Thursday, July 21, 2005

Molinari's plea for socialists to abandon conservative means

Thanks to Roderick T. Long, an essay written by Gustave de Molinari that was meant to be an open letter to socialists is now available in English. Here's a link to the essay:

The Utopia of Liberty - Letters to the Socialists

I learned of this via Wally Conger, who wrote this brief summary of what it's about:
In his seminal libertarian essay “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty” (see this blog’s Essential Agitprop sidebar), Murray Rothbard defined socialists as those who use conservative (i.e., statist) means to achieve liberal ends. Belgian liberal Gustave de Molinari recognized that truth in an 1848 open letter to socialists, “Utopia of Liberty,” where he encouraged them to shrug off autocratic programs in their efforts to improve the working class’s condition.

This brings to my attention yet another term that has different meanings to different people: conservative. Here's an excerpt from the Rothbard essay that Wally refers to:
Thus, with liberalism abandoned from within, there was no longer a party of hope in the Western world, no longer a “Left” movement to lead a struggle against the state and against the unbreached remainder of the Old Order. Into this gap, into this void created by the drying up of radical liberalism, there stepped a new movement: socialism. Libertarians of the present day are accustomed to think of socialism as the polar opposite of the libertarian creed. But this is a grave mistake, responsible for a severe ideological disorientation of libertarians in the present world. As we have seen, conservatism was the polar opposite of liberty; and socialism, while to the “left” of conservatism, was essentially a confused, middle-of-the-road movement. It was, and still is, middle-of-the-road because it tries to achieve liberal ends by the use of conservative means.

This is not the only time I have come across the word conservatism being used to describe statist means. I guess this all goes back to the original conceptions of left and right and liberal and conservative where liberals who those who rebelled from the conservative orders of monarchy and mercantilism, which were statist in nature. This also helps to explain why some people label themselves as being "classical liberal", since they're interested in moving away from statism, which was originally associated with liberalism, not conservatism.

This flies in the face of the view of most people today who equate conservatism with reducing statism. It just goes to show that different terms can mean different things to different people at different times.

Going back to the Molinari essay, it looks like it'll be a good read. Yet another historical document added to the growing collection over at the Molinari Institute. Lots and lots of good reads there!


Blogger Wally Conger said...

"It just goes to show that different terms can mean different things to different people at different times."

Just goes to prove that it's long past time we took back the goddamn language!

9:58 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

I agree.

Don't be surprised to come across plenty of naysayers though. My post on left-libertarianism has already irritated one person.

10:20 PM  

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