Sunday Ego Blogging / Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #16

It’s Sunday again; that means it’s time for Shameless Self-Promotion. This Sunday, unlike most, I’ll be leading off, because here’s what I received in the mail a few days ago:

The  July/August 2008 issue of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty

Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin

by Charles Johnson

To what extent should libertarians concern themselves with social commitments, practices, projects, or movements that seek social outcomes beyond, or other than, the standard libertarian commitment to expanding the scope of freedom from government coercion?

Clearly, a consistent and principled libertarian cannot support efforts or beliefs that are contrary to libertarian principles—such as efforts to engineer social outcomes by means of government intervention. But if coercive laws have been taken off the table, then what should libertarians say about other religious, philosophical, social, or cultural commitments that pursue their ends through noncoercive means, such as targeted moral agitation, mass education, artistic or literary propaganda, charity, mutual aid, public praise, ridicule, social ostracism, targeted boycotts, social investing, slowdowns and strikes in a particular shop, general strikes, or other forms of solidarity and coordinated action? Which social movements should they oppose,which should they support, and toward which should they counsel indifference? And how do we tell the difference?

In other words, should libertarianism be seen as a thin commitment, which can be happily joined to absolutely any set of values and projects, so long as it is peaceful, or is it better to treat it as one strand among others in a thick bundle of intertwined social commitments? Such disputes are often intimately connected with other disputes concerning the specifics of libertarian rights theory or class analysis and the mechanisms of social power. To grasp what’s at stake, it will be necessary to make the question more precise and to tease out the distinctions among some of the different possible relationships between libertarianism and thicker bundles of social, cultural, religious, or philosophical commitments, which might recommend integrating the two on some level or another.

. . .

— Charles Johnson, Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin, in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty 58.6 (July/August 2008), pp. 35–39.

You can read the whole thing (warning: PDF blob) at The Freeman’s online edition. Enjoy! FEE’s website doesn’t (yet) support online comments, but I’d be glad to hear what you think in the comments section over here.

One note about the article: it had to be shortened substantially both for reasons of space and considerations of the likely audience. I’ve talked with Sheldon, and I’ll be posting the longer version of the essay here at Rad Geek People’s Daily in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I would like to thank Sheldon Richman, for his encouragement, patience, and invaluable editing prowess; as well as Laura Breitenbeck and Roderick Long, for inspiration, discussion, and past collaboration, without which this article simply would not exist.

So, that’s me; what about you? What did you all write about this week? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments.

16 replies to Sunday Ego Blogging / Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #16 Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Erick Vasconcelos

    Not directly related to your text, but on the topic anyway: It seems to me that most libertarians are already committed to some set of cultural values, but just don’t want to defend them in a systematic way (that is, they just want to proclaim their views and not feel bound to defend them if challenged).

    I’m yet to read any libertarian author who only frames her discussions in terms of aggression (even Walter Block falsifies his claims to “thinness” by using economic arguments in defense of libertarianism).

    Most thin libertarians pronounce a number of cultural judgments, but when these judgments are challenged, they slide back to a “libertarianism is about aggression”-like position.

    I recall a post by Lew Rockwell that said something along the lines of “Libertarianism is about the state. Period.” I can’t it wasn’t amusing to read that in a website that publishes so many culture, religion and strategy-related texts every day.

  2. Nick Manley

    “I can’t it wasn’t amusing to read that in a website that publishes so many culture, religion and strategy-related texts every day.”

    Quite right you are!

    Lewrockwell.com publishes articles about intelligent design and creationism. What’s the connection between that and libertarianism?

    Charles,

    Thanks for the link to your new article. I printed it off for my collection. I have a real interest in moving libertarianism towards a more solid grounding that gives it more of an objectively valid philosophical foundation.

  3. scineram

    Why should they not publish things completely unrelated to libertarianism.

  4. FascistNation

    It is unconscionable to initiate force or fraud on anyone.

    Respect and do not trespass upon or steal private property.

    Keep your word and honor all contracts.

    All interactions between people must be mutually agreed upon.

    You should decide the disposition of everything you earn, produce and acquire.

    You are free to do as you please so long as you do not trespass upon another.

    Everyone should mind their own business.

    Follow these simple rules and I won’t have to kill you;-).

  5. Belinsky

    Great article, RG. Keep on plucking away at the right-libertarians, trying to move them toward the left. I hope you are making good progress. I’ll keep making efforts with pro-state lefties.

    At any rate, I wrote a very short snippit on the arrests of DNC protesters: http://thusspokebelinsky.blogspot.com/2008/08/dnc-protesters-arrested.html

  6. Mike Gogulski

    Nice to see you getting ink, Charles.

    I opened up on what I see as a set of rather common economic fallacies embraced by some anarchists here.

  7. John Petrie

    Erick Vasconcelos “I recall a post by Lew Rockwell that said something along the lines of ‘Libertarianism is about the state. Period.’”

    Luckily, I am a total quote-devourer, so I think I have the quote you’re referring to in my collection. Lew said, “Always and everywhere, the only serious political issue is what the state should and should not do. All the rest distracts.”

    So, in this case, even though you are correct in your point about LRC’s abundance of cultural, social, and strategy-related columns, Lew was referring to political arguments, so here I think he’s right in that specific sense. But maybe you’re thinking of another quote I haven’t read.

  8. John Petrie

    And I lambasted the stupid Michigan state government for trying to use more legislation to fix the economic recession it caused.

  9. Nick Manley

    “Why should they not publish things completely unrelated to libertarianism.”

    I don’t have any objection to that. It may have sounded like I did in my comment above though.

    What I do question is the wisdom of intelligent design and creationism.

  10. Sameul Haque

    Restaurant Owners Use Zapper To Cook the Books (Slashdot)

    Hugh Pickens passes along a NYTimes report on software programs called “zappers,” which allow even technologically illiterate restaurant and store owners to siphon cash from computer cash registers to cheat tax officials. In the old days, restaurant owners who wanted to cheat kept two sets of books. But because cash registers make automated records, hiding the theft requires getting into the machine’s memory and changing that record.

    “…the Canadian province of Quebec may be the world leader in prosecuting zapper cases. Since 1997, zappers have figured in more than 230 investigations, according to the tax collecting body Revenu Québec… In making 713 searches of merchants, Revenu Québec found 31 zapper programs that worked on 13 cash register systems. Only two known zapper cases have been prosecuted in the United States… The cash register security industry is focused on protecting patrons and owners from theft by employees, which may be one reason so few zappers are uncovered in the United States. No one hires security experts to protect the government from devious businesses… As hard as zapper software is to detect, it is easy to make, said Jeff Moss, organizer of the annual hacker convention Def Con. ‘If it runs on a Windows system and you are a competent Windows administrator, you can do it,’ he said.”

    The article makes it sound as if it’s mostly super rich businesses that are doing this when it’s probably mostly people just struggling to make it. Business aren’t cheating the government out of anything. Really the only thing businesses owe goverment for is the use of their currency because as the current state of affairs stand citizens don’t exactly get to decide what they want to pay for in government, and politicians think they can get a away with spending hundreds of billions of dollars for things most people simply don’t want. I wouldn’t really say that the government has the moral high ground here.

  11. Black Bloke

    Can’t wait to read the whole thing, and of course to witness the debate recommended at the end.

  12. Erick Vasconcelos

    John Petrie,

    No. The post was actually this. As you can see, he’s criticizing Steven Horwitz for his cultural leftism. That’s a bit odd, given what he publishes on his website.

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at www.postsaver.org

    Websites tagged "boycotts" on Postsaver:

    […] - Sunday Ego Blogging / Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #16 saved by eragon185672009-08-28 - More thoughts on the Mcdonald’s boycott saved by […]

— 2011 —

  1. Discussed at www.jacobroundtree.com

    Methodolgues and Ideologues in the Left Right Libertarian Split | The Social Rationalist:

    […] better emergent idea which would be free to supplant it.  This position has been derided as “thin libertarianism,” perhaps unfairly.  Libertarian methodologues believe that the constrained vision of […]

  2. Discussed at silverunderground.com

    Living as a Thick Libertarian OR Polyamory’s Discovery Process Silver Circle Underground | Silver Circle Underground:

    […] productive comradery are determined by the collective rule-making of its participants.  Within a thin libertarian lens all relationships which meet these criteria are legitimate, but I’d posit that more open […]

— 2013 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2008-10-03 – Libertarianism through Thick and Thin:

    […] is the promised expanded edition of an essay which originally appeared in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty in August 2008. […]

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