Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Libertarian Socialism?

Answered (Not Verified) This post has 0 verified answers | 177 Replies | 12 Followers

Top 50 Contributor
1,711 Posts
Points 29,285
SkepticalMetal posted on Sun, Oct 7 2012 7:09 PM

Lately I have been curious to know about libertarian socialism. The two terms seem to contradict each other, as I have absolutely no clue how a socialist society could exist without government coercion. The same goes for libertarian communism.

Could someone give me a simple breakdown of how this could possibly work?

  • | Post Points: 95

All Replies

Top 500 Contributor
165 Posts
Points 2,745

Vichys, what's the name of the guy? For a socialist/communist he sounds pretty reasonable.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
1,711 Posts
Points 29,285

So what you're saying is that conservatives have a love of violence and they hate graphic sex?

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
2,258 Posts
Points 34,610

SkepticalMetal:

So what you're saying is that conservatives have a love of violence and they hate graphic sex?

Nah, just that these are what seem to irrationally annoy both sides individually.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
1,711 Posts
Points 29,285

Because I have seen that liberals are more laid back about that sort of thing, for whatever reason.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
630 Posts
Points 9,425

I realized from talking to libertarian socialists that they held a completely different understanding of the term socialism than I held. I am still yet to be explained exactly how socialism could exist without coercion. They tend to just start explaining a strange concept of property ownership. I then would point out that you would have to try and convince everyone of that strange type of property ownership and that would eventually require coercion, because not everyone would agree. Myself as an example of someone who would not agree. This is when it gets a bit ridiculous, when these sorts of terms are created. Someone can not just add socialism and communism on to the end of anarchism or libertarianism as it is a non sequitur. But the immediate argument against that is that capitalism and anarchism are incompatible because capitalism is based on coercion. Then I try and explain that capitalism is voluntary interactions. It has been argued that the socialist would not agree with the an cap society so therefore that is also based on coercion. This is when I explained that an cap does not require the socialist's acceptance of any type of property rights. If that person wants to start a communist commune there would be no government to stop them, as long as people were freely able to leave ie it was voluntary. Then there would be no problem with that. Just the same a few or 100s of organisations or businesses that resemble a socialist organisational structure, does not mean that the system is an anarcho socialist. That would just be a different type of organization structure that is existing within an anarcho capitalist society.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
Male
233 Posts
Points 4,440
Answered (Not Verified) Cortes replied on Wed, Oct 10 2012 4:31 PM
Suggested by Vitor

I don't find it fully satisfactory or convincing, but there's an interesting essay from Rothbard (Left and Right) concerning this. He wrote that a key difference between the conservatives versus the classical liberals and the socialists that diverged from them, (which did not necessarily make these socialists polar opposites of the liberals on any kind of spectrum), was that while liberals sought liberal ends by liberal means, the socialists sought liberal ends by conservative means.

Conservatism is defined here in the historical context as one in favor of the absolutism, serfdom and hierarchy the old ruling class needed to retain power. It was a reactionary movement against the developments leading to the Industrial Revolution.

The socialists, like the liberals, accepted the new order of scientific progress, reason and advancement of the living standard of mankind as a whole (which the conservatives opposed), but unlike them, they embraced the State and the top-down organization that the conservatives favored, and opposed the revolutionary economic freedom and capitalism that was bitterly hated by the ruling class and that so utterly destroyed the Old Order of the conservatives.

They believed that taking control of the monopoly institutions, the power structure of the conservatives, with the right enlightened men in charge, would realize their liberal ends: the State can and ought to plan and organize society, if not realize that it is society and that society will inevitably reach an ideal state of social evolution (Social Darwinism). 

The socialists then were the offspring of the liberals. It could be argued that among socialists there were left and right branches. Saint-Simon was among the right wing which was openly authoritarian and "a projection of conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization" in Rothbard's words. See Bismarck.

Marx was representing the 'libertarian left' of the socialists, in that he sought a sort of third way where he believed the instruments of State power as they were understood (protection of the ruling class) could be used against itself and that the old order of economic exploitation would 'wither away'. Yet the monopoly powers of the old power structure (economic planning) would be preserved under a new dictatorship of the proletariat in an interim phase as society 'evolved' into the final ideal stage of communism. 

What defines the 'left' as we know it today then is its desire for liberal ends by enforcement of an aggressive monopoly. Their means for change and strategy to realize their liberal ends is essentially political, not economic. They want to change society by embracing and then transforming the power structure and the status quo.

 

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
165 Posts
Points 2,745

Cortes:

What defines the 'left' as we know it today then is its desire for liberal ends by enforcement of an aggressive monopoly. Their means for change and strategy to realize their liberal ends is essentially political, not economic. They want to change society by embracing and then transforming the power structure and the status quo.

For the 'left' to be defined as such, everyone identifying as a 'leftist' must have that desire, not all 'leftists' desire "liberal ends by enforcement of an aggressive monopoly", therefore the 'left' can't be defined as you propose.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
Male
233 Posts
Points 4,440
Cortes replied on Wed, Oct 10 2012 5:50 PM

I'm just attempting to summarize Rothbard's conclusions from that essay. 

I'm not agreeing with it completely, but I have yet to see any form of 'left-anarchist' syndicalism or mutualism that does not ultimately endorse an aggressive insitution to bring about their desired outcome.

The State is opposed, yet is to be replaced by what is essentially a new State. It just appears to be a fundamental contradiction, from my understanding of it.

Somebody here wrote that the difference is that while the an-caps or whomever tolerates socialist communities, the left anarchists cannot tolerate a capitalist one.

 

EDIT: The variety of 'left-libertarian' as used by Roderick Long et al does not fall under this critique to my knowledge.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
165 Posts
Points 2,745

Roderick Long identifies as a left-libertarian and is against all aggressive institutions. Mutualism, although I don't know much about it, doesn't seem to support any aggressive institutions either.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
2,493 Posts
Points 39,355
A mob taking over one's factory or farm sounds aggressive, although I dont know if mobs are properly spoken of as institutions. Left libertarianism seems to be all about curbing rights over the means of production, as opposed to regular ol lefty obsession with personal wealth.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 35
Top 75 Contributor
1,288 Posts
Points 22,350

Left libertarianism seems to be all about curbing rights over the means of production, as opposed to regular ol lefty obsession with personal wealth.

Don't worry, the calculation and incentive problems mean there won't be any wealth to be resentful about!

The Voluntaryist Reader: http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com/ Libertarian forums that actually work: http://voluntaryism.freeforums.org/index.php
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
165 Posts
Points 2,745

Malachi:
A mob taking over one's factory or farm sounds aggressive, although I dont know if mobs are properly spoken of as institutions. Left libertarianism seems to be all about curbing rights over the means of production, as opposed to regular ol lefty obsession with personal wealth.

 

That's Anarcho-Communism and Anarcho-Syndicalism. There are so many types that fall under left libertarianism you can't really make any real generalizations about what means they support, or even their ends. Trying to define 'left' as "supporting aggressive institutions" still wouldn't work, even if most of the left did, because everyone under the category of 'left' would have to "support aggressive institutions" for it to hold true, which all of them don't. Defining 'left' as "supporting aggressive institutions" would be like me defining 'people' as jackasses, a lot of people are jackasses, but not all of them.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
192 Posts
Points 4,965
Answered (Not Verified) stsoc replied on Sat, Oct 13 2012 6:06 AM
Suggested by stsoc

Libertarian socialism may sound like a contradiction when using terms in the meaning they don't historically have and are not consistent with their original definitions. That is to say that hijacking and redefinition of certain term have happened.

There's a reason why we socialists call stateless capitalists propertarian and "anarcho"-capitalist with quotemarks, and why we call most Marxists "socialists" or "communists" with quote marks.

First one to call himself libertarian was Joseph Dejacque, who used the word to signify that the idea he belonged to was the idea centered on freedom, and not the liberal one (because of the same reason socialist call modern "libertarians" - propertarians), and he was an anarcho-communist. In (continental) Europe, the word libertarian is used to this day to signify anarcho-communists, and their subtype anarcho-syndicalists.

Similarly with words anarchism and socialism. Anarchism simply means- the idea of no master, that is- of no hierarchy, as espoused by the first man who called himself an anarchist- Proudhon, so "anarcho-capitalist" is in fact a contradiction, being that capitalism is an economic system that has hierarchy in it. (Though I have to mention that there has been an extension of the meaning of the word by anarchists themselves, so anarchism is taken to signify a socialist who is for abolition of state, using it to establish socialism and against participating in official politics)

Socialism is defined by workers' self-management (there being no boss), meaning that Bolshevik and similar ideologies are not socialist, but state capitalist (where a private boss is not absent, but replaced with state). Socialism is an economic system that is non-hierarchical, where workers are free to organize according to mutualism, collectivism or communism; so when using terms in their correct meaning, libertarian socialism is not a contradiction, but a pleonasm, being that libertarianism in it's real meaning of anarcho-communism is just a type of socialism.

.

About coercion and aggression. Socialist have different view of what legitimate property is, so consequently, their views if something is aggression or not will differ from the propertarian views.

Among socialist there are basically three views, one is that there is no such as legitimate property, and that property or possition is a right given to you by society, and they are utilitarians, saying that it's best that society organizes itself by the socialist view of property/ possessions because that it will, according to their views, bring more general well-being. I'd say this view is the most prevalent among socialists, but I myself am a deontologist, not a utilitarian.

The other two views are versions of the socialist view of Labor theory of property.

The first one is that property comes into being by labor, and legitimate property is created in things you made (and therefore not in areas of land, which are under the principle of "occupancy-and-use") which you can then sell. They see it illegitimate to rent means of production, being that they are used for labor, and because labor is the root of property, renting means of production means denying the laborer the "full product of their labor" which is one of the main slogans of socialism. A simple explanation would be when accepting the principle that labor is central in acquiring property, socialist go on to say that you have to be the one doing the work, you can't have the machines/ tools/ factories "do the work for you" when in fact, someone other is doing the work with those means of production. (This is the a somewhat rare view, held by some mutualists, some of whom are also known as "individualist anarchist", the following view is much more prevalent)

The second one start with the same premise, but extends the principle of labor being needed to acquire property even further, making all rent (not just of means of production, but of everything) illegitimate, saying that all incomes must be labored for, and it's not just that means of production can't "do the work for you", but also neither can money or houses, cars, and any other kind of property.

Whether a socialist is a mutualist, collectivist or communist is just a matter or organisational system preference, we are all socialists. E.g. I myself am a communist, and doesn't mean that I'm against people organizing according to mutualism or collectivism, it means just that I think this type of organisation is the best/ I like it the most, and that in a socialist economy, I would join a Commune, not a Co-op or a Collective.

Hope this explanation helps to clear the views of ('libertarian') socialists.

  • | Post Points: 65
Top 500 Contributor
165 Posts
Points 2,745

Thank you for taking the time to explain all of that. Have you done any reading on why "propertarians" believe property to be necessary? If so what are your thoughts on it.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
192 Posts
Points 4,965
stsoc replied on Sat, Oct 13 2012 8:54 AM

Yes, afaik, the explanation is- because scarcity (in a defintion of there not being unlimited everything) exists. But as I said, there are socialists who do accept property (in a very different definition then the capitalist one) as an ethical cathegory, me being one of them, even though I am for (voluntary) communism. The main socialist criticism of capitalism is that workers have their products of labor stolen in capitalism (actually any system where they have a boss), and when we talk about theft, we pressupose some form of property.

  • | Post Points: 20
Page 2 of 12 (178 items) < Previous 1 2 3 4 5 Next > ... Last » | RSS