Sunday, March 12, 2023

Libertarianism: A *Political* Philosophy

 Unforeseen Contingencies is back in action!  I've been remarkably busy with too many other things, hence the hiatus.  My online commentary has been limited to comments on Ace of Spades HQ, Powerline, FEE, and Babylon Bee, often under nomes d'internet.  Time to rectify that.

In a recent conversation, it came up that a fairly well-known libertarian writer had effectively argued that true freedom means one is unrestrained in exercising one's will, except to the extent that one leaves others similarly free, and therefore the extent of morals is this libertarian ethic.  If something is freely chosen and violates no one else's rights, it is therefore good.  It's the "and therefore" that's the rub.

Freedom can only make sense in a social context, and it indeed does mean one is unrestrained in exercising one's will except as required by the co-equal rights of others to the same.  But the "and therefore" is an unwarranted leap.  It is immoral to violate rights.  It does not follow that everything that does not violate rights is moral.  Libertarianism is a political philosophy, it concerns relations among individuals, and only a subset of these.  It does not address what sorts of things are proper and improper, good and bad, moral and immoral, concerning personal behavior that does not directly affect others, nor is it an exhaustive code of conduct for interpersonal relations.  One can exercise one's will freely, not violate anyone's rights, and still be immoral.

At one time libertarians (classical liberals) understood this.  "Vices are not crimes," as Lysander Spooner put it.  Libertarians understood that just because something was immoral it did not follow that it should be illegal.  Dishonesty, rudeness, carelessness, sin, blasphemy, bad manners, unwarranted hatred, taking advantage of the naïve, alcoholism and drug abuse, promiscuity... some immoral things are not police matters.  And if we recognize that some immoral things are not justifiably addressed by force, then libertarians must recognize libertarianism is not a complete moral system... because it is not supposed to be.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy.  That's all, and that's sufficient.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?