I've also come across a lot of fine sites that totally refreshed my concept of what it means to be a libertarian.... The blogs that are championing Cory Maye's case have a decidedly different tenor to them that I also really like. One of them, Brad Spangler, even went as far as to say "Large corporations as they exist today are, in actuality, appendages of the state and not "free enterprise""! He's definitely not the kind pro-corporate market-worshipping libertarians I know and currently link to.and
Those of you who read this blog regularly knows that hatin' on libertarians is a recurrent theme here at the Battlepanda blog.... So I thought I had made up my mind on libertarians, pretty much. Until I started reading this guy [Brad Spangler]. And this guy [Thomas Knapp]. "Free Market anti-Capitalism"? [a post on Kevin Carson's Mutualist Blog] Whoa! It seems like there is a whole 'nother kind of libertarians out there (they even have their own webring). In fact, Kevin Carson refers to the kind of pro-corporate Ayn Rand lovin' libertarians as "vulgar libertarians". His excoriating description of vulgar libertarians is a perfect distillation of everything I thought I hated about libertarians...This is good. It shows that us left-libertarians really can change minds—a task which sometimes seems hopeless given the marginalization of radical classical liberalism on both the left and right.
I must say that until pretty recently I also was dismissive of libertarianism, given that I'd seen only the corporate capitalism apologist "pot-smoking Republican" type. It didn't help that I'd also seen some truly extreme reactionary and cranky stuff going under the label—such as The Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray, "brownlash" anti-environmentalism (itself often containing heavy doses of apologism for environmentally irresponsible corporations) repeating stuff by the likes of Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg; and anti-feminism.
And so, at first I was leery of the left-libertarian stuff I read. But it didn't take me long to realize that the sort of libertarians who frequent the BLL have a genuine sympathy for left-wing causes (rather than using nice sounding terms like "liberty" to mask a reactionary "greedy Republican" agenda), and that there was a intellectual and historical continuity with the anti-authoritarian left in general (indeed in the 1960s libertarians like Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess worked with and were deeply influenced by the New Left of the time; the article "Rothbard's Time on the Left" provides an overview of this period). In my case, the main blogs involved were Kevin's and Roderick T. Long's. (Long's stuff about the distortion and smearing of Herbert Spencer was the first stuff that I read by him, and Spencer's case is a paradigmatic example of the marginalization of the left-wing radical classical liberal tradition which forms the historical basis of the modern libertarian left). I was also previously familiar with the "single tax" ideas of Henry George and his followers — who had a very large movement in the late 19th century, and who based their critique on privilege on the classical liberal laissez faire economics of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Spencer.
As the quotes above show, Battlepanda was impressed by the role of libertarian blogs in bringing attention to wrongful conviction of Cory Maye, which she describes as "just about the ugliest nexus of race, civil rights violations, southern juries and our criminal justice system that I can think of". So, activism on real world issues is going to be essential: when libertarians roll up their sleeves and get to work supporting their local food co-op, union, community bookstore, listener sponsored radio station, free school, or whatever leftish alternative institution people would think that libertarians would never support because they're nice and community-based rather than greedy and corporate "market" organizations.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted, Battlepanda put up a response on her blog, saying that:
I remain a big, fat, cheerful statist despite "warming up" (or prehaps "wising up" would be a better way of putting things) to left-libertarians.I should've made it clearer in my original post that I wasn't saying that she was now libertarian, only sympathetic to it (my mistake; a reminder that I've got to pay more attention about avoiding such ambiguity in writing about these sort of things). That was pretty much the point: that, in contrast to the many examples of condescending or nasty dismissal of libertarianism, there's dialogue going on between left libertarians and the rest of the left, and that leftists don't have to be libertarian to agree on some points (and respect the left-libs' consistency in sticking to their principles).
I find them an interesting, invigorating lot. I give them props for being more consistant than the right libertarians who yammer about big government then willingly bends over for the NSA. I agree with many of their ideas, share much of their sympathies, but the fundamental difference remains -- they want to abolish the government, and I don't.
Also, this post seems to have kicked off activity in the comments section ... there have been more comments on this post than on all other previous ones!