Synthesis Libertarianism: A Manifesto

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login date: 2021-10-09

1. Introduction

There has been an invisible war for the heart and soul of the libertarian movement going on since the 1960s, and corruption is winning. The foundational values of libertarianism have been all but lost in the influx of alt-right and neo-reactionary people, and something must finally be done about it lest we lose those values completely.

Thin libertarianism was the naive dream of a tiny and struggling movement striving to grow at all costs, but what does it matter if the movement grows, if the movement dies and becomes something else in the process? We need to take back “right” libertarianism. The purpose of this manifesto, then, is to establish a core set of foundational values which libertarians must share to have a consistent basis for their libertarianism, values that, we will show, are fundamentally incompatible with neo-reactionaries and the alt-right. Libertarian beliefs can be arrived at from other foundations, but a libertarianism thus conceived will be fundamentally at war with itself at best, and insincere at worst.

This manifesto will focus not on specific conclusions, but instead on the values of the movement, because to do otherwise would turn this into an exercise in gatekeeping and thought-control, rendering our project merely an exercise in cult-building not unlike Objectivism or Austro-Libertarianism and thereby giving birth to nothing new and useful. It should be noted, however, that this focus on values and their consistent application has very broad implications — this is not a thin libertarianism 2.0. We will focus here primarily on the social aspects of this broadening, but values are applicable in a broad variety of cases, so setting out a list of them may have implications outside both politics and social interaction.

If we are trying to rescue “right” libertarianism from its right-wing infiltrators, it might seem odd that we are, in the process, seeking to rename it. However, consider this: if the values that make “right” libertarianism unique are incompatible with the rest of the right-wing, is it truly valid to call it right wing? Moreover, since the values of “right” libertarianism actually most naturally lead it to embrace certain leftist social — and even economic — values, what better way to express that this libertarianism is a fusion of some economically right-wing ideas and some economically and socially left-wing ideas than to give it a name representative of such a synthesis?

In the following document, we will briefly outline what these values are that libertarians as a movement must hold, and why they lead both to a respect for stricter property rights and social leftism and egalitarianism.

2. The Values of Libertarianism

The most obvious “libertarian value” is, of course, liberty. This is made evident by the very etymology of the name of the movement. There are, however, many different conceptions of liberty: positive, negative, individual, collective, social, atomistic, and more; hence specifying the precise concept of liberty meant when the word is used is far more important than simply saying you value liberty. Almost every post-Enlightenment political philosophy, even the authoritarian ones, claims to bring liberty, by some definition or another, to the political organization and its members, and it is the precise definition that makes the difference between the different political philosophies. If Marxism, fascism, and libertarianism all claim to bring liberty, liberty means very little by itself.

Furthermore, what specific definition you give to liberty, and the focus that one places on it relative to other values, depends on deeper, more foundational values. So, as simple as it might seem to claim that liberty, or even individual liberty, is the core value of the libertarian movement, I think it is necessary to delve deeper into its foundations.

With this in mind, I will try to locate the deepest foundation of the libertarian value-set, and then build up from there, thus showing how the specific definition of liberty that libertarians use develops from that deeper foundation.

2.1. Individual Self-Determination

The first value that libertarians must hold in order to have a secure foundation for other libertarian beliefs and values is that of individual self-determination: the necessity and desirability of individual human beings applying their own minds and situated knowledge to the particular conditions around them in order to solve problems and achieve goals. This value may be held both because it sustains and makes possible the flourishing of human beings, and because it is the best method of creating a dynamic, creative, and efficient society. A few quotes will serve to substantiate that this is a common libertarian belief:

“Since men can think, feel, evaluate, and act only as individuals, it becomes vitally necessary for each man’s survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowledge and values. This is the necessary path of human nature; to interfere with and cripple this process by using violence goes profoundly against what is necessary by man’s nature for his life and prosperity. Violent interference with a man’s learning and choices is therefore profoundly “antihuman”; it violates the natural law of man’s needs.”1

“Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t. Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.” 2

“He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation... he requires and exercises [uniquely human qualities] exactly in proportion as the part of his conduct which he determines according to his own judgment and feelings is a large one. It is possible that he might be guided in some good path, and kept out of harm's way, without any of these [qualities]. But what will be his comparative worth as a human being? It really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself.”3

“If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them. We cannot expect that this problem will be solved by first communicating all this knowledge to a central board which, after integrating all knowledge, issues its orders. We must solve it by some form of decentralization.”4

Why must this value be held? Because all human beings value the welfare of themselves and, to a lesser degree, other human beings; furthermore, all human beings care about the wealth and health of their society, as this influences their ability to achieve what they desire. Therefore, if one were to believe that freedom to exercise one’s choices was unhealthy for human beings, not conducive to their flourishing, and deleterious to the health of society, then it would be impossible to consistently and enthusiastically support freedom. Moreover, it is the freedom to make one’s own choices that is characteristic of the specific liberty which libertarians endorse, as opposed to the freedom from want or worry or oppression or isolation or even exploitation which other theories of freedom and liberty value more highly. Of course, many of those things can individual self-determination, but it is also possible that the use of one’s reasoning can make oneself worried, wanting, exploited, or isolated, and if this is the product of one’s free choice, then it is a part of liberty and its corollary, responsibility.

2.2. Consistency and Equality

Another value of primary importance in the libertarian project, one which is necessary to provide a firm foundation for all the beliefs characteristic of those who partake in the movement, is that of consistency or universalizability. A libertarian desires not just individual self-determination (from here on, simply “liberty”) for some individuals, but for all individuals equally. A libertarian also requires the same duties and responsibilities from everyone: everyone has an equal responsibility for the consequences of their own actions, both to themselves and others, and an equal duty to refrain from coercing others, short-circuiting their process of individual self-determination by a threat of violence or by the physical prevention of their choice of action. Libertarians should have, and desire, no gods, kings, or masters, and only accept authority insofar as it is bound by the same rules as everyone else. All human beings share the same essential moral properties: the capacity to use our own reasoning and knowledge, and the capacity to understand, follow, and knowingly violate moral principles. Libertarians recognize this, and realize that whatever reasoning can be given for the liberty of some humans, can be given for the liberty of all humans.

This is why the signature phrase of right libertarians, “taxation is theft,” exists — it is an application of the everyday moral standards and duties of the rest of humanity to the actions of the political class, and a judgement of what they do. This is also why social contract theory has been so important to the history of libertarianism, from Locke to Nozick: an account of how a state may be justified usually appeals to special powers, either granted by god or the collective, that allow some to act in ways that others may not; this is not satisfying to a libertarian, however, and so another account, an account that explains how the state could have arisen only from the common rights of man, must be found. Opinion concerning the success of such accounts is immaterial; the fact that such an account must be found if the state is to be justified in one’s mind is what is important to whether one is a libertarian.

Here are a few quotes on this subject by various libertarians:

“‘Equality,’ in a human context, is a political term: it means equality before the law, the equality of fundamental, inalienable rights which every man possesses by virtue of his birth as a human being, and which may not be infringed or abrogated by man-made institutions, such as titles of nobility or the division of men into castes established by law, with special privileges granted to some and denied to others.”"5

“Equality of the general rules of law and conduct, however, is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty and the only equality which we can secure without destroying liberty. Not only has liberty nothing to do with any other sort of equality, but it is even bound to produce inequality in many respects.”6

“Anarchists hold that morality must be upheld in all cases, and not abandoned whenever State actions are involved. Men have long since rejected the Divine Right of Kings; surely it is now past time to do the same with all claims that the State is Extra-Human or Extra-Moral. The State must be judged on the same level and by the same principles as all other human actions and institutions; one rule applies to all.”7

“If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly... Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”8

Why, too, must this view be upheld if one is to be a consistent libertarian? This is perhaps a more complex answer, but it is nevertheless a very important one. The answer has three parts, the first of which I covered before the quotes, and I’ll cover the last two now.

First, because a system which grants liberty to some and not others simply does not resemble what anyone would call a libertarian system; one of the defining features of libertarianism is the fact that it applies the same logic to every single individual within a society, since it is an individualistic philosophy. A system which grants liberty to one class, but allows that class to limit the liberty of another class, is an aristocratic or otherwise authoritarian system, not a libertarian one.

Second, if the goal is to maximize liberty, then it must be recognized that we must give each and every person the maximum amount of liberty possible, and an exercise of too great a liberty of one person lessens the liberty of another (if I steal from you, I gain the liberty to decide the fate of the object I steal, but you lose that liberty; indeed, you lose the further liberty of deciding what to do with the outcomes of your prior choices that are concretized in that item). Assigning a fully maximal amount of liberty to a few and a proportionally lesser amount to everyone else is not as viable an option, because the maximum amount of liberty one person is able to experience is not as great as the medium amount of liberty of several, and allowing anyone and everyone to violate the liberty of others is not going to solve the problem either, as generally the violation of liberty either simply transfers liberties from one person to another (thereby not increasing the total amount), or decreases the amount of freedom exercised overall.

Which of these three rationales, or what combination of them, you find most important and convincing will depend on what your foundations for holding these values are, but the important point is that you must hold these values.

2.3. Entitlement Theory of Justice In Holdings

Another distinguishing value of libertarianism as synthesis libertarianism seeks to encapsulate it is a certain, as Nozick termed it, entitlement theory of justice in holdings. In this view, any rights one has over something are determined by the historical story of that object: how it was originally produced or appropriated and how it was transferred. There are of course differing opinions on what exactly constitutes just original appropriation, what exactly constitutes just transfer, and what should happen should the full history of an object not be available or be tainted — as most land is — with historical injustice. But the fundamental value that libertarians all share is the view that justice is constituted in the nature of individual actions and intentions, not in the nature of outcomes, so to establish justice in holdings, as in all other things, one must look to the actions and intentions which generated that holding — the history of that holding. This is, in a sense, an outcome of the corollary of liberty I mentioned some time ago, responsibility, since the fundamental idea is that one has a just claim to a holding if it is the outcome of just actions on your part, and one has no such claim if it is not.

Here are some further quotes to substantiate this as a libertarian view:

“[T]he right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”"9

“In contrast to end-result principles of justice, historical principles of justice hold that past circumstances or actions of people can create differential entitlements or differential deserts to things. An injustice can be worked by moving from one distribution to another structurally identical one, for the second, in profile the same, may violate people’s entitlements or deserts; it may not fit the actual history.”10

“Therefore, we do not yet know which one of the two men is the legitimate or just property owner. We can only find the answer through investigating the concrete data of the particular case, i.e., through ‘historical’ inquiry. Thus, we cannot simply say that the great axiomatic moral rule of the libertarian society is the protection of property rights, period. For the criminal has no natural right whatever to the retention of prop­erty that he has stolen; the aggressor has no right to claim any property that he has acquired by aggression.”11

Why must libertarians hold that private property, born out of the individual actions of people and determined in its justice by the justice of those originating actions, is a value that must be upheld? Again, first of all, it is simply a constituent property of what it means to be a libertarian in the sense that I have been using and in the sense that synthesis libertarianism is attempting to preserve; but secondly, it is because it is a necessary extension of the other principles so far. It is a construction of property which is based on the outcomes of individual actions within liberty, is equally applicable in its principles and rules to all people, and is necessary for people to preserve their own lives by their own hands and minds.

2.4. Proportionality

Another component of libertarian value which is of primary importance is that of proportionality in justice. Although phrased barbarically, the old saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” really does sum up the libertarian approach to justice. A violation of someone’s liberty or property is to be met with a proportional, appropriate response, a violation in equal magnitude used either to prevent the violation from being consummated, or to produce restitution for a completed violation. This is what differentiates libertarians from other political philosophies in many ways: for instance, some progressives will advocate the use of the state — which operates on the basis of the threat of violence and kidnapping — to deal with violations of others that are not nearly so severe, even if they are undesirable: for instance, collusion to prevent someone from getting a job, or discrimination, or hate speech. These are undesirable things that actually violate the values I have previously outlined, but they are either the results of inaction on the part of the parties directly involved, or action that does not rise to the level of physical violence, and therefore to meet them with physical violence or the threat of it is a grossly disproportionate act.

Furthemore, as part of making sense of this, it must be seen that the basis of whether something is a punishable crime is in the specific action that has been committed, and the extent to which it can be punished is in the specific action as well, as the punishment itself must be proportional to the action. Therefore, if no person or group was identifiably harmed, then harm cannot be done to a particular person or group in retaliation to that action in a proportional manner, because the action itself caused no harm to any particular person or group!

This is why even those libertarians who view the state as legitimate tend to view it as a necessary evil, or an institution which should be limited to making laws against crimes which are proportional to the severity of the powers which it leverages to enforce its laws. This is also why libertarians, although they are interested in historical justice, are opposed to collective punishment based on ancestry or group membership.

A few quotes will substantiate this point:

[quote on how it is wrong to use the law to enforce against things that are not themselves violent]

“I propose another fundamental rule regard­ing crime: the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his. If a man deprives another man of some of his self-ownership or its extension in physical property, to that extent does he lose his own rights. From this principle immediately derives the proportionality theory of punishment-best summed up in the old adage: ‘let the punishment fit the crime.’”"12

Why must this value be held by libertarians? Simply because, if it were to be held that any violation of liberty could be punished equally, then the subtle gaslighting and indoctrination of a religious group, or the oppressive but non-violent ostracism of a community committed to a particular tradition, could be punished with the same severity, if deemed necessary, as a terrorist attack or a school shooting. Likewise, the failure to give enough to charity, or hire someone for a job, or competition with someone for a job and beating them to be hired, might be offenses punishable by law, because although they are not violent actions, without a theory of proportionality, we would not be able to choose which things are rightly punishable by law and which are not outside of whether we like them or not. Hence without a theory of proportionality, it is very easy to go down a very authoritarian and restrictive route that is inherently antithetical to libertarianism.

2.5. The Initiation-Response Distinction

This is the final, and perhaps most recognizable, libertarian value, although I have couched it in new terms for philosophical clarity. The fundamental distinction here is best elaborated by the idea of the Non-Aggression Principle: the idea that violence can only be justified when used in retaliation, for the purposes of defense or restitution, and is justified by the very fact that violence was initiated, or used, prior. In essence, it points out the fundamental and seemingly self-evident, yet surprisingly oft-missed, moral distinction between the initiation of violence against someone who has done nothing violent, and responding with violence to someone else who has used violence against you. It is possible to be a pacifist and condemn both these things, but there are morally relevant distinctions between them, so that to condemn both, either you would need to broaden your reasoning from what is commonly used, or use different reasoning for the condemnation of each type. Libertarians specifically value these two things differently: the initiation of a violation of someone’s liberty is morally reprehensible, while retaliation against it is at the very least morally neutral, and sometimes even morally praiseworthy.

This view bleeds into many other libertarian views: views on when war is just (only in defense), when violence is just on a personal level (in self-defense or defense of others) and what the law can be used for (in response to actions, never prior to actions, further modified by considerations of proportionality).

Here are some quotes:

“Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.”"13

“No one may threaten or commit violence ('aggress') against another man's person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”[14]

This value is, in its essence, an extension of the principle of proportionality outlined above, in the sense that any action in retaliation to no action, or any violent action in retaliation to a non-violent one, is automatically and obviously unacceptable to a libertarian-minded person.

3. Social Leftism

So far what we have stated should not be controversial: we have attempted to identify the values common to libertarians, and as such these values are generally agreed-upon in the community. Now, however, we must proceed to the true purpose of this manifesto: an analysis of how a consistent application of these values to more than merely politics and law — as would make sense for anyone who actually held these values, as values cannot be held only in certain cases and not others — leads to non-traditional, and leftist, social views. Let us examine why this is the case.

3.1. Anti-Traditionalism and Moderate Pluralism

Following on from individual self-determination, many of the reasons that support a distrust or dislike of state intervention also support a distrust or dislike of social norms and traditions. If the state should not intervene in economic matters because each person is in a generally superior position to know what is best for them and those around them in comparison to a central authority, and central authorities are unable to adapt to change, then it follows that “society” (as a centralized institution of majority enforcement and tradition) does not know what is best for everyone when it comes to lifestyle either. It would be strange to argue that although a centralized authority is not competent to know what the best job or allocation of resources is for everyone, it would be competent to know what the best family structure or lifestyle is for everyone. Likewise, if in economic decisions it is best for human flourishing to allow human beings to make their own choices, using their reason and values and integrity, then how can it be otherwise in the case of social decisions, which are arguably more important to a person’s happiness in many cases?

Thus we must say that tradition is to be viewed as a toolbox or selection of premade molds, which are to be chosen and evaluated by the reason of each individual in each individual case, and social enforcement of norms or normality is merely another form of illegitimate and stifling authority that is of very little use in most cases[15]. This must be extended to gender, sexuality, family structure, and every other corner of social life: every part of it must be subject to the reason of the individual, to be adapted to their unique situation and set of values.

This implication is one even Rothbard himself seems to have grasped to some degree, although his social views did not fully encompass the implications here:

“Meyer begins with the complaint that libertarians are really ‘libertines’... because we ‘reject’ the ‘reality’ of five thousand years of Western civilization, and propose to substitute an abstract construction. Very true; in other words, we, like Lord Acton, propose to weigh the growth of encrusted tradition and institutions in the light of man's natural reason, and of course we find these often despotic institutions wanting.”14

We must also recognize — in what I call “moderate pluralism” — that while some things are universally good for human life and flourishing (such as liberty), there is a wide range within the limits set by those constants within which the proper values of humans can fall, so that what is right for the flourishing of one person may not be right for the flourishing of another. Therefore, although it is possible to say that some lifestyles are wrong, it is not possible to say that one, or even several, lifestyles are solely right. This is an extension of the economic idea that there are many values that human beings could pursue (within certain limits), and that to attempt to discover which set of values is right for each individual in order to enforce it is a foolhardy task, but that if it were possible to do so, then freedom would be unnecessary and perhaps even undesirable.

Hence libertarians must not simply tolerate those who pursue different lifestyles, while doggedly sticking to traditions, but must instead value in themselves pluralism and non-traditionalism, attempting to strike out and discover what is best for their individual case while praising and valuing the social entrepreneurship of others who try still other lifestyles. Thus it is impossible to truly be a conservative — one who thinks that following tradition is the best thing to do for all people, and does so themselves, and finds others who do things they don’t do disgusting or degenerate — while holding libertarian values.

3.2. Anti-Authoritarianism

Libertarians are generally defined, on the two-dimensional political compass, at least, as in opposition to authoritarians by default; as such, it might seem redundant and even comical to list this as a value that is not often shared by right libertarians nowadays and must be specified. However, I think that, like the other values, the dislike for authoritarianism which libertarians express concerning the state is not often applied elsewhere, both in the social and the economic world. Many libertarians decry the authoritarianism and paternalism of the state, but see no problem with priests, pastors, and patriarchs telling people what to do down to the smallest minutiae, or with bosses and CEOs who are so far removed from the process of production as to be completely ignorant of it making choices for workers all day long, ensuring that those workers become little more than mindless machines or trained animals.

At this juncture, many libertarians will recoil with horror at our lambasting of these social and economic phenomena, retorting that these things are not (usually) born of coercion and violence and therefore libertarianism may have nothing to say concerning them. That is not so! The idea that, simply because a value cannot be enforced by law, it is outside the scope of valuation in political philosophy is a fallacy born of the too-long-extended existence of an invasive state; there are many other ways of pursuing and enforcing a value than mere violence, ways that both libertarians and authoritarians have forgotten.

A true libertarian at heart, one which shares the values I have listed above, will not enjoy seeing the subjugation, even if voluntary and convenient, of one human being to another, the surrender of their will and reason to them, and the enforcement of this through any means whatsoever. Sometimes it is necessary or convenient, but it is never something one should seek or enjoy seeing. It is always, like some libertarians view the state to be, a necessary evil at best, and an unnecessary atrocity at worst. An overbearing father, pastor, priest, or patriarch can be as damaging to the flourishing of someone, and the operation and adaptation of the social community, as any government law, sometimes moreso; likewise, a surfeit of centralization in the economic world (whether through hierarchies of authority or through democratic means), or an overgrowth of corporatism and command-thinking, can be just as damaging to an economy as state intervention, although the latter is what usually leads to the former existing in damaging amounts.

Furthermore, seeing all human beings as fundamentally morally equal, a libertarian must view any subordination or authority as a contingent and emergent phenomena, one which is not fundamental to the relation of one human being to another; thus the default, the null hypothesis if you will, is that there is no authority whatsoever, and any authority which wishes to establish itself must explain and justify its existence before a libertarian will bow to it. As Locke says, “there [is] nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection...”15 The process of seeking such a justification for the state, as I have said previously, is seen in the social contract tradition. As Noam Chomsky, a noted anarchist but not libertarian, has said:

“Hierarchic and authoritarian structures are not self-justifying. They have to have a justification. So if there is a relation of subordination and domination, maybe you can justify it, but there's a strong burden of proof on anybody who tries to justify it. Quite commonly, the justification can't be given. It's a relationship that is maintained by obedience, by force, by tradition, by one or another form of sometimes physical, sometimes intellectual or moral coercion. If so, it ought to be dismantled. People ought to become liberated and discover that they are under a form of oppression which is illegitimate, and move to dismantle it.”16

3.3. Social Justice

The fact that libertarians value justice in the current distribution of holdings, and view it as an outcome and consequence of the justice of the individual actions that led to that distribution, lends itself naturally to a concern for historical injustice. While a conservative may say that some historical injustice is not relevant to the present, because it took place in the past and was performed by no person alive today, as they are more concerned with protecting the actual holdings and distributions of the status quo, libertarians who find that historical injustice has taken part in the production of the current situation, being committed to the protection of the moral right to property and not the positive right, must view this as immediately relevant to current events and what actions they should take.

This is not to say, necessarily, that libertarians must be in favor of reparations. After all, although most libertarian theories of property rights are very similar, the specific details of how they are justified and worked out can have large effects on what should be done about holdings that have an illegitimate or unjust history. Furthermore, there are many morally relevant differences between different cases; Rothbard’s theory of property and criminality, for instance, in dealing only with present cases of theft, has six distinct cases in which the proper action is entirely different. (As far as I know, too, very few libertarian theories of property rights have very much at all to say about inheritance not based on explicit contract, which makes dealing with historical injustices more difficult). Importantly, in addition, libertarians are primarily concerned with individuals. Therefore, the collective punishment aspect of reparations, which is often done on the basis of racial groups, is immediately at least suspect and to most libertarians, off the table.

Nevertheless, the historical process by which current holdings are arrived at, and current states assign their positive property rights, should be of interest to libertarians, and they should seriously consider the implications of the fact that much property, especially in land, was originally claimed by conquest and genocide. It cannot be so easily dismissed, as Mises did in Human Action, by simply pointing out that most property is not held in a direct line of inheritance now that a market system is in place, either17; although this is a relevant factor, and perhaps indicates how a solution can be found and why those who own land now should not themselves be viewed as violent expropriators, it is not necessarily the last word on the issue.

5. Conclusion

We hope to have shown, in this short manifesto, that to hold the values that provide a solid and consistent foundation for libertarianism consistently, social views that are fundamentally at odds with conservatism and reactionary thinking must be adopted as well. It is only possible to be a personally conservative libertarian to the extent that it is possible to tolerate cognitive dissonance, holding one set of values when force is involved, and one set of values when it is not.

The commonly accepted fiction in the libertarian community of “thin libertarianism” is an impossible illusion. It is impossible because it puts forward the idea that as long as one holds certain beliefs, it does not matter what values undergird those beliefs, nor, if those beliefs are based on libertarian values, whether those libertarian values are held consistently. But those who do not share libertarian values can at best have a fleeting, insincere, and contingent libertarianism, and are murderous bedfellows indeed, and those who do not hold libertarian values consistently are open to cracks in their foundation of such a significant nature that it is a wonder that their beliefs do not crumble at a touch; moreover, those who profess to hold inconsistent values are prone to selecting one value set over another, and only pretending to maintain the other set, thereby often converting into the first type of insincere libertarian. Thin libertarianism was the dream of a strategy to radically grow a tiny and struggling movement, but it has ultimately failed, because it has led us to allow into our inner sanctums and philosophical cannon those who fundamentally do not care about the things we care about, do not value the things we value, and refuse to apply the values that they do share with us consistently.

We have welcomed fascists into our ranks because they were willing to support property rights, we have welcomed religious reactionaries into our ranks because they were willing to support property rights, we have sold our souls for property rights — only to find out that the people we allied ourselves with don’t value liberty, don’t value property, they merely want to be free from the government because the government doesn’t do what they like, and as soon as the government does do what they like, or as soon as they can achieve power by some other means, they will do all they can to destroy what we value. Worse, they have corrupted and weakened our philosophical foundations, furthering the fiction that any value set can arrive at consistent and hearty libertarianism. This is a falsehood.

Libertarianism must reclaim its soul, by recognizing its values and applying them consistently, and in doing so it must transition from merely a statement about when violence can be used, to a statement about what we value, what is good, what is desirable. We must realize that simply not condoning coercion and violence is not enough, that we cannot sit back and claim the moral high ground merely because we are not murderers and theives, and cannot expect anyone to want to be around us simply because we have done the bare minimum. There is more that a libertarian community must value and work towards. This will change what libertarianism is, fuse it with leftism and even a little socialism, but that is not something to lament or view as a necessary evil — those parts of these views which we synthesize into our position are merely the natural extension of what we already value, and so we should welcome a synthesis libertarianism with open arms, for it is a full embrace of what we already love so dearly.


Murray Rothbard, “Property and Exchange,” in For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006), 33.


Ayn Rand, “What is Capitalism?,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, (New American Library, 1966), 17.


John Mill, “On Individuality, As One of the Elements of Well-Being” in On Liberty, 110.


Freidrich Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”


Ayn Rand, “The Age of Envy,” in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 140.


Friedrich Hayek, “Equality, Value, and Merti,” 1.


John Peters, "Anarchism and Government," in The Libertarian Forum 2, no. 10, ed. Murray N. Rothbard (New York, NY: Joseph R. Peden, 15 May 1970), 3.


Frederic Bastiat, “What is Law?,” in The Law.


Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights” in The Virtue of Selfishness, 94.


Robert Nozick, “Chapter 7: Distributive Justice, Section I, Historical Principles and End-Result Principles,” in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, 155.


Murray Rothbard, “Property and Criminality” in The Ethics of Liberty, 51.


Murray Rothbard, “Punishment and Proportionality” in The Ethics of Liberty, 80-81.


Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness, 32.


Murray Rothbard, “War, Peace, and the State” in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays.


There is still perhaps a place for the enforcement of social norms concerning things that will preserve liberty and the other values of a libertarian community, but in general the range of legitimate social norms is very, very small.


Murray N. Rothbard, "National Review Rides Again" in The Libertarian Forum 1, no. 13, ed. Murray N. Rothbard, Karl Hess (New York, NY: Joseph R. Peden, 1 October 1969), 3.


John Locke, “Chapter. II. Of the State of Nature” in The Second Treatise of Government, sect 4.


Noam Chomsky, interview by Tim Halle, Reluctant Icon, 1999.


Ludwig von Mises, “Chapter XXIV. Harmony and Conflict of Interests: 4. Private Property” in Human Action: Scholar’s Edition.