Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Philosophy or pragmatism: the dangers of stark dichotomies

It is a fairly common charge against Libertarians [or Greens, or even some Progressives for that matter] that we are too interested in political philosophy and thinking about the perfect society to actually work on solving real social, political, and economic problems.br /br /It is also a really fond talking point of some of my progressive and liberal friends to suggest that fiscal conservatives and libertarians are being hypocritical if they ever avail themselves of a government service or benefit.br /br /There is some truth to both criticisms, but far less that those who blog so smugly would like to believe. Perhaps need to believe.br /br /Take case one: I will admit that many libertarians have a penchant for internal witch hunts and arguments about how many Ayn Rand or Murry Rothbard clones could dance on the head of a pin. That's why a Libertarian Party is almost a contradiction in terms. As my friends point out, sixty Republicans would be a cloture-proof Congress, sixty Democrats would be a nail-biter on every single bill requiring cloture, and sixty Libertarians wouldn't be able to agree to meet in the same venue and vote in the first place.br /br /The power of Libertarianism is therefore primarily as a philosophy and a partial set of views held by almost everybody. How often have you heard a convinced Dem or GOPer say, "I tend to be Libertarian on issue X"? As much as I would like the term Libertarian--as in Libertarian Party--to equate with rational small government, non-intrusion into people's private lives [even when they are being stupid], and a non-interventionist foreign policy, it ain't gonna happen. Not Libertarian enough for too many libertarians; too radical for the others you might attract to any one of those three tenets.br /br /Being a Libertarian is not, therefore, about successful politicking, as much as I would like it to be otherwise [and as much as, during election years, I indulge my fantasies that this or that candidate might actually break through].br /br /So why call myself a Libertarian? Primarily, I think, because the philosophy is just as important as pragmatic problem-solving. Somebody needs to keep asking the questions about why we're doing things and raising objections regarding ethics or freedom, even at the cost of being labeled a contrarian who doesn't want to do anything.br /br /Which is odd, because many, many Libertarians contribute every day to resolving major problems in society. iContra/i popular belief, the political arena is not the only or even necessarily the best place to have an impact on the society within which you live. I've negotiated labor contracts, chaired state-wide education commissions, conducted detailed, descriptive studies on gaps in Delaware health care provider expertise, and rewritten Standard Operating Procedures for emergency first-response doctrines in urban settings. None of those things were either at odds with being a Libertarian or even seriously affected by my Libertarian political beliefs--though I have consistently run into smalled minded bigots [hello, Geezer] who were obviously beaten by a copy of iAtlas Shrugged/i as a child and never got over it.br /br /As for that issue of Libertarians using government services, it neglects the coercive side of things. If the government takes my money for things I don't approve of (foreign wars would be my first example), and then the government exercises its power to create monopolies on all kinds of services (from postage stamps on up), then as a taxpayer (willing or not) I have already paid for those services. The fact that in many cases I cannot get them anywhere else--or that the government has exercised its ability to subsidize its products at below any value the free market could be expected to provide--is not an argument against making rational choices about how to spend the half of my money the IRS and DE Department of Revenue choose to leave me.br /br /Look at it this way: African-Americans in the Jim Crow South continued to ride segregated trains after Plessy, even though they disagreed with American apartheid. Were they hypocrites for doing so? No. Because that's the transportation that was available to them to use to better their condition--economic, social and political. And you'll notice that when the time came to exercise enough power to get those restrictions struck down, the boycotts and civil disobedience started almost immediately.br /br /So while I object to the idea of Sussex County owning tax ditches, I damn well expect the county authorities who can use the power of the State to place a right-of-way into my property to spray the damn ditches for mosquitoes.br /br /Ultimately, the reason I am a Libertarian--and a public Libertarian at that--is because somebody has to think it is just as important to raise issues of personal freedom and limited government that to pretend that blogging about health care and stimulus packages and their favorite candidate for local office actually equates with helping solve problems.div class="blogger-post-footer"img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/7893272060787897238-6977119796889591942?l=delawarelibertarian.blogspot.com'//div

technorati tags:
| |
More at: News 2 Cromley

No comments: