Social Justice

Dang Nabbit

Dang Nabbit writes in the comments:


First of all, “hard” libertarian is a semiotic device you guys invented to make your fusionist  selves look better.  Please name one of these “hard’ libertarians that would choose free market capitalism even if it did immiserate the poor.

I’m pretty sure there are quite a few “hard libertarians”. There are also a large number of people who think of themselves as hard libertarians, though deep down they are not. But Dang Nabbit’s objection gets at something we’re trying to convey in this blog.

The left believes that libertarians believe:

Property Rights No Matter What: People are self-owners. Respecting their self-ownership requires a particular kind of laissez-faire property-rights regime. We should have that regime no matter what, even if it immiserates the poor and systematically leads to widespread poverty.

In fact, hardly any self-described libertarians believe this. Instead, in one way or another, most believe that a system of property rights is supposed to solve real human problems and make our lives better. Most libertarians advocate free markets and property right in large part because they think this will tend to make people’s lives go better.

The left wants us to have a debate over whether “property rights no matter what” is true. They’ll win that debate.

What we’re trying to say in this blog is that if you look carefully at what the (smart) left means by “social justice”, almost all us classical liberals and self-described libertarians count as caring about social justice.

Published on:
Author: Jason Brennan
  • Séan Llew

    One quick note: all semiotic devices are invented.

    • DN

      Well, I’ll be.

  • Adam Ricketson

    I think that some libertarians (e.g. Randians) would accept a set of laws that immiserates the masses because they have a “heroic” or “aristocratic” view of human dignity and think that it is more important that “great men” are able to express their greatness than it is for the masses to live in comfort.

    So basically, if economic freedom is a necessary condition for human dignity, then “free and starving” is arguably no worse than “unfree and comfortable”.

    • berserkrl

       some libertarians (e.g. Randians) would accept a set of laws that immiserates the masses because they have a “heroic” or “aristocratic” view of human dignity and think that it is more important that “great men” are able to express their greatness than it is for the masses to live in comfort.

      Maybe so, but if so, they’d have to go against what Rand explicitly says.

      • Adam Ricketson

        I don’t know what you mean by saying that ran explicitly rejected this attitude. I’d bet that she believed in some sort of trickle-down economic theory, but I thought that her stories and essays were pretty clear that the great men were supposed to pursue great projects because that was an expression of their love for life, not because these projects would help raise the standard of living for the masses.

        • berserkrl

           But she also said that the poor should embrace free markets out of self-interest (and so not out of concern to aggrandise the great).

          • But Rand still did aggrandize the great. The half-baked-semi-neitzschian elitism theme is explicit throughout her whole work – in which she defines philosophy itself in elitist terms (as the foundation of culture by special men), while significantly reducing history to the fruits of the ideas of special men (the philosophers and scientists).

            Rand also unservingly tied her definition of “self-interest” to her notion of “rationality” – which in turn lead her to have to more or less morally condemn the multitude as being irrational for *not* being rationally-self-interested enough to agree with and live by her ideals. They’re, at best, corrupted by bad philosophers in this view – and in need of being set straight by the good philosophical elite, which will be the foundation of the objectivist culture.

            I’m not sure what you think you’re accomplishing as a “left-libertarian” by trying to construe the most innocent interpretations of Rand possible.

  • berserkrl

    I think these counterfactuals are considerably trickier than the prevailing discussion suggests.  There’s a reason that most libertarians feel uncomfortable answering either yes or no to the question “would you still advocate libertarianism if you thought it had bad consequences?”  And the reason is not specific to libertarianism but is a general problem for nearly all schools of thought.  See here.

    • Kevin Vallier

      This may lead to a massive digression, but while I used to find the position you articulate in that piece attractive, it now seems to me to place *enormous* weight on conceptual analysis that I’m not sure the concepts can bear. While conceptual truths can be surprising, I worry that they can’t be *that* surprising (that is, that basic Rothbardian libertarian principles can be established via conceptual analysis). I suppose your response will simply be, “Go, keep reading, and by page 1000 you will see that they can bear the weight.” But I’ve done some of the reading and I still think the conceptual links are too loose, so much so that the counterfactual questions J poses are apt and should lead libertarians to worry rather than resist providing answer on conceptual grounds. 

    • Damien S.

       I’m unconvinced by even the statement of the problem, let alone the proposed solution…

  • Damien S.

    I don’t know about immiserating the poor, but IIRC Milton Friedman in _Capitalism and Freedom_ said that he would endorse policies of capitalism and freedom even if they weren’t as good for growth, because yay freedom.  Of course, by a happy coincidence he did believe capitalism was best for growth and aggregate wealth.

    I thought I’d made this comment recently but I didn’t see it go through.  It strikes me that most people aren’t consequentialist as a primary mode of thought, appealing instead to deontology or authority or tradition, but want to believe their policies have good consequences anyway, as backup reasoning or trump card or way of reaching people who won’t care about their primary reason.

    Of course, they can’t all be right, which means a lot of people are emotionally committed to believing in good consequences they don’t have the evidence for, and denying evidence of the bad outcomes of their policies.  Who’s likely to be right?  Perhaps the people who actually are primary consequentialists, with the fewest ideological pre-committments…

    • berserkrl

       Most people who advocate policy X for deontological reasons would be dismayed to discover that it has bad consequences.

      But by the same token, most people who advocate policy X for consequentialist reasons would be dismayed to discover that it expresses contempt for human dignity.

      So pretty much everybody, whether consequentialist or deontologist, is expecting consequentialist and deontological criteria to go together.

      But this needn’t be mere wishful thinking.  There may actually be good reasons to think they go together.

      • Damien S.

        Human dignity can be one of the consequences one cares about, and the consequentialist can adjust policies without a major ideological shift.

        • berserkrl

          Good grief!  Consequentialism-think run amuck!  To say that an action expresses contempt for human dignity is not to say that it causes a reduction in some result called “human dignity,” whatever that would mean.

    • j_m_h

      Seems to me that there might be a difference between sacrificing some growth to maintain freedom as opposed to suggesting that one person’s freedoms trumps a bunch of other peoples material well-being.

  • Exagoni

    So nobody here for ‘fiat justitia ruat caelum’?

    • berserkrl

       My point is that there are good reasons to resist giving either a straight yes or a straight no to “fiat justitia ruat caelum.”

      • Exagoni

        So you have more of a mixture of deontology/consequentialism, rather than completely either one?

        • berserkrl

           Sort of; but in a way it would be more accurate, on a eudaimonist model, to say one has completely both.

          • Exagoni

            Ah, I think I understand what you’re getting at now. That the correct deontological foundation leads to the best consequentialist ends, so you can’t really ignore either? Or I may just be missing the point again…

          • I believe he’s monistically tieing the two conceptually together so closely that the distinction itself collapses, and we’re left with a unity.

      • DN

        My street sense tells me that academics use thought experiments as slander.

  • Dang Nabbit, Inc.

    Dang Nabbit hit the blog headline!  Hahha. Famous. Send me an email if interested in Dang Nabbit tees, home brews, a new mini-album and a pilot tv show in the works…

    I see you are upping the ante here, Jason. Okay. I will take the bait:  You still haven’t named names. Name one of these hard libertarians that would accept free market capitalism even if it imisserates the poor.

    • Damien S.

      Well, I mentioned Milton Friedman, saying he’s accept capitalism even if it led to a poor society.

      Then there’s

      “at the risk of confirming Mark Kleiman in his belief that libertarians
      are loopy — I don’t speak for all libertarians, but I think there’s a
      good case to be made that taxing people to protect the Earth from an
      asteroid, while within Congress’s powers, is an illegitimate function of
      government from a moral perspective.”

      That’s Sasha Volokh, resisting taxes and government even if it means *killing* all the poor, and everyone else as well.

      • Dang Nabbit, Inc.

        Given that Friedman and Volokh support school vouchers/choice and other fusionist aims– can they really be considered “hard” libertarians?  We may have a new category.  “Soft” libertarians that don’t give a damn about the downtrodden.  

        • Damien S.

           Well, I remember many of the comments on that post criticizing Volokh — for granting that taxation might be allowable for purposes of national defense.  Bet you’ll find some of your hard libertarians there.

          Not to mention among the comments of this very site.  Note no one was saying that these people believe libertarianism will make the poor worse off; the party line is that the economy would be much larger and raise all boats.  But if the non-coericion principle is the bedrock of your morality, and you don’t have qualms about property, then how can you not be committed to libertarianism even if people starve to death?

          • berserkrl

             Well, again though, that question presupposes the very framework I think should  be challenged.

          •  starve to death

          • DN

            Ok, not sure how long this absurd game should continue. Dr. Long is right. 
            One could then say-continuing the craziness– that the BHLs have already demonstrated a commitment to people starving to death by their insistance on public policy measures as means. Look at the support for central banking:  how could the Washington DC Hegemonic Death Machine function without it?  Talk about absolutist dogmatism.  If this BHL thing is the best morality, then morality is a lie. 

          • Damien S.

            Yeah, countries never fought wars before the invention of central banking.  Wait.

        • We have a word for those people, DN. They’re called conservatives.

          • DN

            Conserving massive centralized political power, then I will buy it. Not much libertarian in it though.  School choice and vouchers are not market solutions.

    • j_m_h

      There was a guy named James Donald that used to post on the alt.- and talk.politics.libertarian groups. Happy now.

      • DN

        Quotation please.

        • j_m_h

          use google — you’ve got a reference to follow and you were asking for a name not a quote.

          • DN

            I will one up your snit picking:  I was asking Jason for a name.

  • Séan Llew
  • j_m_h

    How does you head feel today Jason? The wall still seems to be standing.

  • “In fact, hardly any self-described libertarians believe this.”

    In various ways, plenty of anarcho-capitalists in particular certainly do. I’ve encountered quite a few anarcho-capitalists in my day (as I used to be one myself) who are essentially absolutists about property. It manifests in multiple ways – one of which is a pet peeve against consideration for “lifeboat scenarios”, and a more general notion that granting any concession to significant side-constraints to property rights is a “slippery slope” to “socialism” and amounts to “aggression” a priori. These are the kind of views one gets from an a prioristic approach to rights – and the associated “natural rights” position.

    Now, you might deny that this is a view taken by the libertarian intellectuals in academia that this blog is most associated with, and chalk it up to a more nebulous group of less-sophistocated “followers”, but it’s there – and it’s reinforced by some of the intellectuals themselves. Just look at the Mises Institute. It’s the center for dogmatic propertarianism.

    But let’s put that aside, since you’re trying to modify the discourse as really being over a somewhat different contention that is consequentialist in orientation. This is where things start to get a little more subtle, but the absolutism remains an issue:

    “Instead, in one way or another, most believe that a system of property rights is supposed to solve real human problems and make our lives better. Most libertarians advocate free markets and property right in large part because they think this will tend to make people’s lives go better.”

    There are a few things to note here. Firstly, a position that claims in general terms that property rights are justified because of good consequences, or that property rights are so closely tied to good consequences that they are all-around just, is still attempting to maintain a hard line on property rights – one that, in practical terms, doesn’t seem to really differ from the view you want to set aside as a phantom.

    It doesn’t differ because in denying the existence of any significant conflicts between property rights and our interests (or important considerations about the conditions of our lives), it simply sails over the consequentialist conflicts around property rights to the effect of defending something that amounts support for property rights as if they were more or less apriostically good anyways. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that some critical observers may see an already existing motivation to defend a strong stance on property rights anyways. Consequentialism is being added as a backwards rationalization for something already favored in all likelyhood.

    The heart of the problem is, of course, in the implied denial of significant conflicts between property rights and human interests. But unfortunately, there are plenty of these. If you want to approach the nitty gritty real world through consequentialist lens, then you’re going to have to account for the fact that it actually is nitty gritty. This means aknowledging that there are notable contexts in which property rights can go against human interests and the very definition of “social justice” that you give. 

    In order to maintain such a strong support for property rights through the pretense of a consequentialist lens, one has to essentially ignore much of the real-world negative consequences that are associated with property, as well as the incommensurability of values between people that stands in the way of any proposal one makes for a property rights regime that is in everyone’s interests.

    It is mighty convenient for libertarians to (1) deny that they take an absolutist stance on property rights (2) proclaim that they would reject property rights to the extent that they conflict with human interests and then go on to (3) proclaim that property rights are beneficial to human interests and have little or no meaningful consequentialist conflicts around them. The 3rd part is the key to why it comes full circle. A back-door plan for “social justice” should property rights fail is pretty meaningless when combined with a general view that property rights can’t fail. The project remains insufficiently critical of property rights, while “social justice” remains a thought experiment.

  • DN

    In the Marxist Prem post you said that hard libertarians would stay the free market course even if it immisserates the poor. Then I called you on it– asked you to name one of these so-called hard libertarians. You have not. Instead, you add this:

    “In fact, hardly any self-described libertarians believe this”.

    I take that as a retreat. 

  • Here’s perhaps a more interesting question: Does there exist such a person that believes, all things considered, that under strict libertarianism — however that’s construed — that their own personal fortunes would be substantially worse, and still supports the proposition?

    And by substantial, I don’t mean a relatively wealthy retiree forgoing SS and Medicare. I mean someone with a LOT to lose like Medicaid for a disabled child or an unemployment check that keeps you from starving.

    I mean… it’s all well and good to theoretically be willing to see some hypothetical poor person worse off if that’s what it takes, but what if that poor person is you or someone you love?

    • Damien S.

       Well, I was a purist libertarian as a teenager, who’d grown up on food stamps (not sure if I knew that), free/reduced school lunched in (good) public schools, taking public transit, and getting Federal scholarships to college.  So I was opposing policies that kept me alive and provided for me.   I don’t remember what I really thought about that at the time, or if I thought it through, whether I took joy in logic and purism or just didn’t make the connection or took refuge in such changes being nowhere near implementation while I could vote for ending the drug war.

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Please name one of these “hard’ libertarians that would choose free market capitalism even if it did immiserate the poor.

    Although I deeply believe that free market capitalism is the best system to create wealth, I would still support it even if it could be shown that a centrally directed economy was more productive. Because, in addition to valuing the wealth creation aspects of free market capitalism, I also value the liberty inherent in that system.

    Similarly, some societies do not place as high a premium on freedom of speech as we do; they believe that it is better for society at large if individuality is tempered in favor of the greater good. Even if it could be proven that such a society was better able to care for its poor, I would not want to live in such a society. I place a higher value on liberty, both my own as well as others, than on guaranteeing a full belly for all.

    • Here’s a curve ball for you: I place my own basic interests above any particular abstract principle – whether one labels it “liberty” or not. In extension of my basic interests, I also hold the basic interests of others above any particular abstract principle – whether one labels it “liberty” or not. In practice, any abstract “liberty” you propose is a restriction on *my* liberty and the liberty of those I value to the extent that it is used as a principle over and above our actual interests that is conceptually disconnected from the conditions of our lives. *Concrete* liberty will always triumph over nebulous, simplistic systems of rules that call themselves “liberty”.

    • Dang Nabbit, Inc.

      1) You have not said if you would be willing to “immiserate the poor”. 2) I asked Dr. Brennan to name a name. He still has declined and/or backed-off.  3)  Anon Y. Mous is not really an identifier.  Cool anyway.

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  • good_in_theory

    I’d divide hard libertarians into two categories, from the perspective of an outsider (me):

    Those who rely upon

    1. The pseudo-moral claim that liberty/property (equipollent, I guess, via Lockean theories of property acquisition) should never be violated.


    2. The pseudo-empirical claim that any proportionate diminishment (taxation) and redistribution of the market determined gains from economic activity will perniciously distort individual and total welfare.

    Type 1 could be called Self-Ownership Absolutists.
    Type 2 could be called Calculation Absolutists.

    The position of type 1 could be summed up as such: “Taking my stuff is violent and coercive, and thus you shouldn’t do it,”

    Even shorter: “Don’t take my money, thief.”

    The position of type 2 could be summed up as such: “If you take my stuff you won’t know what to do with it, because you’ve just ruined the only efficient distributive system we have – the market.”

    Even shorter: “Don’t take my money, idiot.”

    Together they make the party of, “Leave me the f*** alone, and don’t talk to me unless I ask you to”

    • I’ll add: The second premise/type has to assume that market systems already are more or less the most optimum provision of public welfare. Blindness to injustice is built into the narrative – and functionally, a defense of the status quo. I think that the minarchist-oriented writers at this blog do essentially defend the status quo of liberal capitalism in one way or another. They certainly take most of it for granted.

      Now, some more subtle libertarians (mostly likely the left-lib market anarchists) can try to enter in at this juncture with the position that “we don’t have a true free market”, while maintaining that “a true free market”, if we had one, would be the most optimum provision of public welfare. But then one is trying to make an empirical claim about something that one has defined as not existing yet (an idealistic definition), which only adds to the dubiousness of the overall empirical claims about the market.

      The market anarchist, at this point, is commonly left with little choice but to reduce whatever injustice is recognized as being part of the status quo to the existence of state interventions. This commits them to a reductonistic narrative of a simple dichotomy between state power and market power, in which state intervention is singled out as the primary if not sole causal factor rubbing up against the most optimum provision of public welfare. I call this “anti-state reductionism”. As an empirical claim, it brings a dubious conceptual scheme to the table that filters the empirical information.

      • good_in_theory

        One might add: with artifice as always pernicious, and natural emergence as always optimal.

        I’d also tack on to my post that you can find plenty of comments on this site that are quite literally nothing more than either of my two abbreviated positions.

        Take this comment, from the UBI thread, a recipient of 6 ‘likes’ (a rather high number), as an instance of (1)

        “I’m a tolerant libertarian–I’m okay with her trying out her social justice ideas. As long as she keeps her hands out of my fucking wallet.”

        Take this comment (recipient of 4 likes – still relatively high), also from the UBI thread, as an instance of (2)

        “if you want to talk absolutes– there certainly is an absolute necessity for competitive private property in exchange to form real useful prices…. Individuals have their own value judgments. But the market is the only means known for producing a 1st world material existence.  The state, on the other hand,  is destruction, conquer, privilege and poverty. This is not a moral statement. Economic reasoning makes no moral statements. The state necessarily leads to lesser material existence;  that is the nature of violence.”

        That post manages to fuse both (1) and (2), as we later get,

        “the political creations you advocate force persons into divisons of labor based on violence. Taxation is violence when one does not want to participate.”

        • DN

          “emergence as optimal”…There is a difference beween Hayek and Mises. Though Hayek may fit your accusation in one of his incarnations. Not so Mises. He was a rationalist and saw economic calculation as a deliberate tool to deploy. Not only that, he never said that calculation was perfect, only that it was necessary to get beyond barter and subsistence. Nor did he say that the market was everything. Your criticisms are the reductionist.

          • good_in_theory

            Optimal doesn’t mean perfect.

          • good_in_theory

            In fact I never said any of the things you attribute to me as having attributed to others.

            I never said calculation was perfect.
            I never said it was necessary to use market calculation.
            I never said the market was everything.

            I said, quite simply, that by my view of popular use of the calculation argument, market calculation is the most efficient and optimal way to distribute goods, and any interference in the distributive pattern occasioned by voluntary interactions is pernicious.

            Or, to quote, “any proportionate diminishment (taxation) and redistribution of the market determined gains from economic activity will perniciously distort individual and total welfare.”

            Now, since you think I am being especially uncharitable, is this because you believe that there is no purely epistemic argument against political redistribution, or because I have somehow mis-stated the contents of a purely epistemic argument against political redistribution?

      •  “I’ll change my position if hell freezes over, but hell probably won’t freeze over”

        And even just that much — advocating a party-line libertarianism with a purely hypothetical caveat — is enough to engender some pretty hateful, or at least dismissive, comments.

        My experience at this site has only served to reinforce my impression that libertarianism is a kind of pseudo-religion. Suggesting the mere possibility that a libby world might actually not be a paradisaical existence complete with pretty unicorns farting rainbows is like asking Rick Santorum (frothy be his name) What if maybe God isn’t real?

        If you think that’s over-the-top… well, I’ve actually seen a pretty hard-line Austrian describe a free market as “ultimate bliss”. Sorry, but that’s clearly spiritual/religious language.

        It also suggests to me a bit of insecurity about their position, akin to the long-suspected-and-recently-confirmed notion that many, if not most, homophobes actually harbor homoerotic leanings.

        • DN

          You slander like a late 19th century Marxist.  However, there is a kernel of truth there.  Hans Hoppe, the great economist, allies with racialists attached to the Pioneer Fund.  This is a complex matter. but even so, economics does not rely on racial IQ theory….

          •  I don’t know what the hell race has to do with it; I certainly never brought it up. Anyway, I mean no slander; just making an observation.

            Libertarians are some of the most PC compliant people I’ve ever seen.

        • Yes, it is amusing how despite the fact that most of the writers at this site do not actually make any significant deviations from the standard planks of anglo-American libertarianism, their mere suggestions of a thought experiment about a backup plan, or their mere use of the word “social justice”, gets the libertarians who are one step more hardcore (basically, anarcho-capitalists and Ludwig Von Mises Institute types) to froth at the mouth and cry “socialism”.

          This just underscores how broken libertarian culture already is.

      • Damien S.

        So I’ve been reading Pinker’s book on violence.  A big point he makes is that historically anarchy and non-state societies have really high violence rates, like 10% of the people dying of violence, or annual rates of 100-100 per 100,000.  Vs. the 1 per 100,000 of Western Europe.  He identifies a five fold reduction just from having a crude but functional state at all, Hobbes’ Leviathan at work, which he calls the Pacification Process, followed by a 5-10 fold reduction from a more complex Civilization Process, connected to trade (people are more valuable alive; getting into customers’ heads), court-oriented courtesy and gentility, valuing of dignity and self-control rather than honor and revenge, not eating with steak knives you can easily stab people with, etc.

        It occurs to me that anarchists either deny the violence of the state of nature, or believe that the Civilizing Process can be kept independent of the Pacification of the state.  E.g. that anarcho-capitalist private protection agencies will mostly behave like polite businessmen and not like the mafia or gangsters or feudal lords, or that a culture of self-control can survive in conditions that historically have always favored a culture of honor.  The reason for believing this other than faith and hope seems to be unclear…

        Anarchists of course also often talk about “the State” as if there were no significant difference between North Korea and Switzerland. This is particularly funny as recently elsewhere I noted that left-anarchist ideas often just sounded like democracy, and a leftist confirmed that indeed you could have a Trotskyist and an anarchist describing the same vision of society, with delegate democracy and usufruct property and such, but disagreeing about whether that constituted a state or anarchy…

      • DN

        Blindness to injustice, really?  My grandparents were slaves, pal. 
        Have you ever picked up an Austrian econ book, for real? Even if you disagree with it– how come you don’t seem to address the calculation issue. Rather, you level accusations of reductionism and whatnot. “Filtering empirical information…”   You are confusing Austrians with the positivists and model makers, my friend.   It is the quality of apriori reasoning that gives realistic meaning to data.

        • Well, given that your comments here are focused on your own pet peeves that have nothing directly to do with what I was actually talking about, I feel no responsibility to address the calculation problem. The accusation of reductionism was about how one views social phenomena in reduced terms of market vs state. And the accusation of blindness to injustice was about bringing assumptions and conceptual schemes to the table that simply *do not* consistently jibe with the data, and how most of the thinkers here, at an ideological level, simply have an already existing commitment to liberal capitalism that they can’t see past.

          But it does have bearing on Austrianism, insofar as Austrians habitually engage in analysis that has to filter out incommensurability and institutional coercion in order to positively construe “the market” as if it was simply an emergent optimality in which everyone inherently is better off. All the worse for Austrianism. Your “apriori reasoning” represents assumptions and conceptual schemes that I can amply critisize.

          • DN

            Your best argument is that anyone that disagrees with you is suffering from ideology. You learned a lot from the 19th century Marxists.

    • Dang Nabbit, Inc.

      Disingenuous. You can’t beat the calculation argument, fool.

      • purple_platypus

         Spoken like a true believer…

        • DN

          lazy, bigoted answer.

          • purple_platypus

             Lazy, yes, I’ll own up to that. Bigoted, I don’t see where you get off saying. But in any case, perhaps the most hypocritical response possible, and one that doesn’t do much to disprove Ron’s point…

      • good_in_theory

        I think I paraphrased this earlier.

        How did I put it?

        “Don’t take my money, idiot.”

        Call me psychic, I guess.

        • DN

          Sticks and stones…

          • good_in_theory

            You seem to be operating under the illusion that I desire to debate you about the calcluation argument, when my point was simply that there is a segment of libertarians who take the calculation argument as undisputable, irrefutable truth.

            Shall I quote you once more?

            “Disingenuous. You can’t beat the calculation argument, fool.”

            I appear to have been correct.

            Whether or not the calculation argument is truth, it is clearly treated as truth, and as treated as truth, mostly capable of invalidating any claims redistributive planning/design mechanisms have of improving welfare.

          • DN

            Does the argument rise to the level of scientific truth, meaning, within the bounds of rationality open to criticism other than the knee jerk “apriori reasoning in economics is metaphysical nonsense”? 

  • carlmilsted

    Many libertarians — probably the majority of LP members — are simply in denial. They claim the a priori moral argument based on property and then slip into consequentialist arguments whenever the consequences of the strident stand are too unpleasant to contemplate. See Ruwart’s “Healing Our World” for the most blatant example of this kind of mushy thinking.

    See my own “Bridging the Two Libertarianisms” from the December 2009 issue of Liberty (page 35) for the in depth analysis, and a proposal for an explicit “moral consequentalism” to end the endless infighting among libertarians. (pdf of this issue at )