June 18, 2003

Libertarian Socialists?

The appearance of Paul Anderson's blog, provocatively subtitled "democratic socialism with a libertarian punch", has motivated this commentary from Samizdata's David Carr.

I find myself mostly in agreement with David Carr and his "hijacking thesis". It wouldn't be the first time either...

Referring to the "hijacking" of the term "Liberal" that took place more or less at the beginning of the twentieth century, Joseph Schumpeter wrote:

"As a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label."

It does appear as if socialists, not satisfied with constantly inventing new labels for old ideas ("Third Way" anyone?), keep trying to appropriate the ones used by their opponents.

I hope they don't succeed this time, as the reason English speaking libertarians stopped using the word "liberal" to describe their views was precisely because the word had slowly but steadily took on a new (and opposite) meaning to the original one.

Harry Hatchet makes an interesting analysis in defense of the expression "libertarian socialist" here. While it's true that some extreme left people have used the term libertarian for quite some time, it is also undeniable that words, if they are to be of any use, must have precise meanings.

Then again, maybe the time for absolute Newspeak is upon us....