‘Libertarianism is [not] a philosophy of individual freedom’

At Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram, Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch have collaborated on a post for the ages: “Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace.”

Here is their thesis, succinctly stated in the first paragraph:

Libertarianism is a philosophy of individual freedom. Or so its adherents claim. But with their single-minded defense of the rights of property and contract, libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power, particularly the workplace. When they do try to address that unfreedom, as a group of academic libertarians calling themselves “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” have done in recent months, they wind up traveling down one of two paths: Either they give up their exclusive focus on the state and become something like garden-variety liberals or they reveal that they are not the defenders of freedom they claim to be.

The rest of the essay is excellent, developing this thesis and applying it to several examples and objections. Read the whole thing. It’s an expansive and forceful exploration of those essential points above.

With their single-minded defense of the rights of property and contract, libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power. … Either they give up their exclusive focus on the state and become something like garden-variety liberals or they reveal that they are not the defenders of freedom they claim to be.

That’s going to leave a mark. In fact, the last nine words of that paragraph could nicely serve to summarize the effect of this essay:

 

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