The Libertarian Socialist – Up With People and Down on None
It may well be true that very many self-described libertarians tend to be of a such a stubborn independent bent that they themselves might suffer from their aversion to community. However, adopting the life of a cane-shaking, iconoclastic hermit is not necessary of or necessarily connected to the philosophy of libertarianism.
Libertarianism is not a personal philosophy. It is a philosophy of the role of government or, more plainly, how human beings must only necessarily, but not ideally relate to one another, preserving every freedom along the way for every individual insofar as it does not directly infringe upon the same freedoms of another individual.
I’ve often jokingly staged the following discussion in my head:
What’s wrong with communists or socialists? These are people who have simply decided that they would like to share their assets and labor more equally amongst a group of like minded individuals in a voluntary collective. It’s not as though they’re trying to force anyone to do things against their will.
Of course, it is a bit of a conceit to use the terms “communist” and “socialist” as they commonly refer very explicitly to philosophies of government that, while still difficult to define, very much force a great many apparent pleasantries that are fuzzy in both feeling and logic onto its subjects.
I would have done better to have referred to these “socialists” or “communists” as collectivists or simply people who value the welfare of their community over their own unique desires, or to whom these concepts are one and the same. Indeed, such a person or people could voluntarily pursue such objectives, persuading others through their actions and free communications, while still being libertarian in that they would not resort to the use of force to accomplish these goals, either by direct aggression or by abstracted proxy of the weapon of government.
A government governed in line with a philosophy of communism or socialism or, more observable, enacting any policies that treats any group of citizens or citizen differently than others directed by the will of any majority or minority will always be violating someone’s personal liberty.
A government governed by the philosophy of libertarianism allows every individual the same liberty to pursue whatever they wish regardless of whether their own personal philosophy is of an individualistic or collectivist nature.
It is the freedom to arbitrarily pursue happiness or other such elusive concepts, for better or worse, both the successes and failures of our desires, that makes life worth living and trumps any arbitrary minimum of existence that is managed to any degree that prohibits for any individual or group even the craziest, unthinkable, unpopular freedom.
I complain…quite a bit…but on this topic, I too have much work to do. As is often the case when hearing someone discuss their desires for a communal project that has in the past been connected to government implementations, this implicit connection often annoys me so much as to begrudge their ideas in my own mind without allowing the possibility that they may be voluntary pursuits that should possibly be applauded, or at least neutrally regarded, rather than bitterly written off. That government is a weapon and of first resort for so many pursuits in life, is unfortunate, but I should be better than to presume that fact or to judge the pursuit by its means.
Indeed, when arguing governmental actions, it is perhaps more important at that time to be very clear that the objection is towards using the force of government as a means to the end, and is not an objection of the goal itself, lest it be misunderstood that I somehow ironically believe that people should be prohibited from pursuing any or every individual or collective goal.
If we were somehow able to convincingly discover the meaning of life, perhaps we could all get in line and act accordingly. That the answer is not known, is not shared universally where it is claimed to be, and may not exist at all provides a poor argument for governing the proper way of waitin’ around to die. Our collective joy does not rest on a single answer, but rather the peaceful coexistence of all of our contradictory pursuits. That there are those convinced not only that they have won this pursuit, but that their prize is so unquestionably of the same benefit to everyone that force, whether blunt or bureaucratic, is justified against those that disagree…is the world’s greatest tragedy.
In the end, what matters of libertarianism…of a free society…is that no matter what we pursue for ourselves or for others we can agree that while we CAN…and with voluntary actions MIGHT…no one is MADE to do so.
While later masturbating to witty quotations of Frédéric Bastiat, I came across a link to a wikipedia entry on Libertarian Socialists. As I attempt to whip up these arguments more or less from scratch, the goal of my article was in no way intended to reference the views of any established Libertarian Socialist school of thought, but rather using these terms in a seemingly absurd juxtaposition that leads to the reality that communal or collectivist lives can still be led within a Libertarian society/government, but that a Socialist/Communist government rather randomly disallows very many ways of life.