Our recent series of discussions on libertarianism and workplace coercion has led me to formulate yet another distinction among types of BHLs. Liberal BHLs and Labor BHLs.
One way to distinguish Liberal BHLs and Labor BHLs is by which non-libertarians they cite as influences. Liberal BHLs like John Tomasi, Matt Zwolinski, Jacob Levy, Jason Brennan and myself (not sure about the others) draw from Mill and Rawls, whereas Labor BHLs like Roderick Long and Gary Chartier are more likely to draw on labor theorists and socialists like Proudhon, or new leftist socialists like Gabriel Kolko. They also differ with respect to the libertarians they draw on. Labor BHLs draw more from radical libertarians like Rothbard and libertarians hostile to wage-labor like Benjamin Tucker, whereas Liberal BHLs draw more from moderate libertarians like Hayek.
Another way to distinguish the two groups is by their attitude to class analysis. Labor BHLs are far more inclined to draw on class analysis, consistent with their socialist influences. So Labor BHLs will tend to see the world as usefully divisible into an exploiter and exploited class, even if they hold that many people participate in both exploiter and exploited social forms. Liberal BHLs tend to be hostile to class analysis (somewhat excepting Matt), often finding it as a social scientific ploy to defend the value-laden idea that society is a permanent clash between different interests. It is not that Labor BHLs think that society must function this way, but that in the absence of massive social revolution it in will function in this way (again, much like the socialist attitude towards the relative permanence of class conflict in the absence of revolution). Liberal BHLs follow Rawls in striving to always find a way to see society as a cooperative venture for mutual gain, even in statist societies.
Another important distinction between the two is their attitude towards the nation-state. Again like their socialist predecessors, Labor BHLs are nigh universally anarchists. They seek the revolutionary abolition of the state. Liberal BHLs are not necessarily statists, but they are far more comfortable with statist arrangements. Liberal BHLs are also sometimes willing to acknowledge that the state is legitimate, if not fully just. This has important implications for what sorts of policies they advocate. Liberal BHLs are far friendlier to a UBI than Labor BHLs, I suspect for this reason.
Interestingly, Liberal and Labor BHLs seem to have very different moral philosophical views. Liberal BHLs are more likely to be consequentialist or contractualist (more in the latter camp than the former), whereas Labor BHLs are more likely to be Aristotelians and natural law and natural rights types. I’m not sure how to explain this save via historical associations.
We can see the difference clearly illustrated in our various replies to the recent workplace coercion discussion. Roderick Long, a Labor BHL, responds by accepting the great importance of workplace freedom and argues, for empirical and praxeological reasons, that libertarian property rights regimes best promote workplace freedom. But Matt Zwolinski, a Liberal BHLs, tends to be kinder to employers, more willing to try and explain their behavior as the unfortunate result of economic forces. Roderick is more inclined to view employers as exploiters under statist conditions than Matt is. You might recall the controversy between Roderick and Matt on sweatshops to further illustrate my point.
For my part, since Roderick was perhaps the greatest (living) influence on my philosophical formation as an undergraduate and early graduate student, I bear Labor BHL markings. So I find myself more sympathetic to the Labor BHL hostility to state-protected employers than Matt is. However, I am ultimately more of a Liberal BHL, so I am concerned about the usefulness of class analysis and have less confidence in Labor BHL empirical claims as a result. I wouldn’t call myself a Lib-Lab BHL, but I’m in the vicinity.