Sunday, July 10, 2016

tom Hickey — some reflections on liberalism and left and right libertarianism

Liberalism and left and right libertarianism

Classical liberalism can be viewed through the lens of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Utilitarianism.

Mill saw liberalism as the struggle against authoritarianism and dogmatism. Liberalism can be seen as the culmination of the struggle against authority, then the remnants of the dominance of religious hierarchies and dogmas and of feudalism as social and political hierarchies that established privilege. Authority was seen as curtailing liberty.

Mill’s classical statement of liberalism is this:
The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right...The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Introductory 
The basis for valuation in this conception of liberalism is utilitarianism, a category of consequentialist ethics, characterized by Epicurus and Jeremy Bentham, in contrast to deontological and virtue ethics, characterized by Kant and Aristotle respectively.

Mill described utilitarianism as follows:
The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what extent this is left an open question. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded—namely, that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. — John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2
This is a paradigm, and it would be illiberal to regard it as dogmatic. This paradigm has provided the platform for subsequent debate about social, political and economic liberalism.

Liberalism in the strict senses emphasizes individual liberty against hierarchically imposed authority, as is found in states organized on the military model, and collectivism, such as the tyranny of the majority over minorities and individuals, such as occurs in representative democracies. In fact, in representative democracies, minority positions can be imposed on majorities by representatives elected by the majority.

Libertarianism addresses these issues from different points of view across a political spectrum ranging from individual sovereignty and global privatization and to the commons and community based on consensus.

Consequently, libertarians of both left and right are opposed to tradition organization of states and governments, since historically they have arisen a context of authoritarianism and perpetuate authoritarianism. 

Libertarians are "anarchists" in the sense of opposing involuntary imposition of authority that curtails individual liberty.

Libertarians of the right appeal to natural spontaneous order arising from individual liberty exercised within the bounds of security of person and property. Libertarians of the right hold that the only basic rights are the right to security of person and property.

Libertarians of the left emphasize consensus in governance and universal human and civil rights under the rule of law in accordance with self-determination and equality of persons.
Libertarians of the left hold that liberty grows out of the commons and therefore the commons must be recovered from enclosure. As a result, they view a constellation of rights as necessary to protect individuals and minorities.

Different positions have been staked out along this range, the extremes of which are utopian and unlikely to be realized on a mass scale. Moreover, left and right converge toward the center, so there are center-left and center-right libertarians. 

The New Left of the Sixties was an attempt to create a coalition of left and right libertarians, for example. Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess were involved but nothing came of it beyond agreement on the anti-war issue. See Murray Rothbard, The New Left Was Great (Before It Collapsed).


Matt Franko said...

"libertarians of both left and right are opposed to tradition organization of states and governments, "

And this is the main problem we face right now wrt these morons wont accept the idea of a nation issued/regulated currency... we're really at war with libertarianism at core...

Random said...

Do right-libertarians think that it would be immoral for the state to use coercion to prevent the earth’s destruction by an asteroid?

Tom Hickey said...

Probably fall under security of persons and property.

Magpie said...

Peter Dorman (anarcho-syndicalist?) reminisces about the New Left:

"I regarded the Weather folk, pound for pound, to be more reactionary in their political effect than the most violent cop in riot gear."

Dorman explains the attitude of the New Leftists towards workers:

"Many, maybe most, of the Weather honchos came from upper income, corporate families. They grew up thinking workers were stupid, and when they became 'revolutionaries' they still thought this, although now they had new reasons. The apple doesn’t fall very far, does it?"

MaxSpeak recalls:

"We called them liberals with bombs."

Liberals, New Left, New Labour: same shit, different pile.

No wonder that Rothbard thought that "The New Left Was Great (Before It Collapsed)".