Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Again on Thick Libertarianism

Obviously one cannot define "the initiation of force" by reference to the initiation of force. A good definition will invoke facts and values that will then be relevant to judging whether preferences are conducive to or destructive of the conditions required for libertarianism to prevail in a society.


Younes Megrini said...

"The fact is that libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life. Political theory deals with what is proper or improper for government to do, and government is distinguished from every other group in society as being the institution of organized violence. Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should he free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.
It should not be surprising, therefore, that there are libertarians who are indeed hedonists and devotees of alternative life-styles, and that there are also libertarians who are firm adherents of "bourgeois" conventional or religious morality. There are libertarian libertines and there are libertarians who cleave firmly to the disciplines of natural or religious law. There are other libertarians who have no moral theory at all apart from the imperative of non-violation of rights. That is because libertarianism per se has no general or personal moral theory. Libertarianism does not offer a way of life; it offers liberty, so that each person is free to adopt and act upon his own values and moral principles. Libertarians agree with Lord Acton that "liberty is the highest political end" – not necessarily the highest end on everyone's personal scale of values." Murray Rothbard - Six Myths About Libertarianism
Mr. Libertarian, himself, would seem to disagree with you Sheldon. :)

Sheldon Richman said...

I never said it was a complete moral theory or any kind of aesthetic theory at all. But I am sure that my old friend Murray would have disagreed with my article. I think he would have been in error.

Younes Megrini said...

If the fundamental principles that lead to libertarianism also lead to other moral conclusions, I don't see why these moral conclusions must then be considered part of libertarianism. This strikes me as a logical fallacy. If A implies B and C, that doesn't mean B must include C.
Also, if there is a potential for violence implicit in racism that is too strong for libertarians to ignore, there is also a potential for violence implicit in unionism that is too strong for libertarians to ignore, don't you think? Unions are after all cartels that, in a freed market, wouldn't be able to achieve higher prices except by restricting supply, in this case, of labor. It is possible to restrict the supply of labor without resorting to violence (beating up scabs, threatening employers or obtaining state privilege) by, for example, convincing a large enough number of workers to refuse to underbid other workers even at he cost of unemployment. But it is unlikely that any cartel (unions included) would survive in a freed market where government privilege is not an option anymore.
By this logic, would you consider opposition to NAP compliant unions to be a constitutive part of libertarianism, as you seem consider opposition to NAP compliant racism to be, however unlikely these two may be?
Or did I misunderstand your position?

Sheldon Richman said...

My argument is not that A implies B and C, therefore B must include C. My argument (HT: Charles Johnson) is that the soundest foundation of libertarianism is inconsistent with the view of individuals implied by racism, i.e., as mere members of a biological group. Therefore, we might reasonably be concerned (context matters a lot) that this inconsistency could weaken the society's commitment to individual liberty.

I don't see the analogy with unions. Unionism does not seem parallel to racism in key way.

Younes Megrini said...

My analogy with the unions was around the "potential for violence" argument which I thought to be isolated from the "inconsistency" argument.
Concerning the latter, I do believe racism is inconsistent with individualism which, I concede, is a natural ground principle for libertarianism, but it need not be the only one. Therefore, while I accept that individualists should oppose racism and all forms of collectivism, I do not see how that translates to libertarianism having to entail the same opposition. I think it is perfectly consistent to be a collectivist libertarian. Collectivist communes (syndicalist, religious, racist...) are compatible with a free society, as long as membership is voluntary and their operation peaceful.
There is no right not to be discriminated against. Boycotts and ostracism are also just that, forms of discrimination.
I think this whole debate stems from the confusion of two orders : the moral and the legal (enforceable rights). We shouldn't confuse thought and action, otherwise we end up with thought crimes, like we have here in Europe. The motivation behind an action cannot alter its legality.
Opposition to racism usually brings in Thought-Brigades, trying to police the movement by accusing this and that of racism, and the purpose is always to control discourse and censor dissent.
You are familiar with the Israel-Palestine issue, you surely know that criticism of Israeli policy has always given rise to accusations of antisemitism. The purpose is always to diverge attention from the actions of the Israeli government to the, frankly, undecidable question of whether one particular critic of Israel is secretly antisemitic or not.
That is my concern.