Sheldon Richman: Almost Right About Libertarianism

Sheldon Richman has posted a piece in defense of libertarianism; it is in response to a critique by a mainstream (meaning totally ignorant) writer on the subject.

He gets many things right in responding to the ignorant (on the topic) critic: neither Rand Paul nor Ayn Rand are/were libertarian, in fact both have run from the label; libertarian theory does not require a perfect world, where everyone plays by the rules; libertarian theory is anything but – in fact the opposite of – elitist.

There are a couple of nits that I will pick, however, with Richman.  Referring to the author of the hit piece, Richman writes:

…he asks a good left-libertarian question: “How, exactly, does one get government ‘interference’ out of business when business wants it there most of the time?”

How is this a left-libertarian question?  The thinnest of thin libertarians (you know, the ones who actually believe the non-aggression principle; the ones who leave more room in the tent) would ask the same question and would be concerned about the same issue.

Then there is this:

What [libertarian theorists] sought was a world without aggression; where free and peaceful social cooperation (including but not limited to voluntary exchange in the market) was extended to all areas of life… (emphasis added)

Libertarian theory also fully embraces peaceful (if I may translate peaceful as non-aggressive) social non-cooperation, but then this is where left-libertarians such as Richman get thrown off the tracks.  They write about basic income guarantees, or people shouldn’t discriminate based on race, gender, age, or whatever. They cannot even see their own contradictions when they appear in one article.

For example, let’s rewrite the earlier question – which Richman wrongly attributes as a left-libertarian concern – as an actual left-libertarian concern:

“How, exactly, does one get government ‘interference’ out of social causes when left-libertarians want it there most of the time?”

Because left-libertarians have no answer to the question: when my property and your social cause butt heads, who wins?  For left-libertarian theory to hold any water requires the initiation of force (aka “government” as it is commonly known today).

But then this would expose left-libertarian theory as not holding any water.

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