Roderick Long

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The violence of the state, to be justified, must be transubstantiated in its essence into peaceful incantation, yet at the same time, to be effective, it must retain the external accidents of violence.

Roderick Tracy Long (born February 4, 1964) is a professor of philosophy at Auburn University. He also serves as a Senior Scholar for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, an editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, director and president of the Molinari Institute, and an advisory panel member for the Center for a Stateless Society.


  • Rothbard is surely right in thinking that what we now call free-market libertarianism was originally a left-wing position. The great liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat sat on the left side of the French national assembly, with the anarcho-socialist Proudhon. Many of the causes we now think of as paradigmatically left-wing—feminism, antiracism, antimilitarism, the defense of laborers and consumers against big business—were traditionally embraced and promoted specifically by free-market radicals. ... I like calling the free market a left-wing idea—in fact, I like calling libertarianism the proletarian revolution.

"Equality: the Unknown Ideal" (2001)[edit]

October 16, 2001 Full text online at
  • Socioeconomic equality and legal equality both fall short of the radicalism of Lockean equality. For neither of those forms of equality calls into question the authority of those who administer the legal system. … Both forms of equality call upon that power structure to do certain things; but in so doing, they both assume, and indeed require, an inequality in authority between those who administer the legal framework and everybody else.
  • As Locke sees, equality in authority entails denying to the legal system's administrators—and thus to the legal system itself—any powers beyond those possessed by private citizens:

    The law of nature is in that state put into every man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation…. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do.

    Lockean equality involves not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police.
  • Libertarians are often baffled at how those who appear so sensitive to constraints on choice, and to differences in bargaining power, when these derive from market factors, become so amazingly oblivious to the constraint on choice, and differential bargaining power, represented by the armed might of the state, empowered to enforce its demands by legalized violence.
  • Like racism and sexism, statism is the kind of moral vice that tends to enter the soul through self-deception, semi-conscious osmosis, and a kind of Arendtian banality, rather than through a forthright embrace; it is a form of spiritual blindness that can, and does, infect even those who are largely sincere and well-meaning.
  • Statists tend to treat governmental edicts as though they were incantations, passing directly from decree to result, without the inconvenience of means; since in the real world the chief means employed by government is violence, threatened and actual, cloaking state decrees and their violent implementation in the garb of incantation disguises both the immorality and the inefficiency of statism by ignoring the messy path from decree to result.
  • The violence of the state, to be justified, must be transubstantiated in its essence into peaceful incantation, yet at the same time, to be effective, it must retain the external accidents of violence.

"Left-libertarianism, market anarchism, class conflict and historical theories of distributive justice" (2012)[edit]

Griffith Law Review, Vol. 21 Issue 2 (2012), pp. 413-431
Also see summary published as "Inequality and Nozickian Historical Justice" Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Free Markets and Social Justice, March 16, 2011
  • Kevin Carson has coined the terms “vulgar libertarianism” and “vulgar liberalism” for the tendencies, respectively, to treat the benefits of the free market as though they legitimated various dubious features of actually existing “capitalist” society (vulgar libertarianism), and to treat the drawbacks of actually existing “capitalist” society as though they constituted an objection to the free market (vulgar liberalism).
    • p. 416
  • The widespread assumption that big business and big government are fundamentally at odds, and that big business supports a free market, serves to maintain the ruling partnership in power; indeed, ‘vulgar liberalism’ and ‘vulgar libertarianism’ (in Carson’s sense) represent the dominant ideologies of the establishment left and establishment right, respectively. The establishment left disguises its government intervention on behalf of the rich as government intervention on behalf of the poor, while the right disguises its government intervention on behalf of the rich as an opposition to government intervention per se – and each side has an interest in maintaining the myth propagated by its nominal opponent. For those who are repelled by the realities of corporate capitalism are lured into becoming opponents of the free market and foot soldiers for the left wing of the ruling class, while those who are attracted by free-market ideals are lured into becoming defenders of corporate capitalism and foot soldiers for the right wing of the ruling class. Either way, the partnership as a whole has its power reinforced.
    • p. 422
  • Given the extensive involvement of state violence in the process by which the corporate elite not only achieved its wealth in the past but continues to maintain and augment it in the present, it is clear that the massive inequalities of wealth that characterise present-day “capitalist” society are radically inconsistent with any approach to justice in holdings that is even remotely Nozickian.
    • p. 425
  • Merely pointing to the fact that some people have a lot more than others is less compelling as a critique; it invites the response “So what? Those who have more aren’t hurting anybody; you’re just appealing to envy.” By contrast, being able to show that those who enjoy a higher socioeconomic status have to a considerable extent achieved and maintained that status by forcibly expropriating and oppressing the less affluent provides for a far more effective indictment.
    • p. 425

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