Blogs > Liberty and Power > Splitter!

Jul 24, 2007 4:41 pm


Some of these comments on Barnett are starting to remind me of the Life of Brian bits about the conflict between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea.

Reasonable people can disagree with the following, but here is my view:

Libertarians should reach out, especially to the 25% or so of the population with some libertarian tendencies. Respect them, be open to learning from them, and try to present libertarian ideas, history, and solutions in a persuasive way. Many might move in a more libertarian direction, and in this way we can incrementally change society for the better. Accept that most will not go all the way and become extreme libertarians.

Barnett's views are lodged in a deeply libertarian part of the Nolan Chart. If the Nolan Chart asked about foreign policy, he would not be so deep into the quadrant, but he would not be off the reservation.

Rather than hunting down deviationists, we should be looking for allies.

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Bill Woolsey - 7/25/2007

You need to come up with the word that describes 100% hardcore libertarians with one exception--support for mass murder in the middle east.

By the way, I supported mutal assured destruction.

Personally, I think the problem is the deductive absolutism of Rothbard and Rand. The results seem so certain, but they are brittle.

I doubt this was true of Barnett by by 9-11, but many libertarians of my acquaintance supported nonintervention on the bases of some kind of analogy to the nonaggression principle. They dropped that after 9-11 and were suddenly buying the neo-conservative line 100%.

I rejected a "principled" noninterventionism decades ago. And I never once thought about supporting the invasion of Iraq. I think Barnett did a good job of explaining why it was such an obviously bad idea.

Anthony Gregory - 7/25/2007

Well, either libertarianism rules out mass murder or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then fine, they are all libertarians, and perhaps we need another word to describe those who oppose aggression and socialism and support free markets, private property, individual liberty, and peace.

Bill Woolsey - 7/25/2007

I have read some things by the Ayn Rand Institute people along those lines.

But I think you (Gregory) are entirely wrongheaded about this.

It isn't that those people aren't libertarians because they support this horrific policy.

They are libertarians. What is troubling, is how could libertarians support such a horrific thing?

In terms of PR for the movement, is is good that they refuse to call themselves libertarians when they also advocate such a policy.

But they are libertarians who advocate mass murder. How can that be possible?

That is the puzzle.

Anthony Gregory - 7/25/2007

The Nolan Chart is deeply flawed when it comes to determining whether someone is a libertarian. There are Randians who advocated nuking about a dozen countries after 9/11. This is CLEARLY unlibertarian. It would potentially be the worst atrocity in human history that they advocated. The Nolan Chart doesn't address this at all. Someone could believe in murdering 100 million foreigners and still score as a perfect libertarian according to the quiz I've seen. So it's obviously flawed. I'd argue that support for drug laws, gun laws, high taxes and immigration controls — all combined — would still render you more libertarian than if you supported the outright murder of millions of people.

And just because someone says murder is necessary for defense doesn't mean it's more libertarian to defend it. Gun control and the drug war are also defended on the grounds that they preempt aggression. Even if gun control reduced crime, it would be unlibertarian to support it. The Iraq war was defended on the same basis that gun control is.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/25/2007

Seconded. What the two of you have said is exactly right.

Steven Horwitz - 7/24/2007

Excellent. And let me just add that Randy's scholarly work has done as much to bring libertarian ideas to those with "libertarian tendencies" as has any thinker of his generation. The notion that Randy's stance on the war somehow, by itself, undermines a career of bringing libertarianism to new audiences, is just preposterous.