Disclaimer: When in this post I write about Libertarians, I mean Right-Libertarian
The thing is this: Libertarians are staunch supporters of unregulated Capitalism along with unrestricted personal freedom. They insist on non-aggression and only on specific government intervention, generally only enough to protect the basis of Capitalism: Private Property.
And here we reach our first problem. Every time I’ve discussed with Libertarians, they explain these wonderful concepts, they drill me on my freedom-loving, and eventually we get to arguing economics.
Now a peculiar difference in methodology appears.
I am a (far) left-libertarian. I’ve reached this position by at some point in my life wondering “How can the world become better?”2. This question coloured the research I did and the answers I sought.
I moved gradually to the left because I noticed that Capitalism is the only economic force in the world and yet it’s totally incapable of solving even the worst of our problems. Indeed, our situation is only deteriorating. My opinion is more nuanced than that of course but this is what I’ve discovered from looking at a broken capitalistic socioeconomic system and continuously asking the same question.
Once I figure out a few ways with which the world can become better, I modify my morality to be compatible with them.
The Libertarian Way
The Libertarian starts from the premise: “(Negative) Freedom is good” and then builds his whole belief system with ways to achieve more of this freedom. For it naturally follows, if freedom is good, then when the largest amount of humans have the maximum amount of freedom, the world will be the best it can be. Thus anything that is compatible with more freedom, must be good as well.
But their premise is unargued for. They never turn to ask: Why is Freedom good? Or, if they do, they start running around in circles with their rest of their beliefs. For example:
- The “Free Market” is good because it can create a lot of wealth for some people and that should be allowed because to do otherwise would be to restrict one’s freedom which is not good because it is not compatible with the only thing that is works in the world, the “Free Market”.
- Capitalism is good because it is the only thing that is compatible with the human nature of greed which is good because Capitalism requires it to work.
I think you get the point.
This was made especially clear in my recent discussion with a member of the audience who, while arguing that current mainstream economics are based on the scientific method (they’re not), informed me that Libertarians do not base their morality upon the superiority of those but rather, their belief is simply reinforced by them working (theoretically).
Thus, the Libertarians simply start from the conclusion and then finds beliefs to reinforce it. They have formed their morality and are choosing to believe whichever data are compatible with it.
Needless to say, such a take on reality and morality is not only misguided but it is diametrically opposite to the scientific and sceptical thought. The human mind’s ability to see the hits and ignore the misses is well known and understood, and this is why in order to even have a chance of finding the correct position, we need to start from the observation.
So Libertarians, I implore you. Ask yourself: Why is (negative) freedom good? Try to answer this question without running around in circles with the “Free Market” and the like. You will eventually discover that the only philosophy which attempted to truly base this moral grounding is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. And she has failed miserably.
If you do believe you can defend a morality centered around negative freedom, by all means jump in and let me know why I’m wrong.
- or possibly Objectivist, I can never be sure but I think it was mostly the former as they weren’t arrogant or rude enough [↩]
- I can already hear the questions coming to ask me how I define what is better and why should it be my opinion that counts. *Sigh* [↩]