Reclaiming the Left
Thomas Knapp addresses email and blog comments in an article posted on Free Market News last week. Here’s what he says to a correspondent who questions the term “Left Libertarian”:
The left/right dichotomy, of course, has served as a source of irritation to libertarians for many years. As that dichotomy has evolved in various, seemingly contradictory directions, its associated scale has become less and less relevant to libertarians — we seem torn between a “rightward” direction on economics and a “leftward” direction on civil liberties...except, of course, when the “right” happens to be imposing economic controls or the “left” seems to be advocating censorship.
Nonetheless, I believe that a plausible case can be made for placing libertarianism historically on the political “left” and for a libertarian reclamation of “left” values and the “left” banner. I’ll leave the extended historical case to others to make for the moment (I highly recommend Wally Conger’s “Why Not Reclaim the Left?” and “Why Not Reclaim the Left? Redux”). My observations as to the current state of the “libertarian left” are as follows:
- The split between “socialist” or “communist” anarchists and “market” anarchists has a long history; however, that breach seems to be healing somewhat as “market” anarchists find their nominal allies on the right moving away from economic freedom as a value while leaning ever further toward the authoritarian in other realms. As time goes on, market anarchists find their nominal position on the political right less and less tenable — and there seem to be some indications that their fellow anarchists are becoming more amenable to market ideas. Fusionism may yet deliver some mix of the Rothbardian and Konkinite visions.
- Within the realm of state political action, the right has similarly continued down the authoritarian road it was always on, while throwing its formerly free-market rhetoric overboard. The failure of the right to deliver when in power has created an opportune space in which the left may examine — and hopefully purge — its own authoritarian contaminations while also reconsidering its economic orientation.
Is it likely that the “libertarian left” will find itself populated to some degree by people of various degrees of statist orientation? Absolutely. The same is, and has always been, true of the Libertarian Party and the “libertarian right.” However, the left impulse is anti-authoritarian and the right impulse is authoritarian. For that reason, it is the left which has at hand the tools to correct its course — the right is lost to us at least for the moment, and has never been fit as a long-term anti-authoritarian vessel in any case.
As in any other sphere of human interaction, there are no guarantees in politics. However, I believe that a robust, anti-statist, anti-authoritarian, libertarian left can be built and that it can fulfill vital needs within the freedom movement.
Once again, three cheers for Kn@ppster and the work he’s doing for This Movement of Ours.-----
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