Cenocracy: A Declaration for Greater Independence
Capitalism and Libertarianism
page IV


While different governments and different economic systems are not routinely noted as welfare systems, another aspect of Capitalism is the usage of cognitive styles which, when looked at from a geometric perspective, can exhibit a linear and/or circular and/or triangular configuration, those these basic forms can acquire abstracted expressions. Also, in terms of linearality, one need not be confined to a left to right, right to left, up and down or diagonal model. A single point may be construed a line depending on the inclusion of dimensional and inter-dimensional configurations. However, the usage of such a reference is not well-suited for those whose language and interest is of a narrow disposition. In other words, one must confine a discussion within the parameters of discussion which typify a consensus of usage within a given subject area. Nonetheless, if one claims there exists a "circularity" of thought used as the method by which adherents of a given view engage in, the circularity may or may not be seen as the circumference of an idea that describes a form of logic that exhibits the behavior of a dog chasing its own tail, or the path when chained to a stake.

In the forthcoming Britannica article on Libertarianism, it is of need to point out that the circular explanations used to define libertarianism can easily over-whelm those who are not used to convoluted argumentation, nor that such labyrinthine convolutions might otherwise be labeled the rationale for a particular type of economic system, if permitted to be exercised without the constraints of legislation acting as a psychotropic drug. While Libertarianism sounds good to many people, it is because that while many of us are momentarily amused by the sound of hearing the echo of one's voice, most of us move on to more important considerations in life while a few return again and again and again to the same refrain because they like the sound of their voice or that of another whose mind does not move on to the considerations of thinking in terms of wave mechanics, articulated language compulsions, mathematical variations of physical properties or an applied reflectiveness that measures what is being said and how much thought is behind the expression.

Like the introduction to many philosophies, the following introduction to Libertarianism prefaces the discussion by displaying a short retinue of historical figures as if to presuppose not only the importance but validity of a definition based on a contrivance of suppositions that echo like a soulless wind on a cold wintry night; and are not, as adherents would want you to believe, to be the crackling sounds of a warm fire inside a cabin that enables occupants to weather any and all weather conditions like a god-given adaptable wardrobe. Like Anarchic propositions, Libertarianism is a panoply of difficult-to-eat wild foods meant for the digestive tracts of a stomach belonging to a beast that has survived because of idiosyncratic events permitted enclaves of clans to persist by being insulated from a reality that changes with the deterioration of a planet... whose course they think to reverse by mere application of nonsensical rhetoric whose antiquity of disposition is lost in the camouflage of present day regurgitated vocalizations. Again, since this is part of the series of pages on Capitalism and Economics, it is of need to re-echo (for the echo-inclined), that Libertarianism as a formula of governance is a welfare system that also is a type of economic system... whether you find it favorable or not.



John Locke (35K)

(Libertarianism is a) political philosophy that takes individual liberty to be the primary political value. It may be understood as a form of liberalism, the political philosophy associated with the English philosophers John Locke and John Stuart Mill, the Scottish economist Adam Smith, and the American statesman Thomas Jefferson. Liberalism seeks to define and justify the legitimate powers of government in terms of certain natural or God-given individual rights. These rights include the rights to life, liberty, private property, freedom of speech and association, freedom of worship, government by consent, equality under the law, and moral autonomy (the pursuit of one's own conception of happiness, or the “good life”). The purpose of government, according to liberals, is to protect these and other individual rights, and in general liberals have contended that government power should be limited to that which is necessary to accomplish this task. Libertarians are classical liberals who strongly emphasize the individual right to liberty. They contend that the scope and powers of government should be constrained so as to allow each individual as much freedom of action as is consistent with a like freedom for everyone else. Thus, they believe that individuals should be free to behave and to dispose of their property as they see fit, provided that their actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

Clearly, the amalgamation of presumed natural and god-given rights does not also presuppose an appreciation of how such notions came to be established without reverting to the same statements to provide an answer for themselves; which is very much similar to the old notion of Papal infallibility, "right of imminent domain", and "manifest destiny" assumptions... or that Black peoples are inferior to whites, that women would necessarily vote as their husbands do so they don't need to have the right to vote, or that the dunking process used to find guilt or innocence about the practice of witchcraft are all examples of the natural disposition of humans to think in logical terms because they place the words god or natural somewhere in a sentence. Such an exercise is as silly as are so many superstitious beliefs that were defended against by the adoption of some "natural" or "god given" talisman used to ward off evil, disease or that which/who was thought to create the perceived problem. It is an antiquated argument no longer having the presumed "power" it once did. Current political philosophies are not so easily duped nor feel threatened into providing concessions. In other words, Libertarianism is an old, dull, wooden knife fork and spoon that is either rotten, rotting, or petrified into little usefulness and serves as a mantle piece from antiquity. Its reliance on a dichotomous orientation can simply be embraced within the larger functionality of a trichotomy that is in use, but not readily acknowledged. Let us now proceed further into the article:

Historical Origins

Liberalism and libertarianism have deep roots in Western thought. A central feature of the religious and intellectual traditions of ancient Israel and ancient Greece was the idea of a higher moral law that applied universally and that constrained the powers of even kings and governments. Christian theologians, including Tertullian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, stressed the moral worth of the individual and the division of the world into two realms, one of which was the province of God and thus beyond the power of the state to control.

Libertarianism also was influenced by debates within Scholasticism on slavery and private property. Scholastic thinkers such as Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolomé de Las Casas developed the concept of “self-mastery” (dominium)—later called “self-propriety,” “property in one's person,” or “self-ownership”—and showed how it could be the foundation of a system of individual rights (see below Libertarian philosophy). In response to the growth of royal absolutism in early modern Europe, early libertarians, particularly those in the Netherlands and England, defended, developed, and radicalized existing notions of the rule of law, representative assemblies, and the rights of the people. In the mid-16th century, for example, the merchants of Antwerp successfully resisted the attempt by the Holy Roman emperor Charles V to introduce the Inquisition in their city, maintaining that it would contravene their traditional privileges and ruin their prosperity (and hence diminish the emperor's tax income). Through the Petition of Right (1628) the English Parliament opposed efforts by King Charles I to impose taxes and compel loans from private citizens, to imprison subjects without due process of law, and to require subjects to quarter the king's soldiers (see petition of right). The first well-developed statement of libertarianism, An Agreement of the People (1647), was produced by the radical republican Leveler movement during the English Civil Wars (1642–51). Presented to Parliament in 1649, it included the ideas of self-ownership, private property, legal equality, religious toleration, and limited, representative government.

In the late 17th century, liberalism was given a sophisticated philosophical foundation in Locke's theories of natural rights, including the right to private property and to government by consent. In the 18th century, Smith's studies of the economic effects of free markets greatly advanced the liberal theory of “spontaneous order,” according to which some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously, without central direction, from the independent activities of large numbers of individuals. The theory of spontaneous order is a central feature of libertarian social and economic thinking (see below Spontaneous order).

With respect to ownership and private property, such ideas get their definitions from cultural artifacts based on economic predispositions such as someone claiming the right to own slaves and designate them as one's personal property. In the present day sense, the idea of personal property and ownership are just as ludicrous when one takes account that such things are little more than illusions because they are, in effect, claimed as being the property of the government who transfers temporary ownership to someone else so long as they pay taxes on it. For example, if one refuses to pay taxes on one's assumed home and land, the nearest government authority can confiscate the property and resale it at auction, so that another person can be leashed to a long-term leasing program of taxation. Whereas a reader might want to argue in favor of the circumstances to coincide with the rationale of the government, it doesn't change the fact that many so-called personal property and ownership valuations are merely illusions. Just because a person believes in the idea of natural and god given rights does not mean they are either natural or god given. They are simply practiced cultural observances that can be taken away by any government wanting to exert itself in this manner. Since all governments exist at a hair's width from effecting a despotism though they may call it a democracy, government's only agree to the position of giving rights if they can prosper... and eventually create legislation which legalizes various gauntlets of restrictions whereby they can regain control by way of enculturating illusions of freedom, liberty, ownership, private property, equality and overall government ownership by a public forced to endure yet another model of indentured servitude, if not slavery. Belief in particularlized "Natural and god given" rights can be utilized as a segmented realization thereof... because governments are permitted to legalize definitions for its own good.

Historical Origins continued...

Thomas Jefferson (31K)

The American Revolution (1775–83) was a watershed for liberalism. In the Declaration of Independence (1776), Jefferson enunciated many liberal and libertarian ideas, including the belief in “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and the belief in the “right” and “duty” of citizens to “throw off such Government” that violates these rights. Indeed, during and after the American Revolution, according to the American historian Bernard Bailyn, “the major themes of eighteenth-century libertarianism were brought to realization” in written constitutions, bills of rights, and limits on executive and legislative powers, especially the power to wage war. Such values have remained at the core of American political thought ever since.

During the 19th century, governments based on traditional liberal principles emerged in England and the United States and to a smaller extent in continental Europe. The rise of liberalism resulted in rapid technological development and a general increase in living standards, though large segments of the population remained in poverty, especially in the slums of industrial cities.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many liberals began to worry that persistent inequalities of wealth and the tremendous pace of social change were undermining democracy and threatening other classical liberal values, such as the right to moral autonomy. Fearful of what they considered a new despotism of the wealthy, modern liberals advocated government regulation of markets and major industries, heavier taxation of the rich, the legalization of trade unions, and the introduction of various government-funded social services, such as mandatory accident insurance. Some have regarded the modern liberals' embrace of increased government power as a repudiation of the classical liberal belief in limited government, but others have seen it as a reconsideration of the kinds of power required by government to protect the individual rights that liberals believe in.

The new liberalism was exemplified by the English philosophers L.T. Hobhouse and T.H. Green, who argued that democratic governments should aim to advance the general welfare by providing direct services and benefits to citizens. Meanwhile, however, classical liberals such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer insisted that the welfare of the poor and the middle classes would be best served by free markets and minimal government. In the 20th century, so-called welfare state liberalism, or social democracy, emerged as the dominant form of liberalism, and the term liberalism itself underwent a significant change in definition in English-speaking countries. Particularly after World War II, most self-described liberals no longer supported completely free markets and minimal government, though they continued to champion other individual rights, such as the right to freedom of speech. As liberalism became increasingly associated with government intervention in the economy and social-welfare programs, some classical liberals abandoned the old term and began to call themselves “libertarians.”

In response to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Russia, Italy, and Germany in the first half of the 20th century, some economists and political philosophers rediscovered aspects of the classical liberal tradition that were most distinctly individualist. In his seminal essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (originally in German, 1920), the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises challenged the basic tenets of socialism, arguing that a complex economy requires private property and freedom of exchange in order to solve problems of social and economic coordination. Von Mises's work led to extensive studies of the processes by which the uncoordinated activities of numerous individuals can spontaneously generate complex forms of social order in societies where individual rights are well-defined and legally secure.

One must consider that if adopted Libertarian thought of the past is so all-important and thus became manifest in the ideology of an espoused American government philosophy, than the fact that such liberating ideas have not resulted in a liberated public is because either the libertarian perspective is flawed because it is time and place (era)- specific, or that the accompanying government philosophy is fraudulent... like the phony democracy being practiced by America and on display for the world to see how easily it is for a public to be duped to believe in an illusion. Such is the current Libertarian way... to insist that the public believe in and practice a fraudulent democracy. From one decade to the next, the philosophy of liberals vacillates like a swinging pendulum beneath which the scythe of greater wide-spread impoverishment encroaches because it is sheathed in a dichotomy of perception that refuses to mature into the realization for the existence of an encompassing trichotomy.

It is rather incredulous to find a philosophy advocating the practice of a democracy which does not exist, but in any case is to reflect the collective Will of the population that is disenfranchised from it; and that a government is best which governs least... thus reflecting an underlying attitude that liberation is to be achieved if democracy isn't practiced! By wanting to reduce the size of government, one is thus calling for a reduction in citizen participation since the citizenry are the very government being asked to remove itself... though it already exists in a disenfranchised state. By calling for a reduction in government one is calling for a reduction in the control and ownership by the people that are treated as absentee owners without say-so as to how the property is to be used, and to not expect to receive an equal share of the monies given to it by way of tax contributions. By wanting to reduce the size of government, both the people and democracy are reduced as well. A nation of millions is a very large government. Actual democracies are meant to be large. Yet far too many want to marginalize the majority in order to make one or another minority more enabled to impose its singular Will on everyone else.

Libertarian Philosophy

Classical liberalism rests on a presumption of liberty—that is, on the presumption that the exercise of liberty does not require justification but that all restraints on liberty do. Libertarians have attempted to define the proper extent of individual liberty in terms of the notion of property in one's person, or self-ownership, which entails that each individual is entitled to exclusive control of his choices, his actions, and his body. Because no individual has the right to control the peaceful activities of other self-owning individuals—e.g., their religious practices, their occupations, or their pastimes—no such power can be properly delegated to government. Legitimate governments are therefore severely limited in their authority.

Nonaggression axiom

According to the principle that libertarians call the nonaggression axiom, all acts of aggression against the rights of others—whether committed by individuals or by governments—are unjust. Indeed, libertarians believe that the primary purpose of government is to protect citizens from the illegitimate use of force. Accordingly, governments may not use force against their own citizens unless doing so is necessary to prevent the illegitimate use of force by one individual or group against another. This prohibition entails that governments may not engage in censorship, military conscription, price controls, confiscation of property, or any other type of intervention that curtails the voluntary and peaceful exercise of an individual's rights.


A fundamental characteristic of libertarian thinking is a deep skepticism of government power. Libertarianism and liberalism both arose in the West, where the division of power between spiritual and temporal rulers had been greater than in most other parts of the world. In the Old Testament (I Samuel 8: 17–18), the Jews asked for a king, and God warned them that such a king would “take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” This admonition reminded Europeans for centuries of the predatory nature of states. The passage was cited by many liberals, including Thomas Paine and Lord Acton, who famously wrote that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Libertarian skepticism was reinforced by events of the 20th century, when unrestrained government power led to world war, genocide, and massive human rights violations.


Libertarians embrace individualism insofar as they attach supreme value to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Although various theories regarding the origin and justification of individual rights have been proposed—e.g., that they are given to human beings by God, that they are implied by the very idea of a moral law, and that respecting them produces better consequences—all libertarians agree that individual rights are imprescriptible—i.e., that they are not granted (and thus cannot be legitimately taken away) by governments or by any other human agency. Another aspect of the individualism of libertarians is their belief that the individual, rather than the group or the state, is the basic unit in terms of which a legal order should be understood.

Spontaneous order

Libertarians hold that some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals. The notion of spontaneous order may seem counterintuitive: it is natural to assume that order exists only because it has been designed by someone (indeed, in the philosophy of religion, the apparent order of the natural universe was traditionally considered proof of the existence of an intelligent designer—i.e., God). Libertarians, however, maintain that the most important aspects of human society—such as language, law, customs, money, and markets—develop by themselves, without conscious direction.

David Hume (45K)

An appreciation for spontaneous order can be found in the writings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (fl. 6th century BC), who urged rulers to “do nothing” because “without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.” A social science of spontaneous order arose in the 18th century in the work of the French physiocrats and in the writings of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Both the physiocrats (the term physiocracy means the “rule of nature”) and Hume studied the natural order of economic and social life and concluded, contrary to the dominant theory of mercantilism, that the directing hand of the prince was not necessary to produce order and prosperity. Hume extended his analysis to the determination of interest rates and even to the emergence of the institutions of law and property. In A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), he argued that “the rule concerning the stability of possession” is a product of spontaneous ordering processes, because “it arises gradually, and acquires force by a slow progression, and by our repeated experience of the inconveniences of transgressing it.” He also compared the evolution of the institution of property to the evolution of languages and money.

Smith developed the concept of spontaneous order extensively in both The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). He made the idea central to his discussion of social cooperation, arguing that the division of labour did not arise from human wisdom but was the “necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility: the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” In Common Sense (1776), Paine combined the theory of spontaneous order with a theory of justice based on natural rights, maintaining that the “great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government.”

The list of ideas noted in the foregoing can be summarized by saying they reflect an ancient mentality. Because all governments are actually welfare systems created by one or more persons interacting with oneself or others, the presence of a "government" in this sense is a system of order whether we call the interaction (or non-interaction) a government or not. With respect to "spontaneous order", one may be reminded of those early ideas which focused on explaining the existence of life from the interaction of different natural substances whose "essences" or "individual power" created the conditions for the realization of a superior emergent property that should not or can not be harnessed or owned by any agency such as a government. The "spontaneous order" appears to be a relative of the old phlogiston chemical theory. Accompanying the notion of "non-aggression" is the ancient idea of "live and let live", no doubt emphasized by those who were particularly incapable of providing an adequate defense against aggressors who thought to practice their own values of liberal death, destruction, and pillage.

Free markets

According to libertarians, free markets are among the most important (but not the only) examples of spontaneous order. They argue that individuals need to produce and trade in order to survive and flourish and that free markets are essential to the creation of wealth. Libertarians also maintain that self-help, mutual aid, charity, and economic growth do more to alleviate poverty than government social-welfare programs. Finally, they contend that, if the libertarian tradition often seems to stress private property and free markets at the expense of other principles, that is largely because these institutions were under attack for much of the 20th century by modern liberals, social democrats, fascists, and adherents of other leftist, nationalist, or socialist ideologies.

Rule of law

Libertarians consider the rule of law to be a crucial underpinning of a free society. In its simplest form, this principle means that individuals should be governed by generally applicable and publicly known laws and not by the arbitrary decisions of kings, presidents, or bureaucrats. Such laws should protect the freedom of all individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways and should not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Limited government

Although most libertarians believe that some form of government is essential for protecting liberty, they also maintain that government is an inherently dangerous institution whose power must be strictly circumscribed. Thus, libertarians advocate limiting and dividing government power through a written constitution and a system of checks and balances. Indeed, libertarians often claim that the greater freedom and prosperity of European society (in comparison with other parts of the world) in the early modern era was the result of the fragmentation of power, both between church and state and among the continent's many different kingdoms, principalities, and city-states. Some American libertarians, such as Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard, have opposed all forms of government. Rothbard called his doctrine “anarcho-capitalism” to distinguish it from the views of anarchists who oppose private property. Even those who describe themselves as “anarchist libertarians,” however, believe in a system of law and law enforcement to protect individual rights.

David Ricardo (29K)

Much political analysis deals with conflict and conflict resolution. Libertarians hold that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive individuals in a just society. Citing David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage—which states that individuals in all countries benefit when each country's citizens specialize in producing that which they can produce more efficiently than the citizens of other countries—libertarians claim that, over time, all individuals prosper from the operation of a free market, and conflict is thus not a necessary or inevitable part of a social order. When governments begin to distribute rewards on the basis of political pressure, however, individuals and groups will engage in wasteful and even violent conflict to gain benefits at the expense of others. Thus, libertarians maintain that minimal government is a key to the minimization of social conflict.

The idea of a "Free" or "Open" market is an illusion. Markets are neither free nor open. There are the basic requirements of being able to communicate, having goods that another or others want, and that the medium (money, gold, etc...) is acceptable. You can't speak any language you want or sell anything you want nor use whatever currency you want. There are other requirements for entry into a so-called free or open market such as accessibility and whether or not those main players in the unrecognized pecking will permit you to participate. If the marketplace is many miles from you and you have no way to get there, then you are not free to join in. Any and all costs represent a lack of being free. Will you be permitted to join if you have the same products as everyone else but want to sell them at a much cheaper price? Just because one is naive about the underlying cost structure of a so-called Free or Open market does not mean entry and participation are freely open to anyone, anytime, anywhere. An extra-terrestrial trying to gain entrance into the market-place might well be met with hostility for one reason or another.

Protection by way of a legal system supported by a police force and courts is the usage of a welfare system. The people must pay for the wages and benefits that legislators, police officers and judges get for their community service. Likewise, no matter what formula of government (or lack thereof) one advocates, whatever prevails is a welfare system supported by the people. It can not exist without support. Even a lack of government is a government no matter how strongly one voices an opinion against such a view because of their own narrowly specified definition of what a government means to them. If it is believed that order arises out of some practice of spontaneity, this order then becomes the prevailing government.

With respect to conflicts and conflict resolution, it is quiet likely that most libertarians have not seen crowded conditions where food and water supplies were dwindling. As the human population continues to grow, resources continue to be depleted, and the environment of the Earth becomes more harsh... institutions will strive to collect and hoard more resources for selective people(s). In times of disaster, government relief efforts may well be focused on maintaining itself at any and all costs, because it turns to the aggressive policy of self-survival... no matter how many requests for assistance are made by the public.

International relations

In international affairs, libertarians emphasize the value of peace. That may seem unexceptional, since most (though not all) modern thinkers have claimed allegiance to peace as a value. Historically, however, many rulers have seen little benefit to peace and have embarked upon sometimes long and destructive wars. Libertarians contend that war is inherently calamitous, bringing widespread death and destruction, disrupting family and economic life, and placing more power in the hands of ruling classes. Defensive or retaliatory violence may be justified, but, according to libertarians, violence is not valuable in itself, nor does it produce any additional benefits beyond the defense of life and liberty.

Contemporary libertarianism

Despite the historical growth in the scope and powers of government, particularly after World War II, in the early 21st century the political and economic systems of most Western countries—especially the United Kingdom and the United States—continued to be based largely on classical liberal principles. Accordingly, libertarians in those countries tended to focus on smaller deviations from liberal principles, creating the perception among many that their views were radical or extreme. Explicitly libertarian political parties (such as the Libertarian Party in the United States and the Libertarianz Party in New Zealand), where they did exist, garnered little support, even among self-professed libertarians. Most politically active libertarians supported classical liberal parties (such as the Free Democratic Party in Germany or the Flemish Liberals and Democrats in Belgium) or conservative parties (such as the Republican Party in the United States or the Conservative Party in Great Britain); they also backed pressure groups advocating policies such as tax reduction, the privatization of education, and the decriminalization of drugs and other so-called victimless crimes. There were also small but vocal groups of libertarians in Scandinavia, Latin America, India, and China.

Robert Nozick (28K)

The publication in 1974 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a sophisticated defense of libertarian principles by the American philosopher Robert Nozick, marked the beginning of an intellectual revival of libertarianism. Libertarian ideas in economics became increasingly influential as libertarian economists were appointed to prominent advisory positions in conservative governments in the United Kingdom and the United States and as some libertarians, such as James M. Buchanan, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Vernon L. Smith, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. In 1982 the death of the libertarian novelist and social theorist Ayn Rand prompted a surge of popular interest in her work. Libertarian scholars, activists, and political leaders also played prominent roles in the worldwide campaign against apartheid and in the construction of democratic societies in eastern and central Europe following the collapse of communism there in 1989–91. In the early 21st century, libertarian ideas informed new research in diverse fields such as history, law, economic development, telecommunications, bioethics, globalization, and social theory.

As with most discussions involving the topic of Peace, the dominant characteristic of its recurring definition is to cast it as a polar opposite of war. Hence, peace is defined in terms of an absence of War, but rarely as an absence of poverty, poor health care, absence of crime, absence of high taxation, absence of practicing a fraudulent democracy, etc... And as for claiming that war is somehow unproductive in any sense, this is rather a naive interpretation of history. This is like claiming "crime doesn't pay", when in actuality, it can pay very well... and this is why religions, businesses and governments all have their hand in the economic pie which is baked when a conflict ensues. Charities rush in to assist and call upon the public to help them in their assistance, though the government should be the one helping the dispossessed, instead of finding ways to fill its political coffers.


A long-standing criticism of libertarianism is that it presupposes an unrealistic and undesirable conception of individual identity and of the conditions necessary for human flourishing. Opponents of libertarianism often refer to libertarian individualism as “atomistic,” arguing that it ignores the role of family, tribe, religious community, and state in forming individual identity and that such groups or institutions are the proper sources of legitimate authority. These critics contend that libertarian ideas of individuality are ahistorical, excessively abstract, and parasitic on unacknowledged forms of group identity and that libertarians ignore the obligations to community and government that accompany the benefits derived from these institutions. In the 19th century, Karl Marx decried liberal individualism, which he took to underlie civil (or bourgeois) society, as a “decomposition of man” that located man's essence “no longer in community but in difference.” More recently, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor maintained that the libertarian emphasis on the rights of the individual wrongly implies “the self-sufficiency of man alone.”

Libertarians deny that their views imply anything like atomistic individualism. The recognition and protection of individuality and difference, they contend, does not necessarily entail denying the existence of community or the benefits of living together. Rather, it merely requires that the bonds of community not be imposed on people by force and that individuals (adults, at least) be free to sever their attachments to others and to form new ones with those who choose to associate with them. Community, libertarians believe, is best served by freedom of association, an observation made by the 19th-century French historian of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville, among others. Thus, for libertarians the central philosophical issue is not individuality versus community but rather consent versus coercion.

Other critics, including some prominent conservatives, have insisted that libertarianism is an amoral philosophy of libertinism in which the law loses its character as a source of moral instruction. The American philosopher Russell Kirk, for example, argued that libertarians “bear no authority, temporal or spiritual,” and do not “venerate ancient beliefs and customs, or the natural world, or [their] country, or the immortal spark in [their] fellow men.” Libertarians respond that they do venerate the ancient traditions of liberty and justice. They favour restricting the function of the law to enforcing those traditions, not only because they believe that individuals should be permitted to take moral responsibility for their own choices but also because they believe that law becomes corrupted when it is used as a tool for “making men moral.” Furthermore, they argue, a degree of humility about the variety of human goals should not be confused with radical moral skepticism or ethical relativism.

Some criticisms of libertarianism concern the social and economic effects of free markets and the libertarian view that all forms of government intervention are unjustified. Critics have alleged, for example, that completely unregulated markets create poverty as well as wealth; that they create significant inequalities in the distribution of wealth and economic power, both within and between countries; that they encourage environmental pollution and the wasteful or destructive use of natural resources; that they are incapable of efficiently or fairly performing some necessary social services, such as health care, education, and policing; and that they tend toward monopoly, which increases inefficiency and compounds the problem of significant inequality of wealth. Libertarians have responded by questioning whether government regulation, which would replace one set of imperfect institutions (private businesses) with another (government agencies), would solve or only worsen these problems. In addition, several libertarian scholars have argued that some of these problems are not caused by free markets but rather result from the failures and inefficiencies of political and legal institutions. Thus, they argue that environmental pollution could be minimized in a free market if property rights were properly defined and secured.

David Boaz: Executive vice president, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C. Author of Libertarianism: A Primer. Editor of The Libertarian Reader and others.

Additional Reading:

General introductions to libertarianism include Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, rev. ed. (1978, reissued 1994); David Boaz, Libertarianism: A Primer (1997); and Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation (1997). Many of the classic works of liberalism and libertarianism are excerpted in David Boaz (ed.), The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings from Lao-tzu to Milton Friedman (1997).

Other important works expressing libertarian ideals include Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776); Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957, reissued 1999), and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966, reissued 1976); Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974); Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (1982); and Andrew Sharp (ed.), The English Levellers (1998).

Studies of the development of libertarian thought include Norman P. Barry, On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism (1986, reprinted 1989); John L. Kelley, Bringing the Market Back In: The Political Revitalization of Market Liberalism (1997); and Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (2007).

Critiques of libertarianism can be found in Colin Bird, The Myth of Liberal Individualism (1999); and Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagle, The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice (2002).

Source: "Libertarianism." Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2013.

Date of Origination: Thursday, 24-Nov-2016... 05:17 AM
Date of initial posting: Tuesday, 28-Nove-2016... 11:02 AM