whether prohibiting activities that run the risk of violating rights, but do not actually violate any, is compatible with fundamental liberal principles (Rothbard 1977). Finally, even if the general principle of prohibition with compensation is legitimate, it is nevertheless doubtful that the proper way to compensate the anarchist who has been harmed by the state’s claim of monopoly is to provide him with precisely what he does not wantstate police and military services (Childs 1977).

Until decisively rebutted, then, the anarchist position remains a serious challenge for libertarians, especially of the minimal state variety. This is true regardless of whether their libertarianism is defended on consequentialist or natural rights grounds. For the consequentialist libertarian, the challenge is to explain why law and protective services are the only goods that require state provision in order to maximize utility (or whatever the maximandum may be). If, for instance, the consequentialist justification for the state provision of law is that law is a public good, then the question is: Why should other public goods not also be provided? The claim that only police, courts, and military fit the bill appears to be more an a priori article of faith than a consequence of empirical analysis. This consideration might explain why so many consequentialist libertarians are in fact classical liberals who are willing to grant legitimacy to a larger than minimal state (Friedman 1962; Hayek 1960; Epstein 2003). For deontological libertarians, on the other hand, the challenge is to show why the state is justified in (a) prohibiting individuals from exercising or purchasing protective activities on their own and (b) financing protective services through coercive and redistributive taxation. If this sort of prohibition, and this sort of coercion and redistribution is justified, why not others? Once the bright line of non-aggression has been crossed, it is difficult to find a compelling substitute.

This is not to say that anarcho-capitalists do not face challenges of their own. First, many have pointed out that there is a paucity of empirical evidence to support the claim that anarcho-capitalism could function in a modern post-industrial society. Pointing to quasi-examples from Medieval Iceland (Friedman 1979) does little to alleviate this concern (Epstein 2003). Second, even if a plausible case could be made for the market provision of law and private defense, the market provision of national defense, which fits the characteristics of a public good almost perfectly, remains a far more difficult challenge (Friedman 1989). Finally, when it comes to rights and anarchy, one philosopher’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens. If respect for robust rights of self-ownership and property in external goods, as libertarians understand them, entail anarcho-capitalism, why not then reject these rights rather than embrace anarcho-capitalism? Rothbard, Nozick and other natural rights libertarians are notoriously lacking in foundational arguments to support their strong belief in these rights. In the absence of strong countervailing reasons to accept these rights and the libertarian interpretation of them, the fact that they lead to what might seem to be absurd conclusions could be a decisive reason to reject them.

This entry has focused on the main approaches to libertarianism popular among academic philosophers. But it has not been exhaustive. There are other philosophical defenses of libertarianism that space prevents exploring in detail, but deserve mention nevertheless. These include defenses of libertarianism that proceed from teleological and contractual considerations.

One increasingly influential approach takes as its normative foundation a virtue-centered ethical theory. Such theories hold that libertarian political institutions are justified in the way they allow individuals to develop as virtuous agents. Ayn Rand was perhaps the earliest modern proponent of such theory, and while her writings were largely ignored by academics, the core idea has since been picked up and developed with greater sophistication by philosophers like Tara Smith, Douglas Rasmussen, and Douglas Den Uyl (Rasmussen and Den Uyl 1991; 2005).

Teleological versions of libertarianism are in some significant respects similar to consequentialist versions, insofar as they hold that political institutions are to be judged in light of their tendency to yield a certain sort of outcome. But the consequentialism at work here is markedly different from the aggregative and impartial consequentialism of act-utilitarianism. Political institutions are to be judged based on the extent to which they allow individuals to flourish, but flourishing is a value that is agent-relative (and not agent-neutral as is happiness for the utilitarian), and also one that can only be achieved by the self-directed activity of each individual agent (and not something that can be distributed among individuals by the state). It is thus not the job of political institutions to promote flourishing by means of activist policies, but merely to make room for it by enforcing the core set of libertarian rights.

These claims lead to challenges for the teleological libertarian, however. If human flourishing is good, it must be so in an agent-neutral or in an agent-relative sense. If it is good in an agent-neutral sense, then it is unclear why we do not share positive duties to promote the flourishing of others, alongside merely negative duties to refrain from hindering their pursuit of their own flourishing.

Teleological libertarians generally argue that flourishing is something that cannot be provided for one by others since it is essentially a matter of exercising one’s own practical reason in the pursuit of a good life. But surely others can provide for us some of the means for our exercise of practical reasonfrom basics such as food and shelter to more complex goods such as education and perhaps even the social bases of self-respect. If, on the other hand, human flourishing is a good in merely an agent-relative sense, then it is unclear why others’ flourishing imposes any duties on us at allpositive or negative. If duties to respect the negative rights of others are not grounded in the agent-neutral value of others’ flourishing, then presumably they must be grounded in our own flourishing, but (a) making the wrongness of harming others depend on its negative effect on us seems to make that wrongness too contingent on situational factssurely there are some cases in which violating the rights of others can benefit us, even in the long-term holistic sense required by eudaimonistic accounts. And (b) the fact that wronging others will hurt us seems to be the wrong kind of explanation for why rights-violating acts are wrong. It seems to get matters backwards: rights-violating actions are wrong because of their effects on the person whose rights are violated, not because they detract from the rights-violator’s virtue.

Another moral framework that has become increasingly popular among philosophers since Rawls’s Theory of Justice (1971) is contractarianism. As a moral theory, contractarianism is the idea that moral principles are justified if and only if they are the product of a certain kind of agreement among persons. Among libertarians, this idea has been developed by Jan Narveson in his book, The Libertarian Idea (1988), which attempts to show that rational individuals would agree to a government that took individual negative liberty as the only relevant consideration in setting policy. And, while not self-described as a contractarian, Loren Lomasky’s work in Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community (1987) has many affinities with this approach, as it attempts to defend libertarianism as a kind of policy of mutual-advantage between persons.

Most of the libertarian theories we have surveyed in this article have a common structure: foundational philosophical commitments are set out, theories are built upon them, and practical conclusions are derived from those theories. This approach has the advantage of thoroughnessone’s ultimate political conclusions are undergirded by a weighty philosophical system to which any challengers can be directed. The downside of this approach is that anyone who disagrees with one’s philosophic foundations will not be much persuaded by one’s conclusions drawn from themand philosophers are not generally known for their widespread agreement on foundational issues.

As a result, much of the most interesting work in contemporary libertarian theory skips systematic theory-building altogether, and heads straight to the analysis of concrete problems. Often this analysis proceeds by accepting some set of values as givenoften the values embraced by those who are not sympathetic to libertarianism as a political theoryand showing that libertarian political institutions will better realize those values than competing institutional frameworks. Daniel Shapiro’s recent work on welfare states (Shapiro 2007), for instance, is a good example of this trend, in arguing that contemporary welfare states are unjustifiable from a variety of popular theoretical approaches. Loren Lomasky (2005) has written a humorous but important piece arguing that Rawls’s foundational principles are better suited to defending Nozickian libertarianism than even Nozick’s foundational principles are. And David Schmidtz (Schmidtz and Goodin 1998) has argued that market institutions are supported on grounds of individual responsibility that any moral framework ought to take seriously. While such approaches lack the theoretical completeness that philosophers naturally crave, they nevertheless have the virtue of addressing crucially important social issues in a way that dispenses with the need for complete agreement on comprehensive moral theories.

A theoretical justification of this approach can be found in John Rawls’s notion of an overlapping consensus, as developed in his work Political Liberalism (1993). Rawls’s idea is that decisions about which political institutions and principles to adopt ought to be based on those aspects of morality on which all reasonable theories converge, rather than any one particular foundational moral theory, because there is reasonable and apparently intractable disagreement about foundational moral issues. Extending this overlapping consensus approach to libertarianism, then, entails viewing libertarianism as a political theory that is compatible with a variety of foundational metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical views. Individuals need not settle their reasonable disagreements regarding moral issues in order to agree upon a framework for political association; and libertarianism, with its robust toleration of individual differences, seems well-suited to serve as the principle for such a framework (Barnett 2004).

Matt Zwolinski Email: mzwolinski@sandiego.edu University of San Diego U. S. A.

Original post:

Libertarianism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Libertarianism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This page is about free-market individualism. Some people (especially in Europe and Latin America) use the word libertarianism to refer to “libertarian socialism” (see anarchism)

Libertarianism is an idea in ethics and politics. The word comes from the word “liberty”. Simply put, libertarians believe that people should be able to do whatever they desire as long as their actions do not harm others. As a result, Libertarians want to limit the government’s power so people can have as much freedom as possible.

Libertarianism grew out of liberalism as a movement in the 1800s. Many of the beliefs of libertarianism are similar to the beliefs in classical liberalism. It also has roots in anarchism and the Austrian School of economics.

Like other people, libertarians oppose slavery, rape, theft, murder, and all other examples of initiated violence.

Libertarians believe that no person can justly own or control the body of another person, what they call “self-ownership” or “individual sovereignty.” In simple words, every person has a right to control her or his own body.

In the 19th century, United States libertarians like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Lysander Spooner were all abolitionists. Abolitionists were people who wanted to end slavery right away.

Garrison based his opposition to slavery on the idea of self-ownership. Since you have a natural right to control your own body, no one else has any right to steal that control from you. Garrison and Douglass both called slave masters “man stealers.”

If you have a right to control your own body, then no one has a right to start violence (or force) against you.

Some libertarians believe that all violence is unjust. These libertarians are often called “anarcho-pacifists”. Robert LeFevre was a libertarian who rejected all violence. However, most libertarians believe that there are some ways violence can be justified.

One thing that justifies violence is self defense. If someone is violent towards you, you have a right to defend yourself with equal force.

The libertarian Murray N. Rothbard said that it would be wrong to kill someone for stealing a pack of gum. If you steal gum, this is an act of violence against the property owner. The owner has a right to use defensive violence to get the gum back, but killing the thief goes too far. That is too much force because it is not equal to the force used by the thief. Punishment must be equal to the crime. A student and colleague of his, Walter Block, said that a punishment shouldn’t be equal to the crime, but rather enough to make up for the damage the crime caused plus how much it cost to catch the criminal.

Some libertarians believe that it is your moral duty to defend yourself and your property if you can. This belief is usually held by Objectivists. These people believe that pacifism is immoral. Most libertarians reject this view.

All libertarians believe that it is wrong to start violence against any person or against what he or she owns. They call this the “non-aggression principle.”

Ownership is the right to control something. Property is the thing that you control.

Libertarians believe that property rights come from self-ownership. This means that because you have a right to control your own body, you also have a right to control what you make with it.

The English philosopher John Locke said that a person comes to own something by using it. So, if you turn an area that no-one else owns into a farm and use it, that area becomes your property. This is called the “homestead principle.”

Libertarians also say that you can become a legitimate owner by receiving something as a gift or by trading it with someone for something they own. You do not become a legitimate owner by stealing. You also do not become a legitimate owner by simply saying you own something. If you have not “homesteaded” the thing or received it through trade or gift, you do not own it.

Libertarians are opposed to states (or governments) creating any “laws” that tell people what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. The only legitimate laws are laws that say a person may not start violence against other people or their legitimate property. All “laws” stopping people from doing nonviolent things should be repealed, according to libertarians. (These “laws” are usually called “victimless crimes” because there is no victim if there is no theft.)

In most countries, the state (or government) takes tax money from the people. All libertarians support cutting taxes back, and some libertarians believe the state should not take tax money at all. Libertarians think people can take care of the poor without the government. They believe that people should pay for the things that they want to use, but not have to pay for other things that they do not want. Tax evasion (refusal to pay taxes to the state) is a victimless crime. Libertarians would prefer to see taxation replaced with lotteries, user fees, and endowments.

Libertarians think everyone should be allowed to decide what is good or bad for her/his own body. Libertarians think if people want to drive cars without wearing seat belts, it is their own choice. They should not be forcibly stopped from doing that, not even by the state. If a person wants to donate all of her/his money to a charity, or waste it all gambling, that is also something she/he should decide for herself/himself. No one should be forcibly stopped from doing that, not even by the state. Libertarians even say that if adults want to use harmful drugs, they should be allowed to do that, even if it spoils their lives. It is the drug user’s own choice because it is the drug user’s own body. As long as the drug user does not start using violence against other people or their legitimate property, no one should use violence against the drug user or the drug user’s legitimate property, not even the government.

Many libertarians also believe that families and friends should look after people so that they will not use drugs, drive without seat belts, or do other things that are dangerous for them. But no one can force others to do things that they do not want to do, or to stop them from doing nonviolent things that they want to do.

There are two basic types of libertarians. All libertarians fall into one of these two broad types.

Minarchists are libertarians who believe that society should have a state with very limited power. They typically believe that the only things the state should have are police and judges to make sure that people obey the laws. Some also believe in having a military to make sure that no one attacks the country. Some minarchists believe in having a small amount of taxation.

Two famous minarchist libertarians are Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand. Nozick believed that the only legitimate thing a state can do is have a police force. He called his legitimate state a “night-watchman state.” Rand believed that the state should have a police force and a court system.

Libertarian anarchists usually call themselves anarcho-capitalists, free-market anarchists, individualist anarchists, or just anarchists.

Libertarian anarchists do not believe the state is needed. They believe that people can organise their own lives and businesses. They want to replace the state with voluntary organisations, including charities, private companies, voluntary unions, and mutual aid societies. They also want to end all forced taxation.

They say that state police can be replaced with “DROs” (Dispute Resolution Organisations) or “private protection agencies.” They also say that state judges can be replaced with “private arbitration.”

The most famous libertarian anarchist was Murray N. Rothbard. Others include Lysander Spooner, Benjamin R. Tucker, and Linda & Morris Tannehill.

Most libertarians fall under one of the two types of libertarians listed above. But there are other types, too.

Originally posted here:

Libertarianism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

I am feeling energetic today, and I thought I would tackle an issue that I have been thinking about for weeks now. As with many deep discussions, it started with a beer between friends.

The topic of discussions were the merits of Libertarians and the philosophy.

Maybe it is the contrarianin me, but Ive come to the conclusion that I think the Libertarians philosophy is wrong.

Before we begin, there are some ideas from Libertarians that I find attractive I like the idea of a smaller government, and I like the idea of allowing markets to operate more freely; however, when you take a Libertarians at their word, I think the entire philosophy starts to break down.

First lets define Libertarian as I see it:

Again, we are going to take Libertarians at their word, and we are going to set aside the contradictory notion that people who think everyone should live their lives as they want, attempt to make the world operate under their philosophy.

I also do understand there are different strands of Libertarianism ranging from Chomsky to Paul but for this blog post, we are going to work with the definition above.

Lets start with the light lifting:

1) At its heart Libertarianism is incredibly selfish. Libertarians wont call it that, but at its core, Libertarianism is indulgent, narcissistic, and just plain selfish.

2) The current Libertarianism coalition will split among social issues. Libertarians are cool kids at the moment.

When I attend Libertarian meetings, I see friends. Some of these friends I KNOW for a fact are conservative Christians. At the moment, economic issues are more salient to them; therefore, they are willing to caucus with the Libertarians to work on those issues.

However, as a country, we dont have the luxury of working only on fiscal issues. Social issues will come up and they will matter when that happens the current libertarian coalition will splinter.

That is a problem with breaking away from the GOP when you are forced to put on paper what it actually means to be a Libertarian, it fractures the current Libertarian club.

3) Libertarianism is cruel. Markets fail and markets are unfeeling and damn right cruel. Here is a thought exercise: If someone is in the process of making a terrible decision that will result in their immediate death, do we watch them die or intervene?

4) There are some societal functions that do not respond to markets. Example: Pollution. If totally unregulated, corporations will pollute. Okay, if you assume eventually the market will correct it, eventually may take 20 years and in the meantime an entire generation of children have jelly for brains.

5) If markets are completely unregulated, then all market segments will naturally move towards monopolies. There will be collusion to maximize profits. Humans cheat, that is what we do. So in the end, if you take Libertarians at their word, we all end up slaves to large monopolies and are at their whim. Ironically, the effort to decentralize has the result of centralizing power and economic wealth.

6) When disputes arise, who decides? If you are on your property blaring Lawrence Welk music at 2 am in the morning declaring your Liberty, am I not harmed? Yes, you have the right to your property and I have the right to sanity? Who wins? Who decides? Is it just the strongest person able to force their will? Is it Lord of the Flies? You just cant say we have a court someone wins who is it? Who decides the restrictions on rights?

Ok, but here is some heavy lifting:

7) In my opinion, humans are not wired for Libertarianism, and the philosophy does not make sense with my understanding of the human condition.

If you read anything about human decision making, it is highly irrational.

When given unlimited choices, humans suffer from the paradox of choice. In the face of unlimited choice humans freeze, become anxious, and indecisive. We just dont know what in the hell to do with ourselves.

8) Finally, in my biggest criticism, from all of my reading of modern psychology, absolute freedom is not good for humans.

Again, if we take Libertarians at their word everyone decides what is good for themselves and retreats to their plot of land. If that happens, there is no community, no common bonds.

PLEASE do not mistake me for some collective liberal, Im not.

But in its purest form, there is nothing binding people together. There is no core.

This is in conflict with our natural tendencies to form groups.

What we are talking about is achievinganomie,the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community.

When we sever these human connections, we see scientific evidence in the rise of suicide and all kinds of ills.

Humans are just not wired for Libertarianism.

For example, if everyone retreats to their acre and we have nothing in common, we no longer have a country. Even our founding fathers (who were Libertarian leaning) realized there must be something that binds us together.

In summation, there must be something MORE that binds us together other than roads, military, and courts.

Finally,

9) No Libertarian can make a coherent argument of HOW to get to a Libertarian vision.

Some have proposed moving en mass toNew Hampshire others want a floating boat in international water(not kidding).

However, even over beer, no one has been able to express to me the HOW. They can tell me what is currently wrong, they can tell me their vision for the future, but they cant tell me HOW.

Most just selfishly say BLOW IT UP. The irresponsibility to humanity that comes with BLOW IT UP is mind blowing.

Every time I end up taking a path down Libertarianism, I end up in treacherous landscape.

Choice? Yeah, well if the South wants slaves, then so be it. (Rand Paul, later retracted)

Taxes? Revolution!

Nothing but roads, military, and courts? What about currency? Multiple currencies and bit coins for all and when something goes wrong? Markets baby!

Education? Private schools for all? But difficult students who require more attention, time and effort? There will be little profit in that! Do we not educate them and turn them lose in society with no skills? Do they not then commit crimes? OK, home school everyone? What if the parent can barely read? Do they get to homeschool? If not, who regulates?

Again, it is interesting, but for me, it just breaks down the more you think. The more you move away from bumper stickers, Libertarianism collapses when it meets with the human condition.

There is always tension between freedom, rights, protection, security, and fairness. There should be.

In my opinion, most Libertarians I have discussed this with seem to have an overly simplistic worldview and simplistic understanding of the human condition.

As you may know, I rejectabsolutismto any philosophy. For me, these philosophies (Libertarianism, capitalism, etc) are a little like simplified economic models. They have little basis in reality, but are helpful for learning concepts and testing.

When we place the philosophies next to each other, for me the truth lies some where in-between the pure forms. The right answer lies in the tension between the choices.

The entire key is to keep things in equilibrium. My equilibrium is leaningtowards Libertarianism, but with nuance and conditions.

The problem is there is not an ideologue in the world that would agree with me on that and have a discussion on the location of the line.

PS. As a final thought Isolationism is plain wrong.

discuss.

See the original post:

Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia

Libertarianism in the United States is a movement promoting individual liberty and minimized government.[1][2] Although the word libertarian continues to be widely used to refer to socialists internationally, its meaning in the United States has deviated from its political origins.[3] The Libertarian Party asserts the following to be core beliefs of libertarianism:

Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.[4][5]

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] This includes members of the Republican Party (especially Libertarian Republicans), Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and Independents.

Libertarianism, like many other concepts, predates the official coinage of that word. In the US the general movement started, philosophically, with the founding of the country itself, which was based on classical liberal ideas, which came to be known in the 20th century US as libertarianism. The ideas of John Locke, fundamental to those of the Founding Fathers, are considered a starting point for libertarian thought. Minarchists like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, influenced by Locke, advocated positions that are not only compatible with modern American libertarianism, but are also considered foundations for that movement.

In the 19th century, key libertarian thinkers, individualist anarchists and minarchists, were based in the US, most notably Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker. These political thinkers argued that government should be kept to a minimum, and that it is only legitimate to the extent that people voluntarily support it, as in Spooner’s No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. American writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson advocated for individualism and even anarchism throughout that century, leaving a significant imprint on libertarianism worldwide.

Moving into the 20th century, important American writers and scholars like H. L. Mencken and Bertrand Russell carried on the intellectual libertarian tradition. They were subsequently bolstered by a new movement who actually used the word, most noteworthy among these being Albert Jay Nock, author of Our Enemy, the State, one of the first people in the world to self-identify as “libertarian”, and European immigrant Ayn Rand, strongly influenced by Nock, who helped popularize the term, as well as Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, whose writing carried libertarian underpinnings, and who identified himself by the term as well.

In 1955, writer Dean Russell, a classic liberal himself, proposed a solution:

Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian”.[7]

Subsequently, a growing number of Americans with classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as “libertarian.”[8] Academics as well as proponents of the free market perspectives note that free-market libertarianism has spread beyond the US since the 1970s via think tanks and political parties[9][10] and that libertarianism is increasingly viewed worldwide as a free market position.[11][12] However, libertarian socialist intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Colin Ward, and others argue that the term “libertarianism” is considered a synonym for social anarchism by the international community and that the United States is unique in widely associating it with free market ideology.[13][14][15]

Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater’s libertarian-oriented challenge to authority had a major impact on the libertarian movement,[16] through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964.[17] Goldwater’s speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.[18]

The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians, and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements and organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, like Murray Rothbard’s The Libertarian Forum[19][20] and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance.[21]

The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty, and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations.[22] The split was finalized in 1971 when conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1971 New York Times article, attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: “The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded.”[23]

In 1971, David Nolan and a few friends formed the Libertarian Party.[24] Attracting former Democrats, Republicans and independents, it has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Over the years, dozens of libertarian political parties have been formed worldwide. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.[25]

Philosophical libertarianism gained a significant measure of recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974. The book won a National Book Award in 1975.[26] According to libertarian essayist Roy Childs, “Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia single-handedly established the legitimacy of libertarianism as a political theory in the world of academia.”[27]

Texas congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for the Republican Party presidential nomination were largely libertarian. Paul was affiliated with the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus and founded the Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning membership and lobbying organization. His son, US Senator Rand Paul continues the tradition, albeit more “moderately”.

The 2016 Libertarian National Convention which saw Gary Johnson and Bill Weld nominated as the 2016 presidential ticket for the Libertarian Party resulted in the most successful result for a third-party presidential candidacy since 1996, and the best in the Libertarian Party’s history by vote number. Johnson received 3% of the popular vote, amounting to more than 4.3 million votes. Johnson has expressed a desire to win at least 5% of the vote so that the Libertarian Party candidates could get equal ballot access and federal funding, thus subsequently ending the two-party system.[28][29][30]

As was true historically, though, there are far more libertarians in the US than those who belong to the party touting that name. In the United States, libertarians may emphasize economic and constitutional rather than religious and personal policies, or personal and international rather than economic policies,[31] such as the Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, which has become a major outlet for Libertarian Republican ideas[32][33] especially rigorous adherence to the US Constitution, lower taxes and an opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. However polls show that many people who identify as Tea Party members do not hold traditional libertarian views on most social issues, and tend to poll similarly to socially conservative Republicans.[34][35][36] Eventually during the 2016 presidential election many Tea Party members abandoned more libertarian leaning views in favor of Donald Trump and his right wing populism .[37]

Additionally, the Tea Party was considered to be a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.[38]

Polls (circa 2006) find that the views and voting habits of between 10 and 20 percent (and increasing) of voting age Americans may be classified as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or libertarian.”[39][40] This is based on pollsters and researchers defining libertarian views as

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] Most of these vote for Republican and Democratic (not Libertarian) party candidates. This posits that the common single-axis paradigm of dividing people’s political leanings into “conservative”, “liberal” and “confused” is not valid.[41] Libertarians make up a larger portion of the US electorate than the much-discussed “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads”, yet this is not widely recognized. One reason for this is that most pollsters, political analysts, and political pundits believe in the paradigm of the single liberal-conservative axis.[39]

Well-known libertarian organizations include the Center for Libertarian Studies, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Reason Foundation, the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Libertarian Party of the United States is the world’s first such party.

The Free State Project, an activist movement formed in 2001, is working to bring 20,000 libertarians to the state of New Hampshire to influence state policy. As of May 2015, the project website shows that 16,683 people have pledged to move once 20,000 are signed on, and 1,746 participants have already moved to New Hampshire or were already residing there when New Hampshire was chosen as the destination for the Free State Project in 2003.[42] Less successful similar projects include the Free West Alliance and Free State Wyoming.

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, DC It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch,[43] chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries.[nb 1] In July 1976, the name was changed to the Cato Institute.[43][44] Cato was established to have a focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.[45] According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 16 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 8 in the “Top Think Tanks in the United States”.[46] Cato also topped the 2014 list of the budget-adjusted ranking of international development think tanks.[47]

The Center for Libertarian Studies (CLS) was a libertarian and anarcho-capitalist oriented educational organization founded in 1976 by Murray Rothbard and Burton Blumert, which grew out of the Libertarian Scholars Conferences. It published the Journal of Libertarian Studies from 1977 to 2000 (now published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute), a newsletter (In Pursuit of Liberty), several monographs, and sponsors conferences, seminars, and symposia. Originally headquartered in New York, it later moved to Burlingame, California. Until 2007, it supported LewRockwell.com, web publication of CLS vice president Lew Rockwell. It had also previously supported Antiwar.com.

Former United States Congressman Ron Paul and former United States Senator Barry Goldwater popularized libertarian economics and anti-statist rhetoric in the United States and passed some reforms. United States President Ronald Reagan tried to appeal to them in a speech, though many libertarians are ambivalent about Reagan’s legacy.[48]

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Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia

Libertarianism – Wikiquote

A ‘popular libertarian’ might … feel all that needs to be done to bring the world to justice is to institute the minimal state now, starting as it were from present holdings. On this view, then, libertarianism starts tomorrow, and we take the present possession of property for granted. There is, of course, something very problematic about this attitude. Part of the libertarian position involves treating property rights as natural rights, as so as being as important as anything can be. On the libertarian view, the fact that an injustice is old, and, perhaps, difficult to prove, does not make it any less of an injustice. … We should try to work out what would have happened had the injustice not taken place. If the present state of affairs does not correspond to this hypothetical description, then it should be made to correspond. ~ Jonathan Wolff

Libertarianism is a political philosophy which advocates the maximization of individual liberty in thought and action and the minimization or even elimination of the powers of the state. Though libertarians embrace or dispute many viewpoints upon a broad range of economic strategies, ranging from laissez-faire capitalists such as those who dominate in the US Libertarian Party to libertarian socialists, the political policies they advocate tend toward those of a minimal state (minarchism), or forms of anarchism, and an insistence on the need to maintain the integrity of individual rights and responsibilities.

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Libertarianism – Wikiquote

Libertarianism – The Information Philosopher

Libertarians believe that strict determinism and freedom are incompatible. Freedom seems to require some form of indeterminism. “Radical” libertarians believe that one’s actions are not determined by anything prior to a decision, including one’s character and values, and one’s feelings and desires. This extreme view, held by leading libertarians such as Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen and their followers, denies that the will has control over actions. Critics of libertarianism properly attack this view. If an agent’s decisions are not connected in any way with character and other personal properties, they rightly claim that the agent can hardly be held responsible for them. A more conservative or “modest” libertarianism has been proposed by Daniel Dennett and Alfred Mele. They and many other philosophers and scientists have proposed two-stage models of free will that keep indeterminism in the early stages of deliberation, limiting it to creating alternative possibilities for action. Most libertarians have been mind/body dualists who, following Ren Descartes, explained human freedom by a separate mind substance that somehow manages to act in the physical world. Some, especially Immanuel Kant, believed that our freedom only existed in a transcendental or noumenal world, leaving the physical world to be completely deterministic. Religious libertarians say that God has given man a gift of freedom, but at the same time that God’s foreknowledge knows everything that man will do. In recent free will debates, these dualist explanations are called “agent-causal libertarianism.” The idea is that humans have a kind of agency (an ability to act) that cannot be explained in terms of physical events. One alternative to dualism is called “event-causal libertarianism,” in which some events are uncaused or indeterministically caused. Note that eliminating strict determinism does not eliminate causality. We can still have events that are caused by indeterministic prior events. And these indeterministic events have prior causes, but the prior causes are not sufficient to determine the events precisely. In modern physics, for example, events are only statistical or probabilistic. We can call this soft causality, meaning not pre-determined but still having a causal explanation. Still another position is to say that human freedom is uncaused or simply non-causal. This would eliminate causality. Some philosophers think “reasons” or “intentions” are not causes and describe their explanations of libertarian freedom as “non-causal.” We can thus present a taxonomy of indeterminist positions. It is claimed by some philosophers that libertarian accounts of free will are unintelligible. No coherent idea can be provided for the role of indeterminism and chance, they say. They include the current chief spokesman for libertarianism, Robert Kane. 1 The first libertarian, Epicurus, argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would “swerve” from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. The modern equivalent of the Epicurean swerve is quantum mechanical indeterminacy, again a property of atoms. We now know that atoms do not just occasionally swerve, they move unpredictably whenever they are in close contact with other atoms. Everything in the material universe is made of atoms in unstoppable perpetual motion. Deterministic paths are only the case for very large objects, where the statistical laws of atomic physics average to become nearly certain dynamical laws for billiard balls and planets. Many determinists are now willing to admit that there is real indeterminism in the universe. 2,3 Libertarians should agree with them that if indeterministic chance was the direct direct cause of our actions, that would not be freedom with responsibility. Determinists might also agree that if chance is not a direct cause of our actions, it would do no harm. In which case, libertarians should be able to convince determinists that if chance provides real alternatives to be considered by the adequately determined will, it provides real alternative possibilities for thought and action. It provides freedom and creativity. Libertarians should give the determinists, at least the compatibilists, the kind of freedom they say they want, one that provides an adequately determined will and actions for which we can take responsibility.

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Clarke, R. (2003). Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, Oxford University Press.

Dennett, D. C. (1978). Brainstorms : philosophical essays on mind and psychology. Montgomery, Vt., Bradford Books. (see “Giving the Libertarians What They Say They Want.”)

Kane, R. (2001). The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press.

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Libertarianism – The Information Philosopher

Libertarianism – RationalWiki

One of the more pretentious political self-descriptions is Libertarian. People think it puts them above the fray. It sounds fashionable, and to the uninitiated, faintly dangerous. Actually, its just one more bullshit political philosophy. George Carlin[1]

Libertarianism is, at its simplest, the antonym of authoritarianism.[2] The term has been around since the beginning of the 20th century or earlier and was primarily used for self-identification with anarcho-syndicalism and labor movements. In the USA, the term was adopted by the Foundation for Economic Education think tank in the 1950’s[3] to describe a political and social philosophy that advocates laissez-faire capitalism as a panacea for virtually everything. Non-libertarians view this as synonymous with oligarchic plutocracy after the fashion of the American Gilded Age, while the reality-based community tends to realize that one cannot just yank economic theories out of the air and magically expect them to work.

This anti-government phenomenon is found primarily in the United States, likely due to Americans’ extensive experience with dysfunctional government, coupled with their unawareness of the existence of other countries. Historically, and almost everywhere other than America still today, the term has been associated with libertarian socialism and anarchism. The adoption of the libertarian label by advocates of free market economics is an ironic example of their tendency to take credit for other people’s ideas.

The US political party most aligned with libertarianism is the Libertarian Party, “America’s Third Largest Party,”[4] whose candidate obtained 4.5 million, or 3.27 percent, of the vote in the 2016 Presidential election.[5] This total was greater than their 1 million vote (0.99%) of the popular vote in the 2012 Presidential election.[6] and 0.32% of the popular vote[7] in the 2004 Presidential election.

There is also an “Objectivist Party,” formed as a spin-off from the Libertarian Party by those who thought that the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, Bob Barr, was too left-wing,[8] and a Boston Tea Party (no connection other than ideological to that other tea party) formed as a spin-off by those who thought the Libertarian Party had become too right-wing on foreign policy and civil liberties after the LP deleted much of its platform in 2006.

Basically everyone agrees with libertarians on something, but they tend to get freaked out just as quickly by the ideologys other stances.

The dominant form of libertarianism (as found in the US) is an ideology based largely on Austrian school economics, which relies on axioms, rather than empirical analysis to inform economic and social policy. That said, the branch of libertarianism that has had the most success in influencing public policy is primarily informed by the Chicago school.

Proponents of libertarianism frequently cite the “Non-Aggression Principle” (NAP) as the moral basis of their ideology. The NAP states that everyone is free to do whatever they want with their lives and property, so long as it does not directly interfere with the freedom of others to do the same. Under this rule, you may only use “force” in response to prior inappropriate force against the life and/or property of yourself or others. Compare and contrast with John Stuart Mill’s “The Harm Principle.” The critical difference between the two is that libertarians completely oppose the preemptive use of force. By contrast, Mill and other classical liberals believe that the preemptive use of force to prevent likely future harm can be justified.

Under any logical scrutiny it becomes evident that the precise definition of aggression is highly subjective and supposes a strict libertarian definition of property.[12] The NAP can therefore be used in almost any way its user intends, by changing the definition of aggression to suit their particular opinion/agenda. For example, throwing someone in prison for massive tax evasion is seen as an act of aggression by the state, whereas selling someone cigarettes knowing they will kill that person is not seen as aggression.

Libertarians secretly worry that ultimately someone will figure out that the whole of their political philosophy boils down to “get off my property”. News flash: This is not really a big secret to the rest of us.

Libertarians believe that government is the largest, and perhaps the only, threat to the freedom of an individual. For this reason, they are closely associated with opposition to gun control, government surveillance, entitlements, and prohibitory drug policy.

The primary functions of government that most (emphasis most) libertarians allow are:

As one moves down the spectrum towards the extremes, more and more things normally handled by the police and criminal courts are instead handled by civil courts, and eventually even the civil courts are privatized.[14]

Libertarians oppose most forms of taxation (as taxes are “theft of property by force”), and any function of government outside of a small wish list of things they like. Additionally, they are against the use of taxes to deal with externalities, commons, or free rider problems. Their most common remedy for these problems involve the use of civil suits to deal with (negative) externalities, and the privatization of all commons, which allows for civil suits to handle harms to this “private” property. Of course, these answers are woefully inadequate in practice.[15]

Libertarians advocate extensive individual rights – a logical consequence of their core beliefs. Libertarians advocate a society where “anything that’s peaceful and voluntary” is allowed so long as it does not infringe on anyone else’s life, liberty, or property, or engender force or fraud. However, the exact nature of a right as “positive” or “negative” differs among libertarians. For example, one might say smoking in public is a personal liberty that affects nobody, whereas another would say it forces second-hand smoke upon those around them, interfering with their own right to not inhale smoke (note that most libertarians who are fed their talking points from think tanks fall into the former category thanks to second-hand smoke denialism).

The libertarian belief against the prior use of force also extends into foreign policy. This is sometimes referred to as a “non-interventionist” foreign policy. Most of them are not pacifists, however; they strongly promote the concept of self-defense, and usually accept national defense as one of the few legitimate functions of government.

Despite (or maybe because of) their extreme reverence for the United States Constitution (particularly an originalist reading of the Bill of Rights), libertarians are rarely elected to office. Cynics have suggested that refusal to provide adequate pork for their district hurts their chances in congressional elections. Other cynics point out that if they don’t win an election in the first place, how can their “porcine provision” skills be tested?

The narrow usage of “libertarian” as a label is also a cause, as some who take “moderate libertarian” positions are frequently called a “free-market liberal/Democrat” or a “pro-____ rights conservative/Republican” – or even derisive epithets like “libt kiddies.”

Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan walk into a bar. The bartender serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations. They die.

Many libertarians found the political philosophy through one of a small number of influential fiction books. The works of novelist Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) and Robert Heinlein (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress) are often cited. For example, many libertarians in the United States might quote Rand’s Atlas Shrugged when they speak of government:

The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.

Not that confusing, right?

Other libertarians may point to such works of non-fiction as Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland, which posit a clear set of axioms and then delineate how society might follow them and how it would be best for everyone.

Many libertarians claim to be descendants of “classical liberals” (hence their irritating line about “Who are the real liberals?”) though many “classical liberals” were decidedly more moderate than the current U.S. libertarian movement in that they were willing to accept more government regulations and taxes.[18] In light of this, modern libertarianism can be better described as a radical offshoot of classical liberalism.

Internet libertarians have been compared to teenagers through the use of the argumentum ad cellarium fallacy. As an anonymous commenter on Charlie Stross’s Bitcoin rant put it, their concerns precisely mirror those of privileged teenagers:[19]

Pretty much every libertarian position can be understood in that frame of restrictive but benevolent authority being the root of all ‘real’ problems. It’s a rare parent who literally tortures their kids, so torture is, at best, not a ‘real’ issue, not a priority. But many make them do stuff for their health, so mandatory health insurance is a big deal. Pretty much no parents kill their child with drones, many read their diaries. And so on.

While a preference for maximum personal freedom is pretty much universal throughout most of the political spectrum (though less so on the fringes), libertarianism presents several difficulties:

Systems that attempt to boil themselves down to “a few simple rules” are seldom actually simple; for example, ancient Judaism’s Deuteronomic reforms started out as just about half of the modern book of Deuteronomy, but eventually grew to encompass the whole Torah, large swaths of the rest of the Jewish Bible,[32] and ultimately to the vast body of commentary known as the Talmud. Esperanto, though defined in only sixteen grammatical rules, is actually quite a complex language, since its rules are defined in direct relation to established rules in Indo-European linguistics. Even some sports particularly golf have a strong element of common law in their rule systems.

There is essentially no guarantee that a society built on a libertarian legal structure would remain that way without redeveloping some sort of common law structure, or even a statutory structure that codifies all precedents. Given that most societies governed by rule of law already have this, it’s hard to see what would be accomplished other than a massive reinvention of the wheel.[33]

The United States, for instance, is technically almost a truly libertarian country, even today, since the only laws it has are to “adjudicate between free men.” Starting with a base, at least at the federal level (after the collapse of the Articles of Confederation) of a fairly simple Constitution, and some Roman and English common law, the country’s government has evolved as a balance between virtually total liberty, and adjudicating the inevitable conflicts that arise between free men (or, in the case of drug laws, sodomy laws, etc., between the government and one somewhat unfree man). This adjudication has taken the form both of legislation to deal with issues that arose, and judicial analysis of the application of such legislation. Of course, 240 years offers a lot of opportunity for “free men” to need adjudication, so now, to self-styled “libertarians,” the results look needlessly complicated. Such is life in the real world.

Typically libertarians argue that people should be free to do whatever they like as long as it doesn’t hurt others. While this idea may seem very simple at first glance, the problem is that what “hurts” people and what doesn’t is very nuanced. For instance, it is common for libertarians to oppose laws which reduce air pollution even though the latter can have a severe impact on the health of others, even if it is assumed that global warming is a gummint conspiracy to justify raising our taxes; more so than many direct acts of violence. It is also common for them to oppose laws mandating car drivers to wear seatbelts, even though seeing a person die as the result of not wearing one can have a major psychological effect on onlookers. Similarly, they may oppose anti-smoking campaigns as an unwarranted intrusion on personal liberty, while ignoring the financial burden imposed by smoking-related illnesses on both private insurance and taxpayer-funded health care. [34]

While libertarians all generally agree on the premise of the Non-Aggression Axiom, there are internal rifts and disagreement over what extent the Non-Aggression Axiom applies to. On the one hand, there are the Libertarian Party types (colloquially called “minarchists”) who take a position of advocating minimal government, and on the other there are the market anarchists who believe that all the services the government provides are unjust monopolies, which the free market can handle better if let go of by the state. Market anarchists can be split into two groups, “anarcho-mutualists” who believe in a free market but not in capitalism or class, and anarcho-capitalists who believe in completely unregulated capitalism.

There is usually little room in between these two, but even then, there are still different branches within these umbrella terms. On the Minarchist side of the libertarian ideology, there are paleolibertarians, who advocate a strong return to the Constitution and are somewhat conservative in their arguments to preserve moral law, much like the Old Right paleoconservatives. Ron Paul, who is often viewed as a libertarian, would more fit the paleoconservative/libertarian framework. Additionally, there exist the geo-libertarians (who advocate simply a tax on all land),[35] neo-libertarians (often regarded not in any sense as libertarians, as their political views conflict with the very principles of the Non-Aggression Axiom), and other branches with their own nuances. On the anarchist side of the spectrum, things tend to be more homogeneous, with the major disagreements usually only amounting to how to achieve a libertarian society and solutions to ethical dilemmas.

This ideological division occurs not only externally in political theory, but philosophically as well. On the one side, there are the deontological natural rights theorists (Murray Rothbard being the most prominent advocate), and on the other are the utilitarian libertarians (David D. Friedman is often the most associated with this view). A few minority nihilists and radical subjectivists exist within these circles, but these views are often seen to be in conflict with the general premises laid out by the Non-Aggression Axiom.

The word “libertarianism” was used before the current usage came about to refer to anarchists, who are against hierarchies brought about by stratified classes and a state controlled by the wealthy elites, and thus oppose capitalism. Many call themselves ‘libertarian socialists’ a philosophy championed by Noam Chomsky. The use of “libertarianism” to describe anarchy dates back to the late 1850s, with Le Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social being the name of a journal published by anarchist Joseph Dejacque. The term ‘libertarian communism’ originated in the 1880s, when the French anarchist congress adopted it. As late as 1954, a largely anarcho-syndicalist movement named The Libertarian League was set up in the US.

The current Libertarian Party in the US only came into being in early 1970s, well over 100 years after anarchists had begun using the term to describe themselves. In the US, to quote Murray Bookchin:

As late as the 1990s, the Libertarian Labor Review newspaper promoted anarcho-syndicalism while still using the libertarian label. Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled his underground-economy based “agorism” as left-libertarianism, while claiming influence from right-libertarians like Rothbard. The term may also accurately describe Karl Hess, the former Goldwater Republican and Cold Warrior who aligned himself with Murray Rothbard for a few years, then swung to the hard left during the late 1960s and 1970s and joined the New Left.[36]

There are a number of areas where the more “rational” libertarians and liberals have overlapping concerns, notably, opposition to corporate welfare and the military-industrial complex, and valuing personal liberty and freedom of speech.

There is a good deal of overlap between these groups, but the hardliners tend to lavish hate on each other:

Deontological anarchists that adhere to the teachings of Murray Rothbard. Most anarcho-capitalists adhere to the Austrian School, though David D. Friedman opts for the utilitarian Chicago School. A few others follow the pure pacifism of Robert LeFevre. Modern examples include Adam Kokesh, who claims the only real anarchists are anarcho-capitalists, and Walter Block of the LvMI.

Samuel Edward Konkin III’s philosophy of agorism was described by Konkin himself as a particularly concentrated strain of Rothbardianism, but Konkin and adherents consider(ed) themselves part of the libertarian left. This may be fair, since Konkin coinages like Kochtopus have entered the general leftist lexicon.

The more utilitarian of the bunch and usually associated more with the Chicago school than the Austrian school. The term “Beltway” is used as a pejorative by the hardline anarchists and deontological types to paint them as sell-outs because they’ve gotten some traction in DC. Prominent Beltway types include Thomas Sowell, Nick Gillespie and the late Milton Friedman.

Usually conspiracy nuts, survivalists, Sovereign citizen types, or gold bugs who think the gummint is out to get them. There are white supremacists and dominionists who want to bring back “states’ rights” to resurrect segregation or official state religions, or both. Also includes fans of the seasteading, micronation, and vonu movements, “life extension,” Galambosianism, Liberty Dollars, and pretty much anything from the Loompanics book catalog. Finally, there are those who take up the mantle of libertarianism because it opposes some federal law they don’t like. This usually includes prostitutes, potheads, polygamists, woo-meisters, and peddlers of some form of illegal quackery. May suffer from an excess of colloidal silver in the bloodstream. Alex Jones is the epitome of the crank magnet libertarian.

A term coined by Lew Rockwell. Their policies are mostly the same as the “Taft Republicans” of the Old Right. They are advocates of the Austrian school, originalism, states’ rights, strict Constitutionalism, and generally socially conservative despite opposing the drug war and “bedroom laws.” Ron Paul falls into this camp. Many conspiracy nuts are also paleolibertarians, such as the almighty Alex Jones mentioned above, Texe Marrs and Mark Dice.

Largely the venerable predecessors of the modern libertarian movement, who were an influence on Rothbard but rejected anarchism, influenced Rand but rejected orthodox Objectivism, etc.

Usually generic deontological minarchist libertarians, the only difference being that they identify themselves with the tenets of Objectivism. Rand herself hated the Libertarian Party and denounced them as poseurs.[37]Alan Greenspan is probably the most famous Randroid, and we all know what happened there.

Generally Silicon Valley inhabitants who attempt to apply hacker culture to politics. Lots of overlap with techno-utopian movements like transhumanism and Singularitarianism. Also overlaps with the seasteading, life extension, and digital-currency crank magnets. The most likely of any of these groups to oppose intellectual property rights, traditionally supported by other types of libertarians. See also Eric S. Raymond, Bitcoin, and Anonymous. Ironically, technological leaps have made surveillance of citizens easier than ever before in human history.

Their true ideological motivations are unknown, but they use the language of the “free market” to shill for corporations that don’t want to deal with regulations or taxes. They can usually be found at some DC think tank cranking out bogus research while being bankrolled by Koch Industries or Exxon. Steve Milloy is a prime example.

People who say they are libertarians, but dutifully pull the lever for most anyone with an “R” after their name (not, however, for Ron Paul) every election. In between elections they shill for military interventionism, and attack liberals, but never conservatives, for being enemies of liberty. And lot of Al Gore bashing. Their idea of a “libertarian Republican” is Rudy Giuliani. Their only real claim to being libertarians is their irreverent attitude, but this really just boils down to being a jerk for the sake of being a jerk. Glenn Reynolds and Matt Drudge have made a lucrative career pushing their buttons.

Those whose main attraction to libertarianism is civil liberties of the ACLU sort, anti-war issues, gay rights, marijuana, privacy, police abuses, womens lib, conscription, and so forth. They may view liberals as unreliable on these issues, or they may hold conservative economic views, and prefer to align with libertarians. The Cato Institute used to emphasize outreach to them in its early years via Inquiry magazine and The Libertarian Review. Today, Radley Balko and Carol Moore might be prominent examples, as was (until his recent death) American Indian Movement activist Russell Means. Arguably the most reasonable out of the bunch.

Those for whom the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement are one and the same thing. Ideologically suspect to the more hard-core, they differ from Beltway libertarians primarily in that they prefer to throw all their effort into building the Libertarian Party instead of trying to get cred inside the Beltway. They typically want to trim and gut the party platform to attract more people, and/or disseminate an oversimplified version of the libertarian message in the name of “effective communication.” Fond of using the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and other materials from the Advocates for Self-Government. See Michael Cloud, Carla Howell, former Alaska state representative Dick Randolph, 1980 LP presidential nominee Ed Clark, and 2013 Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Usually refers to fans of Ron Paul, who express their rabid support for him through the Internet. More recently, it has come to refer to irritating “Internet libertarians” in general who find a home for themselves on certain Internet sites, especially YouTube, and proceed to “upvote” everything that agrees with their worldview while “downvoting” anyone who disagrees with it en masse. Any site with an upvote/downvote system (i.e. Urban Dictionary, ABC News hell, it’s easier to list sites they haven’t taken over at this point) is up for grabs for these people, and there tends to be heavy overlap with the crank magnets, Austrian schoolers, and, oddly, the online MRA movement. When not shilling for Ron Paul, being conspiracy nuts, or just being unbelievably self-righteous in general their favorite pastimes usually include rambling about Barack Obama, excessive quote mining of Paul Krugman (and it’s always Krugman), and using snarl words such as “fascist,” “sheeple,” “statist,” etc.

Refers to conservatives, neocons, Christian rightists, etc., who have no clue what libertarianism is, but simply identify as “libertarian” because it “sounds more hip,” or to avoid association with the Republican Party. Many of these fake libertarians think that anti-federalism and libertarianism are the same thing (e.g. a Christian fundamentalist “libertarian” who complains about the Nanny state and cries for smaller federal government so that Alabama can criminalize homosexuality, pornography, and abortion on the state level). Another example would be right-wing talk radio host Neal Boortz who identifies as a libertarian, but supported the federal government spying on anti-Iraq war protesters.

While not all libertarians profess racist views, there are a disproportionately large number who do.[citationneeded] Libertarians frequently profess belief in individualism, which would seem (on paper) to preclude racism. However, that doesn’t always happen in reality.

Murray Rothbard,[38] although of Jewish origin himself, also sympathized with white nationalism and supported building a coalition of white nationalists, paleoconservatives, and libertarians.[39]

Another notable example is the case of the so-called “Ron Paul newsletters”, many of which were actually written by Lew Rockwell, and expressed blatantly racist views during the 1990s. They resurfaced as a topic of controversy during Paul’s 2008 campaign for president.

There is a strong overlap between libertarianism and social Darwinism given that both tend to reject the welfare state. Social Darwinism, of course, also correlates with racism, so this could be another reason why a libertarian might be racist. Libertarians who espouse scientific racism often argue that only white people are biologically capable of true individualist thinking, or of living in a libertarian society, and so libertarian societies need to be whites-only (or at the very least, to have closed borders).

Other libertarians argue for racial segregation on the basis of the right of free association, and the belief that all people would “naturally” self-segregate along racial lines were it not for affirmative action, government policies and pernicious cultural influences.

Libertarianism would seem to be even less compatible with fascism or Nazism, given that fascism teaches that individuals only have worth if they serve the State, while libertarianism is opposed to the state. However, there have been those who seem to espouse both. Certain segments of the alt-right identify as libertarian yet also express sympathy for Nazism or neo-Nazism; the website “The Right Stuff” (which prominently features pictures of Hitler and broadcasts a radio show called The Daily Shoah, whose guests have included Christopher Cantwell) is one notable example.

Quite a few libertarians hold to a paranoid or conspiracist worldview, which in some cases may include Holocaust denial. This, as well as the relationship between libertarianism and the gun culture, may partly explain the appeal of Nazi or Nazi-like ideas to some libertarians.

Much like Marxism (which holds that a “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a necessary transitional stage between the capitalist status quo and true, stateless communism), it’s also possible that some people might see libertarianism as the desired end state but believe that fascism (and the genocide of “undesirables”) is necessary as a transitional stage.

The following institutions and groups are closely or loosely associated with modern libertarianism:

The rest is here:

Libertarianism – RationalWiki

Is the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism like Wikipedia? – Cato Institute (blog)

I see that my colleagues are referring to the new online Encyclopedia of Libertarianism as a Wikipedia for libertarianism. I suppose thats sort of true, in that its an online encyclopedia. But its not exactly Hayekian, as Jimmy Wales describes Wikipedia. That is, it didnt emerge spontaneously from the actions of hundreds of thousands of contributors. Instead, editors Ronald Hamowy, Jason Kuznicki, and Aaron Steelman drew up a list of topics and sought the best scholars to write on each one people like Alan Charles Kors, Bryan Caplan, Deirdre McCloskey, George H. Smith, Israel Kirzner, James Buchanan, Joan Kennedy Taylor, Jeremy Shearmur, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Norman Barry, Richard Epstein, Randy Barnett, and Vernon L. Smith, along with many Cato Institute experts. In that regard its more like the Encyclopedia Britannica of libertarianism, a guide to important topics by top scholars in the relevant field.

The Britannica over the years has published articles byAlbert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Leon Trotsky, Harry Houdini, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Milton Friedman, Simon Baron Cohen, and Desmond Tutu. They may have slipped a bit when they published articles by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Lee Iacocca. And particularly when they chose to me to write their entry on libertarianism.

Read more:

Is the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism like Wikipedia? – Cato Institute (blog)

The conservative and libertarian movements need to purge white … – Hot Air

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about the Republican Party foolishly purging supporters they should be willing to embrace. The focus was mostly on small-c conservatives and small-l libertarians who were a thorn in the side of either congressional leadership, gay, or grassroots activists. These are people who probably have long hair, dyed hair, tattoos, piercings and probably listen to punk rock, metal, rap, or Top 40 more than whats considered your typical Republican fare of country or patriotic tunes. They also make up a larger part of the movement, and could help the party win more elections down the road, fight back against the leviathan of government (federal, state, and local), and educate a new generation of voters on why safe spaces, political correctness, and increased government spending are rotten ideas. They wont always agree with the typical GOP platform, but if theyre fans of freedom and liberty, it beats being fans of authoritarianism, right?

Whats interesting is that the people who railed against reaching out to this version of conservatives and libertarians the most are the ones who are now in the news the most: the alt-Right and white supremacists. This group of angry white boys, to steal a line from Kevin D. Williamson, yowled that they were the ones who needed to be brought in because they were being forgotten. Donald Trump certainly acquiesced to them, bringing in Stephen Bannon while also embarking on populist rhetoric not heard since Andrew Jackson. Trump is now in the White House and white nationalists feel their voices have been heard and its time to take the power back, as Rage Against the Machines Zack de la Rocha might howl. It doesnt matter if Trumps victory may have been chiefly due to how awful a candidate Hillary Clinton was, with her campaign ignoring states like Michigan, which swung towards Trump. The white mob is ready to use their newfound anger to drive out freedom lovers and cuckservatives with their tiki torches, polo shirts, and Adolf Hitler quoting tees.

Its time to flip the script and purge these racist, fascist Neanderthals from the conservative and libertarian movement, once and for all.

There are going to be people who read this and rightly say, But this is a small group, who arent really conservative/libertarian, so I shouldnt care at all about them. The problem is these Richard Spencers and Peter Brimelows got their start in the movement, under the guise of paleoconservatism, while others are part of the Hans-Hermann Hoppe bloc of libertarianism. They are the wolves in sheep clothing looking to draw more and more people into their pack while ripping away at the foundation of freedom and liberty at the same time.

These backwards-thinking white nationalists and the commentators who cater to them need to be rejected, not just because of their policies but the fact that they give certain politicians and media outlets the chance to paint a broad brush across actual conservatives and libertarians. For every Justin Amash or Mike Lee, there is a neoconfederate-backed Corey Stewart. For every Ludwig von Mises or Thomas Sowell or Matt Kibbe, who preach the importance of liberty and limited government open to all, there is a Paul Gottfried or Pat Buchanan or Chris Cantwell, who charge after the windmill of multiculturalism while moralizing about the strong state like a preacher spitting out epithets on hellfire and brimstone. These grifters of American values are indeed the minority, but ones who will not stop trying to sneak in with the crowd inside the big tent.

Why do white nationalists, fascists, and their fellow travelers try to get into the conservative and libertarian circles? Because they believe the left is already filled up! The nationalists believe the same as the socialists in the power of the all encompassing state but are uninterested in a war until it suits their purposes, or at least goes after a target they hold sacred.

They have long sought to infiltrate those groups who believe in smaller, weaker government with racial and quite loony beliefs. William F. Buckley recounted his fight against John Birch Society founder Robert Welch in Commentary, describing a 1964 clandestine meeting between he, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, Russell Kirk, and American Enterprise Institute founder William Baroody. The quartet decided to attack Welch in various different ways, to keep him from gaining further strength within the movement. Libertarians were quick to expunge Merwin Hart for anti-Semitism, thanks to the work of Foundation for Economic Education creator Leonard Read. The guardians of the gate were quick to make sure no white supremacists sneaked in, regardless of whatever Trojan horse they tried to hide inside.

Yet the conservative and libertarian movement of the last decade has passively accepted these insufferables, as long as they give lip service to limited government or key social conservative viewpoints like abortion and gay marriage. The white supremacists saw their chance during the heyday of the Tea Party and strolled back into the movement like Professor Harold Hill did in River City, Iowa in The Music Man. But unlike Hill, who found redemption through Marian the Librarian, these mountebanks are more in line with The Wizard of Oz, using tricks and sly words to get into power, and rule with an iron fist.

For whatever reason, the thinkers and organizers saw no reason to drive these individuals out as their ancestral leaders saw fit to do. One Latina libertarian friend of mine recounted being told, No apologies! by a Republican state office candidate after someone at a conference told her to return to Mexico. Her horrific crime which deserved a scarlet letter, much like Hester Prynne? Explaining why its important to be compassionate, yet not compromise principles! Tea Party organizers also decided to expand their vision from a critique on government spending, and freedom for all, into other topics, to increase their own numbers and draw more in. The intellectuals also failed in their mission. Richard Spencer was accepted by Duke Conservative Union and The American Conservative, while libertarians let Augustus Sol Invictus speak at New York Libertyfest last year. Cantwell was on Tom Woods show in 2014, while Cathy Reisenwitz wrote too many libertarians decided to just ignore Cantwell, instead of denouncing him. It is certainly honorable to be open to all, but whenever totalitarians see an opening, theyll present themselves as an ally before usurping like Napoleon did the Council of Five Hundred. Organizers and thinkers need to be good shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks to make sure no sheep go astray into danger or destruction. It also denies the fascists the chance to gain power.

The key way of rejecting these fakers isnt through violence or the government because that allows the wolves to play the victim card and whine into their keyboards how life isnt fair. They can also coerce more people into their ranks, by tossing sympathy around like a business card and pretending to be martyrs. The strategy of shutting up the opposition through laws and violence also is completely anathema to the tenets of liberty and freedom of association, press, and speech. People have the right to believe whatever they want to believe, regardless of how hare-brained and cockamamie it might be. The idea of a nation just for white, black, or brown people is rather absurd within itself, even if those who want to put race on top believe it will lead to utopia.

It should be society who tells these con artists to go away, much like they did when the KKK attempted to stay relevant after most of America left them behind. As my friend, Jason Pye, wrote at Townhall, his mother raised him to respect everyone and treat them how I wanted to be treated. It was society who deemed the Klan inconsequential and treated their attempts into the public eye with scorn and derision, until their sideshows became as unpopular as MySpace: still around, but hardly worth mentioning unless one is remembering what not to do. There is nothing wrong with peacefully removing racist thought leaders from conventions, much like the libertarians did to Spencer at ISFLC in February, but the power of the state should not be used.

As for those who complain about the lefts violence, to them I say, grow up! These people are doing their best imitation of a toddler pointing fingers at another child howling they did it first! while the adults stare at both with cocked eyebrow and disappointed gaze. There is violence on the left, make no mistake, but it behooves those in the freedom and liberty movement to decry and condemn violence as a whole, no matter who does it. The good news is that there are more adults than toddlers in the world and most of them have already denounced what happened in Virginia, along with other actions by the so-called alt-Right. The adults who are lagging behind need to ponder long and hard whether the left should remove its eye plank, before the right does.

To those who believe violence is the way to wipe out white supremacy, I would say, no because violence puts innocents in the middle. It damages those who have no interest in being involved in a particular fight, and who simply want to live their lives in peace. To those who say the government is the answer to snuffing out white supremacy, I say, no. The heavy hand of government has no business in wiping away an ideology no matter how horrific it might be.

It falls on society to rid the world of hatred. Its also up to intellectual and community leaders, along with politicians, to make sure these small-minded wannabe Jabroni try-hard nationalists are rejected and marginalized, and their philosophy tossed onto the dung heap of history.

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The conservative and libertarian movements need to purge white … – Hot Air

Learn the History of Liberty with the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism – Cato Institute (blog)

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, published in 2008 in hard copy, is now available free online at Libertarianism.org. The Encyclopedia includesmore than 300 succinct, original articles on libertarian ideas, institutions, and thinkers. Contributors include James Buchanan, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, Randy Barnett, Ellen Frankel Paul, Deirdre McCloskey, and more than 100 otherscholars.

A couple of years ago, in an interesting discussion of social change and especiallythe best ways to spread classical liberal ideasat Liberty Funds Online Library of Liberty, historian David M. Hart had high praise for the Encyclopedia:

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianismprovides an excellent survey of the key movements, individuals, and events in the evolution of the classical liberal movement.

One should begin with Steve Davies General Introduction, pp. xxv-xxxvii, which is an excellent survey of the ideas, movements, and key events in the development of liberty, then read some of the articles on specific historical periods, movements, schools of thought, and individuals.

He goes on to suggest specific articles in the Encyclopedia that are essential reading for understanding successful radical change in ideas and political and economic structures, in both a pro-liberty and anti-liberty direction. Heres his guide to learning about the history of liberty in theEncyclopedia of Libertarianism:

I could add more essays to his list, but Ill restrain myself to just one: Along with the essays on the Constitution and James Madison, read Federalists Versus Anti-Federalists by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel.

By the way, you can still get the beautiful hardcover edition. Right now its half-price at the Cato Store.

Link:

Learn the History of Liberty with the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism – Cato Institute (blog)

Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

The Poles have the historical appearance to have been oppressed by both the Nazis and the Commies/Marxists. Countries in Eastern Europe who went through being occupied by Nazis and Marxists often speak out loudly about their dangers. Yet, out here in the West, it seems our people are willing to only hear half of it, as the Marxists are spreading like wildfire.

Socialism, National Socialism (Nazism for those who somehow dont know this), Communism and any other variation of Marixsm, as well as any racial supremacist groups, including the KKK, have no place in the United States. You have the right to your beliefs but you do not have the right to enforce those beliefs on the people via policy and/or law, and this has to be the libertarian position. These political beliefs violate the non-aggression principle, and the overall rights of the individual. If we were to allow any socialist policies to go forth, including such things as universal healthcare or free college/university we would be failing (I hate to sound like a collectivist) the people of the United States. Through these types of policies, we, the people, would essentially be financially responsible for the lifestyles and educational choices of the rest of the country through taxation, which brings me to my next point.

The general libertarian view on taxation is that it is coercion. The state is essentially stealing our money through threat of force; this means that the state itself is in violation of the NAP. Would we, in turn, suggest that the state itself be dissolved? Many say yes, yet this enters the realm of anarchism, and less of libertarianism. Libertarianism, as I know it, isnt for the complete dissolution of government but for the reduction of government. But how can a government exist without money? Weve already answered this in thousands upon thousands of conversations: through donation and charity.

The government works today as a middle man: it takes our money and funnels it into things such as infrastructure and welfare. It does so via coercion through threat of force and while we know that these services can be provided solely through the market, we must think of those who arent capable of a self-sustainable life: seniors, the mentally and physically disabled, and in some cases, children whose parents are unable to provide resources needed to live.

What we need is tax reform and we already know the solution (in fact, we rant about it all the time): volunteerism. Make it so that taxation is a voluntary system and that we, the people, get to decide where our money gets to go to. If you want to donate $2,000 to the welfare of the mentally ill than thats where the money will go. If you want to donate $10 to fill a pot hole, have at it. In short, the government is supposed to work for the people, but through threatening us in order to provide us services, it is doing more harm than good. Without the threat of jail time or even a forced quota system, government could be, at its essence, a charitable organization. Isnt that what the government is supposed to be anyways, for the people and by the people?

This being such a radical idea, and already with so many holes in it for a large country to implement suddenly, I would suggest if we want to make any progress towards a truly free and liberty focused society we find a way to test a system such as this. It could be proposed and put up for a vote in a small town somewhere and tried out for a set period of time. Probably the best two things about this theory is that it is doesnt violate the NAP in any way and that it is a volunteer based system.

In a time of radicals on every side of the aisle and high tensions, I cant think of a better time to try to actually test out this theory and bring the country back to sanity. Benjamin Franklin supposedly said, Im an extreme moderate. I believe anybody not in favor of moderation and compromise ought to be castrated. It is best that the only radicals in society be those who promote individualism and liberty instead of those who promote collectivism and obedience.

* Jarod Goodwin is an archaeology student in his mid-twenties. Hes worked in the grassroots movement for the election of Jim Webb in 2016, and in informing foreigners and locals alike to the different political sides of things like Brexit, the Dutch election, French election, Canadian, Swedish, and Brazilian politics.

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Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

Libertarian Party | Minimum Government. Maximum Freedom.

A meeting of the Libertarian National Committee will take place on Saturday, Aug. 19, and Sunday, Aug. 20, at the Holiday Inn KCI Expo Center in Kansas City, Mo. The… Read more

Gary St. Fleur is running for mayor of Scranton, Penn., as a Libertarian. Aug. 4 marked a major victory for tax-cutters, and especially taxpayers, when Judge James Gibbons sided with… Read more

LNC Chair Nicholas Sarwark speaking at the Fancy Farm picnic in Kentucky. Every year, St. Jeromes Parish in Mayfield, Ky., holds the Fancy Farm Picnic, a community event with barbecue,… Read more

Shifting the layers of bureaucracy in the U.S. government-managed health care system wont make much of a difference, Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark explained in Jennifer Harpers Aug. 4… Read more

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Libertarian Party | Minimum Government. Maximum Freedom.

Libertarianism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What it means to be a “libertarian” in a political sense is a contentious issue, especially among libertarians themselves. There is no single theory that can be safely identified as the libertarian theory, and probably no single principle or set of principles on which all libertarians can agree. Nevertheless, there is a certain family resemblance among libertarian theories that can serve as a framework for analysis. Although there is much disagreement about the details, libertarians are generally united by a rough agreement on a cluster of normative principles, empirical generalizations, and policy recommendations. Libertarians are committed to the belief that individuals, and not states or groups of any other kind, are both ontologically and normatively primary; that individuals have rights against certain kinds of forcible interference on the part of others; that liberty, understood as non-interference, is the only thing that can be legitimately demanded of others as a matter of legal or political right; that robust property rights and the economic liberty that follows from their consistent recognition are of central importance in respecting individual liberty; that social order is not at odds with but develops out of individual liberty; that the only proper use of coercion is defensive or to rectify an error; that governments are bound by essentially the same moral principles as individuals; and that most existing and historical governments have acted improperly insofar as they have utilized coercion for plunder, aggression, redistribution, and other purposes beyond the protection of individual liberty.

In terms of political recommendations, libertarians believe that most, if not all, of the activities currently undertaken by states should be either abandoned or transferred into private hands. The most well-known version of this conclusion finds expression in the so-called “minimal state” theories of Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand, and others (Nozick 1974; Rand 1963a, 1963b) which hold that states may legitimately provide police, courts, and a military, but nothing more. Any further activity on the part of the stateregulating or prohibiting the sale or use of drugs, conscripting individuals for military service, providing taxpayer-funded support to the poor, or even building public roadsis itself rights-violating and hence illegitimate.

Libertarian advocates of a strictly minimal state are to be distinguished from two closely related groups, who favor a smaller or greater role for government, and who may or may not also label themselves “libertarian.” On one hand are so-called anarcho-capitalists who believe that even the minimal state is too large, and that a proper respect for individual rights requires the abolition of government altogether and the provision of protective services by private markets. On the other hand are those who generally identify themselves as classical liberals. Members of this group tend to share libertarians’ confidence in free markets and skepticism over government power, but are more willing to allow greater room for coercive activity on the part of the state so as to allow, say, state provision of public goods or even limited tax-funded welfare transfers.

As this article will use the term, libertarianism is a theory about the proper role of government that can be, and has been, supported on a number of different metaphysical, epistemological, and moral grounds. Some libertarians are theists who believe that the doctrine follows from a God-made natural law. Others are atheists who believe it can be supported on purely secular grounds. Some libertarians are rationalists who deduce libertarian conclusions from axiomatic first principles. Others derive their libertarianism from empirical generalizations or a reliance on evolved tradition. And when it comes to comprehensive moral theories, libertarians represent an almost exhaustive array of positions. Some are egoists who believe that individuals have no natural duties to aid their fellow human beings, while others adhere to moral doctrines that hold that the better-off have significant duties to improve the lot of the worse-off. Some libertarians are deontologists, while others are consequentialists, contractarians, or virtue-theorists. Understanding libertarianism as a narrow, limited thesis about the proper moral standing, and proper zone of activity, of the stateand not a comprehensive ethical or metaphysical doctrineis crucial to making sense of this otherwise baffling diversity of broader philosophic positions.

This article will focus primarily on libertarianism as a philosophic doctrine. This means that, rather than giving close scrutiny to the important empirical claims made both in support and criticism of libertarianism, it will focus instead on the metaphysical, epistemological, and especially moral claims made by the discussants. Those interested in discussions of the non-philosophical aspects of libertarianism can find some recommendations in the reference list below.

Furthermore, this article will focus almost exclusively on libertarian arguments regarding just two philosophical subjects: distributive justice and political authority. There is a danger that this narrow focus will be misleading, since it ignores a number of interesting and important arguments that libertarians have made on subjects ranging from free speech to self-defense, to the proper social treatment of the mentally ill. More generally, it ignores the ways in which libertarianism is a doctrine of social or civil liberty, and not just one of economic liberty. For a variety of reasons, however, the philosophic literature on libertarianism has mostly ignored these other aspects of the theory, and so this article, as a summary of that literature, will generally reflect that trend.

Probably the most well-known and influential version of libertarianism, at least among academic philosophers, is that based upon a theory of natural rights. Natural rights theories vary, but are united by a common belief that individuals have certain moral rights simply by virtue of their status as human beings, that these rights exist prior to and logically independent of the existence of government, and that these rights constrain the ways in which it is morally permissible for both other individuals and governments to treat individuals.

Although one can find some earlier traces of this doctrine among, for instance, the English Levellers or the Spanish School of Salamanca, John Locke’s political thought is generally recognized as the most important historical influence on contemporary natural rights versions of libertarianism. The most important elements of Locke’s theory in this respect, set out in his Second Treatise, are his beliefs about the law of nature, and his doctrine of property rights in external goods.

Locke’s idea of the law of nature draws on a distinction between law and government that has been profoundly influential on the development of libertarian thought. According to Locke, even if no government existed over men, the state of nature would nevertheless not be a state of “license.” In other words, men would still be governed by law, albeit one that does not originate from any political source (c.f. Hayek 1973, ch. 4). This law, which Locke calls the “law of nature” holds that “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, or possessions” (Locke 1952, para. 6). This law of nature serves as a normative standard to govern human conduct, rather than as a description of behavioral regularities in the world (as are other laws of nature like, for instance, the law of gravity). Nevertheless, it is a normative standard that Locke believes is discoverable by human reason, and that binds us all equally as rational agents.

Locke’s belief in a prohibition on harming others stems from his more basic belief that each individual “has a property in his own person” (Locke 1952, para. 27). In other words, individuals are self-owners. Throughout this essay we will refer to this principle, which has been enormously influential on later libertarians, as the “self-ownership principle.” Though controversial, it has generally been taken to mean that each individual possesses over her own body all those rights of exclusive use that we normally associate with property in external goods. But if this were all that individuals owned, their liberties and ability to sustain themselves would obviously be extremely limited. For almost anything we want to doeating, walking, even breathing, or speaking in order to ask another’s permissioninvolves the use of external goods such as land, trees, or air. From this, Locke concludes, we must have some way of acquiring property in those external goods, else they will be of no use to anyone. But since we own ourselves, Locke argues, we therefore also own our labor. And by “mixing” our labor with external goods, we can come to own those external goods too. This allows individuals to make private use of the world that God has given to them in common. There is a limit, however, to this ability to appropriate external goods for private use, which Locke captures in his famous “proviso” that holds that a legitimate act of appropriation must leave “enough, and as good… in common for others” (Locke 1952, para. 27). Still, even with this limit, the combination of time, inheritance, and differential abilities, motivation, and luck will lead to possibly substantial inequalities in wealth between persons, and Locke acknowledges this as an acceptable consequence of his doctrine (Locke 1952, para. 50).

By far the single most important influence on the perception of libertarianism among contemporary academic philosophers was Robert Nozick in his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). This book is an explanation and exploration of libertarian rights that attempts to show how a minimal, and no more than a minimal, state can arise via an “invisible hand” process out of a state of nature without violating the rights of individuals; to challenge the highly influential claims of John Rawls that purport to show that a more-than-minimal state was justified and required to achieve distributive justice; and to show that a regime of libertarian rights could establish a “framework for utopia” wherein different individuals would be free to seek out and create mediating institutions to help them achieve their own distinctive visions of the good life.

The details of Nozick’s arguments can be found at Robert Nozick. Here, we will just briefly point out a few elements of particular importance in understanding Nozick’s place in contemporary libertarian thoughthis focus on the “negative” aspects of liberty and rights, his Kantian defense of rights, his historical theory of entitlement, and his acceptance of a modified Lockean proviso on property acquisition. A discussion of his argument for the minimal state can be found in the section on anarcho-capitalism below.

First, Nozick, like almost all natural rights libertarians, stresses negative liberties and rights above positive liberties and rights. The distinction between positive and negative liberty, made famous by Isaiah Berlin (Berlin 1990), is often thought of as a distinction between “freedom to” and “freedom from.” One has positive liberty when one has the opportunity and ability to do what one wishes (or, perhaps, what one “rationally” wishes or “ought” to wish). One has negative liberty, on the other hand, when there is an absence of external interferences to one’s doing what one wishesspecifically, when there is an absence of external interferences by other people. A person who is too sick to gather food has his negative liberty intactno one is stopping him from gathering foodbut not his positive liberty as he is unable to gather food even though he wants to do so. Nozick and most libertarians see the proper role of the state as protecting negative liberty, not as promoting positive liberty, and so toward this end Nozick focuses on negative rights as opposed to positive rights. Negative rights are claims against others to refrain from certain kinds of actions against you. Positive rights are claims against others to perform some sort of positive action. Rights against assault, for instance, are negative rights, since they simply require others not to assault you. Welfare rights, on the other hand, are positive rights insofar as they require others to provide you with money or services. By enforcing negative rights, the state protects our negative liberty. It is an empirical question whether enforcing merely negative rights or, as more left-liberal philosophers would promote, enforcing a mix of both negative and positive rights would better promote positive liberty.

Second, while Nozick agrees with the broadly Lockean picture of the content and government-independence of natural law and natural rights, his remarks in defense of those rights draw their inspiration more from Immanuel Kant than from Locke. Nozick does not provide a full-blown argument to justify libertarian rights against other non-libertarian rights theoriesa point for which he has been widely criticized, most famously by Thomas Nagel (Nagel 1975). But what he does say in their defense suggests that he sees libertarian rights as an entailment of the other-regarding element in Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperativethat we treat the humanity in ourselves and others as an end in itself, and never merely as a means. According to Nozick, both utilitarianism and theories that uphold positive rights sanction the involuntary sacrifice of one individual’s interests for the sake of others. Only libertarian rights, which for Nozick take the form of absolute side-constraints against force and fraud, show proper respect for the separateness of persons by barring such sacrifice altogether, and allowing each individual the liberty to pursue his or her own goals without interference.

Third, it is important to note that Nozick’s libertarianism evaluates the justice of states of affairs, such as distributions of property, in terms of the history or process by which that state of affairs arose, and not by the extent to which it satisfies what he calls a patterned or end-state principle of justice. Distributions of property are just, according to Nozick, if they arose from previously just distributions by just procedures. Discerning the justice of current distributions thus requires that we establish a theory of justice in transferto tell us which procedures constitute legitimate means of transferring ownership between personsand a theory of justice in acquisitionto tell us how individuals might come to own external goods that were previously owned by no one. And while Nozick does not fully develop either of these theories, his skeletal position is nevertheless significant, for it implies that it is only the proper historical pedigree that makes a distribution just, and it is only deviations from the proper pedigree that renders a distribution unjust. An implication of this position is that one cannot discern from time-slice statistical data alonesuch as the claim that the top fifth of the income distribution in the United States controls more than 80 percent of the nation’s wealththat a distribution is unjust. Rather, the justice of a distribution depends on how it came aboutby force or by trade? By differing degrees of hard work and luck? Or by fraud and theft? Libertarianism’s historical focus thus sets the doctrine against both outcome-egalitarian views that hold that only equal distributions are just, utilitarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they maximize utility, and prioritarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they benefit the worse-off. Justice in distribution is a matter of respecting people’s rights, not of achieving a certain outcome.

The final distinctive element of Nozick’s view is his acceptance of a modified version of the Lockean proviso as part of his theory of justice in acquisition. Nozick reads Locke’s claim that legitimate acts of appropriation must leave enough and as good for others as a claim that such appropriations must not worsen the situation of others (Nozick 1974, 175, 178). On the face of it, this seems like a small change from Locke’s original statement, but Nozick believes it allows for much greater freedom for free exchange and capitalism (Nozick 1974, 182). Nozick reaches this conclusion on the basis of certain empirical beliefs about the beneficial effects of private property:

it increases the social product by putting means of production in the hands of those who can use them most efficiently (profitably); experimentation is encouraged, because with separate persons controlling resources, there is no one person or small group whom someone with a new idea must convince to try it out; private property enables people to decide on the pattern and type of risks they wish to bear, leading to specialized types of risk bearing; private property protects future persons by leading some to hold back resources from current consumption for future markets; it provides alternative sources of employment for unpopular persons who don’t have to convince any one person or small group to hire them, and so on. (Nozick 1974, 177)

If these assumptions are correct, then persons might not be made worse off by acts of original appropriation even if those acts fail to leave enough and as good for others to appropriate. Private property and the capitalist markets to which it gives rise generate an abundance of wealth, and latecomers to the appropriation game (like people today) are in a much better position as a result. As David Schmidtz puts the point:

Original appropriation diminishes the stock of what can be originally appropriated, at least in the case of land, but that is not the same thing as diminishing the stock of what can be owned. On the contrary, in taking control of resources and thereby removing those particular resources from the stock of goods that can be acquired by original appropriation, people typically generate massive increases in the stock of goods that can be acquired by trade. The lesson is that appropriation is typically not a zero-sum game. It normally is a positive-sum game. (Schmidtz and Goodin 1998, 30)

Relative to their level of well-being in a world where nothing is privately held, then, individuals are generally not made worse off by acts of private appropriation. Thus, Nozick concludes, the Lockean proviso will “not provide a significant opportunity for future state action” in the form of redistribution or regulation of private property (Nozick 1974, 182).

Nozick’s libertarian theory has been subject to criticism on a number of grounds. Here we will focus on two primary categories of criticism of Lockean/Nozickian natural rights libertarianismnamely, with respect to the principle of self-ownership and the derivation of private property rights from self-ownership.

Criticisms of the self-ownership principle generally take one of two forms. Some arguments attempt to sever the connection between the principle of self-ownership and the more fundamental moral principles that are thought to justify it. Nozick’s suggestion that self-ownership is warranted by the Kantian principle that no one should be treated as a mere means, for instance, is criticized by G.A. Cohen on the grounds that policies that violate self-ownership by forcing the well-off to support the less advantaged do not necessarily treat the well-off merely as means (Cohen 1995, 239241). We can satisfy Kant’s imperative against treating others as mere means without thereby committing ourselves to full self-ownership, Cohen argues, and we have good reason to do so insofar as the principle of self-ownership has other, implausible, consequences. The same general pattern of argument holds against more intuitive defenses of the self-ownership principle. Nozick’s concern (Nozick 1977, 206), elaborated by Cohen (Cohen 1995, 70), that theories that deny self-ownership might license the forcible transfer of eyes from the sight-endowed to the blind, for instance, or Murray Rothbard’s claim that the only alternatives to self-ownership are slavery or communism (Rothbard 1973, 29), have been met with the response that a denial of the permissibility of slavery, communism, and eye-transplants can be madeand usually better madeon grounds other than self-ownership.

Other criticisms of self-ownership focus on the counterintuitive or otherwise objectionable implications of self-ownership. Cohen, for instance, argues that recognizing rights to full self-ownership allows individuals’ lives to be objectionably governed by brute luck in the distribution of natural assets, since the self that people own is largely a product of their luck in receiving a good or bad genetic endowment, and being raised in a good or bad environment (Cohen 1995, 229). Richard Arneson, on the other hand, has argued that self-ownership conflicts with Pareto-Optimality (Arneson 1991). His concern is that since self-ownership is construed by libertarians as an absolute right, it follows that it cannot be violated even in small ways and even when great benefit would accrue from doing so. Thus, to modify David Hume, absolute rights of self-ownership seem to prevent us from scratching the finger of another even to prevent the destruction of the whole world. And although the real objection here seems to be to the absoluteness of self-ownership rights, rather than to self-ownership rights as such, it remains unclear whether strict libertarianism can be preserved if rights of self-ownership are given a less than absolute status.

Even if individuals have absolute rights to full self-ownership, it can still be questioned whether there is a legitimate way of moving from ownership of the self to ownership of external goods.

Left-libertarians, such as Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, and Michael Otsuka, grant the self-ownership principle but deny that it can yield full private property rights in external goods, especially land (Steiner 1994; Vallentyne 2000; Otsuka 2003). Natural resources, such theorists hold, belong to everyone in some equal way, and private appropriation of them amounts to theft. Rather than returning all such goods to the state of nature, however, most left-libertarians suggest that those who claim ownership of such resources be subjected to a tax to compensate others for the loss of their rights of use. Since the tax is on the value of the external resource and not on individuals’ natural talents or efforts, it is thought that this line of argument can provide a justification for a kind of egalitarian redistribution that is compatible with full individual self-ownership.

While left-libertarians doubt that self-ownership can yield full private property rights in external goods, others are doubtful that the concept is determinate enough to yield any theory of justified property ownership at all. Locke’s metaphor on labor mixing, for instance, is intuitively appealing, but notoriously difficult to work out in detail (Waldron 1983). First, it is not clear why mixing one’s labor with something generates any rights at all. As Nozick himself asks, “why isn’t mixing what I own with what I don’t own a way of losing what I own rather than a way of gaining what I don’t?” (Nozick 1974, 174175). Second, it is not clear what the scope of the rights generated by labor-mixing are. Again, Nozick playfully suggests (but does not answer) this question when he asks whether a person who builds a fence around virgin land thereby comes to own the enclosed land, or simply the fence, or just the land immediately under it. But the point is more worrisome than Nozick acknowledges. For as critics such as Barbara Fried have pointed out, following Hohfeld, property ownership is not a single right but a bundle of rights, and it is far from clear which “sticks” from this bundle individuals should come to control by virtue of their self-ownership (Fried 2004). Does one’s ownership right over a plot of land entail the right to store radioactive waste on it? To dam the river that runs through it? To shine a very bright light from it in the middle of the night (Friedman 1989, 168)? Problems such as these must, of course, be resolved by any political theorynot just libertarians. The problem is that the concept of self-ownership seems to offer little, if any, help in doing so.

While Nozickian libertarianism finds its inspiration in Locke and Kant, there is another species of libertarianism that draws its influence from David Hume, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. This variety of libertarianism holds its political principles to be grounded not in self-ownership or the natural rights of humanity, but in the beneficial consequences that libertarian rights and institutions produce, relative to possible and realistic alternatives. To the extent that such theorists hold that consequences, and only consequences, are relevant in the justification of libertarianism, they can properly be labeled a form of consequentialism. Some of these consequentialist forms of libertarianism are utilitarian. But consequentialism is not identical to utilitarianism, and this section will explore both traditional quantitative utilitarian defenses of libertarianism, and other forms more difficult to classify.

Philosophically, the approach that seeks to justify political institutions by demonstrating their tendency to maximize utility has its clearest origins in the thought of Jeremy Bentham, himself a legal reformer as well as moral theorist. But, while Bentham was no advocate of unfettered laissez-faire, his approach has been enormously influential among economists, especially the Austrian and Chicago Schools of Economics, many of whom have utilized utilitarian analysis in support of libertarian political conclusions. Some influential economists have been self-consciously libertarianthe most notable of which being Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan, and Milton Friedman (the latter three are Nobel laureates). Richard Epstein, more legal theorist than economist, nevertheless utilizes utilitarian argument with an economic analysis of law to defend his version of classical liberalism. His work in Principles for a Free Society (1998) and Skepticism and Freedom (2003) is probably the most philosophical of contemporary utilitarian defenses of libertarianism. Buchanan’s work is generally described as contractarian, though it certainly draws heavily on utilitarian analysis. It too is highly philosophical.

Utilitarian defenses of libertarianism generally consist of two prongs: utilitarian arguments in support of private property and free exchange and utilitarian arguments against government policies that exceed the bounds of the minimal state. Utilitarian defenses of private property and free exchange are too diverse to thoroughly canvass in a single article. For the purposes of this article, however, the focus will be on two main arguments that have been especially influential: the so-called “Tragedy of the Commons” argument for private property and the “Invisible Hand” argument for free exchange.

The Tragedy of the Commons argument notes that under certain conditions when property is commonly owned or, equivalently, owned by no one, it will be inefficiently used and quickly depleted. In his original description of the problem of the commons, Garrett Hardin asks us to imagine a pasture open to all, on which various herders graze their cattle (Hardin 1968). Each additional animal that the herder is able to graze means greater profit for the herder, who captures that entire benefit for his or her self. Of course, additional cattle on the pasture has a cost as well in terms of crowding and diminished carrying capacity of the land, but importantly this cost of additional grazing, unlike the benefit, is dispersed among all herders. Since each herder thus receives the full benefit of each additional animal but bears only a fraction of the dispersed cost, it benefits him or her to graze more and more animals on the land. But since this same logic applies equally well to all herders, we can expect them all to act this way, with the result that the carrying capacity of the field will quickly be exceeded.

The tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons is especially apparent if we model it as a Prisoner’s Dilemma, wherein each party has the option to graze additional animals or not to graze. (See figure 1, below, where A and B represent two herders, “graze” and “don’t graze” their possible options, and the four possible outcomes of their joint action. Within the boxes, the numbers represent the utility each herder receives from the outcome, with A’s outcome listed on the left and B’s on the right). As the discussion above suggests, the best outcome for each individual herder is to graze an additional animal, but for the other herder not tohere the herder reaps all the benefit and only a fraction of the cost. The worst outcome for each individual herder, conversely, is to refrain from grazing an additional animal while the other herder indulgesin this situation, the herder bears costs but receives no benefit. The relationship between the other two possible outcomes is important. Both herders would be better off if neither grazed an additional animal, compared to the outcome in which both do graze an additional animal. The long-term benefits of operating within the carrying capacity of the land, we can assume, outweigh the short-term gains to be had from mutual overgrazing. By the logic of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, however, rational self-interested herders will not choose mutual restraint over mutual exploitation of the resource. This is because, so long as the costs of over-grazing are partially externalized on to other users of the resource, it is in each herder’s interest to overgraze regardless of what the other party does. In the language of game theory, overgrazing dominates restraint. As a result, not only is the resource consumed, but both parties are made worse off individually than they could have been. Mutual overgrazing creates a situation that not only yields a lower total utility than mutual restraint (2 vs. 6), but that is Pareto-inferior to mutual restraintat least one party (indeed, both!) would have been made better off by mutual restraint without anyone having been made worse off.

B

Don’t Graze

Graze

A

Don’t Graze

3, 3

0, 5

Graze

5, 0

1, 1

Figure 1. The Tragedy of the Commons as Prisoner’s Dilemma

The classic solution to the Tragedy of the Commons is private property. Recall that the tragedy arises because individual herders do not have to bear the full costs of their actions. Because the land is common to all, the costs of overgrazing are partially externalized on to other users of the resource. But private property changes this. If, instead of being commonly owned by all, the field was instead divided into smaller pieces of private property, then herders would have the power to exclude others from using their own property. One would only be able to graze cattle on one’s own field, or on others’ fields on terms specified by their owners, and this means that the costs of that overgrazing (in terms of diminished usability of the land or diminished resale value because of that diminished usability) would be borne by the overgrazer alone. Private property forces individuals to internalize the cost of their actions, and this in turn provides individuals with an incentive to use the resource wisely.

The lesson is that by creating and respecting private property rights in external resources, governments can provide individuals with an incentive to use those resources in an efficient way, without the need for complicated government regulation and oversight of those resources. Libertarians have used this basic insight to argue for everything from privatization of roads (Klein and Fielding 1992) to private property as a solution to various environmental problems (Anderson and Leal 1991).

Libertarians believe that individuals and groups should be free to trade just about anything they wish with whomever they wish, with little to no governmental restriction. They therefore oppose laws that prohibit certain types of exchanges (such as prohibitions on prostitution and sale of illegal drugs, minimum wage laws that effectively prohibit low-wage labor agreements, and so on) as well as laws that burden exchanges by imposing high transaction costs (such as import tariffs).

The reason utilitarian libertarians support free exchange is that, they argue, it tends to allocate resources into the hands of those who value them most, and in so doing to increase the total amount of utility in society. The first step in seeing this is to understand that even if trade is a zero-sum game in terms of the objects that are traded (nothing is created or destroyed, just moved about), it is a positive-sum game in terms of utility. This is because individuals differ in terms of the subjective utility they assign to goods. A person planning to move from Chicago to San Diego might assign a relatively low utility value to her large, heavy furniture. It’s difficult and costly to move, and might not match the style of the new home anyway. But to someone else who has just moved into an empty apartment in Chicago, that furniture might have a very high utility value indeed. If the first person values the furniture at $200 (or its equivalent in terms of utility) and the second person values it at $500, both will gain if they exchange for a price anywhere between those two values. Each will have given up something they value less in exchange for something they value more, and net utility will have increased as a result.

As Friedrich Hayek has noted, much of the information about the relative utility values assigned to different goods is transmitted to different actors in the market via the price system (Hayek 1980). An increase in a resource’s price signals that demand for that resource has increased relative to supply. Consumers can respond to this price increase by continuing to use the resource at the now-higher price, switching to a substitute good, or discontinuing use of that sort of resource altogether. Each individual’s decision is both affected by the price of the relevant resources, and affects the price insofar as it adds to or subtracts from aggregate supply and demand. Thus, though they generally do not know it, each person’s decision is a response to the decisions of millions of other consumers and producers of the resource, each of whom bases her decision on her own specialized, local knowledge about that resource. And although all they are trying to do is maximize their own utility, each individual will be led to act in a way that leads the resource toward its highest-valued use. Those who derive the most utility from the good will outbid others for its use, and others will be led to look for cheaper substitutes.

On this account, one deeply influenced by the Austrian School of Economics, the market is a constantly churning process of competition, discovery, and innovation. Market prices represent aggregates of information and so generally represent an advance over what any one individual could hope to know on his own, but the individual decisions out of which market prices arise are themselves based on imperfect information. There are always opportunities that nobody has discovered, and the passage of time, the changing of people’s preferences, and the development of new technological possibilities ensures that this ignorance will never be fully overcome. The market is thus never in a state of competitive equilibrium, and it will always “fail” by the test of perfect efficiency. But it is precisely today’s market failures that provide the opportunities for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs to profit by new innovation (Kirzner 1996). Competition is a process, not a goal to be reached, and it is a process driven by the particular decisions of individuals who are mostly unaware of the overall and long-term tendencies of their decisions taken as a whole. Even if no market actor cares about increasing the aggregate level of utility in society, he will be, as Adam Smith wrote, “led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention” (Smith 1981). The dispersed knowledge of millions of market actors will be taken into account in producing a distribution that comes as close as practically possible to that which would be selected by a benign, omniscient, and omnipotent despot. In reality, however, all that government is required to do in order to achieve this effect is to define and enforce clear property rights and to allow the price system to freely adjust in response to changing conditions.

The above two arguments, if successful, demonstrate that free markets and private property generate good utilitarian outcomes. But even if this is true, it remains possible that selective government intervention in the economy could produce outcomes that are even better. Governments might use taxation and coercion for the provision of public goods, or to prevent other sorts of market failures like monopolies. Or governments might engage in redistributive taxation on the grounds that given the diminishing marginal utility of wealth, doing so will provide higher levels of overall utility. In order to maintain their opposition to government intervention, then, libertarians must produce arguments to show that such policies will not produce greater utility than a policy of laissez-faire. Producing such arguments is something of a cottage industry among libertarian economists, and so we cannot hope to provide a complete summary here. Two main categories of argument, however, have been especially influential. We can call them incentive-based arguments and public choice arguments.

Incentive arguments proceed by claiming that government policies designed to promote utility actually produce incentives for individuals to act in ways that run contrary to promotion of utility. Examples of incentive arguments include arguments that (a) government-provided (welfare) benefits dissuade individuals from taking responsibility for their own economic well-being (Murray 1984), (b) mandatory minimum wage laws generate unemployment among low-skilled workers (Friedman 1962, 180181), (c) legal prohibition of drugs create a black market with inflated prices, low quality control, and violence (Thornton 1991), and (d) higher taxes lead people to work and/or invest less, and hence lead to lower economic growth.

Public choice arguments, on the other hand, are often employed by libertarians to undermine the assumption that government will use its powers to promote the public interest in the way its proponents claim it will. Public choice as a field is based on the assumption that the model of rational self-interest typically employed by economists to predict the behavior of market agents can also be used to predict the behavior of government agents. Rather than trying to maximize profit, however, government agents are thought to be aiming at re-election (in the case of elected officials) or maintenance or expansion of budget and influence (in the case of bureaucrats). From this basic analytical model, public choice theorists have argued that (a) the fact that the costs of many policies are widely dispersed among taxpayers, while their benefits are often concentrated in the hands of a few beneficiaries, means that even grossly inefficient policies will be enacted and, once enacted, very difficult to remove, (b) politicians and bureaucrats will engage in “rent-seeking” behavior by exploiting the powers of their office for personal gain rather than public good, and (c) certain public goods will be over-supplied by political processes, while others will be under-supplied, since government agents lack both knowledge and incentives necessary to provide such goods at efficient levels (Mitchell and Simmons 1994). These problems are held to be endemic to political processes, and not easily subject to legislative or constitutional correction. Hence, many conclude that the only way to minimize the problems of political power is to minimize the scope of political power itself by subjecting as few areas of life as possible to political regulation.

The quantitative utilitarians are often both rationalist and radical in their approach to social reform. For them, the maximization of utility serves as an axiomatic first principle, from which policy conclusions can be straightforwardly deduced once empirical (or quasi-empirical) assessments of causal relationships in the world have been made. From Jeremy Bentham to Peter Singer, quantitative utilitarians have advocated dramatic changes in social institutions, all justified in the name of reason and the morality it gives rise to.

There is, however, another strain of consequentialism that is less confident in the ability of human reason to radically reform social institutions for the better. For these consequentialists, social institutions are the product of an evolutionary process that itself is the product of the decisions of millions of discrete individuals. Each of these individuals in turn possess knowledge that, though by itself is insignificant, in the aggregate represents more than any single social reformer could ever hope to match. Humility, not radicalism, is counseled by this variety of consequentialism.

Though it has its affinities with conservative doctrines such as those of Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, and Russell Kirk, this strain of consequentialism had its greatest influence on libertarianism through the work of Friedrich Hayek. Hayek, however, takes pains to distance himself from conservative ideology, noting that his respect for tradition is not grounded in a fetish for the status quo or an opposition to change as such, but in deeper, distinctively liberal principles (Hayek 1960). For Hayek, tradition is valuable because, and only to the extent that, it evolves in a peaceful, decentralized way. Social norms that are chosen by free individuals and survive competition from competing norms without being maintained by coercion are, for that reason, worthy of respect even if we are not consciously aware of all the reasons that the institution has survived. Somewhat paradoxically then, Hayek believes that we can rationally support institutions even when we lack substantive justifying reasons for supporting them. The reason this can be rational is that even when we lack substantive justifying reasons, we nevertheless have justifying reasons in a procedural sensethe fact that the institution is the result of an evolutionary procedure of a certain sort gives us reason to believe that there are substantive justifying reasons for it, even if we do not know what they are (Gaus 2006).

For Hayek, the procedures that lend justifying force to institutions are, essentially, ones that leave individuals free to act as they wish so long as they do not act aggressively toward others. For Hayek, however, this principle is not a moral axiom but rather follows from his beliefs regarding the limits and uses of knowledge in society. A crucial piece of Hayek’s arguments regarding the price system, (see above) is his claim that each individual possesses a unique set of knowledge about his or her local circumstances, special interests, desires, abilities, and so forth. The price system, if allowed to function freely without artificial floors or ceilings, will reflect this knowledge and transmit it to other interested individuals, thus allowing society to make effective use of dispersed knowledge. But Hayek’s defense of the price system is only one application of a more general point. The fact that knowledge of all sorts exists in dispersed form among many individuals is a fundamental fact about human existence. And since this knowledge is constantly changing in response to changing circumstances and cannot therefore be collected and acted upon by any central authority, the only way to make use of this knowledge effectively is to allow individuals the freedom to act on it themselves. This means that government must disallow individuals from coercing one another, and also must refrain from coercing them themselves. The social order that such voluntary actions produce is one that, given the complexity of social and economic systems and radical limitations on our ability to acquire knowledge about its particular details (Gaus 2007), cannot be imposed by fiat, but must evolve spontaneously in a bottom-up manner. Hayek, like Mill before him (Mill 1989), thus celebrates the fact that a free society allows individuals to engage in “experiments in living” and therefore, as Nozick argued in the neglected third part of his Anarchy, State, and Utopia, can serve as a “utopia of utopias” where individuals are at liberty to organize their own conception of the good life with others who voluntarily choose to share their vision (Hayek 1960).

Hayek’s ideas about the relationship between knowledge, freedom, and a constitutional order were first developed at length in The Constitution of Liberty, later developed in his series Law, Legislation and Liberty, and given their last, and most accessible (though not necessarily most reliable (Caldwell 2005)) statement in The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988). Since then, the most extensive integration of these ideas into a libertarian framework is in Randy Barnett’s The Structure of Liberty, wherein Barnett argues that a “polycentric constitutional order” (see below regarding anarcho-capitalism) is best suited to solve not only the Hayekian problem of the use of knowledge in society, but also what he calls the problems of “interest” and “power” (Barnett 1998). More recently, Hayekian insights have been put to use by contemporary philosophers Chandran Kukathas (1989; 2006) and Gerald Gaus (2006; 2007).

Consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are, of course, varieties of consequentialist moral argument, and are susceptible therefore to the same kinds of criticisms leveled against consequentialist moral arguments in general. Beyond these standard criticisms, moreover, consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are subject to four special difficulties.

First, consequentialist arguments seem unlikely to lead one to full-fledged libertarianism, as opposed to more moderate forms of classical liberalism. Intuitively, it seems implausible that simple protection of individual negative liberties would do a better job than any alternative institutional arrangement at maximizing utility or peace and prosperity or whatever. And this intuitive doubt is buttressed by economic analyses showing that unregulated capitalist markets suffer from production of negative externalities, from monopoly power, and from undersupply of certain public goods, all of which cry out for some form of government protection (Buchanan 1985). Even granting libertarian claims that (a) these problems are vastly overstated, (b) often caused by previous failures of government to adequately respect or enforce private property rights, and (c) government ability to correct these is not as great as one might think, it’s nevertheless implausible to suppose, a priori, that it will never be the case that government can do a better job than the market by interfering with strict libertarian rights.

Second, consequentialist defenses of libertarianism are subject to objections when a great deal of benefit can be had at a very low cost. So-called cases of “easy rescue,” for instance, challenge the wisdom of adhering to absolute prohibitions on coercive conduct. After all, if the majority of the world’s population lives in dire poverty and suffer from easily preventable diseases and deaths, couldn’t utility be increased by increasing taxes slightly on wealthy Americans and using that surplus to provide basic medical aid to those in desperate need? The prevalence of such cases is an empirical question, but their possibility points (at least) to a “fragility” in the consequentialist case for libertarian prohibitions on redistributive taxation.

Third, the consequentialist theories at the root of these libertarian arguments are often seriously under-theorized. For instance, Randy Barnett bases his defense of libertarian natural rights on the claim that they promote the end of “happiness, peace and prosperity” (Barnett 1998). But this leaves a host of difficult questions unaddressed. The meaning of each of these terms, for instance, has been subject to intense philosophical debate. Which sense of happiness, then, does libertarianism promote? What happens when these ends conflictwhen we have to choose, say, between peace and prosperity? And in what sense do libertarian rights “promote” these ends? Are they supposed to maximize happiness in the aggregate? Or to maximize each person’s happiness? Or to maximize the weighted sum of happiness, peace, and prosperity? Richard Epstein is on more familiar and hence, perhaps, firmer ground when he says that his version of classical liberalism is meant to maximize utility, but even here the claim that utility maximization is the proper end of political action is asserted without argument. The lesson is that while consequentialist political arguments might seem less abstract and philosophical (in the pejorative sense) than deontological arguments, consequentialism is still, nevertheless, a moral theory, and needs to be clearly articulated and defended as any other moral theory. Possibly because consequentialist defenses of libertarianism have been put forward mainly by non-philosophers, this challenge has yet to be met.

A fourth and related point has to do with issues surrounding the distribution of wealth, happiness, opportunities, and other goods allegedly promoted by libertarian rights. In part, this is a worry common to all maximizing versions of consequentialism, but it is of special relevance in this context given the close relation between economic systems and distributional issues. The worry is that morality, or justice, requires more than simply producing an abundance of wealth, happiness, or whatever. It requires that each person gets a fair sharewhether that is defined as an equal share, a share sufficient for living a good life, or something else. Intuitively fair distributions are simply not something that libertarian institutions can guarantee, devoid as they are of any means for redistributing these goods from the well-off to the less well-off. Furthermore, once it is granted that libertarianism is likely to produce unequal distributions of wealth, the Hayekian argument for relying on the free price system to allocate goods no longer holds as strongly as it appeared to. For we cannot simply assume that a free price system will lead to goods being allocated to their most valued use if some people have an abundance of wealth and others very little at all. A free market of self-interested persons will not distribute bread to the starving man, no matter how much utility he would derive from it, if he cannot pay for it. And a wealthy person, such as Bill Gates, will still always be able to outbid a poor person for season tickets to the Mariners, even if the poor person values the tickets much more highly than he, since the marginal value of the dollars he spends on the tickets is much lower to him than the marginal value of the poor person’s dollars. Both by an external standard of fairness and by an internal standard of utility-maximization, then, unregulated free markets seem to fall short.

Anarcho-capitalists claim that no state is morally justified (hence their anarchism), and that the traditional functions of the state ought to be provided by voluntary production and trade instead (hence their capitalism). This position poses a serious challenge to both moderate classical liberals and more radical minimal state libertarians, though, as we shall see, the stability of the latter position is especially threatened by the anarchist challenge.

Anarcho-capitalism can be defended on either consequentialist or deontological grounds, though usually a mix of both arguments is proffered. On the consequentialist side, it is argued that police protection, court systems, and even law itself can be provided voluntarily for a price like any other market good (Friedman 1989; Rothbard 1978; Barnett 1998; Hasnas 2003; Hasnas 2007). And not only is it possible for markets to provide these traditionally state-supplied goods, it is actually more desirable for them to do so given that competitive pressures in this market, as in others, will produce an array of goods that is of higher general quality and that is diverse enough to satisfy individuals’ differing preferences (Friedman 1989; Barnett 1998). Deontologically, anarcho-capitalists argue that the minimal state necessarily violates individual rights insofar as it (1) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and thereby prohibits other individuals from exercising force in accordance with their natural rights, and (2) funds its protective services with coercively obtained tax revenue that it sometimes (3) uses redistributively to pay for protection for those who are unable to pay for themselves (Rothbard 1978; Childs 1994).

Robert Nozick was one of the first academic philosophers to take the anarchist challenge seriously. In the first part of his Anarchy, State, and Utopia he argued that the minimal state can evolve out of an anarcho-capitalist society through an invisible hand process that does not violate anyone’s rights. Competitive pressures and violent conflict, he argued, will provide incentives for competing defensive agencies to merge or collude so that, effectively, monopolies will emerge over certain geographical areas (Nozick 1974). Since these monopolies are merely de facto, however, the dominant protection agency does not yet constitute a state. For that to occur, the “dominant protection agency” must claim that it would be morally illegitimate for other protection agencies to operate, and make some reasonably effective attempt to prohibit them from doing so. Nozick’s argument that it would be legitimate for the dominant protection agency to do so is one of the most controversial aspects of his argument. Essentially, he argues that individuals have rights not to be subject to the risk of rights-violation, and that the dominant protection agency may legitimately prohibit the protective activities of its competitors on grounds that their procedures involve the imposition of risk. In claiming and enforcing this monopoly, the dominant protection agency becomes what Nozick calls the “ultraminimal state”ultraminimal because it does not provide protective services for all persons within its geographical territory, but only those who pay for them. The transition from the ultraminimal state to the minimal one occurs when the dominant protection agency (now state) provides protective services to all individuals within its territory, and Nozick argues that the state is morally obligated to do this in order to provide compensation to the individuals who have been disadvantaged by its seizure of monopoly power.

Nozick’s arguments against the anarchist have been challenged on a number of grounds. First, the justification for the state it provides is entirely hypotheticalthe most he attempts to claim is that a state could arise legitimately from the state of nature, not that any actual state has (Rothbard 1977). But if hypotheticals were all that mattered, then an equally compelling story could be told of how the minimal state could devolve back into merely one competitive agency among others by a process that violates no one’s rights (Childs 1977), thus leaving us at a justificatory stalemate. Second, it is questionable whether prohibiting activities that run the risk of violating rights, but do not actually violate any, is compatible with fundamental liberal principles (Rothbard 1977). Finally, even if the general principle of prohibition with compensation is legitimate, it is nevertheless doubtful that the proper way to compensate the anarchist who has been harmed by the state’s claim of monopoly is to provide him with precisely what he does not wantstate police and military services (Childs 1977).

Until decisively rebutted, then, the anarchist position remains a serious challenge for libertarians, especially of the minimal state variety. This is true regardless of whether their libertarianism is defended on consequentialist or natural rights grounds. For the consequentialist libertarian, the challenge is to explain why law and protective services are the only goods that require state provision in order to maximize utility (or whatever the maximandum may be). If, for instance, the consequentialist justification for the state provision of law is that law is a public good, then the question is: Why should other public goods not also be provided? The claim that only police, courts, and military fit the bill appears to be more an a priori article of faith than a consequence of empirical analysis. This consideration might explain why so many consequentialist libertarians are in fact classical liberals who are willing to grant legitimacy to a larger than minimal state (Friedman 1962; Hayek 1960; Epstein 2003). For deontological libertarians, on the other hand, the challenge is to show why the state is justified in (a) prohibiting individuals from exercising or purchasing protective activities on their own and (b) financing protective services through coercive and redistributive taxation. If this sort of prohibition, and this sort of coercion and redistribution is justified, why not others? Once the bright line of non-aggression has been crossed, it is difficult to find a compelling substitute.

This is not to say that anarcho-capitalists do not face challenges of their own. First, many have pointed out that there is a paucity of empirical evidence to support the claim that anarcho-capitalism could function in a modern post-industrial society. Pointing to quasi-examples from Medieval Iceland (Friedman 1979) does little to alleviate this concern (Epstein 2003). Second, even if a plausible case could be made for the market provision of law and private defense, the market provision of national defense, which fits the characteristics of a public good almost perfectly, remains a far more difficult challenge (Friedman 1989). Finally, when it comes to rights and anarchy, one philosopher’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens. If respect for robust rights of self-ownership and property in external goods, as libertarians understand them, entail anarcho-capitalism, why not then reject these rights rather than embrace anarcho-capitalism? Rothbard, Nozick and other natural rights libertarians are notoriously lacking in foundational arguments to support their strong belief in these rights. In the absence of strong countervailing reasons to accept these rights and the libertarian interpretation of them, the fact that they lead to what might seem to be absurd conclusions could be a decisive reason to reject them.

This entry has focused on the main approaches to libertarianism popular among academic philosophers. But it has not been exhaustive. There are other philosophical defenses of libertarianism that space prevents exploring in detail, but deserve mention nevertheless. These include defenses of libertarianism that proceed from teleological and contractual considerations.

One increasingly influential approach takes as its normative foundation a virtue-centered ethical theory. Such theories hold that libertarian political institutions are justified in the way they allow individuals to develop as virtuous agents. Ayn Rand was perhaps the earliest modern proponent of such theory, and while her writings were largely ignored by academics, the core idea has since been picked up and developed with greater sophistication by philosophers like Tara Smith, Douglas Rasmussen, and Douglas Den Uyl (Rasmussen and Den Uyl 1991; 2005).

Teleological versions of libertarianism are in some significant respects similar to consequentialist versions, insofar as they hold that political institutions are to be judged in light of their tendency to yield a certain sort of outcome. But the consequentialism at work here is markedly different from the aggregative and impartial consequentialism of act-utilitarianism. Political institutions are to be judged based on the extent to which they allow individuals to flourish, but flourishing is a value that is agent-relative (and not agent-neutral as is happiness for the utilitarian), and also one that can only be achieved by the self-directed activity of each individual agent (and not something that can be distributed among individuals by the state). It is thus not the job of political institutions to promote flourishing by means of activist policies, but merely to make room for it by enforcing the core set of libertarian rights.

These claims lead to challenges for the teleological libertarian, however. If human flourishing is good, it must be so in an agent-neutral or in an agent-relative sense. If it is good in an agent-neutral sense, then it is unclear why we do not share positive duties to promote the flourishing of others, alongside merely negative duties to refrain from hindering their pursuit of their own flourishing.

Teleological libertarians generally argue that flourishing is something that cannot be provided for one by others since it is essentially a matter of exercising one’s own practical reason in the pursuit of a good life. But surely others can provide for us some of the means for our exercise of practical reasonfrom basics such as food and shelter to more complex goods such as education and perhaps even the social bases of self-respect. If, on the other hand, human flourishing is a good in merely an agent-relative sense, then it is unclear why others’ flourishing imposes any duties on us at allpositive or negative. If duties to respect the negative rights of others are not grounded in the agent-neutral value of others’ flourishing, then presumably they must be grounded in our own flourishing, but (a) making the wrongness of harming others depend on its negative effect on us seems to make that wrongness too contingent on situational factssurely there are some cases in which violating the rights of others can benefit us, even in the long-term holistic sense required by eudaimonistic accounts. And (b) the fact that wronging others will hurt us seems to be the wrong kind of explanation for why rights-violating acts are wrong. It seems to get matters backwards: rights-violating actions are wrong because of their effects on the person whose rights are violated, not because they detract from the rights-violator’s virtue.

Another moral framework that has become increasingly popular among philosophers since Rawls’s Theory of Justice (1971) is contractarianism. As a moral theory, contractarianism is the idea that moral principles are justified if and only if they are the product of a certain kind of agreement among persons. Among libertarians, this idea has been developed by Jan Narveson in his book, The Libertarian Idea (1988), which attempts to show that rational individuals would agree to a government that took individual negative liberty as the only relevant consideration in setting policy. And, while not self-described as a contractarian, Loren Lomasky’s work in Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community (1987) has many affinities with this approach, as it attempts to defend libertarianism as a kind of policy of mutual-advantage between persons.

Most of the libertarian theories we have surveyed in this article have a common structure: foundational philosophical commitments are set out, theories are built upon them, and practical conclusions are derived from those theories. This approach has the advantage of thoroughnessone’s ultimate political conclusions are undergirded by a weighty philosophical system to which any challengers can be directed. The downside of this approach is that anyone who disagrees with one’s philosophic foundations will not be much persuaded by one’s conclusions drawn from themand philosophers are not generally known for their widespread agreement on foundational issues.

As a result, much of the most interesting work in contemporary libertarian theory skips systematic theory-building altogether, and heads straight to the analysis of concrete problems. Often this analysis proceeds by accepting some set of values as givenoften the values embraced by those who are not sympathetic to libertarianism as a political theoryand showing that libertarian political institutions will better realize those values than competing institutional frameworks. Daniel Shapiro’s recent work on welfare states (Shapiro 2007), for instance, is a good example of this trend, in arguing that contemporary welfare states are unjustifiable from a variety of popular theoretical approaches. Loren Lomasky (2005) has written a humorous but important piece arguing that Rawls’s foundational principles are better suited to defending Nozickian libertarianism than even Nozick’s foundational principles are. And David Schmidtz (Schmidtz and Goodin 1998) has argued that market institutions are supported on grounds of individual responsibility that any moral framework ought to take seriously. While such approaches lack the theoretical completeness that philosophers naturally crave, they nevertheless have the virtue of addressing crucially important social issues in a way that dispenses with the need for complete agreement on comprehensive moral theories.

A theoretical justification of this approach can be found in John Rawls’s notion of an overlapping consensus, as developed in his work Political Liberalism (1993). Rawls’s idea is that decisions about which political institutions and principles to adopt ought to be based on those aspects of morality on which all reasonable theories converge, rather than any one particular foundational moral theory, because there is reasonable and apparently intractable disagreement about foundational moral issues. Extending this overlapping consensus approach to libertarianism, then, entails viewing libertarianism as a political theory that is compatible with a variety of foundational metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical views. Individuals need not settle their reasonable disagreements regarding moral issues in order to agree upon a framework for political association; and libertarianism, with its robust toleration of individual differences, seems well-suited to serve as the principle for such a framework (Barnett 2004).

Matt Zwolinski Email: mzwolinski@sandiego.edu University of San Diego U. S. A.

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Libertarianism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

The Poles have the historical appearance to have been oppressed by both the Nazis and the Commies/Marxists. Countries in Eastern Europe who went through being occupied by Nazis and Marxists often speak out loudly about their dangers. Yet, out here in the West, it seems our people are willing to only hear half of it, as the Marxists are spreading like wildfire.

Socialism, National Socialism (Nazism for those who somehow dont know this), Communism and any other variation of Marixsm, as well as any racial supremacist groups, including the KKK, have no place in the United States. You have the right to your beliefs but you do not have the right to enforce those beliefs on the people via policy and/or law, and this has to be the libertarian position. These political beliefs violate the non-aggression principle, and the overall rights of the individual. If we were to allow any socialist policies to go forth, including such things as universal healthcare or free college/university we would be failing (I hate to sound like a collectivist) the people of the United States. Through these types of policies, we, the people, would essentially be financially responsible for the lifestyles and educational choices of the rest of the country through taxation, which brings me to my next point.

The general libertarian view on taxation is that it is coercion. The state is essentially stealing our money through threat of force; this means that the state itself is in violation of the NAP. Would we, in turn, suggest that the state itself be dissolved? Many say yes, yet this enters the realm of anarchism, and less of libertarianism. Libertarianism, as I know it, isnt for the complete dissolution of government but for the reduction of government. But how can a government exist without money? Weve already answered this in thousands upon thousands of conversations: through donation and charity.

The government works today as a middle man: it takes our money and funnels it into things such as infrastructure and welfare. It does so via coercion through threat of force and while we know that these services can be provided solely through the market, we must think of those who arent capable of a self-sustainable life: seniors, the mentally and physically disabled, and in some cases, children whose parents are unable to provide resources needed to live.

What we need is tax reform and we already know the solution (in fact, we rant about it all the time): volunteerism. Make it so that taxation is a voluntary system and that we, the people, get to decide where our money gets to go to. If you want to donate $2,000 to the welfare of the mentally ill than thats where the money will go. If you want to donate $10 to fill a pot hole, have at it. In short, the government is supposed to work for the people, but through threatening us in order to provide us services, it is doing more harm than good. Without the threat of jail time or even a forced quota system, government could be, at its essence, a charitable organization. Isnt that what the government is supposed to be anyways, for the people and by the people?

This being such a radical idea, and already with so many holes in it for a large country to implement suddenly, I would suggest if we want to make any progress towards a truly free and liberty focused society we find a way to test a system such as this. It could be proposed and put up for a vote in a small town somewhere and tried out for a set period of time. Probably the best two things about this theory is that it is doesnt violate the NAP in any way and that it is a volunteer based system.

In a time of radicals on every side of the aisle and high tensions, I cant think of a better time to try to actually test out this theory and bring the country back to sanity. Benjamin Franklin supposedly said, Im an extreme moderate. I believe anybody not in favor of moderation and compromise ought to be castrated. It is best that the only radicals in society be those who promote individualism and liberty instead of those who promote collectivism and obedience.

* Jarod Goodwin is an archaeology student in his mid-twenties. Hes worked in the grassroots movement for the election of Jim Webb in 2016, and in informing foreigners and locals alike to the different political sides of things like Brexit, the Dutch election, French election, Canadian, Swedish, and Brazilian politics.

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Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

Libertarianism – Wikiquote

A ‘popular libertarian’ might … feel all that needs to be done to bring the world to justice is to institute the minimal state now, starting as it were from present holdings. On this view, then, libertarianism starts tomorrow, and we take the present possession of property for granted. There is, of course, something very problematic about this attitude. Part of the libertarian position involves treating property rights as natural rights, as so as being as important as anything can be. On the libertarian view, the fact that an injustice is old, and, perhaps, difficult to prove, does not make it any less of an injustice. … We should try to work out what would have happened had the injustice not taken place. If the present state of affairs does not correspond to this hypothetical description, then it should be made to correspond. ~ Jonathan Wolff

Libertarianism is a political philosophy which advocates the maximization of individual liberty in thought and action and the minimization or even elimination of the powers of the state. Though libertarians embrace or dispute many viewpoints upon a broad range of economic strategies, ranging from laissez-faire capitalists such as those who dominate in the US Libertarian Party to libertarian socialists, the political policies they advocate tend toward those of a minimal state (minarchism), or forms of anarchism, and an insistence on the need to maintain the integrity of individual rights and responsibilities.

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Libertarianism – Wikiquote

Libertarianism | Cato Institute

Libertarianism is the belief that each person has the right to live his life as he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each persons right to life, liberty, and property. In the libertarian view, voluntary agreement is the gold standard of human relationships. If there is no good reason to forbid something (a good reason being that it violates the rights of others), it should be allowed. Force should be reserved for prohibiting or punishing those who themselves use force, such as murderers, robbers, rapists, kidnappers, and defrauders (who practice a kind of theft). Most people live their own lives by that code of ethics. Libertarians believe that that code should be applied consistently, even to the actions of governments, which should be restricted to protecting people from violations of their rights. Governments should not use their powers to censor speech, conscript the young, prohibit voluntary exchanges, steal or redistribute property, or interfere in the lives of individuals who are otherwise minding their own business.

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Libertarianism | Cato Institute

3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

1. According to the libertarian, we experience our own freedom when we make choices. But in our dreams, we have the feeling that we are making choices even though we know that dreams are the product of the physiological and psychological causes that produce them. Hence, we can feel as though we are free even though causes are producing our behavior. 2. According to some thinkers, the scientific view of the world is based on the conviction that events follow fixed laws and that there is a cause for everything being the way that it is. If this statement is a correct account of science, does libertarianism then fl y in the face of modern science? If so, because nothing can compete with modern science in unveiling the nature of reality, don’t these facts negate libertarianism? 3. According to libertarianism, every free act is based on a volition or an act of the will. But in a given case, why did a particular volition come about at the precise time that it did and why was it directed toward this or that outcome? (Why did you decide to listen to music at this precise time and not three minutes earlier or later? Why did you decide to listen to this particular CD and not the others that were available?) Isn’t the libertarian forced to admit that either our volitions pop into our heads uncaused (in which case, they are unexplained, indeterministic events that happen to us) or they are the result of previous acts of the will? In the latter case, we are caught in an infinite regress. For example, your decision to listen to music was based on your decision to relax, which was based on your decision to take a break from studying, which was based on your decision to do x, and so on. Doesn’t it seem that libertarianism leads to the notion that our free actions are based on an absurd and impossible infinite series of willings? 4. Isn’t it the case that the better you get to know a person, the more his or her actions are predictable? Doesn’t this finding indicate that the more knowledge we have of people’s past, their personality, and the present circumstances that are affecting them, the more we understand the causes that are operating on them to produce their behavior? Aren’t we convinced that a person’s past experiences are a key to understanding why he or she became a saint or a serial killer? If so, doesn’t this argument undermine libertarianism?

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3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

Learn the History of Liberty with the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism – Cato Institute (blog)

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, published in 2008 in hard copy, is now available free online at Libertarianism.org. The Encyclopedia includesmore than 300 succinct, original articles on libertarian ideas, institutions, and thinkers. Contributors include James Buchanan, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, Randy Barnett, Ellen Frankel Paul, Deirdre McCloskey, and more than 100 otherscholars.

A couple of years ago, in an interesting discussion of social change and especiallythe best ways to spread classical liberal ideasat Liberty Funds Online Library of Liberty, historian David M. Hart had high praise for the Encyclopedia:

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianismprovides an excellent survey of the key movements, individuals, and events in the evolution of the classical liberal movement.

One should begin with Steve Davies General Introduction, pp. xxv-xxxvii, which is an excellent survey of the ideas, movements, and key events in the development of liberty, then read some of the articles on specific historical periods, movements, schools of thought, and individuals.

He goes on to suggest specific articles in the Encyclopedia that are essential reading for understanding successful radical change in ideas and political and economic structures, in both a pro-liberty and anti-liberty direction. Heres his guide to learning about the history of liberty in theEncyclopedia of Libertarianism:

I could add more essays to his list, but Ill restrain myself to just one: Along with the essays on the Constitution and James Madison, read Federalists Versus Anti-Federalists by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel.

By the way, you can still get the beautiful hardcover edition. Right now its half-price at the Cato Store.

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Learn the History of Liberty with the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism – Cato Institute (blog)


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