Tag Archives: libertarianism

Steven Pinker

The facts of human progress strike me as having been as unkind to right-wing libertarianism as to right-wing conservatism and left-wing Marxism. The totalitarian governments of the 20th century did not emerge from democratic welfare states sliding down a slippery slope, but were imposed by fanatical ideologues and gangs of thugs. And countries that combine free markets with more taxation, social spending, and regulation than the United States (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Western Europe) turn out to be not grim dystopias but rather pleasant places to live, and they trounce the United States in every measure of human flourishing, including crime, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, and happiness. As we saw, no developed country runs on right-wing libertarian principles, nor has any realistic vision of such a country ever been laid out.

It should not be surprising that the facts of human progress confound the major -isms. The ideologies are more than two centuries old and are based on mile-high visions such as whether humans are tragically flawed or infinitely malleable, and whether society is an organic whole or a collection of individuals. A real society comprises hundreds of millions of social beings, each with a trillion-synapse brain, who pursue their well-being while affecting the well-being of others in complex networks with massive positive and negative externalities, many of them historically unprecedented. It is bound to defy any simple narrative of what will happen under a given set of rules. A more rational approach to politics is to treat societies as ongoing experiments and open-mindedly learn the best practices, whichever part of the spectrum they come from.

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, New York, 2018, p. 365

Murray Rothbard

The libertarian goals—including immediate abolition of invasions of liberty—are “realistic” in the sense that they could be achieved if enough people agreed on them, and that, if achieved, the resulting libertarian system would be viable. The goal of immediate liberty is not unrealistic or “Utopian” because—in contrast to such goals as the “elimination of poverty”—its achievement is entirely dependent on man’s will. If, for example, everyone suddenly and immediately agreed on the overriding desirability of liberty, then total liberty would be immediately achieved.

Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, 1982

Thomas Pogge

Nozick wants to make it appear that laissez-faire institutions are natural and define the baseline distribution which Rawls then seeks to revise ex post trough redistributive transfers. Nozick views the first option as natural and the second as making great demands upon the diligent and the gifted. He allows that, with unanimous consent, people can make the switch to the second scheme; but, if some object, we must stick to the first. Rawls can respond that a libertarian basic structure and his own more egalitarian liberal-democratic alternative are potions on the same footing: the second is, in a sense, demanding on the gifted, if they would do better under the first-but then the first is, in the same sense and symmetrically, demanding on the less gifted, who would do much better under the second scheme.

Thomas Pogge, ‘An Egalitarian Law of Peoples’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 23, no. 3 (Summer, 1994), p. 212

Ursula Le Guin

Odonianism is anarchism. Not the bomb-in-the-pocket stuff, which is terrorism, whatever name it tries to dignify itself with; not the social-Darwinist economic ‘libertarianism’ of the far right; but anarchism, as pre-figured in early Taoist thought, and expounded by Shelley and Kropotkin, Goldman and Goodman. Anarchism’s principal target is the authoritarian State (capitalist or socialist); its principal moral-practical theme is cooperation (solidarity, mutual aid). It is the most idealistic, and to me the most interesting, of all political theories.

Ursula Le Guin, ‘The Day Before the Revolution’, Galaxy, vol. 8 (August, 1974)

Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein

The most ardent antigovernment libertarian tacitly accepts his own dependency on government, even while rhetorically denouncing signs of dependency in others. This double-think is the core of the American libertarian stance. Those who propagate a libertarian philosophy–such as Robert Nozick, Charles Murray, and Richard Epstein–speak fondly of the “minimal state.” But describing a political system that is genuinely capable of representing force and fraud as “minimal” is to suggest, against all historical evidence, that such a system is easy to achieve and maintain.

Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein, The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes, New York, 1999, p. 64

Osvaldo Guariglia

La concepción más divulgada en la actualidad presenta la vida política como una lucha entre facciones contrarias, en la que únicamente hay lugar para los juegos estratégicos y los cálculos en torno a pérdidas y ganancias. […] A ello se ha sumado en la última década una presión incontenible del capital financiero internacional que por la vía de la ampliación o de la restricción del crédito público somete a los poderes elegidos democráticamente a un Diktat, tanto más efectivo cuanto más impersonal y neutro sea su maquillaje. De este modo se ha producido una extraordinaria confluencia de tradiciones provenientes de polos opuestos en el comienzo del siglo XX, que hoy festejan su connubio en un clima de fervor casi dionisiaco. En efecto, tanto el autoritarismo de origen nietzscheano, el postmarxismo y el postestructuralismo, por un lado, como el nuevo libertarismo, de procedencia básicamente anglosajona y austriaca, por el otro, han coincidido en sostener una misma concepción tanto en la teoría como en los hechos, según la cual los derechos auoproclamados de libertad individual sin control por parte del Estado están por encima de cualquier regulación jurídica o moral.

Osvaldo Guariglia, Una ética para el siglo XXI, México, 2001, pp. 140-141