My View of Libertariansim

A reader asked for my definition of “libertarian.” I’ve written about libertarianism many times since my early days as an unsophisticated adherent of J.S. Mill’s solipsistic “harm principle.”

My journey away from solipsistic libertarianism began with “A Paradox for Libertarians.” “Common Ground for Conservatives and Libertarians?” marks the next step in my journey. My declaration of independence from the harm principle is documented in “The Paradox of Libertarianism.” I then wrote “Liberty As a Social Construct,” “Social Norms and Liberty,” and “A Footnote about Liberty and Social Norms.” Those posts go beyond my rejection of the harm principle as the proper basis of libertarianism, and introduce the social aspect of liberty. I reiterated and elaborated my criticism of the harm principle in “The Harm Principle,” “Footnotes to ‘The Harm Principle’,” and “The Harm Principle, Again.”

All of those posts — and more in the same revisionist vein — appeared at my old blog, Liberty Corner. Those many posts set the stage for many more at Politics & Prosperity, including these:

On Liberty

Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism

Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?

More Pseudo-Libertarianism

2 comments

  1. I like your discussion of the range of political views, and the irreconcilability of the extremes. Though some views may have logical and empirical foundations (however strong or weak), I believe — as W.S. Gilbert implies — that one’s politics are strongly influenced (if not determined) by one’s inborn temperament.

    You end with Mill’s statement of his “harm principle.” Here’s the key sentence: “The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others.” The stock libertarian view (implicit if not explicit) is that “that which concerns others” encompasses a small range of conduct, and that the actor (and only the actor) is the proper judge of what concerns others (and might harm them). As explained in the many posts to which I link, that’s where I part company with the stock libertarian view, which is solipsistic. If you only have time to read one post about the shallowness of the harm principle and its misuse at the hands of self-styled libertarians, go here: https://politicsandprosperity.com/2012/07/29/liberty-and-society/.

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