Libertarianism, Feminism, and Nonviolent Action: A Synthesis

By Babcock, Grant | Libertarian Papers, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Libertarianism, Feminism, and Nonviolent Action: A Synthesis


Babcock, Grant, Libertarian Papers


I. Introduction

Murray ROTHBARD'S contribution to libertarian ethics was to outline a theory prohibiting aggressive violence (1978, p. 27-30). The influence of Rothbard's ethics, (1) combined with a decades-long political alliance with conservatives based on anticommunism, has produced a debate within libertarian circles about whether libertarians qua libertarians must take positions against certain forms of repression that do not involve aggressive violence. The non-aggression principle is as good a libertarian litmus test as has been suggested. Often, the voices who levy allegations of non-aggressive (or at least not exclusively aggressive) oppression come from the political left, and have un-libertarian (read: aggressive) solutions in mind, even if they do not conceive of those solutions as violent.

Despite these considerations, I do believe that libertarians qua libertarians are obligated to say something about the kind of non-aggressive oppression that these voices from the left have raised regarding issues including, but not limited to, race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Making the case that libertarians have these obligations irrespective of their libertarianism would be an easier task. Libertarianism is not, my view at least, a complete ethical system. Acts may be right or wrong for reasons outside of libertarianism; in these cases libertarianism will only come into play as offering side constraints on acceptable solutions. (2)

My argument here is different: some forms of non-aggressive action are nevertheless problematic on libertarian grounds. I have in mind the type of social problems described by Roderick Long and Charles Johnson in their essay "Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?" They write:

Libertarian temptations to the contrary notwithstanding, it makes no sense to regard the state as the root of all social evil, for there is at least one social evil that cannot be blamed on the state--and that is the state itself. if no social evil can arise or be sustained except by the state, how does the state arise, and how is it sustained? As libertarians from La Boetie to Rothbard have rightly insisted, since rulers are generally outnumbered by those they rule, the state itself cannot survive except through popular acceptance which the state lacks the power to compel; hence state power is always part of an interlocking system of mutually reinforcing social practices and structures, not all of which are violations of the nonaggression axiom. (Long and Johnson, 2005, [section]2)

I shall, for the rest of this paper, take patriarchy as the model case of a repressive social relation often considered beyond the scope of the libertarian project. In doing so, I will examine those aspects of patriarchy which would not already be condemned under libertarian ethics. Libertarians need no help condemning rape, yet they often hesitate to condemn expressions of patriarchy which stop short of violence.

If libertarians are serious about transforming the way humans interrelate, they must take into account more than aggression, and especially, must take into account more than aggression by the state. In doing so they must go beyond the (relatively) obvious observations that we have natural rights against both state and non-state actors, and that all individuals, male or female, possess these rights. As Long and Johnson argue, 'libertarians who are serious about ending all forms of political violence need to fight, at least, a two-front war, against both statism and male supremacy" (Long and Johnson, 2005, [section]2). This entails condemning and combating acts which are not, in themselves, rights violations. It means reconciling libertarian sociopolitical tolerance with an urgent understanding that some opinions are ethically intolerable.

This makes many libertarians uncomfortable because it seems like a speedy way to end up with political commitments that are not libertarian in even the remotest sense. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Libertarianism, Feminism, and Nonviolent Action: A Synthesis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.