Libertarianism. Noun. Comes from the Latin. Libertas, meaning freedom. And suffixed with -ism because all ideologies get an -ism and it didn’t necessarily want to be left out.
Wikipedia defines Libertarians as seeking to maximize political freedom and autonomy, emphasizing freedom of choice, voluntary association, individual judgement and self owner-ship.
I think Libertarianism means different things to different people. For me, at least, Libertarianism is this…
I believe that I have NO idea whats best for you. I don’t know what makes you tick, what motivates you, what makes you happy and what makes you sad or what you even need to lead a full, happy and complete life. In the same way I don’t think other people know what makes me tick, what motivates me, what makes me happy or makes me sad etc. At the core of libertarianism is not inflicting your dogma on anyone else. Live and let live.
Libertarianism is not wanting to take ownership over someone else and deciding whats best for them.
In my family unit I have to make decisions every day for my progeny. My two year old makes pretty crap decisions (as far as I’m concerned) insofar as she tries to eat things off the supermarket floor and has a penchant for fingers in electrical sockets.
I try and make the best decisions I can for her based on my ability. Me and my wife collectively decide to severely limit sugar in our household, we considered what sort of kindergarten our daughter should attend. At some point when she reaches a certain age I would obvious like like her to train in Brazillian jujitsu. But what if she wants to do ballet instead? Do I nudge her in a particular direction or do I let her make that determination on her own. These sorts of decisions keep me up at night.
If I struggle with these sorts of decisions in my own family, how am I supposed to make decisions for other people most of whom I have never met and who are completely different to me. Who am I to decide on anything that affects that persons life in any way? How can I decide who that person should be allowed to associate with, who they are allowed to marry, what sort of healthcare that person should have, what they should be allowed to smoke or imbibe, what sky god they should worship? I have no idea whats best for them. Are we really so conceited and egomaniacal that we think that this is okay?
Today, this is what governments are, be they nominal democracies or run by despots. At the core of any government there is a group of political elite who want to tell you what to do and how you should live your life. You are given rules to follow and if you don’t follow them, someone from that organization will come with a gun and lock you up (or kill you).
People often associate Libertarianism with anarchy. It is argued that government and regulation offer a supportive framework without which there would just be chaos. Anthropologically we are tribal, social mammals. We do well in groups of about 150 individuals. Anything larger and the social bonds start to fall apart. The polar opposite to the environment that we are supposed to thrive in is grouping us in countries of several million people in an area spanning several thousand miles.
It is argued that the government provides education, healthcare, infrastructure and security. All without which nothing would work and society would fall apart. Through taxation (extorting money from us through the threat of violence and incarceration) the money gained by the government from its citizens is pooled and then distributed among various government run departments that use that money efficiently to provide its citizens with healthcare, welfare, education and roads. On our behalf the government will fight wars in faraway foreign countries, clamp down on undesirable and immoral behavior of its citizenry, support employment through a bloated civil service, kick back money to corporations and disproportionately distribute benefits to the benefactors of the political elite.
The problem with Libertarianism is that I don’t feel I should try convince you of its merits. After all, you should be able to do and follow any political system you want. I can extol Libertarianism for its perceived benefits as I see them. Maybe we can agree that big government and over regulation isn’t making us better or happier. Let cut the government down to the bare minimum required. Then again, maybe we can’t.
I would advocate decentralizing into small communities. The most amazing trait human beings have is the ability to cooperate. Its what allowed us dominion over this planet. Smaller groups cooperating with a ‘live and let live’ philosophy could achieve much more and achieve it much more efficiently. If the community over there wants to practice polygamy, smoke mushrooms, worship a giant oak tree and fly kites for a living that’s fine with me. As long as they let me be and don’t want to hurt me. I’m sure we can still agree to cooperate with one another for mutually beneficial reasons like, safety, healthcare, science and the maintenance of infrastructure without the need for an overarching government forcing us to tow a particular line.
Libertarianism is not a Utopian society or fix all solution. I do however think its better ideology than anything that we have at the moment. But I’m happy for you to disagree.