Libertarian Left: Free-market anti-capitalism, the unknown ideal

There are many alternatives to our current form of capitalism. The Libertarian Left is one very important theory of social and economic organization. If you find yourself dissatisfied with mainstream politics and the major political parties, you owe it to yourself to investigate different ways of viewing the world.

As for myself, in particular, I have no hard-core allegiance to any particular theory. At this point, I think we simply need more people to start to investigate the alternatives. While many of the average middle-class citizens are cynical of mainstream politics, they nonetheless either end up getting caught up in conventional political debate or just check out of the process all together. What seems critical to me, at this point, is to bring to people’s attention the many alternative ways of viewing social and economic organization. With all of the intelligent ideas out there, with all of the challenges to capitalism, I believe with my whole heart that things really and truly don’t have to be the way they are. A better world is more possible and feasible than most of us can dare to believe.


There’s a fantastic article on the Center for a Stateless Society’s website. Here are a few paragraphs that I found particularly interesting.

First, here is how they distinguish the Libertarian Left from the mainstream Libertarian Right:

One way to view the separation of left-libertarians from other market libertarians is this: the others look at the American economy and see an essentially free market coated with a thin layer of Progressive and New Deal intervention that need only to be scraped away to restore liberty. Left-libertarians see an economy that is corporatist to its core, although with limited competitive free enterprise.

For  Left Libertarians, the ultimate goal is not necessarily a pure across-the-board economic equality. The objective is not that everyone has the same, because this would destroy the incentive to work had and gain skill. A Left Libertarian also has particular disdain for any form of State redistribution of wealth, because such redistribution centralizes power in the hands of the government. The idea is that if you destroy the artificial forms of hierarchy, then people can make their own way. If you create a society where power is decentralized and freedom and social equality is maximized, then everyone will have an equal opportunity to prosper.

Creating vast gulfs of privilege and huge power differences ultimately only results in exploitation. Left Libertarians recognize this reality and work on behalf of oppressed peoples.

True to their heritage, left-libertarians champion other historically oppressed groups: the poor, women, people of color, gays, and immigrants, documented or not. Left-libertarians see the poor not as lazy opportunists but rather as victims of the state’s myriad barriers to self-help, mutual aid, and decent education. Left-libertarians of course oppose government oppression of women and minorities, but they wish to combat nonviolent forms of social oppression such as racism and sexism as well…..all forms of collectivist hierarchy undermine the libertarian attitude and hence the prospects for a free society.

In a word, left-libertarians favor equality. Not material equality—that can’t be had without oppression and the stifling of initiative. Not mere equality under the law—for the law might be oppressive. And not just equal freedom—for an equal amount of a little freedom is intolerable. They favor what Roderick Long, drawing on John Locke, calls equality in authority: “Lockean equality involves not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police.”

Is it possible that people could take an alternative like this seriously? Quite likely, actually, given the ongoing, unfolding failures of mainstream political ideas. Conservative and liberal policies only protect the inequalities and suffering created by capitalism thus entrenching hierarchy and never seriously challenging concentrations of power.

These days left-libertarians feel vindicated. American foreign policy has embroiled the country in endless overt and covert wars, with their high cost in blood and treasure, in the resource-rich Middle East and Central Asia—with torture, indefinite detention, and surveillance among other assaults on domestic civil liberties thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, the historical Washington-Wall Street alliance—in which recklessness with other people’s money, fostered by guarantees, bailouts, and Federal Reserve liquidity masquerades as deregulation—has brought yet another financial crisis with its heavy toll for average Americans, additional job insecurity, and magnified Wall Street influence.


Article Link:  Center for a Stateless Society » Libertarian Left: Free-market anti-capitalism, the unknown ideal.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

One thought on “Libertarian Left: Free-market anti-capitalism, the unknown ideal”

  1. Interesting, but I still don’t quite see the difference. Do you have examples of current countries doing likewise or how this could play out?

    Also, I couldn’t find the article on the website you linked to.

    I know I operate out of a libertarian mindset for myself, but not for others, and I’m very curious about libertarianism in general because of that.


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