Sunday, May 4, 2014

Are Libwaps Really Libwaps?

Sheldon Richman is out with a new essay on "thick libertarianism" versus "thin libertarianism."

There is much wrong with the commentary. It appears to me that Richman fails to understand the nature of society, how societies come into being, why we have the kind of societies that we currently have and how a libertarian society could emerge. Unfortunately, these subjects, of course, couldn't possibly be covered properly in a blog post and will require book length treatment.

That said, there is one part of Richman's essay that I do want to address now. He writes that:
Charles W. Johnson spells this out in some detail..[and] refutes...the spurious claim that thick libertarians simply add their pet preferences onto libertarianism, like so many ornaments on a Christmas tree. To repeat Johnson’s point, “rejecting the commitments means rejecting the proper grounds for libertarianism.” There are no “add-ons.”
If one takes the position that  libertariansim is about the non-aggression principle, and indeed the classification by Richman of libertarians into "thick" and "thin," suggests that he understands there are libertarians ("thin libertarians") who take the non-aggression principle as the beginning and end of libertarianism, then "thick libertarians," who I call libwaps, are indeed adding on to libertarianism.

Richman attempts to get around this "add on" charge by arguing that libertarianism, in his view, is based on "grounds" that apparently precede the idea of the non-aggression principle, but the non-aggression principle stands alone for thin libertarians, who I call pure libertarians, and though I believe his "grounds" argument is in error, if we grant him that the advocacy of the position that libertarianism must also be connected with various politically correct views, this is certainly an "add on," regardless of the reason for the "add on." It is pure libertarianism with appendages.


  1. "but the non-aggression principle stands alone for thin libertarians, who I call pure libertarians"

    I call people like us REAL libertarians.

  2. Is the NAP sacrosanct or not? Yes or no, thicks.

  3. The problem with "additions" to thin libertarianism is that they are anything BUT additions. As soon as a thick libertarian starts pushing his ideas he immediately proposes violating NAP for ostensibly good reasons. Which all on closer inspections are the same excuses for doing violence to others the socialists of various stripes use.

  4. I guess Mr. Richman is unaware that it is indeed possible to have distinct choices of axioms for the same theory. Mr. Feynman makes this point when he talks about "running the logic backwards" in the context of distinguishing between 'Babylonian' and 'Greek' mathematics. Moreover, the question of which "grounds" can be said to precede some other claims is irrelevant when the theory itself is logically inconsistent.

    What does one do in the situation when the theory is inconsistent? In that case, it is desirable to identify the conflicting set of axioms. It looks like Mr. Richman fails to even recognize that the Tuckerite axiom is in conflict with the Hoppean / Rothbardian theory, let alone realize that the Tuckerite theory cannot form an extension of the Rothbardian theory.

    Strange are the ways in which libertarians are their own worst enemies. Basic knowledge of logic would help here, but some ever-contrarian "Austrians" apparently hate mathematical formalism so much that they extend their hatred of formalism to hatred of sound mathematical logic itself.

    Mr. Richman may have noble goals, but he should avoid fooling himself, no matter how praiseworthy his goals are.

  5. JT out of BarrowMay 5, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Our founding fathers were liberals.
    They were foremost proponents of Liberty.
    Look at what 50 years of progressive's "add-ons" did to THAT term.
    Leave us in peace, may your shackles rest lightly.

  6. So if libertarianism is not based on NAP, then others claiming to be libertarians please define libertarianism. It seems that in reading the thick libertarians they never directly state the foundation of their libertarianism.

  7. 1. Libertarianism is about a particular and specific allocation of property rights. From which a prohibition on aggression is derived. Starting from a derived principle is a weak arguing position.

    2. As Bionic Mosquito and I have repeatedly pointed out in these now three incoherent screeds, property is not discussed at all. If mentioned, it's in an off-handed fashion. So, to discuss "libertarianism" and avoid dealing with property is again, weak.

    3. Weasel words abound, as Kinsella would bark. Rockwell is right; this is the same thing that happened to classical liberalism in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. A bunch of un-principled losers tried to add a whole bunch of irrelevant, touchy-feely nonsense onto a pretty solid philosophy in order to gain so-called "mass appeal" and not piss too many people off.

    4. The appeal to "but, but, I knew Rothbard, too!!!" was just gross.

    1. lol, good point on number 4, I never thought about it but you are right. "Don't appeal to the authority of Rothbard, but I was friends with him too!" lol...pass my cake so I can both eat it and have it please.