Archive for April 30th, 2012

Do libertarians really think they’re on their own?

Apr 30, 2012 in Politics

For those TAXATION IS THEFT!!! types:

Even if you were entitled to your property holdings, you are not entitled to coercive public enforcement of those holdings. Just because we have negative rights doesn’t mean that those rights merit full public accommodation. Once libertarians start demanding that their property is protected and their rights are publicly enforced, we can think of taxes as the public fee for that enforcement. If the public is the guardian of your wealth, who are you to tell your security guard how to spend his paycheck? This isn’t how states work, but it does point to a possible justification for redistribution.

The author is trying to forge a kinder, gentler libertarianism, but I don’t know how many she will convince since she drives this dagger into the very heart of the libertarian conceit. What she’s doing is elaborating on the attempt to draw lines within the libertarian camp between “hard” libertarians and the so-called BHLs (Bleeding Heart Libertarians). This isn’t new, of course. Chomsky always described himself as a socialist libertarian, as do I, and there was a concerted effort to coin the term, “liberaltarian,” by Markos Moulitsas a few years ago. I’d wager the differences between BHLs, socialist libertarians and liberaltarians are pretty slim. They’re people who care deeply about liberty but grow suspicious about private entities accumulating enough wealth and power to bend the government into a tool for control of the majority on the behalf of a few. My liberty is just as gone if a corporation has taken it away.

But the heart (no pun intended but enjoyed after the fact) of the matter is that these people aren’t representative of the group that most often self-applies the libertarian label. This isn’t going to peel off the Randian “fuck everybody I’ve got mine and I’ll sue or legislate to keep it that way!” types. But it can bring new people into the fold, people who want to stand up for liberty outside the usual Republican box. It creates a space for them within the label, so that asshats like Paul Ryan have to clarify what kind of libertarian they are. And it chips away at the notion that if you care about liberty you have to start babbling about going Galt and cleansing the parasite cockroaches from the system by yanking children off Medicaid.

-hw