Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 29: Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard

Daniel Klein ()
Additional contact information
Daniel Klein: Department of Economics, Postal: Department of Economics, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA, and, The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 5095, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: As many have argued, libertarianism as idea and movement contains strands that often conflict, beg questions, or try our sensibilities. There are multiple libertarianisms. Two leading theorists of modern libertarianism are Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. Both pupils of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and Rothbard provide dual libertarianisms that share a common precept but sustain that precept in inverse ways. Both Hayek and Rothbard maintain that, in societies like theirs, the desirable always concords with liberty (or maximal liberty). Rothbard achieved this concordance by molding his sensibilities about the desirable to fit his definition of liberty. Hayek achieved this concordance by molding his definition of liberty to fit his sensibilities about the desirable. These two libertarianisms represent a duality of worthy rhetorical tasks, namely, those of the “bargainer” (exemplified by Hayek) and the “challenger” (exemplified by Rothbard). But libertarians ought to reject the precept of concordance: the desirable does not always concord with liberty. I attempt a blending of Hayek and Rothbard that recognizes the several limitations of libertarianism, sustains Hayek’s sensibilities, yet maintains Rothbard’s cogent definition of liberty. The paper explores various ways in which the proposed blending makes for a reasonable and versatile “mere” libertarianism that successfully participates in mainstream discourse.

Keywords: liberty; libertarianism; property; liberty maxim; ambiguity; incompleteness; undesirability; bargainer; challenger

JEL-codes: Z00

60 pages, December 22, 2003

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