For example, Brennan explains that
One way to distinguish among kinds of liberalism is by their differing conceptions of economic liberty. Classical liberals and libertarians affirm what we might call a thick conception of economic liberty; high liberals, a thin conception.
Brennan goes on to explain what these terms mean, and it's interesting, but what jumps out at me even at this early point in his discussion is the way this question about the character and importance of economic liberty relates to the battle lines that get drawn in real-world political fights over economic policy.
According to anthropologic research (much of it done in France) the human monetary system was conceived as a response to a specific situation - an entrenched overclass who participated in a "gift economy" that was closed to the majority of the population (the underclass.)
The government (this was at the dawn of democracy) created a system by which they would pay out tokens to the population and levy a tax on real property, compelling the owners of the real property to participate in the private economy in order to acquire these coins.
Thus money became was a way for the people to compel the property-owning overclass to employ their considerable resources (chiefly land and the associated raw materials) to produce value not only for themselves and their friends but also for the benefit of the public at large.
Now, this development was not welcomed by the overclass by any means, but it was such an ingenious system that it stuck around (with some hiccups over the centuries, to be sure) to the present day.
Thus we would expect libertarianism, accurately characterized in Brennan's excellent post as being close to absolutist in its conception of individual property rights, to be hostile to the very idea of the human monetary system wherein the government levies taxes on property in an effort to compel property owners to produce value towards the public good.
Despite libertarian claims to love "the free market" we see libertarianism's true colors in the foundational myth of modern libertarianism, "Atlas Shrugged."
John Galt objects to the very idea that he should be compelled to use his property for the public good. In the myth he is attacked for "producing too much" but of course the underlying philosophy (also reflected in Heinlein's seminal libertarian/militarist fantasy "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress") clearly abhors the fact that the world's Atlases are being forced to produce value for the undeserving masses.
The reason the system persists is that while rightists love to rhetorically conflate taxation with the stealing of physical property, in actual practice property owners who would never tolerate having their physical property seized by the government will in fact submit willingly to turning over some government tokens a few times a year in exchange for the right to go on being wealthy property owners.
Thus what the overclass is left with is to do their best to install people sympathetic to their interests at the levers of power, so that the system can be tuned to allow them the maximum advantage despite the persistence of the basic structure that forces them to produce for the public good. In a democracy, of course, this tends to work only in fits and starts, since politicians who prevent the system from working properly tend to get voted out of office.
It's a fascinating and elegant design, at least compared to the available alternatives. Not perfect by any means, but at least we can agree preferable to the lot of an ancient Greek slave or a Medieval serf.
For some reason the discourse on liberalism reminded me of my favorite quote from Machiavelli:
"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
With that I'll leave you alone. G'night.