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Libertarian Socialism is an Oxymoron?

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Aeolus451 said:
In everything I read about it, the writer tries to explain why it's not an oxymoron like a cat trying to catch their own tail. Yes. it very much is an oxymoron. Libertarianism and socialism at their cores are like water and oil. "Libertarian socialism" is just an attempt to co-opt both libertarianism and socialism.

I'm curious, have you read VGPolyglot's and specially nemo37's posts on this topic here? If so, would you care to elaborate as to how they're like cats trying to catch their own tails?

The term makes sense, has been long used and is still used to this day in many circles. It just so happens that "libertarian" has been in large part appropriated by some sectors of the right, specially in some countries. It was not always like this, though, and the term came into usage as a term from the left - which also happened to be called socialist, but more on that later. Murray Rothbard, in his "The Betrayal of the American Right, p. 83, says: "One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, “our side,” had captured a crucial word from the enemy . . . “Libertari­ans” . . . had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety."

Moreover, it's kinda silly to argue anarchists, for example, would be incurring in contradiction by calling themselves libertarian just cause a right wing ideology took the term to identify themselves after the fact, specially when it could easilly be argued the term is representative of the former group in more senses then it is of the later.

Also, socialism has been identified with either state-economy dictatorships à la URSS, or with wellfare states. The former is just convinient (both for people pointing fingers at it as, back then, for the URSS themselves), while the later could realistically at most be said to have some socialist tendencies. What they both have in commom, though, is that most of the sectors which comprised (and still comprise) the left would disagree that they and they only are socialists.

Futhermore, the broader, older, definition of socialism is useful, as it shows what many ideiologies have in commom, from what we'd call Socialism today, to democratic currents which defend a people's government before "true communism" (aka a democratic socialism), to free-communists/anarcho-communists, to all other kinds of anarchists (minus ancap's,  but that's another discussion). It's also still in vogue, even though a lot of stigma has been built over the term. The adjective has meaning beside the proper noum. You can be "democratic" and not like North Korea's dictatorship. There's no contradiction there.

All in all, neither the words taken separate have opposing meanings, nor the term-as-a-whole is contradictory. People do believe liberty should and can - and many would argue can only - be had in a society withouth private property/wage labour/captalism/things-of-the-like-for-example. You might disagree, but that's beside the point here. If people think like that than libertarian socialist is an apt description of their beliefs. Morevor, the term-as-is, and not the simple juxtaposition of the words, has both an history and a meaning of it's own, which also makes sense and, yes, is still alive in the world, even if fringe.

I will give you though that this usage is not current in most circles, and that in those it's bound to raise questionsd/ anor cause confusion. That by no means makes the term an oxymoron.

 

Sorry for typos and bad structure, by the way. I should get some sleep :p



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Farmageddon said:
Aeolus451 said:
In everything I read about it, the writer tries to explain why it's not an oxymoron like a cat trying to catch their own tail. Yes. it very much is an oxymoron. Libertarianism and socialism at their cores are like water and oil. "Libertarian socialism" is just an attempt to co-opt both libertarianism and socialism.

I'm curious, have you read VGPolyglot's and specially nemo37's posts on this topic here? If so, would you care to elaborate as to how they're like cats trying to catch their own tails?

The term makes sense, has been long used and is still used to this day in many circles. It just so happens that "libertarian" has been in large part appropriated by some sectors of the right, specially in some countries. It was not always like this, though, and the term came into usage as a term from the left - which also happened to be called socialist, but more on that later. Murray Rothbard, in his "The Betrayal of the American Right, p. 83, says: "One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, “our side,” had captured a crucial word from the enemy . . . “Libertari­ans” . . . had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety."

Moreover, it's kinda silly to argue anarchists, for example, would be incurring in contradiction by calling themselves libertarian just cause a right wing ideology took the term to identify themselves after the fact, specially when it could easilly be argued the term is representative of the former group in more senses then it is of the later.

Also, socialism has been identified with either state-economy dictatorships à la URSS, or with wellfare states. The former is just convinient (both for people pointing fingers at it as, back then, for the URSS themselves), while the later could realistically at most be said to have some socialist tendencies. What they both have in commom, though, is that most of the sectors which comprised (and still comprise) the left would disagree that they and they only are socialists.

Futhermore, the broader, older, definition of socialism is useful, as it shows what many ideiologies have in commom, from what we'd call Socialism today, to democratic currents which defend a people's government before "true communism" (aka a democratic socialism), to free-communists/anarcho-communists, to all other kinds of anarchists (minus ancap's,  but that's another discussion). It's also still in vogue, even though a lot of stigma has been built over the term. The adjective has meaning beside the proper noum. You can be "democratic" and not like North Korea's dictatorship. There's no contradiction there.

All in all, neither the words taken separate have opposing meanings, nor the term-as-a-whole is contradictory. People do believe liberty should and can - and many would argue can only - be had in a society withouth private property/wage labour/captalism/things-of-the-like-for-example. You might disagree, but that's beside the point here. If people think like that than libertarian socialist is an apt description of their beliefs. Morevor, the term-as-is, and not the simple juxtaposition of the words, has both an history and a meaning of it's own, which also makes sense and, yes, is still alive in the world, even if fringe.

I will give you though that this usage is not current in most circles, and that in those it's bound to raise questionsd/ anor cause confusion. That by no means makes the term an oxymoron.

 

Sorry for typos and bad structure, by the way. I should get some sleep :p

Came here to say pretty much this. Good job.



Bet with Adamblaziken:

I bet that on launch the Nintendo Switch will have no built in in-game voice chat. He bets that it will. The winner gets six months of avatar control over the other user.

Btw, I just randomly came about this: https://8values.github.io/results.html?e=78.8&d=70.5&g=86.8&s=82.1 :P

(just to be clear, this is not meant as an argument)



When a subset of libertarians say they are socialists, they are not talking about state-socialism. They are talking about workers control of the means of production, which does not have to exist by force (see: independent contractors and cooperatives in our current society.) In the absence of the state or with a minimum state, it makes sense that corporations would benefit less from economies of scale, and therefore corporations would remain small and decentralized. This allows for a wider diversity of organization structures. One type of structure would be democratic decision making in the workplace (where all workers decide how things are controlled.) There is nothing wrong with this, in so much as nobody is forcing anything on others. 

Most libertarian socialists don't wish to abolish capitalism through violence, but rather think that they can outcompete it in a fair and free market, where the state is not subsidizing large corporations and diseconomies of scales outrun economies of scales. They often think of capitalism as something which would just be displaced like feudalism and mercantilism were. People would just move away from employer/employee relationships, renting homes rather than owning them, paying high interest rates, etc and would rather work for themselves or in cooperatives with others when state privileged monopolies no longer exist. 

The individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker described his idea of libertarian socialism and how it is different from state socialism in a pretty unique way. The bolded sections describe libertarian socialism. The underlined sections describe state-socialism. 

http://praxeology.net/BT-SSA.htm

“There are two Socialisms. 
One is communistic, the other solidaritarian. 
One is dictatorial, the other libertarian. 
One is metaphysical, the other positive. 
One is dogmatic, the other scientific. 
One is emotional, the other reflective. 
One is destructive, the other constructive. 
Both are in pursuit of the greatest possible welfare for all. 
One aims to establish happiness for all, the other to enable each to be happy in his own way. 
The first regards the State as a society sui generis, of an especial essence, the product of a sort of divine right outside of and above all society, with special rights and able to exact special obediences; the second considers the State as an association like any other, generally managed worse than others. 
The first proclaims the sovereignty of the State, the second recognizes no sort of sovereign. 
One wishes all monopolies to be held by the State; the other wishes the abolition of all monopolies. 
One wishes the governed class to become the governing class; the other wishes the disappearance of classes. 
Both declare that the existing state of things cannot last. 
The first considers revolutions as the indispensable agent of evolutions; the second teaches that repression alone turns evolutions into revolution. 
The first has faith in a cataclysm. 
The second knows that social progress will result from the free play of individual efforts. 
Both understand that we are entering upon a new historic phase. 
One wishes that there should be none but proletaires. 
The other wishes that there should be no more proletaires. 
The first wishes to take everything away from everybody. 
The second wishes to leave each in possession of its own. 
The one wishes to expropriate everybody. 
The other wishes everybody to be a proprietor. 
The first says: ‘Do as the government wishes.’ 
The second says: ‘Do as you wish yourself.’ 
The former threatens with despotism. 
The latter promises liberty. 
The former makes the citizen the subject of the State. 
The latter makes the State the employee of the citizen. 
One proclaims that labor pains will be necessary to the birth of a new world
The other declares that real progress will not cause suffering to any one. 
The first has confidence in social war. 
The other believes only in the works of peace. 
One aspires to command, to regulate, to legislate. 
The other wishes to attain the minimum of command, of regulation, of legislation. 
One would be followed by the most atrocious of reactions. 
The other opens unlimited horizons to progress. 
The first will fail; the other will succeed. 
Both desire equality. 
One by lowering heads that are too high. 
The other by raising heads that are too low. 
One sees equality under a common yoke. 
The other will secure equality in complete liberty. 
One is intolerant, the other tolerant. 
One frightens, the other reassures. 
The first wishes to instruct everybody. 
The second wishes to enable everybody to instruct himself. 
The first wishes to support everybody. 
The second wishes to enable everybody to support himself. 
One says: 
The land to the State. 
The mine to the State. 
The tool to the State. 
The product to the State. 
The other says: 
The land to the cultivator. 
The mine to the miner. 
The tool to the laborer. 
The product to the producer. 
There are only these two Socialisms. 
One is the infancy of Socialism; the other is its manhood. 
One is already the past; the other is the future. 
One will give place to the other.

Today each of us must choose for the one or the other of these two Socialisms, or else confess that he is not a Socialist.”

 

As you can probably tell, Tucker was very skeptical of violent action, revolution, and central planning. He was skeptical of communism, as he saw a violent and authoritarian element in the communist movements, well before the Soviet Union. His socialism was what Marx called "socialist of the petit-bourgeois", but Tucker would have seen it as much closer to classlessness than Marx's "dictatorship of the proleteriat." 



Here is another interesting article for you to check out. Note that right-libertarians like Murrary Rothbard were heavily influenced by Boston Anarchists, and Benjamin Tucker in particular. Rothbard rejected the Labor Theory of Value though in way of subjective theories. 

https://c4ss.org/content/37324

"Tucker built his theory of individualist anarchism (or what he called “Boston Anarchism” to distinguish him from “Chicago Anarchists” who were generally less favorable to markets and more favorable to violence as a means for social change) out of the principles of individual sovereignty and the labor theory of value (which was commonly accepted by mainstream economists dating back to Adam Smith, but was later thrown out by the profession after the marginal revolution led by early Austrians, such as Carl Menger and Eugene Böhm von Bawerk). For 19th century anarchists, the labor theory of value, or “cost limit of price,” was the natural extension of the individual’s absolute sovereignty over themselves. Labor was seen as the source for all wealth, and the laborer naturally owns the fruits of their labor as an extension of their self-ownership. Tucker’s theory of value was intimately related to his ethical views based on each individual having sole dominion over their body and their justly acquired property, which required labor mixing."

"Tucker and his fellow individualist anarchists were anti-capitalist, but pro-free market [PDF]. They viewed capitalism as representative of a statist economy that artificially benefited capitalists at the expense of laborers by extracting surplus value through artificial rents. Tucker thought the fruits of the laboring classes are systematically and coercively taken by the elites under statism. He viewed the State as propagator of the ruling class. Tucker identified the four big monopolies: money, land, patent, and tariff (Charles Johnson has identified even more). The role of these monopolies are to concentrate capital in the hands of a few and create a wage system. But the origin of these monopolies lies, not in the free market, but in the State."

"Instead of adopting pro-capitalist rhetoric, since the American anarchists saw capitalists as largely arms of the State, they were very friendly to “Socialism” (Some modern individualist anarchists want to reclaim the term “socialism” from the monopoly statists now have on the term). Tucker saw the strain of thought that tied all socialists together, from Warren to Proudhon to Marx, as the view,"

"Tucker distinguished between state socialism and market socialism. His individualistic socialist program consisted, “in the destruction of these monopolies and the substitution for them of the freest competition… [which] rested upon a very fundamental principle, the freedom of the individual, his right of sovereignty over himself, his products, and his affairs, and of the rebellion against the dictation of external authority.” Abolishing the monopolies (i.e, economic reform) became the central goal for Benjamin Tucker and his mission to be an, “advocate for the justice of labor.” Of his two biggest influences, Warren and Proudhon, Tucker wrote,"



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Yes, the concept of "Libertarian Socialism" is laughable, because the ideologies simply do not mesh.

The core principle of Libertarianism, in essence, is "Everybody look out for themselves".

The core principle of (actual) Socialism, in essence, is "Everybody look out for everybody else".

Those two things are not really compatible at all.


The concept of a so-called "Welfare State" is not truly a Socialist symptom. In successful Socialist models (there are good modern examples but no shining ones yet), it is basically "Captilism Lite", where people are still encouraged to go out and make their own businesses, etc. But the government also looks out for people, and there is a "Social Safety Net" there, not for people who WON'T work, but for people who CAN'T, or otherwise fall on hard times. The idea that you look out for the community, and the community looks out for you.

I believe that the most important philosophy behind Socialism is that "The Good of the People, Comes Before the Good of the State/Government". Or conversely, "The State Should Serve the People", not the other way around. On the surface, it would seem that in that, Libertarianism and and Socialism are in basic agreement. However, I think that their fundamental values and ideas of how to make all of that WORK, are too divergent to really mesh well, together.



Farmageddon said:

Btw, I just randomly came about this: https://8values.github.io/results.html?e=78.8&d=70.5&g=86.8&s=82.1 :P

(just to be clear, this is not meant as an argument)

Cool, I got this. I consider myself a Left-Rothbardian, individualist anarchist, strongly pro-market, neutral on the question of property norms. I imagine a polylegal arbitration system where people with different ideas on property resolve their disputes through mutually agreed arbirtrators. I am strongly against state-privilege, especially towards hierarchial institutions. 

https://8values.github.io/results.html?e=29.5&d=66.7&g=83.9&s=62.3



vivster said:

Government intervention is required to give everyone a chance to be free. The "freedom" capitalists love to talk about is only for a minority of the population. Leaving a society to their own devices leads to chasms and elites that only benefit a few people at the top.

So yes, more government intervention is more freedom net total.

We wouldn't need intervention if the human nature was altruistic. But alas, it's the opposite.

I absolutely agree



Farmageddon said:
Aeolus451 said:
In everything I read about it, the writer tries to explain why it's not an oxymoron like a cat trying to catch their own tail. Yes. it very much is an oxymoron. Libertarianism and socialism at their cores are like water and oil. "Libertarian socialism" is just an attempt to co-opt both libertarianism and socialism.

I'm curious, have you read VGPolyglot's and specially nemo37's posts on this topic here? If so, would you care to elaborate as to how they're like cats trying to catch their own tails?

The term makes sense, has been long used and is still used to this day in many circles. It just so happens that "libertarian" has been in large part appropriated by some sectors of the right, specially in some countries. It was not always like this, though, and the term came into usage as a term from the left - which also happened to be called socialist, but more on that later. Murray Rothbard, in his "The Betrayal of the American Right, p. 83, says: "One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, “our side,” had captured a crucial word from the enemy . . . “Libertari­ans” . . . had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety."

Moreover, it's kinda silly to argue anarchists, for example, would be incurring in contradiction by calling themselves libertarian just cause a right wing ideology took the term to identify themselves after the fact, specially when it could easilly be argued the term is representative of the former group in more senses then it is of the later.

Also, socialism has been identified with either state-economy dictatorships à la URSS, or with wellfare states. The former is just convinient (both for people pointing fingers at it as, back then, for the URSS themselves), while the later could realistically at most be said to have some socialist tendencies. What they both have in commom, though, is that most of the sectors which comprised (and still comprise) the left would disagree that they and they only are socialists.

Futhermore, the broader, older, definition of socialism is useful, as it shows what many ideiologies have in commom, from what we'd call Socialism today, to democratic currents which defend a people's government before "true communism" (aka a democratic socialism), to free-communists/anarcho-communists, to all other kinds of anarchists (minus ancap's,  but that's another discussion). It's also still in vogue, even though a lot of stigma has been built over the term. The adjective has meaning beside the proper noum. You can be "democratic" and not like North Korea's dictatorship. There's no contradiction there.

All in all, neither the words taken separate have opposing meanings, nor the term-as-a-whole is contradictory. People do believe liberty should and can - and many would argue can only - be had in a society withouth private property/wage labour/captalism/things-of-the-like-for-example. You might disagree, but that's beside the point here. If people think like that than libertarian socialist is an apt description of their beliefs. Morevor, the term-as-is, and not the simple juxtaposition of the words, has both an history and a meaning of it's own, which also makes sense and, yes, is still alive in the world, even if fringe.

I will give you though that this usage is not current in most circles, and that in those it's bound to raise questionsd/ anor cause confusion. That by no means makes the term an oxymoron.

 

Sorry for typos and bad structure, by the way. I should get some sleep :p

I read the op and glanced around a bit in the 1st page then looked into libertarian socialism then into libertarianism/sociolism then I posted. I didn't read into the history of each term or their older meanings for the most part. I also didn't look into how those terms are defined around the world. I didn't have hours to research and compose a post that was better written. 

Socialism is authoritarian in nature while libertarism is the oppisite of that. The political beliefs behind those words are in opposition of eachother. The name libertarian socialism is a oxymoron because of that. Alot of different things I read on this go into a in-depth explanation just behind the name or terminology without really getting to the meat libertarian socialism. That's what I meant with like a cat trying to catch their own tail. Even the explaination of libertarian socialist is convoluted. Tryin' to get a bead on their stances on issues has been fun. 

 

(1) "Libertarian = a person advocating total individual freedom through minimizing the role of the government. 

Socialism = the abolition of privately held means of production. 

A libertarian socialist sees the state as a coercive authoritarian institution which the elite uses to exploit the people. A libertarian socialist sees capitalism as a way for the ones with money, i.e. power, to enforce oppression on the ones who don't. 

Free market is about as fair as the freedom to kill an innocent person."

 

(2) "Libertarian Socialism is a political philosophy that advocates abolition of the state and private property. The term can also be synonymous with anarchism or left libertarianism. The term chould be differentiated from right libertarianism with it's emphasis on laissez-faire capitalism as opposed to libertarian socialism's anti-capitalism and anti-statism ideals.

Johnny is a libertarian socialist who believes in abolition of private proverty along with the state. He believes in a non-violent organic shift to libertarian socialism as opposed to a revolutionary overthrow of authoritarian regimes."

 

(3) "A libertarian socialist would argue that a society based on such huge disparities of wealth is unfree. If you wish to enter into employment, you choose first and take orders later (as with liberal democracy). Libertarian socialists believe in voluntary association and economic democracy. This will allow the individual to reach his/her full potential. "

Depending on which one of those you go by on this, it could seen as an oxymoron or just another type of socialism. In my opinion, they should change the name of it to something else to permnantly resolve the discussion surrounding it's name. It detracts from the beliefs behind it. Anyway, libertarian and socialism shouldn't be in the same name. 




Libertarianism has historically been a left-leaning political idealogy. In America, conservatives intentionally subverted it to their end of the economic spectrum.




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