Libertarian Schools

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    Can someone give me a brief rundown of the differences between the major Libertarian schools. I am familiar with Reason, Mises and Cato (are there other major players?) and understand they don’t always see eye to eye.

    Thanks in advance.


    Reason and Cato are probably the two most mainstream libertarian institutions. Mises and LRC are more “extreme” and lean more towards anarchism than Reason and Cato.


    Do Libertarians who argue for anarchy – no state government – and claim there will be peace and order presuppose the inherent goodness of man?


    No, not at all. Rothbard responds to this allegation here. Briefly, he argues as follows: If people are perfectly good, no government is necessary. If people are perfectly evil, government will be made up entirely of evil people and cannot improve the situation. If people are a mixture of good and bad elements (as Rothbard believed), then we need institutions which bring out the best in people and discourage their evil traits. Historically, governments have been the biggest outlets for evil (e.g., policemen have the opportunity to beat and taser innocent people with impunity). Rothbard thought private defense agencies in an anarcho-capitalist framework were the most efficient protection against criminals.


    Thanks for the quick reply. Here is another question – if there is no civil government, then how are the laws that society is supposed to follow determined? Wouldn’t any body that determines the laws to govern society be “the” civil government? What I am trying to say is, isn’t it impossible not to have a government (even if you give it another name) since someone or some people must enforce laws and punish those who violate rights? If the nature of government is force, then wouldn’t whoever wields the force basically be the civil government? And where does a private agency get the authority to imprison people?


    Rothbard thought that moral laws (just like mathematical or chemical laws) could only be discovered, but not made or invented. In other words, the binding force of moral laws is not derived from any human authority. No one can make an action moral or immoral just by saying so, any more than I could make 2+2 equal 5 just by saying so.

    Hence, there would be no permanent legislature in a libertarian society. Rothbard suggested that at the biginning of a libertarian society, a kind of constitutional convention might promulgate a libertarian law code (and then presumably dissolve itself). But the law code’s authority would not derive from its being promulgated by the convention, but from its content being in tune with the natural law. (Compare: When I publish a new mathematical theorem, whether or not it ought to be accepted by the mathematical community depends on the soundness of the proof, not on the fact that I published it.)

    In an anarcho-capitalist society, competing private arbitration and protection agencies would interpret and enforce the law, but that doesn’t mean they would be the government. A government is defined as a monopolist of law-enforcement.

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