Libertarianism/Talk

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I thought this topic might generate enough disagreement to warrant a talk page.

For example the term minimal statism is a bit clunky, libertarians use the term minarchism.

Also I don't care for this phrase (removed since): its (government's) function is only to keep people from harming each other. I don't think that really captures it. If you own a bookstore and I open a competing one nextdoor I've hurt you. If a husband cheats on his wife he hurts her. To libertarians the only purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens(those rights being defined by the non-aggression axiom and its corallaries).

Fare: indeed, to libertarians, the criterion is not whether someone feels hurt, but whether his rights have been respected or not. "hurting" or "profiting" is always respective to other imaginary worlds - and you can always imagine a world where you're better off or worse off. The only legitimate comparison when demanding justice, for libertarians, is between the world where your right has been respected, and the world where it wasn't.


Does libertarianism support state protection of property? I was missing this, which I think has become relevant with legal extensions of the property definition, such as DMCA etc.

MemoryHole.com: Yes libertarians(of the minarchist persuasion) support state protection of property rights. But the DMCA brings up questions of intellectual property rights and there is wide disagreement about that among libertarians.

Fare Most libertarians think that property rights are natural, and that legislation cannot or must not arbitrarily create or destroy them, that it can only discover and claim those rights that exist out of natural law. Actually, many libertarians (particularly the anarchist ones) believe that legislation should not exist at all, and/or should not be a state monopoly, but be done by competing law agencies that people freely adhere to or not.

Fare Some libertarians believe that intellectual property is a natural right, some utilitarian libertarians think that it is an acceptable governmental privilege. The most radical libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, resent state protection of property, and reject intellectual property, at least as we know it.


Is it accurate to treat classical liberalism and libertarianism as synonyms? As I understand it, classical liberalism is used primarily to refer to 18th century and 19th century liberals (as that word was used at the time), such as many of the founders of the US or Adam Smith. Libertarianism (in the recent American sense of the word), by contrast, is used to refer to people since the 1950s.

Although Libertarians look to classical liberals as their origins, I think its wrong to view their views as identical. Though on many issues (e.g. dislike for large or powerful governments) classical liberals and libertarians are similar, I doubt that classical liberals had the same views on all issues as modern libertarians do. (For example, many modern libertarians seem to have an almost Randian enthusiasm for capitalism; Adam Smith, IIRC, saw it not so much as a good thing as the least of the possible evils.)

Furthermore, I think a lot of liberals (in the recent American sense of the word) see their origins in classical liberalism also. (And I think the historical origin of modern liberalism lies in part in classical liberalism as well.) They would argue that where they differ from classical liberalism, they are not so much in opposition to it as a natural development of it. -- Simon J Kissane


No, it is not accurate to treat classical liberalism and libertarianism as synonyms. It is a work of propaganda to do so. -- TheCunctator


Fare: Yes, I think it is arguably accurate to accurate to treat classical liberalism and libertarianism as synonyms. Firstly because classical liberalism is the name for the tradition in all countries but the US. Secondly, because the opinions, the approaches, the methods, etc., are essentially the same - there has been some elaboration, but no revolution, no massive rejection. Indeed, Smith wasn't always enthusiast about capitalism, but Smith wasn't the most enthusiastic man in his own time (compare Turgot, Say or Bastiat). Thridly, yes, the old-time classical liberals did already hold all the modern opinions now claimed loudly by US libertarians, even if they didn't have modern words and references to express them. See for instance this article about Bastiat's opinions. So yes, libertarianism is one and the same with classical liberalism.

Besides, no non-libertarian ideology claims classical liberalism as its root, except in as much as they consider it part of the universal tradition, and after rejecting half of the classical liberal claims. Such is the case for modern US "liberals" -- they are actually socialists who prefer Marx to Smith.

But since I see room for dissensions here, I suppose there should be a specific article about classical liberalism, and another one on libertarianism.


That you can say that modern liberals are socialists is clear evidence of your extremism. Liberals are hardly Marxists; in fact, as the 1960s/70s showed, the distinction between liberals and leftists is pretty strong. None of Lawrence Lessig, Paul Krugman, or Robert Reich show any Marxist leanings, for example.

Your use of the word "ideology" is telling; political theories are not ideologies.

The assertion "Besides, no libertarian ideology claims classical liberalism as its root, except in as much as they consider it part of the universal tradition, and after rejecting half of the classical liberal claims" is as valid as the one you made.

Libertarianism as you define simply can't be a synonym for classical liberalism; libertarianism is a current, 20th-century political theory defined by 20th-century theorists; classical liberalism a historical term for a political theory specific to an earlier era. Asserting that libertarianism and classical liberalism are the same is like asserting that neo-classical and ancient Greek architecture are the same. It's reconfiguring the past into current expectations and understandings.

The past and the present, in reference to social phenomena, cannot be equivalent. Those who believe that they are are idealists or ideologists.

I'd buy that classic liberalism is a precursor to libertarianism.

--TheCunctator


Fare: if you think they differ, show me a point where libertarianism and classical liberalism differ, where one isn't the natural extension of the other. Show me a fork or interruption in classical liberalism. To me this is but US word-play. Just because the US has two words for it doesn't mean it differs.


Okay, here's my assertion: there is no fork, and Lawrence Lessig, Paul Krugman, and Robert Reich are classical liberals. --TheCunctator


Look, it's this simple. If a lot of people, and there are at least a few here, think that classic liberalism and libertarianism are distinct, then they are similar but different things that some people equate and other people distinguish.


Hey Fare, editing my work on the main pages is fine but please don't mutilate my comments on a /Talk page or else remove my name from any comments of mine that you change! I don't want credit for any of your prose. --MemoryHole.com