I have come to conclude that I either understand far less than I thought I did or perhaps that I don’t write very clearly. Maybe it is some of each.
As many of you know, this blog is an exploration for me; a learning tool. The writing makes me think; your feedback makes me think. I often don’t know what I think until I work through the process.
I have been writing on the broad topic of left-libertarians, libertarian theory, and culture for perhaps three years. I feel I have grown much via this process – I never really valued that the non-aggression principle needed something more to be a functional political philosophy before I began this journey.
I knew that the NAP didn’t answer every question in life before this journey, but I never really took the effort to articulate why. This journey helped me discover such things.
I have learned that the NAP – as wonderful as it is, as the best political theory man can devise absent God – offers its own dangers and shortcomings; I wouldn’t even have known to say “absent God” before this journey began.
I have learned not to expect that the NAP carry a bigger load than that for which it is designed.
I think about the conflicts that honest libertarian thinkers have in applying the principle in real life. For example, how can the same political theory both support and deny abortion? Yes, I know – libertarians who take one side or the other in this debate will say that the theory does NOT support the other side.
But, there you have it: well-reasoned arguments that the non-aggression principle does not apply one moment before birth but does apply one moment after birth. Maybe this is right. Some theory.
How can a political theory of non-aggression justify shooting a child as punishment for stealing an apple? I wrote at the time: if this is so then the NAP is dead to me. But a very principled libertarian said it is so. Of course, I believe he is wrong, even under the NAP. But I am not infallible in my application of theory. If he is right, is this the libertarian world in which you long to live? Do you think such a world has a future?
Every political theory has seeds of potential abuse in it. Liberalism, which offers many seeds for what has become libertarianism, is not exempt from this. As wonderful as many people find liberalism to be, it cannot be ignored that the French, in 1789, put their interpretation of liberté, égalité, fraternité into practice.
We can say that communism in theory is Lenin and Stalin in practice. Can we say that liberalism in France was somehow less destructive to human life?
“But bionic, pure liberalism has never been tried.” When it comes to humans, nothing is pure. In any case, on the most fertile soil, with the best liberal thinkers in the world, it was tried – starting in 1776. The first generation could not wait to begin abusing it. Americans quickly found themselves under a more tyrannical government than anything King George offered.
Could you find better humans with which to try this experiment?
And keep in mind, America’s best libertarian, Thomas Jefferson, was a supporter of the French version – of course, he didn’t like the violence (communists say the same about the Soviet Union)…but once a political theory is unleashed, we don’t always get to pick and choose which path it takes – toward the dark side or the light.
And every political theory offers both sides – some more dark, some more light, but both sides present.
Some take such criticism as a damnation of liberalism. It could also be taken as a word of caution. There’s a thought.
Libertarianism sprung forth from liberalism, it is claimed. Certainly the links are solid. Yet, the most libertarian society I have found – the longest lasting – was based on law that was applied at least 1000 years before the reformation, and 1300 years before the liberalism of the 18th century.
Depending on the region of Central Europe, it lasted up to 1000 years. It wasn’t perfect peace, but let’s not get carried away with unrealistic expectations.
It was not pure libertarianism, but it wasn’t bad. Relationships were based on contract; law was individualized; oaths were taken cementing commitments. It also required a certain cultural soil on which to thrive, one based on family, land, and God.
Was it perfect? Don’t bother me with this. It was built on a basis of privatized law, decentralized society. This is as libertarian as it’s going to get on this earth.
But most who call themselves libertarian today cannot accept any of these words: family, land, God. Maybe they are right. What do you think?
Once western European man said law comes from man’s reason and not from God – or custom for the atheists in the audience – well, all that was left was for the right man to make the law. Of course, the right man rarely gets to make the law.
This is also the foundation for liberalism, which is the foundation for libertarianism. I guess nothing is pure.
I still believe that the non-aggression principle is the best political theory devised by man; I believe that private contract and decentralization is this theory put into practice. I believe it comes with its own dangers; I believe something more is required; as with all political theories, I believe some caution is in order.
The Closing Chapter
I had written a long reply to my previous post regarding hating the state, basically all in reply to your comments. Your comments helped to shape my view. I intended the first post as an ice-breaker, one that I knew would give me a wide variety of feedback and therefore give me the opportunity to better crystalize my thoughts.
I am not going to post it. I am not going to write on this general topic of libertarians and culture for at least some time – I don’t want to say ever, because the topic interests me too much.
Because I have come to conclude that I either understand far less than I thought I did or perhaps that I don’t write very clearly. Maybe it is some of each.
I am going to focus on my books – I have a shelf full of books that I want to read and write about. These posts are the least read posts at this blog, but traffic was never my objective.
I will comment on empire and war – in the end, if the NAP means anything, it means an end to these. Yet, there are many prominent libertarians who feel otherwise even on this. So I guess this will be a problem, too.
Of course, we are told that libertarianism is universal. Well…universal political philosophies can be implemented in no other manner.