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This article is a bit of an inside story and we do apologize in advance for it. Although we are internationalists (we like to look at the big -international- picture), in a few rare occasions we need to look inwards. This is one of those cases and this topic needs to be said.

A few days ago a very important figure of Libertarianism (Mr Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr) posted the article The Future Of Libertarianism in Mises. In this article he describes the current Libertarian theoretical dispersion or struggle if you like. According to Llew, the current internal debate exhibits two camps: thin and thick libertarians.

Thin libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle which says that aggression is not allowed except for self-defense (if you are interested in this topic, go to Wikipedia and search for "Non-aggression principle"). That's it.

Thick libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle…plus. Plus what? Plus a collection of other terms and conditions. Some of these terms and conditions are religious, some are economic and some are ethical and so on.

Llew points out that although discussions are healthy, the most basic facts remain the same: if a given flavor of libertarianism restricts freedom through allowing some forms of aggression, this is simply a lesser form of libertarianism, and not a different one. We do agree with this.

Llew also points out the fact that how people arrive at libertarianism is irrelevant; what is relevant is that they did arrive. We also agree with this.

The problem with thick libertarians is that in order to enforce those extra conditions, they must use aggression to enforce them which is blatantly contradictory. This, according to Llew, is the equivalent of the death sentence for libertarianism. In order to make his point, he draws a parallel between the old liberalism (which was almost libertarianism) and the new liberalism (which essentially justifies the existence of the state).

This is the core of his thesis. According to Llew we must be purist, this is, we must reject everything and anything that goes against the non-aggression principle in its purest form. His point of view is that if we allow for exceptions to this principle, these exceptions will be subjective and therefore subject to human change. This is the very definition of a slippery-slope. If we allow for even one exception, why can't we allow for others? But once we start down this road, where does it end?

In a theoretical sense, he is right. There is indeed a risk here, but… then there is reality. We have stated several times that changes in political systems are messy (we used the word "transitional"). They do not follow a straight line and they do inherit some of the traits of previous –failing– systems (the whole explanation can be found in The Three Laws Of Political System Change and Political Systems Lifecycle). As such, only a theoretician can demand a clear transition from one political system to a radically different one. Let us assure you, it ain't gona happen, at least not in this way. We have also talked about this (When Countries Dissolve).

The point to be made here is that Libertarians by definition are all different. There isn't a single libertarian that is exactly the same as the next one. This is true for all political philosophies, but it is truer for Libertarians. Demanding a single unified view is simply ridiculous and completely unrealistic. It is not that it wouldn't be nice to have a united front; it is that the very nature of Libertarianism precludes it. Freedom is about choices, and some of the choices will be bad ones. That's the essence of freedom; to allow people to make even bad choices without interference. In this sense, Llew is guilty of the very same sin he is accusing thick libertarians of: trying to control other people's freedom.

Let us put this simply: trying to direct libertarians is like trying to herd cats!

The problem is not a theoretical one, it is a practical one. The problem is quite simple: according to Llew, if we want Libertarianism then we must support the principle of non-aggression in its purest form. The problem is that reality is not that simple.

The reality is that if we want Libertarianism, it needs to happen in the real life, with real people exercising their real liberties. Almost none of these people have a clue about Libertarianism. For them, Libertarianism could not be more foreign even if it would have been written in the extinct Mator language (no, we are not making this stuff up).

For libertarianism to happen in real life, it will have to allow for people to discover by and for themselves what kind of freedom they want. This means a great deal of trials and errors. This means all kinds of libertarian flavors and points of view. This means anything and everything but theoretical Libertarianism.

Trying to preclude these messy or "thick" libertarians (as he called them) from spreading the word is simply counterproductive and will only delay political evolution. This is bad for everybody. The lesson that Llew hasn't yet learned is that Political Theories never survive the real world as they convert into Political Systems (Political Theories and Systems - What They Are And How They Work).

When we started this site, our goal was to demonstrate that a purely contractual-based Libertarianism is possible (we called it Absolute Austro-Libertarianism). However, we never said that our system was "the" system. We never said that our system was "better". We never claimed the high ground nor did we pretend to have "the truth". Our goal was simply to prove that "other" Libertarian systems can work and because of this fact people must not be deterred from trying. The creative juices of the people must be unleashed, not snuffed out. We strongly suspect that pure Libertarianism will never happen (although it would be nice). What we are struggling for, is for the next evolutionary step towards Libertarianism. For the next best thing that it is politically viable to happen as soon as possible. For the next Libertarian system that is simply good enough to work. Today. Tomorrow, there will be something else.

The goal is simply to keep moving in the right direction as soon as possible (The Law of Political Systems Direction).

A bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush.

Llew, for all his knowledge and wisdom has not yet learned this simple truth: theory is great and necessary, but reality is better.

Period. Now how hard was that?

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 

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