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libertarians in solidarity!

Roderick Long, the admirable market anarchist philosopher, recently posted "Another Loony Left-Libertarian Screed from Roderick" ( on Liberty and Power in defense of the current French student protestors. This follows an earlier open letter of solidarity with the protest movement written by left-libertarian Brad Spangler (, signed by among others this humble woman of letters).

Some debate ensues, primarily around the left-libertarian heresy that the corporate elite is essentially part of the state power structure, and hence cutting state supports for the underprivileged in the context of an overall system of oppression which benefits the rich is often not a good idea. The following is my 2 silver pieces worth.

* * *

Mark: "'Cutting welfare from the top down, and taxes from the bottom up.'" I guess that's as valid as 'cutting welfare from the bottom up, and taxes from the top down' but an implicit interpersonal valuation is present either way.... I'm not unsympathetic to this argument but I suggest it involves some interpersonal valuations different from those that are inherent in mainstream libertarian doctrine."

Um... I think the 'interpersonal valuation' involved is that shifting the tax burden to the poor while favouring the rich will end up with the poor trapped in misery, squalour, and poverty, while a tiny elite benefits. Simply put, one way of reducing net societal technical coercion ends up with a much more awful situation in human terms. Cutting corporate welfare in a semi-statist society isn't going to destroy anyone's life; cutting welfare for the otherwise destitute, in a society where state favouritism still directly and indirectly walls off their choices and opportunities, it might.

If detesting this involves valuations at odds with mainstream libertarian doctrine, so much the worse for mainstream libertarian doctrine. Libertarianism may not logically require simple human compassion but 'tis my hope it would not make it controversial. Why exactly is cutting the the budget on the backs of privileges built up by the state, rather than those who've been ruined by it, a potential problem?

I could also point out that if libertarianism were to try to dismantle the state while selectively attacking social benefits for the poor while ignoring the structural advantages of the rich, the result would be that the working class would make one great rush for the local state socialist party's recruiting office while classical liberalism remained the party of a few intellectuals and middle-class eccentrics out of touch with social reality. I rather submit that this is what has been happening for the last 150 years or so.

The modern libertarian movement believes its politics are in the interest of everybody yet converts no one (except intellectuals). I suspect this has something to do with the fact that the poor don't see any reason to think libertarians take their perspective or interests seriously, while the comfortable are often regimented sheeple who don't object very much to having the state economically and culturally prop up their institutions. Do you desire libertarianism to succeed? I think there's no way to do that without a libertarian theory that resonates with the actual lives and struggles of human beings.


Blog posted 03/29/2006 @ 03:04 pm  |  5 Comments  |  Leave a Comment


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