I’ve been delaying posting this for a while, but its time. Its a perhaps idiosyncratic view of where BHL fits into the set of political philosophies nearest to it (in some sense of “nearest”). Some notes follow the taxonomy.

******
1. Liberalism: A family of theories that take liberty and equality to be the most important (and guiding) values in the organization of a just state. Historically, some have added fraternity to liberty and equality. Different liberals understand these core values in different ways.
***
1.1. Libertarianism: A family of liberal views that take negative liberty (freedom from interference) to be the most important (and guiding) value in the organization of a just state, insisting it must be present for all. (Some call this “classical liberalism.”)
***
1.1.1. “Right” Libertarians: A family of libertarian (and hence liberal) views that take property rights in external goods (often justified with appeal to self-ownership) to be absolute or nearly absolute. That emphasis sometimes makes them consider coercive redistribution to be necessarily immoral. Some (perhaps most) in this family may nonetheless agree that it is a benefit of the view that if instantiated, most would do better than if society was organized along other lines.
1.1.1.1. Minimal State Theorists or Minarchists: A family of “Right” Libertarian views that take government to be an element of the state that should be used only to protect negative liberty.
1.1.1.2. Anarchist Libertarians: A family of “Right” Libertarian views that believe negative liberty is better served with the absence of government than with its presence.
***
1.1.2. BHLs: A family of libertarian (and hence liberal) views that also share a deep concern to prevent suffering (and perhaps promote at least minimal individual well-being). Some in this camp may approve of limited government interventions to end suffering; all agree that allowing individuals extensive (negative) liberty is likely to create the least suffering possible. Some may favor pretty strong, if not absolute property rights (the latter is more likely with 1.1.2.2 than 1.1.2.1).
1.1.2.1. Minimal State or Minarchist BHLs: A family of BHL views that take government to be an element of the state that should be used to protect individuals, especially their negative liberty, but sometimes also minimal levels of well-being.
1.1.2.2. Anarchist BHLs: A family of BHL views that believe individuals are better served (both in terms of negative liberty and well-being) with the absence of government then with its presence.
***
1.1.3. “Left” Libertarians (“LLs”): A family of libertarian (and hence liberal) views that take liberty to be of such value that it must be distributed equally (and may believe the “Right” Libertarian way of defining and emphasizing property rights hinders that). Likely also to take equal opportunity of well-being as a value, but to consider it extensionally equivalent to equal liberty. Some in this camp limit property rights in natural resources, perhaps defining property (or the bundle of rights that it is) in such a way that makes this clear.
1.1.3.1. Minimal State or Minarchist LLs: A family of LL views that take government to be an element of the state that should be used to guarantee the equal distribution of liberty (and equal opportunity of well-being).
1.1.3.2. Anarchist LLs: A family of LL views that believe private agencies can better guarantee the equal distribution of liberty (and equal opportunity of well-being) than a government.
***
1.2. Egalitarian Liberalism: A family of liberal views that take liberty and equality of well-being to be the most important (and guiding) values in the organization of a just state, with an emphasis on the latter enabling its proponents to sometimes limit liberty. Such theorists nonetheless take liberty to be centrally important.
***
1.3. Communitarian Liberalism: A family of theories that take liberty, equality, and fraternity to be the most important (and guiding) values in the organization of a just state, with an emphasis on fraternity enabling its proponents to sometimes limit liberty–or equality.
******

Note 1: In none of these did I offer any indication of how the particular view would be defended. This is important. Political philosophy is a part of moral philosophy, but political philosophies are not complete moral theories. Different political philosophers can and do use different moral theories to defend their views. There are historical and contemporary libertarians, to take our example, that are consequentialists, others that are deontologists, and others that are teleologists. Admittedly, this makes the whole terrain extremely variegated. Some think it an advantage to libertarianism that it can be defended by a variety of ethical theories, but I’m not confident the same isn’t true of other political views. The problem, there, is twofold: (a) determine the best moral theory and (b) determine which political philosophy that moral theory actually supports. Alternatively, one might seek to show that all contenders for best moral theory actually support the same political philosophy.

Note 2: I am not offering necessary or sufficient conditions in the taxonomy. I suspect an attempt at such would fail, but I’d be happy to see it.

Note 3: I use the “left” and “right” nomenclature though I dislike it.

Note 4: Thanks to Matt Zwolinski and Hillel Steiner for help formulating some of the above.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/rjvg50 Kirk Holden

    Great work! Have you considered using Millman’s Political Taxonomy – that can get you out of the ‘left’ v ‘right’ trap. At least it may get you out of the rough and onto the fairway. The bigger challenge for me is to identify particular political figures with each subgroup – this makes the distinctions visceral and opens up a debate about “what are our actual options” at the voting booth.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Thanks, I’ll take a look at that!

  • Aeon Skoble

    How is a 1.1.1.2 different from a 1.1.2.2? (Or 1.1.3.2 for that matter?)

    • Damien S.

      Anarchist right-libertarian vs. anarchist BHL: I see no difference.

      Anarchist left-libertarian I’d guess would deny ownership of property.  There’s possession by usufruct, direct use, but you don’t get to claim land forever, even if you mixed some labor with it, nor to deny it to people with a more urgent need.  Many would deny money as well, cf. Iain Banks’ The Culture in SF.  Spanish Republic and _Homage to Catalonia_ in the real world.  Idle property being subject to squatters’ rights would be a left thing.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Aeon-The societies advocated by each may be very similar (or even the same), but I think looking to how 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 (and 1.1.3) are defined indicates that they’d be advocated for somewhat different reasons.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743482150 David Sobel

    Seems sensible to me. But I was a bit surprised at how left libertarianism got understood. I was expecting the thought to be that we own ourselves in the way that right libertarians say but that it is much more difficult to come to have such powerful ownership rights over the rest of the world than right libertarians say. 

    • Andrew Cohen

      David-I think for the LLs I am most familiar with (e.g., Steiner, Vallentyne, Otsuka), would go a bit further than you suggest.  I don’t claim, though, to know the full range of views.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743482150 David Sobel

        I agree that they go beyond what I said. Indeed they go beyond it in the direction you suggest. My only point was that they, or at least the three you mention, also have a serious commitment to self-ownership and hold that equality can only appropriately be promoted when it can be achieved without violating the serious deontological restrictions created by our self-ownership.

        • Andrew Cohen

          Agreed!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-DiMare/100000504645309 Rick DiMare

    Andrew, thanks, that’s very useful. I’d been looking for such distinctions. 

    If you get a chance some day, it would be even more helpful if, at end of each category, you dropped some names. 

    For example, I’d be interested to know into which category you’d place Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, etc., and even contemporaries like Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano and his guests, John Stossel, Steve Horwitz, etc. 

    • Andrew Cohen

      Rick-Sorry, but that’s beyond me!

      • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

        I dunno, seems pretty easy to me. 

        Rothbard was always an anarchist, and BHL in the 60s and 70s, and “Right” in the 80s and 90s.
        Friedman and Hayek would both minarchist BHL (since both supported social safety nets).
        All of the others are minarchist “Right” libertarians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Catherine-Bower/100002055423019 Catherine Bower

    (Full disclaimer: I am an anarcho-communist/ social anarchist)

    I occasionally read this blog because I think it’s a rather intersting blog, even though I really disagree with most of it. I’d argue that moderate libertarian leftist positions are closer to Democrats in ideology than what I would consider the libertarian right, since the libertarian right generally agrees that property is inalienable where the libertarian left obviously does not, since I think property rights are impossible to enforce with a state or state like apparatus(see Proudhon’s work What is Property? for the explanation), in fact I think capitalism is inseperable from the state but that is besides the point.

    My reason for commenting today was point out that a left/right political axis is generally narrow, because most political quizzes treat leftism as more government and rigthism as less government when that is not always the case.

    Also: “1.1.3.2. Anarchist LLs: A family of LL views that believe private agencies can better guarantee the equal distribution of liberty (and equal opportunity of well-being) than a government.”

    This is wrong. Left anarchists(and post-left anarchists) oppose hierarchy and think it’s detrimental to liberty and economic and political systems that are hierarchical are obviously wrong to them. You might disagree with hardcore anarchist theory(as in the works of Proudhon, Bakunin, or Kropotkin for example) but that’s our general beef with the system. Hence the general hostility towards anarcho-capitalists and right libertarians.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Happy you’re reading!  I think socialists and libertarians have a lot in common and should dialogue more!
      A few quick comments:1. Yes, I would think LLs are closer to Dems than RLs. I don’t think that is saying very much though.2. I’m not sure what you mean by “inalienable.”  All libertarians agree that we can alienate ourselves from property–we can sell it.  Perhaps you mean something like “can’t be taken by government.”  If so, I think LLs accept that, simply indicating that some things can’t be property in the first place (or cease being property at some point).3. As per Note 3, I don’t like the left/right distinction either. 4. I’m not sure what problem you are pointing to in 1.1.3.2.  There is nothing in there about hierarchy.  Perhaps you mean to suggest that an LL can’t be an anarchist.  I’m sympathetic to that claim.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

      The definition of Anarchist LLs isn’t wrong, it’s just that “private agencies” is a not a clear way to describe the kind of social organization that they advocate. But, LLs do advocate social organizations, just very horizontal and cooperative ones. 

      Essentially, Anarchist LLs are anarchists because the state is, in their opinion, necessarily hierarchical — and thus cannot be a just form of social organization.

  • Anonymous

    “Consider ALREADY-ACQUIRED wealth of ‘big business’ to be an OK starting point?”

    You have Nozick under this heading.  This is wrong.

  • Andrew Cohen

    Xerographica-
    1. I can’t see me trying to fix the Wikipedia entry.
    2. One quick point about your diagrams: genuine Marxist socialism is anarchist and that doesn’t fit in your diagrams.
    3. Gaping gulf between minarchist BHLs and liberals?  Minarchist BHLs, like all libertarians, are liberals in my taxonomy, so perhaps you mean a gaping gulf between minarchist BHLs and egalitarian liberals.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t think that what I’ve provided is complete.  I think, in particular, that there are a variety of egalitarian liberal theories that should be distinguished from each other.  
    4. As for pragmatarianism… wouldn’t it be a form of minarchist BHL?

    • Andrew Cohen

      Re #2: I did.  My point was that I find it odd that there is no overlap between socialism and anarchism.  I also think its odd that you have one circle for libertarianism, another for socialism, and another for libertarian socialism.  I would think l-s would be the overlap of l and s.

      Re #3: Well, libertarians are liberals and they want to reduce the current scope of government, so yes, some liberals want to reduce the current scope of government.  As for “liberals” (where I assume the quotes mean we are talking about egalitarian liberals), I suspect some would agree that we should reduce the current scope of government.  We should not pretend that all egalitarian liberals are in agreement about everything.  That’s no more true then the claim that all libertarians are in agreement about everything.

      Re #4: Ah.  So pragmatarianism is not really a political philosophy in the same sense as the theories I am discussing.  Its something like an economic theory of how states should be funded–and its open to any sort of state.  In that case, of course, it should not be in this list. (I.e., its open for any of the theories on this list–plus others–to take pragmatarianism on board.)

      • Andrew Cohen

        #3 and #4: My real concern can be stated this way: “what are the proper functions of a just state?”  The way I wrote the taxonomy doesn’t address that as head-on as I might have, but talks about the values each theory accepts as warranting any state function or action. Libertarians think the  state properly has fewer functions than other liberals.  I would not want to use that as a definitional claim, though.  Its simply a fact that follows from the definitions.  Similarly, different liberals can and do argue that the state should have different functions.  
        Pragmatarianism seems different in this regard: each of the theories I included has a view about the objectively acceptable functions a state can have; pragmatarianism offers instead a proposal for how a state could determine what its people want it to do.  I gather that there is an assumption behind that proposal that whatever the people want enough to voluntarily pay for is something the state should do.  I don’t know what the argument is for that assumption.  Knowing that argument might let me place the theory somewhere within the taxonomy (I am not sure).  But this is a big difference: the offering of an argument for functions that a state objectively should have VS the offering of a method to figure out what functions people happen to want the state to have.

        • Andrew Cohen

          I didn’t mean to say that I don’t like the pragmatarian view. I am fairly agnostic about it.  The arguments in its favor seem to me likely to be inconclusive.  This may largely be because I worry more about market successes than market failures.  In this regard, that means I worry that people would pay for parts of the government that I would rather see gone.  If that’s right, the consequentialist argument fails.  It may also mean the deontological argument fails–as people might be willing to pay for parts of the government that infringe on other’s rights.  The pragmatic argument isn’t an argument, so far as I can tell–its a statement of fact, but its not clear to me how that fact supports pragmatarianism.
          In any case, I assume now that you agree that pragmatarianism simply does not fit in the taxonomy, being a different sort of view entirely–orthogonal to the possibilities listed, not something that would replace them.

          • Andrew Cohen

            What if many people vote for–both in the normal sense of that word, if its still permitted and relevant, and in the sense of indicating they want their tax dollars to go to–a satellite spying device that would be capable of seeing into and hearing all that goes on in all of our homes (including those of us who vocally oppose it)?  It seems clear that the pragmatarian would say “well, then we would (and should?) have it!”  In short, you discuss things some would say we should have though most would not fund, but I worry about things we should not have but enough people would fund.  If you can’t rule out infringements of liberty of the sort in that example, you can’t really claim to value liberty, so far as I can tell.

          • Andrew Cohen

            There is nothing inconsistent with being concerned with something getting too much funding and also being concerned with it getting too little.

            I don’t think there is any mixed message here.  On my view, as I’ve said before, we must first determine what the government should do, then determine how much it costs, and finally, determine the best way to raise the needed funds to do it.

            Meanwhile, I’ve given an example of something government should not be able to do but which pragmatarianism does not seem to rule out.  Does it?  If it does, how?  If it does not (or if it only does so contingent on many people choosing in a certain way), how is pragmatarianism consistent with valuing liberty?

            (Note: I think I’ve noted before that one way to go, but which gives up the pragmatarian core, would be to set strict limits as to what the government could do, and then leave it up to taxpayers to decide what, of the remaining options, are actually funded.)

  • berserkrl

    “Left-libertarian” here seems to define the Vallentyne/Steiner/Otsuka sense, but it’s not clear where in this taxonomy the ALL sense of “left-libertarian” would fit.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Is the “ALL sense of ‘left-libertarian’” the ideas of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left?  If so, to be honest, I am not very familiar with it.  Care to offer a definition?  (Hopefully parallel to those I’ve offered?)  Or perhaps Gary Chartier or Rod Long will weigh in.

      • c.t. mummey

        Crap I wrote a whole answer and then lost it on the phone. I’m sure Long or Charles Johnson or Gary Chartier will pop in and do a better job anyway.

        BTW here is the ALL mission statement: The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is a multi-tendency coalition of mutualists, agorists, voluntaryists,
        geolibertarians, left-Rothbardians, green libertarians, dialectical anarchists, radical minarchists,
        and others on the libertarian left, united by an opposition to statism and militarism, to cultural
        intolerance (including sexism, racism, and homophobia), and to the prevailing corporatist capitalism
        falsely called a free market; as well as by an emphasis on education, direct action, and building
        alternative institutions, rather than on electoral politics, as our chief strategy for achieving liberation.

        • c.t. mummey

          I should say – as a LL/individualist anarchist – while I think this was an interesting post, the taxonomy doesn’t work for me from the start. As I don’t think there is such a thing as a just state I’m not sure how I can count as a liberal under this scheme :)

          • c.t. mummey

            I generally agree w/Hess’ conception of left/right and leave it at that:

            “My own notion of politics is that it follows a straight line rather than a circle. The straight line stretches from the far right where (historically) we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule. On the far right, law and order means the law of the ruler and the order that serves the interest of that ruler, usually the orderliness of drone workers, submissive students, elders either totally cowed into loyalty or totally indoctrinated and trained into that loyalty. Both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler operated right-wing regimes, politically, despite the trappings of socialism with which both adorned their regimes. Huey Long, when governor-boss of Louisiana, was moving toward a truly right-wing regime, also adorned with many trappings of socialism (particularly public works and welfare) but held together not by social benefits but by a strong police force and a steady flow of money to subsidize and befriend businessmen. …”

            http://wconger.blogspot.com/2005/08/karl-hess-left-right-spectrum.html

          • Andrew Cohen

            Plausible!

          • Andrew Cohen

            C.T.: Well, I think all libertarians are liberals.  Some libertarians claim to be anarchists–and these are recognized in the taxonomy–so it would seem that you could endorse one of those positions.  But I suspect that I would need another category for the ALL sort of LLs.  Likely 1.1.4 and 1.1.4.1 and 1.1.4.2.  You might then fit in 1.1.4.2.

          • Anonymous

            right, but as i said anarchists don’t think there is a ‘just state’ so either A) anarchists are not liberals or B) you’d have to tweak the def. of liberals (1.) a bit.

          • Andrew Cohen

            Fair point. My first inclination was to (somehow) go with(B), even though “liberal anarchist” initially sounds off to me.  Three more alternatives: (C) admit that libertarians are not liberals; (D) keep everything as is, but indicate that 1.1.1.2, 1.1.2.2., and 1.1.3.2 are included for convenience only though they should not be included since they are not liberals though there counterparts (1.1.1.1, 1.1.2.1, and 1.1.3.1) are; and, finally, (E) reiterate that we are working with family resemblances only so all is OK as is.  I lean toward (E), but can also see (D)–and even (B).  (There is a contemporary philosopher that argues for (C), by the way; he is not a libertarian.) 

          • Anonymous

            yeah i’d be wittgensteinian and take e. too, but it doesn’t necessarily mean 1) could be reworded to something like a ‘just society’. liberals should be concerned w/civil society too obv.

      • http://insteadofablog.wordpress.com/ Neverfox

        The wikipedia page for Left-Libertarianism already has a pretty good section on each type (§3 vs. §4).

        FYI, berserkrl is Rod Long.

        • c.t. mummey

          Isn’t Roderick long a Dr Who blogger? I’m confused…

          • http://insteadofablog.wordpress.com/ Neverfox

            He contains multitudes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TomGPalmer1 Tom G. Palmer

      It’s not clear that people such as Otsuka are “libertarians” in any sense of the term that justifies using the same term for him and for, say, Robert Nozick. 

      • http://insteadofablog.wordpress.com/ Neverfox

        What then, in your view, is a minimal libertarianism? If it’s a commitment to self-ownership (or similar), then they would seem to qualify. And unless we’re going to do away with a taxonomy altogether, there are going to be differences in what various people think self-ownership entails vis-à-vis property, rights etc.

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  • Anonymous

    Valuable post, great work.   A taxonomy such as this can be very constructive for discussing your views with others, because you can more quickly appreciate their perspective.  That’s critical for having a productive dialog and, potentially, changing minds.  A+.    I’ll reference back to this one for sure. 

    On another note, 75% of the time when I come to this blog, the comments section is all messed up and I’m unable to post.  I use FF 8, as well as IE 8, and I get the same results.   Is it just me? 

  • Anonymous

    This post focuses on political philosophies, however I think it’s missing an element of politics, the necessity of acting in less than ideal circumstances to achieve consensus and action, the compromise.  So while I have my own political philosophy, if I were an elected official, I’d almost necessarily have to compromise on those views in order to keep my position, love it or hate it, that’s politics.  So I’d use my philosophy as a guide, but then have to pragmatically work backwards from that to compromise.  Present cases of this are Rand Paul or Gary Johnson.

    So then, once we’ve arrived at our ideal political philosophy, in the real world you never actually get that as a choice, and so you compromise to get as close as possible, or at least that’s my view.  But some libertarians hate the idea of compromise and have fair points concerning it.  But those differences may be more about psychology then political philosophy, and so I can see why it’s wouldn’t be appropriate here.  But it’s nevertheless and important component of different libertarian groups, and understanding it would help to build bridges, which I think is a major reason for this taxonomy in the first place.

    • Andrew Cohen

      CF: Thanks for both posts and the kind words!
      About the first: I’ve had a problem on occasion with the comment section but not very often; still I’ll ask around about this.  
      About the second: I think you are right here.  Its probably one of two reasons I could never be a successful politician.  It may also be why libertarians in general have such a hard time in politics, though here I am just speculating.  
      From my perspective, the problem is this: I know what I want the state to do and be but I don’t know how to get it to be and do those things (and only those things) given what it is and does now.  I agree compromises would have to be made, but I’d want those compromises to be such that (a) we are set on a course that foreseeably brings the state where I want it to be, so that it only does what it should do and (b) do that without causing harm.  Figuring out how to accomplish that is not easy!

      • c.t. mummey

        Luckily libertarians should reject politics altogether and engage in direct action, education and mutual aid :)

        • Andrew Cohen

          Unfortunately, I suspect that is not a recipe for success, if we want to change the world’s political entities.  Granted, we might succeed in changing lots of things in the world that way, but I’d like to change it all.  (I realize that is a bit crazy on my part!)  

          • Anonymous

            well, i *know* trying to change the world through politics & reformism is CLEARLY a crazy huge failure…so different strokes.

      • Anonymous

        My main point, which I muddled, was that another dimension exists for understanding libertarians; where they lie on the ideologue-pragmatic psychological dimension.  I wouldn’t expect this in your article since you clearly specify political philosophy, but it’s important to know if you’re in discussions with those with the liberty bug.   At least that’s been my experience.

        • Andrew Cohen

          I see.  And I think agree.

  • Anonymous

    “It may also be why libertarians in general have such a hard time in politics, though here I am just speculating.”

    Nah, it’s the structure of our electoral system.  Single member district plurality voting favors two major parties.  I am surprised by the relative dearth of libertarian writers (of a more pragmatic bent) shouting for proportional representation.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Clearly a real problem!

  • c.t. mummey

    I have one more ? too. How does the decentralist left fit into this? In other words leftists in favor of decentralization, smallness, localism, coops, etc who arent necessarily part of the US-libertarian tradition. (meaning the Old Right, Rothbard, Hayek, Chicago School, Rand, etc).

    • Andrew Cohen

      I’m not sure why that wouldn’t go with the ALL version of LL (which might have to be 1.1.4 and 1.1.4.1 and 1.1.4.2; likely 1.1.4.2).  But I would need someone else to write that up.

  • Nathan Westbrook

    A typo at the end of 1.1.1: should read “than” instead of “then.”

    • Andrew Cohen

      Thanks!

  • Andrew Cohen

    Sorry, I almost missed this comment.
    Also, sorry but it appears I misunderstood pragmatarianism. I thought you said the view was that people can decide what they want their taxes to go to (you actually said “voters would decide the functions of government and taxpayers would decide which functions to fund” in a comment on Nov 1).  Now you say it that is not the case and that state programs must be approved through the channels currently in place in the U.S.  So the view really is “Yay U.S. form of government! Just add a method for taxpayers to keep a check on what the government does by failing to fund government-approved programs.”
    So, 2 comments:
    1. This provides no reason to think the current U.S. form of gov’t is good.  Rather, it starts there. 
    2. I doubt it really gets you around my problem.  If people all wanted to pay taxes for use in bulding “a satellite spying device that would be capable of seeing into and hearing all that goes on in all of our homes” its unlikely that their elected officials will not pursue the production of such a satellite.  The obvious response is to say “well then we’ll make it so they can’t choose that on their tax forms.”  But that is to accept a limit to government activity without argument.  I suggest an argument for such is needed.  All of the theories in the taxonomy seek to offer such.  Put simply, as I said earlier first we should determine–through rational argument–what the government should do and then we should decide how to fund it.

    • Andrew Cohen

      I can’t tell now if you are being serious or just trying to bait me.  Ah well.
      You said “In a pragmatarian system we’d still have congress, the supreme court, the president and the constitution.”
      The natural reading of that sentence is that people would NOT have the right to boycott funding those institutions (“channels currently in place”).  Yet, you give no argument for why that should be the case–even though, as I quoted above you previously said “voters would decide the functions of government and taxpayers would decide which functions to fund.”  Put simply: you both do and do not allow people to choose to boycott certain government offices–and you give no argument for the second conjunct (it contradicts the first so you should reject it anyway).

      That said:
      1. I really don’t trust anyone with the purse.  That is part of why I want  to settle the proper functions of government first and only then decide how to fund it.  I, of course, believe government should have very few functions–so very little money would be needed (by comparison to what we have now anyway).  Less money involved means less incentive for people to rent-seek or outright steal.
      2. I don’t think Smith’s invisible hand has much of anything to do with the Buddha’s  blind men and elephant.
      3. No comment re: free-rider problem etc.
      4. I don’t know Cait Lamberton’s work.  I may try to get acquainted with it.  On the other hand, I have not said anything against tax choice.  Indeed, I have repeatedly said it strikes me as a good idea, but not one that can replace a good argument about the proper functions of the state.
      5. No comment re: confirmation bias. (Though even more than at #3, there is an obvious comment to be made here.)

      • Andrew Cohen

        OK, getting better here.
        1. I don’t know why you think people would fund Congress, etc.  Perhaps more importantly (a very different point) I am not sure I understand the purpose in any of the 3 branches of the gov’t–save, perhaps the executive–for a pragmatarian.  After all, if the people choose to fund some program, that program will operate whether any of the 3 branches do.  They could fund a public attorney’s office, for example, without funding the judiciary.  (Public attorneys in private courts!)  How would this work?  Well the executive branch would hire some administrator.  (The “executive branch” would no longer be limited, I suppose in the standard way.)  Putting this point differently, you just need an administrative body to run the programs people fund.
        2. That’s a pretty loose connection, but OK.
        3a. I think you got my point here.   If your comments are less insistent on pushing your own view, you might get more responses from others.  
        3b. The fact that I am a libertarian does not mean I can not be objective about the arguments or their conclusions.  So far as I can tell, no academic thinks that except, perhaps, po-mo folks (and even they probably don’t really believe it).  I can and do often point out problems with libertarian arguments for X and arguments for libertarianism.  I can and do often point out problems with liberal egalitarian arguments for X and arguments for liberal egalitarianism.  The key, simply put, when one has a view, is to be extra vigilante about the arguments.  
        3c. I have no real solution to the free rider problem.  I think a better gov’t offers less possibilities for free-riding.  It probably can’t be eliminated entirely.  Governing must go on anyway.  (Of course, it is now possible to simply post on-line the names of all that do contribute their fair share–or any share–in an effort to shame free-riders.  I don’t pretend, though, that this would be fully effective.)
        4. Actually, its very common for liberal egalitarians to recommend more choices.  Indeed, typically, they want equal opportunity so that people can choose what they do and what happens to them (they might favor gov’t paying for college, for e.g., so that more people can choose it).  This is, in the abstract, something I also value, as a BHL (I wouldn’t want government paying directly for colleges, but making equal opportunity real is important in my view).  In any case, what is the name of the article?

        • Andrew Cohen

          Re #3. You want people to “be more tolerant of other people’s viewpoints.”  I am fine with that in some sense of the word “tolerant.”  I am not fine with telling people their viewpoints are right when they are not.  I am fine with the fact that they have their view points.  If I respect the person (I always start with the assumption that they are due respect), I am happy to have a rationally argumentative discussion in which I try to convince them of what I think is the truth and they do the same.  Along the way, one or both of us may alter our views.  If I don’t respect the other person, I won’t bother.  In either case, I fully believe that people should be free to hold their own views, even when they are wrong.  Of course, if their views require harming me or others, they need to be stopped–its one thing to believe something false, another to act on it, and still another to act on it by harming others.  That last should not be tolerated.  The first two should be.

          Re #5. Sorry, in the taxonomy I used the term “Egalitarian Liberalism” (1.2).  Here I accidentally switched it.  I meant it in that technical way.  I don’t think of myself as trying to “reclaim” the word as much as I see myself as trying to insist on its historically accurate  meaning (Locke, Hume, Smith, Kant, Constant, Mill, etc). That may amount to the same thing, but I doubt it since I certainly do not use the term as it is used in popular political discourse and don’t worry about such discourse (at least not usually).

          • Andrew Cohen

            I’m not enough of a scholar of the Constitution to answer the first question.  

            As for the second: likely, but I don’t think that assumption can be defended.

  • http://twitter.com/VelizCF CFV

    I don’t quite see the difference between 1.1.1, 1.1.1.1, 1.1.1.2 and 1.1.2, 1.1.2.1, 1.1.2.2.

    Even more, I don’t see how BHL merits to be a distinctive politico-philosophical position on their own. 

    If we agree on that “Political philosophy is a part of moral philosophy, but political philosophies are not complete moral theories. Different political philosophers can and do use different moral theories to defend their views. There are historical and contemporary libertarians, to take our example, that are consequentialists, others that are deontologists, and others that are teleologists.” it seems to me fair to conclude that BHL is just another moral strategy (or a cluster of strategies) to defend right-libertarianism (or classical liberalism), by taking into account consequences or a prioritarian view.

    • Andrew Cohen

      I don’t think BHL is a “strategy” of any sort.
      If you can say something more about why you don’t see a difference between RL and BHL, I am happy to reply.

      • http://twitter.com/VelizCF CFV

        “Strategy” is a plan of action designed to achieve or to try to achieve a particular goal or objective.

        As you said, you can defend a particular political philosophy by relying on different moral theories.

        I see BHL as a strategy to defend (or try to convince people of the true of) right-libertarianism (or classical liberalism).

        Since BHL takes as fundamental, ideas of “social justice” or “concern for the poor,” I think it is a moral strategy (something close to prioritarianism).

        This understanding seems to me fully compatible with what Matt Zwolinski says at the very beginning of this video:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgESZW3dPcM

        Check also what he says from 2:53 to 3:08.

        If you ask me why I see no difference between RL and BHL, a quick response would be because of Leibniz’s Law: the Indiscernibility of Identicals.

        • Andrew Cohen

          Yes, you can defend a particular political philosophy with different moral theories.  So there are different strategies for defending BHL.  That doesn’t mean BHL is a strategy to defend something else.
          As for using Leibniz’s Law and RL vs BHL: a quick response would be there are discernable differences in the definitions.

          • http://twitter.com/VelizCF CFV

            “you can defend a particular political philosophy with different moral theories.” In fact, I am not entirely sure about this. I am just following what you (and others, i.e., Randy Barnett in “The Moral Foundations of Modern Libertarianism”) have said.

            “So there are different strategies for defending BHL.” What are those different strategies? I didn’t see, for instance, a deontological defense of BHL.

            “That doesn’t mean BHL is a strategy to defend something else.” Point well taken. But, I believe, the onus of proof is on the side of those who want to argue that BHL is a distinctive politico-philosophical position on their own.

            “As for using Leibniz’s Law and RL vs BHL: a quick response would be there are discernable differences in the definitions.”

            I can define 2 as the square root of 4 and also as the first prime number. But that doesn’t mean I am talking about different things, entities or whatever numbers are!

            Again, I believe the onus of proof is on the side of those who want to argue that there are discernable sustantive differences between BHL and RL, and that BHL is a distinctive politico-philosophical position on their own.

          • Andrew Cohen

            I didn’t offer any defenses of BHL in the taxonomy.  I think there is a deontological defense to be had, but can’t offer it in full here, yet (there are hints–unintentional–in previous posts).  To be honest, I suspect  there are multiple deontological defenses of BHL.  Of course, I’ll likely only offer 1.

            I suppose its true that “the onus of proof is on the side of those who want to argue that BHL is a distinctive politico-philosophical position on their own.”  On the other hand, I’ve offered two pretty different looking definitions and you’ve said nothing about why despite the apparent differences, they amount to the same thing. 

            At  the end of the day, I think you’d say that the proof is in the pudding.  Or, perhaps “show me the theory!”  And that is fair.  For my part, I’m not quite ready to give a full account, but I think an awful lot has been said on this blog since its inception that pretty well indicates that BHL and RL are not really the same.  See, for one spot,
            http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/10/what-is-the-point-of-bhl/

      • Damien S.

        Well, it’s never been clear to me what the hard difference is.  A la “Some in this camp may approve of limited government interventions to end suffering”, *some* of the posters here have indicated support for tax-supported food stamps or such, but it doesn’t seem to be a requirement, and a lot of posting here has been conventional ‘right’ “libertarian prosperity will lift all boats” argument that I’ve heard (or made) since 1988.  A lot of the time it’s seemed the BHL activity here wants credit for thinking vaguely about the poor without committing to any actual policy differences with standard libertarians; IIRC, most of the concessions regarding state welfare have come in comments, not top blog posts.

        • Andrew Cohen

          Wait for my next post!

  • Christopher Morris

    Andrew, Looking over your categories, I’m not sure where I fit. I don’t feel I need to be a member of the family, and I am sure I’ll not be excluded from gatherings. So I’m not worried I don’t have a home. But I am not sure you have found a place for everyone you want. 

    The BHL camp (no association with Bernard Henri-Levy) comes closest. But the “bleeding-heart” metaphor suggests empathy for the suffering. I’d hope that everyone would feel for those who are deprived, and benevolence or charity remains a virtue. But the question here concerns state action, and I don’t think that benevolence or charity should guide governments. I do think polities like ours should have political mechanisms to provide a safety-net for its members, but these I think of as (non-voluntary) insurance schemes. Most state activity which I would support would aim at providing members with important public or collective goods that cannot be easily be provided otherwise (e.g., defense, much police protection, clean air and water, perhaps some level of education). But “a deep concern to prevent suffering”, which I hope is widely shared, is not a license for state action. 

    Many left-liberals in American politics err in confusing benevolence and justice and in thinking that programs aimed at relieving or ending suffering are justified by that goal. That’s a big mistake, and I hope sensible friends of liberty who are open to more-than-minimal state functions would not make it.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Chris-You are always welcome at the table, if I have any say!  That said, I think the problem you point out is that I am vague when I say “Some in this camp may approve of limited government interventions to end suffering; all agree that allowing individuals extensive (negative) liberty is likely to create the least suffering possible.”  On my own view, much of the suffering that exists (domestically and internationally) is due to harms caused by others (individuals, corporations, states–in ascending order of amount of harm caused).  Since I fully embrace Mill’s harm principle, I think that means interference is permissible.  I also think the interference can come from the state (in part, perhaps, because I think some of the harm’s are either caused by or unjustly permitted by the state apparatus–but that needs more fleshing out).  
      Two other points: (a) I am not sure that everyone feels for those who are deprived.  I wish they did, but I have doubts.  (b) Other BHL likely have different views about why state interference to help the deprived is permissible, if they think the latter.
      Final point: I think as a matter of policy as well as philosophy, libertarians should be working harder to end corporate welfare then personal welfare.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-DiMare/100000504645309 Rick DiMare

        “(b) Other BHL likely have different views about why state interference to help the deprived is permissible, if they think the latter.”
        Andrew, just want to mention here that “state interference to help the deprived” is not subject to philosophical debate under the three 1937 Social Security cases, though I do believe that one part of the Social Security tax, the one that falls directly on the employee, is debatable (and as controversial as it may sound, avoidable).

        • Andrew Cohen

          Rick-Fortunately, as a philosopher, I can leave it open to debate!  That is, my interests are what should, in fact, be the case, regardless of what is legal.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-DiMare/100000504645309 Rick DiMare

            Of course, Andrew, I was kind of playing the devil’s advocate from a legal perspective.

            So, regarding the 1937 Social Security cases, it’s agreed that from a theoretical/philosophical viewpoint, we can challenge the “legal wisdom” of both portions of the Social Security tax.

            But, my point is that, practically speaking, the tax that falls on the employer would be a waste of our philosophical conjecturing (because it would take a Supreme Court decision to reverse it), whereas challenging the tax that falls on the worker directly, would not be a waste of time because it’s avoidable now (with some legal education).

            Stated differently, employers are coerced into paying his/her part of the Social Security tax (and we should therefore focus on this part of the tax for social welfare), whereas employees are highly persuaded into paying their portion (and therefore we should consider liberating workers by allowing them to claim that their labor is their personal property, not income).

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-DiMare/100000504645309 Rick DiMare

            I would like to add that, in my view, it’s our consent of the legitimacy of the Social Security tax on the employER that is the real distinguishing feature of being a BHL. 

            In other words, my view assumes that it’s always Constitutional and permissible to tax/coerce the person or entity that hires/controls labor, but not always permissible to tax the worker for simply selling his/her energy or actions to an employer, a view that is necessary to keep the door open for the possibility that the worker will claim that his/her labor is personal property, not income.(I’m actually deriving this view from the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan (1895), and on how the 16th Amendment corrected the Constitutional doubt raised by that case, i.e., after the 16th, the Court assured everyone that income taxes levied on rental income are not direct taxes, either on landlords or on the underlying property source (real estate)).

  • http://whakahekeheke.tumblr.com Cal

    The taxonomical categorization of libertarians, for the most part, tends to confuse more than clarify… especially when it furthers the inherently divisive and vacuous “left-vs-right” inanity. Cohen’s taxonomy here is saved a bit by being better-than-average and not insisting on substantive differences, but allowing classification based on differences in “emphasis.” Most all significant libertarians have argued both along so-called “negative” lines for freedom and “positive” for material well-being or lack of suffering, though they have certainly emphasized different things. The only substantive differences, in terms of what they actually advocate, between libertarians seem to be 
    `
    (1) the obvious minimal statism vs. no statism, 
    (2) coercively disallowing some voluntary interaction the libertarian finds distasteful vs. prioritizing metanormative voluntaryism over whatever normative thing–e.g. anti-hierarchy, anti-wage employment, anti-porn, anti-drugs, and
    (3) allowing emergent private property conventions vs. imposing some constructivist tinkering with emergent property conventions to make them more equalitarian or whatever–e.g. by self-identified “left-libertarians” of most varieties, Proudhonian mutualists, participatory planning “libertarians,” georgists, anarcho-communists, and the like.
    `
    “BHL libertarianism” looks here to mean broadly-defined consequentialism in addition to, rather than only, deontology (which would apparently be “Right-wing” by this idiosyncratic terminology). So David Friedman and Milton Friedman would squarely be in the BHL category, as would Rothbard given he strongly argued for the betterment of well-being through his recasting of welfare economics and proposals for alternative institutions. This seems strange and makes BHL a rather pointless euphemism for consequentialist libertarianism. Where would Anthony de Jasay be put, I wonder.

  • Andrew Cohen

    Thanks for the comments Cal.  I’ll have to think further about all of this, but for now I’ll say my two things:
    1. My own view of moral theory tends  to be a deontology mixed with teleology or some broad form of pluralism (with deontological and teleological values being most important).
    2. Your #3 suggests, without actually entailing (I think) a distinction between natural rights theorists and others.  I think RLs tend to be natural rights theorists and BHLs are often not.  Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule there. 
    At the end of the day, per my original note 2, I think its important that the taxonomy is only about family resemblances. I realize a number of people find that unsatisfying.

    • http://whakahekeheke.tumblr.com Cal

      Yes, by this taxonomy, it more accurately would seem that only “negative” rights deontology would be “right-libertarian.” So Right-libertarianism = rights libertarianism. I can’t think of any prominent libertarians who argued *only* via deontological natural rights. A few, like Nozick and Rothbard, certainly *emphasized* natural rights arguments more than others. Interestingly, according to this, most economists are BH libertarians whereas most(?) libertarian political philosophers would be right-libertarians.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a bit odd that the specification of Egalitarian Liberalism straightforwardly excludes Rawls, whose first principle is the liberty principle, which takes priority over his other two principles (breaking his second principle into two principles). That is, contra your specification of the category, Rawls rejects the idea that we may sometimes limit liberty for the sake of equality of well-being (or, for that matter, equality of Rawlsian life-prospects (which are not measured in terms of well-being).

    • Andrew Cohen

      Oops.  Well, much depends on what is meant by “liberty” in each case.  I agree, though, Rawls should obviously not be excluded (though there are some minority readings of *Theory of Justice* that would exclude it from the category).  Perhaps there will be a future edition of the taxonomy that fixes this.  But I won’t promise it.  There will always be something to fix it.  (At the moment, though, this and adding an ALL LL specification would be the 2 I’d fix first.)

  • Anonymous

    I have never been a republican and I have never been a democrat, but I
    am ‘trying on’ libertarianism.  I have spent about a day at it, so the
    taxonomy was of great help to me.  I thought I would add a new 
    ‘species’ to it.  It is similar to BHL because of its concern for the
    vulnerable, but perhaps more likely closer to egalitarian if I knew more about
    it (pretty short description).

    1.4 Democratic Libertarianism: Not to be confused with the democratic party, it
    is a family of libertarian (and hence liberal) views believing that not all
    people are able to participate in a free-wheeling market system.  Such a system favors those who coldly seek
    wealth for the purpose of accumulating excessive power, impinging on the
    (negative) liberty of others and making everyone more vulnerable.  This puts the well being and personal freedom of the
    majority at risk, creating an economic gap that interferes with access to
    nutritious food, housing, health care, and adequate education.  It creates scarcity and its polar opposite,
    poverty.  A market system that values all hard working citizens is core to
    minimizing welfare programs. Some in this camp may approve of limited
    government intervention to check concentration of power and excessive wealth;
    all agree that allowing all individuals extensive (negative) liberty is likely
    to create the least suffering possible. 

    My question for people who like the idea of Pragmatarianism, is how to engage people?’  Most people don’t bother to vote at
    all.  How does it work if the majority dont participate?

    • Andrew Cohen

      I gather this is not quite serious.  If I am wrong, let me know.

  • Anonymous

    Note how this taxonomy is dominated by an “early Rawlsian” picture of political philosophy and the political spectrum.  Like ATJ, its main focus is on questions of justice, fairness, individual responsibility, and equality.  Similar to ATJ, it completely excludes what I believe to be the more fundamental (and important) question of political *legitimacy* (I realize that ATJ is where Rawls sets forth his natural duty of justice account, but I think it is fair to say that ATJ does not concern itself with questions of political legitimacy and political obligation, where PL focuses centrally on these questions).

    A. John Simmons provides an interesting account of libertarianism and political legitimacy/obligation in “Consent Theory for Liberatarians,” his “Justification and Legitimacy” is very helpful on these issues as well.

    • Andrew Cohen

      All true.
      My only excuse is that I think Simmons is right about legitimacy and have nothing to add there.  I thus operate thinking “we are going to have states regardless of legitimacy, so let’s figure out what would make them just.” 
      By the way, I prefer “TJ” or “ToJ.”

      • Anonymous

        I personally feel like this is one of the biggest problems in Rawls and most political philosophy in the Rawlsian tradition (taking the political society (and its boundaries) as a given, a historical fact in no need of legitimation and building a theory of justice with this assumption in hand).  It seems to me that a theory of legitimacy–i.e., what makes a political society legitimate (political authority + political obligation, etc.)–is extremely important in determining how one ought to approach questions of justice.  For example, questions of collective responsibility seem intimately connected to questions of justice.  It would seem fundamentally important to understand when a “collective” is normatively meaningful and thus take on certain “collective responsibilities.”  I for one believe that the abritrary and often gravely immoral contingencies of history provide an implausible account of the collective.

        • Andrew Cohen

          I think we have a good deal of agreement.  I think the collective gets no moral weight separate from that of the individuals within it.  I know of no modern state that I think legitimate.  Our disagreement seems only to be with what we think the next step is.  I think the next step is to figure out what justice requires and to try to make our state–and all states–just.  It may be that after its just, it can become legitimate. Or not.  But even if not, being just is good and I know of no other way to approach the possibility of making a state legitimate.

          • Anonymous

            We are somewhat close.  I think what I’m trying to claim is that *how* one answers the question of political legitimacy and political obligation (i.e., under what conditions is a political society legitimate) ought to be partly constitutive of a theory of justice.  I am thus leaning towards the idea that political legitimacy is normatively prior to a theory of justice.  As such, we ought to talk about what can make a political collective legitimate (consent? associative obligations? fairness? etc.) and then see how this affects our discussions of justice, equality, fairness, etc.  These are only some very rough thoughts on the matter, who knows…

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