Libertarian Stoush

I am not one that buys into the left/right dichotomy paradigm of political philosophies but I will use the terms if it helps to get a message across.

A few weeks ago there was a bit of debate about what the “Left” represent and it was well addressed across the blogosphere.

What I thought I would do is have a look at one of the sides that supposedly fits on the “Right”.  It is a fairly positive evaluation of one half of the Right’s constituency.

Written Late 2006

There has been a bit of a Libertarian Stoush going on around the place.

I must say I value many civil liberties but I also find aspects of the Libertarian philosophy repugnant.

Unlike others I don’t claim to be an academic or a variation of an elitist and I have not read monumental amounts of Liberal works.

That said, this is the best evaluation in support of Libertarianism I have ever read:

I evaluate the benefits of libertarianism through the notion of the Kantian ethical framework. This relies on individual autonomy as the greatest good, and the assertion of our humanity and individuality as categorical imperatives of the individual. From this, the role of the government must always be to support individual autonomy.

The way it can do that is by allowing individuals to essentially be free to act in their own accord, and solving collective action problems which threaten autonomy but otherwise cannot be solved by individuals. These collective action problems fall into one of three categories: life, liberty, or economic.

The first category is life. There are sets of circumstances in which the life of a member of a society is threatened, the individual cannot protect his or herself, and the value of autonomy (which relies on life and existence) is threatened. This collective action problem can be solved by government, usually by raising an army. In this case, the government can act to protect life, which protects autonomy.

The second category is liberty. Again, there are sets of circumstance in which the liberty of a member of a society is threatened, the individual cannot protect his or her liberty, and the value of autonomy (which relies on our ability to do as we please) is threatened. Again, this collective action problem can be solved by government, usually by creating and enforcing laws that guarantee liberty. In this case, the government can act to protect liberty, which can protect autonomy.

Finally, the third category is economics. There are sets of circumstances in which the functioning of an economy is threatened, the problem cannot be fixed by the individual, and the value of autonomy (which relies on a successfully working free market) is threatened. This collective action problem can be solved by the government, usually by breaking up monopolies and ensuring fair competition practices. In this case, the government can act to regulate markets, which can protect autonomy.

These are the benefits of libertarianism, and supported through the Kantian ethical framework, I hold that the protection of individual autonomy is the greatest good and cannot be sacrificed, no matter the cost. Anything that upholds individual autonomy is acceptable; anything that does not is not acceptable.

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