How Dogmatic Libertarians Drive People Away

At the Daily Beast, Keli Goff has a piece on "Why Blacks Aren't Libertarians." In fact, however, she may be a libertarian; at least, nothing in this piece shows why she cannot be. However, she definitely rejects a kind of dogmatic, absolutist libertarianism that she has encountered - and reasonably so, in my view. Here … Continue reading How Dogmatic Libertarians Drive People Away

A Libertarian Case for Compulsory Military Service?!

You have to admire the sheer gall of a man who defends compulsory national service on libertarian grounds. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry does so in this month's Cato Unbound. What really got my attention was this bit: Libertarians think it’s legitimate for the state to use violence to take people’s money. If you don’t think taxation is … Continue reading A Libertarian Case for Compulsory Military Service?!

Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?

Last time I was here, I had a lot of fun teasing American libertarian readers, at least until the earthquake brought my guest blogging to an abrupt halt. Support for liberty is a lot like support for GMO-free food. If you survey people, they'll tell you how much they love it. They might even tell … Continue reading Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?

Freedom as a Moral Concept (Update)

Over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, there have been some interesting posts recently on moralized and non-moralized conceptions of freedom. Jason Brennan says defining liberty to mean only negative liberty is "linguistic revisionism" without philosophic import. He then makes the case that bleeding-heart libertarianism (or Rawlsianism or various other non-traditionally-libertarian conceptions of property rights) does not … Continue reading Freedom as a Moral Concept (Update)

Libertarianism is Not Libertinism, Part the Googolplexth

In case you haven't heard, libertarians on the 'Net have been having another one of those more-heating-than-enlightening internecine debates, this one sparked by a video by Julie Borowski on why there aren't more libertarian women. Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz responded on Bleeding Heart Libertarians, accusing Ms. Borowski of "slut shaming" and generally denigrating women … Continue reading Libertarianism is Not Libertinism, Part the Googolplexth

Can Public Reason Save Us?

At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Kevin Vallier has an interesting piece on the failure of "Enlightenment libertarianism" and the case for "post-Enlightenment libertarianism." While I agree fully with Dr. Vallier's critique of libertarian dogmatism in the Randian and Rothbardian modes, I have considerably more difficulty with the public-reason liberalism he associates with "post-Enlightenment" thinking. You can't … Continue reading Can Public Reason Save Us?

“Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi have a thought-provoking piece entitled, "A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism," in the latest Cato Unbound. They criticize postwar libertarians (specifically mentioning Mises, Rand, and Rothbard) for seeing property rights as absolute and, in their view, regarding the welfare of the working poor as irrelevant to moral justifications for capitalism: … Continue reading “Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Moral Philosophy & Dogmatism

Political libertarians are a motley lot in terms of their moral philosophies. There are three dominant strands - utilitarians like Milton Friedman, deontologists like Robert Nozick, and teleologists like Ayn Rand - but I've also met egoists, postmodernists, and Rawls-style egalitarian consequentialists. In debates over moral foundations, Randians often ally themselves with the deontologists in … Continue reading Moral Philosophy & Dogmatism

Libertarian Welfare Statism

I agreed with the first half of Jessica Flanigan's essay on "A Feminist Libertarian Dilemma," but then nearly choked on my invisible coffee when I read this: Bleeding heart libertarianism doesn’t rule out public policies that help women with families succeed in the workforce, like affordable public childcare, subsidized family leave, elder care, or a … Continue reading Libertarian Welfare Statism

Briefly Noted - Finally! A non-technical, one-stop shop for the major ideas in the philosophical tradition of liberty. Cato Institute project. Governance Without a State: Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood (Columbia UP) - File under "order in anarchy." Mostly European scholars giving somewhat different takes than you get with the UK-US "economics of … Continue reading Briefly Noted

A Rarity in Pro Sports – An Owner With Some Respect for the Taxpayer (Mark Cuban Edition)

An owner who isn't trying to rob the public treasury blind is a rarity in this day of pro sports.  Thus it was really nice to see Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban say this about a parade celebrating the Mavs' win over the (hated, thanks to LBJ) Heat: "We'll do it," Cuban said early Monday morning. "All … Continue reading A Rarity in Pro Sports – An Owner With Some Respect for the Taxpayer (Mark Cuban Edition)

Is There Such a Thing as a “Libertarian” Electoral System?

In a few hours, polls open in the United Kingdom for local and devolved elections and for a referendum on moving to a new electoral system, Instant Runoff Voting, which Brits and Aussies insist on calling, undescriptively, "alternative vote" (AV). This referendum came about as a demand of the Liberal Democrats, who held the balance … Continue reading Is There Such a Thing as a “Libertarian” Electoral System?

Conservatives in a World without Reagan

The dynamics of American conservatism are fascinating. As those who have read some of the key accounts (my recommendation remains George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America) remember the efforts of Frank Meyer to promote fusionism in the early 1960s, an effort that was reinforced by the existential threat posed by the USSR. One … Continue reading Conservatives in a World without Reagan

Libertarianism’s Limits: Political or Theoretical?

At AmCon, James Banks gives his take on the Christopher Beam piece in New York magazine on libertarianism. Like many other critics of the piece, Banks believes Beam focuses too much on the fringes of the movement. However, Banks still argues that libertarianism has inherent "limits": [I]t is still difficult to imagine a robust libertarian … Continue reading Libertarianism’s Limits: Political or Theoretical?

The Justified Punch in the Nose: A Libertarian Conundrum?

A principal tenet of libertarianism---perhaps even the first principle of libertarianism---is an injunction against initiating violence. Whatever else you do, you may not harm unwilling others. John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Robert Nozick, and many others---I as well---have all subscribed to some version of this principle as a starting point.  Yet Adam Smith … Continue reading The Justified Punch in the Nose: A Libertarian Conundrum?

Ron Paul v. the “Sunshine Patriots”

Ron Paul has stepped into the continuing saga of the “ground zero mosque” with what seems to me to be a reasonable statement, albeit one that will not earn him too many friends on the Right. Congressman Paul reduces things to their essentials: The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a … Continue reading Ron Paul v. the “Sunshine Patriots”

No Libertarians in Hard Times?

In 2008, Harvard Economist Jeffrey Frankel made sense of Hank Paulson’s response to the financial collapse by noting: “They say there are no atheists in a foxhole. Well, there are no libertarians in a financial crisis, either.'' One can question whether the first aphorism should lead one to eschew atheism or foxholes.  But Frankel, nonetheless, … Continue reading No Libertarians in Hard Times?

What Do Parents Owe Their Children?

Most of us rightly think that children are unlike adults in two ways. First, children have a right to positive provision that adults may not enjoy. Second, parents (and perhaps the state) enjoy the right and indeed obligation to treat their children paternalistically in order to guide their development to full rationality. So how do we justify a moral distinction between children and adults?

Tensions within Libertarianism (Part I): Libertarians and Abortion

This is the first installment in a series on the tensions within both libertarian thought and the libertarian movement.  Today I will focus on abortion - though, as I will explain below, this might seem an odd choice of topics for this series if you spend a lot of time around many movement libertarians. * Listening to or reading … Continue reading Tensions within Libertarianism (Part I): Libertarians and Abortion

Estimating the “Liberty Bloc” in Each State, Part 3

To test the political influence of libertarians, I model state respect for individual freedom as a function of libertarian constituency, liberal constituency, political institutions, and some demographic controls. All my hypotheses are confirmed, and most interestingly, we see that states with more libertarians are freer.

Libertarianism and Anti-Discrimination Law

David Bernstein has an eminently reasonable take on private-sector anti-discrimination law over at Cato Unbound. Excerpt: [T]o say the least, segregation and exclusion of African Americans in public places in the South wasn’t entirely a voluntary choice of business owners.  Jim Crow segregation involved the equivalent of a white supremacist cartel.  The cartel was enforced … Continue reading Libertarianism and Anti-Discrimination Law

Estimating the “Liberty Bloc” in Each State, Part 1

Controlling for everything else, turnout actually does not predict Ron Paul's vote share, but the results demonstrate that Paul did much better in caucuses than primaries and after McCain had clinched. Now that we have estimated the effects of electoral institutions, we can adjust Ron Paul's vote shares in each state accordingly and come up with a prediction of just how "pro-Ron Paul" each state was.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Libertarian and the “Consistency Syndrome”

There have been some remarkably interesting posts and comments as of late regarding libertarianism. Some of them emerged in various postings on Rand Paul. Damon Linker, for example, congratulated Jason on diverging from “absolute libertarian principles” and approvingly posted Bruce Barlett’s take on Rand Paul: “I don’t believe Rand is a racist; I think he … Continue reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Libertarian and the “Consistency Syndrome”

Tenable Property Rights

This post is simply meant to draw readers' attention to the interesting conversation going on in the comment thread on the "Property and Serfdom" post below. Kyle Baxter asks: If the original distribution is unjust (e.g. it depended on the violation of rights), but at some point just rules for trade were implemented (ones based … Continue reading Tenable Property Rights

Property and Serfdom

The distinguishing characteristic of classical liberalism from other liberalisms is its view of property rights. On the classical liberal account, a distribution of property is just if it is a consequence of just transfer, where transfer is generally just if and only if voluntary or appropriately compensatory for wrongs. As Nozick noted, this unpatterned, "side … Continue reading Property and Serfdom

Too Obvious to be True?

Brett Barkely writing in Econ Journal Watch: Large budget deficits represent a burden on the future, and debt accumulation eventually poses great problems. Economists writing for the public can either highlight such truths, neglect the issue, or try to allay worries or excuse or justify large budget deficits (as anti-recession policy, for example). Economists affiliated … Continue reading Too Obvious to be True?

Son of JQA: Andrew Bacevich

From a recent interview with Andrew Bacevich: When it comes to foreign and defense policy, authentic conservatives are wary of utopian schemes, sensitive to the need to husband power, and have an aversion to war. That tends to make them anti-interventionists and to favor the use of force only as a last resort. Ditto for … Continue reading Son of JQA: Andrew Bacevich

Why Free-Marketeers Should Be Environmentalists (And Vice Versa)

It is no original insight to note that ecologists and economists both derive equilibrium theories from the Darwinian assumption of natural selection of the traits of successful replicators - organisms for ecologists, firms for economists. Like an ecosystem, the economy is an "emergent" or "spontaneous" order, in which the decentralized actions of countless individuals generate … Continue reading Why Free-Marketeers Should Be Environmentalists (And Vice Versa)

The Arizona Conundrum

I’m interested in people’s opinions on the new Arizona anti-immigration law.  I have a hard time coming to a consensus in my own mind about the immigration issue and laws like the one Arizona passed. My civil libertarian mind hates the police state and harassment of anyone—citizen or otherwise. My rule-of-law mind hates that we … Continue reading The Arizona Conundrum

Are Libertarians Anti-Government?

David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, answers this question in a well-timed reposting of an excellent older piece from the Cato Policy Report.  In it, Boaz argues that "libertarians are not, in any serious sense, 'anti-government.'"  Instead, libertarians favor "a limited government that attends to its necessary and proper function."  Or more specifically, Boaz argues: Libertarians generally … Continue reading Are Libertarians Anti-Government?