1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8035/the-difference-between-a-liberal-and-a-radical/

The Difference between a Liberal and a Radical

April 18, 2008 by

Albert Jay Nock, writing in 1920, spells out the difference between a Nation-style liberal and a Freeman-style radical. “The liberal believes that the State is essentially social and is all for improving it by political methods so that it may function accordingly to what he believes to be its original intention. Hence, he is interested in politics, takes them seriously, goes at them hopefully, and believes in them as an instrument of social welfare and progress…. The radical, on the other hand, believes that the State is fundamentally antisocial and is all for improving it off the face of the earth; not by blowing up officeholders…but by the historical process of strengthening, consolidating and enlightening economic organization.” FULL ARTICLE


Tim Kern April 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

How absolutely succinct and accurate: “…the routine of partisan politics is only a more or less elaborate and expensive byplay indulged in for the sake of diverting notice from the primary object of all politics and political government, namely, the economic exploitation of one class by another…”

Thank you. I have a new signature for my emails!

Deacon April 18, 2008 at 10:42 am


Study the underlying psychology of political affiliation to understand the ideas “liberal” and “radical” and “conservative” and “moderate”:

Underlying Psychology of Political Affiliation


fundamentalist April 18, 2008 at 11:51 am

Shouldn’t it be possible to be a radical in philosophy but a liberal in practice? It seems to me that radicals are like monks in monasteries. For monks, the world is too evil to touch and participation in it will accomplish nothing except soiling my soul. For radicals, substitute politics for the world. Protestants abandoned the asceticism of the monks for active participation in an imperfect world, all the while acknowledging the gap between the world and the Kingdom of God and working toward making the world more like the kingdom. Can’t radicals take a similar attitude, participate in politics and take pride in every small victory that brings us closer to the radical ideal?

Ken Zahringer April 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Fundamentalist, your point is one I have been thinking about lately, from both a radical and a Christian perspective. Not participating in politics is political suicide, since we then abandon the field to our opponents. Everyone loses freedom then. But what is the real radical ideal? Ideally, we would like the State to voluntarily dissolve itself (not bloody likely). The next best thing would be to ensure the State would leave us alone if we manage to secede and practice true self-government. Neither one of those is a particularly exciting goal for political action. “Vote for me so I can do nothing – or even less!” Even if one were elected on such a platform, one would be immediately be marginalized (or co-opted) by the established power structure.
Rather, I think we should be engaged primarily in society. Our main goal should be to convince as many people as possible that they can do without the State, and in fact would be better off without it. It’s a subtle but important difference. When presented with a particular government proposal, our most effective tactic, I think, is to convince large numbers of our fellow citizens that it is a bad idea, instead of running for office or lobbying the legislature. At all times, spread the message of liberty. To the extent we are successful in that task, people will begin to demand less government. That’s when we will start seeing real success.

John April 18, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Hogwash. It’s well and good to be able to accurately describe the text book difference between a liberal and a radical, however, in life one can neither walk fully on either side. In fact, to do so will lead to personal distruction.

IMHO April 19, 2008 at 1:02 am

Unfortunately, you have to be really careful in politics as there are many charlatans who pose as libertarians but are in actuality Republicans or Conservatives.

The moderator of a group to which I belonged broke away from the Libertarian Party under the guise that he no longer wished for the group to have political ties. The impression was given that there would be speakers at the meetings on a variety of topics about libertarianism. I did not mind this, because I was more interested in spreading the message for less/limited government.

I’d heard a rumor that the moderator was attracting libertarians to the group with the intention of funneling them into the Republican Party. I thought the person who told me this must have gotten it all wrong.

It was at the last meeting that the moderator unveiled his “plan”. He wants libertarians to register as Republicans in order to exert their influence on a local chapter of the Republican Party. I was furious at the “bait and switch” and walked out along with a number of other individuals.

I believe that the transition to less government must be gradual; but how does one accomplish this when there is so much deceit?

Paul Marks April 19, 2008 at 7:01 am

Sometimes a move to smaller government has to be dramatic and swift – not gradual.

For example, removing some regulations may actually make things WORSE if one leaves other regulations in place. Deregulation must be real (not half hearted) if the idea is not to be discredited – the Califorian “energy deregulation” (which left price controls in place) is a good example.

Also politically it is often not possible to do things gradually (as opposition mounts) it has to be done with speed – such as the removal of German wage and price controls (and so on) over a weekend (when people opposed to the move would not be in their offices) in 1948. A gradual policy simply would not have been politically possible.

This is even true in monetary policy – a shut off of the monetary expansion in 1981 (by Paul V.) broke the credit money bubble of that time and the economy was on the road to recovery in a year or so. The gradualist policy suggested by Milton Friedman would have not worked – it would have led to greater and greater monetary expansion (i.e. the Greenspan years).

On government spending in United States a good example is farm subsidies. For many years (indeed many decades) free market folk have been trying to gradually reform farm subsidies – and the result is yet another 300 BILLION farm bill in the Congress. Special interests tend to ensure that “gradual reform” means no reform.

With international food prices so high now is a golden opportunity to just veto the whole mess (and abolish the department as well). Of course the President would lose the fight – but a FIGHT would get the issue some attention and might actually result in some reduction of subsidies, whereas a policy of gradual reform never will. It is a common thing – going for the “whole loaf” may result in some reform, going for “gradual reform” will, at best, achieve nothing – and, more likely, will lead to an expansion of government.

Almost needless to say George Walker Bush is not the President to lead the fight on farm subsidies – as he is not to lead a fight on the cancer of the entitlement programs (or anything else).

Alex Peak April 21, 2008 at 12:31 am

I see nothing wrong with using both a liberal and a radical approach toward the destruction (for anarchists) and minimisation (for minarchists) of the state. The liberal means of fighting the system from the inside (an approach being attempted by Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party) is no less valuable than the radical means of fighting the system from the outside (an approach being attempted by the agorists), so long as one does not surrender his/her values in the process. Ultimately, a combination of both–fighting the system from within and from without–would be, in my opinion, most effective.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: