Posts tagged Roderick Long

Enter the Molinari Review

Shared Article from Austro-Athenian Empire

Molinari Review 1.1: What Lies Within? | Austro-Athenian Empire

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL] The Molinari Institute (the parent organization of the Center for a Stateless Society) is proud to announce the publica…

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Here’s an announcement from Roderick Long about the debut of the Molinari Review.

The Molinari Institute (the parent organization of the Center for a Stateless Society) is proud to announce the publication of the first issue of our new interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal, the Molinari Review, edited by yours truly, and dedicated to publishing scholarship, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, very broadly understood. (See our original call for papers.)

You can order a copy here:

Print Kindle
Amazon US Amazon US
Amazon UK Amazon UK
CreateSpace Store

It should also be available, now or shortly, on other regional versions of Amazon. And later on it’ll be available from our website as a free PDF download (because copyright restrictions are evil).


So what’s in it?

In “The Right to Privacy Is Tocquevillean, Not Lockean: Why It MattersJulio Rodman argues that traditional libertarian concerns with non-aggression, property rights, and negative liberty fail to capture the nature of our concern with privacy. Drawing on insights from Tocqueville and Foucault, Rodman suggests that privacy is primarily a matter, not of freedom from interference, but of freedom from observation, particularly accusatory observation.

In “Libertarianism and Privilege,” Billy Christmas charges that right-wing libertarians underestimate the extent and significance of harmful relations of privilege in society (including, but not limited to, class and gender privilege) because they misapply their own principles in focusing on proximate coercion to the exclusion of more indirect forms of coercion; but, he argues, broadening the lens of libertarian inquiry reveals that libertarian principles are more powerful tools for the analysis of privilege than privilege theorists generally suppose.

In “Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and Progress: Partners or Adversaries?,” Darian Nayfeld Worden interrogates traditional narratives of the Industrial Revolution. Distinguishing between capitalism (understood as a separation between labour and ownership/management) and free enterprise, Nayfeld Worden maintains that the rise of capitalism historically was in large part the result of a suppression of free enterprise, and that thanks to state intervention, the working-class benefited far less from industrialisation and technological innovation than they might otherwise have done.

In “Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism,” Gus diZerega contends that libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. (Look for a reply or two in our next issue.)

Finally, Nathan Goodman reviews Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire, an anthology edited by C. B. Daring, J. Rogue, Deric Shannon, and Abbey Volcano. Goodman praises the book for its illumination of many aspects of the intersection between anarchist tradition and the LGBTQ community, with particular emphasis on the tension between LGBTQ activists who seek to dismantle oppressive institutions and those who merely seek inclusion within them; but in the area of economics, he finds its authors to be too quick to dismiss the free market or to equate it with the prevailing regime of corporatist privilege.

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.

— Roderick Long, Molinari Review 1.1: What Lies Within?
Austro-Athenian Empire (19 May 2016)

The Self-Confidence Argument

Some of you know that I am a philosophical anarchist. This conclusion is controversial: most people think that states can in principle have legitimate political authority over the people in them, and that some states really do. So no state can have legitimate political authority is a conclusion in need of some argument to justify it. I’ve tried looking at the issue a couple of ways in a couple of different places. But those are both arguments that start from within a pretty specific, narrow dialectical context. They’re intended to address a couple of fairly specific claims for state legitimacy (specifically, individualist defenses of minimal state authority, and defenses of state authority based on a claim of explicit or tacit consent from the governed). Maybe a more general argument would be desirable. So here is a new one. It is a general deductive argument with only five premises. All of its inferences are self-evidently valid, and most of the premises are either extremely uncontroversial logical principles, or else simple empirical observations that are easily verified by any competent reader. I call it The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism.[1] Here is how it goes:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true, then no state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

Q.E.D., and smash the state.

Now, of course, just about every interesting philosophical argument comes along with some bullets that you have to bite. The awkward thing about the Self-Confidence Argument is that if it is sound, then it also seems that you can go through the same steps to show that this argument, The Self-Confidence Argument For The State, is also sound:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is Some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If Some states have legitimate political authority is true, then some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. Some states have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ Some states have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

. . . which admittedly seems a bit awkward.

It’s easy enough to figure out that there has to be something wrong with at least one of these arguments. Their conclusions directly contradict each other, and so couldn’t both be true. But they are formally completely identical; so presumably whatever is wrong with one argument would also be wrong with the other one. But if so, what’s wrong with them? Are they invalid? If so, how? Whichever argument you choose to look at, the argument has only four inferential steps, and all of them use elementary valid rules of inference or rules of replacement. Since each inferential step in the argument is valid, the argument as a whole must be valid. This also, incidentally, provides us with a reason to conclude that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is a concrete application of a basic logical principle, justified by the concept of deductive validity itself. Sound arguments must have true conclusions; validity just means that, if all the premises of an argument are true, the conclusion cannot possibly be false. Premise 3 is a simple empirical observation; if you’re not sure whether or not it’s true, just check down on line 9 and see. Premise 4 is a completely uncontroversial application of disquotation rules for true sentences. And premise 5 may seem over-confident, perhaps even boastful. But if it’s false, then which premise of the argument are you willing to deny? Whichever one you pick, what is it that makes that premise false? On what (non-question-begging) grounds would you say that it is false?

See also.

  1. [1]I owe the idea behind the form of this argument to a puzzle that Roderick Long gave me a couple years ago.

Steal This Cartoon

Over at Austro-Athenian Empire, Roderick recently mentioned a couple particularly bizarre attempts to use Intellectual Protectionism in the service of chickenshit (parrot-shit?) speech-control. I have a story about that, too, actually.

A few days ago over at Alas, A Blog, Jeff Fecke and Mandolin each put up a couple of posts featuring images of a couple racist-ass cartoons by Donna Barstow (1, 2). Specifically, these:

Here's another cartoon with a map of Mexico with a list reading "Drug cartels, kidnappings, unemployment, poverty, gangs, guns, NEW -- swine flu" and inscribed "Like a bad neighbor, Mexico is (still) there."

Hey everybody! The entire country of Mexico is dirty, dangerous, and poor! Also, they give us deadly plagues!

A cartoon of Barack Obama with wavy, kinky hair standing on end, inscribed "The President Elect Chia Pet"

Hey everybody! … Um. Wait. Somebody remind me what the hell the point of this cartoon is, again?

The reason I’m using the image of these cartoons here is for the purpose of commenting on them. Specifically, for the purpose of demonstrating the fact that both cartoons are crudely racist; they also just are terrible cartoons. The first one — which is just a bullet list of standard Anglo disdain for Mexico as poor and dirty and dangerous, with a bit of topical scapegoating and racist-ass panic over the flu tossed in for good measure, all of it awkwardly shoe-horned into a joke through an awkward pastiche of insurance advertising slogans — isn’t especially funny. The second one is not merely unfunny, but, as far as I can make out, in fact is so pointless as to defy classification as even attempted humor. O.K.; yes; I understand that Barack Obama is black, and that, like many black people, he has hair that tends to be more kinky than the kind of hair stereotypical of white people. Is there a punchline here? (Really, seriously, if anyone can figure out what the point of it is, let me know. I’m seriously tempted to view it as avant-garde commentary by the deed, bringing Dada to the world of editorial cartooning in order to undermine the bourgeois affectation that cartoons need to have points or make sense.)

I’m also reposting these here because shortly after the posts went online, Donna Barstow showed up in the comments to invoke copyright law, accuse Alas of thieving, and to threaten the folks at Alas with complaints to their web host or legal action in an attempt to intimidate them into taking down the posts. As it happens, I also got a nasty-gram from Ms. Barstow, because Alas is one of the blogs syndicated at Feminist Blogs, and so the posts with the images appeared there too. So I received the following demand and threat from Ms. Barstow last Thursday:

From: Donna Barstow Cartoons <>
To: Feminist Blogs Web Admin
Subject: take my copyrighted cartoon off your site immediately
Date: 4/30/2009 12:53 AM

Dear Feminist Blogs,

I’m a feminist. I’ve written 2 cartoon books for women. I am one of only 3 women out of 60 editorial cartoonists. However, I do not STEAL from other people, and I hope you don’t either. And frankly, I’m shocked that a FEMINIST blog would simply take for granted that anything published by the amptoons crazies would have any truth at all!!! You did no research or even ask me, and you assume it’s all right to call a person (in this case a woman) a racist and ruin her reputation???? This is a hate crime on your part, and you will not be happy if I have to contact your server.

I own all rights to the cartoon and the idea. I have already contacted amptoons server to have it taken down tomorrow, and they will get a warning.

Please refer to DMCA copyright infringement requirements at before you willfully abuse copyrighted work, defame and harass innocent people. Please remove my cartoon immediately. Thank you.

Kind Regards,
Donna Barstow
And look for me all week in Slate! (all Editorial cartoons)
Why I Did It (some Editorial cartoons)
Donna Barstow Cartoons (no Editorial cartoons, but still good)

Barry Deutsch, who runs Alas, will have to choose his own course. As for Feminist Blogs, though, the answer is: Absolutely not. I will do no such thing.

As it happens, I don’t think Ms. Bartsow has a legal leg to stand on — the use of the cartoons for the purpose of commentary, especially for non-commercial educational purposes, is well within the realm of fair use. But more to the point, even if she did have a legal leg to stand on, that would only be an indictment of such a ridiculous, tyrannical and dialogue-stifling law. Barstow is not losing one penny from the reprinting of cartoons in the context of a commentary on their contents; the cartoons were and are being given away for free on the Internet to anyone who wanted to look at them. Nobody is trying to appropriate credit for the cartoons or trying to pass off her racist-ass cartoons as their own; the whole point of the posts is to point out that they were drawn by somebody else, and that that somebody else is expressing some crude racism. Barstow’s only complaint here, the only thing this stealing amounts to, is the fact that the cartoons are being used for a purpose that Barstow doesn’t like — specifically, that they are being used as visible evidence in an effort to criticize her work and to support claims about the character of her work which Barstow disagrees with, and finds insulting. Her threats are an explicit attempt to use Intellectual Protectionism as a tool of censorship, to attack those who disagree with her as thieves, and to coercively silence criticism of her work. That is nothing more than thuggery in a three-piece suit, and Ms. Barstow ought to be ashamed of herself.

I am also posting all this, not only to talk about the story itself, but to encourage you to talk about it, too. If silencing critics is what she wants to achieve, I would like Donna Barstow to find out that it will not work. I encourage anyone and everyone who supports free speech, and who believes that people who draw racist-ass cartoons oughtn’t to be able to go around threatening their critics into silence, to repost this post, or to write a post of your own that uses Donna Barstow’s racist-ass comics as evidence in the course of a critical commentary on the content of those comics, and that discusses her attempts to use Intellectual Protectionism laws as a tool to censor the critics of her work.

Consider it a form of direct action against law-waving bullies and for vigorous, open debate. People who act like this need to know that their would-be victims will not be silenced. And the more that they become convinced that these attempts to stifle criticism will reliably produce exactly the opposite of their desired outcome, with so many people reposting the criticism that any attempt to shut it down will be swamped by sheer numbers, the less likely they are to imagine that it could possibly be a good idea.

Fight the powers that be

From Roderick’s blog, here’s part of his bang-on recent article on the reasons why a thick conception of libertarianism — or just a realistic assessment of the human predicament — recommends a left-libertarian strategy of connecting radical libertarianism with a thoroughgoing form of psychological, institutional, and cultural anti-authoritarianism (as a general thing, and also when it comes to specific forms and markers of privilege and subordination, like bossism, patriarchy, heterosexism, white supremacy, et al.):

But there’s a further left-libertarian moral, because it’s not merely coercive authority that is shown to be problematic by the Stanford and Milgram experiments. The jailors in the Stanford experiment had no power to force their prisoners to stay; and the authorities in the Milgram experiment had no tool of compulsion more imposing than a lab coat. Neither had the backing of any legal sanctions. Nor did they have so much as the power to fire anyone from a job. Yet such authority as existed was still abused, and still obeyed.

The moral is clear: even absent coercive enforcement, there is a tendency for people both to abuse authority when they have it, and to acquiesce, indeed become complicit, in its abuse by others. Hence the assumption, common among some right-libertarians, that authority and hierarchy are fine and dandy so long as they don’t involve literal forcible compulsion, seems dubious.

. . .

If people have a harmful tendency that manifests itself in certain circumstances, then the appropriate response is obviously to try to a) reduce the strength of the tendency, and b) reduce the frequency of the triggering circumstances.

The tendency to abuse and/or obey authority may be too ingrained in human nature (or, more accurately: in the human situation) to be completely eliminated, but cultural factors can certainly reduce or exacerbate it. In our own culture, despite lip service (and, admittedly, often more than lip service) to anti-authoritarian values, the legitimacy of authority is constantly reinforced via everything from political propaganda and tv cop shows to the structure of school and workplace. This is one reason that left-libertarians often stress the need to promote anti-authoritarian moral attitudes that go beyond mere opposition to rights-violations. . . . The other prong of the left-libertarian response is to decrease the frequency of those situations in which tendencies to abuse and/or obey authority is manifested, by working to reduce the prevalence of authority. Even if the elimination of all noncoercive hierarchy is not possible (and perhaps not even desirable), we could certainly do with quite a bit less of it. This is one reason that left-libertarians care, to right-libertarians’ bafflement, about combating such things as the hierarchical structure of the workplace.

— Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-04-26): Why We Fight (the Power)

Read the whole thing.

As I’ve wrote in Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin (drawing on a similar discussion in Liberty, Equality, Solidarity):

Consider the conceptual reasons that libertarians have to oppose authoritarianism, not only as enforced by governments but also as expressed in culture, business, the family, and civil society. Social systems of status and authority include not only exercises of coercive power by the government, but also a knot of ideas, practices, and institutions based on deference to traditionally constituted authority. In politics, these patterns of deference show up most clearly in the honorary titles, submissive etiquette, and unquestioning obedience traditionally expected by, and willingly extended to, heads of state, judges, police, and other visible representatives of government law and order. Although these rituals and habits of obedience exist against the backdrop of statist coercion and intimidation, they are also often practiced voluntarily. Similar kinds of deference are often demanded from workers by bosses, or from children by parents or teachers. Submission to traditionally constituted authorities is reinforced not only through violence and threats, but also through art, humor, sermons, written history, journalism, childrearing, and so on. Although political coercion is the most distinctive expression of political inequality, you could—in principle—have a consistent authoritarian social order without any use of force. Even in a completely free society, everyone could, in principle, still voluntarily agree to bow and scrape and speak only when spoken to in the presence of the (mutually agreed-upon) town Chief, or unthinkingly agree to obey whatever restrictions and regulations he tells them to follow over their own business or personal lives, or agree to give him as much in voluntary taxes on their income or property as he might ask. So long as the expectation of submission and the demands for wealth to be rendered were backed up only by means of verbal harangues, cultural glorifications of the wise and virtuous authorities, social ostracism of unruly dissenters, and so on, these demands would violate no-one’s individual rights to liberty or property. But while there’s nothing logically inconsistent about a libertarian envisioning—or even championing—this sort of social order, it would certainly be weird. Yes, in a free society the meek could voluntarily agree to bow and scrape, and the proud could angrily but nonviolently demand obsequious forms of address and immediate obedience to their commands. But why should they? Non-coercive authoritarianism may be consistent with libertarian principles, but it is hard to reasonably reconcile the two; whatever reasons you may have for rejecting the arrogant claims of power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats—say, for example, the Jeffersonian notion that all men and women are born equal in political authority, and that no-one has a natural right to rule or dominate other people’s affairs—probably serve just as well for reasons to reject other kinds of authoritarian pretension, even if they are not expressed by means of coercive government action. While no-one should be forced as a matter of policy to treat her fellows with the respect due to equals, or to cultivate independent thinking and contempt for the arrogance of power, libertarians certainly can—and should—criticize those who do not, and exhort our fellows not to rely on authoritarian social institutions, for much the same reasons that we have to endorse libertarianism in the first place.

In the article, I discuss anti-authoritarianism in light of grounds thickness; but of course there are many other connections involved, and Roderick does an excellent job of drawing out the reasons of consequence thickness and strategic thickness for joining libertarianism to a broad struggle not only against Aggression, but against Authority in all its forms.