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Freedom Is Natural

There are people "out there" that believe that there are good Libertarians and bad Libertarians. Furthermore, the lines between "good" and "bad" are somehow blurred because, to them, Libertarianism is a reaction against "excessive" government action. And so, this is the question that we would like to address today.

Libertarians R-Us

The first thing we need to address is the vast number of Libertarianisms "out there". If you want to get a snapshot, just search Wikipedia for "Libertarianism". As you can imagine if the basis for something is freedom, this necessarily implies that people will exercise such freedom to express it as they see fit. Ergo, each Libertarian will have his/her own interpretation of Libertarianism, simply because they are all free to interpret it as they see fit. Yes, we know. This is quite confusing. Human beings hate confusion and always seek stability through understanding. Fair enough, we can't give you understanding of Libertarianism (this would take several thousands of websites) but what we can give you is a short cheat-sheet that will serve as an orientation. This cheat-sheet is based on a classification of Libertarianisms which, although necessarily flawed is still a convenient tool for oversimplifications. Although Libertarianism is based on the notion of individual freedom as the ultimate definition of "good", this classification is based on the logistics and degrees of achieving such "good".

Political Tendency

Name

Description

Right

Neo-classical Liberalism

The central idea is to minimize the size of the government which sole purpose is to protect individuals from one another.

Centre

Neo-Liberalism

The central idea is to make the government smaller (not necessarily to minimize it) being also its purpose to protect individuals from one another, but at a larger scale. As such, some degree of social welfare provisioned by the state is acceptable.

Left

Libertarian socialism

The central idea is that governments and socialism conspires against personal freedom. However, they argue that the highest standard of living can only be achieved through decentralized organizations, direct democracy and workers' self-management of the means of production.

Geolibertarianism

The central idea is that natural resources belong to all people and as such governments interfere with this principle. Governments are thus minimized with the sole purpose of taxing those using natural resources and to protect this right of use.

Steiner-Vallentyne

The central idea is that resources belong to all and thus they must, somehow and to some degree, be shared. This may imply a use tax or some sort of redistribution of wealth including some degree of social welfare.

Outside

Free-Market-Capitalism and to a degree, Objectivism.

The central idea is that the state interferes with private rights and as such with individual freedom. Thus, all states must be abolished. The central idea is that the maximum of wellbeing can only be achieved through the actions of truly free people leading to truly free markets.

 

Democracy Is Dead

Each one of those Libertarian "flavors" addresses shortcomings that can be observed in Democratic systems. These Libertarianisms did not appear as a reaction to Democracy (or Monarchism for that matter), but purely as political evolutions from the political Right, Centre, Left and Mainstream Economic theories. They did not "react" to anything. Their intention is to provide a plausible system that can improve our lives. Thus, they carry in themselves "correction" to problems with democratic systems. Oversimplifying, we can observe that:

Political Tendency

Name

Correction

Right

Neo-classical Liberalism

The state routinely fails to protect people from other people. This is so because "law and order" is insufficient and governments get us routinely into wars.

Centre

Neo-Liberalism

Same as above, but also a different type of protection is required, protection against economic calamities, thus the requirement for social welfare is demanded.

Left

Libertarian socialism

The state routinely oversteps its authority. Thus, a stateless system based on distributed power (through direct democracy) corrects this issue. Also, as wealth is distributed unevenly, there must be a method to ensure a more equitable distribution, thus the requirement for the self-management of the means of production.

Geolibertarianism

The state routinely prevents people from getting their share of natural resources, thus the purpose of a state is reduced to ensure economic equality.

Steiner-Vallentyne

Same as above, but with the addition of social welfare.

Outside

Free-Market-Capitalism and to a degree, Objectivism.

The state interferes with the optimum use of natural resources and it must thus be eliminated giving rise to pure free markets.

 

Reactionary Libertarianism

Now that we understand what kinds of Libertarianisms we have, what their objectives are and how they come to be, we can address the notion that Libertarianism is some sort of "reaction" to the "excesses" of Democracy and/or other systems of government.

As you can plainly see, this is not the case. Libertarianism is no more a "reaction" to Democracy than Monarchism is a "reaction" to Absolute Tribal Leadership or Communism is a reaction to Monarchism. All political theories originate in the ideas of thinkers which, in ultimate analysis, attempt to answer the question: What Is Good For People?

There is no such thing as a "Reactionary Libertarianism".

Reactions

Having said that, we must also recognize that many people arrive at Libertarianism through a reaction against Democracy or Monarchy or Socialism or Communism or Dictatorships or… or… or. This is unquestionably true. For example, all the members of our little cabal who write for this site arrived at Libertarianism after recognizing the shortfalls of other political theories. They, we, reacted against our political systems du-jour. This much is true. However, we did not adopt Libertarianism because it reacts against said systems, but because it offers better solutions than those systems.

The idea that there is a "good" Libertarianism that reacts against "bad" governments and that there is also a "bad" Libertarianism that overreacts against governments or behaves more as a religion than a political system is preposterous!

The very idea that "some" degree of Libertarianism is OK while too much is not, is ridiculous. Extending this concept to Democracy, we can similarly say that "some" degree of Democracy is OK while too much is not. It is not an issue of degree; it is an issue of personal subjectivity in terms of what is OK and what is too much. The line is drawn in the sand and each one of us moves it backward or forwards as we see fit.

For example, many Democrats (no, for the umpteen time, we are not referring to the US Democratic party) are of the opinion that Democracy must provide some basic services and must thus demand some level of taxation. However, they are also of the opinion that massive welfare is not OK. But it you happen to ask each one of these people how much is OK, they will all have a different opinion.  Generally speaking, they may be of the opinion that Democracy overreacted with this welfare thingy, but no two of them can agree as to how much is just the right amount. For each one of them, "the right amount" is different. There is no such thing as the "universal" right amount. The key to this issue is not that the "right amount" can fluctuate and can be expressed in degrees, but that people cannot agree and cannot judge which degree is "good" and which one is "bad".

Consequently, it is nonsensical to say that there is such a thing as "too much" Libertarianism.

You, The Libertarian

As a Libertarian, your point of view will vary. Each Libertarian has a slightly different idea as to the "ideal" style of Libertarianism and the "ideal" amount of liberty and the "ideal" differentiation and deviation from current political systems.

However, each one of us is not reacting against a Democratic system but towards a better one. As such we -mostly- agree that experimenting with Libertarian flavors is a good thing. Some of them will prove to be nonsensical and utter dead ends. On the other hand, some of them will prove to be excellent and will therefore excel in providing better standards of living. If we would be reacting against existing political systems, we would not be able to do so. It is not possible to get something out of nothing (except in particle physics, of course).

As such, there are no "good" or "bad" Libertarian systems.  There are only efficient and inefficient ones. Just like with any other form of Democracy, Socialism, Communism, Dictatorships, Monarchism and so on.

Basically, anybody "out there" declaring that they are in favor of "good" Libertarianism in opposition to "bad" Libertarianism are simply expressing their subjective and personal point of view as to which flavor they believe will provide the higher standards of living for everybody. As this is purely a subjective judgment call, your millage will vary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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