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Quote of the Day: Sept. 4, 2013

“Sticking Rawls into libertarianism is like attaching a washing machine to a soufflé.”

–Todd Seavey


  1. Paul Marks says:

    Quite correct Julie – and Todd Seavey.

    When I went to college (fighting off the sabre toothed tigers and so on).

    There was some effort at balance in the teaching of political thought.

    Indeed when I (and others) pointed out the terrible contradictions (as well as utter bias) of Bernard Crick’s “In Defence of Politics” it was withdrawn as the first year introductory text for Politics.

    Well we eventually got on to the high level political philosophy stuff.

    And the main text then (as now) was John Rawls “A Theory of Justice” (best refuted, I believe, by the late Antony Flew).

    But (and it is a big BUT) – Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia” was also taught as an alternative to Rawls. I did not (and do not) think that Nozick’s work is wonderful (indeed I was turned off by its introduction – where he plays nice with Rawls and his other Harvard co-workers out of fear of not being invited to any more department social events – after reading that I predicted that Robert N. would eventually just fall apart, he was not a man with much plain grit),

    It was accepted by all the lecturers at all three universities I attended in my life (Leicester, York and University College London) that Rawls was a writer of the statist left.

    Some of the lecturers (the Marxists) held that Rawls was not far enough to the left – but none of them pretended that his stuff was libertarian.

    On the contrary it was accepted that Rawls was on the left.

    Now we get people trotting out the concepts of Rawls as a basis for libertarianism.

    Sorry – but it is impossible to believe that they are doing this honestly.

    They are no good – it is that simple.

    They are trying to do the same thing to libertarianism that the left did to liberalism in the United States a century ago.

    Co opt it – DESTROY libertarianism.

    Remember “The Nation” used to be a free market roll-back-state journal (the arch enemy of Richard Ely and co) – then it changed……

    And when this sort of thing happens – it happens FAST.

    These “Bleeding Hearts” need to be rejected – and rejected hard.

    Without compromise – and without being nice.

    John Rawls stood for social justice – the doctrine that income and wealth should be “distributed” to the advantage of the “least favoured”.

    Libertarianism stands for the NON AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE – the traditional view of justice being TO EACH THEIR OWN (the idea that Plato attacks in “The Republic” – newsflash, libertarians do not agree with Plato and his academics).

  2. Paul Marks says:

    By the way – the way that so many “Bleeding Hearts” now in Cato (as there are in the Adam Smith Institute) means that Charles and David Koch (and everyone else) should stop giving money to this outfit.

    Refusing to give money is, as Ayn Rand pointed out, a legitimate “sanction of the victim”.

  3. Andrew says:

    And yet Cato gives these Rawlsian filth a platform…

    Laughing at them’s a dangerous business when they’re gaining inch by inch.

    The collectivists know what they’re doing and they’re quite happy to play the long game.

    To publish them, as Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance does, is nothing short of suicidal.

  4. Julie near Chicago says:

    A government can protect each citizen’s liberty, or it can bind everyone tightly in a net of rules to ensure some “social” goal–for instance, that of “social justice.” But the condition of liberty is the antithesis of such binding, so the dreams of the well-meaning but not-really-libertarians such as Dr. Zwolinski will fail. Because you cannot have both.

    Dr. Zwolinski may think he’s a libertarian, but only if he stretches the definition to include people who do not think the primary object of libertarianism is liberty.

    –YrsTrly, commenting in response to a posting by Mike Rappaport entitled “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism III: Friedman versus Zwolinksi and Tomasi” at

    (The Friedman in question is David, not Milton nor Patri.)

  5. Julie near Chicago says:

    Just in case someone is curious, the reference is to a lead essay by M. Zwolinski and J. Tomasi, plus essays in response, plus more essays in response, at Cato Unbound. The topic is entitled “Where Next? The Past, Present, and Future of Classical Liberalism,” posted at

    The further essays, linked at the bottom of the page, are as follows:

    Response Essays

    ‘In Praise of Bleeding Heart Absolutism’ by Roderick T. Long

    Roderick T. Long criticizes the sharp distinctions drawn by Zwolinski and Tomasi between nineteenth-century classical liberals and the “Unholy Trinity” of Mises, Rand, and Rothbard. He suggests many areas in which the earlier thinkers were not as Zwolinski and Tomasi characterize them, as well as several where Mises, Rand, and Rothbard don’t conform either. Long stresses the importance of class analysis in the thought of nineteenth-century classical liberals and points to its resurrection as a key aspect of Rothbard’s thought in particular. This, he suggests, points the way toward a “bleeding-heart absolutism” – an ideology critical of every form of state power, yet also prioritizing the moral claims of the poorest in society.

    ‘Natural Rights + ?’ by David D. Friedman

    David Friedman argues that the pre-twentieth century classical liberals were motivated not by a concern for the poor per se, but by utilitarian reasoning. The “working poor” were a large majority of society in their time, and authors like Adam Smith must be read