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Friday, May 13, 2005

Why I think there aren't more Libertarians.

Disclaimer: I am lazy. I have not read much about politics, and
I'm sure I have skimmed the little I have read. This Libertarian idea is new to me, although it does seem to echo my favourite ethical law: The Law of Thelema (i.e. do what you will).

I could wait until I was more knowledgeable about such things before posting, but then I'd spend all my time reading and researching. I'd never write anything. So here goes. Here are my thoughts on something I know next to nothing about.

This is what I currently think Libertarians are (if I am wrong, then this whole piece of writing should be trashed): Libertarians believe in personal freedom, that is people decide for themselves what they should do. People do not go around telling other people what to do. This might be a generalisation, and I am sure there is tension and dissension within the Libertarian ranks. How could it be otherwise?

If I know so little about Libertarians how could I possibly comment on why there aren't more of them? Well, while I was trying to find out more about Libertarianism, I read the following policy statement from the Libetrianz Party:
Libertarianz will leave you free to practice voluntary charity. All state benefits would be abolished - unemployment, sickness, and DPB - to permit the growth of voluntary charities and private insurance...
I like to think I am above such things, but my first reaction was "they can't do that!" It was a very strong gut reaction. It was a fear reaction.

Once I had calmed down enough to think about it I realised that it all boiled down to the fact that I was afraid that I wouldn't have any support if I got sick or couldn't work or just got old. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that other (eg poor) people would suffer. It had nothing to do with disadvantaging others. It was all about me. Maybe my recent sickness and support issues had something to do with my reaction, or maybe I am not as freedom loving as I thought I was.

Usually I like to think I believe that people are naturally charitable and generous. But believing something in the comfort and privacy of your own mind is quite different from having to rely on those beliefs in the real world. Even now, I am not sure I would be completely comfortable living in a society with no safeguards. It just goes to show how weak my beliefs are.

Anyway, if I am put off Libertarianism by the fear of leaping into the abyss and trusting that other people will be generous in my times of need, then surely other people have a similar, stronger and perhaps subconscious fear. I'm not sure they'd admit it even to themselves, but isn't it a natural reaction to be concerned for your own wellbeing?


There are actually answers to your concern, most of them essentially saying that in a libertarian society, (1) there would be a hell of a lot more employment, (2) there would be a hell of a lot more private charity.

Granted, libertarianism does not appeal to some people, and your concern is ultimately the concern that your need should create a duty on other people to give to you, and government should force them to do so. Libertarianism would say that the *lack* of government force in other areas would allow individuals to keep huge amounts of their earnings to give to those charities which would do a much better job of providing for the needy.

Googling "libertarian" and "poverty" will bring up a host of resources on this topic, including arguments pro and con.
I like the idea of less government. I think that people are charitable and generous.

And I don't think that other people should have a duty to me. Except perhaps my parents while I am growing up.

I guess what the post was about was that intellectually I agree with Libertarian principles. Yet I still had a very strong emotional reaction against a policy based on the very principles that I agree with. My reaction came from somewhere and I guess I am wondering where it came from.
When I first read their tax policy the selfsame emotional reaction kicked me in the gut. Voluntary donations? You have to be kidding me. Who in this self-centered world, where parents balk at paying school fees, would make a voluntary donation to support the government?

But at the same time their ideology has a lot of emotional appeal for me too. I'm half tempted to torment Peter Creswell into hosting a "This is Libertarianism" bbq for anybody and their dogs in the Auckland domain, because I'd definately want to chat to the man and just learn a bit more about this.
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