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"Radicals for Capitalism"


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#1 Judith

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 02:57 AM

This book by Brian Doherty, as the review in today's WSJ states, "finally gives libertarianism its due. He tracks the movement's progress over the past century by focusing on five of its key leaders--Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman. The emphasis is on their ideas, but Mr. Doherty also takes into account their personal struggles--not least their feuds with other thinkers and their relation to an intellectual establishment that for most of their lives thought they were either crazy or irrelevant or both."

To read the entire article, click below:

http://opinionjourna...a/?id=110009670

Specific mention of Rand is as follows:

"Mr. Doherty is candid enough to note that not every individualist he sketches consistently respected the rights of individuals. Textile baron Roger Milliken, for instance, required his executives to attend a libertarian 'college' in the Rockies but also lobbied for tariffs to protect his products. And other libertarians showed a certain want of personal character. LSD guru Timothy Leary raised money for Libertarian Party candidates but didn't exercise the integrity or personal responsibility he himself said must accompany freedom. Ayn Rand sold millions of copies of her novels but treated her acolytes abominably and 'ended up kicking out of her life pretty much everybody.' "

Judith
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#2 Chris Grieb

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 05:18 AM

Brian Doherty was on Book TV interviewed by Doug Brandon. The interview might be on the C-span web site but it will repeated and the schedule for each weekend is on the Book TV web site. The interview will not be repeated this weekend. The interview was quite good. Ayn Rand did not like Libertarians . Watching the interview I can sometimes see why. Judith; Thanks for posting the review. I still want to look at the book.

Edited by Chris Grieb, 15 February 2007 - 08:50 AM.


#3 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 09:23 AM

Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

Freewheeling indeed. Von Mises was not a libertarian. He supported the military draft.

The preeminent philosopher of libertarianism of the twentieth century was Robert Nozick. His book Anarchy, State, and Utopia continues to be studied in political philosophy classes around America, and it will still be studied a century from now.

Mr. Doherty's attempt to equate libertarianism with economic liberty is grotesque. Was Blackstone a libertarian because he upheld the right to private property? What about his recommendation that the proper penalty for homosexuality is death, preferably by fire?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chris,

I know that Ayn Rand decried libertarianism, not only the anarchocaptialist views of Murray Rothbard, Roy Childs, and David Friedman (son of Milton), but the minarchist libertarianism of the second half of the century as well. I joined the Libertarian Party in 1972 and was active in it until 1984. Our first presidential candidate was the philosopher John Hospers, whose political philosophy was the same as Rand's. I was a delegate to the 1976 national convention in New York. Rothbard, Childs, and Nozick participated on the floor in the platform debates. David Friedman and Nozick appeared for remarks on the anarchism-v-minarchism controversy at a Sunday brunch I attended.

Whatever the bundle of Rand's reasons and motives for despising our movement, I think the conceptual relationship between Rand's political philosophy and the contemporary political philosophy that is libertarianism is as follows:

Libertarians divide into those who think there is at least one proper function of government and those who don't. Libertarians who think there is a proper function of government think there is only one such function, and that is the legal protection of individual liberty. Under legal protection, we should understand not only laws that prohibit or enjoin for the sake of individual liberty (such as the criminal and tort law), but laws that confer legal powers for the sake of individual liberty (such as laws of inheritance, wills, contracts, partnerships, and corporation; laws of adjudication and legislation; and laws of criminal and civil procedure). These basics of libertarianism are familiar from principals who developed that school, known by that name, into its full flower after mid-century (such as Hospers, Nozick, Rothbard, D. Friedman, and Narveson).

In Rand's political philosophy, there is only one proper function of government, and that is the protection of rights. All rights are rights of individuals. The purpose of these rights is to protect the free exercise of the individual mind in the conduct and service of his life in a social context. That is a type of individual liberty. So, in Rand's political philosophy, the only proper function of government is the protection of individual liberty. Therefore, Rand's political philosophy is a type of libertarianism.

Since this is a forum accessible to the general public, I should perhaps mention that Rand's view (the libertarian minarchist view) that the only proper function of government is to protect individual liberty does entail the functions of our American government as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. Into a function of our national government such as to "provide for the common defense . . . for ourselves and our posterity," Rand's political philosophy---as, indeed, any libertarian political philosophy---specifies distinctive principles of execution. No conscription.

Edited by Stephen Boydstun, 15 February 2007 - 04:22 PM.


#4 Chris Grieb

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 02:40 PM

Stephan; I am reporting Miss Rand's position I am not endorsing it. I too was at the LP convention in 76, 80, and 84. I thought Von Mises only supported the draft in the case if the invasion of the country.

#5 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 04:39 PM

Yes, Chris, I understand you were not endorsing Rand's attitude towards libertarianism.

I don't know the restrictive conditions under which Mises thought the draft was justified. Conscription is a massive abridgement of individual liberty, as you know. It is always out of bounds for those who hold individual liberty to be the supreme value of political organization, i.e., for those deserving the name libertarian.

Thanks for the heads-up on the interview. Thanks also to Judith for bringing this book to our attention.

Edited by Stephen Boydstun, 15 February 2007 - 04:40 PM.


#6 studiodekadent

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 10:28 PM

I must object to people saying Mises was not a Libertarian.

Yes, at one point Mises supported the military draft. This support was a mistake on his part but his contributions to liberty as well as the fact he conceded all of the basic premises to liberty indicate that he was obviously a libertarian. Its manifest that his temporary support for the draft was most reluctant and it was certainly temporary. Remember that Mises was a utilitarian, not an Objectivist.

To say Mises was not a libertarian because he at one point supported the draft is equivalent to saying Hayek was not a libertarian because he believed some sort of minimal safety net was needed.

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#7 Judith

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 11:56 PM

Libertarians divide into those who think there is at least one proper function of government and those who don't. Libertarians who think there is a proper function of government think there is only one such function, and that is the legal protection of individual liberty. Under legal protection, we should understand not only laws that prohibit or enjoin for the sake of individual liberty (such as the criminal and tort law), but laws that confer legal powers for the sake of individual liberty (such as laws of inheritance, wills, contracts, partnerships, and corporation; laws of adjudication and legislation; and laws of criminal and civil procedure). These basics of libertarianism are familiar from principals who developed that school, known by that name, into its full flower after mid-century (such as Hospers, Nozick, Rothbard, D. Friedman, and Narveson).

In Rand's political philosophy, there is only one proper function of government, and that is the protection of rights. All rights are rights of individuals. The purpose of these rights is to protect the free exercise of the individual mind in the conduct and service of his life in a social context. That is a type of individual liberty. So, in Rand's political philosophy, the only proper function of government is the protection of individual liberty. Therefore, Rand's political philosophy is a type of libertarianism.

Since this is a forum accessible to the general public, I should perhaps mention that Rand's view (the libertarian minarchist view) that the only proper function of government is to protect individual liberty does entail the functions of our American government as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. Into a function of our national government such as to "provide for the common defense . . . for ourselves and our posterity," Rand's political philosophy---as, indeed, any libertarian political philosophy---specifies distinctive principles of execution. No conscription.

Stephen --

As I understand the above, you're saying that Rand's view is a subset of the libertarian minarchist view. What parts does it exclude? Do any parts conflict? I'd be surprised to find out that standard wills, contract law, corporate law, procedural law, etc. could be considered inconsistent with her philosophy. She clearly approved of intellectual property law based on her nonfiction writing.

Judith
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--John Adams

#8 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 03:00 AM

Judith,

Rand's political philosophy is a libertarian minarchist one. It is not different from the political position of Nozick, Machan, or Hospers. So Rand's position does not stand to minarchist libertarianism as a part to a whole. Hers and each of those others I just mentioned would simply have somewhat different arguments in support of the same position on what is the proper scope of government.

Also, the minarchist variety of libertarianism does not stand to libertarianism as a part to a whole, but as a species of a genus. Libertarian anarchism and minarchism are species of libertarianism, as cedars and oaks are species of trees.

The anarchist-minarchist division of libertarian political theorists is one of their significant divisions. Another significant division would be according to whether they base their theory of political liberty on a theory of individual rights or purely on utilitarianism. That is a cross-division of the other division. Rand addressed the complex place of her political philosophy within this division in her treatment of nineteenth century utilitarians (Mill, Bentham) in the essay "For the New Intellectual" and in her treatment of deontology in the essay "Causality v. Duty." I stopped studying and writing in political philosophy at the end of the 80's. One of my old contributions concerned a bridge between utility theory and rights theory. That essay is titled "Human Rights and Game Strategies," and it is now available on the web at the site called SOLO Passion.

#9 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 11:07 AM

I would like to say a bit more concerning Judith's question on the relations of Rand's political theory to that of other minarchist libertarians. These various thinkers developed various topics within political philosophy not only differently by the reasoning they offer, but differently in the extent to which they develope a particular topic at all.

A good example is Robert Nozick's ethical theory of retributive punishment for the criminal law. Rand also adhered to the retributive theory, which goes beyond the valid elements of societal protection, victim recompensation, and prisoner rehabilitation in the rationale for criminal penalties. The retributive theory is a theory of the punitive element in the levels of penalty for criminal acts. The retributive element in criminal penalties is sometimes denigrated (or applauded) as nothing other than an element of revenge. Rand and Nozick would agree in repudiating that reduction.

But on the positive side of developing the theory of retributive punishment in terms of objective ethics, Rand didn't take up that work. Nozick did. His theory is given on pages 363-98 of his book Philosophical Explanations (1981). His background theory of what it means for some values to be objectively correct ones is different than Rand's corresponding background value theory. So there is work waiting for Objectivist thinkers to sort out whether and how this difference implies any differences for a theory of retributive punishment with Rand's framework of value. And even if the different background value theories do not imply differences for the theory of retributive punishment, there may well be other points within Nozick's normative theory of retributive punishment itself (PE 363-98) that are at odds with Rand's thought on the nature of social morality.

#10 Bidinotto

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 03:10 PM

Stephen,

Well, in the mid-90s I published a book on crime premised upon a Randian-based theory of retributive justice: Criminal Justice? The Legal System vs. Individual Responsibility.

For those not wanting the whole book, a long essay sketching my view on this specific subject can be found online under the title "Crime and Moral Retribution."

As for whether Objectivism could really be categorized under the "genus" of "libertarianism," that would depend on whether there is such an animal. Despite the number of trees that have fallen to produce books about that "ism," I find no essential agreement on its definition (other than vague, undefined, floating abstractions about "individual liberty"), and certainly none on its component principles. Nominal endorsement of an undefined, ungrounded "freedom" or "liberty" is something that has been made by virtually everyone across the political spectrum. The devil is in the details, and on those details libertarians seem forever at odds. If they can't agree on what they believe, it seems to me problematic that Objectivists (or anyone else) could be reliably described as "species" of "libertarians."


--Robert Bidinotto

#11 Judith

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 10:02 PM

I would like to say a bit more concerning Judith's question on the relations of Rand's political theory to that of other minarchist libertarians.

Thanks, Stephen.

Judith
"Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
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#12 Chris Grieb

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 10:35 AM

The New York Times had an awful review of Radicals for Capitalism in a recent issue. It is not worth reading but David Boaz's reply is. David's reply can be on the Cato blog. There is also some interesting discussion of the book.

#13 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:25 AM

Chris,

Here is the link to the NYT review: Free for All by David Lionhardt, April 1, 2007. (You might have to register to read it.)

David Boaz's reply on the Cato Blog: NYT Clueless on Libertarianism .

Michael

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#14 Chris Grieb

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 02:15 PM

Thanks Michael for the links. I am going learn how to do that task..

#15 John Dailey

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 03:27 PM

~ I take 'libertarian', as an adjective, to refer to a single, specific tenet re Politics. As an adjective, I don't find it all that vague, since most times 'liberty' or 'freedom' are spoken about elsewise, 'individual' is a term as rare to find as a diamond. As such 'individual liberty', or 'libertarian', does exclude the alternative predominantly existing and more frequently argued-for political systems. It does have a meaning, 'floating' or not. I find it useful to clearly exclude all dictatorships/functional-monarchies/oligarchies. It can be safely, and meaningfully, said that most of the world is not and never has been 'libertarian.' --- Given that, O'ism IS 'libertarian.'

~ However, it certainly is NOT a type of 'libertarianism.' Re the latter, Bidinotto is right on: there is no 'type' since self-styled ones who agree on the one, single tenet clearly can't agree why.

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