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Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard

Daniel B. Klein ()

No 29, Ratio Working Papers from The Ratio Institute

Abstract: As many have argued, libertarianism as idea and movement contains strands that often conflict, beg questions, or try our sensibilities. There are multiple libertarianisms. Two leading theorists of modern libertarianism are Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. Both pupils of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and Rothbard provide dual libertarianisms that share a common precept but sustain that precept in inverse ways. Both Hayek and Rothbard maintain that, in societies like theirs, the desirable always concords with liberty (or maximal liberty). Rothbard achieved this concordance by molding his sensibilities about the desirable to fit his definition of liberty. Hayek achieved this concordance by molding his definition of liberty to fit his sensibilities about the desirable. These two libertarianisms represent a duality of worthy rhetorical tasks, namely, those of the “bargainer” (exemplified by Hayek) and the “challenger” (exemplified by Rothbard). But libertarians ought to reject the precept of concordance: the desirable does not always concord with liberty. I attempt a blending of Hayek and Rothbard that recognizes the several limitations of libertarianism, sustains Hayek’s sensibilities, yet maintains Rothbard’s cogent definition of liberty. The paper explores various ways in which the proposed blending makes for a reasonable and versatile “mere” libertarianism that successfully participates in mainstream discourse.

Keywords: liberty; libertarianism; property; liberty maxim; ambiguity; incompleteness; undesirability; bargainer; challenger (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-hpe
Date: 2003-12-22
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Forthcoming in Reason Papers, 2004.

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