Monday, March 23, 2009

Libertarian (updated)

The point just came up in a comment: how do you define "libertarian"? (I am not saying here that I am one, because messing with politics is intellectual suicide, but it may be closer than any other political philosophy I've seen, from what little I know.)

I find that the more you mire it down into specifics, the more muddled does the concept become. To me, it means at its basic: Don't f**k around with my life, and I don't f**k around with yours. Or more positively: I have no interest in controlling what you do, and I'd be happier if you don't attempt to control what I do.

Of course the problem is that we all want freedom to do whatever we like, but when others do something we don't like, that's offensive and should be curtailed by whatever means we have!

I guess it's also connected to the alternative political spectrum: not left to right, but centralized versus decentralized. A totally empowered world government at one end, and a totally empowered individual at the other. I lean towards the latter.

What I would love is for a philosophical discussion of liberty, it's an interesting and important and difficult principle. But sadly this kind of thing usually quickly becomes a political discussion, in the meaning of "strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles," as Ambrose Bierce said, and seldom were truer words spoken.

An unrelated point: our libertarian friend Kent has an odd characteristic: when he makes a comment on this blog, I don't get the usual e-mail notification about it. I hope this is not true of too many people, because I want to read the comments. Does anybody have any clue as to why this should be so? (I've checked my spam folder, they are not there.)


Monsieur Beep! said...

The virtue which the term Responsibility denotes would take each one of us very very far, and would require just some logistic governmental guidance and organizational measures.

eolake said...

Well, it's clear that many religious folk feel strongly that it's their responsibility that others live according to the rules of their god. So.

Monsieur Beep! said...

You're so right.
That's where the problems already start.
No easy solution in sight...........

All terms can be misunderstood, and misinterpreted, and develop a different meaning.

Conscience? Would this be a better term? No! (See Eo's comment, replacing "Responsibility" for "Conscience").

T said...

Could you please tell me why you make something political into a *religious* (I think I've mentioned, before, that this is a word I'm not terribly fond of...I guess because a Believer, in Christ, is a Christian. We believe in Jesus Christ and not a manmade *religion*. Christians, however, always seem to be lumped together with other...cults...aka *religions*. *Religion* something that is man-made.) discussion?

Conservatives (I'm presuming is whom you are referring to) vs. a Libertarian is not a *religious* group. These are just that: conservative people. Perhaps they have been brought up in a *religious* home but...perhaps not. It ain't always about "*religious* folks". I don't understand why you seem to have so much animosity towards people of faith...when you: 1) seem to have a faith of your own; and...2) you have written -- even recently -- the *blurb* about not judging...etc.

eolake said...

I don't have any beef with religious people, or with religion. I just have a problem with people who will force others to live life according to their ideas, and it seems like most of the time this is done in the name of religion, I don't know why. Maybe because then you don't have to say "because I say so", instead you can say "because God says so".

Sukiho said...

"We believe in Jesus Christ and not a manmade *religion*."

Christianity was invented by Paul, a man if ever there was one

Ray said...

I wasn't around a couple of thousand years ago, at least not that I'm aware of, and I doubt that any of the rest of you were either - so let's not play 'he said, she said' until we know for sure, which will be never.
As for politics, that seems to be governed by hopw successful its spin-doctors are at colouring the latest events to the liking of those in control. To be a successful politician, you don't have to be an unprincipled two-faced lying bastard, but it certainly helps. We complain about the quality of politicians, but then none of the rest of us wants that job, for obvious reasons.
And as for religion, I think you're right in saying it's a man-made invention. After all, why would God need one? Who would God worship? Think about that a moment.

ttl said...

The concept "libertarianism" is slightly problematic because the word is loaded with party politics and other cruft. Since you, Eo, despise politics but take interest in libertarianism as a philosophy, perhaps you should look into the more philosophical and perhaps slightly "purer" concepts related to the subject matter. I am talking about the concept sovereign individual, and maybe individualist anarchism.

Also anarcho-capitalism and its founder Murray Rothbard are worth a read.

Anonymous said...


If you haven't already you need to read the works of Ayn Rand. Your philosophy is probably close to hers.


Kent McManigal said...

"Of course the problem is that we all want freedom to do whatever we like, but when others do something we don't like, that's offensive and should be curtailed by whatever means we have!"

Not all of us act this way. There are a lot of things that personally offend me greatly, but I will still step up and defend the right of the other person to do these things as long as he is harming no one else. No one has a right to not be offended.

I think your thumbnail version of libertarianism is right on the mark. I think a lot of people mostly believe this basic philosophy, but where some fall off the track is where they still believe it is OK for people who wear "the silly hat of government" to not abide by the same rule of "live and let live". If it is wrong for me as an individual to do something, it is still wrong for any other individual to to do the same thing no matter what his "official" title may be, or whether he wears a badge.

And I doubt the mysterious appearance of my comments is my only odd characteristic.

Anonymous said...

Politically, a "Libertarian" is someone who favors limited government in all matters (whereas an "Authoritarian" favors the opposite).

Generally, in the United States, popular culture tends to associate Libertarianism with the Republican party and with Right-wing economic policies. But that's a bit of a false pair, since the Republican party is usually quite heavy both on government intervention in foreign nations, and on government intervention in "moral" doctrine, such as homosexual rights, the imposition of church values on non-believers, and abortion. So it would have been more accurate to understand that usual Republicans are generally Libertarian about the economy but not about much else.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Libertarianism was never initially conceived as an economic concept. In fact, when it first arose among political pundits, essentially the ONLY usual American government economic doctrine was ALREADY strict laissez-faire non-interventionist (a.k.a. Libertarian) practices. Libertarianism was a notion designed to "free" people from the excess moral strictures of a typically Protestant, middle-class, home-bound, "family values" culture.

In that sense, I would have supported Libertarianism.

Frankly, in the economic sense, I think it's just stupid. Let the foxes run the chicken coop? Didn't work too well with A.I.G. ...

The American Libertarian Party runs a "world's smallest political quiz" which purports to cast your answers onto a grid with two axes -- Left-Right, and Libertarian-Authoritarian. Most people are surprised to find, after answering (supposedly) innocuous questions, that their personal Libertarian slant is much stronger than they had thought, and also much more independent of their Left-Right leanings, too. But then, the quiz was made by the Libertarians, in the interest of promoting Libertarianism, so it's not necessarily the most accurate tool ...

If you hear someone say he's a "Libertarian" in America these days, he probably means he's a laissez-faire free market capitalist. Ask him how he stands on gay rights -- can two men kiss in public? should they be allowed to raise adopted children? -- and you'll see he's probably very Authoritarian about the notion that HIS moral view (probably founded upon his childhood religion) should be EVERYBODY'S moral view.

Good luck finding a true Libertarian, who says, categorically, about the economy or about social issues, simply, "Hey, everyone should choose for himself or herself, as long as it hurts nobody else." If you do find one, then ask whether that person is also a Satanist.

They're roughly the same ...

Final Id.

eolake said...

How wonderful that the idea of personal freedom should be associated closely with the idea of evil incarnate.

Kent McManigal said...

I know a LOT of "true libertarians" and none that I know of are Satanists, although as long as they hurt no one else, that is their right to choose. In fact, I claim that I am a "true libertarian" and I have none of the "flaws" he ascribes to libertarians. I think "anonymous" is just bitter and angry over something.

neeraj said...

"Hey, everyone should choose for himself or herself, as long as it hurts nobody else."

Basically yes. At least, if one is conscious and fully responsible for himself ... but there are border cases, sometimes really difficult to handle:

For example, I have come across situations where I had to take responsibility for somebody else (even using some force), because he or she was totally out of control ...

It was not easy for me, but afterwards it became clear for everybody that it was the right thing to do.

I think, dealing with children is sometimes similar, but with that I have no personal experience.

There are other examples ... the devil is in the details of actual situations. So, the saying above is IMO a bit oversimplified.


The term "Satanist" has many different meanings => one of them:

... Others regard the Biblical Satan as an allegory that represents a crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment.

BTW I love the pentagon - such a beautiful mathematical structure ... and you will find in nature many beautiful flowers with that structure, too :-)

Anonymous said...

Odd that I would be read as bitter or angry. I can only see historically accurate reportage in my comments. Generally, though, someone who values the term "libertarian" as a shibboleth of something with moral value to it, rather than as a neutral description of a given political doctrine, would be distressed by historically accurate reportage about the factual weaknesses or strengths of his personal moral code.

By the way, to me, being a Satanist isn't something to be associated with moral evils.

Kent McManigal said...

Odd that you would interpret my reaction as "distressed". It is not that I value the term "libertarian", I value the philosophy that has been described (though not exclusively) by that word. Your description of the philosophy, or of those who follow it, was not accurate. Not historically nor otherwise. I was merely attempting to correct the inaccuracies you were parading as fact in case others encountered them. And you were the one attempting to use "Satanist" as a derogatory description, or as a way to cast doubt on libertarians. That seems insulting to both libertarians and Satanists.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Anybody who thinks that political and religious beliefs are different in nature really ought to visit Lebanon some day.

The deep involvement of the religious leaders in politics and with politicians notwithstanding (the Holy head of the Maronite Church is practically telling people whom to elect for President), a great many supporters of politicians are just as prompt to bristle when you remotely SEEM to question their idol, and just as devout in their iconic admiration.

It doen't hep much that politicians themselves are typically draped in a toga of pious religion. Half of political slogans have "God/Allah" in them.

Funny, I expected to see some suggestions as to why Kent's comments don't email...

eolake said...

I was hoping for it. I still don't get them, very odd.

neeraj said...

Odd that I would be read as bitter or angry.

I don't see that.

... when he makes a comment on this blog, I don't get the usual e-mail notification about it.

I have thought about it, but up to now with no final result pointing at something specific - so, what to say?

It seems to be clear, that his comments have reached the server, where your blog software is hosted, and are stored there on the right place - otherwise they couldn't show up here.

After that it is simply a question how your browser (including all preferences set by you) is interacting with the blog software on the server - I don't see any possible reason how the missing email notification could be influenced by anything triggered by the comment itself.

But I have no experience hosting a blog, so I can't say anymore - except that some blog software has still some bugs and therefore the interaction may behave sometimes somehow irrational ... at the moment I have no further idea.

I would like to know if you find a solution.

I hope this is not true of too many people, because I want to read the comments.

I think, after some time you always become aware whether there are comments of somebody else without email notification, even if you miss a few ones ...