Why I’m Not a Libertarian
I’ve had quite a few interactions with libertarians over the years—two or three times as many as I’ve had with progressivist liberals, in fact. (Bear in mind, I live in Utah, so it’s really not all that surprising.) According to them, the basic premise of libertarian thought is, “Do whatever you’d like, so long as it’s not infringing upon my rights.” Libertarianism, then, is seemingly the most tolerant political ideology we have yet to encounter…or is it?
I believe in fostering communities. I believe that we as people are far better together than we are on our own. I believe, as President Obama himself has said, that “we’re all in this together,” though I must stress that, unlike the President, I don’t like the notion of Big Government playing nanny in a hope we’ll all just get along. In fact, I think life in this country would be greatly improved if government stepped out of the way and let people work through their differences in a civilized, relational fashion. Alas, I digress…
Libertarianism, then, is far too individualistic for my taste. By asserting that men and women should be free to “do whatever they’d like, so long as it isn’t infringing upon the rights of anyone else,” libertarianism is inherently destructive to any concept of community, at least from a policy perspective.
Some may be confused by what I mean here. Let me say it this way. Isn’t it true that if you stand up for anything at all, you are necessarily standing up against something else? If you stand up for justice, aren’t you necessarily standing against oppression and the exploitation of society’s poor and vulnerable? And if you stand up for marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman, aren’t you standing against gay marriage, polygamy, and the like?
Libertarianism, then, requires us as a society to forsake any and every ideal we may hold dear, except the notion of individual liberty. That, and that alone, is the only ideal that libertarianism permits us to espouse in our government policy. In a sense, it’s almost contradictory in nature, and strictly individualistic.
In perhaps what amounts to an ironic twist, though, it is for that same reason that I think that libertarianism, though it’s growing in popularity, will ultimately fail. It’s the same reason that the progressivist notion of “tolerance” espoused by the Left is failing: because in standing up for anything at all, you are by necessity standing against something else.
Take a quick break from all this deep philosophy to watch this Jon Stewart segment. He makes my point for me.
That segment brings me an inexpressible level of enjoyment. So much for “tolerance,” eh Democrats? Enough with my gloating…
The point is still the same: libertarianism, like the progressivist notion of “tolerance,” will ultimately meet demise because it fails to consider that in asking our government to stand up for anything at all, we are by necessity asking it to stand against something else; and the problem, of course, in asking this of our government, is what we do with the people who we’re asking the government to stand against? Surely they, being just as much citizens of the United States, are just as entitled to have their views represented in government? Are they not a minority whose rights are just as deserving of protection by the Constitution and rule of law as everyone else? It would seem, then, that in asking our government to stand up for individual liberty and it alone, we are asking government to infringe upon the rights of those who would rather have their government stand up for more than that.
Thus, both the progressivist notion of tolerance and the increasingly popular libertarianism are far too idealistic to be relevant from a policy standpoint. As it turns out, they’re just too simple.