Special thanks to all my libertarian friends who read this before I published it and still continue to be my friend.
Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where the government didn’t interfere in your private life, where you paid minimal taxes, and were free to do whatever you wanted as long as it didn’t infringe on others freedoms?
Well then, you might be a libertarian… Or you might not.
Libertarianism is a sexy concept right now. You might have heard about it because of third party candidate Gary Johnson, or from the Republican Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul. Or you turned into one overnight after completing Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But what do libertarians believe in?
The core value of libertarianism is “small government,” which is a vague concept meaning pretty much whatever any individual Libertarian wants it to mean. So, anything from keeping the government out of your bedroom to the privatization of almost every function of government from education to the police force can fall under the libertarian agenda.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that fiscally conservative Republicans are more likely to vote libertarian than Democrats. However, on social issues ― some of the libertarian policy positions are actually more progressive than a Occupy Wall Street drum circle. The Libertarian stance on social issues include making prostitution legal and legalizing all drugs ― even the good ones. Libertarians also believe that no military action should be taken against foreign nations unless the U.S. is attacked first. All of which sounds great to me.
What doesn’t sound as great are the libertarian ideals on the economic front.
Libertarianism comes down to belief that the principles that drive a free market economy can be applied to how humans govern themselves. It’s this idea that an invisible hand that guides the free market will also drive human interaction with social order. This foundation is one that I disagree with, when unchecked ― man motivated by self-gain will not ultimately do the right thing. This is why there are criminals, those who commit crimes even when there is a system that actively tries to prevent it.
The whole purpose of civilization should be to ensure that everyone is fed, clothed, housed and NOT to create the conditions so that the few can secure a substantially greater portion of resources while others are left with virtually none. In a libertarian society, who protects the unprotected, who defends the rights of the defenseless? Even libertarians acknowledge that a free market will drive a larger wealth disparity ― which some believe will be offset by the trickling down of wealth and technology. But wealth inequality paired with deregulation creates an opportunity for haves to rule the have-nots. This is one of the many reasons for regulation ― to ensure that the rich few do not impose their will unjustly or destructively on the poor multitudes.
Another libertarian belief is the idea that the government should not be allowed to impose its will on the citizenry. However, in a truly free market that promotes freedom of contract and de-regulation ― employers have a right to force rules that would never be permitted in our current Democratic systems. Libertarianism is a rich man’s ideal. It ostensibly gives ultimate freedoms and choice to everyone at the cost of helping the helpless. It completely ignores the reality of economic forces, which compel the poor to take jobs they don’t want and live where they don’t want to just because they have to.
While individual freedoms extending to property rights are in the forefront of the core principles of libertarianism ― deregulation and a free market economy that will lead to an even bigger wealth gap sounds like the prologue to the movie Elysium starring Matt Damon. Or Snowpiercer. Or any other dystopian future pic where classism runs rampant and the massive lower income classes rise against their small but incredibly wealthy oppressors.
If you want to understand what would happen in a libertarian society, watch the movie Elysium. That’s a libertarian utopia. Where the wealth disparity is abysmal and the eroding middle class has fully shifted well below the poverty line. Yes, we will likely continue to make technological advancements, but increasingly in service to a narrower and narrower segment of the population.
You may see the poor or underclass as weak ― the “losers” in the giant meritocratic experiment that is the libertarian ideal, but weak as they are, there are going to be a hell of a lot more of them than there are of you. So in the hopes of avoiding the fate of the monarchy during the French Revolution, maybe it’s best to retain welfare and at least a modest social safety net ― if for no other reason than to keep them from grabbing their pitchforks and turning on you. Think of it as a “Riot Tax.”
In the end, libertarianism is similar to communism. On the face they’re both noble, but impossibly ambitious theories ― one has individual freedom as its core principle and the other, equality. However, in practice, both concepts lead to outcomes that aren’t as pure. Unlike communism, we have yet to see libertarianism crumble after application, but, given the current state of the Republican party, we may see it’s influence soon enough.