by Sunil060902/Wikipedia commons

by Sunil060902/Wikipedia commons

Below is a guestpost by Cory Massimino, left libertarian and friend to The Stag Blog. Since left vs. right, thick vs. thin, humanitarian vs. brutalist debates have been popular within libertarian circles lately, The Stag Blog decided to dive in. Have something to say? Comment below. Want to call Cory a filthy commie in more words than a comment? Email me ( and add your voice to the debate! — LS

Recently the topic of left libertarianism has become a popular point of debate on certain social media. Despite there being more left libertarians than at any time in recent memory, a lot of libertarians (and other people) are still using the term incorrectly.

Left libertarianism has historically been used to refer to a wide spectrum of political (or apolitical to be more exact) ideologies. I would like to clarify what the label most accurately means in contemporary discourse and where the people who identify as such are drawing from. I would also like to outline the basic views of modern left libertarians — despite it still being an extremely broad spectrum — and to dispel some of the most common myths.

What Left Libertarianism Is

Left libertarianism is the distinct version of libertarianism that integrates traditionally leftist values with libertarian anti-state values.

Those leftist values include, but are not limited to:

Of course left libertarians are still libertarians, and historically libertarian values are also important. Those include, but aren’t limited to:

In this vein, left libertarians oppose all kinds of state taxation, regulation, subsidies, and embrace competition in all areas of the economy:

In this sense, left-libertarianism continues the tradition started by the 19th century individualist anarchists, such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Josiah Warren, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Voltairine de Cleyre, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Hodgskin, and others. This strain of libertarianism is seen today by the likes of the Center for a Stateless Society and in the work of Gary Chartier, Roderick Long, Kevin Carson, Sheldon Richman, James Tuttle, Samuel Edward Konkin, Anthony Gregory*, Chris Mathew Sciabarra, Karl Hess, Charles Johnson, and others.

Left libertarianism is ultimately about rejecting authoritarianism: whether it is via the direct use of coercion like when a politician extorts people every April 15th; or whether it is via economic subjugation like when a boss yells inane orders at his employee who has no other viable option; or whether it is via cultural oppression like when a husband mistreats his wife and gets away with it.

What Left Libertarianism Is Not

There is no shortage of confusion and mischaracterization about what left libertarianism actually is. Here are some of the most popular myths set straight:

1. Left libertarians are not communists. As stated above, left libertarians support robust property rights, whether in the form of Lockean/Rothbardian rights or in the Mutualist sense. Either way, left libertarians are staunch advocates of private property and markets because of their perceived moral foundations and/or their good social consequences.

2. Left libertarians are not corporate apologists. Despite supporting the complete abolition of economic intervention by the state, left libertarians are strongly anti-corporation. In fact, it is because of their anti-statism that they are anti-corporation. Left libertarians identity modern corporate domination as being strictly tied to the state and without government granted privileges, corporations would be much less powerful and possibly go away completely.

3. Left libertarians are not “bleeding heart libertarians.” Though some of the bloggers over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians identify as left libertarians, not all left libertarians are BHLers. Historically, left libertarianism has been associated with the libertarian anarchist tradition. It would be a broad view of left libertarianism that included non-anarchists (there are a few BHL anarchists, however). In short, bleeding heart libertarianism can be a kind of left libertarianism, but they are not synonymous.

4. Left libertarians can be Austrian. There are many left libertarians, such as Roderick Long, that identify as Austrian school. There is nothing contradictory about embracing praxeology, the subjective theory of value, Austrian business cycle theory, etc. in addition to left libertarianism. They are not mutually exclusive.

5. Left libertarians are not statists. While left libertarians oppose certain cultural and social practices, that doesn’t mean they want to combat them with force. Despite aligning with radical feminism, left libertarians don’t want to use the state to combat patriarchy. In fact, they often view state power and patriarchy as reinforcing structures. Left libertarians are still ultimately anti-statist and embrace the non-aggression principle. Supporting something doesn’t mean advocating the state doing it. Left libertarians see lots of room for voluntary social pressure, protests, boycotts, mutual aid, and other forms of direct action in a free society.

I have tried to clarify and briefly explain the core components of the modern left libertarian ideology. I hope readers have found my summation useful and recognize the myths when they see them. For a more comprehensive, and much better written, essay on left libertarianism, see here.

Cory Massimino studies economics at Seminole State University and blogs for Students For Liberty. He spends his time ranting about the government and educating people on basic economics. Follow him on Twitter

* Not if I keep arguing with Gregory, damn it! — LS

  • Rob McMillin

    It is not possible to be anything remotely describable as “libertarian” simultaneously and a “radical feminist”, for the same reason one could not be a Jew and a Nazi. I have read the Roderick Long/Charles Johnson essay before; “incoherent” would be a generous assessment. When you start by quoting the insane Andrea Dworkin, you have already cashiered any pretense of rationality. Once you start quoting the censorious Catherine MacKinnon, you lose even more, but the crowning act is citing Susan Brownmiller’s wacky and wholly unempirical assertion that all rape is a political act (ably demolished by libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy). It amounts to an own goal, and a very wordy way of answering the titular question, “no”.

    • Lucy Steigerwald

      Don’t tell me, tell The Stag Blog!

      Or, rather, I am not left libertarian, I really like left libertarians, and I need to read more of the literature I guess. I don’t know if I think there is some kind of contradiction in left-libertarianism. I don’t think there is.

  • TroubleBaby

    “or whether it is via economic subjugation like when a boss yells inane orders at his employee who has no other viable option;”

    The employee always has a choice, that choice is he/she can quit.

    That is the nature of voluntary of relationships, including those in business.

    If you cannot accept this, then you can not be an advocate for “strong property rights”.

  • BeverlyBrewmaster

    I’m most surprised by the “anti-corporate” label. I totally get being against corporations getting special protections under the law, and I understand pushing back against overtly pro-corporate sentiment of certain economics-first libertarians. But to me there are certain connotations to the label “anti-corporate” that I see as crossing the line that separates anti-crony-capitalism from regular old anti-capitalism. Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics, but as somebody who general self-identifies as left-libertarian, that was the one part of the essay that made me re-consider the label.

  • MK Lords

    Good analysis, but I would say left libertarians don’t necessarily align with radical feminists but rather with other feminists who don’t use the modifier “radical.” As a former feminist, this is an important distinction because it is the radical branches of feminism that do advocate state solutions to patriarchy whereas individualist feminism would reject many facets of their arguments. Radical feminism is also where the usual strawmen are derived from because unfortunately, the worst of feminist philosophy is concentrated in that classification–actually in the flesh, too.You can be a feminist and be libertarian, but you’re going to find rejection from many individualist feminists by aligning with radical feminists; the goals of the two are different enough to make a distinction and add separation between libertarianism and radical feminism.

    For context, I am neither a right nor left libertarian (some in-between panarchist type) but have a good deal of experience in regard to feminism and the different types there are. I think it would be useful to make the distinction for clarity and to decrease backlash. It was an otherwise very clear article.

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