Libertarian Gold

April 16, 2010

John Holbo has a nice post over at Crooked Timber. He continues the thread inspired by the outrageous claim of Bryan Caplan’s that somehow the ladies were freer back in the 1880s than they are today. It’s an interesting post if only because he suggests that there are sociological reflections of conceptual distinctions in libertarianism, and also because he runs his argument through the establishment of liberty as property:

I think it is not generally recognized – it seems right to me, correct me if I am wrong! – that the thick/thin libertarian distinction, even though it can be fuzzy, in practice, marks out two fundamentally distinct kinds of political philosophy, based on totally different principles. This gets disguised because there is considerable overlapping consensus at higher levels; and the thin side, in particular, tends to be systematically confused about where it is coming from (where it has to be coming from, to be what it is). Once we see this, a few things that are a bit strange about libertarianism, as a sociological phenomenon, look less strange. Also, maybe it turns out that libertarianism is a Bigger Tent than liberalism, philosophically, even though it is sometimes classed as a mere fringe of the liberal tent. Liberalism really is one kind of thing, broadly speaking. But not libertarianism – which is really two fundamentally different kinds of thing in one. (You could debate that, arguing that liberalism, too, has some pretty serious and deep internal divisions. But that’s not today’s topic.)

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