Saturday, July 09, 2005


The "neolibertarians" over at QandO are bumfuzzled by the notion of "Left libertarianism." In two related posts -- here and here -- QandO blogger (or perhaps the word is "magaziner" now) McQ explains his confusion.

My comment on the second post (edited to "clean up" the text a bit, but not in any manner that would alter meanings):

I have to admit that this is a somewhat amusing situation ...

1) The word "libertarian" was apparently first used to denote the debate between advocates of free will and advocates of predestination in Christian doctrine.

2) Following that, it was used to denote anarchist variants of communism and socialism, as opposed to statist variants (the split in the First International was between the libertarians and the Marxists).

3) For about a century, "libertarian" was a term that almost exclusively denoted a Leftist orientation -- although not a statist Leftist orientation.

4) In the mid-20th century, certain figures (most notably Rothbard) who regarded themselves as "on the Right" took up the term to distinguish themselves from what we now call the "neoconservatives."

5) Some of those figures -- Rothbard, Samuel Edward Konkin III, Karl Hess, et al -- then promoted a "fusionism" of Old Right-style libertarianism with the New Left over issues of foreign policy.

6) SEK3 eventually created an enduring, if small, "Movement of the Libertarian Left," which even now is experiencing a renaissance due to the re-emergence of foreign policy as the preeminent issue of the day.

7) Comes along a bunch of "neolibertarians" who expropriate the name of the Movement of the Libertarian Left's journal (New Libertarian), start hawking (pun intended) the very "neoconservative" policies which originally split the "Right" libertarians off of the New Right in the first place ... and then start claiming that they're confused that there might be such a thing a "Left libertarianism."

In reply, I confess that I'm left only with the somewhat less than satisfactory:

What the fuck?

"Right libertarianism" is an historical aberration. "Neolibertarianism" is an aberration on top of that aberration. Your whole line of inquiry is something akin to a mutant egg incredulously questioning the idea that the chicken which laid it could exist.

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