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Classical Liberalism vs. Modern Libertarianism

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richie2044 posted on Thu, Nov 6 2008 10:43 AM

Amity Shales has an opinion column on Bloomberg, and she makes a statement and I am still trying to make sense of it:

"Modern libertarianism is a derivative of classical liberalism, though a limited one."

How is modern libertarianism a "limited" derivative of classical liberalism? Is it a derivative at all? What are the differences? I have always believed that modern libertarians, i.e. Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, etc., were classical liberals, not the phony libertarians such as Neal Boortz and Bob Barr. Am I missing something?

Source is here:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_shlaes&sid=aoiYcMi6CkNA

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richie2044:
How is modern libertarianism a "limited" derivative of classical liberalism? Is it a derivative at all? What are the differences?

Depends upon how classical liberalism is defined, but I generally go with considering the philosophers like Locke, J.S. Mill, Rousseau, Nietzche, Hume, et al to be classical liberal.  Classical liberalism is the broad poltical view that gained traction over a long period of time, the idea that individuals had rights, and that governments should protect those rights and otherwise be limited in their actions.   By looking at the classical liberal philosophers, though, it's clear that there was no solid consensus about the basis of the view, the proper conception of rights, or the limits of government, and there were other conflicting ideas, such as the Social Contract. 

I would agree that libertarianism is derived from classical liberalism, and that libertarianism isn't so much "limited" as it is more specific about things that classical liberalism wasn't very specific about.  Libertarianism provides a stronger and more clearly defined basis for individual rights and limits on governments, and throws out concepts like the Social Contract altogether.

 

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Thank you for your point. 

Maybe it is meant in historical evolution of classical liberalism like you said. Maybe libetarianism is "extrem form" of classical liberalism. But libertarianism can be derived from liberalism by subject. Result is lowering importance of government and its functions.

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macsnafu replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 10:31 AM

Libertarianism as "extreme classical liberalism".  Might make a good tag line!

 

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Norman Barry has written a book on the different trends into the contemporary libertarian tradition, fittingly titled "On classical liberalism and libertarianism"; where he differentiates the two on the basis of the consequentialist (ie, economic or utilitarian) v. deontological (normative) foundation of the respective theories. He does, however, concedes that he is using this classification as a short-hand in the absence of a more sophisticated treatment of the dividng line. '

In plain/street english, libertarianism is seen (as the previous poster underlined it) just as an extreme/radical variant of classical liberalism, somewhere between liberalism and anarchism... just taking the liberal concepts further and accepting their logical consequences...

 

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Marko replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 6:16 PM

M-la-maudite:
In plain/street english, libertarianism is seen (as the previous poster underlined it) just as an extreme/radical variant of classical liberalism, somewhere between liberalism and anarchism... just taking the liberal concepts further and accepting their logical consequences...


Yeah. Gustave de Molinari for example was a Classical Liberal, but because he took the Liberal conclusions quite far there is basicaly nothing to differentiate him from a Libertarian or even an Anarchist.

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I just found this topic through google since I was searching for the differences.  It's about how much government you think is necessary.  Anarcho-capitalists think that it would be better without any government.  Classical liberals want limited government.  They don't want the government to inferfere with your daily lives.  They also don't want intervention in the economy.  Libertarians want even less intervention than that.  It's more or less the same as classical liberalism.  Libertarians think that the state is coercive more, and, that they want even less government than classical liberals. 

 

This is a great article on it:  http://www.radicalacademy.com/philclassliberalism.htm

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Juan replied on Thu, Oct 1 2009 5:22 PM
Classical liberals want limited government
Actually classical liberalism and libertarianism are two names for the same philosophy, and libertarian ideas on no-government are as old as 1849, and were presented by Gustave de Molinari, who definitely was a 'classical liberal'.

February 17 - 1600 - Giordano Bruno is burnt alive by the catholic church.
Aquinas : "much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death."

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Juan:
Classical liberals want limited government
Actually classical liberalism and libertarianism are two names for the same philosophy, and libertarian ideas on no-government are as old as 1849, and were presented by Gustave de Molinari, who definitely was a 'classical liberal'.

It is my belief that the philosophy is slightly different.  Libertarians focus more on what the government shouldn't do.  I think the classical liberal philosophy is less specific.  It doesn't emphasize the need for protection against the coercive power of the state that much.  Both philosophies believe in the same essentials.  However, libertarianism is more specific.  It's really an out-growth of the classical liberal philosophy.

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You have Constitutionalism today within parties like the Constitution Party.  Then you have libertarianism and the Libertarian Party.  Both are classical liberals but different versions.  Constitutionalist allow for tarriffs and are more states rights focused, though they do want to dramatically limited government.  Libertarians are more free market and individual rights in their approach to limited government.  90% of the time both come to the sam conclusion but sometimes not for the same reason.  Then you have Anarchism which is truly the radicalized classical liberalism.  Proudhon is the father of modern anarchism and created mutualism.  Mutualism is a free market private property system but supports a labor theory of economic value and worker cooperatives.  From Proudhon you have later anarchists that veered to the right such as Tucker who went in a totally individualistic direction and then other beyond him that created anarco capitalism.  Other anarchists veered left and created collectivist and communist anarchisms.  I do believe it would be possible for classical liberalists (minarchists) and anarchists (various schools) to find common ground and work together.  I honestly don't classifiy myself as anything but I share a large body of commonality with anarchists, libertarians, and constitutionalists.   I tend to lean in a mutualist direction but can see some value in capitalism and socialism to some degree.  Many libertarians and anarcho capitalists do realize the problems of state capitalism or as Ron Paul calls it "corporatism" so there could be common ground.  I could envision a political community that was free and decentralized that had elements of capitalism, mutualism, and maybe even some community owned property and resources (collectivist)

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Esuric replied on Fri, Oct 30 2009 11:50 PM

macsnafu:
but I generally go with considering the philosophers like Locke, J.S. Mill, Rousseau, Nietzche, Hume, et al to be classical liberal.

What makes Nietzche a classical liberal? Or even J.S. Mill?

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion."

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Mill was a classical liberal, but Rousseau defitiely was not. In fact, Rousseau can almost be considered a direct response to classical liberalism. Most calssic liberal philosophers, namely Locke and Hobbes, wrote that societies and governments formed to protect private property rights and basic human freedoms. Essentially, they argued that the state of nature was not ideal, so governments are natural. Rousseau, on the other hand, based all of his arguments on the premise that humanity was pure in teh state of nature, almost harmless, and it was the creation of society that destroyed humanity. Rousseau argues in favor of rule by the majority, and many of the ideals of American democracy came from him. John Locke contributed the intellectual background for our freedoms and rights. However, since the United States government was founded on many ideals, including those from both Locke and Rousseau, many people believe that all of these ideals naturally align, but this is not the case at all.

Rousseau argued in favor of group rights but Locke founded the ideas of individualism. He said that the government should be nothing more than an "umpire" that setlles disputes. Rousseau would argue for a proactive government that seeks to better lives, much like modern-day liberals. As to why Mill is such a great Classic Liberal, and quite possibly the best defender of liberty, go to this link and read "Section 13: Social and Political Philosophy"

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Reading Bastiat leaves me with the impression that Rousseau was actually a socialist...

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I'm convinced that trying to understand exactly what Rousseau wanted is an inherent paradox

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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Conza88 replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:05 PM
In one sense, the adoption of libertarian values and institutions would be a return; in another, it would be a profound and radical advance. For while the older libertarians were essentially revolutionary, they allowed partial successes to turn themselves strategically and tactically into seeming defenders of the status quo, mere resisters of change. In taking this stance, the earlier libertarians lost their radical perspective; for libertarianism has never come fully into being. What they must do is become “radicals” once again, as Jefferson and Price and Cobden and Thoreau were before them. To do this they must hold aloft the banner of their ultimate goal, the ultimate triumph of the age-old logic of the concepts of free market, liberty, and private property rights. That ultimate goal is the dissolution of the State into the social organism, the privatizing of the public sector.
 
— Murray N. Rothbard, Capitalism versus Statism
Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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