A number of my co-bloggers strongly identify with the libertarian left. Typically being a member of the libertarian left in the libertarian movement means holding that standard libertarian political views are natural compliments to standard left-wing social views, such as concerns about racial or gender privilege, institutional racism, support for alternative lifestyles, same-sex marriage, etc. I won’t rehearse the arguments here, but the generic idea is that different kinds of social liberation go together: if you support restrictions on state coercion, you have similar reason to resist social ostracism of different lifestyle choices. And if you support equal political rights for persons, then you should support social equality between races, genders, etc.

I have a question for co-bloggers and readers that identify with the libertarian left in something like the sense I’ve described: to what extent should religious conservatives feel comfortable among you?

For our purposes, let’s restrict the notion of a religious conservative to someone (i) with orthodox Jewish or Christian theological beliefs, (ii) that adopts many of the social positions commonly associated with those beliefs, in particular a belief in the immorality of abortion, adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexual sex, and perhaps contraception and (iii) that believes marriage is restricted, on moral and theological grounds, to a man and a woman and that both parties should voluntarily agree to give men a greater share in leadership in the marriage.

There are so many religious conservatives – arguably hundreds of millions. And there are tens of millions in the United States alone. Obviously these individuals can adopt thin libertarianism qua their religious conservatism. And some do. I think of Ron Paul and Rand Paul as religious conservatives, though I’m not quite sure of their position on (iii) (I suspect they affirm it, even if they would waffle in public.) Israel Kirzner and David Gordon are good cases. And basically any conservative Catholic or evangelical Christian is going to count.

Now, it’s important to stress that religious conservatives as I’ve described them can learn a lot from the libertarian left. They are typically racially egalitarian, so there’s no in-principle reason they can’t have standard leftist concerns about racial privilege. There’s no reason religious conservatives can’t recognize objectionable gender privilege, even if they support (iii), and while they may have conservative sexual views, they may still be able to see the great merit in resisting slut-shaming, legalizing gay marriage, and so on. So I don’t mean to exaggerate the differences.

But differences there are. And they’re major. So this raises a question: are they to be cast out of the libertarian left?

Here are some reasons to think so:

(a)   While theological orthodoxy is not necessarily a threat to the values of the libertarian left, it inclines the orthodox to believe in forms of authority, servitude and irrationality that will make them uneasy supporters of liberty.

(b)   Judeo-Christian theological orthodoxy leads to morally ostracizing at least some people who exercise freedom of sexual expression. Consequently, religious conservatives are opponents of the broader, thicker form of liberation that members of the libertarian left embrace.

(c)   The views expressed in (ii) are oppressive and repressive in unhealthy ways. They impose chains on people’s free choices incompatible with the appropriate degree of egalitarianism and respect for individual liberty that characterizes the libertarian left.

(d)   The gender inequality suggested in (iii) is repulsive and inegalitarian and renders those who affirm it morally defective in a serious way or at least inconsistent with the aims of the libertarian left.

Despite these reasons, basically all the libertarian lefties I know are super nice to religiously orthodox individuals and almost never express anti-religious sentiments common among, say, secular progressives, Objectivists and generic New Atheists (you should see the way David Gordon and Roderick Long carry on. It’s a genuinely beautiful, if bizarre, thing). In fact, I’ve never seen or heard of a libertarian lefty making libertarian religious conservatives feel uncomfortable, bigoted, stupid, crude or anything but welcomed. What’s more, I’ve never known any prominent lefty libertarian to make such claims about religiously conservative libertarians unless those libertarians adopted a religiously conservative position that goes well beyond (i)-(iii) (such as Christian Reconstructionist views, or extremely traditionalist Catholic views). The worst I’ve encountered is incredulity that anyone could hold religiously conservative views I without some serious cognitive failing. But that’s just the result of not paying attention to contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

Perhaps my experience isn’t representative, but whenever I meet religiously conservative libertarians at I.H.S. meetings, for instance, I’ve never known any to feel unwelcome or rejected at all. I don’t know anyone who has ever felt out of place.

If libertarian lefties are consistent, this should not be. Religious conservatives should be corrected, at least in a nice way. Their views are not left-libertarian. After all, if religious conservatives came to libertarian events and criticized thin libertarian views, no one would hesitate to disagree and argue. But when you bring up religiously conservative positions, lefty libertarian attitudes are totally different.

My surmise is that libertarian lefties think the libertarian commitments of religious conservatives keep them from running afoul of libertarian leftism. Religiously conservative libertarians don’t seem to be foes of reason or slaves to irrationality. They typically have a “live and let live” attitude compared to other religious conservatives, so they don’t ostracize much at all. Since religiously conservative libertarians are not so interested in ostracism, they pretty much keep their “repressive” sexual opinions to themselves, so there’s no reason to fool with them. And even when religious conservatives do affirm gender inequality, their relationships and marriages don’t seem affected by these beliefs at all. So in the end, religiously conservative libertarians have a great many views that conflict with libertarian leftism, but since they’re libertarians, those views don’t have their typical “nasty” effects. So that’s why libertarian lefties tend to not only leave religious conservatives be but welcome them with open arms into the liberty movement. At least, that’s one theory.

Another theory is that libertarian lefties are conflict-averse and don’t want to start needless controversy. But, well, LOL.

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  • LouiseShaw

    I’m challenged by this post. I think adultery is wrong because of the lying, would I be cast out of the libertarian left?

    • StephenMeansMe

      Depends on your definition of “adultery.” I’m guessing it’s something like “cheating on one’s significant other,” or in other words “breaking an implicit contract to be monogamous.”

      Some religious interpretations go further than that (e.g. “If you look at a woman lustfully, you have committed adultery in your heart.” Matthew 5:27-28).

      It makes sense that cheating-adultery is wrong, but the Matthew version is close to thoughtcrime.

      • LouiseShaw

        No, I think lying to your partner is wrong. I think the same comes up in the prostitution debate as well. I’m in favor of legal prostitutes and protecting them from violence etc. But again I think the main issue comes from lying. If your partner when getting involved with you in the beginning said “I would like to sleep with sex workers, is that OK with you?” that would help your choices. The reason they don’t is it severly narrows their choice of field for a mate. But by doing that they narrow their prospective spouses choice.

        • StephenMeansMe

          Definitely. I wasn’t disagreeing with you.

      • Joao

        Only God knows if you are “looking at a woman to desire her”. He sees your “heart”. It’s between you and him, not you and the law.

        Jesus was right, bad actions start with thoughts.

        • StephenMeansMe

          Okay, but should we punish *thoughts* alone? And especially inner thoughts.

          • martinbrock

            Punishing inner thoughts is impractical at this point. If someone decides that a handshake is a sexual act, do we punish handshakes as adultery? How about a hug? A kiss on the cheek? A kiss on the lips? A kiss with tongues touching? A hand job? A blow job? Where is this line exactly? Do I ask my spouse or my lawyer or my spouse’s lawyer?

            What is the meaning of “is” anyway?

      • martinbrock

        I try not to guess the definition of words like “adultery”, particularly when my spouse thinks as you and Louise do. I consult a lawyer.

        • StephenMeansMe

          To the extent that there are even applicable laws against adultery. (I have nothing against explicit agreements to be non-monogamous, in fact it’s probably better to hash all that stuff out beforehand to avoid problems down the line.)

          • martinbrock

            Adultery is still a crime in many states in the U.S. (punishable by life in prison in Michigan), but the laws are rarely enforced, and I’d worry more about it as a mitigating factor in a marital property settlement or an alimony award.

            But the law is not static, and it’s not “progressive” either. A return to earlier norms, or a variation on earlier norms, is certainly possible. With the advent of gay marriage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a revival in adultery and fornication statutes.

            Gay male couples particularly may marry to protect themselves from the risk of infectious disease and may favor criminal sanctions. For many gay couples, an adverse divorce settlement is a poor deterrent, so less affluent couples could favor criminal sanction even more.

          • StephenMeansMe

            Good points. It’s hard to consider the intersection of those things, living as I am in a bastion of social progressivism (Western WA).

    • http://www.facebook.com/grahamshevlin Graham Shevlin

      Well, you would not be cast out by me, but we know people with what might be termed “open” relationships who commit (according to my understanding of Biblical rules) adultery, however their relationship model supports it, and there is no deceit. My overall viewpoint is that this is the sort of behavior that is nobody else’s business but theirs. Lying tends to undermine and destroy any relationship.

      • LouiseShaw

        Yes, I think we agree on that. I think my choices argument is a good one from the libertarian POV tho, that lying restricts the cheated on spouses choices and therefore is logically as well as emotionally unfair.

      • David Friedman

        I think it’s unclear whether what they commit is, in Biblical terms, adultery or fornication–depending on whether you regard their relationships as marriages.

    • martinbrock

      Adultery does not imply lying, though the two often occur together.

  • dfjdejulio

    I wonder if you might be confusing means with ends, or making a similar error.

    You say “religious conservatives should be corrected, at least in a nice way”. Well okay. But *how*? What way might *work*?

    Some people *are* trying to provide that correction, via the mechanism of “setting a good example”.

    Which do you think will actually *work* better: saying aloud “you’re wrong about atheism leading to immorality”, or quietly providing an example of an atheist who behaves morally?

  • StephenMeansMe

    I saw a pretty deep rift between more leftish libertarians and religious/social conservative libertarians at last year’s Washington Libertarian Party conference. To me at least it seemed that the conservatives favored a libertarianism that included a whole raft of implicit traditional rules, a sort of “wasn’t it nice back in the day when we didn’t need laws because everyone knew his or her place?” That seems too constrained and possibly oppressive to me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grahamshevlin Graham Shevlin

      One of the fundamental beliefs of regressives is in the existence of a “golden age”. As sociologists have tried to explain for decades, there never was a “golden age”. The “golden age” that people imagine is about as real as the Wild West in movies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grahamshevlin Graham Shevlin

    The underlying rift is between people who hold conservative views but do not seek to impose those views on others, and people with conservative views who work actively to seek to impose those worldviews on the rest of society. The challenge in this area is that a number of the monotheistic Christian movements place a premium on proselytizing. Lots of Christians take it one level further and, in addition to proselytizing, actively work to abridge the rights of others in the name of their religion. They need to be told that this is none of their damn business.
    The latter folks can call themselves Libertarians until the cows come home, but they are authoritarian wolves in sheeps’ clothing, and associating with them merely provides opponents of libertarianism with more ammunition to point and say “look! libertarians are censorious meanies!”

    • Joao

      Most Libertarians proselytize in their own way. If they were to shut up at the first opposition or debate to their ideas, there would be all of 5 Libertarians on the planet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/grahamshevlin Graham Shevlin

        I think you missed my point. Proselytizing is not the issue, although I reserve to right to tell people trying it to please go away if I do not care to hear it, and I do believe that the libertarian movement has much to learn about how to promulgate its ideas without being dismissed as a collection of self-centered cranks. The problem is when people move beyond proselytizing to the idea that not only would the world be a better place if everybody Behaved Like Them, but that they are actively working to make everybody Behave Like Them.

  • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

    A few thoughts:

    1a – Why do you exclude Muslims from the issues in this post? It seems to me that they would be an important inclusion in the category of “religious conservatives.” There must have been some reason why you set them aside and instead chose to focus on Jews and Christians only.

    1b – I am tempted to ask Vallier the same questions about libertarian conservative Muslims. To what extent do conservative Muslims feel comfortable around Kevin Vallier and/or libertarian religious conservatives? How might he respond?

    2 – Steve Horwitz recently linked to this old BHL post he wrote: http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/12/how-did-we-get-here-or-why-do-20-year-old-newsletters-matter-so-damn-much/

    In it, he chastises Lew Rockwell for appealing to unsavory religious conservatives. To wit, Rockwell writes (in the pamphlet Horwitz criticises):

    “Conservatives have always argued that political freedom is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the good society, and they’re right. Neither is it sufficient for the free society. We also need social institutions and standards that encourage public virtue, and protect the individual from the State.”

    Rockwell then goes on to argue that this implies that libertarians should embrace certain Judeo-Christian aspects of Western culture. This seems apropos to this discussion.

    3 – While I’m linking to things, the following Robert Murphy post summarizes why I think atheist libertarians like me have nothing to fear from religious conservative libertarians:

    http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/a-brief-note-on-christians-and-homosexuality.html

    • Kevin Vallier

      Muslims raise complications because of the closer connection many strands of Islam raise between religious practice and its coercive enforcement. I’m sure Muslim conservatives would be welcome in the liberty movement, but I imagine they would raise suspicions that thoroughly “liberalized” religions like Christianity and Judaism do not.

      • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

        Isn’t it true that all such complications are also present in orthodox strands of Judaism and Christianity? (And, for that matter, some South Asian orthodoxies?)

        And, if not, isn’t my question 1b even more apt? Isn’t your whole point that religious conservatism can potentially make libertarian atheists uneasy, so why are they/are they not uneasy with religious conservatism? Thus, isn’t it a good question to pose to libertarian Judeo-Christian conservatives, of Muslim conservatives, for exactly the same reasons?

        • Kevin Vallier

          Yes, the differences are present in Judaism and Christianity, but they don’t come up as often partly due to Scriptural differences and partly due to the long-standing encounter between Christianity, Judaism and liberal democracy.

    • hgfalling

      Whoa, the comments on that Robert Murphy post are fairly amazing. (not in the good way)

      • jdkolassa

        The whole thing about murdering gays actually made me chuckle, because you could see right there the insane pretzels people were contorting themselves into to argue that Christianity doesn’t command gays to be killed.

        Just crazy.

    • Mark Rothschild

      Yes, I agree that Bob Murphy’s Christian beliefs do not make
      his economic analyses any better or worse.

      I think that Rockwell makes the point that the state will occupy social space that lapses into chaos. Agreeing with this, I would argue that a well ordered society is one bulwark against state intrusion. We should encourage coalitions with social conservatives, but with the understanding that conservative social norms must be voluntary.

  • Kenny Pearce

    The following view is perfectly logically consistent, but seems to be psychologically difficult for humans to hold onto: x is a moral principle, but no one should be coerced to obey it. Kant, of course, holds that this is a widespread phenomenon.

    I would have thought that, for a libertarian, the difference between genuine state coercion and mere social stigma was of enormous importance. (But maybe that’s just showing that I’m more of a right-libertarian.) However, one might well think that in some cases even social stigmatization of genuinely wrong behavior can be bad. For instance, Mill thinks that social stigma can have a strong enough influence that it prevents people from engaging in self-directed behavior, and thereby prevents the development of genuine moral character. So one might well hold certain views about morality, but attach more value to people making moral choices with genuine freedom (including, perhaps, freedom from social pressure) than one attaches to people getting the moral choices right.

  • Caroline

    I find this article frustrating, particulary the assertion that even when one’s traditional religious beliefs are entirely privately kept, they are still in need of “correction.” Surely the author would not suggest that a Muslim woman who wears a hijab out of religious devotion needs to be corrected; therefore, as a Catholic woman, ought the author to correct me if I prefer my husband to assume spiritual leadership in the family? It seems the author views any private religious/personal opinions on sexuality, etc, to be oppressive insofar as they are not his own.

    If the aims of the libertarian left include diversity of thought and freedom of expression, then engaging in moral discussion publicly ought to be encouraged, not oppressed; if the author were instead to argue that conservatives attempting to legislate their views on sexual morality are fundamentally at odds with libertarianism, he would have a stronger case.

    • Kevin Vallier

      Whoops. I don’t think religious conservatives need correction! I’m just saying that’s what left libertarians should think! If you read some of my previous posts, I think that’s, well, rather clear.

      • http://knappster.blogspot.com/ Thomas L. Knapp

        I think I’ll think what I want to think instead of what you seem to think I should think :D

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  • Joao

    What page am I on? I thought this was on a Libertarian page.

    The word Constitution, tho I know L thought goes beyond that, is not even in this article. The word “government” is not in this article, let alone “limited government”.

    Read your Rothbard and you will find the answer: the government is not society; never should the twain meet. All should believe and practice as they wish, perhaps despite government. You are getting “tolerance” mixed up with the left’s version of the word.

    Lastly, what’s with the “gender inequality” business? Last I knew, men and women were different in form and personality, thus function. Just because I’m at the wheel of my family car does not preclude that my wife is not the navigator, etc; please consider this on the occasion of your next divorce or marriage.

    • Kevin Vallier

      Sounds like you’re talking to the thick libertarians. I’ve read my Rothbard, and so have they.

      • martinbrock

        I consider myself a radically left libertarian, and my libertarianism is thinner than Rothbard’s, not thicker.

        • jdkolassa

          Eh? Thinner? In what way?

          • martinbrock

            I want fewer standards enforced universally, i.e. I want a state enforcing fewer standards. For example, Rothbard advocates hereditary title in perpetuity. I don’t want a state imposing this standard on communities. I want people free to form communities respecting a different standard. Rothbardian communities may also respect hereditary title in perpetuity.

          • jdkolassa

            Interesting. Not sure if that’s what I was trying to get at; I mean, thin vs thick is does libertarian bring anything else into it? Any ways of thinking, etc? I always got the impression you were something of a thick libertarian, thus not being a Rothbardian. But eh, I guess I was mistaken.

  • Theresa Klein

    I am not sure it is possible to be a libertarian religious conservative, as defined above, for the reasons you outline. The values of religious conservatives (as you define them) directly conflict wth the values and goals of the libertarian movement (in general and not just the libetarian left).

    However, there *might* be room for some sort of socially conservative libertarianism. Not all social conservatives necessarily oppose gay marriage or contraception. I could imagine a social conservative adopting both libertarian beliefs and a beleif that pre-marital sex should be discouraged, that single-parent families are a cause of social ills, that storng social norms should discourage divorce, and that abortion is immoral.

    In other words, you don’t have to go to the most extreme beliefs of some religious conservatives and then evaluate all conservatives on that basis. There are many moderate social conservative beliefs that are completely compatible with libertarianism.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Theresa, I am one of those socially conservative libertarians and among all the frequent commentators on this site I usually agree with you the most.

    • martinbrock

      Opposing gay marriage does not imply an inclination forcibly to prohibit gay marriage everywhere in the Universe. I’m not anyone’s idea of a religious conservative, but (like Justin Raimondo and other openly gay libertarians) I oppose gay marriage. If a man asks my opinion of gay marriage while I suck his dick, I tell him the idea is ridiculous before returning to his dick.

      Many, even most, gay men agree with me, yet many of these same men will tell you that establishing gay marriage by statute is politically just. This fact tells me more about the absurdity of political “justice” than about the virtues of gay marriage.

      • famadeo

        If I get Raimondo’s reasoning against gay marriage correctly, what is percieved is an attempt to monopolize the gay lifestyle by means of a distinctly heterosexual institution (this being “marriage”, apparently). Maybe I got that wrong, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard sentiments of this kind from a homosexual. I find this particularly bizarre coming from a libertarian to whom it’s all about “coercion” and “force”. Allowing gay marriage would not mean dictating all homosexuals to go in that direction, it would simply mean another choice.

        • martinbrock

          Depends on what you mean by “marriage”. I have no problem with a gay couple solemnizing their relationship in a sacred ceremony before friends and family, pledging mutual aid, owning property jointly, sharing power of attorney and the like. None of these ties requires a statutory institution or a state license in a public registry.

          Gay couples did all of these things long before any state enacted gay marriage, because “gay marriage” in common parlance is not these things. It is the statutory institution and the license and assorted statutory benefits associated with the license.

          • famadeo

            So your problem with “gay marriage”, if I read you correctly, is this statutory clause. Seems like, from a libertarian perspective, a good enough reason to oppose, not gay marraige, but *marriage* as such. I have no problem with such a stance, only as long as that’s not likely to happen, extending the statutory clause to include homosexuals is better than things remaining as they are, no?

          • martinbrock

            I do oppose statutory marriage as such, and licensing gay relationships doesn’t seem a better idea because straight relationships are already licensed. Gay couples can have benefits of marriage that they should have without a license, and extending them benefits, like tax advantages, that straight couples should not have doesn’t seem an improvement to me.

            Many other domestic partners, like siblings and platonic roommates and adults living with their parents, don’t receive these benefits. If inequality between gay and straight couples merits reform, repealing these benefits for straight couples addresses all of these injustices.

          • famadeo

            The issue, though, is that couples linked romantically -gay or straight- are potential parents. That’s the crux. Insofar as gay couples are not “married” they don’t have the benefits of parents as straight couple. It makes sense that other type of domestic parnters don’t recieve them.

            To be clear, I *do* think that extending the statutory clause to gay couples is better than what they have now, but ultimately I’m with you: nobody should have to justify their living arrangements or their family dynamic before the law, the church or whatever.

          • martinbrock

            A gay couple are not potential parents any more than a single person or a pair of siblings or any other individual or group of people who might adopt a child. An institution for coparents is defensible, and this institution should apply to anyone accepting guardianship of a child, regardless of sexual orientation or romantic attachment.

            An institution for prospective parents, like a fertile straight couple intending to have children, is debatable, and extending this institution to gay couples makes no sense unless the couple has adopted children jointly or already has the necessary legal authority to adopt jointly. A straight couple might want legal commitments before risking procreative sex. Adopting involves no similar need.

          • mdf60

            No, eliminating the injustice done to gay couples does not compound the injustice suffered by other individuals. That simply makes no sense. Marriage creates a certain zone of privacy around couples and reduces state intrusion in their lives, at least in general. Of course, many of the benefits extended to married couples ought to be extended to others, but this does not mean we should ignore the injustice of excluding same sex couples from legal marriage until we achieve some libertarian utopia.

          • martinbrock

            I don’t see any injustice done to gay couples. I see injustice done for straight couples, and I see rent seeking gay couples envious of this discrimination seeking a share of the rents now that political winds seem to blow more in their favor.

            Marriage creates a certain zone of privacy around couples and reduces state intrusion in their lives, at least in general.

            You can’t be serious. Marriage is a statutory institution requiring a license, public registration and frequent public accounting, like joint income tax returns. Where do you get the idea that it has anything to do with privacy? Gay couples have shared their lives for time without memory without this sort of accounting.

          • Justin Raimondo

            The whole idea of gay marriage is statist to the core — and efforts to stick a “libertarian” label on it are simply pandering to cultural prejudices currently in fashion. Marriage is nothing more or less than state regulation of personal relationships. To say that it is “unjust” that gays are not included in this arrangement is like saying that the unregulated silk industry must be regulated just like the regulated flannel industry — because “equality” is what matters most.
            But since this view would meet with hostility in the faculty lounge, our academic “libertarians” are busy cooking up a convenient rationale for jumping on the bandwagon of political correctness. The aim of this little project has little to do with “justice,” however, and everything to do with tenure.

  • Ian Whimsey

    Wait, is wrong with slut-shaming? What can be “learned” about this?

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      This is something I have also brought up before. If, as libertarians we are opposed to the use of legislation on personal moral choices, then what are we left with. If you see young people engaged in what you know to be self destructive behavior. (and I most certainly believe that promiscuity is self harmful). Then do you say nothing?

      • Sergio Méndez

        The problem with “slut shaming” are:

        1. It is directed only against women (as the word “slut”) suggests, So it is clearly sexist and mysognestic
        2. It is a way of making women feel bad for living their sexuality the way THEY want (which is pretty at odds with libertarian inidvidualistic ideals)
        3. It is also used as a cover up of male sexual agresion (“you deserved to be rapped because you acted like a slut”)

        So yes, slut shaming is really fucked up.

        • mdf60

          Well, I think it is generally rude to give unsolicited advice unless you are dealing with your own children, or someone is in a life threatening situation. In any case, people rarely listen to unsolicited advice, so it is a waste of time.
          But if you’d like to express your opinion on a topic, you are free to do so. I’m probably not going to be offended by your opinion.
          However, I really couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my sex life. I’m quite well educated on the benefits and risks of sex, thank you very much.

          • Sergio Méndez

            mdf60: You were answering me or Les Kyle Nearhood?

  • martinbrock

    Am I a left libertarian? You tell me.

    When I was actively pro-gay rights, back when homosexual acts were criminal, I never thought of marriage as an issue, and gay marriage still seems more anti-gay rights to me. Registering my sexual orientation at the courthouse, and obtaining a license to legitimate my sexual relationship, sounds more like Nuremberg than liberation to me. By nineteenth century, “free love” standards, marriage is illiberal for straight people. Now, it’s liberation for gay people? How did that happen?

    So religious conservatives want to restrict “marriage” to male/female, monogamous, presumptively procreative relationships? Sure, that’s fine with me. I don’t want any state benefits associated with marriage, and eliminating these benefits addresses any discrimination between straight and gay couples.

    Adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexual sex (and all sorts of heterosexual acts as well), contraception? I don’t care what anyone else thinks about these things unless he or she wants to have sex with me personally.

    Abortion? I respect an inalienable, human right to life, so when this right begins is certainly a significant question for me, and I can’t accept a beginning at birth. I have no problem with Christian conservatives asking the same question and arriving at a slightly different conclusion.

    Slut-shaming? Let’s just call it “slut identification”. Any shame you sense when you identify my sluttiness is in your head, not mine. It’s your shame. I’m not ashamed, so what’s the problem?

    Theological orthodoxy? If you don’t want to impose it on me, why would I care? People may be as “irrational” and as servile as they like, but if they expect me to be servile, while they are authoritarian, every libertarian presumably has a problem with that.

    Gender inequality is not repulsive to me. I don’t at all believe that men get the better end of the stick in traditional marriage, but what I believe about other people’s relationships is irrelevant. Other people should have the relationships they want, not the relationships I want.

    Me correct religious conservatives? If they don’t want to impose anything on me, I don’t think they’re wrong about anything. Really, I’m not tolerating their wrongness. I don’t think they’re wrong at all. I only think they aren’t me.

    • David Friedman

      With regard to your final comment, I think it’s worth noting that “left libertarian” has at least three quite different meanings. The one that seems to be used here is “libertarian who identifies with left wing social and cultural attitudes.”

      Another meaning. I suspect from your comment possibly yours, is “someone, such as a Georgist, who argues from a libertarian position to an unconventional conclusion, in particular the justification of what most libertarians see as illegitimate income distribution.”

      A third meaning, and the oldest, is an anarcho-communist.

      • martinbrock

        My personal preferences coincide with left wing social and cultural attitudes, but these preferences are like a taste for Dr. Pepper over Coke. My only problem with people preferring Coke is that I don’t want to share a soda with them.

        The word “communist” is sullied beyond redemption, but property rights are community standards, rather than naturally individual rights, in my way of thinking. An individual has a right exclusively to govern a resource because his neighbors respect this governance, not the other way around.

        Ignoring the now common usage, anarcho-communist is not a bad label for this communitarian ideal. Reversing the anarcho-capitalist priority, which presumes an individual sovereign over a resource regardless of anyone else’s consent, can lead to conclusions that some libertarians see as illegitimate, but the Georgist formulation is not my preference.

        A proprietor receives a monopoly rent that does not reflect the marginal value of his labor, and this income his not legitimately his income in some sense, but it’s not anyone else’s income in this sense either, and free communities need not respect this sense of legitimacy anyway. I don’t want communities constrained this way.

        My personal preference is something like a progressive consumption tax, effectively requiring proprietors to reinvest marginal income organizing resources to produce for wider consumption, rather than organizing resources to produce for their personal consumption. I don’t want this preference imposed on anyone, but I don’t want anyone compelled to respect property rights on other terms either.

        I hardly want communities constrained at all. If some people want to organize themselves like a hive of bees, I have no problem with it. God made the bees.

        • David Friedman

          You might find my positive account of property rights, seen as neither a legal nor a moral category by a description of human behavior, interesting:

          http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Property/Property.html

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            Very interesting indeed. Thanks for that.

          • martinbrock

            Thanks. The paper is very illuminating. “The laws and customs of civil society are an elaborate network of Schelling points” rings true, and I particularly like your conclusion that “violent conflict is especially likely to occur on the boundary between cultures, where people with very different ways of viewing the world interact.”

            Essentially, I support a state policing these boundaries and nothing else; however, I do not accept the conventional “night watchman state”, because the usual formulation presumes many standards of propriety that are community standards, and may vary between communities, in my way of thinking.

            I accept something like a “social contract”, but I also accept Spooner’s objection. I didn’t sign no stinkin’ contract either. The obvious (and possibly naive) answer to this objection makes the contract explicit and the signature voluntary, but a “voluntary” signature implies a choice among many contracts offering diverse terms, thus the liberal archipelago. In your words, “Groups with efficient norms will prosper and grow by recruitment. Others will imitate them.” Of course, groups may also shrink similarly, and once efficient norms may become less efficient.

            I particularly like your (possible) conclusion, “my moral judgments are ex post rationalizations of the world I live in or the conclusions of my economic analysis.” I’ll pursue this point further, but I’ll post above to avoid the indentation here.

  • John

    What should Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy think of religious libertarians?

    There is no such thing as a “leftist libertarian”. There are libertarians and libertines. There is no libertarian argument for theft, redistribution, control. A leftist isn’t someone that works at a soup kitchen to help people, a leftist is someone who wants to impose his agenda on others.

    The left has almost always been for greater personal freedom, but that’s not the problem. It’s what they do when they are forced to choose between their love of their freedom and the distaste for the freedom of others.

    “standard left-wing social views, such as concerns about racial or gender privilege, institutional racism, support for alternative lifestyles, same-sex marriage, etc.”

    The difference is, and why leftist CAN’T be libertarians, is that libertarians want to simply eliminate problems and barriers and stop controlling others. The left wants to impose solutions, supervisions, punishments, regulations, etc to ensure that they get the result they want.

    Just being pro pot and pro-immigration and pro-gay marriage doesn’t make you a libertarian. And theft for the purposes of redistribution is incompatible with libertarianism. No matter what part of your body is bleeding.

    • Jerome Bigge

      A libertarian is any person who believes that everyone is free to do as they wish as long as they don’t harm others in doing so. It also means that what they do, they take responsibility for. You are free to lead your life as you see fit, but you do not have the right to force your wishes on any one else. Unfortunately many religious persons believe that they have the right to force other people who do not share their beliefs to live according to the standards that they have set for themselves. Under Islam for example, a believer has the right and the obligation to force non-believers into either accepting Islam, or paying a “tax” to remain a non-believer. It is much the same with any group who believes that they have the right to force others to live the way that they want.

      • John

        Right, so the BHL belief that they can tax me in order to pay for someone else’s life is what?

        • Kevin Vallier

          That is not the “BHL belief” insofar as there are any.

          • John

            It sure gets proposed a lot here.

            What then, is a left libertarian willing to force upon others while still claiming to be “libertarian”?

            And if nothing, what is the point of using the term “left”?

            Why not “guilt-ridden libertarianism”?

        • Jerome Bigge

          A certain amount of taxes are necessary to
          maintain a society, but we are well beyond
          that level.

          Jerome Bigge
          http://www.muskegonlibertarian.wordpress.com

        • martinbrock

          My BHL belief is that you may not tax others to pay for your property rights. You must obtain respect for your property rights voluntarily, by accepting terms of ownership that others freely respect.

          Precisely how you can do that is debatable, but what we call “liberal democracy” these days is not a path to the ideal. I’ve debated this path long enough.

          • John

            Sadly, people almost have to have freedom put upon them by force, ironically

  • Sam

    “The worst I’ve encountered is incredulity that anyone could hold religiously conservative views I without some serious cognitive failing. But that’s just the result of not paying attention to contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.”

    If the arguments for god’s existence were good, why aren’t they discussed in metaphysics, rather than simply philosophy of religion? Why does there need to be a separate field for religious views? One of the reasons that I think atheist philosophers don’t pay attention to the philosophy of religion is because the arguments for gods existence that we are acquainted with are bad (ontological, cosmological, teleological, etc.), and they keep coming back, slightly revised. For instance, in my opinion, William Lane Craig is a terrible philosopher, and not only are his arguments bad, but he is intellectual dishonest in his public debates and speeches. People like him turn the rest of us off from the philosophy of religion in general, which is unfortunate, because there may be much better philosophers with much better arguments. But most of the arguments I’ve seen seem like desperate attempts to prove a conclusion that its proponents were committed to beforehand.

    • John

      God = that which we do not know.

      He’ll be around awhile.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        I would amend your formulation only slightly. God is that which cannot, in principle, ever be known (at least by us).

        • Tom

          So how do we know it exists? If it does exist, how do we know what properties it has? It seems to me as if most theists act as if they know at least something about it.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Never said I know. What then would be the point of faith?

    • Kevin Vallier

      Ok, so setting WLC aside (but he’s a pretty solid time guy, right?), there are lots of people advancing and developing the traditional theistic arguments and they’ve been doing so for decades. What’s more, many of them contribute to analytic metaphysics in other ways (Van Inwagen, Rea, Crisp and some others).

      But theists have been a good bit more influential in epistemology (Alston, Plantinga, Wolterstorff). And there’s a ton of good religious epistemology which I think shows you don’t need anything like a proof to justify theistic belief.

      I offer a primer here on all this stuff here: http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/10/contemporary-christian-philosophy-a-primer/

    • David Friedman

      “But most of the arguments I’ve seen seem like desperate attempts to
      prove a conclusion that its proponents were committed to beforehand.”

      And this differs from other parts of philosophy, such as Rawlsian, how?

  • MSI

    Bad terminology used here without clear definitions. What is meant by conservative? Religious is unimportant. Do we mean someone who lives what some mistakingly call a “conservative” life them self? Or do we mean a “conservative” who also wants the law to reflect there personal values?

    The Pauls want the law to reflect their values. Both said the law should make abortion illegal, both said they should make gay marriage illegal. They just want social control done at the state level—mainly I think because they believe they can win there and not at the federal level.

    Someone who says: “I personally would never get an abortion.” Is individually conservative but not a social conservative. It is when they wish to impose that moral value on society as a whole that they become a social conservative. And, then they are outside the libertarian tradition. If you don’t define your terms well when you start the rest of the discussion because somewhat useless.

    • David Friedman

      The problem with that argument in the abortion context is that you wouldn’t, I think, say that someone who wants to impose the moral value “you shall not murder” on society as a whole is a social conservative. So your objection isn’t to the willingness to impose values but to interpreting abortion as murder.

  • M Lister

    I think of Ron Paul and Rand Paul as religious conservatives

    I thought Rand followed Aqua Buddha. Is he a conservative in that faith, or has he gone apostate?

    • http://www.facebook.com/grahamshevlin Graham Shevlin

      I have read Ron Paul identifying himself as a “constitutional conservative” on several different occasions. I find it puzzling how many people seem to regard the Pauls as libertarians. I think they hold some libertarian positions, but that doesn’t make them libertarians in my world. If they are libertarians, why are they also posing as a Republicans?

      • Damien S.

        Ron Paul ran as the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988. And if you want to get elected and do any good, it makes sense for a libertarian (or green, or socialist) to work within one of the two parties that can actually get elected.

        • martinbrock

          After half a century of observing politics in reality, “get elected” and “do any good” seem contradictory to me.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            True but it is hard to imagine that he would have done as much harm as the current regime.

          • martinbrock

            Agreed.

      • John

        They’re more libertarian than most anyone in Congress. The elder Paul had some obviously conflicting issues.

  • good_in_theory

    “They are typically racially egalitarian”

    Religious conservatism and racism are positive correlates.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      No they are not. Want to know where you will, in our society find the most eclectic mix of races, and ethnicities? In any Evangelical Church in any major city.

      • martinbrock

        At Liberty University (a fundamentalist Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell), 69% of the student body self-identifies as “white or caucasian”. The other 31% identifies with another ethnicity or does not answer the question. 52% of the student body is female (the figure for all universities in the U.S. is 58%).

        http://www.petersons.com/college-search/liberty-university-000_10002508.aspx

        Compare that to the ethnic/gender composition of the Congress.

      • good_in_theory

        “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of Christian America,” as the quote goes.

        In any case your anecdote isn’t representative.

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-682X.2010.00340.x/abstract

        • Sean II

          That first article is a wonderful self-parody of academic cluelessness.

          No reasonable person operating without the pressure to publish would manufacture a mystery from the banal fact that black people prefer black churches.

  • Nolan

    Long time lurker, first time commenter (or at least it’s been a while). At my university, I’ve acted as president of both our Secular Student Alliance chapter, as well as our Students for Liberty chapter (herding two very different kinds of cats), so I find this question very interesting.

    Uniquely, the liberty movement has been able to set aside a fair number of major disagreements (at least concerning private morality), particularly in a way that other movements I’ve been involved with (namely secular causes) cannot. While I’ve regularly presided over rooms full of diverse libertarians who have gone out of their way avoid polarizing issues of private morality, it seems all too common for secular meetings to dissolve into wild bickering after someone identifies them self as political libertarian, with the libertarian/socialist/liberal three-way divide cracking wide open (and alienating many members in the process).

    I think it just comes down to a fundamental difference regarding the relationship between the state and morality. As libertarians, we all recognize that our private moral views would not translate into a divided movement (or policies that would legally undermine their moral preferences). I find it laughable when someone talks about how ‘men and women should perform separate roles.’ That someone thinks I’m being foolish when I argue that it’s fairly natural for humans to consume drugs in moderate ways (I’m mainly meaning caffeine, marijuana, and alcohol here). But we can still get along and work together. We’re doing what a free society ideally allows: working together on our common concerns, despite disagreeing on certain unrelated issues. We can safely discuss those issues from time to time, because no matter how wrong the other side is, we can at least agree that the winner of those debates shouldn’t make their view law.

    I think the problems really only come from outside the movement; people see tiny fractions of the movement who have fairly distasteful private views (as the New York Times recently did), and then associate their private view on issues like race and gender (in)equality to be the view of libertarianism. Of course that’s unfair and dishonest, but it’ll always be a problem in a movement that makes few demands of one’s private moral preferences. In my estimation, the mistake comes from the fact that unlike American liberalism or conservatism, libertarianism possess a more nuanced view on the relationship between state and morality. Failing to grasp this, our critics say “Hey, this libertarian group has some ‘race realists,’ and they support policy x, all people who support policy x must share this disturbing motivation.” What they fail to recognize is that for libertarianism, individual moral views don’t always, of even often, translate into public policy. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s the impression that I get.

    All of this hints at why the secular movement is so incredibly tumultuous. When the sizable minority of libertarians say ‘let the crazies homeschool their kids,’ they take it to mean we’re not REALLY committed to critical inquiry. This confusion then infects every policy area, as the socialists and liberals slowly find out we also take issue with status quo welfare programs, economic planning, and so much more (and then proceed to make the same confusion outlined in the school example). When libertarians (and often reasonable liberals, it’s worth noting) within the secular movement gain leadership, they can focus the group the way the liberty group is focused: keeping church and state separate is what unites us – stick to this, or things fall apart. Otherwise, the movement just totally collapses as state-oriented SJWs take over and begin their (indirect) purges of libertarians by constantly focusing on what a ‘secular morality’ requires that state do.

    It’s this idea about the the distinction between morality and politics that keeps libertarians together, and it’s the inability to grasp it that leads to the implosion of diverse groups like the secular movement. However, when libertarians have different ideas about which moral views affect policy, we see problems (and confrontation).

  • David Friedman

    I think there are problems with classifying iii as “repulsive and inegalitarian.” There are good evolutionary reasons to expect at least some correlation between gender and personality characteristics. We are, after all, the product of selection for reproductive success, and males and females differ precisely in their roles in reproduction.

    Hence I don’t see any a priori reason for rejecting the idea that male/female relations should typically be asymmetrical, whether in the way you describe or other ways. So long as the arrangement is voluntary, it’s no more repulsive than the idea that the relation between members of a football team and their coach should typically by asymmetrical. Indeed, I’m tempted to describe the claim that inequality in the form of voluntarily asymmetric relations is repulsive as evidence of belief in forms of authority and irrationality that might make the believers “uneasy supporters of liberty”—the authority in that case being ideological.

    One might, of course, argue that that particular asymmetry is a mistake, but that would require argument and evidence, not just an emotional rejection on ideological grounds.

    On adultery I think you also have a problem, as others have suggested. Sex with someone you are not married to is only adultery if you are married, and there is enough ambiguity in what counts as marriage in modern society so that there is nothing particularly odd about someone restricting the term to the conventional arrangement that includes a commitment to sexual fidelity. In that context, libertarians, left or otherwise, ought to object to adultery as a breach of contract.

    Note also that your point (a) would be relevant to libertarians in general, not just your category of left libertarians.

    • Sean II

      I have a slightly different problem with (iii).

      “(iii) that believes marriage is restricted, on moral and theological grounds, to a man and a woman and that both parties should voluntarily agree to give men a greater share in leadership in the marriage.”

      My complaint is that (iii) actually contains both a (iii) and a (iv). The idea that marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman is quite separable from any idea about what should happen within such marriages.

      I wonder why he packaged them together like that.

      • Kevin Vallier

        Because most world religions do.

        • Sean II

          No doubt, but the exception – Euro-American Protestants of the “cake or death” type – is pretty significant. That group is still plenty upset about gay marriage, but they gave up the ghost on wifey obedience long ago.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            This speaks to a larger problem I have with Vallier’s arguments in this post. He seems to be including/excluding considerations based on what makes his case strongest. Your point here is precisely spot-on. Religious conservatives count when Vallier wants them to count, and are just sort of atypical exceptions when considering them weakens his case.

            This is why I brought up Islam. Vallier’s response: Considering Muslims here makes things complicated. Well, of course it does. That’s why it’s important to consider the matter.

            Note that I can’t really blame Vallier for including only the best evidence to buttress his case, but I feel he ought to be more forthcoming about the weaknesses in his argument.

    • Kevin Vallier

      It’s a good challenge to iiii, for left libertarians, anyway. Interested to see what some would say.

    • stevenjohnson2

      Men and women are the same species. The notion that it is even possible for there to be a significant difference in their reproductive strategies must be justified. Conception and parturition are only stages in successful reproduction. Raising the children to reproductive age is just as essential. The only historically established alternative human reproductive strategy is polygyny. But polygyny is a cultural trait, not a biological one. Evolutionary “reasons” to dress up the same old bigotry is BS.

      • David Friedman

        The notion that they can not be expected to follow the same reproductive strategies follows directly from evolutionary biology and the facts of reproduction. Most obviously, seduce and abandon, if successful, increases reproductive success for males but not for females. The scarce biological resource for reproduction is wombs, and they are possessed only by females.

        Polyandry is also historically established, although less common than polygyny, which is in turn less common than monogamy.

        I think you have demonstrated a point I occasionally make, that many people who claim to believe in evolution in fact don’t, as demonstrated by their unwillingness to face implications of it that don’t fit their ideological prejudices.

        • stevenjohnson2

          “…if successful…” No one has ever bothered to make the case that men can somehow have more children survive to reproductive age. Common sense suggests that fatherless children are less likely to survive in technologically primitive environments.

          Fifty percent of humanity possesses wombs. They are not a scarce resource. Saying that is just crazy. Breast milk is a much scarcer resource and only women possess breasts. But a child weaned still is not reproductive success. The abandoned children who fail to reproduce are genetic failures. It would make much more sense to claim that monogamy is the male evolutionary strategy for successful reproduction.

          Except that for the successful males, polygyny has even more payoff! If evolutionary “reasons” are so powerful, why isn’t that the norm? Polyandry of course is even less successful than seduce and abandon or monogamy. And the existence of nonbreeding populations such as monasteries is wholly inexplicable.

          Let me suggest instead that the only thing genes explain about human sexuality is the capacity for orgasm, which apparently serves as the prime motivator for the biologically costly practice of reproductive sex. Your version of evolution is thinly disguised superstition that simply replaces “God” with “evolution” and “God’s will” with human nature. Bigotry disguised is still bigotry.

          • martinbrock

            The demand for a womb is a penis that can impregnate a dozen wombs in a day, absent competition, while a womb once impregnated is unavailable for subsequent impregnation for at least nine months, so wombs are extremely scarce relative to the demand for them.

            Monogamy is both the father’s strategy and the mother’s strategy. It increases parental energy invested in the progeny of both. Polygyny was not the norm among human beings for a while, because motherhood is very taxing for a human. Human gestation is unusually long, and child birth is unusually burdensome, because a human child’s head is so large for example. Human infancy (the stage before independent survival is likely) is also extremely long.

            Maternal death in child birth was once very common, and disability following birth was also common, and the burden on a single parent was very great, so a child with a highly devoted father was much more likely to survive than other children. Monogamy can only have become common this way.

          • stevenjohnson2

            The logic is not phrased the way I would, but the last two paragraphs of the post above are essentially correct. In practice, in a technologically primitive society with scarce or sporadic nutrition, the calorie burden of breast feeding can be enough to prevent menstruation, prolonging the non-breeding period. (It is not a very effective form of birth control, to be sure.) Polyandry seems to arise in societies so resource-deprived that it takes more than one husband to raise the children.

            As for the first paragraph, again, conception and parturition are only part of the story. The notion of scarce wombs seems to be an importation of economic ideology. If wombs available for pregnancy were truly the bottleneck implied, then we should expect techonologically primitive societies to have birth rates proportional to the numbers of breeding women. I don’t think anyone has bothered to test this thesis because availability of food, starting with breast milk, has presented itself so forcefully as a candidate. If you want to talk biology, explain how menstruation limiting the number of pregnable wombs doesn’t aggravate this alleged scarcity!

            Drawing conclusions from genetics or the different amounts of energy expended for an ejaculation and a pregnancy leads down the drain. There is even more divergence in the institution of infanticide. Genes have no explanatory power in that regard.

            It is always true: Whenever someone starts talking evolution or biology they are merely rationalizing the same old bigotry.

          • martinbrock

            So every evolutionary biologist is always rationalizing bigotry? Evolutionary biology itself is nothing but a rationalization of bigotry? What leads you to this conclusion?

            If wombs are not scarce relative to penises, in the evolutionary process generating the human genome, why are human males typically larger and stronger than females? The conventional story is that males competing for wombs accounts for this difference. Do you doubt this story?

            Infanticide is not difficult to understand when women’s wombs are fully occupied while resources will not support the resulting birthrate. Intelligent mothers will cull under the circumstances.

  • sjohnson

    Speaking as someone raised as a religious conservative, I wonder where these “liberalized” religions are?

    There is no single set of positions that define any particular denomination or congregation. Nonetheless, there are a very broad range of policies and positions common to many parts of the religious conservative spectrum For instance, divine favor, not just for a high school football team, but especially, America. When America invades or bombs another country, it is service to God and proof of “our” virtue. Since so many victimized countries are predominantly Muslim rather helps.

    Another religious conservative position is Christian Zionism. Only some religious conservatives are openly hostile to Jews in the US, but even those who condemn Judaism as false religion tend to approve heartily of Jews in Palestine.

    Part of Godliness is patriotism and militarism.

    The use of state power to enforce virtue in the forms of laws against disallowed behaviors like alcohol, drugs and sex are not universal but extremely widespread. Advocacy of censorship of sexuality is extremely common. Restrictions on divorce and contraception as well as marriage are not currently widely publicized goals but there are barely hidden appetites. In particular, almost all religious conservatives are very committed to preserving the indoctrinating function of schools.

    The insistence on treating the religious position that conception is the advent of an ensouled life as justification for equating abortion with murder is also very widespread. Religious conservatives in this country are no more interested in denouncing religiously-inspired or justified anti-abortion terrorism than moderate conservative Muslims are interested in denouncing jihadi terrorism.

    The commitment of religious conservatives to the fatherhood of God meaning the brotherhood of man is tested every Sunday. Religious services may well be the most segregated institutions left in this country.

    But one key religious conservative principle is, God gives everyone their just desserts (the poor deserve it). Libertarians believe that the market gives everyone their just desserts (the poor deserve it.) This is such a huge area of common ground that I’m quite sure that libertarianism is quite compatible with religous conservatism.

    • martinbrock

      Markets give everyone a just dessert, in my way of thinking, but established propriety does not. Of course, I presume meanings of “market” and “propriety” than we must discuss to reach a common understanding. Libertarians generally do not think that existing property rights are what everyone (particularly the poor) justly deserves. This libertarian certainly doesn’t think so.

      • David Friedman

        “If you compel me to accept your exclusive governance of particular
        resources … then I
        don’t believe that the exchange is voluntary, so I don’t believe the
        market is free.”

        Does that apply if the resource I claim exclusive governance over is myself? Most income in developed societies is labor income, so much of income inequality, although of course not all of it, is a consequence of different people’s labor being of different value to other people.

        • martinbrock

          No. Your self is exceptional in my way of thinking, but fruits of your labor are not. Community standards determine the disposition of fruits of your labor in my libertopa, not your will exclusively. If you may part with a fruit of your labor, then it clearly is not a product of you exclusively, so it cannot be yours to govern exclusively. A “labor mixing” standard is only one possible resolution of this problem.

          Of course, Lockean propriety or Rothbardian propriety may be a particular community’s standard, and an individual may withdraw from a community governing fruits of his labor contrary to his preference, so that future fruits of his labor are governed differently, but what he takes from a community is necessarily a matter of community standards, since other community members may claim these resources, within community standards, as soon as he withdraws his membership.

          As a practical matter, if you tattoo yourself, I suppose this tattoo is a fruit of your labor and also an inseparable part of you, so you must take it with you when withdrawing from a community regardless of any community standard. Similarly, if you eat corn, the corn becomes a part of your body, and you cannot be meaningfully free to leave a community without a right to take the digested corn with you.

          The boundary between you and not you is debatable, but this debate often seems sophistic to me, particularly when anarcho-capitalists describe a parcel of land, or a share of Google stock, as somehow an extension of my person. Defining the boundary this way seems ridiculous to me and only serves to justify all sorts of forcible interference with individual liberty in the name of “individual liberty”.

          I’m not an anarchist, strictly speaking, so I imagine a state imposing minimal standards on communities, to secure an individual liberty to withdraw from any community at will but hardly constraining community standards otherwise. If you really want to press me on these minimal standards, you can, but I can similarly press an anarcho-capitalist on the standards they presume to enforce universally.

          My libertarianism is thinner than the anarcho-capitalist variety and thus does not exclude anarcho-capitalism. A Rothbardian community is entirely possible within my libertopia, and Rothbardian standards may predominate. Everyone who wants Rothbardian standards may have them.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    I suppose I would be considered one of those right wing libertarians. Although I am not particularly religious, I think it is axiomatic that society has lost a lot of it’s cohesion, stability, and even empathy as we have seen a rise in secular values and a loss in traditional values. I am very traditional on social issues. HOWEVER, the reason I am a libertarian is that I discovered that using law to impose those values is always self defeating.

  • Ax2root

    bible believing Christians believe in God given free will to agree with God or the devil. So while we will never disagree with a persons right to agree with the devil we will fight to the max it’s effect on the country of WE THE PEOPLE” representation. laws reflect morality, they don’t make it.

  • reason60

    As a religious leftist, I admit I have never heard an argument for religious libertarianism that didn’t inflict torturous damage to both.
    Seeing the responses from secular libertarians below doesn’t give me any pause in that assessment.

  • Sergio Méndez

    As a left libertarian, I do not think it is really possible to embrace libertarian religious conservatives. And that is because as a left leaning libertarian (and I think in this religious conservatives also agree), we are thick libertarians. That means that we think other things matter, aside from getting rid of the State or reduing it to a minimum. Other things like culture, or morality (that are not necesarely enforced thru the law). In that sense left libertarianism is at odds with religious conservatism in all the 3 aspects Kevin has described. And the differences are, in the end radical. I can disagree with people like Steve Horowitz when discusing stuff like sweatshops, if they are good for workers and reducing povertry or not. But the disagreement is not radical, since we both seek the same objective. I can say the same of a religious conservative when he wants to defend – as normative, regardless if it is using the state or not- gender roles that are opresive, or homophobia. We can both share the same objectives considering the state, but that is as far as it goes.

  • FranciscodAnconia

    It’s really hard to take anyone arguing left/right libertarian seriously.

    There is no right libertarian and there is no left libertarian. There is only that which may be argued from first principles. IOW…libertarian. PERIOD!

    How far you deviate from those principles is the measure of a libertarian.

    When debating individual issues support should be accepted regardless of whether it stems from actual libertarian principle or not. But the fact that your opinion happens to agree with libertarian opinion, doesn’t make you a libertarian.

    • Tom

      It’s hard to take you seriously. The right/left distinction in libertarianism has to do with how natural resources can be acquired and owned. If you think that homesteading grants you unlimited, exclusive control over natural resources, then you’re a right libertarian. And since what actions count as aggression depends on who owns what, the left/right distinction is very important.

      • FranciscodAnconia

        My assumption is that you are referring to abortion.

        There is no libertarian stance on abortion, for the simple reason that one cannot determine the moment a lump of cells becomes a person (with rights).

        If it’s simply a lump of cells, the woman’s rights obviously take priority.

        If it’s a person, the child’s right to life trumps the woman’s right to not be inconvenienced.

        There is no left/right about it. You may argue a position as to when “personhood” happens, but that’s not a libertarian argument.

      • FranciscodAnconia

        “If you think that homesteading grants you unlimited, exclusive control over natural resources, then you’re a right libertarian. “

        False premise. How is such a claim derived from the NAP?

        The only thing libertarianism requires, is that one may not initiate force. There are no caveats.

        • Tom

          No, I wasn’t thinking about abortion at all. You say that the only thing libertarianism requires is that one may not initiate force. Okay, so then you’ll agree that libertarianism is compatible with communism or progressive taxation. It’s also compatible with one guy owning the whole earth and making everyone his effective slave. Since he owns all the land and food, he can withhold food from anyone who doesn’t obey him and force them off of his land into the ocean. If they disobey him on his property, they are initiating force on him.

          The NAP lacks substance. Every political ideology can accept the NAP and it won’t make any difference, since as I said, exactly what constitutes “initiating force” depends upon the nature of property relations.

          Take a simple example. Two people, A and B, are on a plot of land. Suppose A takes his gun out and points it at B. From this information, it is impossible to determine who is initiating force on whom. If A owns the land, then B might be initiating force by trespassing. If B owns the land, then A is initiating force. The NAP alone is useless. If libertarianism is simply the acceptance of the NAP, then libertarianism is useless, since everyone, even the most staunch totalitarian, can consider themselves a libertarian.

          • FranciscodAnconia

            “Okay, so then you’ll agree that libertarianism is compatible with communism or progressive taxation.”

            Nonsense. Communism denies me my innate right to own property. Progressive taxation deprives me of my property without my consent. Both are initiation of force. Period.

            One guy doesn’t own the whole earth, nor is that likely to happen under any system, let alone a free market system. Competition will preclude it.

            Initiation of force is simply one infringing upon the rights of another. When rights are in conflict, which rights take precedence are decided through courts.

            Your example is meaningless. To argue that I must be able to determine who is initiating force by observing a situation from afar for the NAP to be valid is a non sequitur. There IS an initiator of force in that situation, we simply cannot determine it from the scant information you’ve provided.

  • Guest

    @David Friedman

    Re: http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Property/Property.html

    I understand why your mathematician chooses 2, but I’m also a mathematician and not so single minded. My mind is more like a Minksyian society (Marvin Minsky’s Society of Mind), with many voices competing to influence the formulations I express.

    Though I share you mathematician’s fetish for perfect squares and primes, I also prefer larger primes to smaller primes. Small primes are mere novelties. Large primes have valuable applications in cryptography, and mathematicians actually compete to find ever larger primes. With all three of these criteria to satisfy, I prefer the largest square of a prime number on the list, and this number is 69.

    I also have prurient interests, but you already knew that. If my counterpart in your game happens to be a mathematician sharing these interests, so much the better, but I could be a winner if we share only the mathematical interest or only the prurient interest. I could even be a winner if we share only the interest in primes or only the interest in perfect squares.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, the reasoning for my chosen number occurred to me ex post facto. Shocking as this revelation may seem, I chose 69 first and then found a mathematical rationalization of this choice. People do this sort of thing all the time, and the cleverest people do it most effectively.

    The skill is particularly valuable to politicians, but it is also valuable to a player of your second game. Lying is valuable to both players, but some lies are more valuable than others, and some people effectively lie to themselves before lying to others, so they aren’t technically lying at all, since their statements are always completely sincere, no matter what they say.

    Suppose I play bilateral monopoly in the following scenario. I’m fatally ill and will die tomorrow. My estate is under water by 50 cents, so anything I gain by playing the game, up to fifty cents, goes to my creditors; however, if I gain more than 50 cents, I can pay my creditors and also leave my child a bequest.

    I could accept the 50 cents for the benefit of my creditors, but I don’t like them, so I’m happier leaving them with the loss; however, if I receive 75 cents, I’m willing to pay my creditors the 50 cents since I’ll also be leaving 25 cents to my child. If I receive less than 75 cents, the small bequest to my child does not compensate me for the pain of paying my creditors, particularly since my child owes the same creditors.

    This story could be a lie, of course, but if it’s true, I really have no reason to accept the 50 cents. In fact, accepting the 50 cents is contrary to my interests. My refusal to accept 50 cents is evidence (though not sufficient evidence) that my story is true. The person with the more persuasive story of this kind may take more than 50 cents in bilateral monopoly. [You already knew that too.]

    The winner of bilateral monopoly (the recipient of more than 50 cents) might also tell Schelling’s story about marginal utility and claim the larger income, but somehow, this strategy seems less effective to me, and it certainly would not persuade me to accept 25 cents if my story is true. If my story is true, 25 cents is worth less than nothing to me, more so if my counterpart in the game, for whom 50 cents has less marginal utility, is also my creditor.

    Still, the truth of my story only moves the Schelling point, so I still see your point. Also, I need not accept the marginal utility story to accept the existence a Schelling point. We might agree on another criteria implying a different point; however, if the price of failing to agree is a continuation of Hobbseian conflict, I’m not sure how the Schelling point story differs from “might makes rights”.

    In the Hobbseian state, all parties to these conflicts are not equally powerful. Civilization emerges (or does not emerge?) from the Hobbseian state as the most powerful combatants adopt more powerful weapons enabling them to impose rules benefiting themselves.

    Complex communication itself is very powerful, so the most persuasive story tellers (regardless of any “truth” in the modern sense) and the most literate (most able to propagate stories) are powerful allies, even more powerful than physically more powerful beings.

    A typical lion is physically more powerful than any man, but lions cooperate less effectively to impose their will on humans. Human power overall is much greater, so humans subjugate lions and not the other way around. People subjugate other people similarly, but brute force is not their most powerful weapon. Force is one weapon among many.

    Developing technology and communicating the techniques is also valuable but perhaps less valuable than clever story telling in moving humanity out of the Hobbseian state (if we ever left it) initially. In a sense, clever story telling is itself a technology with communicable techniques.

    As a libertarian, I don’t object to clever story telling. This story telling is not “force” that I rule out, but story telling and the force I rule out both are more powerful, synergistically, when combined. Effective story telling is a powerful force amplifier and is less powerful without force to amplify.

    Your paper provoked a few other reactions.

    I doubt that Thatcher expected the Argentine government to roll over other British protectorates without a vigorous defense of the Falklands. I don’t know what motivated her exactly, but I don’t think that’s it.

    I’m not sure I would fight a thief rather than surrendering, but I am sure I would fight only if I thought him considerably less powerful than the Federal government. If I pay taxes because I really want others to believe that I will pay taxes, I’m successfully lying to myself, which is entirely possible.

    Regarding “a rule for holding down the total number of whales killed so as to preserve the population of whales”, I’m not sure this rule is Pareto efficient in the sense that I usually see, as in your formulation, “there is no different norm such that at least one person would be better off and nobody worse off if everyone switched to it.”

    A whaler breaking this rule benefits by breaking it. That he hunts himself out of business is irrelevant, because he may pursue other business thereafter. In a world rich in monopoly rents, he may accumulate entitlement to these rents by hunting whales to extinction. That followers of the rule also lose their businesses, while accumulating less entitlement to rent, is not his problem.

    I accept “our actual civil order is the result of extended bargaining, based ultimately on natural property” with reservations, but I reject, “The same description [natural property] applies to my gun—because I know where I hid it and you do not.”

    I don’t say that a gun is natural property, because a gun is an artifact, but this objection seems superficial. A gun could be naturally my possession, which is what you seem to mean, but a gun that is not my property can be my natural possession. If I take (what was formerly) your gun and hide it from you, the gun becomes my natural property in your formulation, but most people don’t use “property” this way.

    The same description also applies to your gun if you have a gun and I do not or if you have a more accurate gun or a gun with a longer range. A gun gives you a negotiating advantage. This advantage, and cooperation among men with guns, is the essence of the state.

    A state does not usurp negotiation as much as it negotiates with guns. I have a gun, and you don’t want my bullet in your head, so we negotiate. A network of men with guns grows by virtue of network externalities, until one network becomes a monopoly, and this monopoly is the state.

  • martinbrock

    @David Friedman

    Re: http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Property/Property.html

    I understand why your mathematician chooses 2, but I’m also a mathematician and not so single minded. My mind is more like a Minksyian society (Marvin Minsky’s Society of Mind), with many voices competing to influence the formulations I express.

    Though I share you mathematician’s fetish for primes, my monogamous voice prefers primes in pairs, and though excessive difference disrupts a relationship, a little difference invigorates it, so I prefer the number having two distinct prime factors with the smallest difference, and this number is 69.

    I also have prurient interests, but you already knew that. If my counterpart in your game happens to be a mathematician sharing these interests, so much the better, but I could be a winner if we share only the mathematical interest or only the prurient interest. I could even be a winner if we share only the interest in primes or only the interest in perfect squares.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, the reasoning for my chosen number occurred to me ex post facto. Shocking as this revelation may seem, I chose 69 first and then found a mathematical rationalization of this choice. People do this sort of thing all the time, and the cleverest people do it most effectively.

    The skill is particularly valuable to politicians, but it is also valuable to a player of your second game. Lying is valuable to both players, but some lies are more valuable than others, and some people effectively lie to themselves before lying to others, so they aren’t technically lying at all, since their statements are always completely sincere, no matter what they say.

    Suppose I play bilateral monopoly in the following scenario. I’m fatally ill and will die tomorrow. My estate is under water by 50 cents, so anything I gain by playing the game, up to fifty cents, goes to my creditors; however, if I gain more than 50 cents, I can pay my creditors and also leave my child a bequest.

    I could accept the 50 cents for the benefit of my creditors, but I don’t like them, so I’m happier leaving them with the loss; however, if I receive 75 cents, I’m willing to pay my creditors the 50 cents since I’ll also be leaving 25 cents to my child. If I receive less than 75 cents, the small bequest to my child does not compensate me for the pain of paying my creditors, particularly since my child owes the same creditors.

    This story could be a lie, of course, but if it’s true, I really have no reason to accept the 50 cents. In fact, accepting the 50 cents is contrary to my interests. My refusal to accept 50 cents is evidence (though not sufficient evidence) that my story is true. The person with the more persuasive story of this kind may take more than 50 cents in bilateral monopoly. [You already knew that too.]

    The winner of bilateral monopoly (the recipient of more than 50 cents) might also tell Schelling’s story about marginal utility and claim the larger income, but somehow, this strategy seems less effective to me, and it certainly would not persuade me to accept 25 cents if my story is true. If my story is true, 25 cents is worth less than nothing to me, more so if my counterpart in the game, for whom 50 cents has less marginal utility, is also my creditor.

    Still, the truth of my story only moves the Schelling point, so I still see your point. Also, I need not accept the marginal utility story to accept the existence a Schelling point. We might agree on another criteria implying a different point; however, if the price of failing to agree is a continuation of Hobbseian conflict, I’m not sure how the Schelling point story differs from “might makes rights”.

    In the Hobbseian state, all parties to these conflicts are not equally powerful. Civilization emerges (or does not emerge?) from the Hobbseian state as the most powerful combatants adopt more powerful weapons enabling them to impose rules benefiting themselves.

    Complex communication itself is very powerful, so the most persuasive story tellers (regardless of any “truth” in the modern sense) and the most literate (most able to propagate stories) are powerful allies, even more powerful than physically more powerful beings.

    A typical lion is physically more powerful than any man, but lions cooperate less effectively to impose their will on humans. Human power overall is much greater, so humans subjugate lions and not the other way around. People subjugate other people similarly, but brute force is not their most powerful weapon. Force is one weapon among many.

    Developing technology and communicating the techniques is also valuable but perhaps less valuable than clever story telling in moving humanity out of the Hobbseian state (if we ever left it) initially. In a sense, clever story telling is itself a technology with communicable techniques.

    As a libertarian, I don’t object to clever story telling. This story telling is not “force” that I rule out, but story telling and the force I rule out both are more powerful, synergistically, when combined. Effective story telling is a powerful force amplifier and is less powerful without force to amplify.

    Your paper provoked a few other reactions.

    I doubt that Thatcher expected the Argentine government to roll over other British protectorates without a vigorous defense of the Falklands. I don’t know what motivated her exactly, but I don’t think that’s it.

    I’m not sure I would fight a thief rather than surrendering, but I am sure I would fight only if I thought him considerably less powerful than the Federal government. If I pay taxes because I really want others to believe that I will pay taxes, I’m successfully lying to myself, which is entirely possible.

    Regarding “a rule for holding down the total number of whales killed so as to preserve the population of whales”, I’m not sure this rule is Pareto efficient in the sense that I usually see, as in your formulation, “there is no different norm such that at least one person would be better off and nobody worse off if everyone switched to it.”

    A whaler breaking this rule benefits by breaking it. That he hunts himself out of business is irrelevant, because he may pursue other business thereafter. In a world rich in monopoly rents, he may accumulate entitlement to these rents by hunting whales to extinction. That followers of the rule also lose their businesses, while accumulating less entitlement to rent, is not his problem.

    I accept “our actual civil order is the result of extended bargaining, based ultimately on natural property” with reservations, but I reject, “The same description [natural property] applies to my gun—because I know where I hid it and you do not.”

    I don’t say that a gun is natural property, because a gun is an artifact, but this objection seems superficial. A gun could be naturally my possession, which is what you seem to mean, but a gun that is not my property can be my natural possession. If I take (what was formerly) your gun and hide it from you, the gun becomes my natural property in your formulation, but most people don’t use “property” this way.

    The same description also applies to your gun if you have a gun and I do not or if you have a more accurate gun or a gun with a longer range. A gun gives you a negotiating advantage. This advantage, and cooperation among men with guns, is the essence of the state.

    A state does not usurp negotiation as much as it negotiates with guns. I have a gun, and you don’t want my bullet in your head, so we negotiate. A network of men with guns grows by virtue of network externalities, until one network becomes a monopoly, and this monopoly is the state.

    • David Friedman

      “I doubt that Thatcher expected the Argentine government to roll over
      other British protectorates without a vigorous defense of the Falklands.”

      My point was that she expected that other governments might do so if the British response to the invasion of the Falklands implied that doing so would be inexpensive.

      • martinbrock

        That makes more sense.

  • Florence Cline

    For the life of me, I cannot understand this article. If you are a left libertarian who believes, as you state in your first paragraphs, in tolerance of different expressions of living, then why are you even asking this question? Shouldn’t it go without saying that you are tolerant of and even welcome others of differing points of view, as long as they agree to not push them on you through force (the law) or fraud which is the first and foremost principle of Libertarianism, and you agree to not force, through legal or other means, your ideas on them?

    And secondly, is it wise to think of people in groups and label them and assign attributes to them as if they were cows rather than thinking, feeling individual human beings? This applies to both groups you are commenting on – left libertarians and religiously conservative libertarians. This abstraction of your fellow humans is certainly a step towards totalitarian thinking rather than egalitarian thinking, against which we should all be vigilant.

    The spirit and strength of Libertarian political philosophy lies in its simple but difficult demand for self-respect and self-reliance and respect for the other. Its primary question is, ” What is just law?” From its platform you do not get to set the morally and socially correct agenda nor do people with religious convictions get to because those are not political/legal issues! They are cultural issues. So find a proper avenue for advocating whatever you want but please stop using the political arena – it only creates confusion.

  • Natan Kussler

    Nothing good can come in associating with conservative religious, especially those who actively want to take out civil rights from other people because of their stupid book.

    Next you’ll tell me that you should associate also with socialists and communists, since they also worry about civil rights like you, but have different point of views on economy, and they also should be “corrected”. Religious people will never be “corrected”, because you just can’t discuss with them, they have no right to impose their religion on other people civil rights, and they refuse to step down. Associating with these kind of people will only bring more enemies and more reason to call all libertarians “conservative republicans”.

    No, no, no, I would prefer a thousand times associate with a socialist, who at least is an intelligent person, besides disagreeing with him/her on economic views, than with a dumb conservative that thinks gay shouldn’t marry because it’s immoral and all that stupid bullshit. Religion (at least most of the most famous western religious) are an enemy of basic civil rights, which I think are much more important than economic freedom. This is a problem that happens in my country (Brazil), there’s a fight of socialists against dumb religious people, and you have to side with one of them, because there is nobody worried with freedom of market AND civil rights. And I have to pick the side of the socialists because there’s no way I’m going to let dumb religious people rule my country.

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