You’d have to be very unobservant not to have noticed that there are an awful lot of bloggers with an avowedly (and sometimes aggressively) libertarian political philosophy. There’s even an Australian Libertarians group blog, and a British equivalent called Samizdata (whose title embraces the ubiquitous right-wing conceit that they’re somehow a subversive, persecuted minority rather than the comfortably dominant self-justificatory elite of corporate capitalism). Individual bloggers including Jason Soon, Bargarz, Michael Jennings and Sam “Yobbo” Ward all embrace the libertarian credo to varying extents. Pseudonymous blogger Professor Bunyip also publishes occasionally on the Libertarians blog, but seems to this little black duck to be more an old-fashioned conservative (albeit an erudite and stylish one) than a libertarian in any meaningful sense. Leftie blogger Tim Dunlop also once memorably (if bizarrely) claimed to be a libertarian! I suspect, however, that he was taking unpardonable definitional liberties not unlike those the former USSR engaged in to label itself “democratic”.
I’ll pass up for the moment the temptation to speculate about why libertarian sentiments seem so much more prevalent in the blogosphere than the general population. Personally, I have an instinctive attraction to some aspects of libertarian ideals. They form a useful antidote to excessively intrusive demands of the “nanny state” mandated by political and bureaucratic elites convinced they know best what is good for the rest of us. Libertarian arguments are at their most persuasive when dealing with moral and interpersonal relations between individual adults. They’re much less persuasive IMO in the economic arena. The least persuasive libertarian writer, I’ve always thought, was the late Robert Nozick, who is mostly responsible for the libertarian mantra that the rule of law should pre-eminently protect private property rights, as well as the closely related nonsensical claim that all redistributive taxation is “theft”.
Why am I blogging about this topic now, you might well ask? First, because I badly need a break from exam marking. Secondly, because I’ve been surfing the web looking for student reading resources on conceptual aspects of notions of “rights” for the forthcoming teaching semester, and I happened to come across an excellent set of links to critiques of Nozick. The best of them IMO are: Jonathon Wolff, Robert Nozick, Libertarianism, And Utopia; James Hammerton, A Critique Of Libertarianism; Hugh La Follette, Why Libertarianism Is Mistaken; Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick And The Immaculate Conception Of The State. I’d be most interested to hear from any libertarian bloggers after they’ve taken the time to read and digest one or two of these linked articles, especially the arguments of Wolff and Hammerton. The latter, incidentally, also does a fair hatchet job on Hayek. Hammerton also suggests (mischievously but correctly, I think) that libertarianism would more accurately be called “propertarianism”. All the linked articles are of a reasonable length and very readable.