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Right-libertarianism (or right-wing libertarianism) refers to libertarian political philosophies that advocate capitalist economics, negative rights, and a radical reversal of the modern welfare state. Right libertarians strongly support private property rights, and defend unequal distribution of natural resources and private property. This position is contrasted with that of some versions of left-libertarianism, which maintain that natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner, either unowned or owned collectively. Right-libertarianism includes anarcho-capitalism and laissez-faire, minarchist liberalism.[note 1]
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The non-aggression principle
The non-aggression principle (NAP) is often described as the foundation of present-day right-libertarian philosophies. It is a moral stance which forbids actions that are inconsistent with capitalist property rights. The principle defines "aggression" and "initiation of force" as violation of these rights. NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what constitutes aggression depends on what libertarians consider to be one's property.
Because the principle redefines aggression in right-libertarian terms, use of the NAP as a justification for right-libertarianism has been criticized as circular reasoning and as rhetorical obfuscation of the coercive nature of libertarian property law enforcement.
There is a debate amongst right-libertarians as to whether or not the state is legitimate: while anarcho-capitalists advocate its abolition, minarchists support minimal states, often referred to as night-watchman states. Minarchists maintain that the state is necessary for the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. They believe the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts, though some expand this list to include fire departments, prisons, and the executive and legislative branches. They justify the state on the grounds that it is the logical consequence of adhering to the non-aggression principle and argue that anarchism is immoral because it implies that the non-aggression principle is optional, that the enforcement of laws under anarchism is open to competition. Another common justification is that private defense agencies and court firms would tend to represent the interests of those who pay them enough.
Anarcho-capitalists argue that the state violates the non-aggression principle by its nature because governments use force against those who have not stolen or vandalized private property, assaulted anyone, or committed fraud. Many also argue that monopolies tend to be corrupt and inefficient, that private defense and court agencies would have to have a good reputation in order to stay in business. Linda & Morris Tannehill argue that no coercive monopoly of force can arise on a truly free market and that a government's citizenry can't desert them in favor of a competent protection and defense agency.
Libertarian philosopher Moshe Kroy argues that the disagreement between anarcho-capitalists who adhere to Murray Rothbard's view of human consciousness and the nature of values and minarchists who adhere to Ayn Rand's view of human consciousness and the nature of values over whether or not the state is moral is not due to a disagreement over the correct interpretation of a mutually held ethical stance. He argues that the disagreement between these two groups is instead the result of their disagreement over the nature of human consciousness and that each group is making the correct interpretation of their differing premises. These two groups are therefore not making any errors with respect to deducing the correct interpretation of any ethical stance because they do not hold the same ethical stance.
While there is debate on whether left, right, and socialist libertarianism "represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme," right-libertarianism is most in favor of private property. Right-libertarians maintain that unowned natural resources "may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes his labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them." This contrasts with left-libertarianism in which "unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner." Right-libertarians believe that natural resources are originally unowned, and therefore, private parties may appropriate them at will without the consent of, or owing to, others (e.g. a land value tax).
Right-libertarians (also referred to as propertarians) hold that societies in which private property rights are enforced are the only ones that are both ethical and lead to the best possible outcomes. They generally support the free market, and are not opposed to any concentrations of economic power, provided it occurs through non-coercive means.
Libertarianism in the United States developed in the 1950s as many with Old Right or classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as libertarians. H. L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock were the first prominent figures in the United States to call themselves libertarians. They believed Franklin D. Roosevelt had co-opted the word liberal for his New Deal policies, which they opposed, and used libertarian to signify their allegiance to individualism. Mencken wrote in 1923: "My literary theory, like my politics, is based chiefly upon one idea, to wit, the idea of freedom. I am, in belief, a libertarian of the most extreme variety."
In the 1950s, Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand developed a philosophical system called Objectivism, expressed in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, as well as other works, which influenced many libertarians. However, she rejected the label libertarian and harshly denounced the libertarian movement as the "hippies of the right." Philosopher John Hospers, a one-time member of Rand's inner circle, proposed a non-initiation of force principle to unite both groups; this statement later became a required "pledge" for candidates of the Libertarian Party, and Hospers himself became its first presidential candidate in 1972.
Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard was influenced by the work of the 19th-century American individualist anarchists, themselves influenced by classical liberalism. However, he thought they had a faulty understanding of economics: they accepted the labor theory of value as influenced by the classical economists, but Rothbard was a student of neoclassical economics which does not agree with the labor theory of value. Rothbard sought to meld 19th-century American individualists' advocacy of free markets and private defense with the principles of Austrian economics: "There is, in the body of thought known as 'Austrian economics,' a scientific explanation of the workings of the free market (and of the consequences of government intervention in that market) which individualist anarchists could easily incorporate into their political and social Weltanschauung".
The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians, and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements, as well as organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, such as Reason magazine and Murray Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum, and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance and Society for Individual Liberty.
Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater's libertarian-oriented challenge to authority had a major impact on the libertarian movement, through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964. Goldwater's speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.
The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty, and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations. The split was finalized in 1971 when conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1971 New York Times article, attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: "The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded."
In 1971, a small group of Americans led by David Nolan formed the U.S. Libertarian Party. The party has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.
Modern libertarianism gained significant recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974, a response to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. The book proposed a minimal state on the grounds that it was an inevitable phenomenon which could arise without violating individual rights. Anarchy, State, and Utopia won a National Book Award in 1975.
Contention over placement on the political spectrum
Corey Robin describes right-libertarianism as fundamentally a reactionary conservative ideology, united with more traditional conservative thought and goals by a desire to enforce hierarchical power and social relations:
Conservatism, then, is not a commitment to limited government and liberty—or a wariness of change, a belief in evolutionary reform, or a politics of virtue. These may be the byproducts of conservatism, one or more of its historically specific and ever-changing modes of expression. But they are not its animating purpose. Neither is conservatism a makeshift fusion of capitalists, Christians, and warriors, for that fusion is impelled by a more elemental force—the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and autonomous individual. But it is not. When the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees.
Within right-libertarianism, many reject associations with conservativism, and often reject traditional left-right labels.
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. In 1971, Rothbard wrote about right-wing libertarianism which he described as supporting self-ownership, property rights and free trade. He would later describe his brand of libertarianism as anarcho-capitalism.
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 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."
Some pro-property libertarians reject association with either right or left. Leonard E. Read wrote an article titled "Neither Left Nor Right: Libertarians Are Above Authoritarian Degradation." 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." Tibor R. Machan titled a book of his collected columns Neither Left Nor Right. Walter Block's article "Libertarianism Is Unique and Belongs Neither to the Right Nor the Left" critiques libertarians he described as left and 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 "where we differ is in terms of the logical implications of these founding axioms."
Herbert Kitschelt and Anthony J. McGann contrast right-libertarianism—"a strategy that combines pro-market positions with opposition to hierarchical authority, support of unconventional political participation, and endorsement of feminism and of environmentalism"—with right-authoritarianism.
- Walter Block – Austrian economist, theorist and author of Defending the Undefendable and Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty
- Richard Epstein – legal scholar, specializing in the field of law and economics
- David D. Friedman – anarcho-capitalist theorist, author of The Machinery of Freedom, and son of Milton Friedman
- Milton Friedman – Nobel Prize-winning monetarist economist associated with the Chicago School of Economics, advocated economic deregulation and privatization
- Friedrich Hayek – Nobel Prize-winning Austrian School economist, notable for his political work The Road to Serfdom
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe – developed argumentation ethics
- Michael Huemer – philosopher, ethical intuitionist and author of The Problem of Political Authority
- Rose Wilder Lane – silent editor of her mother's Little House on the Prairie books and author of The Discovery of Freedom
- Ludwig von Mises – figure in the Austrian School of economic thought who established praxeology
- Jan Narveson – political philosopher and professor emeritus, member of the Order of Canada
- Robert Nozick – philosopher and author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia
- Ayn Rand – founder of Objectivism
- Murray Rothbard – the founder of anarcho-capitalism and an Austrian school economist
- Market fundamentalism
- Austrian school
- Classical liberalism
- Cultural conservatism
- Economic liberalism
- Libertarian conservatism
- Market liberalism
- Old Right
- Outline of libertarianism
- Marshall, Peter (2008). Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: Harper Perennial. p. 565. "In its moderate form, right libertarianism embraces laissez-faire liberals like Robert Nozick who call for a minimal State, and in its extreme form, anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard and David Friedman who entirely repudiate the role of the State and look to the market as a means of ensuring social order."
- Goodway, David (2006). Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 4. ISBN 1846310253, ISBN 978-1846310256. "'Libertarian' and 'libertarianism' are frequently employed by anarchists as synonyms for 'anarchist' and 'anarchism', largely as an attempt to distance themselves from the negative connotations of 'anarchy' and its derivatives. The situation has been vastly complicated in recent decades with the rise of anarcho-capitalism, 'minimal statism' and an extreme right-wing laissez-faire philosophy advocated by such theorists as Murray Rothbard and Robert Nozick and their adoption of the words 'libertarian' and 'libertarianism'. It has therefore no become necessary to distinguish between their right libertarianism and the left libertarianism of the anarchist tradition."
- Newman, Saul (2010). The Politics of Postanarchism, Edinburgh University Press. p. 43. ISBN 0748634959, ISBN 978-0748634958. "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). There is a complex debate within this tradition between those like Robert Nozick, who advocate a 'minimal state', and those like Rothbard who want to do away with the state altogether and allow all transactions to be governed by the market alone. From an anarchist perspective, however, both positions--the minimal state (minarchist) and the no-state ('anarchist') positions--neglect the problem of economic domination; in other words, they neglect the hierarchies, oppressions, and forms of exploitation that would inevitably arise in a laissez-faire 'free' market. ... Anarchism, therefore, has no truck with this right-wing libertarianism, not only because it neglects economic inequality and domination, but also because in practice (and theory) it is highly inconsistent and contradictory. The individual freedom invoked by right-wing libertarians is only a narrow economic freedom within the constraints of a capitalist market, which, as anarchists show, is no freedom at all."
- Baradat, Leon P. (2015). Political Ideologies. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317345558.
- Kymlicka, Will (2005) "libertarianism, left-". In Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy: New Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 516. ISBN 978-0199264797. "Right-wing libertarians argue that the right of self-ownership entails the right to appropriate unequal parts of the external world, such as unequal amounts of land."
- Vallentyne, Peter (2007). "Libertarianism and the State". In Paul, Ellen Frankel; Miller Jr., Fred; Paul, Jeffrey. Liberalism: Old and New: Volume 24. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 13 June 2013. ISBN 978-0521703055. "The best-known versions of libertarianism are right-libertarian theories, which hold that agents have a very strong moral power to acquire full private property rights in external things. Left-libertarians, by contrast, hold that natural resources (e.g., space, land, minerals, air, and water) belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner and thus cannot be appropriated without the consent of, or significant payment to, the members of society."
- Phred Barnet. "The Non-Aggression Principle (Americanly Yours, April 14, 2011)". Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- US Libertarian Party. ""I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals" (US Libertarian Party Membership Form)". Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- Stephan Kinsella. "The relation between the non-aggression principle and property rights (Mises Economics Blog, October 4, 2011)". Retrieved 2011-11-25.
- Stephan Kinsella. "What Libertarianism Is (Mises Daily, Friday, August 21, 2009 )". Retrieved 2012-07-07.
- "Libertarians are Huge Fans of Initiating Force". Demos. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
- Gregory, Anthory.The Minarchist's Dilemma. Strike The Root. 10 May 2004.
- Holcombe, Randall G. http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_08_3_holcombe.pdf. "Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable".
- Long, Roderick, Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism, Molinari Institute.
- Plauché, Geoffrey Allan (2006). On the Social Contract and the Persistence of Anarchy, American Political Science Association, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University).
- Linda & Morris Tannehill. The Market for Liberty, p. 81
- https://mises.org/daily/4698 Kroy, Moshe Political Freedom and Its Roots in Metaphysics
- Carlson, Jennifer D. (2012). "Libertarianism". In Miller, Wilburn R., ed. The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America. London: Sage Publications. p. 1007. ISBN 1412988764, 9781412988766. "There exist three major camps in libertarian thought: right-libertarianism, socialist libertarianism, and left-libertarianism; the extent to which these represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme is contested by scholars."
- Vallentyne, Peter (20 July 2010). "Libertarianism". In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Becker, Lawrence C.; Becker, Charlotte B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Ethics. 3. New York: Routledge. p. 1562
- Rothbard, Murray (1998). The Ethics of Liberty. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 978-0814775066.
- von Mises, Ludwig (2007). Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. ISBN 978-0865976313.
- Russell, Dean (May 1955). "Who Is A Libertarian?". The Freeman. The Foundation for Economic Education. 5 (5). Retrieved March 6, 2010.
- Burns, Jennifer (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-19-532487-7.
- H. L. Mencken, letter to George Müller, 1923, "Autobiographical Notes, 1941," qtd. Rodgers 105.
- Rubin, Harriet (September 15, 2007). "Ayn Rand's Literature of Capitalism". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
- "What was Ayn Rand's view of the libertarian movement?". Ayn Rand Institute.
More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called "hippies of the right," who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. ... libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication when that fits their purpose.
- DeLeon, David (1978). The American as Anarchist: Reflections on Indigenous Radicalism. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 127. "only a few individuals like Murray Rothbard, in Power and Market, and some article writers were influenced by [past anarchists like Spooner and Tucker]. Most had not evolved consciously from this tradition; they had been a rather automatic product of the American environment."
- "The Spooner-Tucker Doctrine: An Economist's View, Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, p. 7 (1965, 2000)
- Lora, Ronald; Longton, William Henry (1999). Conservative press in 20th-century America. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 367-374.
- Marc Jason Gilbert, The Vietnam War on campus: other voices, more distant drums, p. 35, 2001, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0-275-96909-6
- Gilbert, Marc Jason (2001). The Vietnam War on Campus: Other Voices, More Distant Drums. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-96909-6. p. 35.
- Silverman, Henry J. (1970). American Radical Thought: The Libertarian Tradition. Heath publishing. p. 279.
- Robert Poole, In memoriam: Barry Goldwater – Obituary, Reason Magazine, August–Sept, 1998.
- Hess, Karl (July 1976). The Death of Politics. Interview in Playboy.
- Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, University of California Press, 1999 ISBN , 215–237.
- Jude Blanchette, What Libertarians and Conservatives Say About Each Other: An Annotated Bibliography, LewRockwell.com, October 27, 2004.
- Bill Winter, "1971–2001: The Libertarian Party's 30th Anniversary Year: Remembering the first three decades of America's 'Party of Principle'" LP News
- International Society for Individual Liberty Freedom Network list.
- National Book Award: 1975 – Philosophy and Religion
- David Lewis Schaefer, Robert Nozick and the Coast of Utopia, The New York Sun, April 30, 2008.
- Steven Teles and Daniel A. Kenney, chapter "Spreading the Word: The diffusion of American Conservatism in Europe and beyond," (pp. 136–169) in Growing apart?: America and Europe in the twenty-first century by Sven Steinmo, Cambridge University Press, 2008, The chapter discusses how libertarian ideas have been more successful at spreading worldwide than social conservative ideas.
- Anthony Gregory, Real World Politics and Radical Libertarianism, LewRockwell.com, April 24, 2007.
- Robin, Corey (2011). The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Oxford University Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0199793743.
- Raimondo, Justin (2000). An Enemy of the State. Chapter 4: "Beyond left and right". Prometheus Books. p. 159.
- Rothbard, Murray N. (1 March 1971). The Left and Right Within Libertarianism. Originally published in "WIN: Peace and Freedom through Nonviolent Action". Reprinted at LewRockwell.com.
- Gerald Gaus; Fred D'Agostino (2012). The Routledge Companion To Social And Political Philosophy. Routledge. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-415-87456-4. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Casey, Gerard (2010). John Meadowcroft, ed. Murray Rothbard: Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers. 15. London: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc. p. ix.
- Gregory, Anthony (21 December 2006). "Left, Right, Moderate and Radical". LewRockwell.com.
- Neither Left Nor Right", The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty 48.2 (Feb. 1998): 71–73
- Browne, Harry (21 December 1998). "The Libertarian Stand on Abortion". HarryBrowne.Org.
- Machan, Tibor R. (2204). Neither Left Nor Right: Collected Columns. 522. Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 0817939822. ISBN 9780817939823.
- Block, Walter (2010). "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. pp. 127–70.
- Kitschelt, Herbert; McGann, Anthony J. (1997). The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. University of Michigan Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780472084418.