Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Paradox of Libertarianism: The Majority of People Don't Care About Liberty And They Never Did

I recognize that America, the west, and perhaps the globe, is entering a period of decline. What is at the end of this decline is murky, will we see a collapse of the United States as a political entity? Increased global conflict? Mutant wombats roaming the earth? There are a lot of differing ideas on where America is going. Some individuals, like Vox, assert that America is heading towards a break up of the Union. I have heard others, the most optimistic anyways, that it is simply a generational decline in the standards of living. Whereas I maintain that the United States as a geopolitical entity will retain it's position, but display more blatant avarice overseas, but the end of our republic. Regardless, America's levels of freedom and prosperity are declining.

The Captian makes a great case for it in his book, which I have not read yet but do plan to order, about how to live our lives. One thing he has mentioned frequently is that there is no reasoning stressing about things that you have no control over whatsoever.  The fact is that nothing I do, short of being a modern day Moses, will change what is going to happen. So don't waste your time worrying. And for the most part I do a good job. But there are days when I get reminded about the one uncomfortable truth that explains why we are in this decline.

Most Americans, most people on this globe, most people in history, do not understand what liberty is. And they don't care. In fact, the majority of people are hostile to liberty.
The last assertion is a very serious claim to make, but unfortunately, I have concluded that it is undeniably true; or it appears that way to me on my morose days. Sure people care about having freedom for themselves, and maybe their close associates, but they couldn't care less about the freedom of the other person two towns over, much less a thousand miles a way. How else can you explain anti-smoking laws, the FDA using paramilitary to storm raw milk vendors, or the call for individuals to have greater government involvement in our lives?

I have literally meet individuals that have stated they don't care that government restricts x, the right to bear arms, as long as they grant y, for example free health care. Never mind the demonstrably atrocious job the government has done with education or even managing their own check books. These individuals cannot, or will not, discern that social services are not rights. Free health care, education and a guaranteed standard of living is nice, of course ignoring the dire economic ramifications of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but they aren't innate rights. To speak our mind, to move with out hindrance, to stake our claim, those are rights. You are born with them, given by God if you will.

Yet the fact remains that individuals will gladly give up their rights if they think it will make them more comfortable. American leftists, Cuba and free health care is a great example. Never mind that Castro treated his own people like second class citizens, creating segregated beaches and hotels for wealthy tourists only, his country has free health care (with the best care going to the most equal citizens of course)! American conservatism, as it exists now, is little better, as evident by the treatment of it's libertarian wing of its party. (I am looking at you Mr. Medved. It is hard to reconcile how someone so smart, can be so stupid when it comes to libertarians, save for the fact that you were once a leftist and even now are a conservative progressive.)

And this isn't just a phenomena limited to mordern day America, sadly no. Read enough history and you will see that this is true even of America in yesteryear. There were always calls for government action, for handouts, for favorable treatment (how else do you think those railroads got made?) but we lived in a unique period were it was far more limited and the national government far more concerned with the expansion of our nation that the legislation of our lives. And this leaves me with a depressing paradox. The paradox of libertarianism we can call it.

Given my assessment of human nature a true libertarian society, on a large national scale, can only exist if:

 a) Human beings are able to divorce their concept of freedom from the narrow and the selfish to the the wide and selfless
 b) That if human beings can never get past their selfish notion of freedom then we must have enlightened leaders that can ensure that the anti-liberty agendas of various individuals never be codified into law.

You can see my problem here. Point a) assumes something that is impossible at this current place and time of human development, and I think may never be possible. My metamorphisis to libertarianism wasn't an easy process, and it only began once I came to terms with the fact that I did not truly understand, love, or really want freedom. It took years of feeling uneasy intellectually and a solid year of hard self reflection until I emerged a libertarian. Libertarianism, much like steel, isn't something you see very often naturally, it comes through passing the mental cruciable, much like forging steel, and only at the end of that mental cruciable do you get a true libertarian.

As for point b) well if point b) were possible, well, then we wouldn't be in the crisis we are in today now would we? This raises serious questions, in my mind at least, about the ability for us to ever achieve a society that truly value freedom.  Though this could change, and new information be brought to my attention to change my opinion, the depressing truth as I have seen it. Is that people don't care about liberty provided they get what they want.


  1. Don't assume your "intellection growth" has ended there. If you are open minded you will probably change your mind in the future to reflect what you've learned, just as you've changed it in the past.

    There aren't a lot of old wise libertarians for the same reason there aren't a lot of old liberals.

    1. Aren't a lot of old wise libertarians? Seems like a pretty subjective opinion. And libertarians aren't necessarily not conservative.

    2. I agree it is subjective. This is a rather subjective discussion in general.

      The conception of what qualifies as freedom is itself a subjective matter:
      "if b) were possible, well, then we wouldn't be in the crisis we are in today now would we?"

      The exact crisis? Probably not. But the above implies things would otherwise be better. Point to a society without "enlightened leaders that can ensure that the anti-liberty agendas of various individuals never be codified into law", and most are much worse off than we.

      The FATA region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is an area free of most all forms of government intervention. Somalia was a good approximation of the anarcho-capitalist approach as well (before UN intervention back in the 1990s). Neither example had been doing particularly well even before we sent in the troops. There is no large scale successful example of a libertarian society that comes to mind either currently or historically.

      I agree with Ben Franklin's (often misquoted) statement: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." The key words (often excluded) being "essential" and "a little temporary safety". We all give up some liberty for security in any society constrained by law. Property rights which enable commerce could not exist without it, nor could large scale industry be funded without functioning credit markets. There are harms to others that cannot be encompassed only under the broad categories of fraud and/or violence. Relying solely on civil litigation to address each and every harm after the event is neither a streamlined approach to end all regulation nor an effective one in the interest of avoiding harm.

      That doesn't mean each and every regulation is helpful. I even agree that the vast majority aren't...that's the nature of bureaucracy and we can do better. There are always costs to gains. But there are some serious practical limitations in the practice of an ideology that excludes so much middle ground, which is the purview of the anarcho-capitalist.

    3. When I said enlightened leaders I am alluding to the top man fallacy who have above average intelligence and principal. History does show that we do get such individuals and men every once and a while, Agustus, Diocletian, the Founders, but they are aberrations not the norm. Most leaders are not that much more intelligent, or principaled, or filled with more foresight, than the average man.

      Anarcho-capitlaism is not solely libertarianism, though I know many libertarians are anarcho-capitalists and you could argue that anarcho-libertarians is the purest form of libertarianism, and I recognize it's problems. For anarcho-capitalism to exist you have to assume that individuals have the foresight, and the principal, to live and let live, and more importantly, look at the long term benefits of their actions. Anarcho-capitalism would be the perfect a perfect world. We don't have that. Many libertarians acknowledge this paradox and when you say a libertarian society you are articulating a very different vision of one than I am.

      I am a constituionalist, which is very libertarian. If California wants to run themselves into the ground with progressive laws, so be it, just don't use the Federal government to force my state to be like California. The states can pass whatever laws and programs they choose, provided it doesn't violate the constitution. My lament is more about the American people's real indifference to the constitution in any meaningful sense.

      They are willing to sacrifice their liberties, such as unreasonable searches, for the promise of 'free' healthcare, never mind the merits or demerits of a socialized system, there is no constitutional basis for it. What is galling is that rather than go through the laws and processs that are required that would make healthcare a federal responsibility they come up with rationalizations and threadbare arguments for why they can in fact implement a program that is not one of the enumerated powers of Federal government. It reeks of intellectual and moral laziness, as well as short sightedness.

      This path on which we tread is incredibly dangerous, and in a freedom loving society, would never be tolerated. But it is, and even worse, suppossed conservatives are just as bad as the progressives. I could go on but I will end it here.

  2. Cogitans Iuvenis:

    "Anonymous's" comments are an example that perfectly illustrates the truth in your posting.


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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.