Framing Left Libertarianism: A First Pass
Framing Left Libertarianism: A First Pass

The following article was written by Gary Chartier and published on his blog, Liberalaw, December 10th, 2008.

Left libertarianism (hereinafter LL) can be seen as an exercise in packaging and propaganda. Or it can be seen as a powerful expression of concerns that ought to be at the heart of movements for freedom.

Cynical libertarians and leftists alike might see talking about LL as an exercise in spin. Perhaps it’s an attempt to sell unsuspecting leftists on libertarian ideals that are fundamentally at odds with the left’s agenda. Or perhaps it’s an effort to graft an alien life-form onto the body of the libertarian movement, saddling it with concerns that have no place on a genuinely libertarian agenda.

Neither account of LL is remotely persuasive or appealing.

LL is authentically libertarian both because it is anti-statist (the LLs who come readily to mind are all anarchists; I take it as a given here that the LL is an anarchist or something close enough for the difference to be irrelevant) and because it affirms the value of markets and property rights. At the same time, LL is authentically leftist because it seeks to challenge privilege, hierarchy, exclusion, deprivation, and domination–both ideologically and practically–and because it can exhibit a genuine commitment to inclusion, empowerment, and mutual respect.

And it can do this, not by redefining terms–so that, for instance, freedom from physical coercion turns out to be the only kind of freedom that really matters–but instead by demonstrating the consonance between libertarian ideals and principles and a good-faith embrace of the left’s central concerns.

It may do so by pointing out the radical implications of commonly accepted libertarian principles.

  • Thus, for instance, it may highlight the degree to which a history of violence and collusion with (or sponsorship of) tyranny on the part of economically powerful people and organizations vitiates the legitimacy of the property titles held by these people and organizations and justifies the homesteading of their putative property by those who live and work on it.
  • Similarly, it may note that the full implementation of libertarian principles related to the injustice and imprudence of monopoly and subsidy would likely undermine, in multiple ways, the power of hierarchical, centralized business organizations and facilitate the replacement of many by worker-managed cooperatives and dramatically enhance the influence of workers in most or all of the others.
  • It may demonstrate that these same libertarian principles rightly lead to a rejection of the kind of privilege that allows influential businesses, professional groups, and individuals to use state power to exploit others (as when well-connected businesses extract tax privileges that provide them non-market advantages over their competitors, or when occupational groups harm both the public and poor potential competitors by maintaining wealth and privilege through expensive licensing requirements imposed or maintained at their behest by the state).
  • And it may stress that the same principles that condemn the state in general provide a powerful basis for opposing war and imperialism in particular.

It can also emphasize the degree to which the same moral principles that drive opposition to the state’s oppressive power can provide good reason for challenging the kinds of social inequities that rightly claim the attention of many people on the left. To the extent that their opposition to state power is rooted in a given moral theory, of whatever sort, they can show how other concerns flow from that theory. Natural law theory, virtue theory, Kantianism, moral pluralism, even (though it still seems to me to be a non-starter, for multiple reasons) consequentialism–all can be shown to ground support for market anarchism, and all can be shown to ground moral concerns independent of market anarchism. And (for instance) the very concern with the moral equality of persons that underlies a denial of any “natural right to rule” and the rejection of collectivist inattention to individual particularity both render racism, sexism, and heterosexism morally untenable.

Right libertarians may be inclined to reject the left libertarian position on multiple grounds. They may maintain (i) that there is nothing particularly libertarian about concern with the workplace authority or well being of workers or with, say, racism. Or they may argue, more strongly, (ii) that such concerns are anti-libertarian.

Whether objection (i) is persuasive will depend in part on how one supposes opposition to state power is grounded. To the extent that it is rooted in a particular moral theory, however, that theory itself can likely be used to generate moral judgments about matters other than state power. There is nothing arbitrary about arguing both that a given theory grounds regard for liberty and that it grounds other moral judgments or attitudes.

Of course, a right libertarian might say that she affirmed the value of liberty as basic, as ungrounded in any more general theoretical judgment. But the left libertarian need not concede a complete disconnection between a concern with racism, or workplace authority, or poverty and liberty conceived of as a basic value. This is so not only because (the left libertarian might say) structures and actions violative of liberty in the right libertarian’s focal sense serve to foster the subordination of workers and members of ethnic minority groups and the continued impoverishment of the poor, but also because it seems inconsistent to oppose subjection to the arbitrary authority of state actors while regarding the arbitrary authority of those who don’t threaten physical violence as morally neutral.

A standard right libertarian objection at this point might be that authority not rooted in physical force or the threat of physical force cannot justly be opposed using physical force. But this objection is a red herring.

The left libertarian need not regard aggression against anyone’s person or property as an appropriate response to non-forcible but morally objectionable conduct. Organized boycotts, shaming, shunning, the use of various public and private bully pulpits, work slowdowns, and other mechanisms for enforcing social norms and rules that do not violate the principle of non-aggression are all available to the left libertarian.

The left libertarian can also emphasize that, while it is (tolerably) clear what it means to attack someone’s body, while the notion of someone’s body is a relatively stable one, just what counts as aggression against someone’s property will itself be contestable, and will depend, in particular, on just what her property rights are. A court in a mutualist community would obviously be quicker to recognize the rights of workers homesteading a shuttered factory than a comparable court in a community with conventionally Lockean property rights. A local jury in one market anarchist community might perfectly well conclude that the commercial property rights it was prepared to enforce didn’t include the right to deny someone ordinary services on the basis of race. There is nothing about market anarchism, per se, that settles the question just how different communities that all endorse private property rights will or should understand those rights, or just when different courts or protective agencies will be inclined to, say, award tort or contract damages. Which rights should be endorsed by a legal system in a market anarchist community, and what remedies should be available for their infringement, can only be answered in terms of ongoing moral argument–just the sort of argument that allows diverse communities in a market anarchist society to serve as laboratories in which experiments in living are carried on.

Non-libertarian leftists (NLLs) may be equally suspicious of left libertarianism. They may doubt that left libertarians are really concerned about poor people, about workers, about sexual minorities, and others about whom they profess to care. Just as the left libertarian can rightly resist the right libertarian’s framing of LL as statist or as irrelevant to liberty, so the left libertarian can rightly resist the leftist non-libertarian’s framing of LL as unconcerned with exclusion, domination, and deprivation.

Here, the left libertarian must emphasize to the NLL just how much the state really is implicated in the structures of subordination, impoverishment, and violence they both reject. The left libertarian can rightly stress the role that state-granted monpolistic privileges and subsidies play in underwriting putatively private power. She can offer the NLL a wager: that the removal of the threat of state violence as a back-stop for such power would play an enormous role in defanging it.

She can point out that market anarchism does not, cannot, mean maintaining the current system of property relations, untouched, in the absence of state power–not only because of disagreements about property rules (as between Lockeans and mutualists) but also because of the injustice that vitiates so many existing property titles (as to the latifundia of Latin America). And she can stress, as to the right libertarian, that adhering to Leonard Read’s dictum to limit one’s actions to “anything that’s peaceful” need not mean abandoning the right to subject the behavior of those who use their property in morally objectionable ways to incisive critique or the capacity to exert significant influence on that behavior.

Left libertarianism represents a particularly radical development of generally acknowledged libertarian moral judgments and an elaboration of the implications of moral principles that can be seen to provide plausible grounds for rejecting statism. It can provide bases for challenging and means for reducing or ending exclusion, subordination, and deprivation that are authentically consistent with market anarchism. Thus, it can outline identifiably libertarian means to identifiably leftist ends, and it can persuasively redescribe those ends and means as both genuinely libertarian and genuinely leftist.

14 responses to “Framing Left Libertarianism: A First Pass

  1. inb4 paul marks

  2. Considering that all the leftists I’ve met, male and female and in-between, have been whiney little children who demand everyone else do everything for them, I find this spiel all very bizarre.

  3. Dear Johnny Guess you were unlucky in who you met. I found most social minded libertarians, as in caring about social issues, I’ve met and debated with to be from a working back ground and an understanding of economics and humanity. But then maybe I am as lucky as you were unlucky.

  4. “At the same time, LL is authentically leftist because it seeks to challenge privilege, hierarchy, exclusion, deprivation, and domination”

    This is garbage. Since when do leftists challenge privilege? To them, wealth is a privilege. Hierarchy? What has that got to do with libertarianism? Exclusion – from what, by who, of whom, how, why etc,. Deprivation! Yes, the historically unprecedented standard of living in the more market-based societies is of course due to leftists, rather than oh, I dunno….capitalists.

    Chartier had it right in his opening bit. “Left” libertarianism is a package that may appeal to emasculated wimps, but who cares about them?

  5. You are indeed Dan. Very lazy of me.

    Historically “left” and “right” have meant all sorts of things.

    For example Frederick Bastiat insisted on sitting on the left of the National Assemby in France – after all the “left” was about reform and he was about reform……

    However, even back in his day (the early 19th century) “socalism” did not mean “social freedom” (Edmund Burke’s 1700s way of saying “civil freedom” i.e. the nonaggression principle) “socialism” meant what it means today – the collective ownership and/or control of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

    To the socialists who already dominated “the left” Bastiat was essentially a piece of meat (although there were a few nice guys among them who did not see their political opponents that way) – as a defender of money lenders and so on he would have had his head removed from his shoulders had they ever come securely to power.

    In the United States the mainstream of free market thought in the 19th century does not (repeat not) go the way the “left libertarians” tell us it does.

    In reality (check the book sales of economics textbooks) the main free market economist in the United States was Arthur Latham Perry (an intelletual follower of Bastiat) and the free market side of American economics then goes into shade (with the takeover of the profession by Richard Ely and his Germanic trained associates), But a true free market tradition does continue into the 20th century with Frank Fetter – who is a sort of bridge between the free trade people of Perry’s time, and modern free market people.

    For British readers (and I am British myself) Frank Fetter was about the same time period as Sir E. Benn in this country.

    As for the “libertarian left”.

    There are two main waves of it in my lifetime…..

    The first was the “left and right join hands” stuff of the Vietnam war period.

    Vietnam was the infamous “limited war” – and one of the rules of war is not fighting to win, is fighting to lose. I will not dwell on this as I might getting a little irritated and start discussing (purely theorectically of course) various bodly alternations that could be made to Mr Robert McNamara and co (if they were still alive).


    Vietnam was a clash between the social democratic economic ideolgy of President Johnson and co, and Marxism – and Johnson’s wolly mess of an ideology was about as useful as his grasp (or rather total lack of understanding) of basic military concepts (such as fight-to-win-or-do-not-f………-fight-at-all). I am reminded of Ayn Rand’s (slightly unfair) summing up the Russian Civil War.

    “The Reds believed in plunder and rule by terror, and the Whites believed in nothing – therefore the Reds won.”

    Libertarians (like conservatives) were not happy with how the Vietnam war was faught – or the ideology (social democracy – LBJ style) that it was faught for.

    Conservatives were divided between those who urged a radical change in tactics (Barry Goldwater and so on) and the “Old Right” tradition that did not see events thousands of miles away in an area most Americans had never heard of, as any concern of the United States. However, conservatives of all types made it clear they opposed socialism – and the “anti war movement” on the streets (which was socialist dominated – and was not really “anti war”, it just wanted the Communists to win the wars in IndoChina).

    But for libertarians there was a faction for which things were not so simple – and this faction of libertarians was the “liberterian left”.

    First these self described libertarians said they were joining forces with people they did not agrew with in order to achieve a common objective.

    After all, they pointed out, such people as Senator George McGovern were not socialists (they were social democrats – not much different from President Johnson and Robert McNamara) yet they accepted the support of the “anti war movement” for the common ojective of “ending the war” (this was the term used as “surrendering” or “stabbing the anti Communist forces in IndoChina in the back” seemed negative).

    But things started to change – with, more and more, the language of the “libertarian left” becoming an echo of Communist propaganda. With Vietnam being described as a peasants revolt against “Western Imperialism” or “American Imperialism” and on and on.

    Even well known libertarians such as Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard stated to ape Marxist language – and actively encourage young libertarians to cooperate with the Communists against the “true enemy of liberty” (i.e. Uncle Sam).

    Much later Karl Hess defended himself by saying that everyting he said in the late 1960s should be ignored because “I was on drugs at the time” (which is fair enough). Murray Rothbard was less graphic – but also basically accepted that whilst the Vietnam war was a blunder, “left and right join hands” was also a blunder.

    in reality of course the “New Left” was just the old left with longer hair (indeed many of the leaders were from well established Communist families – subversion was a “family business” for these people) and the young libertarians sent to “join hands” with them, had about as much chance (faced with professional Cong) as snowballs in Hell.

    The Communists ate the young libertarians. – they used them, then (if they were lucky) spat them out. Sadly many of the young libertarians ended up (at least for some confused and drug filled years) Communists themselves – via a standard propaganda method “peace is threatened by Western Imperialism, this is really the interests of big business who control the government, these corporations also control domestic policy in their own selfish capitalist interests – true peace can only come from….”

    Anyway (in spite of the best efforts of Noam Chomsky and co to confuse the issue) the Boat People of Vietnam, and the millions of death from the Killing Fields of Cambodia blow this first wave of the “libertarian left” away (shocking some into sanity).

    The second wave….. time of the Kevins…..

    President George Walker Bush (Bush 43) was a bit of a let down for people who wanted to reduce the size of government – in much the same way that an Ice Age would be a bit of a let down for people predicting globel warming now.

    His “compassionate conservativism” was much the same as the social democracy of President Johnson and the Progressivism of Richard Nixon (someone who seems to have had a “Teddy” Roosevelt obession from boyhood).

    Bush never seems to have met a Welfare State program he did not like and did not wish to expand – so there was “No Child Left Behind” and “Medicare Part D” and ….. (on and on).

    And after 9/11 the person who had campaigned against “nation building” overseas (yes Bush really had done that) became fantically in favour of it – and made it the basic ideology of his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    People who thought the point of the Afghan war was to find and kill Bin Laden and his ally Omar leader of the Taliban (and I was stupid enough to fall for this myself – to my lasting shame) were rather shocked to discover that Bush seemed to lack any real interest in finding these people (sorry but he had seven years after 9/11 – so it it was high priority it would have got done). Instead George Walker Bush clearly turned into George Woodrow Wilson Bush – with “spreading democracy” being his objective (based on the assumption that most Muslims were kindly kittens and so on – so it one just feed them from a few nasty leaders who had “perverted” their religion….).

    At home also Bush turned into Woodrow WIlson – with similar moves against Civil Liberties as Wilson had made during World War One (although Bush was certainly less extreme than Wilson – who was really, really, bad).

    Almost needless to say libertarian were upset about all this…..

    The Welfare State policy at home, the spread democracy wars overseas, and the attacks upon Civil Liberties.

    But what to do about it?

    Should one join the protests on the streets?

    But these protests seem to be dominated by the Cong (now with their new friends the Islamists – indeed some of the old Cong from the 1960s, such as Bill and Mrs Ayers – and Jeff Jones, appeared with their new friends). The SDS-Weather Underground hand-in-hand with Muslim Brotherood front organisations such as CAIR.

    “Oh well, forget that – indeed these guys may have a point against the big corporations profiting from the war and such….”

    Thus the attacks went from opposing war, to opposing “corporate welfare”, and from opposing corporate welfare, to opposing corporations…..

    And, as with the 1960s, it does not stop with “the corporations” – it soon becomes, “capital”, or “the 1%”, or just “the rich”. The full “social justice” agenda – of collective ownership and/or control of the means of production, distribution and exchange and the extermination of existing property owners and anyone (no matter how poor) who tries to defend them.

  6. On the U.S. Libertarian Party website, there’s a nifty little test that provides its takers with an instant summary of where they supposedly belong in the political picture. It uses a diagram very much like a baseball diamond, with the points represented — if I remember correctly — as Right, Left, Socialist and Libertarian.

    The American Left has pretty much absorbed Socialism. As far as I can see, that leaves the diagram not a diamond, but a triangle. I like to tell friends mystified by libertarianism that it’s the third point on the triangle. And it is, at least, how it seems to see itself: as neither Left nor Right. Equidistant from each, yet as close to either.

    But the American Right at least sees libertarianism as to some degree worth consideration. The Left, here, has completely discarded any part of the libertarian tradition. Thus do my conservative friends tend to say, “Ah, we understand.” While the Leftists remain, sadly, mystified.

  7. To me, both “right” and “left” are colllectivist, whereas libertarianism is individualist. So as you say, a different axis. Part of the problem is that these self-styled “left” libertarians keep insisting that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is a “right” libertarian. There are numerous rather argumentative threads on this blog about all this :)

  8. Yes Ian – you remind of me of something that Glenn Beck (screams of horror at this point – from people who only know the man from the msm presentation of him, by the way of course he is wildly eccentric so what?) was fond of pointing out.

    The European “left and right” are both collectivists – the two tracks of the railroad line leading straight off the cliff.

    The socialist “left” is matched by the collectivism of the European “right” – with its worship of “the State”.

    One can see this even in Britain – with such people as Peter Hitchens and worship of such things as the BBC and the NHS. It is not that Mr Hitchens is a stupid or ignorant man – he knows perfectly well what government institutions are like in real life. However, he clings to what government “could be” – a sort of Hegalian vision.

    Peter Hitchens understands what govenrment actually is (a destructive mess) – but he clings to a Platonic concept of an ideal “form” (which is actually more real to him than the actually existing government – indeed his entire philosophy is based on this nonexistent ideal).

    Old brother Beck is no purist libertarian – even now his head has been out of the booze (and drug) haze for a few years, he is no philosopher. But he has just enough insight to see what the European “left” and “right” lead to (both tracks of the railroad over the cliff) and reject b-o-t-h.


    I agree about the move from a diamond to a triangle.

    Will Mitt Romney save America from ever growing government? Rather unlikely considering that even his fellow Mormon (and supporter – on the anybody-but-Obama principle) Glenn Beck calls him “Progressive Lite”.

    I make no apology for making a point I have often made before…….

    The United States Federal government has a 16 trilllion (trillion) Dollar debt (not counting the vast “unfunded liabilities” of the entitlement programs) it also has a trillion Dollar annual deficit.

    Talk of “growing out of this” (even people I like, such as Neil Cavuto, insist on so talking) is B.S. – it really is.

    The only serious proposal I have seen, from an elected politician (as opposed to someone who has no position – and thus can say anything) is Senator Rand Paul’s proposed budget.

    And not even Paul Ryan (let alone Mitt Romney) will support Senator Rand Paul’s proposed budget.

    Yes Paul Ryan has his own suggestions – but far from being the rabid extremism the msm claim they are, they are actually too timid to do the job.

    The job of saving the Republic from de facto bankruptcy.

    “But if they are elected Romney-Ryan will be bolder than they can be in an election campaign….”

    If only I could believe that – but I just see no evidence for it.

  9. Paul, I’m afraid you may be very right about Romney. I held my nose and cast my early ballot for him. Only because I am so afraid of another four years of The Lightbringer — whom I regard as the worst president in the history of the U.S.

    It seems we always have to hold our noses. You may feel the same way over there. I’m interested in how citizens in both nations who value liberty might possibly overcome that problem and offer something better.

    • Citizens will only make changes when they themselves hit rock bottom and are effected deeply not retrospectively by the government. Then there are two ways of action – riots and or change of voting attitude. I say riots because when government policy starts to really deeply affect people they then, and only then, react, normally in a way of frustration first – riots – then thought, if no changes occur. However, of course, changes do occur, most of the time, which are an attempt to appease not sort out the problem.

      In England, where I live, I try to imagine a political platform, and it has to start from a political platform, as we are so entrenched in the political state, that not only says we “have to cut this that and other”, but also states a clear path to take – individual localism. In turn those who represent individual localism should not have had their grants cut or taken away, but those reliant on state procedure and control should have been be dismantled, with minimal services being left to buffer the fallout. I am thinking here of community efforts to do localised things, of charity and voluntary organisations who are on the front-line, of for-profit and not-for-profit [a misdemeanour because a not-for-profit organisation still actually makes a profit, it what it does with that profit that is sublimely different].

      The income tax should be cut, including the removal of the high tax bands, as wealth, when allowed to and encouraged, tends to go back into the community and country. Of course that does not mean the more wealthy will automatically become philanthropic, but many and might be inclined to give more and be involved more. Many people on low wages and minimum wage give to charity, voluntary and not-for-profit and for-profit organisations in donations as well. The too might be inclined to help and give more.

      Of course the ideal is no state – but that will not happen unless changes take place within the system. A clear and concise mandate and a clear and concise methodology of how is what is needed by those of a orthodox-liberal and libertarian bent. Ron Paul in the USA gives clear guidance, to a degree, but people need to be convinced that there is in reality something other than rhetoric and hopeful guesses of what might take place – a pro-active and methodical statement of what really is taking place and how individuals can, and I think will, do more for their own community if they have the resources, if they are unhindered by red-tape and regulations, if common sense and common curtsey and not enforced political correctness comes out of the woodwork and is taught by families, I believe that most families do this, if this is taught as being the norm in schools, colleges and universities and of course when government or state officials lie, commit acts of fraud and deceit they should be sacked with no recompense. You and I would if we committed theft, fraud and deceit in our workplace.

      I could go on, but will leave more able and competent folks to take up the challenge.

  10. EXCUSE my spelling mistakes a a few missed words.

  11. Lori – I would, most likely, have done the same thing. Romney may fail (indeed is very likely to fail) as President – but another term for Comrade Barack means conflict and, contrary to what some people round here think, I do not regard slitting throats as a good thing to do.

    efgd – the only time I ever check spelling or grammar is when I am paid to do so (yes – the dirty secret is that I can write without spelling and gramatical errors if I make the effort). So you are automatically forgiven as far as I am concerned.

    The British position is indeed, in some ways, harder for a libertarian than the American situtation. Such things as the BBC and the NHS are central to “British idenity” in a way that PBS and Medicare are not central to “American identity”.

    As for a difference between “British” and “English” culture. Is there really much of a difference?

    I was born in England and have lived all my life here (at least it has been my “home base” even when overseas) – and pop “music”, the BBC, and the NHS (and so on) appear to be the core of this “English culture”, just as with the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Sorry but this just is not Lord Salisbury’s country any more – and this would have come as no shock to him, as he believed his country (his political culture) was dying.

    I suspect that the last Prime Minister with an instinctive grasp of such things as the rule-of-law was Lord Home (1964). I am not hostle to Lady Thatcher as many people around here are (although such things as the Single European Act of 1986 show key weaknesses in judgement) – but I do not believe the lady had an instinctive grasp of such things as the limits on government that the rule-of-law imposes. There was too much of a “we must do something” attitude to government in her time – and too often the actions were not repealing previous government interventions, but adding new interventions (real problems yes – but the wrong way of dealing with them).

    • Thank you for the reply Paul.

      Indeed Margaret Thatcher had an understanding but not fully grasped the concept of the controlled and guided trajectory that was needed for change to take place. She still was obsessed with central control – most people in power have this tendency. Blair was more totalitarian than Margaret Thatcher, well that’s what I think, and controlled totally.

      Yes the NHS and the BBC – but not so much now after the Saville affair I think – are part of the culture and identity of the British. However, if the latest fiasco of health care change proves to be as ineffective and as abused through poor management, lack of innovative accountability and no worry about being removed from office as I think it will, people might start actually looking at the NHS and think what the f**** is going on.

      It will not be a better system as GPs really do not have the power of provision and say as Lansley pretended they would – it will still be jobs for the boys as norm, same numpty managers doing the same kind of jobs, being paid for by our taxes as normal. It is not who supplies and provides health care as much as how it is supplied. That is why cost cutting of front-line and background staff that actually do the work causes more problems than it solves. Been there, done that, watched the fallout – dirty hospitals, outdated and poorly maintained equipment, low staff moral and needless expenditure because of how budgets are arranged and managed. In most cases it is not so much “the system” as the people managing and who, in theory at least, should be really aware of both the medical, nursing and ancillary necessities of a hospital and community care provision service. You cut corners and standards drop. The silly notion of waiting list comparison made it so that minor cases were pushed to the forefront and major cases shifted backwards. Unbelievable really that the politicians, the medical staff and the public did not see that this would happen.

      That is why the trajectory from centre provision and funding toward local – please its still taxes being shifted from pillar to post – has to be taken up by libertarian minded people. Once people see private funded provision is not the evil tyrant or blood sucking monster that some claim it to be, and if private provision could reach out more into local communities and demonstrate their capacity to provide then that would be a start of a trajectory towards individual choice and then, hopefully, people would start to really question government tax for services that in reality we have no choice of.

      Once again thanks for the reply.

  12. No need to thank me for replying – I like to talk (although I should be out walking – to try and reduce my mighty belly).

    As for Britain – civil society is not dead here. For example, the National Trust has about a million members (although it is too close to the government for my liking) and such things as the RNLI prove that such “public goods” as lifeboats can be provided voluntarily.

    However civil society is very much in decline here (and has been for so many years). It is scary – deeply scary, and not made better by the government funded (and P.C. directed) ideas about the “voluntary sector” of the present government.