Non-Libertarians Supposedly Supporting Libertarian Viewpoints

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Many economists and historical figures are claimed to be supportive of libertarianism or "protolibertarians". US founding fathers, various economists, J. S. Mill, etc. Often they are mischaracterized as "Classical Liberals" to confuse the issue. Many were just early liberals or feminists.


Frederic Bastiat (5 links)
Libertarians like Bastiat because he criticized some government practices as foolish or thievery. However, he consider taxation for many government services justified, work programs in times of crisis, infrastructure, etc. In many ways, he held modern liberal views.
Isaiah Berlin (5 links)
Berlin was very mixed bag who, while supporting negative rights also held that there were many other competing values. He supported the New Deal, for example.
Ronald Coase (5 links)
Author of the Coase Theorem and a great deal of economics libertarians cite. While his career was spent at the University of Chicago, he was not an ideologue, let alone a libertarian.
Jesus (1 link)
Libertarians simply cannot square the Bible with libertarianism. It flat-out says pay your taxes and that authorities are instituted by God. There's lots more too, including support of slavery.
John Lewis (1 link)
Libertarians claim to oppose government discrimination, though many have supported racist laws. The real test is whether they oppose PRIVATE discrimination: and they don't. John Lewis would have none of THAT bullshit.
John Locke (13 links)
Essentially all libertarians rely on Lockean homesteading and cite him in the evolution of their thought. But he was not in any way libertarian. He insisted on regulation of markets, limitations of property rights and redistribution of wealth. But his theory of property (which many libertarians adopt) also supported expropriation, enslavement, and serfdom.
John Stuart Mill (3 links)
A famous philosopher of liberty and political economist. He adopted many socialist views in later life. He was never a libertarian: he always understood limits and exceptions to his ideas of liberty. Among other things, he recommended public regulation of natural monopolies.
Elinor Ostrom (13 links)
Won a Nobel Prize (in economics) for groundbreaking work in institutional analysis of the real-world governance of commons. Elinor Ostrom and her institutional approach were neither socialist, anti-state, left, conservative, anarchist, nor free-market. She was an egalitarian institutionalist who studied many forms of common pool resource management and non-market economics, with emphasis on when collective communal ownership was possible. Not a Hayekian either.
Thomas Paine (4 links)
Tom Paine is much loved by libertarians (and other freedom lovers) for many of his writings about liberty and freedom. But he also wrote "Agrarian Justice", which proposed the first realistic government anti-poverty program.
Adam Smith (12 links)
Adam Smith, "father of capitalism" and author of The Wealth Of Nations, was a liberal, not a libertarian: see his The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He supported an enormous range of government functions that libertarians generally do not.
Lysander Spooner (1 link)
His economic and political ideology has often been identified as libertarian socialism and mutualism. Not right libertarianism of any sort.
The Authors of Cato's Letters, Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard (1 link)
Cato's Letters, like most political economy writings of their era, were distinctly NOT libertarian in many specifics. Like Adam Smith, the authors Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard]] condemned corporations, tax evasion by the rich and the rich corrupting government, while supporting infrastructure investment, restricting imports and restricting immigration. Yet the Cato Institute has selected them for their namesake.
The Founding Fathers Of The USA (4 links)
Libertarians frequently claim the founding fathers were libertarians based on cherry-picked quotations, mostly from slave owners. Does that show that libertarians endorse slavery? Even worse, many of the quotations are false.


There were some -- Frédéric Bastiat and Jean-Baptiste Say come to mind -- who believed that government should put the unemployed to work building infrastructure when markets or production were temporarily disrupted.
Brad DeLong, "American Conservatism’s Crisis of Ideas"
And deserts—the fact that some people deserve what they have and others do not? That idea never made any sense to Adam Smith, for he saw that the overwhelming bulk of our wealth is our joint product through our collective division of labor, rather than the individual creation of some Randite John Galt, who if truly left to stand alone on his own two feet without the social division of labor would soon have his bones bleaching in some Colorado canyon.
Brad DeLong, "Shrugging off Atlas"
Libertarianism as it exists in the United States is basically a mid-20th century American philosophy, at least in origin. [...] basically none of the big old philosophical names can rightly be associated with this mid-20th century libertarianism.
Matt Bruenig, "Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian"
Lin [Elinor Ostrom] is emphatically clear on a number of key points:
  1. Self interested behaviour in perfect markets can be highly destructive.
  2. Appropriate norms and rules will not rely on pure self interest, but instead build on the capacity of (many) actors for conditional cooperation and reciprocity.
  3. Norms rely on collectively mandated sanctioning mechanisms if they are to work properly.
These are not, as I understand Hayek, Hayekian claims.
Henry Farrell, "The Ostrom Nobel"