Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What They’re Calling Libertarianism These Days

By Nicholas James Pell
Catholic libertarian Jeffrey Tucker recently introduced us to the concept of “libertarian brutalism.” The distilled version: Libertarianism is well and good, but can’t we do something to make sure people only use freedom of association in ways that are palatable to progressives? 
Now Reason is getting in on the act, proposing a libertarianism beyond the (actually sort of incredibly stupid and childish) non-aggression principle: It’s also about caring, maaaan. The article, replete with scare images of men in Klan robes—the necessary result of a libertarian society unconcerned with “tolerance” or whatever the term is these days—goes through a lot of tired old left-libertarian tropes.
There’s the requisite invocation of Ayn Rand denouncing racism as “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” And no article of left-libertarian progressivism would be complete without pro forma reminders that...

Read the rest here.


  1. Ayn Rand an racism? Let me see. There was Rand on Donohue saying that Arabs are “primitive savages” deserving any amount of disposession by people of her ethnic group. I have yet to find an African American character in any of her books.

    I guess racism is crude collectivism unless the race that you don't like are “primitive savages” in land and resource competition with your own ethnic group.

  2. I’m trying to wrap my head around precisely what is being said here (and elsewhere) in the “thick vs. thin” debate. There seems to be a lot of muddy thinking going on. I have a lot of respect for Sheldon, so I am not going to lightly dismiss anything he has to say, but I’ve read this over several times and I just don’t think he’s thought this through.

    He says “I’m puzzled by the pushback whenever someone explicitly associates the libertarian philosophy with values like tolerance and inclusion. We don’t care only about force and its improper uses. We care about individual persons.” Well, some of us do and some of us don’t. Some of us care only about ourselves. Are those of us who care only about ourselves, but adhere strictly to the NAP, not genuine libertarians? Is the guy who consistently opposes the state and all other forms of aggression, but hates Chinese people and refuses to allow them on his property, also not a “real” libertarian? Or is he a libertarian but just not a very “nice” person? It seems to me that the two concepts are being conflated in this debate.

    It also seems to me that the “thicks” are dancing around the idea of redefining “libertarianism” without explicitly saying that this is what they intend to do. I have no problem with anyone saying that libertarians can also oppose racism, or that libertarians who are inclusive in their relations with others are nicer people, or even that they are better ambassadors for the libertarian philosophy. But I do have a problem when people start asserting that it is no longer enough to oppose the initiation of force to be considered a libertarian, that one must also hold certain values and attitudes about the rest of humanity.

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  4. There is an interesting book, "Eight Ways to Run the Country", that nicely describes the full gamut of political ideologies in America today. It refers to those who espouse the "Thin" libertarianism as Paleo-Libertarians, while the "Thick" libertarians it calls Individualists. The difference is real, and well-represented by many people on both sides.