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Equality Under the Law(s)?


Two columns were published today with very different libertarian analyses of government laws and privileges. In one of them, Steve Horwitz argues that “equality under the law” is an important libertarian (classical liberal) principle, and therefore that it is a “no-brainer” for libertarians to support such measures as increasing the marriage definition to include gays (as was recently done in New York).

In the other, I argue that one needs to separate rights from privileges and that increasing the relative size of a privileged group does not constitute a step in any valuable direction (at least from a libertarian point of view). Indeed, there is — as Hayek argued in his Law, Legislation, and Liberty — a difference between the Law (as in natural or common) and (enacted) laws. Equality under the numerous government laws is not only impossible (since pretty much all of them constitute privilege), but may be directly counter-acting the cause of liberty.

In contrast, the principle of equality under the Law, as in market-based, voluntary law or natural rights, is something to which I think Murray Rothbard would subscribe. In either case, there should be plenty of examples and arguments to support both takes on this issue of . What do you think?


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Per Bylund is associateprofessor of entrepreneurship & Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Website: PerBylund.com.