Monday , October 26 2020
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The End

Summary:
Back in 2011, a group of academic philosophers started a blog called “Bleeding Heart Libertarians.” The idea behind that blog was simple, but also somewhat vague in terms of its specifics: that you could be a libertarian who favored free markets and limited governments, and still care about the kind of things people on the left refer to as “social justice” – relieving poverty, racial and sexual equality, immigrant rights, LBGTQ rights, and so on. Hence, the slogan of the blog, “free markets and social justice.” The vagueness of the guiding idea was in some ways intended, and in other ways not. Part of the explanation is that we launched the blog as a way of working out the details of an idea that we were all interested in and attracted to, but hadn’t entirely figured out yet.

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Back in 2011, a group of academic philosophers started a blog called “Bleeding Heart Libertarians.” The idea behind that blog was simple, but also somewhat vague in terms of its specifics: that you could be a libertarian who favored free markets and limited governments, and still care about the kind of things people on the left refer to as “social justice” – relieving poverty, racial and sexual equality, immigrant rights, LBGTQ rights, and so on. Hence, the slogan of the blog, “free markets and social justice.”

The vagueness of the guiding idea was in some ways intended, and in other ways not. Part of the explanation is that we launched the blog as a way of working out the details of an idea that we were all interested in and attracted to, but hadn’t entirely figured out yet. But a big part of what the vagueness did was allow philosophers– and, later, a number of colleagues from other disciplines– with some pretty radically different normative, empirical, and methodological commitments to rally together under a common banner. Thus, we had people like me, a pluralist classical liberal who supports a basic income guarantee, and people like Roderick Long, an Aristotelean left-wing anarchist who favors “markets, not capitalism.” And everything in between.

Reconciling free markets and social justice seemed like an especially worthwhile project to undertake in 2011. Academic political philosophy was largely dominated by followers of John Rawls, for whom a commitment to social justice (of a particular sort) was paramount. And libertarianism remained a fringe and unfamiliar view within the academy – for most academic philosophers, it was a view that was born and died in 1974 with the publication of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But a critical mass of scholars were working out new ways of thinking about libertarian ideas; and many of us who were excited by the work of scholars like David Schmidtz, Gerald Gaus, and John Tomasi thought that there was a different style of libertarian thought beginning to crystallize. And we didn’t only want to publicize that; we wanted to encourage it, to help build and develop the research program associated with it.

Moreover, if we sought to open mainstream Rawlsian political philosophy and theory to the influence of market-friendly classical liberalism, we also wanted to wanted to steer classical liberal scholarship toward taking egalitarian liberal ideas much more seriously than it often had.

In a more minor way, there was a political background, too. The Cold War “fusionism” of conservative and libertarian politics was put under considerable strain during the George W. Bush administration; the 2008 presidential candidacy of Ron Paul had reenergized a strain of libertarian politics that rejected neoconservatism but embraced a kind of nationalist, anti-immigrant paleoconservatism instead. Libertarians who didn’t feel comfortable entangled with either neoconservatives or paleoconservatives, those who took the “liberalism” in “classical liberalism” seriously, hadn’t quite found a public voice— Brink Lindsey’s 2006 New Republic article calling for a new “liberaltarianism” hadn’t found much uptake. That seemed to leave a gap to be filled.

Things have changed quite a bit in the last nine years, both in the realm of academic philosophy and that of real-world politics. Rawlsianism and its particular interpretation of social justice have receded in prominence. The variety of libertarian and classical liberal views within the academy has become better known, even by those who reject those views. And that variety is now a more firmly established fact among libertarian scholars and students themselves

I like to think that this blog, or at least the people who write for it, have played some role in at least the second of those two developments. We set out with the aim of articulating a new and distinct vision of libertarianism. And – while there are certainly a great number of important details of that vision that have yet to be worked out – I think we have succeeded.  The project of establishing the intellectual space for bleeding-heart libertarian ideas has also more or less succeeded, giving way to the various different intellectual projects people are going to pursue in that space.

In other words, we’ve said what we needed to say.

For that reason, it’s time to bring Bleeding Heart Libertarians to a close. We’ll be keeping the archives open. But we won’t be posting anything new. At least not here. All of us are still actively writing, and many of us are writing on themes that are very much relevant to the Bleeding Heart Libertarian project. But we’ve said what we wanted to say here, and we think it’s best to put a period at the end of that sentence rather than an ellipsis.

We want to thank all of you who’ve followed this blog over the years, who’ve listened to our musings and sometimes gently, sometimes not-so-gently, chided us to do better. We’re grateful to those who have let us know what this blog has meant to them, if simply in giving them a label with which to understand their own beliefs. And we hope that those of you who have been inspired by the ideas on this blog will pick them up and run with them. The blog is finished. But the vision is not.

You can follow Matt Zwolinski on Facebook, Twitter and on SSRN.

You can follow Jacob Levy on Twitter, at the Niskanen Center, and at his personal blog.

You can follow Steve Horwitz on Facebook, here and here.

You can follow Kevin Vallier on Facebook, Twitter, and his personal blog.

You can follow Andrew Cohen on Facebook and Twitter.

You can follow Sarah Skwire on Facebook, Econlog, and Adam Smith Works.

You can follow Roderick Long on Facebook, his blog, and the Center for a Stateless Society.

Matt Zwolinski
Hi. I’m an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, a co-director of USD’s Institute for Law and Philosophy, and the founder of and frequent contributor to the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog. My research interests are generally in the intersection of ethics, law, and economics, with two specific areas of focus.

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