The libertarian philosophy, broadly understood as an extension of the principle that you own yourself, is the only philosophy I can think of that may be immune to extinction.
It will only die if human nature undergoes a radical alteration. If an artificial intelligence succeeded in replacing our individuality (and our resulting desire for freedom) with preprogrammed conformity, we would become humanoids, no longer human beings.
The fact that technology could conceivably change human nature is proof that such a thing as human nature exists. Instead of seeing political and economic truths as divine ordinances from God – or being skeptical of their existence because one doesn’t believe in God – we should see them as natural derivations from our nature.
Some of my libertarian friends are confused by my support for Trump. I will concede that, like Obama in 2008, Trump fosters a cult of personality that allows him to integrate some flawed premises, some of which are unlikely to mesh well with reality. In the realm of popular opinion, Trump may be an unstoppable ubermensch; however, no one in history has ever succeeded in using persuasion against the laws of economics. (If you think there are no laws of economics, see Venezuela.)
Libertarianism is the only political philosophy that consistently acknowledges human nature. It represents a realistic acceptance of our natural motives – our desire to preserve our individuality; to care for our families (selfishly); to cooperate for mutual benefit rather than as slaves and masters.
It sanctions the use of force only in response to force and deception (e.g., fraud). In this way, it accepts human beings for who they are while protecting us only from our darkest inclinations.
There are no fixed tenets of libertarianism – except for self-ownership – but historically it has been used to critique government interventions. Hayek excelled in this respect, with his elucidation of the law of unintended consequences and of the futility of replacing the price system with bureaucratic planning. In this sense, libertarianism might be treated as a method rather than as an airtight philosophy.
Democratic government, like any human enterprise (including corporations), aims to compound its growth over time. This might be the paradox of libertarianism: While we have not yet figured out how to devise a government that remains fixed in its power, the clumsy growth of the welfare state creates an increasing pile of empirical evidence for libertarian thinkers to make their case.
If you’re wondering why the top banner of this site contains an American flag, it’s because our country was the first one in history explicitly founded on the principle of self-ownership. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” affirms the sanctity of the individual, his right to remain unhampered by excessive laws, and his purpose as a self-actualizing creature. Our political system may be flawed and corrupt, but the principle of self-ownership is deeply rooted in the American psyche.
Libertarians have a highly developed radar for violations of principle that the media, and political candidates, seldom discuss. We are bombarded with opinions from dorky, pre-scripted commentators about “racism” and “sexism” and the wisdom of building a wall on the Mexican border, but who is discussing our continual drift towards a total surveillance state? We see scattered articles about the TSA creating huge lines, and police forces utilizing tanks and buying millions of rounds of ammo, but who is connecting the dots and seeing the gradual formation of a police state? When juxtaposed with a government with increasing access to our personal conversations, laughable political correctness can suddenly transform into a recipe for 1984-style totalitarianism.
The media mocks “libertarian moments” – flickers of time in which the spirit of American individualism wakes up and temporarily rebels, usually in response to acts of blatant government overreach, as it did for awhile in the aftermath of Obamacare’s passage.
But the concept of liberty does not require a consensus to confirm its validity. It is the rejection of the collective’s moral authority to impose its will on the individual. As time goes on, and as government inevitably grows, it will get stronger rather than weaker.
As our political system realigns thanks to shocks provided by the likes of Trump (and even Sanders), the two-party system’s monopoly on politics – and their false ideological distinctions – will disintegrate and pave the way for more innovative, and more raw, belief systems.
One might say that libertarianism is an antifragile philosophy.
This, however, does not mean that its adherents have achieved philosophical consensus. This may be a matter of secondary importance if we agree about self-ownership.
Many of us appeal to natural law, embodied by the Founders, to tie the concept of liberty to human nature: Freedom is a moral right in every place and in every era as long as human nature remains the same – which is to say, as long as we have free will and access reason in determining our actions. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, there is no need for natural law to appeal to God or to mysticism.
More recently, some have hinted at a Nietzschean approach: We deserve liberty if we can summon the will to fight back the State. Skeptical of reason and ambivalent toward free will, these types eschew religious moralism and sterilized rationalism, instead championing individuals who seek greatness on their own terms.
What do you think?