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Right-libertarianism is a term used by some political analysts, academics, and media sources to describe those libertarian political philosophies which advocate both self-ownership and limited government[1]; a belief that extends to supporting strong private property rights and free-market capitalism in the context of a small state.

Property rights[edit]

The "libertarianism" entry of Wilbur R. Miller's encyclopedia of The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America holds that while there is debate on whether left, right and socialist libertarianism "represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme," what he calls "right-libertarianism" is the most pro-private property.[2] Critics of capitalism have described anarcho-capitalist views as a "right-wing" form of libertarianism.[3]

Peter Vallentyne writes that libertarianism, which is about "self-ownership", is not a "right-wing" doctrine in the context of the typical left-right political spectrum because on social issues it tends to be "left-wing", opposing laws restricting consensual sexual relationships between or drug use by adults, as well as laws imposing religious views or practices or compulsory military service. However, he uses the term when he writes that in "right-libertarianism" unowned natural resources "may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes her labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them.” He contrasts this with left-libertarianism where such "unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner."[4] Similarly, Lawrence and Charlotte Becker maintain "right-libertarianism" most often refers to the political position that because natural resources are originally unowned, they therefore may be appropriated at-will by private parties without the consent of, or owing to, others.[5]

Use of term among libertarians[edit]

Economist and political theorist Murray Rothbard, whose writings and personal influence helped create some strands of modern libertarianism,[6] sometimes used the phrase. He wrote about the "Old Right" in the United States, a loose coalition of individuals who opposed the 1930s "New Deal" at home and military interventionism abroad. He wrote that they "did not describe or think of themselves as conservatives: they wanted to repeal and overthrow, not conserve."[7] Bill Kauffman also has written about such “old right libertarians”.[8]

In the 1960s Rothbard started the publication Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, believing that the "left-right" political spectrum had gone "entirely askew" since conservatives were sometimes more statist than liberals. Rothbard tried to reach out to leftists and to go "beyond left and right."[9] In 1971 Rothbard wrote about "right-wing libertarianism" which he described as supporting self-ownership, property rights and free trade.[10] He would later describe his brand of libertarianism as anarcho-capitalism[11][12][13] and paleolibertarianism.[14][15]

Anthony Gregory points out that within the libertarian movement "just as the general concepts 'left' and 'right' are riddled with obfuscation and imprecision, left- and right-libertarianism can refer to any number of varying and at times mutually exclusive political orientations". He writes that one of several ways to look at right-libertarianism is its exclusive interest in "economic freedoms," preference for a "conservative lifestyle," view that big business is "a great victim of the state," favoring of a "strong national defense," and sharing the Old Right's "opposition to empire." However, he holds that the important distinction for libertarians is not left or right but whether they are "government apologists who use libertarian rhetoric to defend state aggression."[16]

Samuel Edward Konkin III defined the term "right-libertarianism" as an: "activist, organization, publication or tendency which supports parliamentarianism exclusively as a strategy for reducing or abolishing the state, typically opposes counter-economics, either opposes the Libertarian Party or works to drag it right and prefers coalitions with supposedly 'free-market' conservatives."[17]

Some pro-property libertarians reject association with either term "right" or "left". Leonard E. Read wrote an article entitled "Neither Left Nor Right: Libertarians Are Above Authoritarian Degradation."[18] Harry Browne wrote: "We should never define Libertarian positions in terms coined by liberals or conservatives — nor as some variant of their positions. We are not fiscally conservative and socially liberal. We are Libertarians, who believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility on all issues at all times."[19] Tibor R. Machan entitled a book of his collected columns Neither Left Nor Right.[20] Walter Block's article "Libertarianism Is Unique and Belongs Neither to the Right Nor the Left" critiques libertarians he described as "left" and as "right", the latter including Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Edward Feser and Ron Paul. Block wrote that these "left" and "right" individuals agreed with certain libertarian premises but that "where we differ is in terms of the logical implications of these founding axioms."[21]

On the Nolan chart, right-of-center libertarians put a high priority on economic liberties while tending to favor restriction of personal liberties.[22]

Other uses of the term[edit]

The "libertarianism" entry in Mark Bevir's Encyclopedia of Political Theory holds the three types of libertarianism are right, left, and "consequentialist" as promoted by Friedrich Hayek.[23]

Herbert Kitschelt and Anthony J. McGann contrast "right-libertarianism" with "right-authoritarianism."[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ellen Frankel Paul; Fred Miller, Jr; Jeffrey Paul (12 February 2007). Liberalism: Old and New: Volume 24. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-70305-5. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Wilburn R. Miller, editor, The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia, Sage Publications, 2012, p. 1006, ISBN 1412988764, 9781412988766
  3. ^
    • Albert Meltzer, Anarchism: Arguments For and Against AK Press, 2000, p. 50: "The philosophy of “anarcho-capitalism” dreamed up by the “libertarian” New Right, has nothing to do with Anarchism as known by the Anarchist movement proper."
    • Peter Marshall, Demanding the impossible: A history of anarchism, Harper Perennial, London, 2008, p. 565: "Anarcho-capitalists, even if they do reject the State, might therefore best be called right-wing libertarians rather than anarchists."
    • Marcellus Andrews, The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America, NYU Press, 2001, ISBN 0814706800, 9780814706800 p. 61: "anarcho-capitalist -- a right-wing libertarian whose faith in private property and unregulated markets is absolute"
    • David Goodway, Anarchist seeds beneath the snow: left-libertarian thought and British writers from William Morris to Colin Ward, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool University Press, 2006 ISBN 1846310253, 9781846310256 p. 4: describes confusion in the definition of libertarianism because of "Anarcho-capitalism, 'minimal statism' and an extreme right-wing laissez-faire philosophy"
    • Saul Newman, The Politics of Postanarchism, Edinburgh University Press, 2010 ISBN 0748634959, 9780748634958 p. 43: "It is important to distinguish between anarchism and certain strands of right-wing libertarianism which at times go by the same name (for example, Murray Rothbard's anarcho-capitalism)."
  4. ^ Peter Vallentyne, "Libertarianism," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Stanford University, July 20, 2010], accessed December 26, 2012.
  5. ^ Lawrence C. Becker, Charlotte B. Becker. Encyclopedia of ethics, Volume 3, Taylor & Francis US, 2001, p. 1562.
  6. ^ Miller, David, ed. (1991). Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought. Blackwell Publishing. p. 290. ISBN 0-631-17944-5. 
  7. ^ Murray N. Rothbard, Betrayal of the American Right, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007, in Introduction by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., p. xi.
  8. ^ Bill Kauffman, "Found Cause: Don't Call Me a Conservative," American Conservative, May 18, 2009.
  9. ^ Justin Raimondo, An Enemy of the State, Chapter 4: "Beyond left and right", p. 159, Prometheus Books, 2000.
  10. ^ Murray N. Rothbard, The Left and Right Within Libertarianism, originally published in "WIN: Peace and Freedom through Nonviolent Action", March 1, 1971; reprinted at LewRockwell.com.
  11. ^ Gerald Gaus; Fred D'Agostino (2012). The Routledge Companion To Social And Political Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-0-415-87456-4. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Gerard Casey, Murray Rothbard, p. ix.
  13. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (August 17, 2007). "Floyd Arthur 'Baldy' Harper, RIP". Mises Daily. Ludwig von Mises Institute. "First published in The Libertarian Forum, May, 1973" 
  14. ^ Sanchez, Julian; Weigel, David (January 16, 2008). "Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?". Reason. 
  15. ^ Murrary Rothbard, "Big Government Libertarianism", Lew Rockwell.com, November 1994.
  16. ^ Anthony Gregory, Left, Right, Moderate and Radical, LewRockwell.com (n.p., Dec. 21, 2006)
  17. ^ Samuel Edward Konkin III, New Libertarian Manifesto, 1983.
  18. ^ Neither Left Nor Right", The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty 48.2 (Feb. 1998): 71-3
  19. ^ Harry Browne, "The Libertarian Stand on Abortion" (HarryBrowne.Org, Dec. 21, 1998)
  20. ^ Tibor R. Machan, Neither Left Nor Right: Collected Columns, Volume 522 of Hoover Institution Press, 2004, ISBN 0817939822, 9780817939823
  21. ^ Walter Block, "Libertarianism Is Unique and Belongs Neither to the Right Nor the Left: A Critique of the Views of Long, Holcombe, and Baden on the Left, Hoppe, Feser, and Paul on the Right," Journal of Libertarian Studies 22 (2010): 127-70.
  22. ^ "Q8. What is the Nolan Chart?". nolanchart.com. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  23. ^ Mark Bevir, editor, Encyclopedia of Political Theory, Sage Publications, 2010, p. 811, ISBN 1412958652, 9781412958653
  24. ^ Herbert Kitschelt, Anthony J. McGann, The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis, University of Michigan Press, 1997, p. 27, ISBN 472084410, 9780472084418