Libertarian History/Philosophy

Sheldon Richman Talks About Bastiat, Left-Libertarianism, and (shudders) Jimmy Buffett

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Thank God it's Freedom! |||

Longtime libertarian thinker and Reason.com columnist Sheldon Richman was just interviewed by University of Wisconsin music student and WashingtonTimes.com "Business of Living" columnist Joseph S. Diedrich as part of his interesting "Libertarian America" series. It's a fun read, covering everything from Ayn Rand to corporatism to pipe-smoking to Pink Floyd. Here's an excerpt:

Joseph S. Diedrich: You often associate yourself with the concept of "left libertarianism"? What exactly do you mean by that? How does it differ from "right" or "neutral" libertarianism?

Shifty-eyed Frenchman. |||

Sheldon Richman: It's a matter of emphasis and nuance. I believe that the historical concerns of good-faith leftists regarding the poor, minorities, immigrants, and vulnerable wage-workers, which I share, can be achieved only by market-anarchist means. There's a story that reaches back into history. Frederic Bastiat, a great favorite of libertarians everywhere, sat on the left side of the French legislature. This is where the terms left and right come from. The left were the people who were opposed to the old regime and were forward-looking. The right were the defenders of the old regime who wanted to restore the monarchy. Bastiat favored a forward-looking progressive view that the free market represents.

If we jump to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the most active libertarians were the people around Benjamin Tucker. He published the magazine called Liberty, including in it [the writings of] Lysander Spooner. They called themselves socialists — they saw the left as an umbrella for any opposition to corporatism or state favoritism to business. We have this heritage that comes from the left. What modern left libertarians are trying to do today is to reach out to leftists and say you can achieve your ends through market means. At the same time, we're trying to reach out to standard libertarians and explain to them that there is a leftist heritage which they're not aware of.

Whole thing here. Read previous Diedrich interviews of Julie Borowski, Mark Thornton, and Jeffrey Tucker

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  1. It’s really time to leave the qualifier “left” behind. As much as they may want to be look like allies or brothers, libertarians have very little in common with the modern title-holders.

    And also stop trying to resurrect “socialist” from the statists. Let it go.

    1. Some of us are left-leaning individualists and distrustful of all statist types, yet unopposed to private property ownership in principle, so some care should be taken when applying the word “socialist” in any context. I haven’t become a regular here lately because I’m a Randian at all, or even to argue with those who are, but because the “free minds” thing makes this site more attractive than most of its category.

      1. Once you’ve agree to not oppose private-property in principle you’ve moved radically away from the (modern) left.

        1. Do you find anything that he said inaccurate, historically?

          1. No, just irrelevant.

        2. Well, even that seems a little extreme, depending on how broad we mean the modern left. But there’s still value in teaching people about intellectual history, particularly considering the compatibility of old liberal thought. I don’t like starting discussions on certain modern presumptions (liberty v security, liberty v welfare, etc.); it is because progressives/modern leftists have established these false dilemmas that I think there’s value in reaching back into old leftism. At least a teensy bit.

          If you can get a modern leftist to read Proudhon, that’s something.

          1. The intellectual history of modern libertarianism, of course, extends far further than Revolution era France, so calling it “left” is still innacurate at any rate.

            If they are willing to read Proudhon, Bastiat, or anything other than a blog entry, then that definitely is “something.”

            I’ve had zero luck there myself.

          2. I can’t get me to read Proudhon (well, again), so I’m betting I won’t convince anyone else to try.

          3. Well, every intellectual movement can be traced further back than 1789. And of course, his point is that left/right comes from the French Assembly, and so long as we’re going to use that distinction, then it should be pointed out that libertarians sat on the left. Still, it’s really only valuable as a fun fact, a way to spark someone’s curiosity. I mean, how many people call all libertarians “selfish, Objectivist assholes”?

            Though I’d actually disagree: I do think libertarianism began in post-Napoleon France, at least libertarianism as I think it should be defined (to distinguish it from classical liberalism).

            1. Right, it’s a factoid, nothing more. If pulling it out will convince socialists and other lay-abouts that liberty is the way, great. But that’s a far cry from claiming to be apart of the left today.

              And I’d consider Randians to be more leftist than rightist themselves, but nobody but ERvKL seems to agree with me.

              Oh well.

        3. Someday, we all need to reclaim the original dictionary definitions of words like “liberal” and “progressive,” because people who call themselves that are largely uninterested in defending personal liberties.

          1. Actually, I shouldn’t say “largely,” because most of my liberal friends call themselves that rather loosely, and many of them are rather dissatisfied with the current state of things, party leadership included.

          2. Progressive isn’t our word. It belongs to later day Bismarkians like Mayor Bloomberg.

            1. Progressive-libertarian may as well be the next one.

              You see, we’re really progressive like you, in that we really want to help the poor, we just think different means are in order.

              1. Where do get the idea I’m about helping the poor? I’ve never said anything so noblese oblige in my life that would signify that.

                1. Did you suddenly do an about-face on being “progressive”?

                  1. You must be new here, or Mary fucking around. I haven’t changed my opinion on progressives in twenty plus years, nor have I expressed anything but hostility to the ideology on this board in the several I’ve been around.

                    1. Or a hit’n’ rethuglican who doesn’t realize my disdain for the GOP is merely part of my hatred for all aspects of democratic goverment. Seriously, you picked the wrong individual to mistake for a proglodyte. Ancap, not a democrat.

                    2. So then why would you think the comment:

                      You see, we’re really progressive like you, in that we really want to help the poor, we just think different means are in order.

                      really applied to you?

                      It’s clearly meant for those who care.

                    3. Because you addressed it to me with ‘like you’, that is how threading works, then you underscored that was what you had in mind when you asked at what point did I change my mind about progressives. See, it all falls into place. So, Mary?

                    4. Do you not understand how a pitch works?

                      It’s addressed to anyone that doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

                      Those to whom it doesn’t apply – non-progressives – have no reason to reply. Hence the confusion as to your direct reply.

                      Doid this help clear things up for you?

      2. Some of us are left-leaning individualists and distrustful of all statist types, yet unopposed to private property ownership in principle

        so you oppose private property ownership in practice? And never mind the disconnect between left-leaning and distrusting statists; left-leaning by today’s standards pretty much IS the statists.

        If you take issue with the concept of private property, you are digging quite a whole for yourself here.

        1. Did you go to Georgia Southern? I said no such thing. I own things and I expect to own land at some point, too.

          1. OK, I said something misleading. GSU is as good as any other in the Georgia university system.

            Sure, you can find abuses and excesses in property management if you really want to look, but I didn’t mention that because it wasn’t relevant to what I originally meant to communicate.

          2. No he got it right.

            Why didn’t you choose to say “I favor private property rights” rather then the awkward “unopposed to private property ownership in principle”

            What is the difference between “favors private property rights” and “unopposed to private property ownership in principle”

            why did you choose the later over the former?

    2. Another problem is that there are already “left libertarians”: anarcho-communists and other non-propertarian anarchists.

      1. Darn, shoulda read Jon Lester’s comment, makes mine superfluous.

      2. anarcho-communists

        How can the state own the means of production if there is no state?

        Oxymoron.

        1. In anarcho-communism, there is no state and hence no state ownership of means of prod’n, nor of anything else. There is no ownership by anyone of anything, period. You my possess certain things by being physically attached to them at the moment, but once that cx is broken it’s fair game.

          1. Then there isnt any communism.

            1. It was claimed that the dictatorship of the proletariat would wither away into a utopian anarchy. Many still believe this, which is why so many anarcho-socialist/communists advocate for greater state intervention. They want the dictatorship so it can finally whither away. For example, see Chomsky.

              This is rather like certain eschatological Christians who want a war in Israel so the New Jerusalem can be ushered in.

              1. Good and apt analogy.

          2. So basically chaos, not anarchy.

            1. Communist whose appetite for destruction overrides even their pleasure for controling others.

              1. welcome to the jungle

      3. Indeed, and – historically, speaking – “libertarians” were basically communistst – although not Marxists.

        They’ve come a long way, so has the left.

      4. Yeah, left-libertarians are statists who won’t admit they want socialism

        Anarcho-communists are just communists who like to riot and burn shit down

        non-propertarian anarchists – I don’t . . . just . . . whatever.

  2. I didn’t realize I was at the Mooney Times until I’d read the thing, and I wonder how this managed its way into those pages.

  3. At the same time, we’re trying to reach out to standard libertarians and explain to them that there is a leftist heritage which they’re not aware of.

    Uh, no there is not.

  4. The left were the people who were opposed to the old regime and were forward-looking. The right were the defenders of the old regime…

    And in the current environment the old regime is semi-socialist, anti-market and fears liberty. Making progressivism a conservative-reactionary movement.

    1. Precisely.

    2. True at the origin point of the progressive movement as well. The very name was an attempt to obscure opposition to liberal social and economic reform by declaring it forward thinking and scientific.

      1. Obfuscate. And that is what I wrote the first time
        Damn this device and its persistent attempts to undermine me.

  5. I’ve known and followed Sheldon’s career since he was in high school. His thinking is always provocative and worth listening to. He’s the kind of guy you’d love to have a pizza and beer with and shoot the shit, knowing he will listen to you and not attack you if he disagrees.

    1. I knew him only since SLS, about 1979, but, yeah, he is a great guy like that. Lately he’s always writing stuff I want to nit-pick, but I’m sure he enjoys that.

    2. If nothing else, you have to respect the beard.

      1. I respect only the beards of Chuck Norris and Warty. They come with fists. Way too many jaunty Zachgaliwhatever wannabes grow them these days.

    3. He’s in Arkansas now, so I theoretically could do just that.

  6. Jimmy Buffet is an underrated philosopher.

    Some people claim
    That there’s a woman to blame,
    But I know
    It’s my own damn fault.

    17 words that explain maybe 90% of life.

    1. I don’t mind Buffet. It is not his fault his fans are so annoying. What was he supposed to do? Not take their money? I for one can admire a guy who manages to create his own devoted and benign personality cult.

      1. Just you wait until his fanhood reaches critical mass, John. Then you’ll see how benign they are.
        When you’re being herded into camps by drunken frat boys and droopy, sun-baked, toothless Floridian women, you’ll wish you had acted sooner.

        1. I can sing from memory a Buffet song besides Magraitaville, so I think I’ll be safe.

          1. I bet you wish you had a pencil-thin mustache….

            1. Now that I old I don’t wear underwear.
              I don’t go to church and I don’t cut my hair.

          2. Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t count!

          3. It’s best to learn Volcano and Come Monday, too, just to be safe.

  7. I believe that the historical concerns of good-faith leftists

    Oh it is so cute when adults still believe in Santa Claus.

    1. No enemies to the left, no friends to the right. This is the status quo of the left.

      Not much room for good faith there.

  8. What modern left libertarians are trying to do today is to reach out to leftists and say you can achieve your ends through market means.

    The leftists already want to use the market to achieve their ends, by taxing profitable business enterprises into bankruptcy.

  9. What modern left libertarians are trying to do today is to reach out to leftists and say you can achieve your ends through market means.

    I am sorry Sheldon, but that is so naive as to be laughable. Leftists’ ends are basically control and more control. Leftists hate change and they hate unpredictability and instability. Their goals are stasis and equality. You can’t have those things and have a market.

    1. Exactly. Markets depend on voluntary cooperation. Leftists just want cooperation. If you won’t cooperate voluntarily they’ll be more than happy to put a gun to your head, and if you still refuse to cooperate, they’ll happily kill you and your family. Leftist are evil, merrily paving the road to Hell with their good intentions.

      1. Leftism rejects the whole idea of collective wisdom. Markets are based on that idea. There is no way to reconcile the two.

        1. Leftism rejects the whole idea of collective wisdom

          Which is somewhat ironic.

          1. It really is.

          2. Motherfuckin’ hipsters…

        2. Leftism rejects the whole idea of collective wisdom.

          Yep. Leftism is about the belief that a small cadre of individuals has the requisite knowledge to control a vastly larger group of people. Problem is, the vastly larger group of people, even though each individual member might not be as intelligent as the would be Philosopher Kings, is bound to have more collective knowledge than that small cadre could ever hope to have.

          Which means that the small group of people trying to control everything is working with a deeply flawed and limited amount of information, which makes their goals impossible to achieve.

          1. which makes their goals impossible to achieve.

            Aw, come on. They just haven’t tried hard enough. A few more laws. Some reeducation camps. Work camps for those who refuse to come to the correct way of thinking. More central control. Less private property. More forced equality. They’ll get it right eventually. Or kill you trying.

        3. Leftists embrace collective wisdom. It’s just that collective wisdom happens to coincide with what they say it is.

    2. That may be true, but I think he has a point. If we want to change things to be more libertarian, we have to convince some people on the left. I think most progressive politicians are probably hopeless, but a lot of people who identify as left/progressive do actually care about individual rights to some extent, at least. A lot of libertarians start out as conventionally liberal. It’s not impossible to convince some of these people.

      1. a lot of people who identify as left/progressive do actually care about individual rights to some extent, at least

        Perhaps, but not in any libertarian sense. They care about individual rights like the right to force others to pay for your health care, or the right to force smokers to go outside, or the right to force restaurants to post calorie content, or the right to force employers to pay their workers more money, or the right to force people to join unions…

        1. Most on the left agree with at least one of those things, but there is hardly universal agreement on all of it. I think that a lot on the left really do like the idea of individual freedom. They just fail (like most people) to think past the first order effects of the other policies they favor, like the positive “rights” you mention. Of course they will still mostly vote Democrat. But a lot of libertarians vote Republican and look where that gets you.

      2. That’s certainly true, but libertarians need to appeal to everyone, left and right – but just look at how much they bad mouth the religious – they shouldn’t claim a certain heritage that will turn off a large section of potential allies.

    3. Depends when in their lives you get “leftists”. You describe probably a great number who were drawn to the “left” for reasons incompatible with libertarianism, but lots of people in their lives have swung from “left” to radical libertarian, for the reason Sheldon gives. Maybe the misconception you have is that Sheldon’s saying they’ll remain “leftist” after successful outreach while becoming more libertarian; usually there’s a fairly sharp break, the combination of ideas being unstable.

      1. That is a valid point. But I think at this point being “leftist” has become such a cultural identity that is going to be very difficult. Being a liberal is a way to show the world that you care and are smarter and more tolerant than other people. To get leftists to move away is to get them to give up a large part of the identity and self worth. To them the personal really is the political.

        And you can’t be “lefitst” and be “libertarian”. You have to stop being leftist. The two philosophies are incompatible.

        1. Yes, that last bit is what I said too.

          1. I know. I was agreeing with you. Sorry to not make that clear.

        2. And you can’t be “lefitst” [sic] and be “libertarian”.

          That’s only true if you view the political spectrum one dimensionally. Let/right. Where is libertarianism on such a spectrum? The middle? The far far right?

          The two dimensional Nolan chart is significantly more descriptive when describing the political spectrum. When using it you can certainly have right or left leaning libertarians as well as right or left leaning statists.

          Nolan

    4. I also question the utility argument. If more people were made poorer in a free market than in a socialist system, as so many leftist claim ( turn off your inner economist that tells you that is impossible for argument’s sake), would I still be for it? Yes. The left libertarian would have a problem justifying free commerce if it doesn’t serve egalitarian ends. The rationale undermines the non agression principle as the only reasson you are giving to stay the hand of the state not to redistribute is the market being a means of redistribution.

  10. I can’t think of any area of modern leftist thinking that I can picture myself accepting. Or have we determined that leftists are no longer collectivists?

    1. What does the term “left” mean if a “leftist” can be a libertarian?
      The left claims to care about individual freedom, but the revealed preference is control of the individual. Other than that, there isn’t even a claim by the left that would pass a libertarian sniff test.

      1. Sevo, don’t you understand that there are only three freedoms that matter, namely abortion, gay marriage and weed?

        What’s the point in having freedom to do anything else?

      2. Sevo, don’t you understand that there are only three freedoms that matter, namely abortion, gay marriage and weed?

        What’s the point in having freedom to do anything else?

        1. You forgot the freedom to repeat post things repeatedly endlessly until people agree with you.

  11. “I believe in the freedom to do what you want, except when it comes to me taking your monies to give to some douchebag because it makes me feel good.” – Left Libertarian.

    F you and left libertarianism Sheldon you douchebag.

  12. Richman’s a smart and principled guy, but he spends a lot of time on things I have no interest in, so I don’t often read him.

    1. He is a smart guy. He just makes the same mistake many Libertarians do. He assumes everyone else is just like him. He thinks because he is reasonable and principled leftists are too. And they as a general rule are not. And there reasons for being leftists are much more emotional and irrational than Sheldon’s reasons for being Libertarian.

      1. A lot of libertarians are coldly rational, as witnessed by the overabundance of engineers and programmers here, but you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

        I’ll also note that libertarians, in general, have spent more time thinking about their ideology and why they hold it than most people. Most people just have a kind of fuzzy set of things that are good or bad without knowing why. It’s a lot accreted cultural baggage that they never bothered to examine closely, or in many cases, at all. When people don’t even know why they hold their beliefs, it’s hard to convince them their beliefs are wrong.

        1. Yes being a libertarian is not the default position. People who believe it have almost always come to it. And takes effort and that takes thought.

          When I part ways with Libertarians it is almost always because they think everyone else is just as rational and reasonable as they are. And sadly, the world is not like that. People are masters of rationalizing irrational things to themselves. People believe crazy things. People believe things for deeply personal and emotional reasons. It is just not so simple as sitting down and working it out rationally with people. If only it was.

          1. they think everyone else is just as rational and reasonable as they are

            Really? Because I don’t think that, and no libertarians that I know think that.

            1. Oh yes they do. Think about drugs. I am as anti-drug war as anyone. But Libertarians are kidding themselves if they think that legalization won’t cause more people to abuse drugs. Absolutely it will. Some people are just degenerates with no self control and the only thing stopping them from killing themselves is the threat of being thrown in jail. Now I look at it as well too bad for them. It is not my problem and I am not paying taxes or restricting my freedom to save these losers from themselves. But I am under no illusions that a good number of such people exist. I think a good number of Libertarians don’t and really think legalization will have no costs. It will have costs, which are of course small in comparison to the benefits.

              Libertarians love the theory of blow back in foreign policy. Why? Because assume every person in the world is just as rational as they are and must have a good reason for being terrorists. That is why the blow back arguments appeal to Libertarians so much. Libertarians often just have a hard time grasping that some people really don’t need much of a reason or if they have a reason it isn’t often rational to be evil and murderous.

              1. Libertarians love the theory of blow back in foreign policy. Why? Because assume every person in the world is just as rational as they are and must have a good reason for being terrorists.

                John, I normally agree with you when you argue with people who are claiming that Islamic fundamentalists only attack us because of American ‘oppression’ but I don’t know how you can argue that some form of blow back doesn’t occur.

                When 9/11 happened, we went and invaded two countries because we’d been attacked. Are you really arguing that there aren’t Muslims who will react the same way when they see their homes being attacked? If you want to get technical, our attacks on the Middle East in the last 10 years, as well as our entry into WWII after Pearl Harbor, were just ‘blow back.’

                Not only that, but how is blow back an assumption about rationality? If someone sees you attack his home and angrily strikes back at you, that’s an emotional response, not a rational one.

                1. No Irish, they attack us because they are assholes and nuts and have their own reasons. We have had this argurment hundreds of times on this thread. And the two positions always boil down to the same thing. The blowback people list out a set of rational grievances that our enemies must have. And the anti-blowback people say none of those grievances matter because the people attacking us are not acting rationally.

                  That is the heart of the issue. Do you believe our enemies are acting rationally as the result of rational grievances that can be addressed thus ending the conflict or do you not? I do not. And I think Libertarians do because they for whatever reason tend to have a hard time grasping the fact that some people are not rational and do not rational reasons for doing what they do or grievances that can be reasonably addressed.

                  1. That is the heart of the issue. Do you believe our enemies are acting rationally as the result of rational grievances that can be addressed thus ending the conflict or do you not?

                    There is something to be said about avoiding irrational violent people…especially when you have no fucking business in the first place messing with them.

                    What the fuck were we doing supporting the Shaw if not hitting a hornets nest with a stick?

                    It is pretty easy to come up a long list of equally and/or greater stupid crap along those same lines as above the US has been doing involving the Muslim world.

                    Furthermore which enemies are you talking about? The leadership of Saudi Arabia? Pakistan? Egypt? Libya? Syria? Iraq? Iran?

                    They act fairly rational to varying degrees…in fact it takes a pretty rational mind to motivate the irrationally violent segments of their population into frothing hatred for the US and then use those same irrationally violent segment to support their regime internally through distraction and execute their military will abroad.

                    If the US did not have a long long long history of blunders perhaps that job for these various tyrants would be a bit harder.

                    I have real doubts that the ire of the irrationally violent would be directed at us if the only thing they knew about us is that we sold them coca-cola.

                2. The term “blowback” in re Moslem extremist terror has been used 2 different ways. One version is that US funding of them (helping them arm & organize) in Afghanistan blew back to hit the USA and much of the rest of the world after the USSR pulled out. The other version is that US intervention in Afghanistan made enemies who then blew back.

                  I’m sure both forms of blowback occurred to some degree, but I don’t think they added significantly to the terror. I think Moslem terror is an independent phenomenon which would’ve existed anyway, and that the bit of difference made by the help in funding them or the making of a few more enemies has been so small that you wouldn’t notice it in the comparison if you could check out the alternate world in which they hadn’t occurred.

              2. But Libertarians are kidding themselves if they think that legalization won’t cause more people to abuse drugs. Absolutely it will.

                Would more people use drugs if they were legal? Probably. But they would be truly informed about what they were doing. As opposed to what we have now where they get fed lies by the government, and inconsistent products by the black market.

                Because assume every person in the world is just as rational as they are and must have a good reason for being terrorists.

                Killing American civilians is neither a “good” nor “rational” response to the actions of the American government around the world. Just because the actions of our government were not intended to piss people off doesn’t mean that it hasn’t pissed people off. Conservatives turn into liberals when it comes to foreign policy, pointing to intentions while ignoring results.

                1. No sarcasmic. Being pissed off at America over some intervention and attacking America over it, is perfectly rational. And if that were the case, you could solve the conflict by addressing the grievances and taking away the reason for the conflict. And that is what blow back is saying. And it is not crazy. But it assumes that the people doing this have rational grievances that can be addressed.

                  1. But it assumes that the people doing this have rational grievances that can be addressed.

                    I see. None of our government’s actions in the Muslim world are cause for rational grievances. Not one. Zero. Our government can do no wrong. It is perfect and without fault. Got it, Red Tony.

                2. Would more people use drugs if they were legal? Probably. But they would be truly informed about what they were doing. As opposed to what we have now where they get fed lies by the government,

                  Yeah, but I think they’re pretty well informed now, and they’d get fed lies by private parties in any event, as they are today.

                  Basically I think legal heroin will shake out pretty much like legal liquor; it’s just that heroin consumption won’t have as great an amount of adverse effects on 3rd parties as liquor does, just because of differences in how people act when they overconsume either. So it’s not like society is going to see anything novel in terms of costs, just more of the same, and much less than, say, a doubling. Fortunately many of the people who would fuck themselves up with one are the same as those would do so with the other.

              3. John, I really don’t think that very many libertarians thing that there wouldn’t be some more drug use if drugs were legalized. Some are certainly a bit over optimistic, but I don’t think anyone believes that legalization would eliminate all problems related to drug use.

                And on the blowback thing, I really don’t get what you are saying there. That attacks are in some way related to US policy is not to say that they are rational or reasonable responses. There is no need at all to assume rationality in the terrorists who attack the US. US foreign interventions may well all be perfectly justified and appropriate. That doesn’t mean that attacks against the US are not blowback from those interventions. Nor is saying that US policy helped inspire the attacks in any way blaming the US for the attacks. The fact that attacks are blowback says nothing at all about whether the acts that inspired the attacks are a good idea. Completely separate questions.

                1. If anything, John’s the one with an incredibly irrational view of foreign policy. Obviously there are Muslims who are just hardcore fundamentalists and want to spit in the eye of the Great Satan, but how on Earth can you argue that there aren’t any people who get radicalized by American foreign policy?

                  John, if someone attacked America, are you more or less likely to want to attack them back? If the answer is more, then why do you make the bizarre assumption that Muslims don’t feel the same way you do?

                  The truth of the matter is this: People who believe blowback has no impact are basically assuming that Muslims are completely different than any other group of people in the entire history of mankind. Anyone, when seeing their home attacked, is more likely to want to attack the opponent. This goes for every group in the whole history of man, and I don’t know why some conservatives have the absurd belief that Muslims behave differently than every other group in history.

                  1. I don’t know why some conservatives have the absurd belief that Muslims behave differently

                    It’s twofold. First it’s easier to kill people once you dehumanize them, and Muslims have definitely been dehumanized to conservatives. Then there’s the whole intentions vs results thing. To conservatives the military can do no wrong. Period. End of story. So to suggest that the results of well intentioned military actions could piss off Muslims is blasphemy. The military is perfect and without fault. There’s no way it could provoke anyone. It’s impossible.

                  2. People who believe blowback has no impact are basically assuming that Muslims are completely different than any other group of people in the entire history of mankind.

                    I would say I am assuming they are like every other group of people in the history of man. Most conflicts in history haven’t had entirely rational causes. And many belligerents have had demands that could never have been met. That is why wars happen. If people were reasonable with reasonable grievances, wars would be almost unheard of rather than the rational state of man.

                    Thank you for giving me a picture perfect example of exactly the kind of thinking I am talking about. You, like most libertarians, assume most people are rational and act rationally. Ah, not quite. Maybe in the case of the individual, but almost never in the case of the collective such as nations or ethnic groups.

                    1. Maybe in the case of the individual, but almost never in the case of the collective such as nations or ethnic groups.

                      All actions are done by individuals.

                    2. Yeah Rob, but they are also done collectively. I can predict how someone will behave. But doing that for a large group of people is much harder.

                2. Here is what I am saying Zeb. Blowback only matters if you assume the people who are attacking us are doing so for a rational reason that if removed will cause them to stop attacking us. Otherwise, what difference does it make?

                  That is the heart of the arugment. The blowback people say these people are attacking us for the rational reason that we are over there and if we stop being over there and remove that reason, our enemies will leave us alone.

                  The response to that is no, they are attacking us because they are irrational and have reasons to attack us that have nothing to do with us being there and to the extent they claim it is because we are there it is just an excuse and they will find another if that one ever ends.

                  The critical difference between the two positions is whether you believe our enemies have rational grievances that can be reasonably addressed. If I thought that were the case, I would be totally in the blow back school. Libertarians because they tend to believe that people are rational, believe our enemies are rational and thus have reasonable grievances that can be addressed.

                  1. Here is what I am saying Zeb. Blowback only matters if you assume the people who are attacking us are doing so for a rational reason that if removed will cause them to stop attacking us.

                    John, it has nothing to do with rationality. It has to do with emotion. People don’t run into a cafe with a bomb strapped to their back because of reason, they do it because of extreme, fervent emotion. That extreme emotion can very easily be stoked by American actions abroad, and to say otherwise is incredibly naive.

                    I don’t know where you get the idea that people here believe terrorists are behaving ‘rationally.’ People arguing that blow back has an impact are not in any way making a claim about anyone’s rationality.

                    1. I will say it. They may well be acting rationally, but from very fucked up premises.

                    2. If you admit that their actions are emotional and irrational, then you have given away the case Irish. If they have have an irrational and emotional hatred of the US, then nothing the US does is going to change that and the argument becomes irrelevant to how the US should act.

                    3. If they have have an irrational and emotional hatred of the US in reponse to the actions of the US government and military abroad, then nothing the US does is going to change that and the argument becomes irrelevant to how the US should act maybe we should stop it.

                      ftfy

                    4. If they have reasons that can be articulated and addressed, those reasons are not irrational are they? and you admit below that their response to our actions is not irrational. We are the ones “poking in the chest” right?

                      I get it sarcsamic. You would never decide that you hated a particular culture and wanted it destroyed unless that culture attacked you or gave you one hell of a strong reason to. And you are assuming our enemies are just as reasonable as you are. They are not.

                  2. Libertarians because they tend to believe that people are rational, believe our enemies are rational and thus have reasonable grievances that can be addressed.

                    You do realize that libertarians have said “no that’s now what we believe, this is what we believe,” right?

                    Maybe you should listen to some actual libertarians instead of the straw man in your head, Red Tony.

                    1. *not* not now

                    2. Sarcasmic,

                      If our enemies don’t have rational grievances that can be addressed, then what difference does it make that they are attacking us because of blow back? If their grievances are not rational and can’t be addressed, then they really are not a relevant consideration in determining US policy are they? The whole point of blow back is that if we stop intervening our enemies will leave us alone. If their grievances are irrational and can’t be addressed, then they are going to attack us no matter what we do won’t they? And that is my point.

                    3. The whole point of blow back is that if we stop intervening our enemies will leave us alone.

                      You are drawing addition conclusions from the concept.

                      The point of blow back is that all actions get a response.

                      The conclusion about intervening you are attempting to claim is the point doesnt necessarily follow.

                    4. You are drawing addition conclusions from the concept.

                      Not only that, but he’s conflating the idea that SOME attacks are going to result from blow back with the idea that ALL attacks result from blow back. No one is arguing that there aren’t simply nut bag terrorists who hate us for our freedoms and want to do us harm. You can’t assume that all potential terrorists are like that though, and you can’t assume that the perceived callousness of American actions abroad don’t have a hand in some level of radicalization.

                    5. John,
                      If you go around poking people in the chest, should you be surprised when someone breaks your nose? Is breaking your nose a rational response to being poked in the chest? Probably not. But after being poked over and over and over and over…

                    6. Again sarcasmic, you are assuming that people won’t act unless poked in the chest and that in the absence of being poked they won’t find another excuse to act. In short, you are assuming they are to some degree rational and predictable. And that is where you and I differ.

                    7. you are assuming that people won’t act unless poked in the chest

                      You assume that your poking them in the chest in no way shape or form influenced their decision to break your nose. I mean, it wasn’t your intent to piss them off so badly that they’d break your nose. All you did was poke them in the chest. WTF?

                      in the absence of being poked they won’t find another excuse to act

                      Perhaps they may. I haven’t ruled that out. That’s a straw man. Maybe they think you’re a jerk. That’s entirely possible.
                      However for you to say that they would have punched you in the nose anyway, even if you never poked them in the chest, because you never intended that reaction and because they’re completely irrational, is arrogant, condescending and childish. It is simply a way to excuse your actions because “They would have done it anyway! I never intended this reaction, so it’s not may fault! It’s not my fault! It’s not my fault! Quit saying it’s my fault! I never intended it so it’s not my fault! Mommmmm!”

                    8. You assume that your poking them in the chest in no way shape or form influenced their decision to break your nose.

                      I am assuming that it is just possible that you plan to break my nose anyway because that is just what you do. And that is where we differ. You can’t get your arms around the idea that this is the natural state of affairs in the world. Most people attack each other without a rational much less good reason. If people only attacked each other with good reason, wars would be very rare.

                    9. you are assuming that people won’t act unless poked in the chest

                      NO ONE IS ASSUMING THAT.

                      The two are not mutually exclusive. Blowback isnt an attempt to explain everyone.

                    10. Blowback is not an attempt to explain much of anything. At best, it is a truism irrelevant to making judgments about the best action to take.

                    11. If you go around poking people in the chest, should you be surprised when someone breaks your nose?

                      Now imagine that you’re poking them in the chest after blowing up their family with a drone.

                      What response can be expected?

                    12. What response can be expected?

                      That is the whole question isn’t it? If the people are acting rationally and only in response to our actions, then yes they will stop. But if they are acting for other reasons that are emotional and cultural and have nothing to do with our actions, then the response could be quite different wouldn’t it?

                    13. What response can be expected?

                      That is the whole question isn’t it?

                      No, Red Tony. You’re playing the intentions game. You never intended this reaction so it can’t be your fault. It just can’t. I mean, it wasn’t your intention, so how could you have caused it? Impossible!

                    14. John, let’s say we’re neighbors. One day, for no reason you can tell, I put a big sign on my front lawn that reads “I HATE JOHN!” A news crew comes to my house to ask about it and I loudly proclaim just how much I hate you without giving a reason. After seeing the news, you decide that for your own safety you need to do something to me. You come to my house, kill my dog, and blow up my garage. After that, I come over to your house and smash all of your windows. Your argument seems to be suggesting that the only reason I smashed your windows is because I hate you and not because you just destroyed my garage.

                    15. Take your example Sparky. Maybe the reason why you smashed my windows is because of what I did. Or maybe you hate me for a hundred other reasons and what I did was just a convenient excuse for you doing what you are planning any way?

                      Which case it is depends on how peaceful and rational you are. You of course assume the peaceful and rational state of things. But there is nothing to say that has to be the case or is even likely the case. It may be that the only reason you just broke my windows and didn’t attack me directly, which is what you really wanted to do from the beginning is because my actions caused your to fear me a little bit.

                      You guys always assume this night neat set of causality where each party is acting rationally or at the very least predictably to a given set of circumstances. And you also assume that people always have a strong reason or a good reason for conflict. And that is because I think, that is how you are and you assume others are like that. And sadly, most others are nothing like that.

                    16. Let’s say I hate you because you just bought a new car or a pool and I can’t afford to. Let’s say I hate you because every morning when you get up and every night before bed you go out on your front step and shout “I’M THE GREATEST PERSON IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!” I think we can agree both of those are irrational. Let’s say I only broke your windows because you’re obviously more wealthy than I am and I can’t afford to buy explosives to blow up your garage.

                    17. Sure Sparky. And if you think that way, nothing I do is ever going to change you. At best I might be able to intimidate you into not acting on your beliefs or do something to take away your ability to act, but I am never going to get you to stop hating me by addressing your grievances. So you really can’t call your breaking my windows blow back for what I did. It is just your latest action in your continuing war against me.

                    18. At best I might be able to intimidate you into not acting on your beliefs or do something to take away your ability to act, but I am never going to get you to stop hating me by addressing your grievances.

                      Right, you got it. But as far as I know I have every right to hate you for the things you have.

                      So you really can’t call your breaking my windows blow back for what I did. It is just your latest action in your continuing war against me.

                      Of course I can. The only thing I had done previously is put up a sign. I committed not one single act against you.

                    19. We assume that some causality exists. Whether it is nice and neat like your straw man is debatable.

                      You categorically deny any causality at all because you don’t like the fact that the results don’t match your intentions, and because it dehumanizes the enemy.

                      And you also assume that people always have a strong reason or a good reason for conflict.

                      In general, yes, I would assume that someone has what they feel or believe to be a strong reason before they go and blow themselves up. I mean, people don’t generally kill themselves and others on a whim, but I could be wrong.

                    20. In general, yes, I would assume that someone has what they feel or believe to be a strong reason before they go and blow themselves up. I mean, people don’t generally kill themselves and others on a whim, but I could be wrong.

                      Sure they have strong reasons. But those reasons can’t be traced back to any one thing or be alleviated by anything we do.

                    21. But those reasons can’t be traced back to any one thing or be alleviated by anything we do.

                      Dude, stop it with the straw man arguments already. Please. No one said it was “one thing” or that there was something we could to that would cause them to stop hating us immediately.

                      It’s been a cumulative result of generations of meddling by the US and by other western powers. Add in a dose of a religion that condones violence, and this is what you get.

                      But to say that the actions of the government and military in no way shape or form could have ever resulted in any blow back is simply arrogant. That’s the word that best describes your attitude regarding the unintended results of foreign intervention: arrogant.

                    22. John,

                      Just an FYI, but when you use the word “always” that many times, there is an extremely high probability that you’re arguing against a straw man.

                    23. It is sloppy language on my part sarcasmic. You often assume that. My mistake.

                  3. John, to me, the point of considering the blowback explanation for some animosity toward the US is more about learning from the past than getting immediate results. If we stopped getting involved in the Muslim world tomorrow, I don’t think that Islamist terrorists would lose their animosity toward the US overnight. But, I think that US policies do have a lot to do with why they consider the US such an enemy in the first place. And I think that is something that at least needs to be considered in making foreign policy. Any policy is going to piss some people off and you need to weigh the benefits of the policy against the possible blowback. TO me it’s not about stopping terrorism now, it is about having better foreign policy in the future and being honest about why we are where we are now.

                    1. And you may be right about that Zeb. But in order to agree with your proposition, you have to accept the assumption that our actions caused our enemies to do something they wouldn’t have done anyway. That they are acting as least predictably to our actions and thus their grievances can be addressed and their hatred alleviated.

                      I wish it were so. But I am not seeing it.

                    2. But in order to agree with your proposition, you have to accept the assumption that our actions caused our enemies to do something they wouldn’t have done anyway.

                      Those things are not mutually exclusive.

              4. I think a good number of Libertarians don’t and really think legalization will have no costs. It will have costs, which are of course small in comparison to the benefits.

                Libertarians see the costs, but they also see the benefits, and the latter FAR OUTWEIGHS the former. Not to mention the fact that as things currently stand we are running up much higher costs in continuing the War on Drugs and filling our prisons with non-violent drug offenders.

                Stop beating up strawmen, and stop being so damn disingenuous.

                1. Notice how John is the one going on and on about rationality, and yet he’s simple-minded enough (just on this issue. I’m not saying you’re simple-minded in general) to be the only one in this thread arguing that Muslim terrorists could only ever have one possible motivation for their actions. There’s more than a billion Muslims in the world. Just by random chance, you’d think that some might have different reasons for doing bad things

                  1. Just by random chance, you’d think that some might have different reasons for doing bad things

                    Of course they do. And that makes the blowback argument that more unlikely. Blowback assumes the US has a power over events that it doesn’t have. Yes, they have tons of different reasons for doing what they do. And thus, our actions and attempts to placate them are going to have very little if any effect.

                    Thanks for making my point so well.

                    1. Yes, they have tons of different reasons for doing what they do

                      And our government has done tons of things over there over the years.

                      our actions and attempts to placate them are going to have very little if any effect

                      Who said anything about placating? Oh yeah, the same straw man that said there must be a single identifiable thing that our government did to piss them off.
                      Once you’ve gone around poking everyone in the chest to the point where they’re ready to punch you in the face, the damage is done. They’re not going to make nice-nice no matter what you do. But still, not poking them in the chest anymore, while it won’t placate them, won’t make it worse either.

                    2. Are you an idiot? How do your conclusions follow from what I said? My point was that Muslim terrorists don’t necessarily all have the same motivations and may join terror groups for somewhat different reasons, INCLUDING the fact that many may be pissed off by the actions of the US government. How is that hard to understand, or even controversial?

                    3. The funny thing is that in a thread last week, John was going on and on about how many Americans might be prejudiced against Muslims because of actions by Islamic terrorists, and how while that’s not necessarily right, it’s understandable. Is that not a form of blowback? Why can it not work the other way around? Why can Muslims not hate Americans because of actions by the US government?

                    4. Why can it not work the other way around? Why can Muslims not hate Americans because of actions by the US government?

                      Because, as a conservative, John may not criticize the military in any way. To say that Muslims hate Americans because of the actions of the military, even though that was not the intention, is still criticism. That’s tantamount to blasphemy.

              5. Libertarians are kidding themselves if they think that legalization won’t cause more people to abuse drugs. Absolutely it will.

                Conflates use with abuse. Fail.

                Some people are just degenerates with no self control and the only thing stopping them from killing themselves is the threat of being thrown in jail.

                A person with no self-control is not deterred by anything, let alone the mere threat of incarceration. Fail.

                Also, casual smear of drug users as “degenerates” = guilt by association fallacy. Fail.

          2. There is a theory that everyone acts rationally, its their premises that are nuts.

        2. you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

          Yep. There is no reasoning with emotion. There’s no way to convince someone that what the feel is wrong.

        3. When people don’t even know why they hold their beliefs, it’s hard to convince them their beliefs are wrong.

          THAT is the interwebz winner for the day.

          And THAT is the future of libertarianism. Getting people, left and right, to examine WHY they believe what they believe is the key to bringing more into the fold. The bottom line is, many beliefs held dear by the left/right are logically inconsistent. If you can point this out, while making them think they came to it on their own, they will be open to, at least, listening to a more consistent philosophy.

          Libertarianism is, if nothing else, logical and consistent.

          1. Libertarianism is, if nothing else, logical and consistent.

            According to you. But just how open to examining your own philosophy are you? It’s not a good idea to assume that everyone who doesn’t agree with you didn’t come to their beliefs rationally or is wrong. If it’s bad for others to do it, it’s bad for libertarians to do it. You have to be able to accept that not everyone agrees with you or wants to believe what you believe.

            1. It’s not a good idea to assume that everyone who doesn’t agree with you didn’t come to their beliefs rationally or is wrong.

              If they came to them rationally, then they can explain their rationale.

              1. I absolutely agree that not all people do. I also absolutely believe that if a person can rationally explain their beliefs then they should be respected even if they don’t agree.

                1. No. (And this is the Objectivist in me)

                  There is right and wrong. A is A.

                  A thief can rationally explain his actions result from starvation. It is rational, but it is not worthy of my respect as it is immoral.

                  1. There is right and wrong.

                    An interesting position. One that I don’t think is true in all cases. You have a set of beliefs that you call “right” or “good.” I have a set of beliefs that I call “right” or “good.” We may have a number of those in common, but I guarantee there will be things we don’t agree on.

                    It is rational, but it is not worthy of my respect as it is immoral.

                    That is your position, which is not shared by everyone (FTR, I agree that stealing is wrong). And not everyone who doesn’t agree with you is necessarily immoral.

            2. But just how open to examining your own philosophy are you?

              Completely.

              1. Completely.

                I figured, that was more of a rhetorical question.

  13. I don’t understand this ‘left-libertarian’ kick that some people are on. It seems to me that people who call themselves left libertarians do so in the hope that liberals won’t think they’re evil like those mean old right-libertarians. But functionally left-libertarians and right-libertarians believe the same things.

    So aren’t you just playing a dumbass semantic game in order to make your progressive friends like you more?

    1. Agreed. There is no such thing as left-libertarian or right-libertarian, as the Nolan chart makes absolutely fucking clear.

      I mean, I guess if you want to call people on the borders of sections either “left” or “right” I guess Im okay with that. But in general, the more left or right they are, the less libertarian they are.

      1. I agree with this. But, if you want to convince anyone that we are right, I think you need to think of who you are talking to. There are things about libertarianism that should appeal to thoughtful people on both left and right.

        1. There are things about libertarianism that should appeal to thoughtful people on both left and right.

          Yeah, and I’m not denying that. But again, that has nothing to do with your actual beliefs. All that means is that you are tailoring your arguments to a particular group.

        2. There are things about libertarianism that should appeal to thoughtful people on both left and right.

          That is #1 on robc’s 2 rules of libertarianism:

          1. Everyone agrees with libertarians on something.

          2. No two libertarians agree about anything.

          1. I disagree with #2

            1. Yeah, we all hate Tony.

            2. I think that joke is funny everytime.

              Others disagree.

              1. Dammit. I thought I was being original.

                1. I was replying to Matrix.

      2. I mean, I guess if you want to call people on the borders of sections either “left” or “right” I guess Im okay with that. But in general, the more left or right they are, the less libertarian they are.

        That’s exactly what it means. There are different degrees of libertarian. Top/center are the purists. If you are anywhere above the left/right axis you are somewhat libertarian. And yes if you go too far left/right you can only come down.

        Nolan

    2. My friends like me just fine. I see it more as focusing on things that leftists care about in order to try to make them more libertarian or at least more open to libertarian ideas.

      1. But in that case you’re talking about the arguments you make to different groups of people, not your core beliefs. When I’m arguing with a left-wing friend of mine, I might bring up the ways my views would help poor people, for example, but that’s an argumentative strategy and has nothing to do with me being a ‘left’ or ‘right’ libertarian. Libertarians are libertarians and I really don’t think there’s an actual break between the left and the right in terms of what they actually believe.

        1. I agree with you, more or less. To the extent that left or right-libertarianism mean anything, the difference is only in what is emphasized, not in principle or core beliefs.

          There are also definitely people who are culturally more liberal or conservative within libertarianism. But that has little to do with core beliefs and more with personal preference.

    3. That’s true. Among specifically anarchists (usually these days self-labeled as such, they’ve been dropping the old euphemism “libertarian”) the designations really do point to different beliefs, but a lot of people unfortunately in the libertarian movement have been playing the dumbass semantic game you describe for decades. You’ll see it in It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, wherein Tucille conflates that bogus (or superficial) distinction with the aforementioned real one. At least I think he conflated them.

    4. Well as he says, there is a nuance of emphasis and a difference in “thick” beliefs, and left-libertarians of this type have a certain goal in mind. You may as well lash out at people who call themselves “Rothbardians” or whatever. Functionally we all believe most of the same things. Still lots of labels, not all of which are useless.

      Really, when it comes to semantic games in order to cozy up to progressives, I’d point to the “bleeding heart libertarians” (and apparently there’s “neoclassical liberalism” now, which is also pretty noxious). All the left-libertarians I know are far too radical and generally off-putting for the intellectual establishment.

  14. The right were the defenders of the old regime who wanted to restore the monarchy.

    Funny how things change, isn’t it? Given the change, I’m sure the right would be happy to, but its only the left that openly and brazenly advocate for it… well, with the right people anyways.

    1. And of course the history is a bit more complex than that. Many of the original “leftists” going back to the French Revolution were not proletarians. They were petty aristocracy whose power had been taken away by emerging central governments. It was also very anti-modern. They rejected the industrial age. The original socialists were agrarian. They wanted to go back to the earth. Really what they wanted was a return to an idealized form of feudalism.

      It has never been the case that the Left stood for progress while the Right stood for stasis. The reality is much more complex.

      1. It’s not often that I quote Lyndon LaRouche with favor, but there is one quote of his I like: “The seating arrangement in the French National Assembly did not freeze political discourse for all time.”

      2. There’s a whole lot of messy history in that period, with a bunch of big developments springing from the unique circumstances of the time and place. You had the big ideas developed in the late 18th century flowing into Paris after Napoleon, and a whole bunch of intellectuals trying to synthesize them or revise them. The more organized ideas we know today didn’t congeal until the mid-century. Playing No True Scotsman for that era would be a nightmare.

  15. Frederic Bastiat, a great favorite of libertarians everywhere, sat on the left side of the French legislature. This is where the terms left and right come from. The left were the people who were opposed to the old regime and were forward-looking. The right were the defenders of the old regime…

    In a way the democraps and the republicunts are both on “the right” in that they are both more interested in maintaining the status quo. IOW, they’re both defenders of the old regime. Just goes to show idiotic the terms “left” and “right” are nowadays.

    1. The people seated on the left in the French General Assembly were those more heavily inspired by the enlightenment, which means that they were inspired by the same ideals modern libertarians are in favor of. The modern left is actively opposed to enlightenment ideals, with the possible exception of a bizarre, bastard form of democracy that is more like mob rule than anything else.

      The ‘left’ back then had nothing to do with the ‘left’ today.

      1. That is because in 1789, there had not yet been a romantic movement. And the enlightenment wasn’t all rainbows and puppies either. The French Revolution and the terror were very much the result of taking a lot of enlightenment thinking to its logical conclusion.

        1. A lot of enlightment thinking was utopian. And sooner or later, utopians always figure out one way to get to utopia quicker is to have fewer dissidents and troublemakers.

        2. And the enlightenment wasn’t all rainbows and puppies either.

          Clearly. That doesn’t change the fact that various ideas that arose out of the enlightenment are the primary reason for modern affluence.

          We owe virtually all the benefits of our modern society to capitalism, freedom of speech, and representative democracy.

          1. I am not sure capitalism is the product of the enlightenment.

            1. Adam Smith is considered an Enlightenment thinker. Not that he solely invented capitalism or anything, but I do think the Enlightenment played a role in the development of a free economy

      2. The ‘left’ back then had nothing to do with the ‘left’ today.

        I agree. It was his specific statement about how the right back then were “defenders of the old regime” that got me thinking about how the two “sides” today are really the same side. Nobody on the modern “left” or “right” are actually interested in anything other than keeping the house of cards standing long enough to get as much loot as possible.

        That’s why every “reform” for any program or issue is just a temporary band-aid that ultimately won’t fix anything, and in the long run will simply create more problems, aka “unintended consequences” that will then need to be papered over later with more “reforms.”

    2. Nowadays “left” means lip-service to personal liberty with open hostility to economic liberty, and “right” means lip-service to economic liberty with open hostility to personal liberty.

      In the end they’re both hostile to all liberty.

      1. Except for those short periods where the republicans and democrats swapped their beliefs during the whole slavery and civil rights thing. In context of today, left meant right and right meant left back then! *takes sip* fuck, that is some good KoolAid!

        -ProgDerp

  16. the best way to poke at lefties is to call them creationist kooks who feel they can centrally plan an ideal society and reverse millions of evolution in a classroom setting

  17. Richman has been one of my favorite Reason contributors for a long time, and I’ve particularly enjoyed his willingness and ability to venture into topics that don’t typically enjoy the same attention as economics and natural rights. His interview with Szasz was particularly good. But…

    At the same time, we’re trying to reach out to standard libertarians and explain to them that there is a leftist heritage which they’re not aware of.

    I think anyone with even a sketchy background in the history of liberalism is aware of what lift/right traditionally means. Virtually everyone but the most authoritarian statist is a leftist in 18th- and 19th-century terms, but that meaning is mostly dead in discourse, much like the liberal-conservative spectrum has weirdly shifted into opposite of what it would’ve meant in TJ’s day.

    As much as I’m guilty of sowing the seeds of tasty confusion in garden-variety progressives by claiming that I’m a liberal and they’re not, I don’t think it’s particularly useful to call yourself a left-libertarian if you’re taking that label on the basis of 19th-century vocab.

    1. con’t

      You may encourage some neophytes who think that libertarianism is a stronger form of Republicanism to dig into the Locke/Bastiat/Spooner pre-Rothbard history of the movement, but you’re also going to end up with an even cloudier political vocabulary than we have now, when the National Socialists are somehow considered to be more closely related to the Rothbardites than they are the social-demos.

      So please, let’s not waste more time playing with already impossibly confusing political labels as though our self identification is going to permit us to strike a truce with the unquestioning authoritarianism of new progressive left. We’d be much better off if we were to use that time to present our arguments as carefully and convincingly as possible rather than resorting to what everyone else is going to take as a linguistic trojan horse meant to infiltrate the camp of the “real” political left.

    2. And really what someone like Richman or any 21st Century American would consider the “Right” never really has existed in Continental Europe. The classical small government liberal is a product of England and America, not Europe. If went back in time to 19th Century France or Germany, the two flavors of politics available would have been statist and really fucking statist. How capitalism grew in Europe in the 19th Century is really a mystery to me, because the politics was uniformly anti-capitalist and anything but small government.

      1. I’m sorely underread in Euro history, but the impression I got was that Marx’s understanding of capitalism (which we would call crony capitalism, having repurposed the term to mean “free markets”) was based on what he saw in the govs of his day, namely an ugly hybrid of mercantilism and capitalism that resulted in huge amounts of political corruption and economic exploitation along with the endless war that pre-Oppenheimer Europe was known for. So I guess I’m wondering whether Europe has ever seen anything even close to the level of market freedom that the U.S. experienced in the 19th-c.

        The US was uniquely well-suited for capitalism (our kind, not the Marx kind) because it was a frontier, and frontiers generally lend themselves to the wild-n-wooly nature of the market thanks to the difficulties presented by state control. Once the frontier began to disappear and post-revolution generations failed to internalize the lessons of Jefferson, the power plays began again and the same statist/really-fucking-statist dichotomy began to emerge here just like in Europe.

        I think that’s what Friedman was talking about when he said that freedom is a rare and delicate flower–the conditions for personal or economic freedom to develop are unique and easily destroyed.

        1. I haven’t read enough 19th century European history, as in between 1815 and 1900. It is interesting. The 19th Century Germans hated capitalism. They invented the Romantic Movement and worshiped people like Wagner. Yet they somehow built one of the largest economies in the world and invented things like the modern chemical industry. I need to spend some time and figure out exactly how that happened.

          1. Capitalism is unique in that it isn’t a conscious movement, i.e. something that is built or invented.

            1. True. But it is certainly something that can be destroyed. And somehow the Germans managed not to.

              1. Then it’s all up to America.

            2. Depends on what form of capitalism you’re talking about. An anarchist capitalism would be fairly organic, but would have many undesirable aspects, including the lack of enforced property rights.

              Capitalism as is generally referred to includes government-provided property licenses and physical infrastructure. That’s as much of a constructed system as any other, and this is why it came under criticism by Marx and others for its tendency toward oligopoly.

              It’s no great leap to see that if government can protect the interests of the owners of capital, it can protect the interests of the workers too, who have no choice but to participate in the system. That was a post-industrial revolution innovation that refined capitalism into a better system. It wasn’t a corruption of something pure and organic, because the recognition of property rights and the other protections and benefits (like infrastructure and limited liability) for profit-makers had already been there tilting the scales.

              Capitalism as we know it has evolved from other systems like mercantilism, which you would agree was not a free trade-type setup. The increasing addition of freedom into capitalism was the result of human innovation, and to liberals that includes the inclusion of worker and environmental protections, etc.

              1. Capitalism as Marx understood it is indistinguishable from Mercantilism. Just look at Adam Smith’s treatment of it and then Marx’s. However, it certainly can be viewed as a transition point, the transition itself – from feudalism towards liberty – was organic.

                Which is in contrast with increasing interventions, like “protections” which stem from movements.

                1. No, Marx’s understanding was very different from mercantilism. However, he made the same mistake as Keynes (and, in an even more naive way, mercantilists) in underestimating people’s desire for material goods & services. Hence the Marxian projection of overprod’n, the Keynesian projection of oversaving, and the mercantilist fixation on money tokens. Marx actually thought business owners could squeeze more work out of employees by paying them less, because with a lower wage rate, they’d have to work longer hours to satisfy their needs!

                  1. He didn’t coin the word, or even invent it. It was used before him – Louis Blanc – and he only used it three times.

                    As I said below (to you possibly)

                    Marx’s understanding of capitalism (at least, economically speaking, not getting into his Hegelian views here) wasn’t distinguishable from Mercantilism as Smith had described it. And Given that he did distinguish between other “modes” of production, makes him appear sloppy at best.

          2. It was the Joos!

            While the intellectuals may have hated capitalism, the people were the definition of bourgeois. Industrious, hard-working, thrifty and with one of the stronger market-based heritages. Hence Max Weber’s focus on Protestant Germans when attempting to explain modern wealth.

            1. That is a good point. And of course the intellectuals and Aristocracy were watching all of those filthy Jews and hard working bourgeois make tons of money and become the most important people in society.

              Is there any wonder the aristocracy and intellectuals hated capitalism and embraced socialism?

            2. Yup, as Sombart said:

              “I have already mentioned that Max Weber’s study of the importance of Protestantism for the capitalistic system was the impetus that sent me to consider the importance of the Jew… Puritanism is Judaism.”

          3. The 19th Century Germans hated capitalism. They invented the Romantic Movement and worshiped people like Wagner. Yet they somehow built one of the largest economies in the world and invented things like the modern chemical industry. I need to spend some time and figure out exactly how that happened.

            They hated capitalism, but they ended up behaving like capitalists. Your intentions and beliefs are of little relevance if you act contrary to them.

            I think the primary reason is because England forced people who otherwise would have hated capitalism to behave like capitalists because England spent the entirety of the 1800’s creating a world wide free trade system based on British liberalism. Look at the Japanese in the late 1800’s. They were a nation based on centralized control and which hated freedom and nonconformity, but they had an incredibly free market system anyway.

            It was the only way they could modernize their economy and compete with the Europeans.

        2. No, actually Marx understood capitalism as we understand it pretty well, and that has to be the case because he coined the word that we’ve been using ever since! It’s not really an apt word, as Clarence Carson & others have pointed out. Marx’s problem was not with understanding, but rather projection of some of the consequences. He knew perfectly well to separate mercantilism from capitalism.

          1. He didn’t coin the word, or even invent it. It was used before him – Louis Blanc – and he only used it three times.

            And no, he didn’t, as Smith had already done so before him. Given that he did distinguish between other “modes” of production, makes him appear sloppy at best.

      2. Re: John,

        How capitalism grew in Europe in the 19th Century is really a mystery to me

        Capitalims had existed in mainland Europe pretty much since the Middle Ages, John. From the merchant burghers to the small plot farmers, all of them engaged in trade and production all over the continent. Remember that the first banks did not appear out of nothing, but because people were demanding a place to safely store their savings. If they had savings, is because they were producing.

        What Richman is talking about is the contrast between the old-regime supporters on the right that wanted to keep the protectionist-mercantilist policies and the left that wanted free trade and free markets. Of course, he’t not confusing the old liberal left with the Jacobins of the French Revolution, who were as clueless about economics – or natural rights – as their heirs in the Progressive left.

        1. he’t not confusing the old liberal left with the Jacobins of the French Revolution

          Problem is that the old liberal left and the Jacobins were both part of the original Left back in 1789 due to their opposition to the Ancien Regime. So the left has always been filled with statists.

  18. I read The Law for the first time last year. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it–it’s short, easy to read, and chock-full of great libertarian-friendly quotes.

  19. You cannot be a Leftist and favor limited government. And you certainly can’t be a Leftist Libertarian, unless of course you can simultaneously be in favor of personal property rights while disavowing the very existence of personal property.

    Anywho, True Libertarians, what Sheldon Richman is, is a Leftist and like all good Lefty foot soldiers he’s trying to encourage more leftists to become ‘libertarians’ so that the Libertarian movement will turn leftist.

    Which is the same tried and true leftist strategy that has been successfully at play in academia and the media for these past 100 years.

    And yet so many of you fuckwads scratch your chin and whisper: “Gosh, that Sheldon, he’s so nuanced and thoughtful.” No, he’s a fucking bullshit artist leftist hiding behind non-sensical flowery language.

    For instance, what the fuck is “vulnerable wage worker”? Oh, and leftists care about the poor. Sure, sure, they do. Wake me up when the Left champions school vouchers, something that the oh-so-lovely poor are wildly in favor of.

    Furthermore, Mr. Richman is decidedly more pro-Jihad and very much against US efforts against Jihad. And that’s because the practitioners of Jihad are more liberty-minded than America, right?

    1. He’s pro Jihad?

    2. What the fuck are you on about?

    3. Re; Wholly Holy Cow,

      You cannot be a Leftist and favor limited government[…] Anywho, True Libertarians, what Sheldon Richman is, is [sic] a Leftist and like all good Lefty foot soldiers he’s trying to encourage more leftists to become ‘libertarians’ so that the Libertarian movement will turn leftist.

      I don’t understand your argument. First you say that leftists cannot be libertarians and, at the same time, assert that Sheldon Richman is a leftist. No, pardon me: you first say he’s a “True Libertarian” and then turn around and call him a leftist, in a desperate but, alas, futile attempt to make that argument coherent with the first paragraph.

      Did you learn composition and grammar from the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem Dat Teeches Kudz To Reed An Wrait? Because that would explain much.

    4. and like all good Lefty foot soldiers he’s trying to encourage more leftists to become ‘libertarians’ so that the Libertarian movement will turn leftist.

      Because the libertarians are such a huge threat to the left.

      Pure derp.

  20. I have to call myself a right/conservative leaning libertarian. While they are hardly libertarian, at least the right side of the US spectrum has a vocabulary of freedom. The left is so thoroughly statist they can’t even parse what you are saying to them.

    Hell, you can’t even talk to the left about personal freedoms. Legalizing pot to them is about being able to fund more government programs by taxing pot. Legalizing harder drugs is still a taboo subject for them. Legalizing prostitution? The feminists won’t let them take that stance. At best you might find some support for legalizing raw milk and unpasteurized cheese, but only among their foodie subset. If a behavior is legalized then someone somewhere stands to make a profit, and they can’t have that!

    While the right rarely practices it when given power, at least they recognize the benefits of economic freedom. A few of them even understand the benefits of personal and civic freedoms. There exists a growing movement in the Republican Party to reverse its position on gay marriage. There is NO movement in the Democratic Party to reverse its position on any statist plank.

    Of course some will argue that left and right mean different things in their continent of origin. That is true, but leftists in Europe are MORE statist than leftists here, and the right wingers in Europe are near fascists. Both continents are so far removed from the original spectrum we really need a new one.

  21. Re: Tony,

    An anarchist capitalism […] would have many undesirable aspects, including the lack of enforced property rights.

    Don’t beg the question again, Tony. Government =/= enforcement of property rights.

    Capitalism as is generally referred to includes government-provided property licenses and physical infrastructure.

    Generally referred to by people who confuse government-provided licenses and “ROADZ” with “Capitalism.” Capitalism is the term used to describe the process of using savings to produce new things. That’s it. There’s nothing more to it, nothing fancy.

    1. Re: Tony,

      It’s no great leap to see that if government can protect the interests of the owners of capital, it can protect the interests of the workers too, who have no choice but to participate in the system.

      Here’s the issue with your argument: it is based on a very narrow view of how people make choices (i.e. economics, for short). People make decisions at the margin, ALWAYS. A person can always decide to produce things himself or work for someone that already produces things. If his own production as (as a single producer) is less than his production as a laborer, then he will choose to be a laborer. Instead, if he finds that his single production allows him a higher return than being a laborer, he will become a single producer himself (e.g. a carpenter, a plummer, a salesman, even an entrepreneur)

      The notion that laborers participate in the production of goods not by any choice they made, is fallacious. It doesn’t happen, Tony, unless you still think that there are press gangs roaming the streets looking for aseembly line journeymen.

  22. What Sheldon forgets is that in 1789 the French Left included classical liberals and the Jacobins. In 1848 the French Left included Bastiat and the socialists. The terms left and right originally referred to seating arrangements. It wasn’t until the 1870s that it referred to an actual ideology.

    Classical liberalism was considered leftist because it opposed feudalism and absolutism. Libertarianism is considered right-wing today because of its opposition to regulation and the welfare state.

    Not to mention that the American Left of old and now considers free-market capitalism to be the status quo that must be overcome unlike in 19th century Europe.

    1. Also, Bastiat’s writings heavily attacked the socialists, his fellow lefties.

  23. I could point out that in late 19th Century Germany a Progressive lef-liberal meant someone who opposed Bismarck’s welfare state and supported free trade. However I’m not sure how relevant that fact is today. Thought they did support the kulturkampf.

  24. Old Mexican,

    Learn to read, dude. “True Libertarians” was used as a direct address. Hence the commas surrounding it. Again: Sheldon Richman is not a Libertarian. He’s a leftist masquerading as a libertarian (see: Bill Maher). He’s hoping to attract more Leftists into the small government movement in order to destroy that very same movement.

    Are you fuckheads this naive? Jesus H. Gaia. You clowns believe all these moronic tinfoil hat conspiracies about Ron Paul’s primary ballots and all other sorts of bullshit, yet you gentlemen fall for the most obvious trick in the world.

    This is what Leftists do. It’s what they’re good at: infiltrating organizations spreading leftism, while calling it “reform” or “social justice” or “leveling the playing field.”

    I mean, don’t let the fact that Reason’s take on cops, immigration and foreign policy is indistinguishable from that of Occupy Wall St., Indy Media or your average Che circle jerk. Yeah, just ignore that and insult me. You’ll feel better. Sheesh.

    1. “Learn to read, dude. “True Libertarians” was used as a direct address. Hence the commas surrounding it. Again: Sheldon Richman is not a Libertarian. He’s a leftist masquerading as a libertarian (see: Bill Maher). He’s hoping to attract more Leftists into the small government movement in order to destroy that very same movement.”

      And your proof of this is? In the past three months alone, Richman has written articles against the minimum wage, against the notion that WWII spending ended the Depression, in favor of cutting spending, and how the free market is a “beautiful thing.” Does that sound like Bill Maher? Left and right are ultimately arbitrary, meaningless terms. Regardless of their goals or motivations, someone can be a libertarian as long as that doesn’t involve using government coercion to enforce their vision of society.

      “You clowns believe all these moronic tinfoil hat conspiracies about Ron Paul’s primary ballots and all other sorts of bullshit, yet you gentlemen fall for the most obvious trick in the world.”

      This isn’t Lew Rockwell.com (which takes even more radical stances on some of the issues you criticize Reason for being “leftist” on, even though LRC is the home of the culturally conservative paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives)

      1. “I mean, don’t let the fact that Reason’s take on cops, immigration and foreign policy is indistinguishable from that of Occupy Wall St., Indy Media or your average Che circle jerk. Yeah, just ignore that and insult me. You’ll feel better. Sheesh.”

        Unlike conservatives, libertarians actually have a coherent set of beliefs. Sometimes there may be some overlap with what some leftists believe (let’s not pretend that there aren’t plenty of leftists like Bloomberg or Daley that aren’t exactly on the same page as Reason regarding cops, or that there aren’t anti-immigrant “pro-labor” leftists, or that leftists haven’t started and supported plenty of wars in US history), usually for different reasons. That doesn’t make libertarians “leftists”

      2. Maybe conservatives make for more consistent – radical – libertarians.

        That certainly, makes the left-right paradigm confusing.

    2. Richman was the editor of the oldest libertarian publication for over a decade. The few books he’s written have been about abolishing public education and the income tax. He has more right to call himself a libertarian than most of us here.

      To compare him to Bill Maher is grade-A trolling.

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