Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Babble on.

For the past couple of days, I've been meaning to write a clarification of what I was getting at in the post below, since many of the commentors seemed to miss it. Given the fact that I didn't actually spell my questions out, I guess that's understandable.

I'm not anti-libertarian - in fact, I've found myself slipping further and further in that direction over the course of the past year or so, reading some of the more lucid and thoughtful libertarian bloggers out there. But over the years I've also had life-changing experiences subordinating my own selfish interests to the aims and objectives of a group, and I know first-hand the value of that sacrifice, and the importance of making it. I'm not yet sure how libertarian thought addresses that, and I was hoping to provoke some more substantive responses than I got with my poorly-conceived devil's-advocate prod below.

To the point: I think I've got a rudimentary understanding of the importance of rights to my libertarian friends, but not of how responsibilities fit into their philosophy. Is there a place for "the greater good" in what they believe? And if so, where does it fit?

Babble off.


At 2:42 p.m., Blogger Matt said...

Not exactly answering your question here, DB, but I'd put good money on the guess that your positive experiences "subordinating your own selfish interests to the aims and objectives of a group" were as a result of you doing so voluntarily.

I'll be corrected if I'm wrong, but most libertarians you will find would state that voluntary institutions work better at addressing the greater good than coercion, or the forcible confiscation and redistribution of property (even when done by "majoritarian vote", to use one of my favorite Jardine phrases).

At 3:15 p.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

A an ardent libertarian friend of mine once explained to me that state mandated charity 'removed the compassion from the person providing the charity and the humility from the person receiving it.'

This friend is actually in the middle of donating some of his bone marrow to a complete stranger who suffers from leukemia for a transplant. He will lose income because of this and will spend well over a month hobbling around on a cane as a result, but he feels privileged that he can help save someone else's life.

Being a libertarian doesn't mean you stop giving a damn about the plight of others.

At 5:58 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Sean, that seems practical - noble even - for matters where individual action is sufficient, but what of matters that require collective action? I'm thinking particularly of military action.

At 10:50 p.m., Blogger Matt said...

Brooks, that matter is discussed (but not exactly answered) here.

At 8:42 a.m., Blogger treehugger said...

"I've been meaning to write a clarification of what I was getting at in the post below, since many of the commentors seemed to miss it."

Ahh, common man, are you "turtling" already? :-)

At 8:59 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Matt, that doesn't answer my question.

TH, bite me. ;)

At 1:14 p.m., Blogger Alan said...


I'm a neolibertarian (which is to say, a bad libertarian), but even hard core libertarians I don't think deny the utility of a military force used in defence of the nation. At least that's the policy of the Libertarian Party of Canada.


At 7:38 p.m., Blogger Jay said...

Treehugger and I just had a good, civil discussion about this over at Ian's place . (scroll past the Ian / Patrick pissing match to the comments below;).

I'll just reiterate a few things I said over there - libertarianism does not mean "kick 'em to the curb". Many libertarians would be quite pleased to see a (re)deployment of voluntary social arrangements that care for the sick and infirm. However, as long as the State continues to arrogate itself to a monopoly over these tasks, civil society is in fact eroded.
Charles Murray explained this best in "What It Means to be a Libertarian" - with a massive government in operation the common attitude to human suffering is to shrug and say "that's not *my* problem - I pay taxes for someone in the government to look after that". Responsibility is forcibly offloaded onto society at large.

As far as wars go, of course some wars can be moral - and I'll tell you straight up if a truly free society were threatened with aggression there'd be no shortage of volunteers (including me) to defend it.

But the whole "we as a society need to do [x]" proposition doesn't cut it when advocating coercion because the speaker is tempted to substitute an ambiguous collective ("society") for his or her own personal values in order to crush the smallest minority.

Think about it: when a right winger says "We As A Society" need to bomb the hell of whatthefuckistan and therefore everyone has to pay up, the leftie can come right back and trump you with a list of "needs" as long as your arm that "We As A Society" need to provide. The WAAS proposition neglects the fact that society is made up of distinct individuals (thank you Maggie Thatcher) and those individuals have their own hierarchy of values that ought not be bullied into submission simply because the matter at hand has been put up to a majority vote.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home