In late 2017, there was an article published on currentaffairs.org referring to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro as “The Cool Kid’s Philosopher.” The article goes on to quote a New York Times piece crediting him with “dissecting arguments with a lawyer’s skill and references to Aristotle.” Is Shapiro the best we can get when it comes to logic based-philosophy? The short answer is no, but the question of who the true “Cool Kid’s Philosopher” is remains.
Jack Parkos | United States
When people think of libertarians, they often tend to think “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or “a Republican who likes weed”. However, neither of these statements are fully true. The libertarian philosophy actually goes very deep; in fact, there are several factions of different libertarian schools of thought. The libertarian ideology is far more intellectually diverse than American conservatives and liberals. Below are some of the different major schools of libertarian thought. Though many more exist, these seven best capture the wide array of beliefs.
Classical liberalism is one of the earliest schools of libertarian thought. Originating in the philosophy of John Locke, classical liberalism holds that all men are born with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property and that the sole purpose of government is to protect those rights. The Declaration of Independence is an echo of classical liberal thought, as many of America’s Founding Father’s were classical liberals. Generally, they place emphasis on natural law, republicanism, and skepticism; many classical liberals are firm believers in the U.S. Constitution.
Key classical liberal figures include:
- John Locke
- Thomas Paine
- Many of America’s Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington
Anarcho-capitalists base their philosophy on the moral principle called the “Non-aggression Principle” (NAP). The basis of the NAP is that people do not have the right to initiate force against others. On the contrary, the only acceptable use of force is in self-defense. They also believe that the mere existence of the state violates the NAP, as it acquires all its income through coercive means (taxation). Thus, they believe that no government should exist. Instead, they believe that voluntary communities and private entities should fill the government’s role.
Key anarcho-capitalist figures include:
- Murray Rothbard
- Hans Hermann Hoppe
- David Friedman
Minarchism basically falls in between anarcho-capitalism and classical liberalism. It holds many similar beliefs to anarcho-capitalism but criticizes the idea of a lack of government. Minarchists believe that the free market can cover almost all government programs. However, they maintain that a minimalist government is necessary for the protection of rights. Minarchists typically believe, with some variation, that government should be limited to a “Night-watchman State” consisting of police, military, and courts. Robert Nozick, author of “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” argued that out of anarcho-capitalism, minarchism would naturally arise, as monopolized private police and courts would form a “state” of sorts.
Key minarchists include:
- Robert Nozick
- Friedrich Hayek
- Ludvig Von Mises
Objectivism is a philosophy that author Ayn Rand outlines in her books “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”. To begin with, objectivism is an extreme Laissez-faire capitalist belief with huge emphasis on individualism. Rand believed that man was best off serving his own self interest and should not need to help out the needy. In addition, it describes the pursuit of one’s own happiness as life’s most important goal. Accordingly, she, like many objectivists, rejected selflessness and altruism as an inefficient direction of resources.
Key figures in the Objectivist movement include:
- Ayn Rand
- Leonard Peikoff
Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Bleeding Heart Libertarians can be considered more “moderate” libertarians. In some cases, they are associated with the libertarian left. The official site for bleeding heart libertarians says they believe in “free markets and social justice“. Bleeding Heart Libertarians tend to believe in social equality and egalitarianism. They often still believe in social safety nets and a welfare state, and fall on the progressive side on social issues.
Arguably, the most famous bleeding heart libertarian is Gary Johnson. Much of the moderate side of the Libertarian Party also falls under this category.
Libertarian socialism is a form of left libertarianism. Typically, it is a form of Marxist theory that believes in social liberties and limited to no government. However, they also support a voluntary sharing of resources in a communal way. They also tend to oppose the power of strong corporations and hierarchies. Libertarian socialists often believe capitalism to be a tyrannical force and compare the “economic” elite to the state. As a result, they believe in ending authoritarianism and bringing in systems of direct democracy (sometimes unanimous) that distribute wealth more evenly.
This mode of thought draws much criticism from most other branches of libertarianism. Conversely, many libertarian socialists firmly believe themselves to be the only true libertarians. This partly dates back to the origin of anarchism and libertarianism in 19th-century Europe as a term to describe the left.
Key libertarian socialists include:
- Emma Goldman
- Peter Kropotkin
- Noam Chomsky
Paleolibertarians believe that while the state should be limited or abolished, society should still hold culturally conservative views. Paleolibertarians are thus very supportive of Western and American culture and are concerned about threats to it.
The paleolibertarian movement began in the 1990’s as a coalition of paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives that Rothbard (above) and paleoconservative presidential candidate Pat Buchanan formed. Basically, the goal was to stop interventionism, globalism, and social democracy.
Paleolibertarians usually oppose mass immigration and foreign wars. Many more radical paleolibertarians may consider themselves “Hoppeans”, following the anarcho-capitalist philosophy of Hans Hermann Hoppe.
Key paleolibertarians include:
- Murray Rothbard
- Lew Rockwell
- Hans Hermann Hoppe
- Ron Paul
- Tom Woods
The movement, of course, is even more diverse than this. Countless versions of libertarian thought exist within it, and it would take ages to explain them all. Without a doubt, the area of thought is rich with diversity and variation. No two libertarians are alike, but all have one thing in common: a desire to live free.
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Kaycee Ikeonu | Canada
Libertarians and Objectivists are often lumped into the same general category in political discourse as “libertarians”, despite the fact that Objectivists often try to distinguish themselves from the broader libertarian label. The founder of Objectivism, for example, Ayn Rand, famously described libertarians as “hippies of the right” and completely rejected comparisons between the two ideologies. However, with the formation of a new pro-liberty party, the American Capitalist Party, comparisons to the Libertarian Party are to be expected.
The American Capitalist Party was founded on the principles of reason, individual rights, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism. It’s co-founders are Mark Pellegrino and Joe Sanders, and it’s philosophy is heavily influenced by the works of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism.
So what makes the American Capitalist Party different from the Libertarian Party?
Superficially, it is obvious that both parties are advocates of individual rights and limited government. According to Mark Pellegrino however, it is the philosophical base of both parties that makes them significantly different. In an interview with the Objective Standard, Pellegrino argued that the ACP views man as a rational animal influenced by reason and reason only. He says:
“The defining difference between the ACP and the Libertarian Party is our respective orientations toward liberty and government, which, in turn, are based on our respective views of human nature and morality. In short, the ACP views men as rational animals—beings who live and prosper by using their minds to understand the world, to produce values, and to trade by mutual consent to mutual advantage. We regard such activities as moral because they advance human life. And we see liberty as a necessary condition for exercising the faculty of reason because, in order to act on your rational judgment, you must be free to do so.”
Pellegrino contrasts this philosophy from that of the Libertarian Party, claiming that the LP has no strong, common philosophical grounding. He says:
“Libertarians don’t see rational thinking, rational action, and moral rights as absolute requirements of human life. Rather, they regard freedom from force—or the “non-aggression principle”—merely as a requirement of economic action and thus as politically good.”
It is evident that the philosophy of the American Capitalist Party is based on a specific moral framework. But this view of politics could be a bit too extreme for mainstream Americans to handle. For example, consistent with the views of Ayn Rand, the ACP advocates the complete separation of the state from the economy. This includes the abolition of many government-run programs, including schools, hospitals, social programs, and regulations. Perhaps the most extreme form of this is the abolition of government regulation in the economy. The ACP website states:
“We support an immediate abolition of all environmentalist legislation that restricts the right of U.S. companies to produce energy, and the establishment of a free market in energy…We confidently maintain that a free market in energy, similar to a free market in computer technology, will attract brilliant minds dedicated to meeting mankind’s energy needs across all technologies—and that to do so effectively, government must be legally restricted from any and all forms of interference.”
Mark Pellegrino acknowledged that these policies wouldn’t be implemented overnight, but would be phased out over time. Insofar as campaigning is concerned, Pellegrino says Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, and Texas could be the first “battleground states” for the ACP.
The ACP is indeed a unique party quite distinct from the Republican, Democratic and even Libertarian Parties. But one could ask if it’s niche and concentrated philosophy would be attractive to most Americans today.
To learn more about the American Capitalist Party, click here.
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By Joshua D. Glawson | United States
Throughout the vast majority of the world and all of recorded history, there have been tales of boogeymen: monsters in the dark to punish the disobedient and the susceptible. The Boogeyman goes by various names with the male, female, or neutral gender. These include the Bogieman, El Coco, Sack Man, Ou-Wu, Babayka, El Ogro, The Devil, and more. Most of the story origins are unknown. It is as if they are a part of human nature and a mechanism for control or protection.
Most of the time, the boogeyman is a threat that adults use towards vulnerable children who may be misbehaving. The character has a number of different commonly said actions. Some say it eats children, holds them hostage in a hellish place, or even scares them into correcting their behavior. Overall, the boogeyman is, unfortunately, a socially approved terrorizing mechanism that plagues the mind with fear of the unknown. By presenting the monster as too strong to fight, society instills a fearful reaction of flight over fight.
The Beast in the Dark
When we were children, we usually heard of such a beast in the dark, under our bed, in the closet, or in a forbidden area. In each of these cases, an adult probably told the child the story or scared the child enough to make him or her invent the demon on his or her own. On the contrary, some cultures have a protective guardian angel of sorts to save children it deems good. This invisible protector is all that can immediately protect a child from the bad one out to get them.
Even as adults, the boogeyman may still come to mind in places we deem as dangerous: in dark places, after deaths of bad people, and in some unknown futures. When many adults think of robots and artificial intelligence, they also think of the boogeyman, but in a different form. With super intelligent computers constantly improving around the world, many people will propose that these unknown machines will become sentient and seek to enslave or destroy humans and the world.
In the case of robots conquering the world, it is nothing more than a Nietzschean Übermensch: a Superman that all aspire to become but none can. This super demon then begins to wipe the world clean of humans or enslaves them for its own gains. Similarly to that of the Übermensch, we find the boogeyman again in space exploration, with the idea that evil aliens are waiting to harm us.
Protection from Unwarranted Fear
In both of these cases, the fear of an unrealized boogeyman limits success and progress. Many people will turn towards religion and government to protect us from the unknown monster. They present these organizations as the fairy godmothers that will protect our soul, body, and future with regulations, limitations, and letting someone else decide what is right. Religion can become a government, and the blind allegiance to the government can become a religion of its own: Statism.
Statism is the belief that a government should control an individual’s economic and social decisions in order to prevent deterioration of society, corruption, losses, heinous crimes, terrorism, and more. Proponents of Statism view it as avoiding a Hobbesian regression to the turmoil and chaos of human nature. The ideology of Statism declares that government can, at least theoretically, control every aspect of one’s life. In fact, Statists have manufactured boogeymen of their own throughout history. Without a doubt, Statism becomes an endless, warrantless hunt for the outsider: non-Christians, non-Muslims, witches, spies, Communists, terrorists, drug dealers, immigrants, and more.
Statism: Fearful of Freedom
Statism has also provided the fear of Liberty, of not having a central government, and of no government at all. The State portrays this in the images of utter chaos and the threat of a power vacuum or void. A power vacuum, or power void, is the idea that without one government, other, more evil governments will take over. This proposed boogeyman is said to appear when the coercive control of the few (government) goes away, leaving the helpless and hapless people vulnerable to this invisible monster.
The devout followers of the State will use this boogeyman as a form of mental terrorism that instills fear into the minds of the impressionable. They propose that the only guardian against such a boogeyman is that of the omnibenevolent, omniscient, and possibly near-omnipotent government that staves off the evil, lurking, monsters in the unknown darkness. The closer people move towards Liberty or freedom, the more that Statists will pontificate this fear of the boogeyman into the hearts and minds of all that listen. As the fears build within society, Statists require more and more control. Thus, policing, laws, regulations, spying, recordkeeping, and taxing increase.
The Boogeyman Is Getting Stronger
As time moves forward, the boogeyman, or Übermensch, is always growing stronger and more cunning than its potential victims. It is like the nightmare in which you are forever running away from the unstoppable monster. In Statism, this all-pervasive boogeyman begins as a child’s common fear of the unknown. But relatively quickly, it becomes a psychological defect, leading to the embodiment of a boogeyman in the monster of an oppressive government. It matters little that the State was supposed to protect against this monster: it nonetheless becomes it. This idea that such a boogeyman exists slows human progress by creating a real one from the idea.
If anything, not teaching our children of such monsters as a boogeyman, not scaring them in the dark or around corners, while encouraging them to learn about what makes us scared or fearful, can help them understand the world in a more realistic manner. It will teach them to be less afraid of the unknowns in our lives. At the same time, they will learn to pursue difficulties, rather than back away from the unknown. These constant fears of boogeymen do not need to exist when it comes to peaceful, free, and voluntary action; the fears of boogeymen instill fear of the unknown, inhibit actions, and bog down growth.
A Hindrance to Human Progress
Furthermore, the fear of such boogeymen inebriates the infected individual’s will to better their own life, progress, and success, leaving them timid and unsure how to guide their own life. This removal of the individual’s capability to properly lead their own life also restricts their moral gauge, furthering their dependence on the guardian in control while making them more susceptible to relativism, subjectivism, and nihilism. In response to their fears of boogeymen, many will not only embrace religion and government. Moreover, they may cling to collectivism to help combat the invisible boogeyman. This is because they believe their particular group should survive, and perhaps their group knows how to best fight off the boogeyman better than others’.
If the fear of the unknown and creation of evil to fight it is a natural process, then Reason, peace, voluntary exchange, and Liberty will rid us of these deplorable thoughts. This is a way to become stronger than the fictional beast of Statist myth. This is a way we become our own heroes. In a world where are the biggest hindrance and threat to our own betterment, it is the way forward.
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche.
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By Josh Hughes | United States
Ayn Rand’s philosophy was very essential for the development of libertarian ideas as well as the Libertarian Party in the mid-to-late 20th century. While Rand and other Objectivists often feuded with libertarians in their time, it is undeniable that, in hindsight, the two have successfully coexisted and made great contributions to each other.
Ayn Rand’s Background
Rand was born 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She lived with her family through the Bolshevik revolutions of the 1910s, and personally experienced the horrors of Communism when her father’s business was taken by the state and her family faced starvation many times. She learned about America while in schooling and decided to leave for the land of opportunity in 1925, originally intent on being a playwright.
As someone that lived through one of the most collective regimes in modern history, Ayn Rand had a unique appreciation for individualism. She first started expressing her beliefs as a fiction writer, specifically in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her ideas centered around the idea that man as an individual is the single most important thing in the world. More specifically, whatever made him happy was the most important purpose of his life, and his success his “noblest achievement.”
With such an egocentric philosophy comes many stipulations. Ideally, an Objectivist society would exist only within a very free state. One of Rand’s biggest beliefs is the necessity of Laissez-faire capitalism. In fact, it’s the only economic system viable for humanity’s success. She claims that state and trade must be separated the same as state and church, and that man, in realizing his potential and strength, will demand his freedom in trading. A government, she asserts, has one job: to protect the rights individuals and nothing more, something the Founders and many current day libertarians would agree with.
How Objectivism Shaped Libertarianism
It’s pretty obvious that a lot of these ideas sound very similar to libertarianism, more specifically a night-watchman minarchy state. As close as they may seem, however, Rand and her Objectivists frequently feuded with Libertarians in her time. Her specific thoughts can be read here, but the main idea is she was against libertarians because they try to combine anarchy and capitalism, which, in her opinion, cannot coexist. She consistently refers to the Libertarian Party as “right-wing hippies” that have moral convictions of those on the left, yet they advocate for limited government. Her views on foreign policy are iffy, and she often clashed with libertarian figurehead Murray Rothbard on ideas.
Whether or not Rand would still hold those values is impossible to find out, yet it would foolish to say the two philosophies and ideologies haven’t strengthened each other throughout the years. Many libertarians consider themselves Objectivists, due to the fact that the philosophy stands so firmly on the ideas of limited government and individualism. It’s important that we are knowledgeable of what laid the foundations of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s. While Objectivists and Libertarians have had their fair share of quarrels and disagreements, it’s an interesting philosophy that is invaluable for libertarians to look into in order to help shape their views.
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