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Posted April 6, 2001
What It Means To Be A Conservative Libertarian
Mr. Murray's book would have been much more accurate if it had been titled 'What It Means To Be A Conservative Libertarian.' This book accurately describes the mindset of many conservatives coming into libertarianism and is also typical about what turns off liberals to libertarianism. Mr. Murray's scholarship starts shakey when he starts with remarking how 19th Century 'Socialism' started the 'mocking of freedom.' His omitting the whole cadres of anti-state socialists prior to Marx' pro-state socialism is just a bit too much. Indeed, the first usages of 'libertarian' were used to name early French anti-state socialists like Proudhon and Bakunin. Even today 'libertarianism' in Europe often means a form of anarchistic, anti-establishment socialism. 'Socialism's' original meaning was voluntary social power as opposed to hierarchic, status quo, state establishment power and state imposed privilege. Mr. Murray misses entirely the origins for popular sceptism of late 19th Century Classic Liberalism. The hypocrisy became more and more apparent as the poverty increased amidst the progress of technological capacity and the fortunes of the economic elite. Mr. Murray totally ignores the effect of America's closing Frontier, Spencer's betrayal between his 1851 and 1890 editions of his Social Statics, of Henry George's Progress & Poverty. Murray's book perpetuates the mystery of the cleavage of Classical Liberalism by not even mentioning the conflict between absolute rights to fruits of labor and absolute state titles to monopolize landed natural resources. This book will not satisfy libertarians who are concerned with monopoly state-capitalism. The core value of civil society, of full libertarianism, is 'equal liberty.' Personal freedom must be balanced against not infringing your neighbor's 'equal right to liberty.' The right to life and liberty doesn't mean a whole lot without an equal right to live *somewhere.* Nor does it mean much without the unconditional right to keep the full fruits of one's labors. Economic monopoly rent-seekers and rent-takers 'tax' productivity as much as politicians' taxes. Thus, the justified scepticism of liberals and progressive libertarians. Saying 'freedom is a birthright' is a simplistic omission of all the contractualists since Locke right up to Narveson. It ignores the unavoidable metaphysical choice for every human; when one approaches social contact, one makes a choice to treat the other humans as prey/predators or as equally free traders/neighbors. This inescapable choice, conscious or subconscious, is the key to humanity's dual nature. 'Natural rights' are somewhat of a contradiction because man has two exclusively different natures. The choice to treat others as civil equals is the de facto covenant to join civil society. Of course, this would require a deeper understanding of libertarianism as 'Equal Liberty' instead of 'don't intitiate force.' The libertarian ethic is not 'thou will not initiate force.' This is only a secondary derivation on which conservative libertarians prefer to dwell. Ask yourself just exactly what such force 'infringes.' It would infringe 'equal liberty.' Equal Liberty is the core ethic. Formal political government's only just basis is to protect Equal Liberty. Public supply of goods and services such as roads are in order to protect the equal freedom of people to travel to markets, employment, natural resources. The alternative of anarchist zero government vs small government is a bogus choice. The true alternative is between citizen self government and politician delegated government. The Public Good is Equal Liberty. As long as no one is hurt on a net economic basis, the government may supply goods and services. The government should only levy user fees on the Common
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Posted December 23, 2009
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