No, I don’t mean to create a race of highly intelligent super robots who will take over the world and then leave you alone. (Though if I had the resources and the skills, it does sound like a delightful way to become an evil villain. I could even have an evil cat as my sidekick. But I digress. ) By synthetic, I mean as opposed to analytic. Yes, I am afraid it is one of those philosophical articles, at least at the start.
Most libertarians are quite good at analysis. We can break down an argument into its component pieces and, quite typically, rip it to pieces. So much of what we assume to be true about the world can be questioned. Ideas do have consequences and, by following those ideas to their logical conclusions, it can shake even the strongest convictions. Hell, we are so good at that sort of thinking that we spend a significant amount of time turning it on one another.
But the greatest failure of our way of thinking is a lack of vision and imagination. Even if you convince people that there are serious problems with the way in which we currently organize society, if we cannot provide realistic alternatives, they are not going to support change. For most people, the devil they know is indeed preferable to the great unknown. It is not surprising that libertarians are more likely to be young, relatively affluent males than older, poorer females. To the former, the unknown is exciting. To the latter, it is frightening.
We live in a society and we have to recognize that people have needs and they are not always going to be able to provide for themselves. It is fine to remind folks that a free market will consistently outperform any other economic system in terms of providing a higher standard of living, even to the poorest. But if moving towards that end means you are taking away my food stamps and my child’s medical card, you aren’t winning that argument. In fact, you have just made it less likely that that person will ever listen to you again.
It is not enough to “win” the argument. If we want real change, it takes much more than that. And one of the things it takes is viable alternatives to the status quo. If we want a truly voluntaristic society, we have to show how such a society can “work.” Merely telling people that it will give us more goods and services isn’t enough. We have to show that a libertarian society can be equally efficient in providing safety and security. We have to show how it will provide, not just more smart phones, but more of the social goods that the average person also desires. And we need to show how our society will provide those services even better than they are being provided today.
It is a big challenge. Unlike other political philosophies, we can’t simply trot out another government program to “fix” things. We have to build from the bottom up and that won’t be easy. We need synthesis, not just analysis. So where will we find these “synthetic libertarians?” I don’t know. It is quite a turn of thought. I will try to do a better job myself but it is going to take more than just me. Maybe it can be you.
As always, thanks for following along. Enjoy the rest of your week and we’ll see you back here this weekend!