Excerpted here, Stephen Hicks argues that the poor should not be given any special moral status in laissez-faire policymaking, and that attempts to do so are essentially attempts to "backdoor" liberalism into the libertarian movement.

There's a clever rhetorical trick here. Any reference to 'groups' is deprecated in libertarian arguments; therefore, any set of ethical principles that seems to favor one group over another is clearly wrong. By the end of the first paragraph, the author has already established that bleeding-heart libertarianism isn't 'libertarian.'

The standard libertarian position is that all property rights are of equal dignity: your last stale crust of bread and my gold-plated Hummer are both considered equal in the eyes of the law, notwithstanding the relative hardship each of us would endure if we were deprived of them. In a practical sense, my right to my gold-plated Hummer is actually more strongly vested, because I can afford to jack up the enforcement costs for contingent claimants.

Faced with this set of orthodoxies, bleeding-heart libertarians ask the following: so, are we obligated to ignore suffering? If we agree that multiple sets of rules might be acceptable from a Kantian standpoint, then why aren't we choosing between those rules based on their tendency to alleviate suffering rather than their moral simplicity?

In terms of policy recommendations, this means basically the following: that property rights in necessaries should be more strongly vested than those in luxuries; that enforcement costs should be as low as possible to permit the poor to adequately protect their property rights; and that we should be cautious about permitting claims against the future (e.g. contracts, debts) to supervene on vested claims to necessaries.

In discussions with liberals, who tend to think about these issues as fundamentally class-based, this frequently comes out as 'concern for the poor.' But even when rendered as a statement about class, there is an underlying system of neutral ethical axioms here -- and the orthodox libertarians are simply failing to engage with them.
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