Noah Smith has a post examining the shortcomings of Ron Paul's Libertarianism based on its ignoring the local bully factor.
I have often remarked in the past how libertarianism - at least, its modern American manifestation - is not really about increasing liberty or freedom as an average person would define those terms. An ideal libertarian society would leave the vast majority of people feeling profoundly constrained in many ways. This is because the freedom of the individual can be curtailed not only by the government, but by a large variety of intermediate powers like work bosses, neighborhood associations, self-organized ethnic movements, organized religions, tough violent men, or social conventions. In a society such as ours, where the government maintains a nominal monopoly on the use of physical violence, there is plenty of room for people to be oppressed by such intermediate powers, whom I call "local bullies."Read the rest at Noahopinion
The modern American libertarian ideology does not deal with the issue of local bullies. In the world envisioned by Nozick, Hayek, Rand, and other foundational thinkers of the movement, there are only two levels to society - the government (the "big bully") and the individual. If your freedom is not being taken away by the biggest bully that exists, your freedom is not being taken away at all.
The liberty of local bullies
by Noah Smith
(h/t Kevin Fathi via email)
My comment over there:
Anarchism is a political philosophy that places liberty of individuals at the apex of the value system in terms of which policy is determined. There are many flavors of anarchism on both eft and right. Contemporary Libertarianism is a congerie of various flavors of anarchism of the right, which are also called anarcho-capitalism and individualist libertarianism, Economically, this is laissez-faire capitalism. The left has its corresponding flavors, called anarcho-socialism, for example. Outside the US, this is called libertarian socialism.
We are going to be hearing a lot more about anarchism in the coming years, since lies at the heart of both the Tea Party, which has already positioned itself politically and garnered a modicum of power, and the Occupy movement, which has not yet coalesced as a political force.
Anarchism is essentially opposed to institutionalism. Strict anarchism rejects institutions in all forms, holding that institutions are loci of power, and politics is essentially competition for power among vying groups, which inevitably leads to the attempt of one group to control other groups and individuals.
The challenge for strict forms of anarchism is to explain how the local bully problem can be avoided in the absence of some form of institutional governance. The challenge for loose forms of anarchism is to explain how minimal institutionalism can be contained.
In a complex world with a global economy this is a daunting challenge indeed. It would seem that both the strict and loose forms of anarchism required some policing power to prevent abuse. And that introduces the potential for both violence and the capture of a monopoly on violence by some individual or group.
Many contemporary LIbertarians and anarcho-socialists have not really though this through. As a result their nostrums are not only unconvincing but also if followed, counterproductive on their own terms.
This can have extremely untoward consequences. For example, Mikhail Bakunin presciently warned that Marx and Engel's notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat would result in tyrannical dictatorship. On the other hand, laissez-faire capitalism tends toward monopoly capitalism and unbridled rent-seeking, as we are already witnessing in the US and other developed countries, where business has managed to remove government regulation, oversight and accountability. (link)We are going to be hearing much more about anarchism and its various flavors in the coming year, so I plan to be examining it more closely in future posts. Interest in it is a rising trend among youth, and it is going to be with us for a long time.
Those who were politically active in the Sixties and Seventies probably remember that this was a hot topic then, too. It's been kept alive by public intellectuals like Robert Nozick on the right and Noam Chomsky on the left, and now it is re-entering US politics through the Tea Party and Occupy. So expect to be hearing a lot more about it either specifically in terms of policy discussions, or implicitly in terms of the buzz around these movement.