Tag Archives: Liberty

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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Liberty and Utility

Now for something a bit lighter than what has been posted over the last few weeks.  An initial look at liberty, freedom and other synonymous terms and an alternative.

This is a very generalised post written in late 2005.

Liberty is for Libertarians and those classed as Classical Liberals. Personally I can’t separate the distinction between Libertarians and Classical Liberals.

To most Liberty is about freedom.  So it is to Libertarians.

Liberty is about the freedom of choice.

Libertarians, the followers of the ideal of Liberty place only one restriction on people: that is that you do not force others to do what you want and prevent them from living by their own choices.

The major dilemma with Libertarians is that given the choice, they do not have to have concern for the social well-being of the rest of society.

Utility is the effective happiness and security of a group. In short, Utility is concerned with society’s welfare.

The major dilemma with utility is that what maximises utility under one set of circumstances may not under another. Utility is very context specific or judged on a case-by-case basis.

Utilitarians are willing to restrict the liberty of some to interfere with their choices, if doing so will promote greater benefit and general welfare of society than not doing so. This is something Libertarians cannot tolerate. As long as you are not interfering with other people’s choices, then no person, group, or government should disturb you in living the life you choose; not even if doing so would maximize happiness and security for the majority of society.

This is only the very basics of Libertarianism and Utilitarianism.

Liberty promotes choices. Utility promotes happiness. Which one do you prefer?