Don't be fooled: Liberals and libertarians don't agree

On the surface,  hard-left liberals and hard-right libertarians may share certain positions. But these agreements are little more than word games.

Jim Miller/AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Judge Jim Gray speaks during the 2012 Libertarian Party Convention in Las Vegas, Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Many left-libertarians have wanted to redefine “capitalism” negatively for a while: basically to mean “corporatism.”  Now self-styled bleeding heart libertarians want to redefine “social justice” positively: basically to mean “concern for the poor.”

Both seem like rhetorical ploys of the same feather: an attempt to sound appealing to non-libertarians who also happen to frown on “capitalism” and smile  on “social justice”.  Both sets of non-libertarians happen to broadly line up with “the left”.

It is as if to say, “You on the left hate capitalism? So do we libertarians!  You on the left love social justice? So do we libertarians! Therefore, you should consider being a libertarian!”

The problem is, most non-libertarians who say they are against capitalism really mean they are against the free market, and not against only corporatism.  And most non-libertarians who say they are for social justice really mean they are for redistributionism, and not for narrowly “the well-being of the poor.”

So any “camaraderie” that can be effected by such bait-and-switch ploys can only ever be ephemeral “agreements” based solely on terminological confusion.  You may get some head-nods at certain cocktail parties when you say you are against “capitalism” and for “social justice”.  But once it is clear that you have very unconventional meanings for those terms, it will be clear that there is no true agreement at all.

Let us libertarians focus on actual arguments, and leave the word tricks to those with weaker positions.

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