Consequentialism, Libertarianism

A Libertarian Mungerfesto: In Five Parts

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously wrote “A Communist Manifesto” in anticipation of an imminent earthquake in world politics.  Of course, in 1848, that seemed plausible. A number of people have written some version of a “Libertarian Manifesto,” often with an analogous forecast of the eschaton for the state.  (Two of the best are M. Rothbard’s effort, and D. Friedman’s effort, IMHO) I want to try something much more modest:  an idiosyncratic “Mungerfesto,” with my own view of what Libertarianism might be.  My experience in the “Big L” movement of libertarian politics warns me that this is more than enough to get me into trouble.  So my point is that I am not speaking for anyone except myself.  But I will presume to try to persuade you I’m right. LNConv-Speech When I was a keynote speaker in 2008 at the LP National Convention, and then running for Governor in November of that year, I learned that we as a movement tend to focus on small points of doctrine as if they were the very fulcrum of our faith.  Heresy and apostasy must be cleansed with fire and humiliated with criticism; infidels can be ignored. Of course, that means many of our bitterest fights are with each other.

As I wrote over at the Freeman, it is arrogant to think that I know (and I’m implying it is ignorant to think that YOU know, my friends) just what that future looks like.  (As my JB has noted, sometimes the responses to ideas are very close to religiously-framed non sequiturs.)  There are some principles, however, that I think are worth talking about.  And that’s what I aim to do here.  So, set your flames to “Extra Crispy” and have at it!

Part I:  What are Libertarians?  Is There More Than One “Type” of Libertarian? An old bromide tells us that there are two types of people in the world:  Those who divide people into groups, and those who don’t.  We, meaning libertarians, tend to be dividers.  People who agree with us, on every detail, “count” as libertarians.  This famous version of the Nolan Chart captures that view pretty well:  10-10 or you suck!  (If you haven’t taken the quiz, here it is.)  (If it matters, I’m a P9-E7). Nolan Chart Socialist One of the problems we face here at BHL is that the absolutist version of libertarianism, based on natural rights imperatives, is neither very persuasive to outsiders nor very satisfying to those of us who think that “social justice” cannot simply be dismissed as a category mistake.  It is true enough that, as Hayek and others claimed, “justice” is an attribute of human choices and actions.  But that doesn’t absolve social institutions from the requirement that the rules  facilitate moral action by individuals.  Quite the contrary.  If you believe that incentives matter, and that individuals have moral obligations, then you should care about institutions.  Some institutions are better than others.  And that is really all that “social justice” means:  the collective (Yikes!  The “C” word!) judgments embodied in institutions and policies have moral attributes, and can be judged on moral grounds.  In fact, institutions are just congealed moral intuitions, either products of conscious choice or traditions and inertia. (Wm. Riker said institutions were “congealed preferences.”  I would say congealed moral intuitions, because preferences are actually harder to define.)

In short, while it may turn out “we” can’t do some things, it is evil simply to assume “we” shouldn’t do any thing, as a “we.”  There is a “we.”  Homo economicus is a sociopath.

I’m clearly a member of the group that divides people into groups, because I think there is more than one type of libertarian.  I think the two groups are destinationism and directionalism.  The difference depends on how you reach a libertarian conclusion.  The destinationist starts with two inviolable moral and ethical precepts that describe the ultimate libertarian destination, or ideal society. (a)  Full self-ownership, with unrestricted rights to control and alienate both one’s own body and the products of one’s labor. (b)  An absolute bar on the initiation (not use, initiation) of force, even if such force would have net social benefits in consequentialist terms. The destinationist libertarian then uses these constraints as restrictions on the form and function of the state in the ideal, ultimate sense.  No violations are tolerated, no trade-offs are acceptable on consequentialist grounds.

The second group, the directionalists, are incremental, and focus on immediate policy concerns.  For the directionalist, any move that increases self-ownership, even marginally, and harms no one, is an improvement.  Improvements should be supported by the libertarian, according to this destinationalist  perspective, even if the policy is not “truly libertarian.”  In fact, it’s not clear what “truly libertarian” even means.  Things are more or less, not all or nothing.  Any policy that increases the liberty and welfare of one or more individuals, while harming no one, is better than the status quo.  If most people are indifferent, and a few are better off, moving from the status quo to a new policy is justified for the directionalist.   The directionalist, if presented with several alternatives, would want to choose that alternative that enhances liberty and welfare the most.  The trick is judging political feasibility:  the sweet spot is achieving the maximal increase in liberty and welfare that is possible at a point in time. How do you measure that?  How would you know?  More important, how would “we” know?

I admit there are problems, big ones.  “Welfare”?  Seriously?   Look, we can talk about welfare, of a group, we just have to be careful.  We have to stick to self-ownership, consent, and subjectivism.  People are the only legitimate judges of their own welfare, and they have to agree, or at least agree not to object.  For any given policy, an assessment requires that have to talk about it.  It’s not obvious, the choices are hard, and working for change involves actual (ick!) politics and policy analysis.

To summarize:

Destinationist libertarians identify ideal policies, using ideal theory.  For the destinationist, of course, anything other than the ideal outcome is an unacceptable compromise, because sanctioning a new but  non-ideal status quo implies complicity.  This is the “don’t vote, it only encourages them!” view of politics.

Directionalist libertarians identify a path that leads from the status quo toward ideal policies, using pragmatic and consequentialist considerations.   This is the libertarian answer to the common “Tell you how you get from A to B to C” objection we hear so often.  Actual, concrete policy proposals, things we could do now, and some of these policy proposals are motivated at least in part by concerns for social justice.

To close, let me admit (as is no doubt predictable) that I am a directionalist.  I learn a lot from my destinationist friends, and I value your insights.  You keep us all honest, and your objections are useful, because you remind us what our goals should be.  But if you think that all policies that differ from your imagined libertopia are equally bad, then you are just wrong.  Some non-ideal policies are much less bad than others. In the next four parts of this essay, I will try to argue for some analytical criteria for making those sorts of “less bad” incremental improvements, and make an argument for two policies that will make my destinationist friends shriek and rend their garments.  Back soon…

  • John

    Yes, but a directionalist such as myself, believes in constant progress, with the primary goal of any organization to be to eliminate its own necessity and finally itself. Otherwise, it is just socialism lite.

    From what I’ve seen, BHLs simply want to accept the human conditions of poverty and dependence, rather than eliminate them through constant devolution of the statist mechanisms that create most of the problem.

    IOW, this is pot, kettle, black stuff, saying that destinationalists are unpersuasive. I see no persuasive argument to BHLs except that they are willing to be socialists lite which will never be persuasive to liberals. They want more socialism not less and won’t accept compromise on the matter. To simply accept a social safety net is not enough for them and never will be. We’ve had that for 80 years and it hasn’t stopped them from calling Republican safety net supporters “Nazis” and “killers”.

    • Phil

      Are you sure you’re a directionalist? From what you’re saying (your talk of “socialism lite”), you sound like a paradigm example of a destinationalist.

      • John

        Yes because I view socialism lite as only a transition, not as an acceptable status. BHLs appear to accept socialism lite as an acceptable compromise and are saying they are willing to stop there when they achieve it.

        What they don’t understand is that leftists don’t compromise and certainly don’t accept regression from their own direction and will fight in every way to stop BHLs as much as they would a real libertarian. However, they will sometimes use BHLs as tools to suit their agenda and then discard and trample them the moment they perceive them as a threat.

        • Phil

          My experience with leftists is that they don’t want to let the least fortunate among us slip through the cracks and suffer unnecessarily. They might have mistaken views about how to help them, and if so, we should explain where they are going wrong, and the reasonable ones will listen.

          • John

            Right, but they feel the need to mandate that others do the helping, not them. Now, if someone is a leftist who believes in helping people and asks me to help, I will help, but I resent being forced to help people I don’t know and having my money to go drugs or gambling or beer and other stuff they simply don’t need for survival and not being able to see that the money helps them in any way.

            Even if you don’t want to call it theft, it’s a gross misappropriation of my money and I don’t like it one bit.

      • adrianratnapala

        And you (in this particular sentence only) sound like the paradigm of an Inquisitor. I think while “FOOism” might be a good name for FOOish ideas, its rarely an accurate name for people that have FOOish ideas.

        Say A.Rat. is a “directionalist” because he supports incremental reforms in practical politics. But he say he also has some pretty radical ideals, and chooses his preferred increments to move towards those ideals. So really A.Rat is a “destinationst”. But wait! A.Rat is a living person, as the world changes his ideas and possibly his ideals can change too. Directionalist after all?

        I can keep going, dingdonging between the two ideas ad infintum, but I think you get the point.

  • Brandon Byrd

    While I appreciate the spirit of this post, I’m not convinced that destinationists are committed to the view that all deviations from their ideal policies are equally bad. No one would argue that a liberal democratic state with a social safety net is on a par with a command-and-control economy in which speaking one’s mind earns you a trip to the gulag. Consequently, I don’t think that there’s an inherent conflict between destinationism and directionalism. Most destinationists (myself included) favor marginal or incremental changes from the status quo toward the libertarian ideal. Does anyone actually advocate for a revolutionary, radical overnight change from the current political climate to their preferred version of Libertopia?

    Perhaps the difference between the two camps (if there are indeed two camps) stems from the fact that libertarian thinkers can be engaged in two different types of project, and that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what project a particular figure is engaged in. Destinationists spend their time trying to ascertain what form of social system is ideal from a moral point of view. They are not primarily concerned with how we get there from here, because that’s not the question they’re asking. Directionalists, on the other hand, are concerned with the issue of how we move from the present state of affairs toward a more free and prosperous future. Unlike ideal theorists, the people who are involved in beltway activism, policy making, and think-tanking ARE concerned with figuring out the the practical implications of various alternatives, and figuring out what positions to lobby for given the present political context. It’s not that directionalists and destinationists are two different types of libertarian, they’re just engaged in two different projects.

    • John

      Desitinationalists are the navigators and Directionalists steer the ship.

  • David Friedman

    “For the directionalist, any move that increases self-ownership, even marginally, and harms no one, is an improvement. ”

    This promptly gets you into the problem that makes the Pareto criterion, taken literally, very nearly useless. There may be individual acts that harm no one, but it is hard to think of a change in social institutions that meets that criterion. If you take it seriously, your directionalist is stuck at his starting position. Abolish tariffs? Surely hurts some stockholders of currently protected industries. Legalize drugs? Current providers, with expertise in functioning in illegal markets, are worse off. Legalize gay marriage? Anyone offended is worse off, not to mention a woman who loses her bisexual boyfriend to a male rival.

    Your criterion doesn’t solve the hard problems, it evades them.

    • John

      That’s why a directionalist seeks slow but steady change, not instantaneous arrival. That way everyone has time to adapt.

      The comment about bisexuality is pretty absurd though. Like “gay marriage, I can finally leave my wife!!!” WTF.

      • Sean II

        “The comment about bisexuality is pretty absurd…”

        A very good reason to suspect he was kidding.

        • John

          Yeah, not sure these days. I see some pretty absurd stuff said quite seriously. Like “you don’t have a right to all of your money because you don’t deserve it”.

    • Omar

      Utility is not the same as self-ownership. A woman who loses her boyfriend is no less a self-owner than before. If you interpret that quote literally, there is no issue here.

      • David Friedman

        The relevant term is not “self ownership” but “harm.”

  • This sounds a bit like Amartya Sen’s nyaya/niti distinction which, on examination, proved empty. The truth is when every concept used is essentially contested it really adds nothing to the debate to continue making Philosophy’s ‘distinctions without a difference’. In this case, admitting that the definition of things like self-ownership and ‘initiating coercion’ are, by their nature, essentially contested means that there is no substantive/ procedural dichotomy, dress it up howsoever you will.
    Still, the fact that Libertarian philosophy is just as worthless as any other type does tell us something about the nature of Liberty which, deep down, we already know. In nuce, it is that shite is liefer talked than heard.

  • Phil

    “The destinationist starts with two inviolable moral and ethical precepts that describe the ultimate libertarian destination, or ideal society. (a) Full self-ownership, with unrestricted rights to control and alienate both one’s own body and the products of one’s labor. (b) An absolute bar on the initiation (not use, initiation) of force, even if such force would have net social benefits in consequentialist terms.”

    Where does homesteading fit into this? Natural resources are not a product of one’s labor, so it seems like you’re missing a pretty important precept.

    I often hear natural rights libertarians argue on practical grounds, that homesteading is the only practical way for people to acquire private property. This seems to be the only thing they like to argue on practical grounds, while everything else is some holy, unbreakable principle.

  • Peter G. Klein

    This is an interesting discussion, and I look forward to the future installments. But I think Mike gets off on the wrong foot by introducing a false dichotomy between “destinationalists” and “directionalists.” First, it’s impossible to evaluate the libertarian-ness of any incremental reform without some idea of the desired end state, so directionalism presupposes destinationalism. Second, in my experience, those who identify as directionalists are often quick to dismiss criticism from other libertarians as being destinationalist — “You’re just an idealistic dreamer, preaching to the choir, I’m a pragmatist trying to make a difference today! — when actually the disagreement is entirely directionalist.

    Let me give an example. In the 1990s there was disagreement among libertarians about trade policy, with some individuals and groups endorsing NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO, and others opposing these. I was recently told by a very prominent libertarian that the libertarians opposing these treaties and institutions were guilty either of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, or of pandering to their nativist financial supporters — i.e., of being either fools or knaves. In fact, some libertarians opposed these managed trade treaties because they thought they represented incremental moves *away* from genuine free trade – achieving small reductions in tariff rates at the expense of stronger labor and environmental rules that make overall trade patterns less free, not more free. The managed-trade proponents cast this disagreement as one between shrewd, pragmatic directionalists and naive, foolish destinationalists, when it was actually a disagreement about the actual direction in which these policies were pushing.

    Of course, in the intellectual division of labor, there are people who spend their time theorizing about big-picture, long-term issues, and others who prefer to focus on day-to-day policy disagreements. But this needn’t imply some kind of philosophical divide between idealists and pragmatists. Even Mike’s voting example falls flat; I know plenty of libertarians who don’t vote, not because of a philosophical objection to voting, but because they understand the paradox of voting, or they think that low voter participation rates will undermine confidence in government, leading to incremental improvements in liberty, or for some other pragmatic reason. Such people are both destinationalist and directionalist.

  • Kevin Vallier

    Mike, in general I very much agree with the post. But I wanted to offer a small but important corrective. Like Sen in The Idea of Justice, you associate directionalism with consequentialism and pragmatism. I don’t think that’s right. There are lots of cool ways to be a nonideal deontologist (and weird ways of being an ideal consequentialist, but I’ll leave that aside). Consider Gaus and Lomasky’s social contracts: they’re mostly methods of helping us rank various systems of rules according to a plurality of considerations, not identifying an ideal point at which we must aim. For what it’s worth, I think the whole public reason tradition is best understood as a form of non-ideal deontology, as it begins non-consequentialist justification from within the circumstances of justice and recognizing the fact of reasonable pluralism.

    • Mike Munger

      I think that’s fair, in my short summary. But then I go to a lot of trouble to claim that the nature of institutions have moral qualities, at the margins. Still, you are right that my short summary at the outset can be read that way. And I don’t really mean that, so thanks!

      • If Euvoluntary transactions never carry buyer/seller remorse, then they are ergodic- i.e. hysteresis free- and, under certain conditions, represented by the Lyapunov candidate function, this means that the dynamic properties of the system are such that directionism cashes out as destinationism.
        However, for that to be the case no market can be missing- e.g. in the price gouging case, some type of insurance scheme prevails such that no repugnancy effect arises. (Indeed, repugnancy generally signals hysteresis, like Marx’s objection to ‘dead’ Capital, Vampire fashion, controlling Living Labour.)

        Obviously, human beings do more than transactions, they also form relationships which ‘internalize’ missing or failing markets. To mistake institutions for relationships is a mistake similar to ‘immanentizing the eschaton’. Institutions don’t have moral qualities but it is tempting to project such qualities onto them by reason of cognitive bias or preference falsification.

  • joe mack

    The issue for me as a new small business owner boils down to human nature. History clearly shows we as a society that no matter how much the human condition has advanced people are people unchanged. Power and corruption go hand in hand. The socialist experiment failed miserably and the current American experiment does not realize that history is truth and history shows that central planning for ALL does not work! It simply does not work. America will have another revolution in exactly 1 generation from now. We have to go through the failure of social equality first. Then extreme poverty and the rise of the political super class which will control everything then we are back in Boston throwing tea into the harbor. Laugh if you will but right now in America I’m educated and work 70 hours a week no lie and barely can make ends meet. I employ people and pay ridiculous amount of taxes. Regulatory legislation, taxes and the entitlement culture makes it virtually impossible to create jobs and wealth. I have jobs available but no one wants to work…why? I can’t pay much more than 35-45K a year and people coming in for interviews want to work off the books to supplement the government aid they already get. There is no pride and no desire for success anymore rather a race to mediocrity and do as little as possible to enjoy a roof overhead a car and a smartphone with a camera! The change you are all talking about is impossible without 3 things happening and frankly ALL Libertarians and Tea Party groups and 3rd parties of ANY affiliation should advocate 3 changes! JUST THREE in our lifetime folks. TTT! Tax reform, Tort reform and Term limits!

  • Aeon Skoble

    “No violations are tolerated, no trade-offs are acceptable” Mike, I disagree that what you’re calling “destnationists” cannot also be pragmatic or incrementalist. There’s no contradiction between thinking that people have rights and realizing that you can’t have the world be exactly as you think it should right this minute. What you’re writing off as “absolutism” is the moral compass that tells you what small steps can be taken now that will help eventually get you where you want to go.

  • Dean

    I have to admit– I really do love these discussions.

    I see a difference between what I will argue for and what I consider to be simply an improvement.

    For example, if a guy who was beating his wife 5 times a week changes to beating her 3 times a week, then yes, I see that as an improvement. However, I would never argue FOR beating one’s wife 3 times a week.

    I have trouble with “destinationalist’s” arguments in favor of the 3-times-a-week beatings with the justification that it’s a “less bad incremental improvement.”

    Two quotes from abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison come to mind:

    “Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will, alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend.”

    “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice.”

    • Dean

      Sorry– I meant to write “I have trouble with “directionists'” arguments…,” not “destinationalists”.

  • Munger links to an article of his where he appears to endorse ‘Playpump’ – a stupid scheme supposed to help bring water to Sub-Saharan Africa by harnessing the energy of young children- even though Playpump International admitted failure and was wound up 3 years ago.
    Munger says that Playpump failed in Mozambique because people there had been brought up to believe, over successive generations, that they were the children of a paternalist state. Munger says that Playpump would have succeeded in Mozambique if the local community had taken responsibility for it, rather than depending on the State to fix things.
    This puzzles me. It is many years since I visited Mozambique. However, the fact remains that people there had experience of slavery and forced labor under a corrupt regime. Resistance to this was bred in the bone, so to speak, and so parents weren’t willing to countenance forced labor, disguised as ‘play’, for their kids.
    Interestingly, the Govt. of Malawi banned Playpump because it was bad for kids. This shows that State Action can sometimes be a good thing because it can curb the violence, corruption, and stupidity of Non Government Organizations which claim to be ‘holier than thou’ and deeply Humanitarian or Christian or Socialistic or Gandhian or ‘Green’ or whatever else gets them the funding they grow fat on.

    I don’t know why Munger provided a link in the essay given above to his Playpump puff-piece. Apparently it was supported by Laura Bush. Surely Munger must have been aware that a 30 second Google search would yield the truth about Playpump as told by the guys who took over its operations? (See Perhaps, and this is pure speculation on my part, Munger links to his Playpump stupidity for a subtle reason which relates to ‘immanentizing the eschaton’ by ending human history by getting us all to adopt really stupid, costly, and utterly worthless schemes like ‘Playpump’. In this way his ‘directionalism’ trumps ‘destinationism’ because, by the great power of stupidity and cheap rhetoric, Human history can at last come to an end as we all die of thirst.

  • John

    “Directionalist libertarians identify a path that leads from the status quo toward ideal policies, using pragmatic and consequentialist considerations. ”

    Shouldn’t it be an ideal LACK of policies?

    Don’t try to confuse people who are directionalist with moderate socialists. There can always be less government and more freedom and a directionalist would never stop fighting to achieve both.

  • Sean II

    “There is a “we.” Homo economicus is a sociopath”

    As compared to…who? The people who use force in the name of keeping the ol’ “we” together.

    What do you propose to call them?

    • Theresa Klein

      Good point. I choose my “we”. I rebel at the idea that I am compelled to participate in a national “we”, merely because of a geographic accident of birth.
      Humans are social createures on a small-group level, not on a level of millions of people in nation states. Worse, whenever humans attempt to extend group social bonding to a national level, it tends to result in horrifying atrocities.

      • Sean II

        “Whenever humans attempt to extend group social bonding [beyond its natural range]…it tends to result in horrifying atrocities.”

        Case in point: the Olympics.

        • Libertymike

          How about the incessant tributes to the troops, the fly overs and various and sundry statolatry to which one is subjected at NFL games?

          • Sean II

            Funny you should mention. A couple years ago I took a foreign guest to an NFL game, and these massively horrifying bombers flew over, just darkening the sky over the stadium. He says: “Ah, like Red Square.”

            I was all “Um, no…we’re not like…I know it seems, but…appearances can be…I assure you not everyone here is…aw, fuck it. What can I say? I’m embarrassed.”

  • Sean II

    Nice to meet you Mike. Love this site, hate this trope:

    “…the absolutist version of libertarianism, based on natural rights imperatives, is neither very persuasive to outsiders nor…”

    It’s such bullshit. Posters here are always trying to have it both ways, with this lovely pair of mutually exclusive claims:

    A) Sadly, most people in the movement are seduced by hard libertarianism.
    B) Hard libertarianism isn’t very seductive.

    Hmm…how’s that again? The least persuasive form of libertarianism is the one that persuaded most libertarians to be libertarian.

    So the only possible conclusion here is:

    C) Hard libertarianism is not very persuasive to non-libertarians.

    Why not? Evidently because non-libertarians are really well-informed people who – god bless ’em – will only give themselves over to the most nuanced arguments. That, of course, is why they are all currently liberals, progressives, conservatives, and neo-cons. Expensive intellectual tastes, indeed.

    • Thrica

      C) is the case because absolutist libertarianism is a moral language, just like conservatism, progressivism, neo-con-ism, etc, etc. The problem is that most people aren’t morally bilingual. So if you want to be persuasive, you’ve either got to translate it into their native moral language, or take a different tack that tries to avoid controversial moral claims.

      • Sean II

        “…or take a different tack that tries to avoid controversial moral claims…”

        Why should we want to do that?

        1. If we really believe those moral claims, are we not obliged to make them anyway?

        2. At some point, people are going to, you know, find out there we’re hiding all these controversial moral arguments. Why not be open about it? What’s your plan? Lure potential converts up to your apartment using a cocktail spiked with pragmatism and then morally molest them once their guard is down?

        3. The historical record is pretty clear on this point. Simple moral arguments reach and move more people than intricately balanced hybrid systems (which really only appeal to a small coterie of right-tail eggheads).

        Remember how the abolitionists in the 1850s cleverly refrained from making “controversial moral claims” and instead confined themselves to persuading Southerners that the cost of fugitive slave apprehension was greater than the wage savings yielded by slavery? Of course you don’t, because that’s ridiculous.

        Well, guess what? The drug war is pretty nearly as horrible as slavery for those who become its direct victims. You tell me: how does one argue against the drug war without making controversial moral claims?


      It usually begins with Ayn Rand…It never begins with Ayn Rand.

      • Sean II

        Damn. That was good.

  • cats

    I was somewhat surprised the William Riker link wasn’t to a Star Trek: The Next Generation clip.

  • Theresa Klein

    I’m curious how you feel about ‘Right to Work’ laws.
    Many libertarians have argued that Right to Work laws violate freedom of contract by interposing the state further between employer-employee relationships. Thus in an ideal libertarian society, there owuld be no RTW laws, as well as no NLRA.
    But others argue that due to the existence of federal laws mandating that management negotiate with unionized employees (instead of just firing them and hiring new workers), that RTW laws increase the freedom and self-ownership of the individual laborer.
    So if you are a “directionalist” libertarian, it would seem you are obliged to support RTW laws.

  • Theresa Klein

    Second reply. I’m going to take issue with some of your definitions of “destinationalist” libertarianism.

    (a) Full self-ownership, with unrestricted rights to control and alienate both one’s own body and the products of one’s labor. (b) An absolute bar on the initiation (not use, initiation) of force, even if such force would have net social benefits in consequentialist terms.

    I think you have this rather backwards.Those principles are not a desired end state which is a priori held to be good. Those principles have been arrived at through centuries of progress in moral reasoning. The GOAL is a universally just fair society. Something that I think you could characterize as “social justice”, although I don’t see why there’s a need to distinguish it from the regular kind. What libertarians believe is that those principles of self-ownership and non-aggression are ultimately the bedrock principles of a truly just society.
    Markets, of course, work anywhere, but a free market depends upon institutions which deliver equal justice in terms of enforcement of property rights and contracts and all other laws. A market founded upon equal respect for all people’s rights of self-ownership and non-violent resolution of conflicts is better becuase it is more just.
    Those who want to use coercion to distribute resources in a way they think is more fair are ultimately doing harm to their own cause by undermining those bedrock principles. The poor need property rights as much, if not more, than the rich. The poor are the weaker party which is LESS able to finance their own defense of their property. And of course we have seen throughout history how the powers of the state are inevitably twisted into the service of the wealthy and powerful. The way emininent domain is used should be a stunning example for anyone who doesn’t think that strong property rights are essential to social justice.

  • Chris Pacia
  • Giovanelo

    “Actual, concrete policy proposals, things we could do now, and some of
    these policy proposals are motivated at least in part by concerns for
    social justice.”

    What is “social justice”?

  • Common Progress

    Thank you so much for this manifesto. I really like the Nolan Chart example on this article. Strategically, the Nolan Chart is like one big chessboard with 5 smaller chessboards inside it (liberal, centrist, conservative, authoritarian, libertarian), and the different political “tribes” that congregate around different areas of the Nolan Chart are like different chess pieces (knight, bishop, rook, pawn, etc.). When getting into political coversations and debates with an “absolutist libertarian”, I feel like I’m talking to someone who’s playing checkers and not chess.

    The “absolutist libertarian” simply sees a mark, and takes it down in a linear one-dimensional fashion. It’s like they’re playing checkers on a chessboard without fully realizing it. They’re moving a pawn chess piece that they think is a checker. Furthermore, they’re only playing the game of politics from 1 of the 5 chessboards (libertarian). On that one chessboard, they only have their pieces set on a single side of the chessboard, the conservative leaning side of the libertarian quadrant (right-libertarian). Because of this, there is a glass ceiling on how successful they can be in achieving their agenda. That glass ceiling is much lower than a 51% or greater consensus.

    As any good chessplayer knows, the key to winning chess is controlling the center of the board, while capturing “enemy pieces” and gaining ground on the left (liberal) AND right (conservative) side of the board. To this end, left-libertarianism is needed because there’s currently a huge vacuum in that quadrant. Once that area is controlled, then left-libertarianism and righ-libertarianism can syncronize and push most of the “pieces” of the American chessboard closer to the edge of the libertarian side of the Nolan Chart.

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