Russell Moore on Libertarianism

I want to comment briefly on a video Russell Moore uploaded to youtube last week about socialism.

First I want to say that I’m glad he is clear about his opposition to socialism, especially in this day and age. I don’t believe that his denunciation is an attempt to deceive. But I do have some problems with a portion of what he says.

Moore attributes the difficulty in defining socialism to opponents of gov’t programs (e.g. social security). According to Moore, everyone agrees that the gov’t should provide some sort of safety net; the only exception to this agreement are those with extreme views, particularly views that are  “anarcho-libertarian”.

Now, to be fair to Moore, the video is short and his goal was to provide a succinct definition within a small window of time. As someone who suffers from ADHD, I can appreciate that. However, I don’t believe that his time constraints warrant such an attribution. Not all Libertarians are similar. His usage of the term “anarcho-libertarian” is problematic for several reasons:

(1) He implies that everyone who disparages gov’t programs (like social security) as socialist  espouse this particular brand of libertarianism.

(2) He fails to distinguish between various libertarian viewpoints and strategies. A better generalization would recognize that some libertarians espouse a minimal state. A minimal state would focus concern on protecting the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of individuals and take a position of non-involvement with respect to the economy. This is more akin to Thomas Jefferson’s view. On the other hand, there are libertarians who emphasize individual sovereignty to such an extent, that they favor the elimination of the state. To summarize one difference between the two: minimal-state libertarianism has a place for the state, anarcho-libertarianism favors the elimination of the state with an emphasis toward the sovereign rights of individuals.

(3) He fails to appreciate that Ayn Rand wasn’t an anarchist. She even complained that libertarians substituted anarchism for capitalism. Though the validity of her complaint is debatable, it is sufficient to demonstrate that Moore’s  understanding of the term, as stated, is, at best, shoddy.


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