Category Archives: Blog News

Why ‘ProSocial Libertarians’?

I am wary of isms and labels. They are used too often by too many as excuses to stop thinking. Worse, no doubt aware of the human tendency to avoid ideas that challenge our preconceptions, unscrupulous advocates on all sides use labels such as ‘socialism’ or ‘far right’ to pillory views with which they disagree, in effect saying ‘These ideas are beyond the pale. You can ignore them.’ This, in turn, further discourages people from venturing outside the safety of their thought bubbles and trying to understand why others might hold different views. 

Although I am quite sensitive to this thought-stultifying use of labels — having taught critical thinking for years — I am sure I am not the only person for whom effectively labeling something as beyond the pale piques one’s curiosity instead of squelching it. (This, by the way, is the main reason — along with my name — that I first read Ayn Rand.) So, fortunately, there are also people who want to be challenged and seek out ideas that put their preconceptions under strain. If you fall into this group, you should enjoy this blog.

Despite the risks that labels bring, we cannot manage without them. To minimize the risks, we should acknowledge that labels are only a starting point for discussion and that the meaning of any politically interesting terms will need to be clarified on an ongoing basis. 

In light of all this, if I had to choose a label that best captures my political orientation, that label would be ‘libertarian’. I found it dismaying, then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to see the term ‘libertarian’ — as well as related terms like ‘freedom’ — arrogated by a rogue’s gallery of activists and politicians who have been called — with some justification —antisocial. 

What was dismaying was that these so-called ‘libertarians’ were acting out an old, muddleheaded conception of libertarianism that many people could (wrongly) take as reason to dismiss libertarian ideas as unworthy of serious consideration. For, according to this old, muddleheaded conception, libertarians just _are_ antisocial. Like Randy Weaver, libertarians on this conception want nothing more than to be left alone and they will happily head to the woods with their guns and family to achieve this end. Properly understood, however, libertarians need not be Randy Weavers. Or, at least, so I believe. (Please note: In no way do I intend for my use of Randy Weaver as an example of an antisocial libertarian to diminish the tragedy and injustice that befell him and his family at the hands of the United States government.)

Given what the honest use of labels requires, I want to be as clear as I can about what I mean by ‘libertarian’ and why being a libertarian involves being prosocial, not antisocial. But there is no such thing as a conceptual dictator, so any work towards understanding libertarianism will, of necessity, be a joint enterprise. Hence, the idea of this blog: a civil forum for exploring what it means to be a libertarian and the ways being a libertarian involves being prosocial. Hence also, our name: ProSocial Libertarians.

RCL to become PSL!

RCL is not quite 2 years old, but in the short time we’ve been live, we’ve had several small scale changes (particularly with the blog roll).  Now it is time for a bigger change.  RCL will soon become PSL: Pro-Social Libertarians.  

The name comes partly as a response to pieces like this one by Paul Krugman , but really its straightforward: libertarians are too often seen as being anti-social and much of what RCL, BHL before it, and now PSL, seek to do is correct that mistake.

The blogroll at PSL will be smaller than that of RCL, but we hope the content will not be reduced. Of course, we’ll also have guest posts along the way. The main bloggers will be:

Andrew I. Cohen

Andrew Jason Cohen

Lauren Hall

Connor Kianpour

Aeon Skoble

James Taggart

James Stacey Taylor

PSL is born from experience with BHL and RCL, but with new thinking from Jim Taggart (JD, Phd-Phil).  As blogs have partially given way to podcasts, we anticipate having both.  We also anticipate having a more open policy with comments, though reserving the right to remove unproductive (especially mean-spirited) comments.  

What remains the same is perhaps more important than what is changing.  You’ll still see great posts from our main bloggers as well as guests.  Many posts are likely to be libertarian takes on issues of social justice; many are also likely to be about civil discourse.  Indeed the tag line for PSL is “Owning Civil Discourse and Social Justice.”

To our way of thinking, libertarians-—at least libertarians of the BHL/RCL/PSL sort—do own both. That’s because we and so-called “Rawlsekians” or “liberaltarians” are concerned with the plight of the less fortunate and because we see points of agreement and disagreement with people in both of the dominant parties—and elsewhere (including the dominant ideologies)—and are willing to honestly debate the issues on the merits. That last is sorely missing in contemporary discourse and we want to help improve that. To do so, we will be maintaining some of the rules from RCL; namely:

1. While we may criticize the views of others and/or their work, when we do, we will remain civil.

2. Trolls and obnoxious commenters can be banned, but only by a majority vote of the group.

3. We won’t have posts that are mere links to something posted elsewhere.  We might post a link to something someone else wrote, along with commentary about it. We may also have posts that serve to “round-up” links to several things others have written that we think you would be interested in.

4. We’ll try to space out posts, time wise.

Our policy regarding comments will be different:  

5. Each of us will have our own default regarding comments, but if we allow comments, we reserve the right to delete unproductive comments.  Generally speaking, the point to deleting a comment will be to prevent incivility from escalating.  

Look for an intro post to PSL soon!  I hope you’ll join us in this new chapter!