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Chris Dillow: Why I'm not a classical liberal

by Laurent GUERBY Sat Sep 16th, 2006 at 12:39:36 PM EST

Chris Dillow just wrote a guest post on Philosophy, et cetera:


Why I'm not a classical liberal

Why am I a left-libertarian? This question breaks into two parts: why, given that I'm a libertarian, am I on the left? And why, given that I'm on the left, am I a libertarian? First things first. Here are six reasons. I'll be brief; these are intended to be first words in a dialogue, not last words.

1. A missing theory of property duties. I say "duties" rather than "rights", as right libertarians or classical liberals do, for a simple reason. To justify inequalities of property, you must demonstrate that the poor have a duty to respect the rich's property. How can this be done? [...]

The problem is, this only justifies a fraction of property ownership. Arab princes are wealthy not because they've discovered new uses for oil, but because they are lucky enough to own land under which there are oil deposits.

And in many cases the history of land ownership is the history of theft, conquest and expropriation. How can we justify property ownership based upon this? [...]

3. Self-ownership doesn't justify inequalities. A cornerstone of Nozick's libertarianism is the principle that we own ourselves, so that any effort to tell us what to do is a form of slavery.
This principle, though, doesn't justify inequalities of income, because incomes are jointly produced by individual talents and social circumstances. Thierry Henry's skills as a footballer, Bill Gates' as a software developer or Paul McCartney's as a songwriter would have earned them little 100 years ago. Even if they own their talents, they've no right to the social conditions in which these talents can thrive. [...]

An interesting platform, don't you think?


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This is reminiscent of the debates I took part in the Wikipedia over "libertarian socialism" and "anarchism". The word libertarian (as opposed to liberal meant  left-anarshist or libertarian-socialist unambiguously for over 100 years before the temr libertarianism was hijacked by right libertarians in the US (and it still retains the old meanings outside the English-speaking world). This is similar to what has happened to the word "liberal" in the US.

Good thing that some people are taking explicitly left-libertarian positions, but they should not be apologetic about it. They should attack right-libertarians as usurpers and right-libertarianism as a late-20-th century disease.

Then again, if you take libertarianism to its utmost consequences, the left/right distinction becomes less important.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 16th, 2006 at 12:52:25 PM EST
Personnaly I don't care about tags: "left" "right" "liberal" "socialist" "libertarian" are all totally undefined terms and unusable in today's discussions.

What I care about are thoughts and positions over well defined social problems, and that's where I find the article insightful.

by Laurent GUERBY on Sat Sep 16th, 2006 at 12:59:02 PM EST
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