I recently had a conversation with someone whom I thought was a progressive but as the discussion continued I learned he was actually a libertarian.
You see it becomes difficult to peg a libertarian as conservative or progressive, hence my initial mistake, because they are both conservative and progressive. Although they will tell you that traditional family values are very important to them they are also pro-choice. Many believe that humans have had an impact on global warming but yet they do not think that corporations should be regulated. Most will tell you that they don’t agree with same-sex relations but would never infringe upon their right to marry. Their primary principle is non-aggression but they vehemently protect their right to bear arms.
The conversation with my friend the Libertarian began with him lamenting the fact that so many new comers have come to our great state to rape and pillage it and many things he was allowed to do growing up here in Alaska have been taken from him. He now is required to get a permit to hunt and fish and must pay to use our national parks and recreational campgrounds. He feels that since his family homesteaded here and he was born and raised her, he should have preferential rights; that new comers should not be able to come to our state and start changing things, like running for office and enacting new laws. I brought to his attention that he and his family were not the very first inhabitants of this great land, that indeed indigenous people were here before them. He disregarded my statement as if to imply that only white people can lay claim to land, that somehow the indigenous people are a non-issue. On top of that, the hypocrisy of in one breath saying everyone should be left alone to do whatever they want and then in another refuse the freedom to relocate to a new community and build a life there, was confounding to me.
Libertarian-ism is a simple idealistic worldview with two basic principles.
- The non-aggression principle – The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom) is a moral principle that prohibits the initiation of force by one person against another.
- Respect for property rights principle – whoever produces, claims, or creates “property” first lays claim to said property and retains it for perpetuity.
Libertarians believe in extremely limited government; only providing security (military, police force, and a justice system) for its members and nothing else; they consider taxation an “initiation of force” which violates the non-aggression principle. I personally do not feel that I am forced to pay taxes. I am not always happy with where my tax payer money is being spent but I feel I have an obligation to contribute to the society of which I am a part and most certainly benefit from.
Life, liberty and property rights are inherent and best accomplished through the “rule of law”, “spontaneous order” and the “free market”.
Rule of Law – a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.
Spontaneous Order – order in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.
Free Market – To survive and to flourish, individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to property entails the right to exchange property by mutual agreement. Free markets are the economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create wealth.
This philosophy is all well and good if everyone adheres to it and if the world was much smaller than it is today; before the industrial revolution and before human population swelled to upwards of 7 billion people. The reality of today’s world is that almost anything one individual does will in some way impact another individual. One person’s freedom and liberty ends at the tip of another person’s nose and since most of us live in interconnected communities, we are virtually right on top of one another.
Today the idea of a free market without any type of regulations is ridiculous. People do not have time to vet everything that they consume; to make sure that it is not harmful or does not violate their values. We now have huge corporations and social systems in place that have global impact on our economy and our environment. Many corporations are masters of deception and corruption so even if we were all diligent enough to vet all of our products and services how do we know the information that is provided to us is genuine? Look at what happened in West, Texas; West Virginia; the Gulf of Mexico, and here in Alaska. And that’s with regulations. They really believe big businesses would act ethically with how they dispose, or handle, harmful chemicals or toxins? These companies would pollute our environment in whichever way was cheapest for them and by the time the community would figure it out and create “spontaneous order” it would undoubtedly be too late. I can only envision “spontaneous order” as some sort of wild west scenario that typically ends badly for all parties involved.
Libertarian-ism is a novel idea in that it encourages individual freedom, peace, and prosperity, but is vastly outdated in today’s times. Libertarian-ism might work in small, tribal communities. There’s absolutely no way in a complex modern society you can sit back, have an almost non-existent government then truly believe that “consumer power” will be the saving grace for regulating the behavior of the rich and powerful.
When you ask Libertarians a simple question, “Name a successful society that’s existed in human history, or even presently, that was built on Libertarian ideology” – they can’t answer. And no, the United States wasn’t built on “freedom.” We started this nation with slavery and expanded it with genocide. If anything more regulations were needed to ensure basic freedoms were being given to certain demographics because without those regulations, “the free market” often discriminated against them.
In fact, looking around the world, the countries which most closely resemble their system of beliefs (small government, little or no taxes, and few regulations) are impoverished countries like Somalia. You don’t find successful societies built on their system of beliefs, you see disorganized chaos and poverty. So while I think the gentlemen I had this interesting conversation with is a wonderful person, and granted some of his ideas are decent, his overall system of beliefs are just so massively flawed I can’t take most of what he says seriously. It just makes absolutely no sense in a global society of the size we have today and with the exponentially increasing human population.
A better alternative is a humanistic worldview founded on empathy, compassion and an egalitarian- based sense of fairness. In which we work together to solve the world’s problems instead of leaving everyone to fend for themselves. Instead of relying on outdated ideology that has no relevance in today’s reality, let us continue to use science-based decision making and experience to improve humanity. We can accomplish so much more together.