August 09, 2009

Libertarianism is not an intellectual movement, it is a cultural movement

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 12:56 pm
That’s surely true for the Paulites and Randians, but Matt was responding to a post by Tyler Cowen, who is, I think, culturally distinct from those groups. The reasons for economic libertarianism haven’t really changed since classical liberalism, even in America–Rand may have replaced Locke, but Smith and Ricardo are still Smith and Ricardo.

I agree with this, mostly. But Locke, Smith, and Ricardo are all still potent intellectual forces across most of the political terrain in the contemporary world. Libertarianism tries to claim them as its own; but, as I said, that’s a conceit.

More to the point, the Randians/Paulites and the vast number of people who casually call themselves “libertarians” form almost the totality of libertarianism—Cowan’s utilitarian academic economist version, or Chomsky’s s-called “Left-Libertarianism”, or any number of idiosyncratic micro political philosophies which self-identify as libertarian or libertarian influenced are, well, inconsequential. I mean, according to Bob, as a liberal I’m a militant totalitarian and yet, I, too, claim a considerable amount of libertarian thought in my political philosophy. Such an influence does not a libertarian make in any useful sense.

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 1:06 pm
…starting with the Greeks, which is founded upon the autonomy of the individual and his non-subjugation within a group.

No offense—because I think there’s a certain limited sense in which I believe you’re correct—but you need to read a lot more of what they wrote, as well as more authoritative history of classical Greece. Suffice it to say that I wouldn’t really characterize the Athenians this way…and we needn’t even mention, say, the Spartans.

And, hell, read the Crito. I mean, Socrates’s argument in response to hearing Crito’s escape plans is that it would be morally wrong for him to resist the State’s sentence of execution, even though it was unjust. His placing the rule of law and the State above even the unjust taking of his life is all about the subjugation of the individual within a group.

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 7:10 pm
Milton Friedman had a greater impact than Ron Paul.

Upon American political culture, yes. Not upon libertarianism itself. American libertarianism could have foregone all its academic intellectuals and it would still be largely what it has become with them. Libertarianism is not an intellectual movement, it is a cultural movement. Libertarianism is essentially: individualism, good; property, good; commerce, good; government, bad. It’s a historically/sociologically related set of sentiments. 12:24 PM 12:58 PM

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