Thursday, January 28, 2010

Libertarianism: What It Is and Is Not

Libertarians are often described to the uninitiated as "fiscally conservative, socially liberal." But that is a deeply misleading characterization. Libertarians are not split in their alignment between the political right and left, between conservatives and progressives, respectively. Libertarians have their own approach to political and economic problems, generally drawing on a well thought-out philosophical system of individual freedom.

Libertarians value individuality, by virtue of humans being born as co-equals into this world. Human beings are not brought into this world in bondage, with necessary obeisance or loyalty to a clan, race, nation, or even a god. Humans, as sentient beings, with rationality capable of engaging and knowing the world, have agency. Thus the ethical standard by which humans should justly relate to one another is not arbitrary; it is not determined by tradition, or by collective decree or license. It is freedom.

As such, libertarians are not "fiscally conservative," because libertarians do not seek to "conserve" the government spending status quo. In general, libertarians wants radical reform of the marketplace to one of government non-intervention and a renewed emphasis on the sanctity of private property rights.

Libertarians are not "socially liberal." Though "liberal" may be a fairly accurate descriptor in classical terms, "liberalism" is often wrongly associated with the political left. The current political left is about as far from "socially liberal" in classical terms as imaginable; and indeed, due to the exposure of the left's hypocrisy in invoking the term "liberal," and the recent popularization of the term as an invective, the left has fled it almost entirely. Nonetheless, the descriptor of libertarianism as "socially liberal" stands in the left's wake.

The American left now describes itself as "progressive." Though there is hardly anything "progressive" about the left's agenda, since the left now hearkens back to a pre-Enlightenment world of statism and mobocracy, the term's allusion to an earlier period in American history is informative. Yet the progressives of that former era tend to be relatively innocent compared to the current "radical progressives," who have imbued cultural Marxism into their cause. It is through the lens of cultural Marxism, or "critical theory," that we can really differentiate libertarians and the political left on social issues.

At its core, critical theory is about the 'critique' of capitalism, and thus American politics and economy. The myriad of guises that critical theory can take range from environmental extremism, to radical feminism, to Afro-centrism - the number of potential causes are limited only by the imagination. We must realize that these causes are not about liberation; they are about turning groups and causes into weapons to be wielded against capitalism and America as we know it.

Thus there is a world of difference between the libertarian, who cares not if homosexuals join together and desire to call it "marriage," nor desire the state to put its stamp of imprimatur on any civil association; and the progressive, who seeks to force the state or churches to recognize such marriage. There is likewise a difference between libertarians, who recognize that men and women are human beings, and as such should be afforded equal individual rights and protections; and progressives, who seek to force the state and businesses to adopt hiring practices such as quotas, and "equal work for equal pay." There is also a difference between libertarians, who seek a truly "colorblind" society, meaning the judgment of individuals according to their personal behavior; and progressives, who seek to continue the grievances of blacks and other "minorities," and grant such arbitrary classes of individuals special privileges and benefits, such as "affirmative action."

It is the libertarian's view that the market punishes the ignorant who discriminate against others on any other basis but on the merits. It should be up to the employer or organization to discriminate as it deems fit; knowing full well that it is its loss for exercising flawed judgment. It is the view of the libertarian that an organization, like an individual, is able to "learn." If it does not, it is naturally punished.

The libertarian believes the individual should have the right to discriminate, with the implicit knowledge that irrational discrimination damages that individual. The radical progressive left, which is wrongly associated with "social liberalism," seeks the obliteration of all forms of discrimination; and as such, the destruction of an economy and society where the behavior of individuals is the sole guide to one's reward or punishment in life. A civilization cannot rest on the slip-shod terrain of irrational archetypes that lead to the decimation of the virtuous for the sake of the unproductive, incompetent, and vain.

In summary, libertarianism is not for those who rest easy with philosophical inconsistency, irrationality, and arbitrary power over the individual. Libertarianism is conservative only to the extent that a predictable legal and political order is necessary for individual freedom. But it cannot be just any order, it must be one of individual rights, protections, and liberty.

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