Left?

This page is to answer the question, “Why are you a left-libertarian?” as well as linking articles that have taken people from the right-libertarian perspective to the left one. We shall also attempt to have some articles on some ideas on what “right-libertarianism” means.

Why Left?

Gary Chartier – The “Left” in Left Libertarian:

An authentically leftist position, I suggest, is marked by opposition to subordination, exclusion, and deprivation.

Sheldon Richman – Libertarianism: Left or Right?:

From early on libertarians were seen, and saw themselves, as on the Left. Obviously, “the Left” could comprise people who agreed on very little — as long as they opposed the established regime (or restoration of the old regime). The French Left in the first half of the 19th century included individualists and collectivists, laissez-faire free-marketeers and those who wanted state control of the means of production, state socialism. One could say that the Left itself had left and right wings, with the laissez-fairists on the left-left and the state socialists on the right-left.

But however you slice it, libertarianism was of the Left.

Murray Rothbard – Left and Right: Prospects for Liberty (Video version here)

Thus, with liberalism abandoned from within, there was no longer a party of hope in the Western world, no longer a “Left” movement to lead a struggle against the state and against the unbreached remainder of the Old Order. Into this gap, into this void created by the drying up of radical liberalism, there stepped a new movement: socialism. Libertarians of the present day are accustomed to think of socialism as the polar opposite of the libertarian creed. But this is a grave mistake, responsible for a severe ideological disorientation of libertarians in the present world. As we have seen, conservatism was the polar opposite of liberty; and socialism, while to the “left” of conservatism, was essentially a confused, middle-of-the-road movement. It was, and still is, middle-of-the-road because it tries to achieve liberal ends by the use of conservative means.

Roderick Long – Rothbard’s “Left and Right”: Forty Years Later (Video version here)

And Rothbard is surely right in thinking that what we now call free-market libertarianism was originally a left-wing position. The great liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat sat on the left side of the French national assembly, with the anarcho-socialist Proudhon. Many of the causes we now think of as paradigmatically left-wing — feminism, antiracism, antimilitarism, the defense of laborers and consumers against big business — were traditionally embraced and promoted specifically by free-market radicals.

So what happened to the political spectrum? This is the question that Spencer and Rothbard, from their different historical vantage-points, are each trying to answer. The version of the question that Spencer is addressing is: how did the Left become associated with statism? Rothbard addresses that question as well, but his primary focus is on the question: how did free-market libertarianism become associated with the Right?

Karl Hess – The Left-Right Spectrum

The left shows similar gradations. The farthest left you can go, historically at any rate, is anarchism — the total opposition to any institutionalized power, a state of completely voluntary social organization in which people would establish their ways of life in small, consenting groups, and cooperate with others as they see fit.

The attitude on that farthest left toward law and order was summed up by an early French anarchist, Proudhon, who said that ‘order is the daughter of and not the mother of liberty.’ Let people be absolutely free, says this farthest of the far, far left (the left that Communism regularly denounces as too left; Lenin called it ‘infantile left’). If they are free they will be decent, but they never can be decent until they are free. Concentrated power, bureaucracy, et cetera, will doom that decency. A bit further along the left line there might be some agreement or at least sympathy with this left libertarianism but, it would be said, there are practical and immediate reasons for putting off that sort of liberty. People just aren’t quite ready for it. Roughly, that’s the position of the Communist Party today…

From Right to Left

Kevin Carson – The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand (Video version here

Samuel Edward Konkin III – The New Libertarian Manifesto (Video version here)

Charles Johnson – Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Towards a Dialectical Anarchism

Sheldon Richman – Libertarianism: Left or Right?:

Kevin Carson – Studies in a Mutualist Political Economy

Murray Rothbard – Left and Right: Prospects for Liberty (Video version here)

Charles Johnson – Libertarian Anticapitalsim

Roderick Long – Rothbard’s “Left and Right”: Forty Years Later (Video version here)

Sheldon Richman – Capitalism vs. The Free Market

Benjamin Tucker – State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree and Wherein They Differ

Henry George – Progress and Poverty

Joseph Stromberg – The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire

Joseph Stromberg – English Enclosures and Soviet Collectivization: Two Instances of an Anti-Peasant Mode of Development

Joseph Stromberg – Who Needs One Market?

Kevin Carson – Austrian and Marxist Theories of Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis

Joshua Fulton – Welfare before the Welfare State

Charles Johnson – The Revolution Will Be Made Of People: Anarchy, Direct Action and Free Market Social Justice

Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier – Markets Not Capitalism

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