Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View
This chapter situates three contemporary views—classical liberalism, the high liberal tradition, and libertarianism—on the map of political conceptions and argues that, though libertarianism is normally considered to be a liberal view, the resemblance between liberalism and libertarianism is superficial. Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power that is to be impartially exercised for the common good. Moreover, the primary institutions endorsed by the liberal political tradition—basic rights and liberties, equality of opportunity, and government’s role in supporting efficient markets, public goods, and a social minimum—are incompatible with libertarianism.
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