What Does it Mean to be a Libertarian?

I feel that libertarians provide a very interesting alternative to mainstream American politics, and one that’s existed for quite some time.  It seems that in many ways, though, the policies they advocate are unrealistic or are reliant on slightly problematic views of human nature.  When you’re talking about liberty and freedom as the ultimate political value in an abstract way, relying on man-in-nature philosophies, all is well and good, but things get hairy when you attempt to apply these philosophies to a country of millions that rely on others for all sorts of things.

When it comes down to it, there are just some things that should not be operated as for-profit businesses.  Public education for example, is currently not about making the government money.  We’ve seen so many times when profit becomes the ultimate goal, everything else suffers.  I think of the American food industry.  Instead of healthy food being the goal, it became making as much money as possible.  So we end up with foods that are extremely cheap to produce but are essentially killing us.

I’m certainly intrigued by libertarian ideas, but I see so many major shortcomings.  In such a complex global community, you can’t just bury your head in the sand.  No man’s an island, so to speak.  I’d love to hear from any libertarians out there regarding the issues of capitalism as an inequality-producing force.

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3 Responses to What Does it Mean to be a Libertarian?

  1. tiffany267 says:

    Someone clearly is unaware of how American politics works and how it affects the modern economy.

    First off, all sound philosophies apply to humanity as a whole. If you can’t happen to understand the specific ways in which a philosophy of freedom would function on a large scale, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply. It means you haven’t applied your mind to the question.

    Secondly, insofar as education is concerned, public schools have a horrible record; I’m curious as to how you’d pick that industry as a poster-child of the successes of the state. Most American kids are completely ill-prepared for jobs, as shown by the massive gap between job growth and unemployment/underemployment in this country. They are ridiculously poor at basic mathematics, science, history, grammar, and spelling. Most of them can barely speak English, let alone a foreign language. Even more importantly, public schools are the most dangerous place for any child in the United States. We’re not talking just verbal bullying; we’re talking mass murders, rampant drugs, and constant abuse from other students. These things don’t happen in a free environment. Children in a free environment play; they have fun. They learn – naturally. Public school is one of the worst problems in this country, and it sadly would be one of the easiest to correct. I feel sorry for any child whose lazy parents would send them to a public school. Meanwhile, when’s the last time you heard of a school shooting at a private school? Even better yet, when’s the last time you heard of a school shooting involving homeschooled children? (Obviously, you won’t.)

    Thirdly, insofar as the food service industry is concerned – please watch a few documentaries on the subject. You’ll be surprised how little you and the rest of the American public knows and understands about why healthy, natural food is disappearing and trash which shouldn’t be called food is so prevalent. It’s the work of the FDA, the USDA, and a company named Monsanto (run by the same folks who produced Agent Orange to murder people halfway around the world. Please get some education on the subject – you’ll be glad you did!

    As far as libertarianism is concerned, I suggest you read “For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto” by Murray Rothbard. Also, you might peruse the website for the U.S. Libertarian Party – http://www.lp.org.

    Have a nice day.

    In love of liberty,

    • Cody says:

      Wow, thanks for taking the time to provide such a substantive comment. Instead of responding to your remarks directly, I’ll just say that I recently began doing the reading. I’m currently going through Robert Nozick’s ‘Anarchy, State, and Utopia,’ and I’m finding it extremely interesting so far. I’m surely not opposed to libertarianism, I’ve just always found issues with certain aspects of free-market capitalism that are problematic. If you’ll allow me to ask you a few questions, I think we could have a meaningful dialogue. First, with profit being the ultimate goal and the attainment of that profit the only motive in operating a business for a capitalist, wouldn’t it be detrimental in some cases? I think of healthcare. Poor health, for instance, is more profitable to pharmaceutical companies than good health, so it’s in their interest for people to be unhealthy but not dead. If we talk about education, what would we do for children whose parents are unable to afford education? Is it the child’s fault that his or her parents are unable to pay? And what of public services like the fire department? Would the house of a poor person burn down because they couldn’t afford to enlist the services of a fire department? There are other examples of this, but I think you understand what I mean. For the most part, I’m totally on board with libertarian concepts of liberty has the primary responsibility of government, but I can’t help but express my reservations. So how would we deal with these sorts of issues?

      • tiffany267 says:

        Great questions. What’s even greater is that liberty doesn’t give answers to those types of questions. It only opens the floor to individuals to solve those problems in a free market using the power of their own minds. Moreover, it is the nature of things to build on the successes of the intellectuals and producers before you – so in 100 years perhaps these questions will be archaic. Still, if you’re curious as to how the free market would solve some of these quandaries, I suggest that you subscribe to my WordPress account, where I post a lot of content related to capitalism and its successes.

        Please let me make one more additional note: profit alone is a wonderful motivation and typically it is enough to run a great business, but even then it is simply not the only motivation even for a free-market capitalist, and almost no libertarian would espouse the end of other values in life (in other words – strawman, darling). Love, beauty, self-respect, and the joys of learning are just a few examples of things that we all crave which aren’t necessarily related to profit. Every day, people make career-related decisions that don’t maximize profit, instead allowing them more free time with their family, or more volunteer opportunities, or more camaraderie and fun at the workplace, etc. Many people also work at nonprofit organizations (which are certainly compatible with free-market capitalism) because they have mission-related values which aren’t profit driven (for example, spreading the message of liberty, which I happily do without hope of compensation). My point is, no one’s saying profit is everything. We’re just saying that it is a wonderful value, and it’s been the key one in creating a more comfortable and just civilization, which is why it shouldn’t be punished by taxation, regulation, and other burdensome nonsense by the state.

        While I’m on that subject, let me again mention my WordPress account, because I particularly like to show content that illustrates how profit is NOT the only value in a healthy free market, and in fact sustainability and capitalism are not only compatible but really need each other. I think you might enjoy further reading on that type of subject.

        Best wishes in your future reading.

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