Relationship of Politics to Morality
By Wendy McElroy - July 31, 2014

A manufactured conflict is flashing through libertarianism: self-described "humanitarians" versus insultingly-labeled "brutalists." In a much circulated article entitled "Against Libertarian Brutalism," the libertarian luminary Jeffrey Tucker defines the "humanitarians" (of whom he is one) as people who love liberty because it "allows peaceful human cooperation… creative service… keeps violence at bay… allows for capital formation and prosperity… leads to a world in which people are valued as ends in themselves." In short, "humanitarian libertarians" value liberty because of the sheer beauty of the society it creates. (Note: The article was published in a March issue of FEE but the faux conflict is still active.)

By contrast, "brutal libertarians" are said to find "what's impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on 'politically incorrect' standards, to hate to their heart's content so long as no violence is used… to be openly racist and sexist." In short, "brutal libertarians" value liberty because it allows them to hate and to discriminate.

Unfortunately, the article also defines "brutal libertarians" as being "rooted in the pure theory of the rights of individuals to live their values whatever they may be." In other words, we (I am a brutalist by the preceding definition) believe in living peacefully without imposing our moral values on others; we view the non-aggression principle as the non-aggression principle. Politically-speaking, I adhere to nonviolence and for this I am considered hate-filled.

Tucker offers the example of "a town that is taken over by a fundamentalist sect that excludes all peoples not of the faith, forces women into burka-like clothing, imposes a theocratic legal code, and ostracizes gays and lesbians." And, yet, everyone is there voluntarily. He continues, "The brutalists will… defend such a microtyranny on grounds of decentralization, rights of property, and the right to discriminate and exclude – completely dismissing the larger picture here that, after all, people's core aspirations to live a full and free life are being denied on a daily basis."

Ignore errors such as presuming that decentralization or property ownership are used by libertarians to defend a violation of rights. Forget how difficult (or impossible) it is to find someone who advocates and lives nonviolence because he is hate-filled. Or the strong tendency for such a person to also adopt a moral code of civil behavior toward others. I do not know any voluntaryist who does not also have a strong personal ethics that includes tolerance, if not kindness toward others. But also, they believe their moral sentiments must not be imposed; what cannot be accomplished by peaceful means should not be accomplished at all.

Consider instead how easily the article skips over the "voluntary" aspect of the town. Or how a voluntary town could "force" women into burka-like clothing. Or how the article presumes that accommodating the aspirations of others is the responsibility of strangers.

I've tried to extract something positive from the article's "humanitarian" argument, and there is an interesting question raised, albeit obliquely. The question: What is the relationship between politics and morality?

Politics and Morality

In his article "Myth and Truth About Libertarianism," Murray Rothbard addresses the lie that "[l]ibertarians are libertines: they are hedonists who hanker after 'alternative lifestyles'. His response applies with equal force to the accusation of brutalism. "The fact is that libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life."

One of my favorite authors on the distinction between politics and morality is Adam Smith (1723–1790). Smith is most celebrated as an economist and the author of Wealth of Nations, a central theme of which is a rejection of mercantilism – the crony capitalism of its day. But Smith saw himself primarily as a moral philosopher and much preferred his earlier work The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a central theme of which is that morality rests upon the natural sympathy individuals feel toward each other.

Smith has been cast as a cold-fish economist who argues on the basis of individual and private self-interest. The impression is rendered by short passages that are selectively lifted out of the massive Wealth of Nations. An example is the famous quotation: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

Certainly, the positive aspects of self-interest is part of Smith's argument but the overall picture he presents has been badly distorted. Smith argues for the free market primarily on moral grounds. That is, on the basis of the general good (prosperity), justice, freedom, liberty from domination and moral autonomy. These moral benefits accrue especially to the working class and to the poor. Smith examines economics in the explicit context of morality and human progress.

Consider the moral good of prosperity, of people being able to command the goods upon which life depends. Smith observes that a European peasant is more prosperous than African royalty. He writes, "the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages." Unlike other theorists of his day, however, Smith does not ascribe the relative prosperity of the European peasant to superiority of race. He ascribes it instead to the fact that the peasant can usually compete in a fair manner because he is secure in property rights, and he benefits from both a division of labor and an effective distribution system. The African king is not so fortunate in his economic environment. Thus, the free market makes kings of the poor.

Consider the moral good of justice for all. Smith writes, "To hurt in any degree the interest of any one order of citizens, for no other purpose but to promote that of some other, is evidently contrary to that justice and equality of treatment which the sovereign owes to all the different orders of his subjects." Smith's rejection of mercantilism, through which state privileges are granted to favored businesses, is rooted in his demand for fair treatment of the poor and the struggling. Mercantilism not only shuts the poor out of competing on the market place but also taxes them either directly or through higher prices for monopoly goods. Smith explicitly and repeatedly states his moral objections to this inequity.

The Wealth of Nations is as much a text on morality as it is on economics or politics. And, yet, Smith draws a sharp, clear distinction between morality and politics.

He believes politics involves the duties that human beings owe to each another; for example, the duty to refuse privileges that bar others from competing equally on the free market. But Smith does not consider paying such a duty or debt to be moral. It is no more than rendering what is owed, similar to paying for a loaf of bread. Moreover, the duties owed are expressed by either taking action or refraining from action.

Morality comes from rendering a 'good' over and above what is owed. It is not primarily embodied through acts but through sentiments. The Theory of Moral Sentiments opens, "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion…" Smith used the term "sympathy" to collectively describe the moral sentiments of benevolence toward other human beings.

In a sense, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments have the same message: Free exchange benefits each human being involved. On a free market, political and economic benefits arise from trade and productive mechanisms such as the division of labor. On a personal level, moral and emotional benefits accrue to human beings through the exchange of sympathy as expressed through compassion, gifts or other assistance. Nevertheless, and unlike politics, morality is rooted in sentiments rather than in the specific acts.

Morality is an entirely separate process from politics. Smith's purpose is not to conflate morality and politics but to demonstrate their deep compatibility. Both are exchanges of value. Both enrich human life. There is no conflict.


It is impossible to know if "humanitarian libertarians" are referring to specific people in the liberty movement who have been wanton or vicious. The article provides no names, events or other identifiers. The most plausible assumption, therefore, is that every libertarian who distinguishes between politics and morality is being indicted. Everyone who wishes first and foremost to live in peace and tolerate the equally peaceful behavior of others is a brutalist.

Nonviolence is not hatred. And conflating politics with morality is theoretically reckless, especially when it is done to condemn those who disagree with the content of a specific moral code. Morality resides in the benevolence one human being feels toward another; it can be expressed in a myriad of ways that should not be dictated. When morality is proscribed – particularly in tandem with downplaying the value of nonviolence – it ceases to be moral and becomes moralizing. It becomes a dangerously self-righteous and intolerant act, which does not and cannot benefit all parties involved unless, of course, all parties agree to march to the same moral drum.

Aren't we individuals?

  • NAPpy

    I find the whole brutalism idea to be…well, stupid. How can you read libertarian literature and not come out of that process knowing that it’s intended as a political philosophy? Obviously, political philosophy must be imbedded within a larger worldview. That worldview would probably include things like a stand on morality. It seems to me that the brutalism objection is conflating the discussion of the morality part of a worldview with the political philosophy part of a worldview.

    NIce article.

    • Good morning, NAPpy. A lot of us are wondering why this controversy has arisen and why it is not going away. It is such a transparently insulting way to argue — that is, pre-defining your side as “humanitarian” and the other side as “brutal” for its insistence on nonviolence — that the controversy seems to be controversy for its own sake. I’ve wondered whether it is a way to include political correctness through the backdoor of liberty because it sure doesn’t fit through the front one. BTW, the original article “Against Libertarian Brutalism” is here http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/against-libertarian-brutalism and it does excoriate the “brutalists” for ostracizing “people based on ‘politically incorrect’ standards.” So it seems to be backing “politically correct” standards. One problem is that, when you try to pin down “humanitarian libertarians,” the arguments shift like smoke. I am usually just left wondering two things: 1) why they consider themselves the tolerate and humane ones when they are the ones slinging mud, and 2) aren’t there wars and other world events that are a bit more pressing than attacking someone for giving priority to nonviolence?

      • Brutalism is not about nonviolence.

        • Jeff…you define brutalism as…”In the libertarian world, however, brutalism is rooted in the pure
          theory of the rights of individuals to live their values whatever they may be.” Then you attack the values some people choose to live, and properly so in a moral sense. But, if brutalism is at its core “the pure theory of the rights of individuals” then it is nonviolent. Unless, of course, you wish to define violence as including harsh attitudes and harsh language rather than the generally accepted libertarian view of force or fraud. How am I misreading this? BTW, my purpose is not to attack you but to try and stop the senseless divisiveness that this bizarre conflict is inflicting on the movement. There is no need for this damage to occur.

        • Jason Christie

          “I am the Lorax. I speak for the brutalists!”

      • Tucker may lack a rational argument with which to articulate his position, and may argue with sentiments rather than rationalism, but his sentiments are correct expressions of his intuitions, and as usual, his intuitions are correct: there is something rotten in Rothbard’s Ghetto and it has harmed the cause of liberty long enough.

        Sentimental arguments may be less articulate than rational and empirical arguments; but then again, the number of people who can grasp and be persuaded by sentimental arguments vastly outweighs those who can manage rational and empirical arguments. If I wanted to devote more time to criticism than creativity I could spend the full circuit of my day trying to correct the arguments of libertarians employing moralism masquerading as rationalism, and never see an end to it.

        We have few intellectuals left, and the few we do are third tier, because rothbard (and mises) was wrong. Tucker may not have a rational or empirical answer, nor be able conduct a debate with people like me, but he is taking liberty in the right direction – away from those who have demonstrably failed.

        Curt Doolittle
        The Propertarian Institute
        Kiev, Ukraine

    • Yes, I’m very aware that libertarianism is a political philosophy.

      • Bill Ross

        we can have some “excitement”, here and NOW:)

      • NAPpy

        Fair enough.

        From re-reading your article, I’d have said something like: Libertarianism gives us some principles for when to use violence (self-defense, restitution, ending a threat, etc). Let’s not forget, however, that a good life requires careful thought as to long-term ends, like aristotelian eudemonia, for example. It would be….useful….to marry a concept of the good life with principles for when to use violence.

        That kind of statement might avoid the unintended side-effect of polarizing and labeling other people as “brutalists”.

        I admire the thought behind your article. I…question….whether the article met your end, given the response it has generated.

      • Bill Ross

        you sure?

        Perhaps it is the ONLY practical truth we have discovered regarding how to live peacefully together in a division of labor civilization, leaving the freedom to individually and collectively adapt to excellence?:


        my definition of politics is: that which is a matter of opinion, unresolved by “what is factually / scientifically known”

        …and, awareness of “what is known” has been dramatically shrunk by central control / subversion of education.

  • Good Thursday morning, everyone. I’ll be checking in all day to read comments, answer questions and chat. I look forward to it.

  • Bill Ross

    well, them’s fighting words, and, having met JT, I suspect a trade of truth for career influence. The correct response is refutation, then “shun” (exercise freedom to NOT associate, protect the libertarian “brand”).

    JT sets up an unreasonable strawman “argument”, a hypothetical situation that cannot possibly collectively exist within humanity

    after describing a boring, lacking in human diversity post libertarian “nirvanna” where everyone is “on the same page” (a restricted subset of freedom) politically, economically…

    a situation of voluntarily consent, without force and without “walking away” to wearing burkas…? Give me a break.

    and, Wendy, given the absurdity of JT’s position, I suspect the libertarian schism is only among those who are following leaders and trusting reputations, not among the free “thinkers”.

    JT (from the referenced article): “There is a segment of the population of self-described libertarians—described here as brutalists—who find all the above rather boring, broad, and excessively humanitarian. To them, what’s impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on “politically incorrect” standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms”

    Let’s dissect the above.

    “it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes” EQUALS exercise their basic freedom of association

    “to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on “politically incorrect” standards” EQUALS exercise their basic freedom to not associate

    “to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means” EQUALS So, minds can be read? How prove “hate” (or anything without action)?

    “to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions” EQUALS Freedom of expression, part of arriving at social consensus

    “to be openly racist and sexist”: Freedom of association / non association” EQUALS The targets of this bias would also choose to “not associate”, since “no trade, no advantage”

    “to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with” EQUALS associate / non associate / right to an opinion

    “to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms” EQUALS right to individual opinion, to reject groupthink.

    Seriously, can this BS and assault on core Libertarian values / truth, not to mention on diversity within mankind (our core strength) really be taken seriously?

    Looks like JT has gone “fifth columnist”. I reject “stupidity” as an “explanation”, since I have met and talked to him. Bit of an eccentric (full disclosure: me also), who is also arguing against his own “social acceptance”.

    • Hey, Bill. I think your analysis of the argument is dead on. The situation is a bit different for me in analyzing what the heck is going on because I have been a friend and associate of Jeff’s for some while. I think the conflation of politics and morality and the attempt to integrate political correctness with libertarianism comes from the left libertarian influence. Generally speaking, left libertarians reject capitalism for a more mutualist arrangement and stress cultural/social goods like “non-racism” or “feminism” as much as — and sometimes it seems more than — nonviolence. They were behind the attempt last year to run Stefan Molyneux out of the movement, for example, because they didn’t like some of his views on feminism and child-raising. Left libertarians are also the ones who have been calling bitcoin “racist.” Don’t know how a block chain can be racist or even knows who is using it…

      I’ve been less critical of left libertarianism than most people who have significant disagreements with it because I’ve also been intrigued by certain reinterpretations of history. Kevin Carson has impressed me with his reinterpretation of the rise of labor unions in America, for example. I am now a Carsonian on several points of history. But the stress on political correctness seems to me to be an attempt to cash in on its popularity (on the part of some, at least) and to latch onto the political mainstream. Odd, because libertarianism itself is moving toward the mainstream with the word and ideas showing up everywhere, it seems. Odd time to abandon the core political concepts.

      BTW, I am not hostile to libertarians also promoting moral principles to which they adhere. I sometimes think I should do the same. But not by demeaning the moral code of other libertarians, and not by confusing them with political principles. I keep coming back to the word “odd.”

      • Bill Ross

        “because libertarianism itself is moving toward the mainstream”

        correction: mainstream also moving towards libertarianism, a convergence. Which is action and which is consequence is sometimes difficult to sort out. JT appears to be attempting to subvert. The more influence that “contrary to central control” viewpoints acquire, the more resources that are applied to subvert, destroy.

        personally, in general I think the hyphenated libertarianism (left…) is an attempt to influence by association, while diverging from core values. Sorta like the “progressives” hijacked “liberal”, to make it socialist, or fake social “scientists” have glommed onto science as intellectual camouflage.

        We need to be on the same page regarding what libertarian is and is not so we can protect the philosophical integrity, of which my analysis above is an example.

        • The mainstream is returning to classical liberal liberalism in the Hayekian sense, not in the rothbardian context. Too many surveys confirm this. Tucker’s humanitarianism is much closer to that spectrum than the brutalist (Rothbardian).

          • Bill Ross

            well, it seems to be established that the “distinction” between the two hyphenated “strains” of humanitarian versus brutalist libertarian is the result of a falsely framed strawman argument, as I initially proved. The “distinction” is NOT real.

            I always like to “confirm” truth by multiple, unrelated approaches. In this case, assuming that both “strains” are fully compliant with NAP, this means that neither can force their view on the other, so in terms of REALITY (action leading to consequence), the “distinction” is moot. People can have their “opinions”, either way and can “debate” to their hearts content. “Winning” this “debate” is moot, because there is no prize (ability to force opinion).

            There is a lesson to be learned here. Libertarian thought has made substantial gains in the body politic which is a “problem” and has attracted the attention of central controllers.

            This particular “issue” appears to / may be an attempt to “divide and conquer” by inserting false conflict within libertarian ranks. We should expect these efforts to intensify and, be prepared to counter fifth columnists within libertarian ranks. I am not yet convinced between whether JT made a mistake, poor argumentation or, has been subverted.

            Either way, the truth will set us free and allow us to sort fact from fiction, so long as we do not fall into the trap of identity politics and stick to REAL issues:


    • Diocletian75

      All of these “brutish” ways of thinking and non-violently behaving are made possible by private property rights and the Non-Agression principle. It appears that JT is opposed to people exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and contract involving their own lives and property when they do so in ways that he considers “brutish”, and implicitly wants the State to intervene and force those “brutish” libertarians–ultimately at gunpoint–to be “humanitarians”. This dangerous fool is a hypocrite, and he is (likely deliberately) playing right into the hands of politically-correct mentalities and their sociopathic, statist allies in their neighborhoods, schools, and government.

  • Thank you Wendy for this piece, but I really do think this discussion is overwrought. My piece restates the argument in Mises’s 1927 book LIberalism, and chapter 1 of For a New Liberty — no more or less than that. In no way did I say that people who want to live in peace are brutalists. The idea that you personally are somehow a “blrutalist” is truly inconceivable. Not in any way. I tried to be very clear in the piece concerning the architecture analogy: my objection here is to the overly limited the scope of human freedom to individual preferences alone, even when they are malevolent, while neglecting the historical contributions of liberty (liberation of women, minorities, the poor) and social contributions of liberty. I didn’t say that such a truncated view is contrary to libertarianism; I only said that there is more to say about the merit of freedom. Further, I intended no requirement of the conflation of politics and morality. Finally, I really don’t know what to say about these claims that I’m a careerist and stupid, etc.. Such attacks are disappointing.

    The response to this piece has been interesting. Some people understood very well what I meant. Others have established brutalist groups on facebook with aggressive memes that praise racism, hate, misogyny, and where people post pictures of Jews on bars of soap, and the like. This is not the stuff that strikes me as a core of the liberty idea.

    • Jeff…thank you for coming to the Daily Bell. I appreciate the honesty and friendship you display in doing so. And you shouldn’t have to address any personal comments about motives; that’s too close to ad hominem. I would not have addressed the issue you raised if it were not gaining a life of its own. As you say, people accused of “brutalism” are lashing back…sometimes I think they are doing so in an “in your face” manner by living up to the worst caricature. But the attacks on brutalism are also getting vicious. The last I read on Facebook, a site described “me/my beliefs” to a tee and went on to attribute everything vile to those whose primary political value is nonviolence, from wanting to hang blacks to hating gays. The needless division is a sad thing and the one thing that prompted my response.

      I do not see the Mises argument in your article. Nor do I see Murray’s approach…and I know you were a good friend of his as well, and not one to ever disparage him. But Murray would be the first to make the non-aggression principle the be-all-and-end-all of libertarianism.

      Frankly, I think your article took a wrong turn. There are most definitely things that are hideously immoral and yet do not violate rights, they do not violate the non-aggression principle and I would find them difficult to tolerate. Examples include destroying irreplaceable masterpieces of art, starving or bearing an animal to death, racism…I could go on and on. Libertarianism is not utopia; it is just as close as we can get politically. And it is because I believe to my core that certain nonviolent actions are wrong that I have spent a great deal of time in exploring strategies or social mechanisms that address the issues without recourse to law: education, peer pressure, ostracism, persuasion… But wedding any particular view of morality to libertarianism is not possible, IMO, and could be destructive. I include a society in which women are peacefully encouraged to wear burqas. As long as they can leave, as long as they have access to options, then I will persuade them the best I can that my form of attire is more conducive with living a full life. But my primary commitment is to respect their final say on what to wear or not.

      • Ah…from a private email I realize that my Facebook reference is confusing. Some “brutalist” libertarians have had their FB accounts pulled down by the complaints of “humanitarian” libertarians. And I’ve been seeing equally vicious FB pages (and beyond) by the “humanitarians” against the “brutalists.” This ‘debate’ has been anything but inclusive. It could easily become a witch hunt on both sides and one of the most destructive things to hit the movement in a long time. Needless.

        • InsensitiveCad

          I propose that henceforth we refer to the humanitarians as, “Sissies”. I don’t in any way mean the term to be offensive and I certainly don’t want to cause any conflict.

        • EBauer

          For what it’s worth the Brutalist FB accounts have been taken down by Facebook for violating their terms of service. Yes “humanitarians” may have reported them but FB makes the decision based on the reported content. The response message is always “We found the content to be in violation of our terms of service and has been taken down”. I find it funny that the so-called brutalists that take pride in being offensive and edgy think it a violation of their property rights because FB determined that they violated their property rights. I find it all very entertaining. And for the record I know that what has been reported were images of animal abuse, calls for harassment and violence against women and minorities, and the ever continuous comments including the words “faggot” and “nigger”. I think you’re defending a group of people (in mentioning the taking down of FB pages, I don’t think all Brutalists are hateful bigots tho they are quicker to defend those who are than they are to defend people of minority status) that largely are unworthy of your ever excellent defense.

          All I suggest is like any self aware group that we strongly discourage hate and irrational not to mention emotionally driven strains of thought that have a history of leading to violence. We’ll never gain widespread acceptance by society at large if the most vocal among us focus on promoting and encouraging hatred and bigotry. No reasonable person, especially oppressed minorities, would feel safe in the proscribed society in which libertarians wish to live if such people are to be encouraged in their hatred.

          • joe

            You claim to be discouraging the use of irrational emotion laden terms and yet you are saying that emotionally defined terms like “hatred” and “bigotry” are thought crimes. That is irrational. Your closet identity socialism makes me fear for my safety. Hundreds of millions of corpses from the 20th century attest to the rationality of such fear and I will not encourage your hatred.

    • V. Chems

      What you describe happening on Facebook has nothing to do with the philosophy of liberty or individualism. Describing those actors as libertarian or as brutal libertarians seems like a misnomer at best. While it may be possible for an individualist to utilize Facebook, it is most likely a narrow case. How can someone who holds bigoted views present himself as a believer in individualism, are the concepts not mutually exclusive?

      Given the above, your distinction between ‘brutalist’ and ‘humanitarian’ seems manufactured. It has been manufactured by including those with incompatible views in the definition of libertarianism. From this point you are positioned to advance the false dichotomy between brutalists and humanitarians. While those hateful people may have co-opted the language of liberty on their own volition, you have further diluted the concepts with your faux distinctions. While I can not speak to your intentions, the result appears like another divisive agenda advanced along the axis of identity politics.

      While that perspective may not appear obvious, it may help you understand why some would consider you careerist. I suspect that most people holding that view of yourself would expect your divisive agenda to allow for further exceptions to the core values of liberty. Just as you have made exceptions to include the ‘brutalist’ Facebook behavior, one would expect further exceptions to be made for your reactionary ‘humanist’ perspective. These exceptions would most probably include the use of force against brutalists.

      Perhaps it is as you say, that you never intended to deceive in this way. However, it does appear as another misleading dialectic when viewed from this angle. People have reason to be cautious of 5th column elements, and it may be worth evaluating your presentation from that perspective. Otherwise, it will be hard to participate in this discussion, as illustrated by your dismissive post above.

  • John Taylor

    I am most fortunate among men, for I have never met nor observed anyone like this:

    “To [‘brutalists’], what’s impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on “politically incorrect” standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms.” ~ Jeffrey Tucker


    Whenever I see such a “tempest in a teapot” controversy, I automatically ask myself, “Cui bono?”

  • Jim Kluttz

    I guess that in the minds of some “libertarians” we can be forced to be non-brutish by their definition but otherwise left to be free? What’s libertarian about that? Isn’t that the kind of society we have now?

    The clear lessons of history, at least in my opinion, are that forcing people to do anything leads to war and destruction. As this discussion shows, it will be difficult enough to get us to leave each other alone.

  • 2prickit

    Being a regular reader of The Daily Bell for several years now has turned up the heat (a fat burner) under this caldron that sits atop my neck; any particle that has been tossed into it will eventually become relevant due to its suspension, in time, in solution, softening as it is stirred by that precious spoon, analysis.

    Madison Avenue is mindful of appearances and is especially concerned of its self-preservation, all-the-while attending to the direction of casts of as wide a field as possible, of targets, capturing the interests and taste of consumers, without the consumer’s awareness of its presence.

    One may observe this promotional activity (Madison Avenue) as if watching a Phagocyte (: any cell, as a macrophage, that ingests and destroys foreign particles, bacteria, and cell debris. Origin: 1880–85; phago-+ -cyte.) [obvious cut and paste, here!] envelop and consume entirely, its nutrition.

    • 2prickit…I have the sense that you are making an important point but I’m missing it because of the metaphors and imagery. Can you talk down to me, please? Not meant sarcastically, BTW.

      • 2prickit

        The metaphore occured to me from reading Bill Ross’s liine “because libertarianism itself is moving toward the mainstream”. I appoligise for glancing off another’s comment, yet I had difficulty with the direct read, and failed to study at all the original document. FEE does not come up googled. I assumed it, erroneouly, to be a Main Stream Media attack that is studied here. So I attempted (your side ) a counter-attack with metaphore.

        • No problem. I’ve posted the URL to the FEE piece already but the messages are starting to get buried, which happens in animated threads. Here it is again. I do want people to judge from the original and so I’m pleased to post a link more than once. http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/against-libertarian-brutalism Thanks for the rewording. I understand now. Cheers to you, 2prickit.

          • 2prickit

            Hi Wendy;

            I tried to remove my first post as inappropiate. As much a I read, I found the tomb difficult, but necessary; and faith pervailed.

            I’d ask first, who is paying for the (improvement) property? Whatever determines the owner to select this style (local ord., zoning code), notwithstanding pure philanthropy, and eventual losses(amt. depreciation, etc.) recouped under capital gains/loss tax regulation, is entirely up to him, notwithstanding the lenders qualifications; Rent receipts(property ass.value) will decide one way or the other. This accounting for utilization applies to public improved property too; and there’s the rub.

            As to a philosophy that participates hand and with a unique style of architecture, a philosophy that jurists supposedly have subscribed to, and jurors live by its codes, and that that possibly can swing decisions in a legal confrontation, I’d find more difficult to opine: modern legal system is not based on Law.

            Let’s try Humanitarianism: if we are on the same page I’d think that ever since the Renaissance Age Counts(showy), Bishoprics(worse yet) as well as the intellectuals have been stealing away from Christians a moral duty that once was the principle behavior one identifies oneself as Christian (pre-Catholic). The Romans provided Rome with an amusement now known as the Roman-Candle.

            As to its enforcement, even if this becomes the principle ethic of modernity, perhaps that is no problem: robot-cops fit the image to a tee [Idon’t try to know what people think; that is the variable that all this discussion balances on] and, incidentally I’m not allowed purchase equivalent armor, unless used as a costume in a qualified production that promotes Authority;

            Virtue: if one could see it, one would steal or sell it: however Virtue is a Verb: Liberty is a verb.
            Vice has ascended and nothing posted here is intended to discourage liberty.

            Mr. Tucker’s document is dense with definitions and comparative information; it required for me a very steady eye; I’d recommend making a list of notes wile tackeling the document.

          • I must say, 2prickit, I’m glad you couldn’t delete the original post because you come at things from a perspective I never would. I stumbled over the architecture parallel which formed so much of the article itself. The parallel seemed to condemn mere functionality…and I had a problem with that as well. OK, that’s an aesthetic judgment and some people don’t like it. But my husband is an engineer and a hardware/software designed and where some people see mere functionality, he sees the elegance of simplicity. I kind of didn’t know why an aesthetic judgment was folded into a moral argument. It is part of the confusion of the article. But your post helped. So thanks.

          • 2prickit

            Thanks; I have been considering more, and was eager to post to you.
            The format of the text, without reading it first, has an appearance of those long wordy corporate government Memorandums, typed at typing school, timed lessons. However the document we are here considering is formatted in perhaps a Brutal-esq, style: 8pt. font, single-spaced; paragraphs stacked up like an overbearing tall building; each of many definition set out are washed out, leading on to the next definition, flushed out with yet another wash –out of-what-what, on and on and on; and the parallels (thanks) are constantly switching as though the reader is being led into a labyrinth without a string to guide oneself out, intentionally? Tough read; brutal on the eyes, too! If that were its authors design, at most it is still only a chimera, or like a gargoyle is said to be, grotesque—like a ?????refusing to wear his ball-cap square on his head, and pull-up his pants.
            Till next time, thanks.

  • Delphine Martin

    I wouldn’t buy into this “debate” in any way. Just another attempt to divide and conquer a movement on the ascent, probably by some establishment plant. Move along.

  • Obviously, Wendy, I completely embrace the non-aggression principle. That is not in dispute. You have completely misrendered and misunderstood my article, which very much surprises me but not entirely since there seems to be an industry alive out there to attack this piece as some kind of “left libertarian” thing or whatever. So silly.

    • Jeff, I have never said you don’t embrace the non-aggression principle. I have said that you are being strangely dismissive and semi-hostile toward those who also embrace it…but not quite in the same manner you do. You may consider me “silly” but the ideological conflict you introduced in your article — which I still believe is a false conflict, BTW — has resulted in a great deal of needless viciousness within the movement. If you mean to be inclusive, then you have achieved the opposite and, perhaps, you should pause to consider the consequences.

      I don’t want this to be something obstructive between us but it is difficult to misread your article, which is clearly stated. http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/against-libertarian-brutalism You define libertarian brutalism: “In the libertarian world, however, brutalism is rooted in the pure theory of the rights of individuals to live their values whatever they may be. The core truth is there and indisputable, but the application is made raw to push a point. Thus do the brutalists assert the right to be racist, the right to be a misogynist, the right to hate Jews or foreigners, the right to ignore civil standards of social engagement, the right to be uncivilized, to be rude and crude. It is all permissible and even meritorious because embracing what is awful can constitute a kind of test. After all, what is liberty if not the right to be a boor?”

      Until you get to the last two sentences, you are describing me, Walter Block, Stefan Molyneaux, Murray, Kinsella, etc. Indeed, I cannot imagine a libertarianism in which I did *not* defend a person’s right to hold any opinion, even one with which I radically disagree. Where I differ from your definition or description is that I do not believe the behavior you list is meritorious. Or in any way moral. But, again, I do defend the political right to arrive at one’s own beliefs — not simply the ones I consider moral — while also advocating peaceful social mechanisms to persuade people away from boorishness. If this is a misreading, then please give me the specific reference to the words I have misinterpreted. I definitely do not wish to be unfair to you in any manner, Jeff.

      Nor do I think I misread the difference you draw between humanitarian libertarians and my sort:
      “These two impulses are radically different. The first values the social peace that emerges from freedom, while the second values the freedom to reject cooperation in favor of gut-level prejudice. The first wants to reduce the role of power and privilege in the world, while the second wants the freedom to assert power and privilege within the strict confines of private property rights and the freedom to disassociate. To be sure, liberty does allow both the humanitarian and the brutalist perspective, as implausible as that might seem. Liberty is large and expansive and asserts no particular social end as the one and only way. Within the framework of liberty, there is the freedom to love and to hate. At the same time, they constitute very different ways of looking at the world—one liberal in the classical sense and one illiberal in every sense—and it is good to consider that before you, as a libertarian, find yourself allied with people who are missing the main point of the liberal idea.”

      I know that you are trying to promote classical liberalism here. I have spent over half my life researching, writing about and promoting the same ideals and advancing the history of libertarianism/anarchism. But, on a personal level, I adhere first and foremost to what you call “brutalism” which is “rooted in the pure theory of the rights of individuals to live their values whatever they may be.” As I work for the rest of my life to bring this theory into reality, I will of course also work for values that I consider moral, like kindness and fairness.

      • Bill Ross

        I have a “list of criteria” I go through whenever evaluating any logical proposition. In this case it was “be careful what you wish for” and “where does it lead”?.

        IMHO, if “brutalism” or any non-initiate aggression “viewpoint / behavior” is considered to be a “problem”, well that is the thin wedge for a forceful solution to meet the perceived need of “somebody oughta do something about it” leading to false rationalizations of “necessary force”

        IMHO, the integral of such fallacious “thin wedges” over history, with “legal precedent” preventing re-evaluation is what destroyed western liberty and free markets in the first place.

        If you, personally, have issues with anything, well, the proper response is shun, don’t associate / trade. If enough people agree to shun and not enough agree to associate, well, the “peaceful” anti-social will be forced to either be hermits, or re-evaluate what they are willing to trade to socially / economically associate with society.

      • EBauer

        I think context matters here, there were specific people who seem to revel in their misanthrope values of bigotry and misogyny. One need only visit the facebook pages of a Cathy Reisenwitz or Libertarian Brutalists to see prime examples of pure hatred and an encouragement of such values. In fact, these same people rush to the defense of racists, not to defend their rights but to rally around their racist statements and encourage them as being truth. A sort of active recruitment of racists and white supremacists into the libertarian fold. I view this is a direct threat to the future of both liberty and libertarian movement. Far too often I’ve heard it claimed that such and such a race is a hinderance that harms western society. I think you can see why that thought process presents an existential threat. It’s not a far leap to step from claims of harm to proposing use of force in defense. In fact these claims aren’t unheard of in the libertarian intellectual leaders, although I don’t think they are nearly as common there as they are in the general masses of libertarians. For example, Hoppe has voiced support for the state to keep out the “Mexicans”, something that is hardly defensible under libertarian ethics and standards. Similarly Mises award winner Gary North has called for stoning of gays as a principle ethic once the state can be abolished and catholic hegemony can once again be established.

        I don’t think there’s any humanitarian that suggests that people like this be opposed by force, but they do suggest ostracizing such dangerous threads of thought lest the garden of liberty be rife with the weeds of hate, intolerance and potential violence. And generally when we (humanitarians, although this isn’t a term that I use to describe myself) voice our support for social pressure placed on those voicing hateful or intolerant ethics we are met with the brutalists who would rather protect these miscreants from the social ramifications of their actions. For the record, I don’t think that you are in fact someone that the brutalist label was intended for. Much of the definitions have taken on a mind of their own, I think mostly because the context was not clearly defined in the original article. But for anyone who was up to speed on some recent goings on in the internet libertarian community, it was fairly clear who these people were and why Jeff described them as such.

        • Hello EBauer. I appreciate your explanation because I do not visit hate-driven pages or ones that have toxic commentary threads. Had Jeff’s article been a refutation or denunciation of specific venues or individuals, then my response would have been quite different. I do, however, think you are giving the “humanitarian” libertarians too much of a free pass in terms of their negative effect on good will within the movement. I will never forget the “petition” to boycott Stefan Molyneaux because of his purportedly inappropriate views on women and child-raising. There was a document on which many, many people signed their names in collective denunciation. Some of the names there surprised and disappointed me. Ostracism…as effective as it can when appropriate…can easily lead to a purge or witch hunt mentality. The people who wished to get rid of Stefan M. will also get rid of me…because I will never sign collective denunciations and I will be the next target simply because I disagree.

          You write, “or the record, I don’t think that you are in fact someone that the brutalist label was intended for. Much of the definitions have taken on a mind of their own, I think mostly because the context was not clearly defined in the original article. But for anyone who was up to speed on some recent goings on in the internet libertarian community, it was fairly clear who these people were and why Jeff described them as such.” I hope this is true, and I take your word for it at face value. But I know quite a few good, good people who are reacting at public gatherings with the question “what the hell is wrong with Jeff?” because his condemnation was a blanket and vague one. I hope he clarifies because he is my friend, someone I admire, someone I don’t want to be at odds with.

          • EBauer

            Wendy, thanks for the response. I don’t disagree with you on the ostracism and didn’t know about the petition. I certainly don’t mean to give the “humanitarians” a free pass. I’ve certainly seen some be mean spirited when it wasn’t really appropriate or necessary. In fact, I’ve probably been guilty of this myself at times. I do find Molyneaux opinions on women to be somewhat worrying, I’ve always just kind of ignored him on the subject because I’m aware of his past abuse at the hands of his mother. But he’s recently said some things that made my ears perk up, and seems to be a worrying mentality to be spreading among his largely male audience because they may have real negative consequences in the real world. Just FWIW because it’s sort of off topic, but that’s been my take.

            Anyhow I look forward to reading your future works. You were one of the reasons I came around from being anti-feminist to embracing the similar goals that are shared between libertarians and feminists while attempting to offer a state-free, if you will, alternative.

          • J Peterson II

            “In fact, I’ve probably been guilty of this myself at times.”

            Oh boy, yeah.

  • Friend of John Galt

    Very nice essay, Wendy. I don’t follow the ins and outs of the Libertarian discussion particularly closely — so I wasn’t really aware of an internal debate over “humanitarian vs. brutalism” within Libertarian circles.

    However, the controversy does tend to illuminate the criticism that Ayn Rand had toward Libertarian thought (though the libertarians that Rand attacked are somewhat different than Libertarians of the current era).

    At its most basic, we have a central idea that the meaning of “libertarian” is that everybody/anybody who claims the belief that they’re “for liberty” makes them a libertarian. Thus we have (only as an example) Ron Paul who both claims to be staunchly for Libertarianism, yet claims to also be “pro-life” (which is the fake good feeling phrase that means “anti-abortion). This, then, is a problem. As insisting on anti-abortion laws imposes one particular set of beliefs on the public at large and clearly infringes on the rights of those who do not agree with this position. (Note: there is much positive in Ron Paul’s views, but this is not one of them.)

    Truly being for liberty means living your life by means of your use of reason, so that you can make the choices that are best for you. The serious flaw in the extant viewpoint about libertarianism, is that there is an incomplete philosophical underpinning. It leads to the idea that there are humanitarians and brutalists — but if a complete philosophy (like Objectivism) is compared to the perception (by many who claim to be libertarians) you will quickly see the flaws.

    For example, the straw man of the take over of a village by (presumably conservative religionists) that “forces” women into burkas, etc., would never be included as Objectivist, while the fuzzy philosophical logic of Libertarianism appears to allow that, so long as those who participate in the religion do so “voluntarily.” (But is it truly “voluntary” if many (or most) of the participants were raised in that environment and did not understand the range of choices actually available to them?)

    Objectivism states that rights come from the requirements of life as a human being. We must be able to exercise our own judgment (through reason) to control our own life. Out of this basic individual right, flow all the other rights. These rights are all “negative” (they protect the individual from force) — and do not include the altruistic “rights” espoused by Progressives (the right to minimum income (paid for by infringing on producer’s rights), the right to safe housing (again, paid for by infringing on producer’s rights), the right to medical care (yet again, paid for by theft from producers). Indeed, all “positive” rights claimed by to exist under Progressive ideology, involve the infringement of individual rights, to (in theory) improve the overall lot of “the community.”

    When analyzed, the net result of Objectivism is that individuals must respect others, treat them honestly, and offer “fair” deals when trading (buying or selling productive results) as those are all life affirming choices. It also reveals that many “selfish” or hedonistic practices are not life affirming and thus should be avoided (such as becoming addicted to drugs, or cheating a customer).

    • Hello Friend of Galt. I think I’ve told you that I come through Rand and was a staunch Objectivist until I split away on the issues of sexual theory and anarchism. I still think she is unparalleled in metaphysics and epistemology — in fact, I would argue that her main original contributions to philosophy were epistemological, and the have been largely unrecognized even within the Objectivist community. I am still basically Objectivist in moral/value theory…tho’ with some significant divergence. And I am “art for art’s sake” in aesthetics…which Rand claimed to be but didn’t really live up to consistently.

      Libertarianism, however, is *not* a philosophy in the sense of being a systematic expression of an idea or ideal. It really is a political philosophy that addresses, as Murray would put, the role of violence in human society. I was originally drawn to Rand for the same psychological reason that people are drawn to Marx; namely, she offered a comprehensive worldview through which to make sense of everything. And that is tremendously appealing. On the other hand, I can see a real advantage to having one piece of the puzzle — libertarianism as a political philosophy — because that allows many people with different psychological theories, moral ideals, aesthetic values, etc. to align with each other on the one umbrella position of wanting a peaceful society. It seems to me that the great diversity of opinion on other issues could provide constant cross-fertilization and keep a movement fresh. Thanks for the post.

      • Friend of John Galt

        Being married to an artist (with BFA — one of the more useless majors) I have my own opinions about art … and Rand’s view (there’s good art and bad art and I’m not sure what all she meant, ’cause I couldn’t stand to finish that chapter in Peikoff’s book.) To me, art is an expression of an artist’s view. Some I like … and some I don’t. (Wife tells me that Robert Motherwell is “fabulous”. I just don’t “get it. — and I don’t want to look at his works.) I guess an argument could be made in using a philosophical system to evaluate art. But I don’t even see the point of that. As for art, I don’t think the government ought to be purchasing (much) art and the rules “requiring” some percentage of a development project be spent on “public art” is (1) an incorrect use of government force, and (2) a big waste of money. Some developments “need” art (and the developer can make that determination) other developments do not. A private decision, not one that government should be making.

        Yes — I do fully “get” that Libertarianism is not a fully systematic philosophical system. I have had libertarian leanings for much of my life (I didn’t realize I was an objectivist until I was in my 50s) but I’ve always been bothered about how Libertarians, as a political movement, will resolve rights-infringing concepts that are strongly held by some elements within the Libertarian movement. (One case being abortion. I have strong feelings that it is a decision that is strictly private — that a woman should be free to make whatever choice she reasons is correct for her situation. Hopefully, a woman making such an important life affecting decision would discuss and consult with family and close friends — and spiritual advisors, should she have them. But it is not and should not be a question for government to enforce either for or against.

        I think that Objectivism — which encourages individuals to make judgements, also allows tolerance of those who hold contrary views. (The basic premise of being in charge of one’s own life comes in here.) As an objectivist, I might not feel that (as one example) a devout religious observer is morally correct — but if they are willing to let me be in peace, I’m certainly willing to let them practice their beliefs as they see fit (so long as it isn’t being pushed on me).

        The current approach from the left/progressives does not want to accept “tolerance” as it is customarily defined — but the leftist/progressive demand is that ‘everyone” must embrace and accept/approve of whatever sexual, cultural, or ?? identity that others choose for themselves. I object to that. I can tolerate, but there are some things that I do not believe to be “life affirming” and I don’t wish to (pretend to) embrace/approve those behaviors though I’m certainly willing to leave others to peaceably go about their business as they, in their own judgment, see fit.

        • Hey, Friend of Galt. I have always suspected that the issue of abortion is a non-starter in a society that truly respects privacy. However people may feel about the abortion issue, if they respect a woman’s right to close the door and do whatever she wishes with her own body, then anti-abortion laws or beliefs could achieve no practical purchase in terms of preventing an abortion. From early colonial days (and most likely before) women have known the herbs and tonics that produced a de facto abortion. How could a libertarian society justify placing women under such totalitarian monitoring so as to prevent what she does with her own body behind a closed door? Or with a doctor/midwife who also closes the door? BTW, Ron Paul’s position never made sense to me either. It was an evasion for political advantage, IMO.

  • Zack

    I had a very different reading of the original article. I was under the impression that no one was really a brutalist, it was just a straw man, and the article was trying to advise not to accidental give credence to the straw man when arguing.

    There are things that are morally wrong that are not aggression. Libertarians don’t support these, even though they reject the use of force to stop them. There are ways that don’t conflict with the NAP to oppose these such as ostracism, persuasion, etc.
    A brutalist is someone who supports the NAP because it lets them get away with morally wrong things that are not agression, i.e. no one.

    • I wish this were true, Zack. But there is a raging conflict right now between so-called humanitarians and so-called brutalists. I’m not going to harp on this because Jeff is a friend. But it was not a strawman in the sense of not referring to anyone. It was a strawman in terms of the argument. I’m going to back away right now because I do not wish to lose friends — and this issue will result in various people losing long-term friendships. Besides which, I’ve made the points I wished to. Thanks for the post.

      • cb75075

        I have heard the distinction as “we’re the good libertarians who want justice and equality and THEY are the evil libertarians who want to rape and loot”.

        But every humanitarian/brute or left/right libertarian complaint always comes from so called self proclaimed left libertarians or the Chomsky libertarians. THEY make this distinction and its usually a tool to make some left/right paradigm that does not exist. And its quite frankly childish.

        • Hey CB. Thanks for dropping by. The very formulation of the distinction you mention is intellectually childish. “We’re the good libertarians who want justice and equality and THEY are the evil libertarians who want to rape and loot.” It uses what Rand called the “stolen concept.” The very concept of libertarianism precludes rape and loot. So those who promote that distinction are using the concept in a context that directly contradicts the meaning of the concept. And, yet, they somehow think their words make sense rather than make nonsense. The thing I value most of about your posts is how they cut through BS.

          • cb75075

            Yes I’m really not going to believe someone who believes in forced redistribution through georgian property rights and continues on and on about equality is somehow libertarian.

            They always claim the already built factory with the already paid for sewing machines belongs to everyone but they never claim the already existing toxic waste dump belongs to everyone especially to them.

          • joe

            Thick/Thin, Humane/Brute, its all the same suffragette gambit, “the lamb shall lie down with the lion”… so long as all y’all’s the lambs, ya understand.

    • Bill Ross

      absurd misunderstanding, requiring a JT clarification, clean up his own mess? Like this:


  • Emily Litella

    What’s all this uproar against bootylicious libertarians? I don’t understand why libertarians don’t want more women in the movement. And if we’re going to have more women, what’s wrong with them being sexually attractive? And let me tell you, looking at the men in the movement, it wouldn’t hurt if a few more of them were bootylicious too, if you know what I mean. Furthermore…what? Oh. Never mind.

    • cb75075

      I don’t think libertarian attracts the bootylicious since the bootylicious tend to be manipulators with their booty. They tend to accomplish not through self reliance but through manipulation. So a libertarian system would be unappealing to them.

      Libertarian is like Denny’s. Nobody goes to Denny’s they end up at Denny’s. The bootylicious want fine dining not eggs and bacon at 4 am.

  • Fabian

    The problem with this libertarian burka city is human nature. People can’t stay in place they must expand and soon it will clash with mini skirt city. One could hope everybody finds and stays in a place that meets his/her aspirations. That’s why we have federalism and we had city states. However, when problems arise, people will team up (the European Union) and given the pro pension of people to expand, the small and happy, suddenly alone, will not be able to stay independent (Switzerland). Brutalism is always one step away. Libertarianism will remain an individual venture and can stay so as long as the world is big enough.

  • alaska3636

    What is to keep context from bleeding over and making a Humanitarian a Brutalist and vice versa?

    Is the Humanitarian a Brutalist for consenting to an openly black-hating businessman hiring black people to work for him under reasonable conditions and for reasonable pay? Is a Brutalist a Humanitarian when they engage in ostracizing an openly black-hating businessman whose business practices are actively engaged in destroying his own quality of life and the quality of life of those in his neighborhood?

    So much hypothetical non-starter in it all.

    I guess there’s something to be said for drawing in left leaning thinkers as a means of starting somewhere in the liberty movement?

    The Miseian argument could only be that people choose to be racist to satisfy or further some ends and they will choose not to be when or if they decide that it is not the best means available. As far as I can tell, historically, freedom of trade has broken down more barriers of racist thought and actions than any other institution and the basis for that trade is respect for property based on the expectation of non-aggression. Otherwise, I feel as though I am witnessing tribalism among a segment of humans who generally agree that non-aggression is a pretty good idea in general. Lest we not forget that ANY movement towards libertarianism whether left, right or center is more desirable than a movement away from it.

  • —In his article “Myth and Truth About Libertarianism,” Murray Rothbard addresses the lie that “[l]ibertarians are libertines”—

    It doesn’t matter what libertarians CLAIM to be. That’s an obfuscatory statement, like many of Rothbards obfuscations. It matters what society would evolve under rothbardian ethics. And rothbardian ethics are reduced to statements of property rights. And the only thing that matters in an anarchic polity is what property rights are defensible under polycentric law. Rothbard defined property as that which is intersubjectively verifiable (ISV). He not only abandons all notions of a normative commons, or even the material commons itself, but most importantly, Rothbard’s definition of property as that which is ISV, explicitly licenses conduct that is unethical (deceptions) and immoral (externalizations) and prohibits not only legal recourse, but any form of retaliation for immoral and unethical conduct . First, unethical and immoral actions – so common outside of our out-bred, out-wed, high trust northern european civilization – raise transaction costs rapidly. And it our western competitive advantage over the rest of the world would evaporate rapidly as transaction costs, economic velocity, and wealth rapidly declined. Second, it is irrational for people to choose a high transaction political order under Rothbarian anarchy to a costly state that suppresses immoral and unethical conduct by a multitude of legal means. It is rational to choose high trust low transaction cost polities with high bureaucratic overhead costs, over low trust, high transaction cost polities without high bureaucratic transaction costs. Because while expensive, at least economic velocity and local trust and culture can evolve under such a state. So Rothbardian Anarchy is impossible because it is irrational to choose to live in such a polity. Third, even if a polity did form somehow, against all rational analysis, a polity that acted with such low trust could not compete. Fourth, even if it could compete it would be rapidly ostracized, punished or exterminated by neighbors who will not tolerate low-trust unethical parasitism. Which has been demonstrated repeatedly in history by both the Gypsies and pre-enlightenment if not pre-war Jews. Both of whom practice high trust ethics in-group but low-trust ethics out-group. Or more recently, the tolerance for limited offshore banking, but the recent suppression of that industry by both European and American governments.

    So, no. Rothbard was either dishonest or he profoundly erred. Which is a frequent question any serious philosopher has to ask himself in any study of Rothbard.

    As for Tucker, like most of the left libertarians, they have little more than intuitions that something is wrong with Rothbardian ethics. But equipped only with classical liberal psychology, and micro economics, they appeal for a kinder gentler liberty without any program, argument or philosophy, other than what appears to be a secular restatement of christianity. Which doesn’t give them much argumentative power in ideology, philosophy or political economy. As such they resort to ideas such as buying off the citizenry in an effort to get people to like them. Which while a tried and true technique of all points of the ideological compass, doesn’t really contribute anything new to the debate.

    However, if it’s a further criticism of Rothbardianism and it diminishes the negative impact that the Rothbardians have on the tradition of western aristocratic liberty, criticism of rothbardian immorality is good enough for me, and the rest of mankind as well.

    Curt Doolittle
    The Propertarian Institute
    Kiev, Ukraine

    • (Not trying to be hard on Jeff here. Just the opposite. But neither the Brutalists nor the Humanists have a plan or philosophy that will expand liberty sufficiently to capture the classical liberals and their numbers. The conservatives are right on morality. We are wrong. That’s why they win elections. (See Haidt) )

      • Don Duncan

        I don’t think we should evaluate our morality on the popularity it has with voters, i.e., people who are delegating authority they don’t have to others for the purpose of aggression. For example, elections are won by promising more taxation of the wealthy and the booty distributed to the poor. Robin Hood was a crook. If saying that loses votes, then getting votes by advocating theft is immoral, even if politically expedient. Perhaps we should evaluate the mechanism of voting, and institutionalized violence, government, from a libertarian viewpoint.

        • If we desire an anarchic polity free of the state, we should evaluate our morality by whether it is possible to construct and persist a voluntary society under the scope of moral prohibitions that our ideology recommends.

          Rothbardian ethics are insufficient for the production of incentives needed for the formation of a voluntary polity. Period.

          I think you have made the mistake of conflating the problem of a predatory monopoly bureaucracy with that of the scope of criminal, ethical and moral prohibitions necessary to create a polity in the absence of an authoritarian state. States arose for good reasons where they did. Liberty remained for good reasons where it originated. People do what they can, and that is limited by what they know how to do.

          Robin hood may have been a crook, but that tells us noting about whether rothbardian polities are possible: they aren’t.

        • —“I don’t think we should evaluate our morality on the popularity it has with voters, “—

          We should evaluate our morality by the only universal criminal(physical), ethical(deception) and moral (externalization) logic possible: change in the state of property, which is the means of both libertarian and classical liberal rational calculation of cooperative true and false propositions.

          The conservatives are correct that (a) suppression of crime (rothbarianism) is insufficient for the suppression of conflict, as human beings evolved to suppress all forms of parasitism (in terms of altruistic violation, and altruistic punishment, “free riding” is used in the literature)

          (b) western normative commons are necessary for liberty (truth telling), (a) commons are created by shareholders, (c) we pay costs for our normative commons every time we forgo an opportunity for self interest (d) therefore normative commons are also out property.

          I mean, if you want to bring middle old world morality of the levant to the west we will live like Levantines: in constant conflict and in need of authoritarian government to suppress conflict. We don’t get to choose how humans act. We get to invent the

          We chose a different evolutionary strategy: very high suppression of free riding (including criminal, ethical, and moral property violations), the absolute nuclear family and outbreeding, and the common law to enforce all free riding (including criminal, ethical and moral violations of property).

          Rothbardian ethics are primitive, and self destructive. The question is only whether we can eliminate the state. And we can ONLY eliminate the state through suppression of the demand for the state. And we can only suppress the demand for the state by providing means of dispute resolution under the law for all forms of conflict that humans demonstrably enter into that are reducible to property rights. And nearly any behavior that humans will enter into conflict over, is reducible to statements of property rights.

          We westerners have what appears to be a genetic defect that allows us to extend altruism to nearly anyone. This is not a ‘good’ thing. It may increase trust, but it also makes us cognitively biased : irrationally trusting unless we have direct evidence to the contrary. This is not normal in human nature, and it produces interesting consequences even in philosophy where we westerners take an optimistic view of man that is contrary to the evidence.

          Our altruism and abuse of it is what gave the left access to modifying our civilization. WE less able to sense threats than other groups.

    • alaska3636

      “…it is irrational for people to choose …”

      “It is rational to choose…”

      I don’t know Rothbardian ethics, but I do know Rothbardian economics as an extension of Miseian economics. Ratiocination is the process by which a conscious animal, known as a human, attempts to substitute his present circumstances for better future circumstances. It is a means. Subjective valuation is what determines the ultimate judgments of value, the ends for which means are selected; so, any institution which purports to push people into or away from certain behaviors relies on a necessarily arbitrary application of force.

      We can ask, for instance, why a Christian takes the time to go to church on Sunday, which is time that could be better used producing the material factors of wealth or by relaxing, to which the Christian can only respond that the ends satisfied is not an earthly one. This is not irrational and in fact, based on the premise that a Christian god rewards his followers who worship him in the afterlife, is quite a small opportunity cost for such an eternal payoff.

      The problem is epistemological. The universe is filled with an infinite amount of data of which the human senses can only filter a tiny portion. Given this limitation for humans as to knowing the ultimate ends sought by nature, he must substitute his own and rely on his experience to give him feedback about its efficacy and whether it was desirable.

      Thus, when you say, “it is rational,” or “it is not rational,” what you mean is that based on your premise about desirable ends, the means taken would be ineffective.

      I believe Rothbard merely made his ethics an extension of subjective value theory. Given the unknowability of the ends of nature, and given that any consciously derived ends must be individual and that any application of force is thus made arbitrary, the question becomes, when is force acceptable among peaceable human beings?

      Granted that anarcho-capitalism would not be a utopia; but, given the oft-proved aspect of human nature that power corrupts and bureaucracies create crazy incentives to be a parasite, it would certainly seem a clever alternative to the ever failing institutions of top-down hierarchy.

      • —“I don’t know Rothbardian ethics,”—
        NAP where property is defined as IVP. It is pretty hard NOT to know them since one of the reasons “Libertinism” is attractive is its simplicity. However it’s simplicity is seductive since we europeans are cognitively biased to altruism, which while increasing trust and economic velocity also makes us vulnerable to everything from pseudoscience to ideological conversion. Rothbardian ethics originated in the ancient Levant, and were reinforced in the ghettos. Crusoe ethics ironically, are an analogy to the ghetto, where the sea performs the function of the wall, and non-aggression is imposed by the people outside the wall (the authorities).

        People go to church so that the feel the pack submission response – its a reward. All congregational religions are based upon this human preference. Islam is the best example because it places the most emphasis on repetition. The longest surviving cults require the greatest behavioral investments from their members, in exchange they obtain psychic benefit of pack response. Or as marx would say, security from “alientation”.

        –the problem is epistemological– AND –economics– AND –rational–
        All of misesian economics and praxeology is constrained to the materialist in scope and recognizes only that which is open to intersubjective testing – as a means of ignoring subjective values (because they are invisible to other parties). That doesn’t mean only material things have value, it means that only material things exchanged are visible to analysis.

        However the existence of the praxeological hypotheses depends without exception, on the marginal indifference of human choice in the aggregate: that we are extremely similar, and can sympathize with (meaning *understand* one another’s choices if they are explained to us). Without this a praxeology would be impossible.

        It is non-rational for individuals to choose to live in a low trust polity,and humans demonstrate preference for moving to high trust polities, OR to authoritarian polities that use violence to create order where high trust is impossible,

        The “economic way of thinking” requires that for every proposition you supply the equilibrating limits that govern it, not treat it as an ideal without limit. This is a superior definition to that of considering a chain of opportunity costs alone. It is true that we must consider not only opportunity costs, but that those opportunity costs cause accumulation of opposite opportunities that equilibrate against the initial action. Just as locals oppose the Free State Project, once it has any impact whatsoever.

        Fallacious argument. It does not matter whether it would be a utopia. The question is whether it would be possible or whether it would be preferable. And all the evidence from all possible sources overwhelmingly demonstrates that rothbardian ethics are not reducible to a law sufficient for the formation of a voluntary polity that would be preferable for all but criminal fringe, and even for that criminal fringe, such a polity would be persecuted and prosecuted, Furthermore, that since governments hold other governments accountable for the actions of peoples over which they have no control, that polity would rapidly be rendered impoverished as other than a financial center. and as a financial center it would only survive in the service of black markets.

        So Rothbard, like all the monotheistic philosophers before him, creates little more than a distracting cult narrative with the promise of salvation. But like the gnostics who argued the malfeasance of Jehova, Rothbardianism is in reality, seducing one into economic, social, political, and even genetic suicide.

        The conservatives, who lack a rational language for their antiquarian social order, cannot articulate why they are repulsed by rothbardiansm, but because they have been acclimated to mental models that extrapolate individual actions into social consequences, they correctly see rothbardian ‘libertinism’ as unethical, immoral, and destructive.

        The only ‘liberty’ that has gained an traction has been classical liberal constitutionalism which constrains the government. Rothbardianism has been a 40 year record of failure. A disaster. A self congratulatory cult where members gain a sense of solace and superiority in empty verbalisms. Rothbardianism has harmed the brand of “liberty’ so seriously that every institution other than “the fruitcake fringe” has tried to distance itself from the term ‘Austrian’, and has attempted to liberate ‘libertarianism’ from its association with the fruitcake fringe – something which we should crown Tucker with laurels for. And Likewise, Misesian economics, and praxeology as currently constructed are pseudosciences, conflating axiomatic and consistent statements with scientific and correspondent statements to seduce those who understand the meaning of neither. (Something which I have written about extensively.)

        –I believe rothbard–

        Rothbard was a member of the cosmopolitan enlightenment and his purpose, as was the purpose of all members of that philosophical movement, was to advance cosmopolitan (jewish enlightenment) inbreeding tribal philosophy of the ghetto to a majoritarian universal philosophy, just as the germans beginning with Kant proposed their inland nuclear family cultural philosophy as a majoritarian universalist philosophy, and just as the French proposed their inland traditional family cultural philosophy as a majoritarian universalist philosophy – all of them in reaction to the anglo enlightenment which was an attempt to seize political power from the landed aristocracy in both its church and private government forms, by creating a corporation controllable by the emergent middle class of bankers, traders and manufacturers.

        (in other words, try not to imagine too much, and to read more widely. Rothbardians are similar to marxists and cults in that they read within the cult literature and hypothesize themselves, despite their pervasive ignorance rather than study economics, philosophy and history.)

        Conservatives understand as much about morality as we understand about economics. We are wrong. Rothbard was wrong. Mises was wrong. Hoppe is wrong.

        The only liberty that is possible is the the one the protestants and their ancestors invented: the suppression of criminal(thefts) AND ethical(deception) and immoral(externalities) actions under the the common law. This is the only possible means of reducing demand for the state. And the only means of obtaining ethical and moral property rights under the law, is ethical and moral homogeneity.

        Under polycentric law, we may construct different **contractual rights**, because of the complex risks involved in the mitigation of disputes in different patterns of sustainable specialization and trade (PSST) but we cannot construct polycentric ethical and moral standards, since this merely increases the demand for authority.

        So no, rothbardian and misesian attempts to preserve dualist ethics, and dualist culture, are just another example of the attempt of a group – in this case the cosmopolitans – just like the french and the germans, to assert their preferred evolutionary strategy, that is a bias in favor of their reproductive strategy, over that of other groups just as surely as colonization and war are attempts to do the same. And given the lack of success of the cosmopolitan strategy prior to the enlightenment era, and that in the enlightenment era that cosmopolitanism has produced not only “Rothbardian libertinism”, but Straussian neoconservatism and Marxist socialism, and Frankfurt school’s postmodernism and progressivism, are reflections of that attempt to preserve poly-moral and poly-cultural, and poly-legal rules, and has produced the equivalent of colonization or warfare by a destructive philosophy not seen since the invention of monotheism. Rothbardian Libertinism is just another excuse to create multi-culturalism, and turn the west into a factionalized Levantine polity. And we know how badly that turns out. These are bad ideas.

        That we should reverse the corporeal state and return to the common law as our anarchic form of government. That we should re-institute local regiments or militias for defense in an era where we possess small arms capable of defeating an aggressor. That we should privatize public services. That we should replace a monopoly legal regulation with competing insurance organizations. That we we should return to small homogenous nations with different preferences. These are all true. They reflect our aristocratic egalitarian heritage – the heritage that gave us and maintained our freedom.

        That we should construct poly-moral multi-cultural society is nothing more than an attempt to devolve us into levantine primitivism. And it is contrary to the theory that we can reduce all rights to property rights, since we PAY FOR NORMS every time we do not take an opportunity to lie, cheat, harm or steal or make choices that force others to pay our costs.

        So Rothbardianism must be discarded as another product of cosmopolitanism that has conducted yet another destructive ideological war from progressive, libertarian and conservative to reduce us to primitivism.

        Return to the liberty of aristocracy. The only liberty, and the only anarchy, that is, was or ever will be, possible.

        Curt Doolittle
        The Propertarian Institute
        Kiev Ukraine

      • Hello Alaska 3636. You write, “We can ask, for instance, why a Christian takes the time to go to church
        on Sunday, which is time that could be better used producing the
        material factors of wealth or by relaxing, to which the Christian can
        only respond that the ends satisfied is not an earthly one. This is not
        irrational and in fact, based on the premise that a Christian god
        rewards his followers who worship him in the afterlife, is quite a small
        opportunity cost for such an eternal payoff.”

        I disagree with you on the best use of the Christian’s time on Sunday. If, as a point of moral commitment, a Christian goes to Church on Sunday morning rather than pursue something else, then it is an expression of his preferences. It gives him something he actively wishes to have (perhaps ephemeral things like peace of mind or a sense of community) and it enriches his life. Church-going is the correct choice for him to make whether or not there is objective proof that he is worshipping anything other than a concept in his own mind. One reason I am so very taken by Adam Smith’s view of morality as a set of “sentiments” based on the natural sympathy one human being has for another is because it stresses the psychology of morality — kindness, generosity, benevolence — rather than morality as a specific set of actions. I believe that someone who cultivates morality as sentiments, as the natural and automatic response of good will toward other human beings, will “live the good life” whether or not he adopts my specific rule book of actions. He will have his own rule book that defines morality for him. And I believe a man who abides by NAP and has good will in his heart will act in moral manner, even if he makes mistakes, even if I disagree with specific behaviors.

    • Good morning, Curt. We disagree on what you consider to be Rothbard’s presentation of ethics. He was quite clear that most of his writings were presentations of political principles rather than ethical ones. His histories were illustrations of those political principles and intended to show how they developed through society and where they drove specific societies. His advocacy of property rights was not an ethical one but was based on natural rights (a political concept) which he believed was the mechanism that best answered the political question of “what is the role of violence among men?” None. Because individual rights were universal.

      Neverheless, Murray did address ethics in his huge volume of work over the years, and his views shifted. I believe his first self-conscious set of ethics/morality was pretty much in line with that of Ayn Rand whom he studied quite closely at one point. By the end of his life, Murray was leaning decidedly toward some right-wing values that I could not share. Frankly, I actively dislike some of the
      answers Murray developed in the latter years and I would be interested in a focused
      refutation of some of his points. But I don’t have the heart or interest to do it myself.

      I am sympathetic to your discomfort with the stress on rights, on a peaceful society…at least, in one way. A peaceful society is an incomplete thing because it provides no guidance on how people
      should treat each other past the point of eschewing violence. This is both a strength and a weakness of libertarianism. It is a strength because a peaceful society leaves such wonderful room for individuals to evolve a moral code that reflects their own personalities, etc. But a libertarian society would not give you a blueprint on how best to live your life; what is the good life? Beyond foreswearing violence it does not tell you how to interact with your neighbor, for example…should you be kind, cooperative, friendly, generous…? This the realm of ethics, and it is a fascinating one from which I believe libertarianism could benefit as long as it recognizes a wide range of answers that may be based as much on people’s personalities and circumstances as upon anything objective. As long as the bedrock on which theory is built is the NAP.

  • Don Duncan

    A Brutalist would not advocate punishing a racist by force, e.g., a law. Would a Humanist? I don’t know. I hope not.

    What did more to curb racism; laws, communication, or economics? How did white neighborhoods integrate? It was the new black middle class buyer who made over market offers to racist sellers. They saw dollar signs and forgot their promise not to sell to blacks. Suddenly, blacks were acceptable. Of course, that was not what they told themselves, or their astonished white racist friends. Their sudden “tolerance” was “Christen charity”. Capitalism (self interest) is culturally transforming, even if unacknowledged.

  • EBauer

    The architectural metaphore was also geared towards people making comments like these:
    “Cathy, you meet resistance on feminism in libertarian circles because feminism has about as much a place here as white supremacy. Gender is irrelevant to libertarianism, so is race, and even if you and your liberal friends manage to hijack yet another word from us and adopt your collectivist agenda to yet another collection of syllables in the English language, you will always be 100% completely and irrefutably wrong about this. Libertarianism was “complete” long before you decided to ditch the religion of Christianity for the religion of left wing collectivist nonsense.”


    All that matters to the Brutalist is the NAP, anything beyond the NAP is irrelevant and has nothing to do with libertarianism. They argue for only the basics, that any flourish or accentuation beyond the bare bones structure is a waste and harmful in fact. I think this was the clearest bit of Jeff’s article and the one which given the context is most elucidating. Given your stances and work on libertarian or individualist feminism I would think you tend to disagree that libertarians shouldn’t talk about feminism and that it’s entirely irrelevant to it. But I can understand the confusion, without context or naming names it’s very difficult to get a bead on what exactly we’re talking about, I just happen to be paying attention to the right happenings at the right times to understand exactly who was being discussed.

    • J Peterson II

      “All that matters to the Brutalist is the NAP, anything beyond the NAP is irrelevant and has nothing to do with libertarianism. ”

      How to win an argument:
      -Invent definition of your opponents argument.
      -Criticize that definition.
      -Your opponents argument is invalid.

      See also “strawman”

      Who’s definition of “brutalist” are you using? Chris’s definition? Yours? We both know its not Jeffreys.

      I don’t prescribe to Chris’s definition. Anyways, I also don’t only adhere to the NAP. I follow Austrian economics, bitcoin… I am opposed to bigotry, and so on. Guess what…. None of those things are exclusive to libertarianism either. 🙁

      Quit making up nonsense.

      • EBauer

        Haha, or just interpret the definition Tucker laid out which is what I did.

        • That is, repeat Tucker’s own strawman.

        • J Peterson II

          What Henry said 😉

  • Don Jusko

    It seems as if libertarianism is being attacked from the inside. Some words are used for the sake using them. Don’t buy their junk or waste time trying to make sense of their mucky-muck words. Stick to what Ron Paul said, follow the constitution.

    “Humanitarian vs. brutalism, within Libertarian circles.” They wish.. They try to divide us, it wont happen. When you see someone try like this article writer who shouldn’t even be here, give them narrow birth, ignore them. Say it Windy, say it. Constitution, that’s what liberty is about. The Constitution. I truly hope you don’t write another article.

    I’m for increasing our body count, we need 2.3 children per family to continue our society, killing babies and lowering our total will lead the way for obamas’s type to get rid of us and build his own unconstitutional base of babies. We made a mistake saying woman have the right to carry or not carry. It’s God’s law that we messed with and we better hope there is time to turn it around.

    I’m for removing the elete GOP and starting over. We need a 2 party system. Liberal is good, Constitutionalism, Green, many parties are good. The problem comes whem they split the vote. Here is the answer, Australia has it.

    • V. Chems

      Almost as if by cue.

      Do babies in the womb have a political preference? If they do, does it follow that we should favor the ones who agree with our own world view, and require 2.3 of them per household? Is the constitution the final word on liberty, or would we have more choices today if each state had remained a separate entity? Is Bill Still not a greenbacker who glorifies Lincoln’s method of financing of the civil war?

    • H. Rearden

      The constitution is not what liberty is about. Take for example the 5th amendment which allows for private property to be taken for public use. That is a violation of property rights. Even if a property owner is paid what the state deems is “just compensation” if the owner does not want to sell he is a victim of theft.

      • Good morning, HR. I’ve nothing to add but I wanted to say ‘hi.’

        • H. Rearden

          Osiyo. That is the Tsalagi (the people the French and English called Cherokee) greeting.

    • “Say it Windy, say it. Constitution, that’s what liberty is about.” No, I will not say what I do not believe to be true. Liberty is about the peaceful interactions of individuals who respect each other’s autonomy. A constitution is a piece of paper that may or may not express liberty. But freedom cannot spring from or be created by a piece of paper. It resides in the nature of man. BTW, my name is Wendy.

    • “Say it Windy, say it. Constitution, that’s what liberty is about.” No, I will not say what I do not believe to be true. Liberty is about the peaceful interactions of individuals who respect each other’s autonomy. A constitution is a piece of paper that may or may not express liberty. But freedom cannot spring from or be created by a piece of paper. It resides in the natural of man. BTW, my name is Wendy. And I don’t think you read my article. Otherwise I don’t think you would say

      “Humanitarian vs. brutalism, within Libertarian circles.” They wish.. They try to divide us,…The article is about eliminating the distinction as one that causes needless division and ill will.

  • Terry Hulsey

    I think Kathy Shaidle’s “In Defense of Libertarian Brutalism” should have put “Luminary” Jeff’s totally bogus article to rest by now.

    • Thank you for pointing this article out to me. I’m on my way to read it right now. And, no, the debate just will not die, which is why I addressed it.

    • Read it. Too ad hominem for my taste.

  • Fritz Knese

    Wendy, I would guess that I am one person that the “humanitarians” are reacting to with the” brutalists” title. My stance against the non-aggression principal along with my theme that libertarianism should be all about individual liberty rankles many. You and I have agreed to disagree about non-aggression. Many “humanitarians” are far too vicious to do that for they do not really believe in freedom. They are socialist nerds at heart who suspect anyone who is a strong individualist as having too much testosterone and unwilling to be truly “civilized”, which to them means toeing the social line. Rugged individualists see the “humanitarians” as being unwilling or unable to actually think for themselves and wanting everyone to bow to the social norm. It is much the same difference as between individualist and communitarian anarchists. Frankly, I do not see any real compatibility between the groups which is one reason I am an anarchist. In an anarchistic society such disparate groups would have the power to each live their own way. The existence of government precludes the freedom to be sovereign unto yourself.

    • Yes, Fritz. You are a wonderfully bristly human being…sort of human porcupine. I find that to be an endearing quality, That plus the fact that you put your finger directly upon the key point of the kerfuffle. You and I agree to disagree on several key points of politics and human psychology. Our disagreements actually make it far more likely that I would invite you over for dinner as a neighbor rather than avoid you. Why on earth would I want to spend time with someone with whom the conversation consists of “You’re right!”…”No, you’re right!”…”No, you’re wrong because you are the one who is right!” The one thing I cannot abide in life — call it a weakness, call it a strength — is boredom. And you are not a boring guy.

      • Fritz Knese

        Thanks Wendy. You are right. HA!!!
        I think we are of the same mind here. I respect you as much as any author I have read, but I never totally agree with anyone else. The smartest man I ever knew, my dad, agreed to disagree with me. He was also my best friend. Though we have never met and probably never will, I think of you as a “friend” who dares to tell me when you think I am incorrect. You also do the same thing for all society. That takes courage. You have my respect if not my continual agreement.

  • cb75075

    Hey Wendy. Wanted to say I am real glad someone is addressing this. Some of these humanitarians are really getting annoying. Only they seem to make the distinction. I’m glad its not me noticing this.

    It does remind me of the 70s and 80s when progressives slinked into liberalism and claimed THEY were the true liberals.

    This is why I switch from libertarian to classic liberal or anarch-voluntary. But don’t hold you’re breath. The assimilators will slowly slink into those areas and claim they were first and then make into more egalitarian bunk.

    • Hey there yourself, CB. I have stayed on the sidelines of this odd conflict for months now because I didn’t want to criticize friends. But it is getting out of hand. The Brutalists — to accept that derogatory label for the sake of this post — need to have a voice that is not angry or confrontational. I’m not intending to confront anything but the ideas…and the ideas are not merely wrong, they are tremendously insulting not merely to people who believe in real freedom (like me) but also to the concept of freedom itself. Your analogy to liberalism in the 70s is apt. I saw it happen within feminism. it went from being a liberal form, with its good and bad points, to a gender Marxist feminism, with its all devastating impact.

      • cb75075

        And we see this with Atheist plus. Again the politics of infiltration then rotting from the inside out pushing the original members to the side lines as nutters. Even today the older classic liberals are now labelled “hippies” and the left today flat out admits its nothing like its 1960s counterparts.

        Its a cancer, plain and simple and unless people call it out these “assimilators” will just creep in and suck anything dry. I don’t believe in pulling punches cause that’s what they want you to do, that’s how they work. They “nice guy” their way in being irrational children while expecting you to be the noble adult who “plays fair”. The fact these people resort to the Brutalist label and make such a distinction to begin with means they are the ones attacking. The arrogance to label a fellow libertarian as a rapist and looter and the only reason they are libertarian is to get authority out of the way to steal is down right attacking. Whenever I meet a so called “left” libertarian and they confront me, I will grind them into the dirt.

  • Anita Edwards

    I had not thought that the humanitarian vs. brutalist argument was one of politics vs. morality or of valuing liberty for its effects vs. valuing it for itself, but rather of active, open support for what is considered moral behavior vs. a refusal to acknowledge the role of society in encouraging good behavior. An example would be a humanitarian libertarian arguing that racism is wrong and people should work together to stop racism, while a brutalist libertarian responds that people have the right to be racist, a seeming non sequitur as forcible intervention was not proposed, but this sort of response is not uncommon.

    The difference does not lie in opinions on the NAP, but on whether one should argue or work for anything else.

    • Helo, Anita: If this is what the article means, then it is not communicating well. If the message is “let us consider how to implement the positive message” then why label dissenters as “brutes,” be so aggressively confrontational and use words like “hatred” to describe people like me who would defend the right of a religious group to form their own town? The bottom line, however, is that I don’t think there is a real debate on this subject.

      You write, “politics vs. morality or of valuing liberty for its effects vs. valuing it for itself, but rather of active, open support for what is considered moral behavior vs. a refusal to acknowledge the role of society in encouraging good behavior.” I do not know of any so-called brutalist (advocated of nonviolence) who does *not* fully acknowledge praise the societal effects of non-aggression. Voltaire rooted social and religious tolerance in the operation of the free market. Smith rooted fairness to the poor and to their ability to rise in a marketplace without entry barriers. Innovation, creativity, respect for family, good will, peace… All these values arise when people cooperate rather than being in conflict with each other. It is simply and flatly false to say that someone like me whose *politics* are purely and simply the NAP do not also have strong moral positions. First and foremost, for me is benevolence, or what Smith called sympathy. I have spent many years researching and developing the social mechanisms that encourage the values I would like to live among. But I will not condemn or prevent others from peacefully living their values.

      And I see no good reason to excoriate other libertarians because they are not pursuing nonviolence in the “accepted” manner.This creates conflict where none need exist. I am a bit sickened by the hostility that this false debate and rather sanctimonious stance has stirred. I see no wisdom in turning nonviolent people against each other.

      BTW, if the so-called “humanitarians” wish to discuss morality, then let them call it morality and the debate will be interesting. Stop trying to politically recast the libertarian movement and I have no quarrel…except, of course, on point of morality with which I might disagree. Thanks for the post.

      • “If this is what the article means, then it is not communicating well.”

        Well, that seems to be the meaning the Tucker piece communicated to Anita. And it’s the meaning the Tucker piece communicated to me.

        Tucker’s point seems to be that one attracts more bees with honey (“humanitarian” marketing — “look how great things are with freedom”) than with vinegar (“brutalist” marketing — “screw you, as long as don’t initiate force I’m well within my rights to hate [insert racial, ethnic, religious or lifestyle group here]”).

        But since the piece inspired you to write a very “humanitarian” piece on morality, I guess it’s a win-win whatever it communicated 😀

    • cb75075

      role of society in encouraging good behavior


  • Storm

    I take issue with Smith’s assertion that morality is rooted in sentiments. Sentiments are rooted in sentiments, and in some recognition of ourselves in others, but morality in no way requires much less is based upon sentiments. Morality is the informal public system that exists because we are non-irrational, decision making, vulnerable entities. To put it overly crudely we don’t treat others with basic respect because of some emotional stance, but because we recognize that when we harm innocent others we dramatically increase the chance of harm to ourselves and those for whom we care.

    Smith took on emotional and psychological motivations of issues that may or may not be moral issues. This can be very interesting and useful, but it tells us nothing about morality.

    Morality and politics are necessarily linked, as both deal directly with issues of harm to moral agents. Political systems are not systems of morality, but they likely violate morality as they very often necessitate harm to innocents.

    That aside, the invention and use of the term “brutalist” seems to be naught but a way to dismiss those that the “humanitarians” don’t agree with. In this way they differ little from any elite.

  • pjb1

    Good article, Wendy. I wrote my own critique of Tucker’s article here: