Friday, February 8, 2013

No, Liberatarianism Does not Follow Atheism (part 1)

Readers of this blog know two things about me: one, I'm an atheist, but I don't like the term and I prefer humanist for the same reason Asimov did. Second, I have an extremely... unsympathetic... view of Libertarianism. 

So whenever I see something connecting the two like they're natural progressions of one another, I get rather upset. See, Libertarianism is, at its heart, a collection of incredibly varied political philosophies, only a handful of which follow any kind of logical progression and are remotely connected with the real world. So before I go into this, let me outline the various types of "lolbertarian" you'll meet (if only because "libertard" is far too harsh and hateful, for the same reason "retard" is. Some of these are also likely going to be types of libertarianism that you do not recognize from any debates online; the "internet libertarian classic" is a deontological libertarian who holds propertarian and minarchian views. Below the cut is what exactly that means).

Libertarianism, in most instances, is the castle built in the clouds; the pie in the sky. It gives us the potential for a society where people don't have to do what they don't want to, where individuals shouldn't be forced to do anything by anyone, and where creative spirit and freedom flourish, like the works of J. S. Steinmen, M.D. It's a great idea. It works great in theory, just like the rotary engine and communism. And it works in real life just like the rotary engine and communism did, too.

Every child dreams of not having to go to bed and of staying up late and eating whatever they want to and doing whatever they want to regardless of what their parents say or what society expects of them. When you age that by about 20 or 30 years, you get most libertarians.

There are three common ways Libertarians divide up. The first is the Consequentialist/Natural Rights or Deontological Libertarianism. Deontological libertarianism is the type of libertarianism that's big on "natural rights", including individual sovereignty, and believe that things like force and fraud are violations of those natural rights. Deontological libertarians take the position of the non-aggressive principal, which basically states that no human being has the right to initiate force or fraud on another human being or piece of property, at all, and their entire "morality" is built around this concept. At its heart, Deontological libertarianism seems like a mighty good thing, until you realize that these are often the clowns screaming that "taxes are theft!" and are often some of the most jealous of the poor, expressing the greatest hatred for them ("lazy bastards sit on their ass all day and collect welfare - money they stole from me!")

The whole "taxes are theft" makes a great deal of sense given their entire "moral" paradigm is based around the notion that nobody should be allowed to force anyone to do anything. This falls apart when you look at things like crimes; how do you punish people? By stripping them of their freedom? How does this mesh with your concept of "no human is allowed to initiate force on any other person?" People commit crimes every day; theft, murder, rape. Do you invoke lex talionis? Do you attempt rehabilitative justice? And who pays for it, if the criminal themselves cannot? Or do you just shoot the criminal outright? What if you shoot the wrong person? Should you be shot for murder? There's no easy answers to these question, but claiming outright "nope. Nobody has the power to force anyone to do anything" is just absurd and stupid. It doesn't work in real life - just like that rotary engine.

Consequentialists, meanwhile, support the free market and private property, so long as they bring about positive consequences. Their moral position is a little more complicated than the psychological splitting of deontological libertarianism. Initiation of force is often not considered inherently immoral to these types of libertarians, and the basic principal they hold is that political and economic libertarian lead to happiness and prosperity. Consequentialist libertarians are more of then than not left-wing libertarians (indeed, there's such a thing as Libertarians socialism, which is inherently consequentialist), although there are hybrid views of the two. For a while, I was a consequentialist social libertarian (I was never an economic liberal; I never have been - I wear red, and I'm a solid socialist/economic conservative). I might still be considered a consequentialist social libertarian, although my position on firearms has shifted over the last few months (I went from "don't really care" to "perhaps banning the more dangerous one is a healthy solution" to "ban those fuckers. Nobody needs an AR-15; regulate that amendment the same way we regulate the others.")

The next distinction is the Propertarian/Non-Propertarian distinction. Propertarians define liberty as "leave me and my stuff alone." They're non-aggressive, and they believe aggression is violation of personal property (these are the other half of the clown car that are screaming "taxes are theft!") They support the free market and are not opposed to monopolies or consolidation of power. If you've read The Blue Pimpernel, while he's only a minor character, the County Executive, Jefferson Phelps, is one of these.

Sitting right in the middle are the Mutualists, who argue that private property is a social contract, and that without some sort of government to enforce it, it's meaningless. They believe in a more collective ownership, since without state coercion, hierarchy and individualism would be economically inefficient.

The Non-Propertarians hold the liberty can only occur in the absence of authority - any authority. Thus, they aim to remove all of various forms of authority, including the authority of private ownership, since the belief that private ownership takes anyway from the others in the group. Related here is Libertarian Socialism, which is a group of philosophies that promote what is basically a form of slightly more organized anarcho-communism; the emphasis is on libertarian municipalism, decentralized direct democracy, citizens assemblies, trade unions, and others.

The last distinction is Anarchism/Minarchism. This is where liberals arguing against libertarianism often make a fatal mistake; it can be easy to assume that all libertarians are anarchists, but not even the "classic troll libertarian" that we encounter online is an anarchist libertarian. Most of them are minarchists, meaning that they want limited government, likely in the same way that the GOP is after limited government. Minarchists believe that states should exist, but that the purpose of the state is to protect against fraud, supply the military, police, and courts, in addition to defending against aggression (i.e., "night watchmen states.") The society of the Blue Pimpernel is a "night watchman state". Anything else is believed to be unnecessary for the state to function and therefore, should be a "for-profit service." The degree to which one is a minarchist can vary; some minarchists see a point in infrastructure (such as roads and a power grid) while others don't even believe that police are necessary and they should be a for-profit service.

China is, ironically, the best example of what a Minarchist government would look like in real life. It has a very simple tax policy, and your finances only go towards military spending and police. And it's a Totalitarian capitalist country, so there's an Aesop in here somewhere.

Anarchism is what most liberals believe libertarians are. The Anarcho-Libertarianism/Anarcho-Capitalism is the belief in the utter absence of the state. Anarchy, to quote V, means without a leader, not with order. Whether or not I have a sympathetic view of anarchy depends very much on how I feel that day, but since we're all familiar with anarchy (and going there would be another five or six posts unto themselves) would be a lot more complicated than I have space for.

Armed with this, then, know that the most common Libertarian is a Deontological, Propertarian, Minarchist Libertarian whose views may be rather slippery and difficult to grasp, especially on the Minarchist front. There are, however, others; you'll find anarchist libertarians, you'll find socialist libertarians, and you'll find mutualist libertarians. Far too often libertarianism gets dismissed as one whole, uniform philosophy, and that makes it really hard to argue against. Especially when you're talking past one another.

Often confused with libertarianism is Objectivism, Ayn Rand's joke philosophy that I've picked apart numerous times before (for her part, Rand often regarded the Libertarians as "hippies of the right"), and Theocratic Libertarianism. That last form is especially dangerous; it presents itself as typical minarchism, but this is type of minarchism that demands less government for the same reason that criminals would want less police; it's an extremely toxic form of libertarianism that bleats "states rights!" and they want the give the states the ability to enforce that theocracy, through a weakening of the federal government. The United States in the Blue Pimpernel is attempting to be a "night watchman state". Really, it's heading towards one of these.

Theocratic Libertarianism is a virus meme. Classic Libertarianism is bad enough as it is, but Theocratic Libertarianism is flat evil, since, and you know it as well as I do, when it comes to your freedom or God's will, God's fan club is always going to put the latter first. Especially when they agree with God's will and they want to see you punished for not agreeing with them.

Thus ends part one. In part two, I'll look at the actual article itself, since now we can critically look at what libertarianism is, and what it entails.

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