Left Libertarians

Antony — September 28, 2012

Many libertarians start their philosophical journey from a right-wing position, especially in economic matters, and through their studies and investigation gradually evolve to libertarianism. But I have recently become increasingly aware of a another, perhaps less well known, group who start at the left end of the political spectrum, even as avowed socialists, whose investigations of state power lead them to libertarianism. Some examples of this group are Roderick Long and Gary Chartier.

The thing that I find interesting about this group is that although they may come to the same conclusions as “right libertarians”, their arguments often have a different emphasis. This is valuable because they often have perspectives that can be more persuasive and appealing to others coming from a leftist perspective, of which there are many in current society. They focus on issues like “equity”, and argue for why these concerns should lead one to a libertarian stance. For example, Prof. Long’s criticism of Ron Paul’s answer to a debate question on health care offers an interesting opinion on how to better frame his argument to avoid appearing heartless. Because of their familiarity and experience with the leftist politics, these “left libertarians” are able to speak in a language that can effectively communicate ideas of liberty to a more left-wing audience. I am also very interested in, and hope to soon read, Gary Chartier’s book “The Conscience of an Anarchist“, discussed in the video below:

I am just beginning my investigations in this area, but it is certainly encouraging to see people from the political left coming around to libertarian ideas. For if we are to be effective in spreading ideas of liberty through society, the message must transcend political divisions. Only in that way can society as a whole move towards the ideals of a justice and freedom.

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