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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11673/a-tale-of-two-libertarianisms/

A Tale of Two Libertarianisms

February 15, 2010 by

Rothbard is the most entertaining of major libertarian thinkers — sharp, witty, mean, funny, and colloquial, and those virtues shine through these writings’ hortatory and practical purpose. FULL ARTICLE by Brian Doherty

{ 6 comments }

Eric M. Staib February 15, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Before this article, I had never known why so many Austrians so despised NR so much more than any other neocon trash rag. Now I understand.

Todd February 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm

This article makes me wonder what connections the authors sees between Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. I’m genuinely curious.

Michael February 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Funny. I was just hit by an Objectivist on another Libertarian type blog earlier today. Being fairly new to Austrian economics I had no idea Randians and Rothbardians so despise each other. Then I found The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult at Rockwell, and now I understand.

BTW, the reason why I was attacked, was I suggested using a little humility in successful business ventures. Apparently, there’s no room in Randian Objectivism for any humility. It is considered a sign of weakness. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a difference between promoting oneself and your accomplishments, and boorish bragging and boasting about how much money one makes.

Poptech February 16, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I found this to be an excellent article that every libertarian should read. The philosophical differences among the movements intellectuals can be confusing to new members and this helps clarify why.

Stephen MacLean February 25, 2010 at 7:39 pm

As someone researching within the ‘wet Tory’ tradition (mea culpa!), I too am fascinated by the contest between classical liberals (or minarchists) on the one hand and anarcho-capitalist libertarians on the other.

For my own purposes, I see libertarianism—either branch—as a salutary guide for preventing Tory proposals for government intervention from stepping onto the insidious slippery slope toward ‘social democracy’ (my euphemism for socialism).

Yet I doubt many purist libertarians would view my sympathy or interest in their cause as redeeming (perhaps the classical liberals would be more kind), since I still support the structure of the State.

As such, I was struck by this line in Doherty’s essay, that the ‘battle over a state that behaves in a properly Hayekian manner versus one that disappears entirely is still one for the far future, and was of little relevance in the 1950s context in which Rothbard skewered Hayek.’

Rothbard (and presumably his contemporary philosophical disciples), it could be argued, was simply adhering to the dictates of his essay ‘Why Be Libertarian?‘, where he wrote that

In framing principle, it is of the utmost importance not to mix in strategic estimates with the forging of desired goals. First, goals must be formulated, which, in this case, would be the instant abolition of slavery or whatever other statist oppression we are considering. And we must first frame these goals without considering the probability of attaining them. The libertarian goals are ‘realistic’ in the sense that they could be achieved if enough people agreed on their desirability, and that, if achieved, they would bring about a far better world. The ‘realism’ of the goal can only be challenged by a critique of the goal itself, not in the problem of how to attain it. Then, after we have decided on the goal, we face the entirely separate strategic question of how to attain that goal as rapidly as possible, how to build a movement to attain it, etc.

Furthermore, Rothbard concluded,

in the realm of the strategic, raising the banner of pure and radical principle is generally the fastest way of arriving at radical goals. For if the pure goal is never brought to the fore, there will never be any momentum developed for driving toward it.

With respect, then, to his response to Hayek’s moderate liberal (or self-styled ‘Whig‘) position, it seems as if Rothbard practised what he preached.

R.J. Moore II November 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

“This article makes me wonder what connections the authors sees between Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. I’m genuinely curious.”
Rand and Rothbard both had natural rights approaches that were highly principled (not to say dogmatic).
For what it’s worth, IMO Hayek was not only less purist in the libertarian sense, he is actually inferior in terms of technical analysis. People like Anthony de Jasay and Jeffrey Friedman show that it is possible to entirely demolish the specifically socialistic and more generally statist premises without resorting to any talk of ‘rights’ or moral appeals.

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