Libertarianism: Left, Right or What?
March 30, 2012 1 Comment
Nine times out of ten, libertarians answer this question the same way: ‘left’ and ‘right’ are meaningless terms, and the fundamental question in governance is what role you give to the state, if any. While I believe the ‘left-right’ distinctions are of limited use, there certainly are positions and values one can easily and usefully identify as ‘left’ or ‘right’, even if they in the end merely amount to preferences in how state power is used.
I had a discussion with a self-described left-libertarian colleague recently, though he will stress this is not to be confused with the ‘libertarian socialism’ advocated by the likes of Noam Chomsky. His argument was that libertarianism must be regarded as a leftist endeavor; in part because classical liberalism started as one, in its opposition to the Ancien Régime, the aristocracy and the close relationship between Church and State. Today, he says, libertarianism is clearly leftist in its materialistic, non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian worldview, and non-racialist, non-nationalistic outlook.
My response, given merely to create an interesting argument rather than lay out actual personal principles, was to say libertarianism is a discourse of the right. This is because libertarianism tends towards inequality; inequality of outcomes and inequality in opportunity (See Murray Rothbard’s ‘Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature‘). This is an anathema to any leftist and contradicts what may be the essence of their movement. Surely also, in the absence of a state, we will most likely fall back on our communities and religious organisations to make up for the functions it once monopolized or tried to monopolize, giving libertarianism the most conservative of end results?
Its something to think about over the weekend.