Why I Am A Left-Libertarian

I am a left-libertarian. This is a position that seems contradictory to many, both libertarian and not; libertarianism is traditionally seen as being a movement of the Right, or even the farthest extreme of the Right, existing as an apologetic philosophy for corporatism and elitism. I believe that this is fundamentally mistaken. The Right, I think, is properly seen today as being the status quo of state-capitalism, dominated by an elite of bureaucrats and plutocrats, whose ends are power and authority at the expense of everyone else. Even modern day “liberals” and social democrats are rightist in this sense; merely reforming a fundamentally evil system is not enough, and the state-socialist means of compulsion and centralization contradict their declared “leftist” ends. Thus, the Left is properly conceived as being those whose ends are peace, justice, and prosperity, and whose means don’t conflict with those ends.

For libertarians reading this, it will probably help if I explain why I am a “thick” libertarian first, as opposed to “thin” libertarianism. Thin libertarianism is the position that politics is the ethics of the use of force; nothing more and nothing less. Political philosophy doesn’t and can’t have anything to say about society, other than that aggression is wrong. Any set of social and cultural norms is seen as being compatible with the political philosophy of liberty, as long as they are non-coercive. Thick libertarianism, on the other hand, is the position that liberty is fundamentally intertwined with other concerns. Politics is broader than statements about the permissible use of force, and justice is more than non-aggression. Note that left-libertarians are not the only thick libertarians; paleolibertarian conservatives and Objectivists also hold thick views on political philosophy.

I am a left-libertarian, because I am a thick libertarian who sees that the “leftist” values of anti-authoritarianism, mutuality, and equality are fundamentally entailed by the same principles that make me anti-statist. A society built on authority and hierarchy, where social evils such as patriarchy and xenophobia are widely accepted cultural norms, is not a just society, even if it is non-coercive. A just society is one where every individual’s flourishing is not subject to the arbitrary whims of others, one where people are not held back by society, but instead encouraged to become the best person that they can be.




~ by wombatron on 11/28/2009.

11 Responses to “Why I Am A Left-Libertarian”

  1. Good explaination, wombie.

  2. “justice is more than non-aggression.”

    Or, if you define justice as the virtue concerned with rights and coercion, that there’s more to morality than justice.

  3. I would say that justice is broader than just rights and coercion, although those are the only things that can be enforced. My understanding of the virtue of justice is that it is, roughly, giving others what they are properly owed, whether in a legal sense or a more personal moral sense.

  4. Won’t the constraints of society flourish even more if there is no one to ensure the security of the individual. Aggression might be wrong, but there is difference between types of aggression. Arbitrary aggression seems to me the worst, because there is no security in that, as opposed to constitutional aggression. You know when you can expect aggression.

    But I simply don’t get this post? Who is to set these values? How can one reach consensus without violence? And by violence I mean state violence. The idea seem a bit too vague, so maybe you can explain it “thicker.”

  5. […] of my friends think this is a great post: Matthew Dawson’s (aka Wombatron) Why I Am A Left-Libertarian. While I like ole Wombatron, and find some nuggets of wisdom here, and an admirable (for a leftie) […]

  6. Long reply posted here, Wombolatrizzon.

  7. […] Reply to Stephan Kinsella My humble blog post on why I’m a left-libertarian drew the attention of the always-insightful Stephan Kinsella, […]

  8. @backtomarx: I’m not exactly sure what you mean. Could you clarify?

  9. […] and Thick Libertarianism My recent exchange with Stephan Kinsella (see here, here, and here) got me to thinking about the semantics of thick libertarianism. Specifically, is […]

  10. well said

  11. I’ve got news for you, you’re a democrat not a libertarian. Every item you described to defend your stance is a platform of the democrat party. Sorry, you’re not one of us.

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