The Immoral Intellectual Roots of Libertarianism | ThinkProgress

Posted: April 15, 2015 in American Politics, Ayn Rand, Libertarianism

by Ian Millhiser

Herbert Spencer was a popular author during the nineteenth century who supported strict limits on the government and even opposed many forms of charity towards the poor. Nature, Spencer argued, “secures the growth” of the human race by “weeding out those of lowest development,” and he also believed that neither government nor private charity should interfere with this process of natural selection. Though Spencer was not a eugenicist — he actually argued that the poor should be treated much more harshly than nineteenth and twentieth century eugenicists did — he was both a social acquaintance of Sir Francis Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, and a significant influence on Galton’s thinking. Spencer also shaped many of the policies developed by some of the most powerful judges and lawmakers of his era.

Reading Spencer’s many works today is an uncomfortable experience — the man devotes hundreds of pages to establishing a philosophical justification for a kind of neglect that most Americans would now view as a moral atrocity. Yet Spencer is also one of the foundational thinkers in the development of the economically libertarian philosophy that drives politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

On Monday, ThinkProgress published a piece entitled “Rand Paul’s Favorite Philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites.’” The thrust of the piece is that, though Paul now claims that his policies would lift up poor people and minorities, the economic libertarianism that drives Paul is so inherently anti-poor and anti-civil rights that Paul’s efforts to offer himself up as the champion of the downtrodden are misguided at best and deeply cynical at worst. Over the course of the piece, we trace the intellectual roots of economic libertarianism through Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), as well as through thinkers such as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand and Spencer…

via The Immoral Intellectual Roots of Libertarianism | ThinkProgress.

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