Anti-Libertarian Philosophers Warned: Undermining Nozick Doesn't Mean Undermining Libertarianism

Political philosopher Matt “Bleeding Heart
” Zwolinski, writing at 3 a.m.
, tells his colleagues in that field that they
can’t think of themselves as having disposed of libertarianism if
they think they’ve disposed of Robert Nozick’s particular arguments
for it.

To the likely surprise of some who think of the bleeding-hearts
as squishes when it comes to hardcore libertarianism, Zwolinski
even had kind words for aspects of the “taxation is theft”

Choice excerpts:

Libertarians recognize that their favored political and economic
institutions are social constructs. But to note that an institution
is a social contract is not the same as showing that it
is arbitrary. As libertarians like John Hasnas have
pointed out, institutions of private property and free exchange
have evolved repeatedly throughout history as an effective means of
resolving social conflict in a world of scarce resources and
limited benevolence. Property rights give individuals and groups a
kind of jurisdiction in which they can pursue their own goals and
values without first seeking the approval of any political
superior. Market prices emerge even when state authorities actively
attempt to stamp them out because the information and incentives
they convey play an essential
 in social coordination and cooperation….

…..Actual governments, like actual businesses, are run by
human beings with imperfect knowledge, imperfect rationality, and
sometimes impure motives. But unlike businesses, who make their
mistakes on a decentralized scale with their own money, and who
face the constant discipline of a system of profit and loss,
government plays its game on a grand scale, and with other people’s
resources. Rent-seeking and
cronyism are thus not temporary problems that we have only because
the wrong people, or the wrong party, hold office. They are deep,
structural problems with politics….

…..Some libertarians think that morality imposes an absolute
prohibition on interfering with the persons or property of others,
no matter how minor the infringement, and no matter how great the
benefits to be gained from it. I have argued elsewhere that this
position is implausible. But even if it is, it does not follow that
coercive interference with the persons or possessions of others is
morally trivial. Common sense morality supports the belief that
coercion is a serious prima facie wrong: one that can sometimes be
justified, but only in special circumstances and by very weighty
considerations. Why, then, should we be any less critical of the
kinds of coercion that governments employ? What governments call
“taxation,” most of us would call “theft” if it were done by
private individuals – even if it were done to support a very good
cause like providing for the common defense… confident
should we be that the coercion government currently employs is
truly necessary for the interests of the public, and not the
interests of the state itself or its cronies?

The libertarian vision of a society is one of free and
responsible individuals, cooperating on their own terms for
purposes of mutual benefit. It is a vision that draws its support
from a wide variety of moral and empirical beliefs with deep roots
in the public political culture. And it is one that contemporary
critics of the market would do well to take much more

on bleeding-heart libertarians

from Hit & Run

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