A Conservative’s critique of Libertarianism:

Backbencher January 31, 2014 2

Chris Rogers

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Libertarians are vehement and extreme rationalists, almost to a man and a woman they’re atheists, they pride themselves in applying rational thought to every aspect of life and the universe, they don’t see the universe as a hostile place, they see the universe as the playground for evolving man to manifest himself in, to control and to seek his happiness in every area, and of course all else follows. Death and taxes are what we want to abolish, and most Libertarians are ideological immortalists.

This quote recently appeared on my Facebook timeline. I cannot help but resist this description.

Libertarianism, is, on a kind reading, much more intricate than that. Given that the gauntlet has been laid down in these crude terms, I felt a rebuttal was something worth while.

Rather, I propose:

Libertarians are vehement and extreme idealists, almost to a man and a woman they’re pollyanna, they pride themselves in holding fast to their principles in the face of every problem that exists in the real world. They don’t see the universe, they see a poorly articulated utopian society and no transitional method to get there. They rage against current society because they can, and most Libertarians are ideological immoralists.

Those who hold the position academically, I respect, and there are a number of sophisticated arguments to reinforce their position. However for most of those in the youth wing engaged in Libertarianism,  they possess the most base arguments, failing to confront the nuances such a position demands, as any added complexity makes it ‘impure’, detracting from the beauty of their philosophy. The majority tend towards Natural Rights Libertarianism, rather than the Utilitarian Libertarian alternative (a doctrine which is even more reprehensible, but one I shall leave aside here). For this post, that is what I refer to as Libertarianism.

When engaged with Libertarianism in its extreme form today, its proponents seek a massive reduction in the state, taxation, and authority – if not full abolition. All without respect for the consequences this would produce. The focus of the Libertarian is on individual rights, to do what they want, removing all restrictions. They deny that there is almost any value other than freedom, but they define freedom in an incredibly limited way, purely in terms of a lack of physical restrictions, such as state regulation. Everyone should be able to do what they want, damn the consequences. Some have the caveat that harm must not be introduced. Though this seems ignored when we considerer the harm that would be wrought on those poorest in society when the state collapses.

The London riots would argue that when the ability to enforce the law falls apart people descend to their more base nature of “give me what I want”. Without respect for the law, and civil discipline tragedy will follow.

Libertarianism is the new fad. It is unfalsifiable in the sense that when someone contends that Libertarianism would lead to tragedy they simply deny it, arguing it has never been put into practice, and when it is things will go swimmingly. This is akin to the arguments from the Marxists  that “The USSR was not ‘really’ communist”. And anyone who thinks that they are more intellectually enlightened because they possess “the truth” are holding the same views the Communists held.

The main staple of the young Libertarian today is the buzzword “Freedom”. It has become a rallying cry sweeping away all values that stand in its way.

Do we value national culture? Do we value the bonds that society creates between each of us? To hell with that, the individual’s freedom to hire who they want demolishes national borders and immigration control.

Do we think we should care for the poorest in society? Nope, offering state aid to the poor is a violation of freedom, and makes me a slave to those who are poor. Of course they cry, we shouldn’t abandon the poor, rather it should be done through private charity. But if people are left to starve, this is better than having our ‘absolute’ freedom limited.

Even things such as national defence and public safety become problematic. Will we be at the mercy of armed gangs without the state? Well apparently we are already at the mercy of an armed gang, it is called the state.

Libertarians rarely argue for these extreme positions of completely abolishing the state (given the political implausibility), but will at every turn advocate is minimisation. And in these cases Libertarians may bite the bullet, yes, there may be negative consequences if people actually followed through and implement swinging tax cuts, and huge reductions in the state, under the mantra “taxation is theft”, but these are outweighed by the value of ‘Freedom’.

By following Libertarian policies, they argue, we are made more free and possess greater freedom to do what we want, and this is what matters.

But is this really ‘biting the bullet?’ Most Libertarians are white and well off. If their dream is to be implemented, they are the last ones who would feel the pinch.

Is it any surprise very few (if any) Libertarians come from an ethnic minority background, or lower socioeconomic status? They claim to have the truth, but if you claim that because it is beneficial to you personally, that’s not much of a justification.

Freedom is a value, an important value, but hardly absolute.

 

This blog post first appeared on the KCBSR blog and has been republished here with the author’s permission.

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