Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Trouble With Libertarianism

Late to the party again.I’ve just realised what disturbed me about last week’s BritBlog round up. Worstall links approvingly to critics of ‘Harry’s Place’ and their support for the 90 day anti-terrorist legislation. No surprise there, but later on he links, again apparently approvingly, to a bunch of Leftists encouraging people to report Sun editrix Rebekah Wade to the PCC. Huh ?

Yes, yes, yes: I know the difference between private action and state action. No one is talking about censorship, but how exactly does this sort of thing mesh with a supposed belief in liberty ? Of course, the PCC is pretty toothless but the principle is important. Here we have a group of people attempting to use mass action to hijack a regulatory body in order to punish the editor of a paper who publishes stuff they don’t like. Their cause is not obviously one compatible with a belief in liberty.

Indeed, this is the central flaw in Libertarianism. At the national level, the State is certainly the greatest threat to liberty, but on the micro-scale it doesn’t matter much if you’re afraid to express your opinions because you fear arrest by the Secret Police or you’re afraid because of the prospect of being beaten to death by the local union godfather. Not only are Libertarians virtually silent about these second category of threats, in so far as they oppose virtually all attempts to tackle them (since these would require increasing the power of the State), they make it easier for the thugs to run riot. This tendency has reached its zenith with the Libertarians generally pathetic performance in the War on Terror.

The thing with life is that, for most people, the threat from the non-governmental type of thug is far more acute than that from supposed Statist conspiracies. When government acts to restrain private sector lunatics, is it reducing freedom or increasing it ? Yes, the Left has spent years claiming they’re not a bunch of totalitarian thugs, they’re just giving people ‘freedom from choice’, but everything is balance. Terrorists have killed large numbers of our citizens and Libertarians have responded by warning of the danger of the State. Libertarianism as a philosophy will only deserve respect once it’s proponents admit that sometimes it isn’t about The Man.

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