Refuting Libertarianism

Rather than a left-right scale the political spectrum should be seen as an up-down scale. The Republican Party represent the interests of those at the top of the scale, and the Democrats those at the bottom. It is often said that both parties are equally corrupt and beholden to money interests, but I do not believe this to be true. As I see it, each party has an agenda it wishes to promote, and also things it does reluctantly in order to continue to get elected. For the Republican Party what it wishes to do is serve the interests of their wealthy sponsors. What it does reluctantly in order to gain votes is the bare minimum of social programs it can get away with. For the Democrats it is the opposite. What they want to do is the social programs, and what they have to do reluctantly in order to find their campaigns is some of the bidding of the wealthy. So even in the present deplorable system there is a difference that matters between the parties. 

Libertarians, often seen as being on the far right (or on my scale the top) actually do not really fit there. The reason they find common cause with Republicans is because both favor smaller government, but for quite different reasons. Libertarians believe in small government as a central principle, seeing the natural state of people as being rugged individualist as unfettered as possible by the law. Republicans just want to get the law off the backs of their sponsors, so they defund those parts of the government that have oversight over the big money interests. 

The fundamental fallacy of libertarianism is easily demonstrated. One of the universal behaviors common to all of our species is the forming of groups. We are a highly social species, and the idea of a single individual living completely independently without any dependence upon others is almost unheard of. Even in the “wild west” days, the heyday of rugged individualism, they could not have survived, let alone thrived, without the railroads and the Sears Roebuck catalog. We are each a member of countless groups simultaneously: family, congregation, team, work environment, town, county, state, country each claim us as members. Some groups we choose to join, others we are members of willy nilly. Among the latter groups are the various levels of society that we inhabit.

So what does it mean to be a member of a group? What is the nature of our relationship to the group, and to other members of the group? The first and most important thing to understand about all groups is that by their very nature they limit the freedom of action of their members. This is a universal rule of groups of all kinds. In order to gain the benefits of belonging to the group, its members agree to accept limitations on their personal freedom of action.  One might even say that the expression ” a free society” is an oxymoron, as the whole point of society is to limit the freedom of its members. 

In the case of society, the limits on the freedom of action of its members are codified as systems of laws. The more organized and complex a society becomes, and the larger the populations being governed, the more restrictions are needed for society to continue to function. It makes no sense to say, as the Libertarians do, that personal freedom is the ultimate good, and the closer you can get to that the better. Instead we should accept the fact that society is not just useful but necessary, and that we need to seek the optimal balance between the desires of the individual members and the quite legitimate needs of the society.