I. Introduction

Left-libertarianism is one form of libertarianism. To be clear, left-libertarianism does not use the term “left” in the same way that it is used in modern day mainstream politics. It instead refers to the leftist tradition of classical liberalism and anarchism (a classic example would be the leftist revolutionaries during the French Revolution who favored free markets and liberty from the absolutist monarchy that had dominated France for so many years.) Essentially, libertarian has historically been a school of thought that has countered political authority.

In recent years, many libertarians have seen themselves as being allies of the modern right. Left-libertarianism is a resurging movement away from this tendency. I use the word “resurging” because left-libertarianism actually was alive and well in the 1800’s and early 1900’s in the form of such people as Emma Goldman, William Lloyd Garrison and Voltairine de Cleyre, though the achievements of such people have largely been wiped from our modern history textbooks.

There are strong ties between left-libertarianism and free market environmentalism.

II. History

Left-libertarianism can largely trace its origins in the United States back to the individualist anarchism of the 19th century. The movement was largely an outgrowth of the individualist sect of socialism that all but died out, rather than Marx’s state-centered version of the doctrine that was put into practice in the 20th century, and was a crossing of market libertarianism and the historical left.

Looking at history, left-libertarians are libertarians who are away of the roots that true libertarian philosophy has in the historical left. Whereas many see the libertarian movement as being a reaction to FDR’s New Deal, left-libertarians understand that their philosophy goes much further back, and is in fact aims to bring libertarianism back to its anti-establishment roots.

It is important to remember that libertarianism is historically not some streamlined outgrowth of conservativism, but in fact a movement that historically identified itself with the left side of the political spectrum, and continues to be one of the few political ideologies that remains consistently anti-authoritarian, anti-war and pro-freedom.

III. Ideology

In terms of goals, one could say that left-libertarians have similar goals to many of those on the ideological modern left, though the means involved are individual liberty and true free markets rather than government intervention, regulation and coercion. Left-libertarians think that free market economics in fact would be a much better solution to leftist goals than state intervention, and attempts to show how state intervention actually often preempts its own ends due to the improper nature of the means. A concrete example of this is free market environmentalism. Left-libertarians see the likely outcome of a genuinely free economy as much more egalitarian than our current system, which is dominated by corporate and state interests, both of which are promoted via physical, financial or political coercion.

In fact, what is celebrated as “free market capitalism” by the modern right is seen by left-libertarians as little more than a plutocratic or mercantile society. Left-libertarians are not merely critical of state power, but also corporate power, though historically see that it has been the State that has handed corporations a great deal of their influence.

Introduction to Mutualism

Jock Coats - An Introduction to Mutualism from oxford libertarian on Vimeo.