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Showing posts from January, 2010

Rothbard and the Free Spirits

Murray Rothbard was one of the first people whose work I read, along with Hayek and Nozick and Milton Friedman and RAW, when I first began to engage with libertarian ideas as an adolescent. The creativity and range of his thought have always impressed me enormously, and it's certainly shaped my perception of what a credible libertarianism might amount to. But I am not, for all that, a Rothbardian, and I find the growing affection for the Right that marked Rothbard’s later years unfortunate. My reaction is hardly unique among left libertarians, and will surprise no regular reader of this blog. Still, I couldn’t resist commenting on the following passage from a 1986 letter, which struck me as particularly troubling: "It seems to me that a lot of our literature is geared to 'free spirits,' to people who don't want to push other people around, and who don't want to be pushed around themselves. In short, the bulk of Americans might well be tight-assed conformists,

Zinn and the Libertarians

I am puzzled and disturbed by the reactions of some libertarians to the work of Howard Zinn, on which a lot of attention is obviously being focused just now because of his death last week. Zinn was an anarchist. He opposed war and imperial violence. He rejected corporate privilege. He highlighted the absurdity and injustice of telling the story of a society from the vantage point of the people atop its pyramid of power. Libertarians should have no time for the view that history ought to be narrated from the perspective of kings and presidents and generals and their aristocratic and corporate compatriots. One need not agree with every aspect of Zinn’s reading of history to agree that those who employ “the political means” of acquiring wealth, those Comte and Dunoyer and Rothbard and Long and Konkin would all, in their different ways, have identified as the members of the power elite, are not history’s heroes, and that glorifying the American state with triumphalistic tales of its emer

Hyper-Minimal States vs. Protective Agencies

So, consider this a continuation of the conversation I began a few months ago about the “state-anarchy continuum.” Begin with what I'll call a “hyper-minimal state.” It claims a continguous territory, but the territory for which it is responsible is very small: perhaps between 50 and 2,000 sq. km. There are no restrictions on emigration or immigration. Anyone whose property is contiguous with the border may secede at will. The state performs only two functions: it operates a police force and a court system, with the latter responsible only for resolving property, tort, and contract disputes. One of the state's courts will hear a case regarding a property, tort, or contract dispute only when the parties have already obtained a decision from a private arbitration/conciliation/mediation entity regarding the dispute and wish to appeal it. The only role of any of the state's courts with respect to an appeal from a private entity's decision regarding a dispute is to determi

Anarchists and HOAs

A number of broadly libertarian thinkers, including Gordon Tullock and Spencer Heath McCallum , have suggested that private owners—condominium owners linked by interlocking agreements (Tullock) or developers leasing property to residential or commercial tenants—could regulate land-use and related matters in the absence of the state’s heavy hand. I found myself thinking about these issues again in connection with a conversation that erupted on my Facebook page today. The focus was this article , brought to my attention by Radley Balko. One very thoughtful friend raised the question of crafting a specifically libertarian response to the problem posed by the ongoing conflict described by the article. For me, the story serves as a very pointed reminder of why I don’t think HOAs and similar arrangements as optimal ways of organizing social relations without the state’s intervention. I wouldn’t wish the stresses associated with dealing with an HOA on anyone else. Surely anar