an obession with first principles

Libertarianism and Society

Posted: Saturday Mar 31st | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Philosophising, Politics | View Comments

As Ron Paul continually runs for higher office more and more people are hearing some of his policies, and thus the word libertarian. This post isn’t about Ron Paul. Nor do I imagine that people who aren’t following politics, but now hear “libertarian” actually know what this political philosophy is actually founded on. I sure didn’t, but I saw a very in depth discussion on Reddit (yes, deal with it). So I wanted to dissect the underpinnings

The poster goes on to describe libertarianism as wholly wrapped around the defense of personal property (which includes ones person) and pure utilitarian ends. Any action undertaken by anyone — including the state — to remove personal property (which, in some way, includes currency) is understood to be immoral. Taxation is thus immoral. The poster goes on to suggest that a privatized court and police is a system that will work. I want to stop and consider these elements (ignoring his talk on education, with which I am fairly sympathetic).

First, I am surprised that a political system would revolve, wholly and purely, around property rights. This means that the political system will inherently favor those with more property over those who have less. It is a system devised explicitly for the powerful. A person with more property can gain more property easier than a person with less (Especially when the property in question is land and resources).

Second, I am surprised that any political system could ever describe state-printed currency as “property”. The currency would not exist without the state, just like “free” markets. All historical societies we have studied have no markets, and no currency until a state creates them. “Primitive currencies” are not currencies at all, and are traded to resolve issues of status, dignity, and un-payable debts. If the state prints the currency it has the ability to extract from the state-created markets a percentage of that currency for creating and maintaining said currency and markets.

Third, I am surprised by the naivety of the libertarian belief that “every man is an island” is demonstrably false. We have always, are now always, and continually will always be in relation to the other around us. To act as if that is not the case is naive and ignorant. This is, again, born out by the evidence of all communities which care about one another. In the case of communities that are bound together there is often a social interplay of resolving of debt – but there is the unquestionable motive to care for the other as one’s self. With the understanding that they will do the same when it is necessary.

Fourth, I am utterly shocked by the proposition that a private court and police system will work. We have seen the slide of previously “free-er” markets into very rigged and non-free markets (as the poster admits). First, any state or private entity capable of enforcing penalties must be powerful enough to violate the guilty’s defense of personal property. Why would you trust a private system rather than a public one? I understand the argument of “once a private company violates trust they’ll lose in the marketplace”. But if the private company is capable of violating personal property rights how do you stop them? Other companies step in? What happens in the case of collusion between companies? This system slides right back down into rigging the game.

There is a nice correlation between government corruption and the rise of powerful multinational corporations which can donate endless to the political cycle. It seems only a public, and transparent state, staffed by citizens which can, and must, be mindful of how much power the state acquires. Only with true and accurate information about these people can we choose (ostensibly through voting) who to trust with dispensing the state’s abilities. The troubles with our democratic and representative system is that our voting systems, districts, etc are rigged to hold power, those elected are not representative whatsoever (either in ideology or in material wealth), and the inability — likely due to both of these factors combined with corporate money — to get true and accurate information about the people and the process.

It seems to me that property ought not be the central issue of a political philosophy — especially in our digital age when “property” is becoming a very gray area.