“Thick” libertarians are always talking about things besides liberty. They talk about unions, racism, patriarchy, hierarchy and sexism; and whether land rent, usury, wage labor or inequality of wealth are compatible with the maintenance of a stateless society. These libertarians want to graft their issues onto the tree of liberty because they believe these questions bear on the very viability of liberty. As near as I can tell, the seminal article on thick and thin libertarianism is Charles Johnson’s 2008 article, “Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin: What Kind of Commitment Is Libertarianism?”
If “thicks” see any institution as oppressive, they noisily oppose it. Some atheist “thicks” (but not all) want to be rid of organized religion because they believe that church members are hopeless statists, mindlessly following authority. They consider obedience to any authority to be erosive of freedom. Who knows, there may be religious thick libertarians who want to read atheists out of the movement, but I do not know any.
To the extent that the “thick” issues seem to reduce the square footage of the libertarian big tent, “thin” libertarians are wary of mixing these social issues with the political philosophy of libertarianism. There are (at least) a couple reasons for this: 1) “thins” are concerned that these issues can turn off potential converts to libertarianism; and 2) “thins” fear that the “thicks” may place their social issues ahead of libertarianism’s organizing principle: nonaggression. See Lew Rockwell’s The Future of Libertarianism.
We can hope that time will teach us which–if any–of the “thick” issues turn out to be important. To be fair, most “thicks” do not advocate physical aggression to implement their agenda. Instead these “thicks” urge education, advocacy, propaganda, encouragement, ridicule, ostracism, boycotts and all kinds of non-violent persuasion to change the societal consensus on “thick” issues.
Prisons in a free society
One of the topics all libertarians think about is our unjust criminal justice system. I recently ran across this Jeffrey Tucker interview of Cory Massimino, a writer for the left-libertarian Center for a Stateless Society.
I have to agree with much that Massimo says. In a free society, prisons will largely become a thing of the past, but perhaps not completely, as Massimo suggests. By the time we eliminate imprisonment for drug-related crime, the prisons will be getting empty; especially as the drug war violence comes to an end. [The idea that proprietors of legal marijuana shops will still be killing one another seems about as likely as the Budweiser and Miller Light drivers shooting it out in the grocery aisle.] A greater emphasis on restitution over retribution will empty more prison cells, but Massimo may underestimate the problem of individuals who are unremittingly violent and dangerous.
As a former prosecutor and now a criminal defense lawyer, I am personally familiar with murderers who CANNOT be dealt with by Massimo’s house-arrest solution, not unless the security is so prison-like that there is no real difference.
The bleeding hearts need to recognize that realistic options are more limited. The most obvious non-state solutions are: 1) securely imprison incorrigible murderers and make them work for their supper; or 2) execute them.
A possible–but perhaps unrealistic–solution, might be some sort of banishment, like to Mars or Australia. The problem is that there exist certain human beings that no one–not even a thick libertarian–is willing to have around. (Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, etc). I am open to other ideas, but I cannot think what they would be.