Sunday, March 15, 2009

Libertarianism - what's in a word?

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I have not had much to do with libertarianism, though on some level I might be considered one. Certainly I am a fan of small government. I might even be a fan of competing governments depending on what grab bag of functions you think government should be taking care of. I tend to think it matters little who administers anything as the responsible party is responsible or accountable and that reason is the standard. This need not just apply to the law......and this is where I depart from a great many libertarians.
I have this problem with them. They are advocates of freedom on the premise that freedom is restraint from initiating force. On this point I am in agreement with them. But this strikes me as law, and not morality. This philosophy of libertarianism has no theory of values. It defines what you can't do, and offers no moral guidance for what you should do. You might argue that you should do anything up until the point at which you start hurting others.
The problem of course is - what constitutes hurt or injurious behaviour? Certainly we can see the impact of stealing something of value, or the hurt or injury of a gun shot wound. But what about more intangible actions like:
1. Giving a child, or even selling their adult parents alcohol
2. Selling pornography to anyone who pleases
3. Selling drugs to kids or adults

Now, depending on your country's attitudes to these things, these actions might be either legal or not. Legality really comes down to repressed religious oppression or self-indulgence on such issues because I have yet to see a rational explanation or a 'theory of values' to explain why these actions are right or wrong.....apart from the general 'consensus' that its impractical to break the law. Clearly people do, and they are tolerated, or they get away with it.

I would argue that these actions are unethical, or immoral, and I make no distinction between these words. Someone might want to waste their time? Just give the job to a bureaucrat. I am only interested in words to the extent that they denote something in reality, and not words that fit into some arbitrary construction, detached from reality. Conclusion...because its the law!

I would argue that pornography, drugs and alcohol are not ethical practices if they detract from your quality of life, and if they medicate rather than solve problems. They detract because they don't resolve issues, and nor are they a stepping stone to finding solutions. They are an act of evasion. Do they hurt other people? No. That is why they are not often illegal. But herein lies the problem, they are not going to help you solve problems, and given a proper theory of values, they are going to just medicate people. This is not an inappropriate thing to do when you live in a police state. The worst police states in the world like Soviet Russia have the worst problems.

So in conclusion I find libertarian valueless - but then its the law - its not supposed to be based on a theory of values. It is the role of the law to provide the context in which the law is applied. Another problem is, after spending all that money on libraries, the government leaves nothing for justice, and that to me is the essence of liberty. Instead we get CEOs, bankers doing all sorts of damage, and the government is too underfunded to do anything about these issues.
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?