Can Libertarians Learn to Love Social Justice?

Libertarian academics Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi (who are collaborating on a forthcoming history of libertarian thought for Princeton University Press) are involved in an ongoing project to reframe libertarianism as a philosophy with room for considerations of income inequality and social justice; in political philosophy terms, a "neo-Rawlsian" libertarianism in its conception of justice.  

Zwolinski is the lead at the always-interesting blog "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" and Tomasi has a new book out, which I'm still working through, called Free Market Fairness.

The pair launched an interesting conversation at Cato Unbound in the past couple of weeks, and that conversation has spread beyond its confines. Herewith, a summary with some observations.

Zwolinski and Tomasi started with an essay called "A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism." In it they posit that property rights have been defined as all there is to justice in some star modern libertarian thinkers such as Rand, Rothbard and Mises, with "moral justification of free market institutions...logically independent from any claims about the effects of those institutions on the material holdings of the poor."

Other thinkers often considered in the libertarian family, they go on to explain, aren't such private property absolutists. In the rest of the essay they try to prove that a form of libertarian thinking that allows room for considerations of justice beyond private property is in fact more traditionally libertarian, or at least properly liberal, than the Rothbard/Rand variety. And the key is the degree to which this older form of libertarian thinking deals with:

the proper nature of concern for, and obligation to, the working poor. On this issue, the neoclassical liberal position is that the fate of the class who labor at the lowest end of the pay scale under capitalism is an essential element in the moral justification of that system. And this position, we will argue, has a far more solid grounding in the libertarian intellectual tradition than the justificatory indifference to which the postwar libertarians are committed.

They go on to defend the proposition that great 18th century liberals such as John Locke and Adam Smith had more room in their schemes of justification for how well a social system did for everyone, including the least well off. (As explained in my own book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, while distinctly modern libertarianism has some ideological roots in Locke and Smith, what makes it distinct is the areas in which it differs--that is, modern libertarians need not feel they have betrayed their roots in diverging from Locke and Smith.) They correctly note that Herbert Spencer--far more a clear father to the Rothbard traditions, certainly, than Locke or Smith--helped diverge this tradition, though I might argue modern libertarianism isn't quite the same tradition as the classical liberals, at least in most respects.

That's all just a matter of labels though. What is the correct approach to political philosophy and reality? Smith and Locke or Rand and Rothbard? Lumping in Mises with the other two is a bit misleading, as even Zwolinksi and Tomasi note. They write:

Mises thought capitalist institutions justified, at least in part, because he believed a society-wide system of voluntary exchange will be materially beneficial for all citizens. Inequalities are justified, Mises seems to have argued, at least in part because they work to the material benefit of the least well off.

His disciple Rothbard--I suspect more directly influential on the rising generation of thoughtful, book-reading Paulite libertarians than Mises himself--"was sometimes insistent on the point that concerns about the welfare of the poor played no formal role in the moral justification of a free market." And Rand in Atlas, as they point out, was sure that socialism was bad for nearly everyone, not just the great and productive, though that wasn't explicitly part of her defense of free markets.

They wrap up with a long call for a libertarianism that's less deductive, that tries to figure out a sophisticated justification for certain market interventions in favor of income equality (admitting that such "soft" libertarians such as Hayek and Friedman never did a very thorough job explaining why they occasionally departed from a "property as justice" model), while granting that "a commitment to social justice in no way commits one to advocating liberty-limiting 'corrections' of emergent distributions on an ongoing basis." Fighting for an "overall system [that] works in a way that is beneficial to the lowest paid workers" is the "gold standard of contemporary theorizing about social justice," and something they seem to believe even libertarians should embrace and pursue.

The next entry in the Cato Unbound series finds libertarian philosopher and part of the "Bleeding Heart Libertarian" team Roderick Long stepping in "In Praise of Bleeding Heart Absolutism." He does a lengthy philosopher's job teasing out some apparent confusions in exactly what Zwolinski and Tomasi are arguing, which I won't try to summarize here. He also notes they don't quite capture all the complications of the Rand/Rothbard natural rights ethic, which is based in an understanding of what humans are and what they need to flourish: 

Neither Rand nor Rothbard, then, is a strict deontologist of the Nozickian sort; both of them ground natural rights in an ethic that is understood to be beneficial to each person who practices it, whether rich or poor. 

Long also notes Rothbard was good as a historian and polemicist on the ways the well off use the state as a tool against the less well off. He also has a long and good, and un-summarized here, critique of their particular readings of Locke and Smith, as well as noting there is a pre-20th century set of classical liberal thinkers more clearly in a line of influence on the Rothbard types, including "Hodgskin, Spencer, Bastiat, Molinari, and Spooner."

But the meat of this, to most readers not professional philosophers, is: what do these ideas say about what sort of state action is or is not justified, in the service of social justice, helping the less well-off, however you want to put it? Long ends with his belief that when you add class analysis and exploitation into the mix, you can get a libertarianism that is both concerned with social justice (making sure everyone gets what is rightfully theirs) and absolutist on property rights.

I've always enjoyed this argument from contemporary left-libertarians, and while doubtless many income inequalities in the modern world are caused or exacerbated by state-propped class crime and warfare, I don't think it is proven that all the income inequalities that bug a Rawlsian or a modern progressive of less refined philosophical beliefs actually will disappear in a freed market. It's a great thing to make progs think about--how much of what you hate about modern income and power inequality is actually the state's fault??--but I don't think the answer is, all of it!

The extent to which the Zwolinski/Tomasi project has a big public relations element to it will be taken up later, when I address Todd Seavey's scathing outside contribution to this debate.

David Friedman, the great anarcho-capitalist theorist, in his "Natural Rights +?" posits that what's important is that "What the hard line propertarian version leaves out is not social justice but human welfare." He argues, somewhat in line with Long, that what Smith really was saying when he said things that seemed to privilege concern for the poor or less well-off was merely that people should get what is justly theirs, not that they deserve any special consideration for being poorer or less well off.

Friedman says the real problem with the Rand/Rothbard modern libertarian line is not its lack of grappling with social justice but rather:

its lack of any logical foundation sufficient to persuade the unbeliever of its strong claims. Another is its failure to answer many of the important questions, especially where to draw lines. And another is that, taken literally, it sometimes gives the wrong answer...

But going for Rawls and social justice doesn't deal with these problems, and Friedman roundly and I think with some justification mocks Rawlsian pretentions that its demands for social justice or rooted moral philosophy is actually rigorously proven in any sense any disagree-er need respect. (To me, this is a pretty consistent problem with most moral philosophy, even the kind I agree with, which is why I never get why smarty-pants think they've proven that Ayn Rand is an idiot because she didn't produce a rigorously proven moral philosophy that is clearly objectively true and that all people with eyes and reason must agree with. And you have, buddy?) Friedman wraps up making the case for a sort-of but not-entirely utilitarian libertarianism, or at least one

where respecting rights is seen as a good thing, a value in itself as well as a means to other values, but not as a value that trumps all others. One reason to respect natural rights is that it is a good thing to do, another is that respecting them can be expected to produce a healthier, wealthier, and happier world than violating them.

This doesn't give you a hard and fast answer to all political questions, but there you go.

The last contribution is from liberarian youth activist leader Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty, who says "Let's Reject the Libertarian Purity Test," in which he accuses Zwolinski and Tomasi of playing a "who is more libertarian?" game that isn't useful for either philosophy or policy. But I think the larger bleeding-heart libertarian project is doing exactly what McCobin suggests they are not toward the end of his essay, once you fight through the intellectual history:

greater value would come from clarifying the principles of human liberty, then analyzing what the most philosophically apt justifications for those principles are, and the best way to apply those principles to the problems facing people in their time. 

I think that is what Zwolinski, Tomasi, and their fellow bleeding heart libertarians are indeed trying to do; while I agree that hooking such arguments to what can sound like name-calling about "this one guy wasn't savvy enough to realize what this guy did" isn't very useful, if you are a policy change guy, it's interesting intellectual history, and indeed a whole lot of this debate did reel around what exactly did Locke, Smith, Mises, Rothbard or Rand really think or mean, perhaps not super productive toward the direct solution of any particular philosophical or policy problem, but fun, maybe, for people who find that sort of thing fun. I clearly do, as author of Radicals for Capitalism.

McCobin hints at something that I know a lot of people think about the bleeding-heart libertarian project: that it's a way for intellectuals who feel a need to get along with liberals and progressives to not feel the stink of the conservative or right-wing around them as they make their libertarian arguments. McCobin spells it out in a way that is criticizing bleeding-heart libertarianism's critics, not the bleeding-heart libertarians themselves.

While it goes unstated in the article, an obvious motivation for Z&T is to defend themselves against contemporary critics who want to challenge their break from the Cold War strain of libertarian thought. Yet many attacks on BHL are not motivated by serious philosophical scholarship, but by an antiquated theory of social change that required libertarians to associate with conservatives to defeat the threat of communism. The suggestion that libertarianism can be grounded in philosophical justifications or policy prescriptions more aligned with the left than the right is frightening to those who have grown accustomed to a particular way of viewing the world for nearly half a century.  

Todd Seavey had what I think was the most interesting, if completely uncollegial, reaction to Zwolinski and Tomasi, taking on the entire project and linking it back to the far more political and less philosophical mini-rage for "liberaltarianism" back in the last Bush era. (Roughly, I'd say that was more about finding allies on the left side of the aisle in politics and policy advocacy; Zwolinski and Tomasi more about finding them in academic philosophy and political science).

Some high points from Seavey's often motive-questioning invective, much of which I have to admit is making an interesting point even if I'm not sure I agree entirely. A lot of it cuts right to the assumption that this whole project (and while he started off talking about this Cato Unbound colloquium, he veers off into more jousting against liberaltarianism as I define it above vs. the more academic-philosophical bleeding-heart libertarianism) is really about self-image in a sense:

my initial complaint about the liberal-tarian gambit (circa 2007) was not so much that we must never work with the filthy Democrats (let alone that we cannot work with people who work with the filthy Democrats) but, on the contrary, that the liberal-tarians seemed so very eager to burn all the bridges we’d been building to the Republicans for about a half-century, right before the Ron Paul movement took off (admittedly taking all us Reason/Cato types a bit by surprise) and offered real hope of making the GOP a home for many libertarians. 

They weren’t just claiming that we might find some friends on the left but (to take claims made by different ones at different times) that the Catholic Church is one of the chief threats to freedom, that the Tea Party is the GOP taking a turn for the worse, that the Republicans (but not Democrats) are “the party of torture,” etc.  All to some extent true, but not by any standard that leaves the Democrats looking good in comparison, I’d say....

In any case, I’ll stop burning your bridges if you promise not to burn mine, which took some time to build....There’s more to life than crass strategizing, but I have to wince if it starts to look as if the strategy of some of my fellow libertarians is (or recently was): (1) avoid amassing the money of the Kochs, (2) avoid gaining the broad appeal of the Tea Party, (3) don’t mimic the intensity of religion, (4) don’t seek the big book sales of Ayn Rand, and (5) eschew the electoral engagement of Ron Paul's followers, followed by (6) be so beloved by the left that victory ensues.  Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

I'm guessing that Zwolinski and Tomasi would say the above isn't quite on point for the bleeding-heart libertarianism program, but then I remember Zwolinski publicly praising the Institute for Humane Studies as a clearly superior form of liberty promotion than Ron Paul's campaign, which I objected to.

Seavey does than get to the meat of the matter: social justice, property, open-minded, closed-minded, libertarian, classical liberal, what did Locke mean?, what did Rand mean?--isn't what's really important what is true and correct?

are the liberal-tarians as intellectually cautious as they pretend to be – merely on guard against anarcho-capitalist dogmatism – or are they insistent on inserting big, ungainly things into libertarianism, trying to convince us that they are a comfy fit, and at times even trying to convince us, in Orwellian fashion, that these things were part of the movement all along...

I kind of like Rawls myself, but his is a rather complex system by most people’s ethical standards, and no small thing to slip into another already-existing philosophy, especially not if that other philosophy may already have ways, as Friedman suggests, of coping with the same question (more concretely: I can worry about the poor in purely utilitarian terms without having to invoke Rawls’ “veils of ignorance” and what seem to me dangerously vague intuitions about fairness and inequality).  Sticking Rawls into libertarianism is like attaching a washing machine to a soufflé....

But here’s the crucial thing – and the reason we shouldn’t just cede the movement to the liberal-tarians.  As David Friedman said in his initial contribution to the Cato dialogue, the idea of strict property adherence, from which the liberal-tarians recoil as if from a short children’s-poem version of libertarianism, is an idea that has a long history within the classical liberal tradition, and – though he doesn’t come right out and say this – maybe it is the most important part. 

...would it kill the liberal-tarians to consider the possibility that the vaunted liberal tradition was good precisely because it contained an inchoate strict-property-rights philosophy within in it?  Maybe anarcho-capitalism is a refinement, not a reduction....

What could be more retrograde – more narrow-mindedly conservative, if you will – than to assume that our forebears’ vague notions must be superior to any present-day reformulations?  And, by the way, doesn’t the truth at some point matter more than pedigree?  What if those embarrassing, fringey anarcho-capitalists are correct?  Once you start down the road of saying popularity trumps philosophical accuracy, after all, you’re well down the road of just checking the latest polls. 

Seavey then goes for the funny sorta-low-blow of motive-questioning of bleeding heart libertarianism as a philosophical project:

And do consider the possibility – since most of the liberal-tarians are academics to at least some degree – that you may be biased in favor of keeping things vague because it gives you stuff to think about...

Intellectuals, though they often oversimplify reality, still prefer theories complex enough to baffle the common man – and, coincidentally or not, keep bureaucratsacademicslawyers, and theologians occupied.  This way lies the passivity of the common (and, yes, fairly conservative) man and the resignation to rule by distant experts.  Instead, we owe the common man “simple rules for a complex world,” not just to put his mind at ease but because those rules would do far more good than the squabbling and new-fangled plans of most of the experts and rulers. 

One’s job as a professor might not last as long if the answer to most political problems were merely “property.”  But maybe you (and the politicians) should find a new job...

I don't really have a sharp summation of all this, as this lengthy attempt to explain, quote, and navigate this debate proves. But I certainly have a tendency to believe, as Seavey complains, that "complicating" libertarianism beyond property rights starts to create justifications for all sorts of troubling state action:

 I know how annoying and simpleminded the doctrinaire can sound, especially to professors who treasure nuance, but how can the liberal-tarians dismiss those libertarians who fear de-emphasizing property will quickly yield statism – when the liberal-tarians are living proof that watering down the property rights rule immediately (sometimes in the same sentence!) spawns talk of redistribution and government welfare provision?  Have you not stopped to think about this “coincidence”?  Am I Charlie Brown that you expect me to try kicking a non-property-centered philosophy even if you keep yanking it away at the last moment and putting some sort of small, ostensibly harmelss welfare state or carbon-trading scheme or something in its place?  Do you really think markets work or not?

And this is why – as a rule-utilitarian (and not a deontologist) – I don’t want people to treat property as just one mushy value amongst other mushy values (parliamentarianism, feminism, whatever).  

How and why modern libertarianism got to be what it is is explained at great length in my book Radicals for Captialism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

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  • plu1959||

    OK, I promise I will RTF post at some point.

    In the meantime, social-justice-friendly libertarianism sounds like a load of bunk.

  • Brandybuck||

    Read the blog. It's essentially a counter to all those Rothbardians/Randians who place property as the highest social good. Yes, free markets would do wonders to help the poor! But too many absoluto-propertarians mistake all property as good. Randians love copyrights and patents, for example, and I've heard quite a few Rothbardian scholars take ridiculous extremes in defending property titles (such as Walter Blocks insistence that lifeboat owners have the absolute moral right to evict non-paying passengers).

    Rather than telling the poor to fuck off, or get a job, perhaps libertarians should start thinking about how the poor can get a piece of that property pie. Which is essentially a form of social justice.

  • Mike Laursen||

    All well and good, but can we please not use that godawful, loaded term, social justice. What about something like, social kindness.

  • Randian||

    Oh noes! Not copyrights and patents! I had no idea that those were keeping people poor somehow.

  • Randian||

    Also:

    Dr. John Watson: There are lives at stake Sherlock. Actual human lives. Jus-Just so I know, do you care about that at all?
    Sherlock Holmes: Will caring about them help save them?
    Dr. John Watson: Nope.
    Sherlock Holmes: Then I'll continue to not make that mistake.

  • tarran||

    You probably don't realize that patents retarded the development of the mass-produced automobile by a good 30 years.

    Just think how many lives were lost because the gasoline powered ambulance was delayed by at least two decades.

    Not to mention all the people killed from diseases picked up from airborne aerosolized horse-shit in the city streets.

    Thankfully, Henry Ford put a great deal of money into Curtis' legal fights that prevented patents of monopoly from retarding the development of aviation.

  • UCrawford||

    You know, Tarran, it's funny...my last job involved me traveling about half the year so I flew on a lot of planes. On one of these flights I ended up sitting next to a college professor who taught intellectual properties law and after talking to her for awhile about her job and what she did, I asked her how she addressed in her classes any concerns that patent law stifled innovation and the development of new products. She got this kind of shocked look on her face and said, "Ummm, I've never actually thought about that before but that's a really good point..."

  • John C. Randolph||

    Ivory-tower morons are the worst kind.

    -jcr

  • Randian||

    You might not realize that patents enabled the profit motive to discover drugs that have saved millions of lives.

    Since, hey, we're making up counterfactuals, I guess I win, with more evidence than you have.

  • Sam Grove||

    Perhaps monopoly profits are required to persuade drug companies to wade through very expensive regulatory processes.

  • Randian||

    You might not realize that patents enabled the profit motive to discover drugs that have saved millions of lives.

    Since, hey, we're making up counterfactuals, I guess I win, with more evidence than you have.

  • tarran||

    Yes, because nobody would conduct medical research without the hope of huge profits from government grants of monopoly.

    There would be no organizations with pretty names like Easter Seals or Harvard Medical school conducting research either for prestige or on the behalf of the victims or the families of victims of sickness or medical conditions... Which is why prior to the advent of the state providing patent protection to drugs, no drugs were invented!

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Is it your argument that pharmaceutical companies would be just as likely to invest in research toward new drugs without patent protection for those new drugs?

  • tarran||

    Nope...

    The industry would fragment into researchers and pill factories.

    The researchers would essentially be doing research as a charitable activity. Single issue charities like the Easter Seals - for example - would fund research using money they collected from donations. Universities would fund it for the prestige that comes with developing revolutionary treatments, as would research hospitals.

    Some of the big-name drug companies would continue to do research in order to earn good will. Also there would be some boutique drug companies that would do research because that was their niche.

    The separation of research and manufacture would have the happy effect of preventing a phenomenon that Neurontin was an archetypal case, where researchers would try to trick doctors into using ineffective treatments because they were paid well only if doctors purchased a particular drug rather than being paid based on the quality of their research.

  • Evil Otto||

    That's some grade A question-begging, tarran.

    Purely charitable medical research has produced roughly no advancements. It's simply not a sustainable system, at least not nearly as much as profit-driven research.

    It always amazes me that anarcho-capitalists blithely assume the uncomfortable consequences of implementing their philosophy will be taken care of by residual collectivism. I mean, charity would probably still be active, but you can't assume large sectors of our economy would be taken over by charitable works.

  • Evil Otto||

    Some of the big-name drug companies would continue to do research in order to earn good will.

    Good will and $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Medical research is friggin expensive! There are tons of dead ends in medical research. And while regulatory crap is part of that, most of it is inherent in the beast. They need to make a huge profit to make it worthwile.

  • Randian||

    Yes, because nobody would conduct medical research without the hope of huge profits from government grants of monopoly

    That's a nice strawman there. I never said that no drugs would ever be invented, did I?

    Is it your argument that pharmaceutical companies would be just as likely to invest in research toward new drugs without patent protection for those new drugs?

    This is the fallback line for all anarchists. "Well, there's nothing saying that X wouldn't happen without the State!" In the case of patents, though, it is (ahem) patently absurd to suggest that.

  • tarran||

    You're right, it was a strawman...

    The actual response is that patent protection incentivizes the sort of fraud that Pfizer did with Neurontin - selling an drug that they fraudulently claimed was effective in treating conditions that it was ineffective for treating in a bid to extend the state grant of monopoly.

    Rather than researchers profit being tied to producing the most effective treatment they can conceive, state grants of monopoly incentivize researchers to pursue the most profitable monopoly the state might grant them.

  • tarran||

    (cont)
    Just as it is instructive to compare countries with a common culture that were divided into communist and non-communist states to see what results in more prosperity, it is very instructive to compare sectors of industry where the free market is allowed to operate to ones where the state intervenes by granting monopolies, aviation vs automobiles is one. In the case of medical care things are made murkier by the state regulation that makes bringing products to market so expensive that only a monopolist can afford the costs.

    But in no way does that mean that absent the monopoly there would be less research... The research will happen because the non-monetary incentives are so powerful that it's doubtful anyone would put up with the current regulatory regime absent the monopoly protection - the researchers would go Galt until the regulations were relaxed.

    This is the fallback line for all anarchists. "Well, there's nothing saying that X wouldn't happen without the State!" In the case of patents, though, it is (ahem) patently absurd to suggest that.

    Really, then you should have no trouble coming up with empirical evidence in support of government grants of monopoly making consumer lives better.

    Here's a good place to start. It's a pretty comprehensive survey of the literature. Happy reading!

  • Randian||

    Really, then you should have no trouble coming up with empirical evidence in support of government grants of monopoly making consumer lives better.

    Not to be tautological, but "property rights".

  • tarran||

    What do government grants of monopoly have to do with property rights?

  • Evil Otto||

    Which is why prior to the advent of the state providing patent protection to drugs, no drugs were invented!

    In the US drugs have been patentable since 1790, so I have no clue what you're talking about. If you're talking about before then -- you might note that drug development was pretty damn slow.

  • hk||

    Tarran is making the case that patents cause as many problems as they solve. I happen to agree, you see this issue all the time with technology.

    Intellectual property is not a valid form of property.

  • ||

    Fuck off! Get a job!

  • SIV||

    Yeah!

  • John C. Randolph||

    Rothbardians/Randians who place property as the highest social good.

    Strawman much?

    Libertarians put liberty as the highest social good. Prosperity is just one of the many benefits.

    -jcr

  • mr simple||

    Actually, if you re-read that you'll see it's property not prosperity. Property rights are the basis of all liberty.

  • ||

    Actually I'd say that self-ownership is the basis of both property rights and liberty.

  • Lord at War||

    If you can't own property, you are property.

  • TELLMOFF||

    Libertarianism is a load of "history of libertarian thought". There is no legal action such as ACLU or Public Citizen, no demonstrations of hatred for tyrany, no militias. ONLY, THE COWARDLY LIBERTARIAN SCHOLAR.

  • tarran||

    ^^^^^^ ATF provocateur is obvious.

  • thirtyandseven||

    This is the site that lived through and laughed at the great white idiot gamb0l l0ckDoWn.

    You're gonna have to troll harder than that.

  • PapayaSF||

    Well, "lived through" in the sense that we had to get a registration system to get rid of her. Besides, are we sure TELLMOFF isn't Mary Stack? Maybe she's still trolling, just less manically because she's avoiding the ban hammer. This one sounds a little like her.

  • ||

    Would you take an antibiotic to get rid of a virulent, pathogenic infection? Or eschew the antibiotic and take your chances getting even more sick?

    Think of it as "Troll VAX".

  • PapayaSF||

    I am OK with registration, just a bit sad that it kills the witty fake handles we used to get.

  • ||

    It can still be done, just not quite as spontaneous.

  • John C. Randolph||

    That's probably because it's yet another attempt to peddle the sin of envy.

    -jcr

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Whatever helps you sleep at night. Me, it's Tylenol PM or fatigue.

  • Hyperion||

    Yes, and Joe Biden is the most intelligent VP in history.

  • ||

    If "social justice" means positive rights, then it's just a pretty name for injustice.

  • Killazontherun||

    Justice is just the redistribution of violence. I take the Walter Kaufmann line that it has no social use. If you have been fucked over, in most situations, forgive, forget and move on will lead to superior results.

  • CockGobbla||

    I love social justice...

    I'm just tired of getting into debates with members of the Left who inevitably refer to me as a social Darwinist, Rand-fanatic, or being on "the side of unbridled anti-social self-centeredness."

  • ||

    Well, sure! Being on the side of might makes right is much more wholesome!

  • CockGobbla||

    Seriously, in the wake of the realization of the strong libertarian-leaning strains that are alive in the GOP, which were illuminated by the Tea Party circa 2007-2010, it has been a very standard response from the Left to characterize Libertarianism as potentially more evil than the Right when it comes to social issues.

    How often have I heard "Libertarians say they're for expanded social freedoms, but they always supported Bushie's economic policies!"

  • ||

    Oh, they caught us! We were all for TARP and the bank bailouts and the auto bailouts and ....

  • ||

    Damn, don't you just love it when other people tell you what you think?

  • Nooge.||

    Or when people who are not libertarians tell other people who are not libertarians exactly what it is libertarians believe. As if belief figures at all.

  • ||

    Yeah, just check out Liberapedia or the so-called Rational Wiki if you want to see what those people tell each other about Libertarianism.

  • TomD||

  • Anonymous Coward||

    "the side of unbridled anti-social self-centeredness."

    High praise coming sheep too cowardly and weak-willed to think or act without at least 51% of their fellow sheep behind them.

  • ||

    'Justice' is one of those concepts that admits no adjective.

  • Nooge.||

    Like. +win

  • robc||

    Amen.

  • ||

    It's a great thing to make progs think about--how much of what you hate about modern income and power inequality is actually the state's fault??--but I don't think the answer is, all of it!

    No, not all of it. Just most of it.

    But that's beside the point. How can one ever justify stealing? Fairness is people keeping what they've earned, and treating people equally under the law.

  • ||

    That's one of the big problems with the left. They think that just because you've earned it doesn't mean you've earned it. Therefore, they're entitled to take some. It's not stealing, it's just their fair share.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    What I really hate is when criminal and frauds are referred to as "earning" or "making" money off their victims. They're *stealing*! Get your terminology straight!

  • Killazontherun||

    Quite a presumption they take in believing that though you earned it, you did not earn it, and farther still, they have totally earned the right to take it from you.

  • CockGobbla||

    Question:

    It is certainly reasonable to propose that "stealing is never justified?" when it is qualified by "in most cases".

    But isn't it unreasonable to propose moral absolutes, such as "stealing is never justified in all cases?"

    I'm not saying that you can't argue some excellent points to support your case. But couldn't your inherent fallibility as a human being allow for moral ambiguity?

    For instance, "Stealing is never justified, unless doing so provides the necessary funding for a school system that would otherwise go unfunded."?

  • CockGobbla||

    I have Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike" playing on my iPod right now, so I'm feeling a bit left-wingish about wealth distribution right now.

  • ||

    Just you're inherently fallible doesn't make stealing the right thing to do. There are lots of ways for people to get an education without a public school.

  • CockGobbla||

    Suppose a group of people are totally unaware of the alternative modes of education, but they are aware that schools can be publicly-funded. They desperately want to educate their population. In fact, it might be necessary for their survival.

    Until they have been made aware of the alternatives (self-education, private institutions, home-schooling), are they not, in at least some, justified in resorting taxation to accomplish their goal?

  • CockGobbla||

    It's an "The ends justifies means argument." which I rarely allow to fly. But in the case groups with limited resources or knowledge of alternative modes of operating, I hardly deem it reasonable for me to say unto them "Value liberty or starve."

  • Arf?||

    So stealing is okay as long as you don't know it's wrong?

  • ||

    But isn't it unreasonable to propose moral absolutes, such as "stealing is never justified in all cases?"i>

    That all depends upon what you mean by "justified".

    I asked a question, rather than proposed a moral absolute.

    That being said, I believe justice precludes the initiation of force. That is, of course, an arbitrary conception, but I believe it's the best interpretation of 'justice', approaching objectivity.

    There are scenarios when I would use force against people's will, but I still wouldn't call the initial act just. However, if a person offers forgiveness after the fact (maybe they actually appreciated the result of one's use of coercion) then there's no reason to assign a minimum degree of guilt to the initiator of force. The initial act is still unjust, but the consequences of injustice are entirely dependent upon the extent of harm done to the victim(s).

    There are also scenarios when an implicit agreement exists through which a person consents to being controlled, such as a parent's relationship with their child. That situation involves unusual standards anyway.

    The concept of justice is little more than an attempt to create a moral premise by which the people of a society live. It doesn't define the extent of one's guilt. It's just the point from which we measure culpability in any given situation involving coercion. But in all cases, the victim(s) should have the right to refuse or demand reprisal.

  • ||

    There's more to be said of justice, but I guess that covers the basics.

    As for whether the "ends justify the means", that's ultimately for each individual to decide. But to the extent that individuals affect one another and desire civil society, I believe justice is as I've described it.

  • ||

  • ||

    I don't know about you, but I never held that loaf of bread against Jean Valjean.

  • ||

    I didn't either. I would happily have bought him that bread. But that doesn't mean it was right for him to take it. And he didn't think so either.

  • ||

    I don't think it was wrong to do so, but I'm no deontologist. Not a consequentialist either.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Your argument presumes that any random person deserves an education at my expense without my consent.

  • robc||

    Two responses.

    1. As a human, Im fallible, but God isnt (and as a christian, I gotta listen). "Thou shalt not steal" is pretty absolute.

    2. However, the circle of things that are called "theft" has been expanded to include things that, IMO, arent. Copyright infringement, for example, is copyright infringement...it isnt piracy or theft, it is infringement. Whether or not it should be illegal/immoral is another issue, but it clearly doesnt fall under the category of theft.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The linguistic transition of a limited monopoly into "property" is one of the greatest intellectual frauds ever.

    Violating copyright or a patent is no more immoral than violating a building code or licensing requirement.

    Illegal - yes.
    Immoral - no.

  • Sam Grove||

    Moral principles were developed in recognition of and an answer to the fallibility of humans.

  • PaganPriestess||

    I did read the article. Still not sure what the point actually was.

  • ||

    That is exactly the position I find myself in after every discussion involving social justice.

  • ||

    This, I believe, is the thesis:

    McCobin hints at something that I know a lot of people think about the bleeding-heart libertarian project: that it's a way for intellectuals who feel a need to get along with liberals and progressives to not feel the stink of the conservative or right-wing around them as they make their libertarian arguments. McCobin spells it out in a way that is criticizing bleeding-heart libertarianism's critics, not the bleeding-heart libertarians themselves.


    To put it succintly, Brian is saying be nice to liberaltarians when using libertarian arguments, stop being quite so dogmatic (because there is no one "root" dogma), and buy his book.

  • PaganPriestess||

    Oh, okay then. Fuck em. I'm too cranky to waffle on the idea that "stealing is wrong" so thieves don't feel butthurt.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    McCobin hints at something that I know a lot of people think about the bleeding-heart libertarian project: that it's a way for intellectuals who feel a need to get along with liberals and progressives to not feel the stink of the conservative or right-wing around them as they make their libertarian arguments.

    THIS.

    These academics wallow in liberal halls and, as I can attest to from experience, must defend their political leanings at every turn. It has nothing to do with right, but with trying to convince liberals that they aren't conservatives.

    Rather than try and twist the idea of "social justice" (whatever that means this week) to fit in to libertarian philosophy, or, rather twist libertarian philosophy to make it accommodate "social justice", just give liberals a copy of "Why I am Not a Conservative" and call it a day.

    Social Justice has the singular problem of being a construct made by well-intentioned liberals to mean whatever the fuck they want it to mean at a given time. It has no underlying principle other than achieving and end goal. In that context, there is absolutely no room for "social justice" within libertarianism.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    "I did read the article."

    I admire your resolve. I scrolled down to comments about when I reached the picture of Ayn.

  • PaganPriestess||

    It was definitely a slog.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Too late to submit as a article?

  • R C Dean||

    Reasoning backwards from their desired outcomes in an attempt to show that their desired outcomes are really what the first principles call for.

    SCOTUS does this all the time. It seems a ba d habit of people who want the state to do,what they want it to do.

  • ||

    That is right on the money RC. The religious do it, the climate scammers do it, the liberals do it, and all for the same reason. They cant make a case otherwise.

  • ||

    I'm sure glad libertarians and moral philosophers never do that! /sarcasm

  • Barfman||

    *barf*

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Rand on justice:

    "[J]ustice has not ceased to exist. How could it? It is possible to abandon their sight of it, and then it is justice that destroys them. But it is not possible for justice to cease to go out of existence, because one is an attriubte of the other, because justice is the act of acknowledging that which exists..."

  • Randian||


    Can Libertarians Learn to Love Social Justice?

    Nooooope

    "Social justice is an empty phrase with no determinable content" - Frederich von Hayek

  • Randian||

    There were supposed to be < / Lana Kane> tags around the "Nope"

  • Arf?||

    Got the reference anyway.

  • shrike||

    From Adam Smith to Locke and then on to Hayek and Ayn Rand - we liberals battles conservatives all the time.

    Social justice is bullshit. The real goal is the finality of the human experiment.

    Today Sam Harris and Matt Ridley are thought leaders. But never, ever do conservatives lead.

    They lag.

  • ||

    Today Sam Harris and Matt Ridley are thought leaders.

    Who?

    Never mind, I'm watching Sarah Palin's Alaska.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    You're not implying that Ayn Rand was a conservative, are you?

    http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexi.....tives.html

  • Randian||

    No, he's saying Ayn Rand was a liberal. Because being an atheist makes one automatically liberal, I guess.

  • shrike||

    Pretty much so. Any capitalist/secularist is a liberal today.

  • ||

    Ahaha, you are soooo adorable!

  • shrike||

    Yes, I am a classic Locke/Hayek liberal.

    I cannot think of another term for our condition.

  • ||

    Too cute

  • shrike||

    btw, "conservative" is anathema to us Hayek/Rand liberals. The thought is disgusting at the very least.

  • ||

    Precious!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    There's "social conservative", which should be thrown in a pit with liberalism, and there's "fiscal conservative".

    shrike, here, is a socialist who loves money. Just like his god Soros.

  • Coeus||

    No

  • Paul.||

    are involved in an ongoing project to reframe libertarianism as a philosophy with room for considerations of income inequality and social justice;

    Like all open-ended, vague concepts, this is begging for a definition of terms.

    Income inequality under what conditions?

    And please, please for the love of Pete, define "social justice".

    Because to me, social justice is a court saying, "Not only no, but fuck no you can't take Ms. Kelo's property..."

    That's social justice.

    Now, if you define social justice as forcing me to pay for someone elses lasik eye surgery, or birth control what have you, social justice can get stuffed.

  • ||

    And please, please for the love of Pete, define "social justice".

    The amount of capital and services distributed to the most amount of people within a (quasi) free-market system with an emphasis on arriving at the closest irreducible, yet unequally as possible, value for each person.

    Yeah, it falls flat on its face.

  • ||

    It's no longer capital after you drink it, smoke it, eat it, or pour it into 22" wheels. Then it's just gone.

  • Coeus||

    Now, if you define social justice as forcing me to pay for someone elses lasik eye surgery,

    Christ. Can you imagine how expensive that shit would still be if they were forcing others to pay for it?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Libertarian academics Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi (who are collaborating on a forthcoming history of libertarian thought for Princeton University Press) are involved in an ongoing project to reframe libertarianism as a philosophy with room for considerations of income inequality and social justice

    SHUT.
    THE.
    FUCK.
    UP!

  • sticks||

    Your'e so bold.

  • WWNGD?||

    Can Libertarians Learn to Love Social Justice?

    Before or after re-education camp?

    HA! Who am I kidding, we are libertarians, we don't love anything!

  • ||

    HA! Who am I kidding, we are libertarians, we don't love anything!

    I love me.

    ...AND my monocle.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Who am I kidding, we are libertarians, we don't love anything!

    Untrue. We love freedom and all the things we can do with our freedom. We also love money and the things money allows us to buy. Like monocles.

  • Severstrand||

    +5 Monocle of Poor Bashing

  • ||

    To this peaceful anarchist, yours truly, "justice" will ever be a code word for "liberation theology" which was a code word for communism. It's also a bitter reminder of Jimmy Carter who just wanted to be fair.

  • ||

    "Justice" means completely different things depending on who is uttering the word. It's really a code word for "how I think things should be".

  • ||

    You're wrong, Episiarch. "Justice" only means what I think it means, not what you do silly.

  • LA Liberty||

    “I don’t have sex-sex with the state. Just the occasional handy and a little cuddling. Uh… I’m still a libertarian if it’s just the tip!” - Matt Zwolinski

  • thirtyandseven||

    rofl +10 internetz

  • Severstrand||

    Is there a purity test we could administer to Matt Zwolinski and John Tomas?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Why bother. They outright tell libertarians that we should just get over our convictions and side with liberals.

  • Randian||

    I don't have a problem with people who are libertarians and want to couch that in touchy-feely terms, so long as at the end of the day they are willing to stand with the rest of us about the general inviolatness and unalienability of self- and property-ownership. that's the requirement of libertarianism.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    so long as at the end of the day they are willing to stand with the rest of us

    I don't even give shit about that, because if they can't agree about the inviolateness of self-and-property ownership, they aren't libertarian.

  • ||

    that tries to figure out a sophisticated justification for certain market interventions in favor of income equality

    They spelled "socialist" wrong -- yes, it contains a "so" and an "ist" and a transposed "cia", but they left out the "l" and threw in some extra letters.

  • ||

    Personally, I found the article very interesting. I'm already looking at some of the links you provided. Don't let some people's dislike keep you from writing about these sort of ideas and discussions.

  • Coeus||

    Voter ID laws are sexist.

    "Mock mentions that supporters of voter ID laws would counterargue that it's not that difficult to get a photo ID, and that people who aren't responsible enough to get their shit together shouldn't be voting. Which would be a semi-valid point, if the Constitution said anything about people being able to vote if and only if they could complete a series of bureaucratic tasks."

    I'll take "Doesn't know shit about the constitution for 1000", Alex.

  • TomD||

    As I read that quote, I thought to myself, "Ugh, I just know that stupid, smarmy, clueless passage is from Gawker."

    Then I hovered over the link. And it wasn't from Gawker.

    It was just from Gawker's sister site.

    Fucking smarmy idiots.

  • ||

    no...

    social justice is all about inequality of treatment and rights in order to achieve a more 'balanced' end in terms of racial, gender, etc. disparities

  • Randian||

    Also, The Veil of Ignorance has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard of. You want people to make a selection as to what's "fair" while depriving them of the social context necessary to make that determination? It's a thing Rand liked to call "stealing the concept". Rawls wanted "fairness", but he wanted us to define that term behind an a priori veil of ignorance, as if anything like fairness can be determined a-contextually.

  • Killazontherun||

    Believe it was Hoppe's insightful critique of Rawls philosophy as one only fit for monads whose state of existence was one that never experienced change.

  • Jerry||

    How fair is it that someone else is banging Bar Refaeli?

  • Brutus||

    If I'm that someone else, it means nature is in perfect balance.

  • shamalam||

    That is a lovely bit of carbonaceous property.

  • rho||

    Libertarians love this kind of philosophizing, but after reading the summary a couple of times, I'm not clear on the main thrust.

    It's possible I'm just not smart enough to figure it out. It's also likely that I'm just too lazy, because it appears I need to read a dozen articles, seven blogs and a book to even enter the conversation.

    The journalist in me says that this is what lazy "blog" habits have done to journalism.

    (The journalist in somebody else is already fuming because I echewed the Oxford comma.)

  • TomD||

    It's a bit inside baseball, but it's nothing that should be incomprehensible to anyone who's spent a bit of time in libertarian circles.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I have trouble with the word "social justice" if only because of the formulations it allows. When the SF city council banned Happy Meals, the proponents of the ban used the term "food justice" to describe their motivation.

    It seems like "__________ Justice" is a term that describes the way you think they ought to be with regards to ___________.

  • PapayaSF||

    Yeah, that Happy Meal ban sure made a big difference. Now they've got posters in the restaurants explaining that the toys cost an additional ten cents....

  • Gerholdt||

    To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.
    -- Thomas Jefferson

  • Hyperion||

    If they mean social justice as constantly regurgitated by our beloved... ok, our not so beloved progressive wack jobs, then... umm NO.

    When the progressive wackazoids realize that the only progress that will ever be made towards equality will be through technology ( ok, I admit this is not 100% true, but it is more true now than ever ), and stop trying to kill the type of free market competition that will acheive such advances in technology, then maybe one day, if we are very, very lucky, they will be content enough with all of their prosperity and cool new toys to finally stop their GD incessant whining and let the progress continue.

  • DWC||

    The presumption in all of this is that libertarians are indifferent to "social justice". I'm a libertarian because it is the only political philosophy that makes moral sense, but it also, not altogether incidentally, is the one social philosophy which is most likely to produce a just and humane society. The truth is, if I thought any other political philosophy could possibly produce a more humane and just society I would most certainly endorse that philosophy. There is only one possible route toward "social justice" and that is through the principles of liberty and self ownership/non-aggression. EVERY other political philosophy involves the initiation of force by some against others and inevitably produces inhumanity and injustice.

  • Hyperion||

    Excellent ponit.

  • Hyperion||

    point, that is. Where is the edit feature?

  • ||

    Ding, ding, ding...tonight's winner!

    Thank you!

  • Sevo||

    "Social Justice"
    Hmmm. Is that code for something that's obvious to the initiates?
    Please define a term before asking for comments on that term.

  • Hyperion||

    Social Justice: When politicians steal money from tax payers and pretend to help those less fortunate, solely for the purpose of getting votes and keeping themselves in power.

  • Sevo||

    Exactly the issue. You define it that way, and there isn't a single person who could factually claim otherwise.
    Shithead tony who posts here forever tosses around such terms, without ever defining what they mean in both the positive and negative aspects.
    Don't tell us how "moral" you are in using such terms, tell us WIH the mean in specifics.

  • Sevo||

    ..."they" mean in specifics.
    Where is the edit feature?

  • TomD||

    To be honest, it's the "WIH" that's got me confused.

  • Hyperion||

    Well, Sevo, you know... IMHO Social Justice is just another BS term that the ruling elite class comes up with to lead the unsuspecting proletariat back into slavery while making them feel good.

    It's kind of like the turn of the century commies came up with the term comrade. Progressives ( or whatever they are calling themselves now ) love their little buzzword terms. And their useful idiot followers just keep falling for it.

  • Sevo||

    The French tried it earlier: "Citoyen". And we also got the wonderfully bullshit slogan of "egalite liberte fraternite"
    Just try to formulate a political organization that wouldn't sacrifice one of those for another.

  • PantsFan||

    Who cares?
    It won't change how mustard tastes.

  • Hyperion||

    Is the worst a trick question, or can most people not remember Bidens's name?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    "I'll tell you, Lyndon, the vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit."

    -John Nance Garner

  • Mickey Rat||

    That's the polite version. The actual metaphor used was "warm piss".

  • Xenocles||

    That sounds delicious. /bear grylls

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Libertarianism and "social justice" (to the extent that same is analogous with equality of outcome) are compatible only to a certain extent -- but when push comes to shove, individuals are different, and thus outcomes will be different in any consistent system which values equality of opportunity.

    Given that the defining attribute of libertarianism is unconstrained non-violent action for all, they're not entirely compatible concepts.

  • Sevo||

    Per above, the problem is that the term is not defined.
    Assuming that your assumption is correct, you've got the internal contradictions inherent in egalite, liberte, fraternite.
    It is not possible for any political system to deliver all three; one or two are going to yield to the other(s).

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Absolutely.

  • Nando||

    equality of opportunity.

    Does a rich kid from New England have the same "opportunity" as a poor kid from Oklahoma?
    NO!
    so shut up about your "equality of opportunity"

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    In the real world, there are all sorts of constraints that get in the way of both absolute equality of outcome and opportunity. We're talking about platonic ideals that inform policy preferences given these constraints, do try to keep up.

  • Randian||

    Does a rich kid from New England have the same "opportunity" as a poor kid from Oklahoma?
    NO!
    so shut up about your "equality of opportunity"

    What is your point here? Kids in Zimbabwe don't have the same opportunities as kids here, but unless you propose we spend trillions of dollars ineffectively trying to do "something" about it, I fail to see the relevance.

  • ||

    They don't both have the opportunity to pursue their goals and exercise their freedoms to the fullest?
    News to me..

  • Sevo||

    Nando|4.13.12 @ 10:46PM|#
    'Does a rich kid from New England have the same "opportunity" as a poor kid from North Korea
    NO!'

    FIFY, dipshit. And there's not a damn thing you or I can do about it.
    Guess what; life isn't "fair". This is easily shown in that an ignorant dipshit like you exists.

  • SIV||

    What good is income equality when they spend it all on lottery tickets and renting giant chrome wheels/low profile tires for their hoopties?

    This "bleeding heart libertarian" BS is just an insignificant strain of progressivism. "Property-rights libertarianism" isn't utopia but it would greatly reduce the cost of living, maximize liberty and opportunity. I have no interest in using state-violence to save people from their own bad decisions.

    If only their was some history of voluntary institutions that had purposes and goals of helping those who are unable or seemingly unwilling to help themselves. These institutions could compete amongst themselves without being crowded out by the state and state-granted monopoly "private-institutions".

  • free2booze||

    Does a 5'10" kid from the suburbs of New England, have the same opportunity as a 6'5" kid from Oklahoma, who runs a 4.4 40? NO!

  • ||

    "Can Libertarians Learn to Love Social Justice?"

    Can Bleeding-heart Concern-Trolls learn to love Personal Responsibility and freedom of association?

  • johnl||

    As society becomes wealthier and the value of labor increases, physical needs become less pressing concerns, while integrity becomes a more pressing. This bleeding heart stuff is 18th century talk.

  • Killazontherun||

    On point, in a town at the center of the North Dakota oil boom, McDonald's employees are being offered over fifteen dollars an hour with full benefits starting off.

  • johnl||

    Awesome. While, in SoCal, people can get by living outside on less than $10 per day. Maybe in the interest of "social justice" we should forcibly relocate urban scavengers from California to North Dakota where they can slave away over stoves.

  • califernian||

    sounds like a bunch of double speak to justify totalitarianism to those who actually care about liberty. What a bunch of nonsense.

  • Founding.Father.Freedom||

    You can have my private property when you pry my firearm rom my cold dead hands. I am Libertarian, by God's gift, and you have confused "liberal" with "Libertarian", you dolt.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "a commitment to social justice in no way commits one to advocating liberty-limiting 'corrections' of emergent distributions on an ongoing basis."

    Perhaps not, but you have undermined the principles of why you would not support such corrections. Social justice is an attempt to correct a result you subjectively feel is wrong, not necessarily what is the logical consequence of freely made choices.

  • Nooge.||

    Cripes, that's not a blog post, it's a novel. :P

    Social justice. How I hate that term. It is used most ardently by people who can only see systems, and not individuals, and who are convinced that every system is intentionally rigged for the benefit of the majority.

    It's a poorly defined term, one that is easily manipulated to mean whatever it needs to mean. Affirmative action = social justice. Redistribution of wealth = social justice. Government-run health care = social justice. These are not concepts libertarians can or should get behind. Any concept of social justice that libertarians can support is not going to resemble what lefties believe about social justice.

    I could get behind a concept of social justice that emphasized the absolute right of private property and freedom of association, though.

  • PapayaSF||

    My favorite sort may be "environmental justice." You see, it turns out that polluting activities like mines and such don't happen in Beverly Hills and other rich neighborhoods, and instead are in areas with lower real estate values where poor people life. I know, who knew, right? Obviously the government needs to fix this... somehow....

  • Nooge.||

    Let's replace canaries in cages with limousine liberals in cages.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    The major problem we have now is not that we have poor, but that we have people who are willfully poor because they willfully chose to specialize in something that has absolutely no market value.

    I have no problem with helping those who are legitimately caught in a cycle of poverty; it's the English and Womyn's Studies and Sociology majors who are the REAL problem. For one, they are the major driving force behind the idea of "social justice." For another, they claim to have intellectual superiority over the rest of us and that they are sacrificing their financial state for a more enlightened intellectual state for the benefit of society and that they DESERVE my money for their sacrifice.

    And regardless of what is meant by these libertarianish scholars when they write "social justice" one thing that I'm sure of is that government redistribution is NOT the answer. Private entities are a much more efficient (I.e., more money goes to its intended target rather than just the pittance that occurs after the graft has been skimmed from the top by various government bureaucracies and doled to those in political favor), and I get to choose the target, not some bureaucrat in a cheap suit.

  • Nooge.||

    I have no problem with helping those who are legitimately caught in a cycle of poverty.

    Nor do I. I help them with my money and time and effort.

    Maybe if all those Occutards did the same, instead of, you know, shouting slogans at finance majors, things would be better for those people.

  • Evil Otto||

    Seavey is quite correct to question the "social justice" libertarians' motives. I mean, if all they're after is a more poor-friendly presentation of libertarian thought, emphasizing the benefits of a free market to those in the lower socioeconomic strata, then fine. Go for it. There's nothing incompatible policy-wise if that's their point.

    But if they're trying to redefine coercion to include denial of education, employment, etc, then they can go pound sand.

  • LP||

    I couldn't read more than a paragraph or two of this article because of the assumption that it's the responsibility of the person who has done the intellectual heavy lifting to convince the people who subsist off of bumper sticker slogans. It's like arguing with a toddler. There's no point until they grow up.

  • LP||

    and continuing with the toddler analogy, trying to reason with people who need to "grow up" could result in caving to their stupid ideas. Just like a toddler whose parents think they are intellectual equals ends up immature and spoiled.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    So, basically, libertarians need to become Democrats?

    No, thanks. That's as bad as joining the so-cons.

    /preemptive "shut the fuck up" to shrike.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Social justice is bullshit."

    Then vote against Obama this November.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Ah, an election year at Reason. You can smell it in the air--and read it on the page.

    The coming avalanche of articles by prospective Obama voters trying to convince themselves and everyone else that voting for Obama is the libertarian thing to do.

    And Gramsci marches on....

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