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The Libertarian Spectrum and Govermnent

by Bionic Mosquito

At LRC, Walter Block recently posted an interview he did with the NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge. Subsequently he posted the background story – a video of apparently the entire, unedited interview. As with anything Dr. Block writes or says, this longer video is well worth the time.

I will focus on one segment of the interview, where Dr. Block discusses the libertarian spectrum. It is an interesting topic, especially to those of us who find our way into this political theory and struggle with where exactly in this scale we might find comfort.

I do not have a transcript of the interview, so what I attribute to Dr. Block is paraphrased.

He begins at the top, with what he describes as the most consistent libertarian position, being an anarcho-capitalist position. As one of the pillars if not the pillar of libertarian theory is the non-aggression principle, Dr. Block points out that there cannot be government. He places himself within this camp.

Next on the spectrum is the minarchist, one who believes that government exists solely for the purpose of protection of people and property. Toward this end, appropriate government functions are limited to a defensive military, the police (but only for crimes of aggression), and courts. He places Ayn Rand in this camp.

Third is described as a Constitutionalist – one who accepts government within a strict reading and understanding of the Constitution – which Dr. Block describes as not authorizing much more than a military, police, and court; but also including a post office and a few other offices. He suggests that Ron Paul is an example of a libertarian with this position.

Finally he includes classical liberals – those with relatively good free market inclinations and favoring relatively smaller government. In this context, he mentions Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Rand Paul.

As one of the best thinkers in libertarian theory, it seems to me that if Walter Block can be open to such a broad spectrum under the umbrella of “libertarian,” perhaps the myriad internecine struggles within our community on the litmus tests might be seen as petty. Although Rothbard makes clear that we should regularly remain open to debating such issues amongst us, as it helps both to clear up faulty thinking and to further develop the theory.

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Great Breakdown

And I agree w/ Mosquito on his take re: the classic liberals.

as Leonard Reed put it...

Anything that's peaceful.

AND voluntary :)

I am for anything that's peaceful and voluntary.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

it's hard to post comments for articles such as these

It's because there is nothing for me with which to disagree! Great write up.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus


Well written article