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Reply to Long’s “Fall Right, Swing Left”

Reply to Roderick Long’s Fall Right, Swing Left:

  1. Stephan Kinsella’s avatarStephan Kinsella on May 15, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I agree with the criticism of Stossel. But I disagree with the idea that libertarians are either left- or right-. In my view, the proper conception of libertarianism rejects the left-right spectrum outright, and also rejects left and right as both confused and fallacious ideas (in my view, leftism is more coherent, but clearly unlibertarian; rightism is less coherent but also unlibertarian).

    We should be non-prefix libertarians. The left-libertarians are trying too hard to graft onto libertarianism their own personal preferences or predictions, and trying way too hard to find leftist insights that libertarians ought to learn from–the left is confused and flawed, and should learn from us.

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    1. Zanthorus’s avatarZanthorus on May 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

      Well that depends. The original left-right spectrum was a product of the French revolution with the Monarchists being on the right and the Revolutionaries being on the left. The battle cry of the revolution was of course “Liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort!”, something which I don’t think any libertarian would disagree with (I suppose that might hinge slightly on your definition of “equality” though).

      More generally the “right” was the party of reaction while the “left” was the party of progress and rebellion against the old order. In that sense Libertarianism could be said to be not only left-wing but beyond left-wing since it opposes even the established order of leftism.

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    2. James’s avatarJames on May 15, 2010 at 9:08 am

      I can respect that. Sometimes I think just plain libertarian would be preferable. However you can draw a distinction between, say, George Reisman and Kevin Carson so in the interest of avoiding conflation it does make sense to introduce some prefixes but not taking them more seriously than necessary.

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      1. Stephan Kinsella’s avatarStephan Kinsella on May 15, 2010 at 9:16 am

        James, some might deserve prefixes–the left-libs seem to want one. Some may be “right”-libertarians too. I’m not. I’m a “plain” libertarian. I’m pro-immigration, anti-racism, atheist, pro-tolerance, anti-war, anti-conservative, anti-nationalism, anti-Constitution, anti-founders, pro-cosmopolitan, pro-evolution, and anarchist. How in the world is that “right”? Am I right simply because I think a contract between a landowner (say, a landlord or employer) and others (say, tenants or employees) ought to be enforceable? Are all Lockeans now right-libertarians? Nonsense.

        And you are right that there is more here going on than just terminology: some left-libs are trying to use a semantic and strategic debate as a substitute for more substantive positions.

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        1. Stephan Kinsella’s avatarStephan Kinsella on May 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

          I should also add: pro-gay marriage, anti-state punishment (in fact anti punishment in general and pro-restitution, as a practical matter), pro-peace, anti-spanking, pro-Montessori.

          Now it is true I (say) to not believe personally, or qua libertarian, that “bossism” is “oppression” in any rigorous or meaningful way, at least per se; I do not accept hoary Marxian economic and social nonsense about the labor theory of value, alienation, blah blah blah. I don’t have any problem with the division of labor, employment, firms, international trade, and so on–nor with localism and self-sufficiency. Now some libertarians with an overweening obsession for such issues as localism, bossism, “oppression,” alienation, whatever might properly be called left-libertarians. But that doesn’t mean that non-left-libertarians are RIGHT-libertarians (even if there are some “right-libertarians”). Rather it means the left-libertarian either deviates from, or adds to, some “plain” or standard libertarian position.

        1. James on May 15, 2010 at 9:50 am

          I don’t think I accused you of being a right libertarian, or of all lockeans being right libertarians (in fact i’ve recently been defending lockeans). I was arguing there is a case for having prefixes but taking them with a pinch of salt. I’m sorry if it came off that way but I dunno where you got such an idea from.

          How are some of us trying to use a semantic debate as a substitute for substance?

        2. Stephan Kinsella’s avatarStephan Kinsella on May 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

          James, I didn’t mean you. Roderick himself in his opening post seems to buy into the left-right divide: saying you are either left-, or right-, although he tries to avoid tensions between the factions by positing some of the “right-” types may also be called “normal” or “mainstream” etc. Roderick did not say there are left-libs, rights-libs, AND normal-libs. He said there are left-libs, and right-libs (who might also be called normal-libs). Then he goes on to talk about left-libs and right-libs, as if that exhausts the category.

          I do not deny there are left-libs, even soi-disant left-libs. I suppose there are right-libs too, though I’m not quite sure what they are–if paleo-libs, they are sort of defunct; if vulgar-libs, then okay. But I say that left-libs are a kind of deviation from, or modification of/addition to a basic, standard, non-prefix libertarianism (and this is also true of right-libs, to the extent they exist).

          If I say I’m a standard or normal libertarian, left-libs take this as an insult or disingenuous way of arguing-by-semantics (and they have a point, except that turnabout is fair play). But we non-left, non-right libertarians need a way to refer to ourselves, especially since the left-libs wrongly claim that left-lib IS libertarianism. so we normal libertarians who disagree are now forced to adopt another self-describing label–and we refuse to accept the ghettoizing “right-lib” label the left-libs graciously offer us. So standard, or normal, or regular libetarian is all we are left wiht. Or the unwieldy non-prefix libertarian.

          As for who is saying this–scour various posts here http://www.stephankinsella.com/tag/left-libertarianism/

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