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Left-Libertarian Science Fiction: An Oxymoron?

Many libertarians tend to be fans of science fiction. But given that left-libertarians are averse to modern capitalism, industrialism, mass production, the division of labor, and so forth, instead preferring self-sufficient “co-ops” to avoid the “problem” of labor, general purpose machinery, “localism,” and so on, one wonders how an advanced technical society would be possible in left-libertopia. Imagine reaching a level of technological and industrial sophistication needed to build a starship in a society that favors localism and shuns mass production, industrialism, and the division of labor.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Christian Prophet June 28, 2009, 1:19 pm

    It seems to me that “Left-libertarian” itself is an oxymoron in this day and age. I don’t know any leftists who don’t favor gaining signatures so they can influence lawmakers to force something on someone.

    What do you think of libertarians moving in and taking control of the presently very weak Republican Party? See:

  • J. Neil Schulman June 28, 2009, 1:46 pm


    “modern capitalism, industrialism, mass production, the division of labor, and so forth” versus “self-sufficient ‘co-ops’ to avoid the ‘problem’ of labor, general purpose machinery, ‘localism,’ and so on.

    I say, let the market decide! 🙂


  • DixieFlatline June 28, 2009, 10:06 pm

    That last picture looks like the house Luke Skywalker grew up in.

  • Neverfox June 28, 2009, 11:30 pm

    That last picture looks like the house Luke Skywalker grew up in.

    So, wait. Starships and mud huts do go together then? Stephan, it looks like you are going to need to rethink your thesis in light of this empirical evidence.

  • Alexander S. Peak February 24, 2010, 3:51 pm

    I would be inclined to say that right-libertarianism is an oxymoron. Free markets (whether we want to call this “capitalism” or not) is, as far as I’m concerned, leftist; and state socialism, as far as I’m concerned, is centrist at best and right-wing at worst.

    I don’t see why one would say left-libertarianism averse to industrialism, mass production, or the division of labour.

    Sincerely yours,
    Alex Peak

  • Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2010, 3:57 pm

    Alex, we are not right-libertarians either, this is correct. We are neither left nor right. I say LL is averse to division of labor et al. b/c they are always harping on the evils of bossism, alienation, bigness, corporations, etc.

  • Alexander S. Peak February 24, 2010, 5:57 pm

    Mr. Kinsella,

    I have not yet come across the term bossism, and I have not come across the term alienation within any context I assume to be relevant to this discussion.

    I also don’t see the term bigness often, but I can at least imagine that I understand a relevant definition. If we agree with Rothbard that a firm undergoes the same problems as a socialist state when said firms comes to own, even if through legitimate means, all or most of the means of production involved in a certain sector of the economy; and if we agree with Rothbard that such a firm will likely lose or be unable to retain its so-called “monopoly” because of calculational problems; then we would conclude that the “bigness” of industry is a problem, but one that the market resolves spontaneously. If left-libertarians “harp” on this fact, I would think they/we do so only as a retort to state socialists who fear that, without anti-trust laws, big business would rule us all. And if they/we spend any time discussing this idea with other libertarians, it is only to help provide said other libertarians with arguments that they may find effective, or to help eliminate certain “vulgar libertarian” tendencies that they/we believe ultimately hurt us in our objective of promoting libertarianism to the general public.

    Finally, although I certainly have seen a great deal of discussion concerning corporations, I largely do not understand how corporation is being defined in such conversations. If we define the corporation as a group of people who, as a collective, possess limited liability even with those individuals with whom they have no contractual agreements to limit liability, then I believe all principled libertarians are opposed to corporations. If we define a corporation as a business structure wherein individuals can own shares, then I tend to see a corporation as a very libertarian institution indeed.

    While I would, as a mere personal preference, prefer to see worker-owned firms displace capitalist-owned firms, I also accept the Rothbardian argument (presented in The Ethics of Liberty) that there is nothing unethical about a capitalist offering to exchange with workers a medium of exchange for the product of their labour; likewise, there is nothing unethical about the labourer accepting such an offer. I maintain that in an anarchy, we would have a plethora of options, including communes, worker-owned firms, and capitalist-owned firms. Whether any of these constitute “corporations,” it seems, would largely depend upon how one is defining the term.

    Alex Peak

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