I thought it might be useful to get a few FAQs out of the way first:
- Does libertarian mean economically right wing and socially left wing? No. This is not a particularly good way of understanding libertarianism. Libertarians believe in the central axiom of limiting the size and scope of government. To this end, we disagree with any left or right wing position which encompasses bigger and more coercive government. We do not recognise the bogus dichotomy between “social” and “economic” freedom, as it is essentially an authoritarian smokescreen to allow politicians and theorists to masquerade as friends of liberty whilst justifying and excusing big government policies.
- Do libertarians have much in common with other ideologies? Plenty, actually. Libertarians are the ideological heirs to the traditions of 19th century classical liberalism. To the extent that classical liberalism has informed aspects of modern political movements, we have plenty in common with them. With modern conservatism, we share an esteem for property rights and the separation of powers and we thus tend to agree with the right in relation to economic matters more so than with the left. With modern leftism, we share a dislike for war as a knee-jerk solution to international problems and for government intrusion into that domain broadly known as the “bedroom”. With this combination of views, we tend to draw the ire of both the left and the right for not fitting into their pigeon-holed world views.
- Is libertarianism compatible with social conservatism? Yes, but only to the extent that it respects the principle of individual consent. Libertarians believe in allowing societies to form their own institutions (families, clubs, religious denominations) with their own rules, regulations and taboos. Indeed, it would be very hard to envision any kind of successful society in which such units and groups were not formed. Unlike modern progressives, who believe that libertine values should be prescriptively enforced on a society, we have no problem with the idea of societies forming cultural technologies designed to restrain human behaviour and have no problem with competing systems (religious or secular). The type of social conservatism that is incompatible with libertarianism is one which involves government enforcing normative standards not relating to violence against people or property. This is a line which no libertarian can cross.
- Is libertarianism compatible with egalitarianism? No. Libertarianism is about liberty. Egalitarianism is about equality. Liberty is about extending as far as possible the ability of the individual to act without the consent or authority of the state. Equality is about ensuring that people’s behaviour is configured into a pattern (i.e. opportunities, treatment, outcomes etc. must be equal) which means that individuals are not able to define their own goals and decisions but are forced to configure their behaviours according to pre-set criteria. Equality requires centralised coercion and control. Liberty requires the opposite. Therefore, egalitarianism is inherently authoritarian. So, for example, Noam Chomsky’s description of himself as a “libertarian socialist” is entirely oxymoronic. Egalitarianism is, in its own way, a perfectly respectable value system, but it is entirely antithetical to liberty and thus libertarianism.
- Does libertarianism have all of the answers? That’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t and it doesn’t claim to. Uniquely among political ideologies, libertarianism understands that life is too complex for centralised prescription. Libertarians know that they don’t have all of the answers and thus we don’t try to impose our own individual answers on anybody.
- So why should I care? The collapse of the western economy, the erosion of civil liberties, endless wars and a political class that worships the authoritarian unreason that makes our societies sick. Keep reading NSL and find out more…
Thank you for dropping by and see you again soon.