Libertarians – Fighting for the Truth

In the battle of ideas, Austro-Libertarianism – either in spite or because of its logical consistency – is lumbered with several burdens that are not always shared with opposing philosophies. Some of these – such as the fact that libertarianism is not a complete moral philosophy and can look, at best, cold and emotionless, or, at worst, a recipe for rampant selfishness and egotism – we have examined elsewhere. Let us explore a few more of them and suggest reasons for how they can be overcome, or at least mitigated as much as possible.

The Collectivist Mentality

Perhaps the biggest problem we face is that the fundamental tenets of the modern, democratic state are thought to be beyond question. We are told that democracy is the best system of government, that voting means freedom, that politicians serve their people and “the nation”. Whichever moral or political debate happens to be filling the headlines, it is always a debate that takes place within the system rather that as an attempt to revolt against it. Indeed, in the history of political philosophy, consideration for alternative methods of rule has never been at the low that it is now, whereas the possibility of no, official ruler at all is completely off the radar. All alternatives to social democratic government are believed to be just baffling or bewildering – a mentality that is reinforced and engrained by two aspects.

First, questions are always posed in the form of the collective, with people encouraged to debate only by thinking of the needs of the whole rather than of the individual parts that make up that whole. “Should Britain do X?” “Should we have nationalised railways?” “What should be done about our health service?” By not even allowing the possibility of individual tastes and desires to find expression, people are always geared towards the notion that there must, for every problem and issue, be a single solution that everyone must be made to endure. Although this is endemic throughout all political debates, it can be seen in force in the current problem of how to respond to the energy crisis. It is almost taken as a given that there must be a national energy solution, even though it was nation-state policies infected by green ideology that are largely to blame for the problem in the first place.

How can Austro-Libertarians respond this challenge? One mistaken way would be to accept the terms of the argument, diving head first into discussing problems only in collective terms. For instance, in response to the question “should we have a nationalised health service?” a libertarian may find it difficult to prevent himself from crying “No!” before reeling off all manner of facts and  figures to show why a system of private healthcare would be far superior. Libertarians, however, must avoid this temptation entirely because it resorts to the same tactic as statists: that what we want for ourselves must be what everyone should have too. It is also the expected answer from one’s ideological opponents, and they too are likely to be prepared with an array of counterarguments.

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