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Richman: Leave the “Left” Behind?

My comments to this post by Sheldon Richman: Leave the “Left” Behind?


“Being tagged “right-wing” has not helped the libertarian movement. It’s hurt.”

I agree with the latter. But that does not mean that we are left–we are not. Nor does it mean that “There are also good strategic reasons for associating libertarianism with the left and not with the right.”

“Associating”? What does this mean? It is not left. It is not right. It is neither left nor right. Both left and right are statist, evil, and anti-libertarian. Let us not forget that.

“I don’t think we should suck up to anyone. We should express radical liberalism in all its fullness — which includes addressing the plight of those I discuss in my post. This is bound to grab the attention of some good-faith nonliberal leftists.”

This is a strategical consideration. I do not think it is “bound” to. The leftists are as evil and unapproachable as the right. More so, in some ways. It is not “bound” to at all. In any event, this is mere strategy. It does not mean we are a leftist movement. I agree we are not of the right; and I am proud also not to be a leftist. If I have to choose between being a left- or a right-libertarian–I’ll be neither, thank you.



“I’m gonna take the Longian approach here that it’s ok to say you’re on the left, right, or neither, so long as you’re clear about what you mean.”

Sure, it’s okay; and yes, there are some left-libertarians. But they are incorrect to imply that libertarianism itself is left-libertarianism. And I think they are wrong to think they are even very compatible, or that the left paradigm adds much of value (and in fact I think it leads astray, to bad economics and some unjustified social analysis). Libertarianism is not right; but it is also not left. It is superior to both.

“Frankly, I’ve no problem moving back and forth between the left and the right, since there are people of goodwill and sincerity on both sides who care about liberation.”

I think this is overly generous. The left and right are both basically statist and evil.


Jeremy: hard to “learn” from them while they tax, conscript, jail, murder you.

Gary: Your contention is eloquently argued and a lot of what you say makes sense–re there being “at least three reasons someone might want to self-identify as a left-libertarian (or, to put the point even more sharply, why a libertarian might also wish to self-identify as someone on the left).”

But whatever the possible connections between the original leftism and libertarian principles and libertarianism’s origins, you are speaking of some now-extinct left. The modern left has left this “good” left behind–as suggested by Rothbard in his classic and monumental Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty. Maybe we should take Roderick Long’s brilliant advice in his recent comments where he distinguished between capitalism-1, capitalism-2, and capitalism-3, to explain the confusion among both left- and right-libertarians on the “capitalism” question–and indeed, where he suggests that the same is true of the left, or at least of socialism: “‘socialism,’ as the theoretical antithesis of ‘capitalism,’ is subject to precisely the same ambiguities.”

Leftism today means collectivist, statist, thuggish, murderous, economically ignorant, mired in tired classist conceptions, inhuman, inhumane, evil, and bellicose ideas, policies, and practices. Sure, talk about our historical links to the Old Left, if you want, and where they went off the rails, but we are not left, IMHO.

I agree with Victor Milan’s first comment above, except I would hesitate to say left-libertarians are making the most sense nowadays. I would agree that libertarians still mired in conservativism and not hostile enough to the state and war are being outshined by the anti-war left-libertarians and even those left-libertarians who criticize the “vulgar” libertarians. But I do not think one needs to join the left-bandwagon to be anti-war, anti-IP, anti-corporatism/fascism, or to be very concerned for the plight of the downtrodden and other classes stultified and oppressed by the fascist state-business alliance. One only needs to be a libertarian.

Sheldon: “I don’t think we should suck up to anyone. We should express radical liberalism in all its fullness — which includes addressing the plight of those I discuss in my post. This is bound to grab the attention of some good-faith nonliberal leftists.”

I’m not sure if we are “bound” to. I think Milan is right: “It hasn’t worked any better in the past than sucking up to the right. Why would it help now?” But sure, why not. It doesn’t hurt.

Sheldon writes: “If we don’t do this, we should not be surprised that people on hard times look to the State for assistance.”

Whether we make overtures to the left or not, people are going to look to the State for assistance–and we should not be surprised of this, either. But if your comment is meant to imply it’s our fault if this happens–I reject this entirely. It’s not our fault that other people are evil; it’s not our fault if we are unable to persuade them. We should never be blamed for not being successful at persuading others not to be evil.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Scott Lazarowitz December 27, 2009, 7:48 am

    I see left vs. right in economic terms. The left has socialists, communists, collectivists and globalists, and the right has capitalists. The left is characteriaed by the Obommunists who now swarm Washington DC in droves. Washington has virtually no capitalists in sight–it’s crickets for capitalism in Washington.

    The two Bush presidents are leftists. The younger Bush’s leftism can be seen in his socialist Wall Street Bailout and his compulsion to invade other countries. Leftists do not respect the lives and property of others. They are invaders. Capitalists on the right (because they are “right”) have respect for the lives and property of others–they do not invade. The elder Bush is a “New World Order” globalist-leftist. “Read my lips–no new taxes!” he raised taxes–more taking, more stealing, more coveting, etc. And he invaded Iraq first. The elder Bush is a leftist (and a nincompoop).

    So, in the end, there are too many leftists in the world and not enough “rightists.” I hope we can change that. I hope.

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