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Showing posts from February, 2010

Natural Law and the Non-Aggression Principle

The strand of libertarian thinking anchored in the work of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand gives pride of place, as far as political ethics are concerned, to the non-aggression principle (NAP), which holds that no one may initiate force against another person. As commonly read in libertarian circles, the principle precludes the initiation of force against someone else’s property as well as her person. (For convenience, we can call these the person-aspect and the property-aspect of the NAP.) Leonard Read (who did not, perhaps, take it quite seriously enough) famously summed up this principle by observing that it was compatible with “anything that’s peaceful.” In this post, I want to ask whether an important expositions of the natural law tradition in which Rothbard and Rand were both rooted can ground something like the NAP. Rothbard emphasized in The Ethics of Liberty that the natural law theory he offered there was a theory of politics, that is, as he put it, of “the just use of forc

Floor Fees and Thick Libertarianism

Readers of this blog, especially those who have long since concluded that partisan politics is useless or worse, can be pardoned if they’ve avoided reading about or participating in the ongoing dispute over the tentative decision to charge a floor fee to delegates participating in the 2010 Libertarian National Convention. I think the debate is worth attending to, though, for anyone who cares about the conversation focused on “ thick ” or “ cultural ” libertarianism. That’s because more than one participant in the floor fee debate has clearly emphasized that certain kinds of practices in voluntary organizations don’t seem to fit comfortably with libertarian principles. Typically, proponents of “plumb-line” libertarianism maintain that any conduct that is consistent with the non-aggression principle is unexceptionable from a libertarian standpoint , even if there may be good reason to object to it on other grounds. Some go even farther, seeming to dismiss objections to conduct that is

And Most of the Rest of the Republicans?

I was puzzled to get a note from a friend today referring to “the libertarians, and most of the rest of the republicans.” If this comment means that libertarianism is a sub-set of republicanism, that seems to me somewhat unlikely, since, in the history of political thought, “republicanism” is frequently used to name a quasi-communitarian tendency that is directly at odds with the classical liberalism that is at the root of modern libertarianism. OK, that may have been a cheap shot. But if my friend means that libertarians or Libertarians are Republicans, that seems like a cheap shot, too. First, of course, there are aggressive left-libertarians , in whose successes I have more than one vested interest , who would be inclined to oppose not only Republican militarism but also Republican support for corporate privilege and hierarchy and Republican social conservatism. Second, even the right-libertarians like the Lew Rockwell crowd, would unequivocally oppose the Republicans on w

A Gem from the Late C. Wright Mills

“You ’ve asked me, ‘What might you be?’ Now I answer you: ‘I am a Wobbly.’ I mean this spiritually and politically. In saying this I refer less to political orientation than to political ethos, and I take Wobbly to mean one thing: the opposite of bureaucrat. […] I am a Wobbly, personally, down deep, and for good. I am outside the whale, and I got that way through social isolation and self-help. But do you know what a Wobbly is? It’s a kind of spiritual condition. […] A Wobbly is not only a man who takes orders from himself. He’s also a man who’s often in the situation where there are no regulations to fall back upon that he hasn’t made up himself. He doesn’t like bosses—capitalistic or communistic—they are all the same to him. He wants to be, and he wants everyone else to be, his own boss at all times under all conditions and for any purposes they may want to follow up. This kind of spiritual condition, and only this, is Wobbly freedom.” — C. Wright Mills, Letters and Autobiographica