The “vulgar libertarians” fight back

voluntaryThe term “vulgar libertarians” was coined by Kevin Carson in his Mutualist Blog to describe libertarians whom he views as cheerleaders for crony capitalism and big business, which exist to the detriment of consumers and workers.

Mutualist Carson is sometimes labeled a thick libertarian, along with other prefixed libertarians: Left-Libertarians, Bleeding Heart Libertarians and others who add to the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) their opposition to all oppression: sexism, racism, wage labor, religious hierarchy and other concerns (both real and imagined).

A new blog–the “VULGAR LIBERTARIANS“–proudly wears Carson’s name tag, apparently embracing the word “vulgar” in its primary dictionary meaning: “generally used, applied, or accepted.” These “vulgar” libertarians proclaim an unhyphenated libertarianism that sticks to the basics, i.e. the non-aggression principle. As this post notes: “The prefixed libertarians may claim that they have gone “beyond” libertarianism, we contend that they haven’t reached it yet.”

Thick and thin are not that far apart

My FreedomTo some extent, the thick and thin libertarians talk past one another. Both harbor suspicions that the other would use force to achieve their own goals. The truth is that thin libertarians really do believe in the NAP and would gladly strip away every vestige of crony capitalism: no more monopoly privileges, government licensing, bailouts or regulations. Such changes would create many opportunities, especially for the poor.

“Thick” libertarians are quite vocal about the importance of such changes, but a substantial portion of those view such changes as the natural results of liberty, not some private agenda they would see tacked on to the NAP.

These are good reasons for a clean unencumbered libertarianism which raises no barriers to those who have differing viewspoints.

Vulgar libertarians and property titles

We vulgar- thin- plain vanilla- libertarians need to keep in mind that the thick or left-libertarians have one issue that cannot be evaded once we achieve liberty. The issue is one of property titles.

If tomorrow there were no government to say who owned what, would we all agree that each person owns that property which he possesses at that moment? Or would it be fair to assume that each person would own whatever the (now-defunct) government would have said she owned the day before it was dissolved? This issue cannot be evaded. Murray Rothbard writes about the mythical kingdom of Ruritania on the eve of its overthrow by libertarian rebels:

KingThe king, seeing the revolt to be imminently successful, now employs a cunning stratagem. He proclaims his government to be dissolved, but just before doing so he arbitrarily parcels out the entire land area of his kingdom to the “ownership” of himself and his relatives. He then goes to the libertarian rebels and says: “all right, I have granted your wish, and have dissolved my rule; there is now no more violent intervention in private property. However, myself and my eleven relatives now each own one-twelfth of Ruritania, and if you disturb us in this ownership in any way, you shall be infringing upon the sanctity of the very fundamental principle that you profess: the inviolability of private property. Therefore, while we shall no longer be imposing ‘taxes,’ you must grant each of us the right to impose any ‘rents’ that we may wish upon our ‘tenants,’ or to regulate the lives of all the people who presume to live on ‘our’ property as we see fit.

~ Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 9

Obviously, property titles will be up for grabs if those titles are known to be the result of theft. There will have to be some consensus regarding who shall own formerly-public property, which–with few exceptions–was acquired by theft.

Shall public schools be owned by the teachers? by the students? Perhaps the streets would be acquired by the adjacent property owners. Public utilities might end up as cooperatives owned by their customers, and so on. These matters can be worked out.

Property titles will always be questionable if they were granted as a government favor. Some commentators suggest that quasi-private institutions–largely or wholly funded by government–such as universities, hospitals or military arms manufacturers should be re-distributed. And it gets trickier.

Far-left-libertarians, looking to further the class struggle, believe that capital goods properly belong to whomever is occupying or using the property. It is difficult to imagine the workers taking ownership of every privately-owned factory; each renter claiming title to every house or apartment he occupies, and not encountering enormous resistance, even bloodshed.

These are issues that some “thick” libertarians present. They are worth thinking over, but they do not define libertarianism and should not limit the movement.

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“The Libertarian” (UK) reviews Free is Beautiful

“The Libertarian” (UK) reviews Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics should be Libertarian by Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry:  XXXX

UPDATE: “The Libertarian” (at the-libertarian.co.uk) seems to have retired. Here ‘s the review:

Why Catholics Should Be Libertarian

POSTED BY BRENDAN FERRERI-HANBERRY ON FEBRUARY 5, 2014 IN CULTURE 

Randy England is a former state prosecutor, a Catholic, and currently a criminal defense attorney in the midwestern US state of Missouri. He is the author of the 2012 book Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics Should Be Libertarian. Although the socially conservative Christian Right may lead some to assume that Christianity and libertarianism are opposing forces, in this concise text England makes compelling arguments to the effect that not only Catholicism but Christianity overall is fundamentally libertarian.

First of all, the author argues that the Non-Aggression Principle, the basis of the strictest form of libertarianism, naturally follows from the Golden Rule. This is not peculiar to Catholicism, or even to Christianity. As he puts it, “The basic wrongness, the offensiveness, the immorality of harming others deliberately is so ingrained in our nature as to be undeniable. …When every religion condemns the initiation of violence, we find near-universal agreement, even among people of no religion. We do not want people to harm us; so we easily grasp this corollary to the [Golden Rule]: Do not unto others that which we would not want done to ourselves.”1 This holds even in cases of actions done with good intentions.2

England makes reference to the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the writings of the major Catholic thinkers St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. England’s quotes from these two saints make them sound surprisingly similar to modern-day libertarians, despite having been born in the fourth and 13th centuries respectively.2 St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, for example, that the law was right not to criminalize many vices, but only to make crimes of “chiefly those that are to the hurt of others…thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”3 Several Popes are quoted expressing sentiments compatible with libertarianism. These include defending the sanctity of private property, as well as strongly criticizing a central government which tries to take on powers which private or more local organizations could perform.4

England argues that human beings were deliberately granted far-reaching freedom, and could not achieve their moral or spiritual potential without it. God could have created perfect machines which could never malfunction. These would certainly be free of sin, but they would also have no humanity; they would behave correctly, but have no capacity to make meaningfully good decisions. “Good actions compelled under a threat of violence are not good in any moral sense,” he writes.5 “Only free men can become good men.”6

Instead, God made thinking human beings who would sometimes make mistakes. This is apparent from the story of Adam and Eve, who fell from their original innocent state and were thrown out of the Garden of Eden as a result of their own decisions.

God, England argues, took an unusually libertarian approach with regard to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Human authorities in such a situation would have been more likely to forcefully prevent Adam and Eve from eating from the tree. God simply warned them of the danger, though, and left the rest to their free will.

England also points out that Jesus and his disciples never presumed to make any Christian teaching into a matter of law. As he puts it, “having given us free will, did God intend that some men should…enforce His will by violence upon other men? Clearly, Jesus did not commission His Church to use compulsion to make men believe or behave, or even to pay the tithe.” He goes on to point out that the Vatican today does not even legally require its residents to pay taxes; the tithe is still voluntary.7

The author was recently a substitute host on Freedom Feens, a libertarian talk radio show based in the western US. He explains that his conversion to libertarianism, although gradual, was finalized by the issue of the War on Drugs. He objects to applying the criminal law to any behavior which does not have a victim. “It’s reached a point now,” he explains, “where there’s so many laws against so many things that don’t actually hurt other people, every man’s been turned into a criminal.”

Randy England’s law blog can be found at randyengland.com, and his free audiobook can be found here.

Notes

1. Randy England, Free Is Beautiful: Why Catholics Should Be Libertarian (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012), 15.
2. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993), 78; Romans 3:8.
3. See St. Augustine, City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4; see also Book XIX, Chapter 15.
4. Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 96, Art. 2.
5. See Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio of 18 Dec., 1903; Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, 38; Pope Pius XI, Quadrigesimo Anno (“Encyclical On Reconstruction of The Social Order”), 78, and Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus (1991), 48.
6. England, 15.
7. England, 18.
8. England, 19.