So it begins. Time to devote at least one post a week to political philosophy. Time to explicate an idea that I find to be self-evident but which others find to be confusing. So let’s go.
To me, the first principle of libertarianism is individualism, the belief that the essential unit of politics is the individual. In fact, the only truly “real” unit is the individual. Whether you want to discuss class, race, sex or nationality, all of those categories are simply a collection of individuals. No group acquires any special status, either because of its size or because of any prior position, either of privilege or disadvantage.
Once you accept the primacy of the individual, it is a short step towards recognizing his or her rights with respect to any other individual. Unless one individual somehow interferes with another, they have every right to be left alone. Absent some previous contractual agreement, no person should be compelled to behave in any particular way. And a world lacking such compulsion is the libertarian ideal.
At some level, most people are with me on this point. Of course not they say. But most make an exception for government rules, seeing democracy as somehow consistent with individual freedom. But a simple majority vote hardly establishes any particular policy choice as moral and justified. It is simply two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for dinner.
That being said, ideas have consequences and even many libertarians are not ready to accept the consequences of these ideas. A world in which no one is permitted to control anyone else, regardless of the context, is one which renders both modern voting and modern government immoral and illegitimate.
In the end, pure libertarianism is anarchism, a society entirely absent the modern nation-state. And that is a very tough pill for the average American to swallow. Are they right? Am I insane? Or do their objections represent a failure of imagination? You might imagine my answer but you’ll have to wait at least a few days to find out for sure.
Until then, have a great weekend and thanks for reading!