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