Mannerly Libertarians!

Matt Zwolinski’s recent post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians encourages libertarian philosophers to take manners more seriously. They are, after all, as Zwolinski observes, “kinds of spontaneous orders.”

A really fun thing about observing philosophers in action is that one gets to watch them continually discover history anew!

A search for the term “manners” at the Online Library of Liberty returns 8,234 matches.

Narrowing the search to the works of Adam Smith, we get 160 matches.

A similar search on “civility” in Smith returns only 15 matches, but what fun they are to suggest, prima facie, that libertarianism without manners is a shadow of its proper self (running about a bit like Peter Pan without his shadow):

Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 5 Lectures On Jurisprudence > | Friday Decr. 24. 1762: Of Jurisprudence.

If I was desirous of pulling an apple and had stretched out my hand towards it, but an other who was more nimble comes and pulls it before me, an impartial spectator would conceive this was a very great breach of good manners and civility but would not suppose it an incroachment on property.—If after I had got the apple into my hand I should happen to let it fall, and an other should snatch it up, this would be still more uncivil and a very heinous affront, bordering very near on a breach of the right of property. But if oneh should attempt snatch it out of my hand when I had the actuall possession of it, the bystander would immediately agree that my property was incroached on, and would go along with me in recovering it or preventing the injury before hand, even suppose I should use violence for the accomplishing my design.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1 > Part II.

Of this kind is that unnatural and inhuman Delight in beholding Torments, and in viewing Distress, Calamity, Blood, Massacre and Destruction, with a peculiar Joy and Pleasure. This has been the retgning Passion of many Tyrants, and barbarous Nations; and belongs, in some degree, to such Tempers as have thrown off that Courteousness of Behaviour, which retains in us a just Reverence of Mankind, and prevents the Growth of Harshness and Brutahty. This Passion enters not where Civility or affable Manners have the least place. Such is the Nature of what we call good Breeding, that in the midst of many other Corruptions, it admits not of Inhumanity, or savage Pleasure. To see the Sufferance of an Enemy with cruel Delight, may proceed from the height of Anger, Revenge, Fear, and other extended Self-passions: But to delight in the Torture and Pain of other Creatures indifferently, Natives or Foreigners, of our own or of another Species, Kindred or no Kindred, known or unknown; to feed, as it were, on Death, and be entertain’d with dying Agonys; this has nothing in it accountable in the way of Self-interest or private Good above-mention’d, but is wholly and absolutely unnatural, as it is horrid and miserable.

Of course, there is also the irrepressible Rothbard with whom to contemplate the bastardization of libertarianism… or was it just philosophy?

Let’s hope this investigation continues in a serious fashion, helping us develop a more robust classical liberal theory of community!