A Different Left Libertarianism
In a recent post, I distinguished three different things called "left-libertarianism" and focused my comments on the third. One of the comments to that post pointed me to an account by Roderick Long, who considers himself a left libertarian but does not fit very well into my categories. Unlike the version I discussed earlier, this one is reasonably well defined. Like libertarianism in general, it is defined by a set of conclusions, not by the particular arguments that lead to them.
Roderick's definition has two parts. First, he thinks that on a range of issues that libertarians divide on, he accepts the alternative closer to left wing views. He lists nine. I agree with him on between five and seven of them—I am unsure about what he means by "pro-secularism" or "anti-big business." I am neutral on one, being neither for nor against intellectual property. The only one where I definitely disagree with him is his "anti-punishment" position. I have no clear position on capital punishment, but think it makes sense for some forms of punishment to exist in a legal system.
The other part of his self-definition of left-libertarianism is agreeing with people on the left about a variety of issues not obviously political, for instance that race and gender are "largely social constructs." I disagree with that one and probably with some of the others.
Roderick's description of his position reminds me of several people who have come to something close to his position from what I think is the other direction—although I do not know his history well enough to be sure it is the other direction. They think of themselves as leftists but have been convinced by, or worked out for themselves, enough of the libertarian argument to be in some sense libertarians. Examples would be Cass Sunstein, who sometimes describes himself as a libertarian, and Larry Lessig, whom I have occasionally tried to persuade that he should.
I discussed my views of them here four years back, when explaining why I then preferred Obama to McCain. Sunstein was actually in the Obama administration for a while, but has now returned to his usual profession of converting trees into journal articles; I look forward to his account of his experiences in government when and if he provides it.