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Libertarianism

From: "andrew cooke" <andrew@...>

Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 09:00:43 -0400 (CLT)

http://ask.metafilter.com/69423/Political-Theory#1037251

"Political filter: Question about libertarian belief and the government vs
big business ..."

I think the only way to explain it is to look at the social context -
libertarianism is popular only (as far as I know) within the USA and is
strongly influenced by the culture there. So i don't think it's surprising
that a reasonable explanation involves some aspect of American culture.

It is useful to compare libertarianism with anarchism, which questions all
power structures. For me, at least, anarchism is logically consistent in
the way you seem to expect in your question.

Now i don't for a minute claim that libertarianism evolved from anarchism,
but i think it helps to understand libertarianism if you consider it as an
"American anarchism" and then ask "why the differences?".

And if you do that the biggest difference, by far, is the point you
identified - that libertarianism does not seem to be concerned about
"commerical" power structures.

(So far i think i have been relatively neutral; perhaps this next part I
more personal) it seems to me that this difference can be explained by the
"players" involved and a certain amount of "self-reenforcement". In Europe
anarchism is a much smaller movement than American libertarianism. In a
way it is doomed to be so, because any anarchical organisation immediately
generates stressed since it is, itself, a power structure.

In contrast, American libertarianism, by focusing attention only on the
power of governments (something that is a concern in wider American
society anyway, which make such an approach initially possible) removes
this "self destructive" attitude and opens up a channel for funding.

So by "modifying" anarchism in this way (again, this is just conceptual -
I am not saying this was the actual way in which libertarianism started)
libertarianism becomes a much more practically viable idealism, even if it
no longer has the kind of consistency or moral authority/absolutism that
comes with anarchism. And that "modification" is a particularly American
one - no other country hates the idea of government so.

The result is a political idealism that works in practice, even if it
makes little logical sense (and I don't think it's unduly cynical to say
that most people do not look for logic in politics anyway - it's all about
image, rhetoric, identification, etc).

Andrew

[Fwd: Andrew On Libertarianism]

From: "andrew cooke" <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 14:09:13 -0400 (CLT)

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Andrew On Libertarianism
From:    "Craig Bolton"
Date:    Sat, August 18, 2007 11:53 am
To:      compute-Libertaria0@...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Andrew's post contains so many historical and logical confusions that it
is difficult to know where to begin. But perhaps a few overview comments
will do for a start:

(1) The historical origins of libertarianism are not that mysterious.
Libertarianism is but the latest manifestation of the ideological brew
that emerged in the 16th Century in Holland, moved to England in the 17th
Century and to the U.S. in the 18th Century. The best known manifestation
of this phenomenon is called "classical liberalism," but there were other
manifestations at other points in time and places [the older form, for
instance, was called "radical Enlightenment"]. Andrew should look up those
references if he is still confused.

(2) I don't know what form of libertarianism Andrew has bumped up against,
but his experience is obviously not extensive. Libertarians run the
spectrum from "individualist anarchists" to strict construction
constitutionalists to natural rights theorists. A fairly good survey of
20th Century libertarianism in the U.S. is the recently published Radicals
For Capitalism by Brian Doherty, which Andrew should read if he wants to
become minimally better informed on this topic.

(3) Andrews use of the term "power" is ambiguous and misplaced. "Power" as
he is using the term seems to be a social or financial concept.
Libertarianism is not a form of sociology or finance, it is a POLITICAL
ideology. It deals strictly with the traditional issues of political
philosophy - what is the basis of allegiance to a state, what is the
proper scope of state action, what is the proper constitution of a state,
etc. "Liberty" as used by libertarians is also the traditional "liberty
vs. tyranny," it is not whether or not you have a higher I.Q. or more
income and thus more life options. Libertarianism is related to certain
forms of economic theory, but those forms rest upon the premise of
competition between producers and sellers, not on businesses "doing
whatever they want."

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