Not mentioning “libertarianism in print” and Nazis: Libertarian Block (2000) on Objectivist Schwartz (1986)


Walter Block

Ayn Rand herself had a few choice words about libertarians and I will eventually cover that, but lets focus on Objectivist Peter Schwartz’s 1986 booklet Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty. It advances the classic Objectivist criticisms of libertarianism such as the claim it lacks a coherent foundation, that it’s too heterogeneous, that it’s prone to anarchism, that it’s nihilistic, that it’s isolationist, and that it’s too supportive of student movements. Some of these conclusions may or may not be true, but this booklet is important for historical reasons due to it being widely received within Objectivist circles. It more or less sums up the modern Objectivist consensus on libertarianism.

The most interesting response I can think of to Schwartz is Walter Block‘s article in Reason Papers in 2000, which, in addition to adding his own, summarizes past replies by people like see Miller and Evoy (1987) and Bergland (1986). Another response is Kevin McFarlene’s 1994 essay. Walter Block is a senior fellow at the Luwig Von Mises Institute and best known for his book Defending the Undefendable. I found the quote below from Block’s article to be very interesting:

For many years, Rand and the Randians would not mention libertarianism in print. To do so would be to give sanction to what they regarded as a mischievous and misbegotten political philosophy. Happily, this profoundly and intellectually source ended with the publication of Schwartz (1986). This was a no holds barred attack on several libertarian thinkers, including myself. It is a pleasure defending the philosophy of libertarianism in the present reply.

Schwartz’s article is a vicious attack on libertarianism. When I first read it I cringed, not because of the ideas, which are not really that challenging, but because it is so nasty as to be almost unprecedented in what passes for scholarly writing. Rand (1964, 1967) criticized authors such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant as “whim-worshippers,” “muscle-mystics,” “Huns,” and “Attillas,” and Schwartz is an apt student of hers in this regard. Such verbiage is hardly welcome in rational discourse.

Another section I found this interesting since it demonstrates the tensions between the two camps. Then there is this strange story about neo-Nazis from Murray Rothbard that Schwartz uses to argue that libertarianism and Nazism are compatible. Block discusses it in his response too:

 I once ran into some Neo-Nazis at a libertarian conference. Don’t ask, they must have sneaked in under our supposedly united front umbrella. I was in a grandiose mood, thinking that I could convert anyone to libertarianism, and said to them, “Look, we libertarians will give you a better deal than the liberals. We’ll let you goosestep. You can exhibit the swastika on your own property. We’ll let you march any way you wish on your own property. We’ll let you sing Nazi songs. Any Jews that you get on a voluntary basis to go to a concentration camp, fine.”

Of course this is horribly out of context, but it definitely turns heads. I suggest reading the original essays by Block and Schwartz.


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