Sunday, June 21, 2009

Is libertarianism of the Left or of the Right?

Left and Right did not refer merely to which side of the assembly one sat on or one’s attitude toward the regime. That attitude was a manifestation of a deeper view of government. The Left understood that historically the state was the most powerful engine of exploitation, although the various factions disagreed on the exact nature of exploitation or what do to about it. Marx had no monopoly on the idea. On the contrary, he appropriated it (then degraded it) from the early 19th-century bourgeois radical liberals Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer, who first formulated the theory of class conflict. In the liberal version two classes (castes) arose the moment government engaged in plunder: the plunderers and plundered. The plunderers were those who used the state to live off the work of others. The plundered were those the fruits of whose labor were stolen — all members of the industrious classes, which included those in the marketplace who produced and exchanged peacefully and who were not themselves plundering others.

...Marx changed the Comte-Dunoyer thesis for the worse by moving employers with no links to the state from the industrious to the exploiter class. This related to his labor theory of value...

Libertarianism: Left or Right?


  1. I think the standard "left/right" scale fails to capture Libertarianism, and the ideology manifests itself in so many fashions that I hesitate to even consider classifying it at all, for fear of alienating anyone.

    That being said, I find it to be an attempt at anti-authoritarianism.

  2. I believe we are undergoing a paradigm shift that will replace left and right with concepts of liberty and tyranny as extremes between which societies will be judged.

    As such, I don't believe modern libertarianism has a place on the left or right, though perhaps classical liberalism, back in the day (ie when it wasn't called 'classical'), could be described as left wing by the standards of the time.

  3. The "Authoritarian/Liberty" scale is even more biased and useless than the left/right scale.

    For one thing, it assumes there's some continuum on which every ideology must fit. Second, it's largely a biased propaganda tool for recruiting people to Libertarianism. "Wow, I like Liberty, not tyranny, I must be a Libertarian!" Yes, and Democrats take their name from democracy, yet Republicans also believe in democracy (or so I'm told).

    I could just as easily claim Libertarianism can lead to tyranny, just not at the hands of government. Liberty is something we must all fight for in all aspects of life, not just government.

    Why is it so hard to comprehend that we are better off as a democracy with power resting in the hands of elected officials? (And yes I'm well aware of the current disparity whereby appointed positions hold quite a bit of power, but rather than rail on government, we should be fighting to remove or reduce power in un-elected positions.)

  4. "Why is it so hard to comprehend that we are better off as a democracy with power resting in the hands of elected officials?"

    Did I say anything about democracy?

    Actually I would describe the most extreme case of liberty to be an anarcho-capitalist state, which is not a point of view that I subscribe to. I do believe the best way to govern is with a limited government (a Republic, not just a straight Democracy in which peoples' rights can be put to the vote).

    I'm not trying to recruit people to libertarianism! (though whether they say so or not, most people are quite libertarian.) I'm suggesting alternate polar extremes which I very much believe are a better paradigm than society's conventional left-right one.

    For example, it places Robert Mugabe next to Ghandi, on the left, so what can we interpret from how a society is governed by learning whether it is 'left' or 'right'?

    I would argue that considering a society according to how much freedom it has (rather than split the concept of freedom into 'personal' and 'economic'), is more important.

    Freedom is an indivisible whole, how can you be sure of civil liberties if government is already so intrusive that it mandates what price you can trade at, for example.

  5. When I have seen Libertarians on the same scale as Liberals and Conservatives, it is always on an x/y graph. Far left being Liberal, far right being Conservative, The top of the y axis being Libertarian and the bottom of the y axis being Authoritarian. The middle would moderates. I tend to into moderate with Libertarian leanings. Sometimes I fall left of the y axis and sometimes right but never that far. has some tests you can take to see how you fall, even if you already know the answer.

  6. The Nolan chart, and most of the tests associated with it, is blatantly biased.

    You can't just put liberty on a sliding scale and say that if you support X, you oppose liberty (unless X is "being forced to live in a cage," or the like).

    If I support trade tariffs, that is non-Libertarian, and therefore tyranical? Even if the tariffs inflate the price of goods created with slave labor, thereby making them economically competitive with honest labor?

    One cannot accurately label all opposition as totalitarian or authoritarian or whatever euphemism one can come up with for tyranny and facism. Tyranny is a manner of applying government, not a laundry list of policies. Libertarian ideas could just as easily be applied in a facist manner as those in Communism, Republicanism or any other ideology.

    Laissez-faire capitalism in particular IS tyranny by private industry, so why is it perceived as related to liberty? Because the rich will be free to do whatever they want? That not freedom, that's the creation of a nobility class.

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean about a republic over a direct democracy. All you have to do is look to California's ballot-initiative system to see that the average voter, when given the chance, would vote for roads of gold and no taxes with which to pay for them.

  7. I would contend that laissez-faire capitalism isn't tyranny but liberty. I believe that the problems we have today with corporations, economic collapse, 'disaster capitalism' etc, are more often than not the result of corporate welfare, corruption, and regulation, the root of which is the manipulation of money by oligarchial central banks.

    For example, when big companies buy off regulators and use them to hound out their smaller competitors, or when we mandate fractional reserve ratios that allow banks to commit legalised fraud, these are examples of economic controls being not the solution, but the cause of the problems.

    I believe capitalism (as distinguished from the economic fascism of today) is the best provider for liberty and prosperity, and that all forms of planned and regulated economies are both immoral and a recipe for the very kind of oligarchy we all dislike.

    I'm not labelling opposition as tyrannical, unless of course it is tyrannical. In my opinion wanting government to control the economy rather than recognising an individual's natural right to own property and trade it consensually, unopposed and without oversight, is very much tyrannical.

    (From a pragmatic perspective, I also disagree with the popular premise that capitalism caused the economic collapse - IMO it was fraud and expansion of the money supply caused by, primarily, the Federal Reserve.)

  8. Oh, and I forgot trade tariffs. Personally I believe in national sovereignty first, so of course if a nation wants to do this then it's their business.

    I would actually advocate trade tariffs in some cases as you suggest. The 'free trade' we are told about today isn't reciprocal, eg with China, and especially if the goods are made by genuine slavery (as seems to be the case with some Chinese goods) I would perhaps even suggest embargoes if imported goods are destroying the local economy, or at least I would say it's the right of the people in any particular area to decide on that.

    I'm a supporter of nationalism over internationalism, which is where I part ways with the CATO Institute; I am aware of the agenda for global governance and am in opposition to it.


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