Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Note on the Difference Between Libertarians and Libwaps

Since I have posted commentary abhorring the penalties issued by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver against Donald Sterling and have associated the penalties with though police actions (SEE: A Note on EPJ Coverage of Donald Sterling), I am seeing comments like this:
Uh oh, is Wenzel turning into a libwap? There is no NAP violation here. People are free to react to Sterling's comments however they want, short of aggressing against him. The freedom of speech does not protect you from people's reactions to what you say.

"Thought control, where people have to watch what they say, even in privacy in their own homes, is a form of mental solitary confinement. It is pure evil and destructive of individual spirit. "

Could it be, then, that other values are important for libertarianism, and not just the NAP?
This creates a terrible distortion of the difference between libertarianism and libwaps.

Libertarianism is about the non-aggression principle, beginning and end of story. This does not mean libertarians can't have opinions on other topics or the actions of others. To suggest that libertarians can not hold any opinions is simply absurd. However, libertarainsim itself is silent on any human actions or perspectives beyond NAP.

Contrast this with the libwaps perspective. Libwap advocate Jeffrey Tucker has written (my highlight)
I see within Students for Liberty the emergence of a new form of libertarianism—something more intellectually and strategically sophisticated than forms from the last century... here are some non-negotiables, and they aren’t only about the ban on the use of power. As an extension of the above point, this generation puts a premium on civilized thinking and behaving that includes absolute exclusion of bigotry in all its forms. Racist, sexist, and anti-gay attitudes are not only tacky, but embody the opposite of the tolerance that old liberalism identified as a main bulwark against State oppression. This necessarily means a special identity with groups that have been victims of State oppression and remain so in many parts if the world.

In other words, Tucker is attempting to add appendages to libertarianism. Aside from the fact that I think Tucker is wacky in the promotion of politically correct groups, what is outrageous to pure libertarians is to suggest that the promotion of these absurd politically correct views should be a non-negotiable appendage to libertarianism.

My condemnation of NBA Commissioner Silver's actions is far from what Tucker is advocating. I am not calling for an appendage to libertarianism that calls for a non-negotiable stance against Silver's actions as part of libertarianism. I repeat, libertarianism is about the non-aggression principle, beginning and end of story.

I can be appalled by the politically correct distorted rush to judgement against Sterling and still recognize that in a libertarian society, there is nothing, from the perspective of the non-agression principle, that prevents such appalling behavior.

Murray Rothbard put it best:
[Libertarianism]   is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only apolitical theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life. . . . Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism. It should not be surprising, therefore, that there are libertarians who are indeed hedonists and devotees of alternative lifestyles, and that there are also libertarians who are firm adherents of “bourgeois” conventional or religious morality. There are libertarian libertines and there are libertarians who cleave firmly to the disciplines of natural or religious law. There are other libertarians who have no moral theory at all apart from the imperative of non-violation of rights. That is because libertarianism per se has no general or personal moral theory.


  1. Apparently, Tucker has been pushing this for a while. Here is a blog post on LRC by Stephan Kinsella back in 2005 addressing Tucker's PC libertarianism. I think he has the description of these types as “Cocktail Party” libertarians. People like Tucker, I believe, are more interested in getting invited to Georgetown cocktail parties than they are in promoting true libertarian philosophy.

  2. Thank you for putting this into words everyone should understand. To my mind, your detractors seem to accuse your logic of being an act of cognitive dissonance when, in reality, it is the height of reason that allows you to be vocally appalled by certain behavior on one hand while recognizing on the other hand that the NAP forbids your reaction to the aforementioned behavior to manifest itself into an aggressive act against another.

    How hard is that, people?

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Robert. I figured that's what you meant. I guess I also figured that's what Tucker meant. I am willing to give Tucker the benefit of the doubt and to say that he is also committed to the NAP above all else. Thus, when he says things like bigotry is a non-negotiable, he is referring to a moral stance that leads him to feel appalled at such behavior, just as you are morally appalled at the treatment Sterling has received. We can all agree, I think, that the NAP is not a complete moral system and that people will promote their moral values. The NAP is immune to such moral "appendages," as long as the NAP remains paramount. I have not seen Tucker call for any State action to curb bigotry. If he ever does that, I will be the first to call him out for abandoning libertarian principles.

    1. The difference to me is that Tucker appears to want to amend Libertarianism by adding the commandment to the NAP (NAP = Libertarianism = NAP) that bigotry in a non-negotiable. He implies this in the above quote where he speaks of the "new form of Libertarianism".

      That he follows this up with the risible comment that this wondrous "new form" is "something more intellectually and strategically sophisticated than forms from the last century", well, that gave me quite a belly laugh.

      Are we going to have to live through yet another "Great Man" era?

      All I can add is something from CS Lewis' "the Abolition of Man" :

      "The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree..."

  4. Tucker writes about the government "It takes. It snoops. And it controls."

    But that exactly describes his paymaster, a private company.

    It too takes (IP theft). It too snoops (using ex-CIA). It too controls (through buying its critics off, intimidating them and harassing them).

    Would you like your humbug with some greasy (freedom) fries?