The terms “liberal” and “conservative” seem to have evolved to mean socialism and fascism, respectively. Liberals tend to promote a highly regulated economy that re-distributes wealth to “benefit” the lazy or incompetent at the expense of property rights. On the other hand, conservatives prefer to legislate morality because of some sort of misguided superiority complex telling them that they know how to live your life better than you do, also at the expense of property rights. Combine the ingredients and viola! You have totalitarianism, or at least a nicely paved road towards that end. A steady progression towards the ultimate goal of communism. Karl Marx would be proud.

Which leads me to ponder what exactly the term “libertarianism” really means and what it’s purpose is. Depending on how far back you go, liberalism in the classic sense is almost identical to libertarianism. The same applies to conservatism, again depending on which part of history you are referring to. So what are we doing calling ourselves libertarians when we are truely the principled liberals and conservatives? Are we compelled to distinguish ourselves as a fringe group?

Update: The Register-Guard has a nice piece about this subject from a university education perspective.

  1. libertarianism = individual liberty = freedom to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else

    From that, all other things libertarian make sense.

  2. Yah, but you have to move yourself away from the liberals and conservatives. Also away from the a-word (anarchy) not because it’s a bad thing but because people have poor implications for it.

  3. Well, pure liberty might, I guess, require anarchy. But given human flaws, I don’t think anarchy works out because people’s respect for other’s property breaks down. Look at Somalia right now.

    Practically, I think some government is necessary to establish the “rule of law” by which civilized societies live. I think that libertarians want a society in which individual liberty is maximized. At some level and configuration, individual liberty peaks. I think libertarians agree that that level is not where we’re currently at. Less government than what we have now would mean an increase in individual liberty. Different government, too (such as a different tax system) could move us more toward that maximum level of individual liberty.

  4. Anarchy, as a political philosophy, is naive (at best).

    A society without some kind of government, as small as it may be, would be the victim of the first criminal thug to come along. It would reduce us to a state of gang warfare.

    But even if that were not the case and everyone was perfectly moral, there would still be a need for arbitration in honest disagreements that would arise.

    Just my $0.02 though.

  5. I consider myself fairly radical in this fringe group but I would have to agree with Slackpacker here….. some government is needed.

    If allowed to our own devices our society would deteriorate. It is nice to think that we could handle it however there are much too many different types of culture and philosophy on life to contend with.

    Some “folks” have a different perspective on how they live their own lives and how they interact with others. Some are quite harmful. Do I think that government is the be all end all for dealing with these matters? No.

    What should we do then? I’ll leave that to someone more intelligent and competent than I to come up with. ;-)