Monday, October 30, 2006

Libertarianism Versus "Libertarianism"

One might meet, in certain precincts of the Internet, soi-disant libertarians. As far as I am concerned, "libertarians" of this stripe are victims of commodity fetishim, and they have stolen the label. Traditionally, a libertarian is an anarchist, that is a kind of socialist. For example, Maureen Stapleton plays a libertarian in Warren Beatty's movie Reds. Anarchists, generally, do not have Ludwig Von Mises in their pantheon of heroes.
"...readers should take ... particular warning that I am absolutely not against freedom. On the contrary, I am for it. Libertarians ... think they are for freedom but they don't know what freedom is. In reality, their doctrine is so contrary to freedom that it ought to be entitled 'anti-libertarianism'. The thief comes in innocent disguise, but the beautiful garment is stolen. (The Right are good at that sort of thing.) So, if you want to make your copy of this book read more accurately, you should delete 'libertarian' and 'libertarianism' throughout, substituting 'anti-libertarian' and 'anti-libertarianism' as you go. For 'anti-libertarianism', etc., you should substitute 'anti-anti-libertarianism'. Unfortunately, this would make the book cumbersome to read, so I haven't followed the advice myself except in my choice of title, where my subject is named according to its true nature." -- Alan Haworth, Anti-Libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy, and Myth, Routledge, 1994: 5
Haworth does have more substantial points. Warning: this is political philosophy for those who think "If a lion could speak, we would not understand him" is a thesis worth discussing and who are comfortable with thought experiments which might lead one to be willing to say that a rock feels pain. Nevertheless Haworth is quite readable. (As an example of unreadable philosophy strongly following the later Wittgenstein, I cite John Wisdom's Other Minds.) I realize that those interested in political philosophy and "Libertarianism" should also read Robert Nozick.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for stating the obvious. As a libertarian I'm sick of US right-wingers stealing our name to bolster their particular brand of privatised authoritarianism. These days I have to add "socialist" to indicate that I'm not a fan of von Mises (who, incidentally, praised fascism in the 1920s) and others like him.

If anyone is interested in libertarian socialism, may I suggest "An Anarchist FAQ" at www.anarchistfaq.org

radek said...

This is like arguing about whether the Nazis were socialists or capitalists. Fun if you have an afternoon to kill in pointless discussion on Wikipedia talk pages.
As far as I'm concerned if some confused dirty hippies wish to call themselves "socialist liberterians", they can go ahead. It's a free country. We have a free market.
And if von Mises worshipers wish to use a version of that label, go right ahead sparky.
In the end ideas stand or fall on their own.
But I might have to draw the line where you say anarchists are a type of socialists. Maybe if you're a dirty hippy like Kropotkin. But other than that, it's an insult to the memory of Durruti.

In related controversies; Did gay people 'steal' the word 'gay'? Do we care? In particular, perenially perky people are permanently pissed. Problems, problems, problems...

Anonymous said...

Radek, you really are a strange person. You should get out more. There is not much point in replying, as you obviously have issues and seem pretty ignorant about anarchism (for example, as a member of the CNT, Durruti aimed for libertarian communism, another expression, like libertarian socialism, for anarchism).

radek said...

Anon, I'll take being called strange as a complement. And if you're going to accuse people of having issues you might want to consider the fact that I was joking. Anyway, strictly speakin' Durruti wasn't CNT but rather FAI. And he wasn't aiming for socialist anarchism, but for communitarian anarchism. And he was killed by the communists (actually I think this claim has recently been revised - still many of his men were).
And he has the second coolest name ever. Buenaventura Durruti, just rolls of the tongue. The coolest name ever actually belongs to one of Zapata's guerilla generals during the Mexican revolution - Genevevo de la O'. How cool is it to have just one letter for your last name? And it's O'! If I ever have a son I'll name him, George, Bill, anything but Sue.

I thought my comment about wikipedia talk pages showed sufficiently how seriously I'm willing to take this discussion.

Robert Vienneau said...

Radek, you're being impolite and ignorant. You are a guest in this space, and no requirement exists for you to attempt to despoil conversations whose premises you pretend to disagree with. If you did not care about the labels in the original post, you obviously would just not respond. And what you think a joke does indeed reveal that you have issues.

radek said...

Robert, I might give you 'impolite' (though I would prefer 'irreverant', 'rough around the edges', 'lackin' in social graces', or particularly 'devoid of bourgeois etiquette') but I don't think I'm being ignorant. As a serious point; I think it's not serious to argue about who "owns" the label "liberterian" since like I said, in all seriousness, ideas stand or fall on their own. And I think that most likely both sides can make credible claims to the label mostly because it means different things to different people. Ergo, this whole "liberterians are really anti-freedom" is just a cheap shot (amount of socially necessary labor required to produce it is almost nil). And cheap shots tend to invite silly responses.
Alright, let's let this go, my issues and all.