5 October 2002

Socialist libertarians

The familiar right-wing libertarians stand for individual liberty over collective liberties.

Socialist libertarians stand for collective liberties at the expense of individual liberty.

In case you haven’t noticed, individual and collective liberties often conflict. So the left/right part of the libertarian spectrum depends upon which you think are more important.

For instance, if you would ultimately favor the individual liberty to not pay tax over the collective liberty to get healthcare, you’re a step to the right. If you favor the collective liberty to walk the streets in safety over the individual liberty of anyone being allowed to own a machine gun, you’re a step to the left. If you favor liberty of individual expression over the collective liberty of other people to be able to walk down the street without having their kids exposed to pornographic and violent imagery, you take a step to the right.

(Now, some will no doubt claim that some of these particular examples are false dichotomies; that’s not really the point. The point is, if you fill in your own chosen examples of clashing collective vs individual liberties, which set of liberties you would more often give up?)

It’s tempting to use the word “selfish” to describe the difference more clearly; it wouldn’t entirely be baiting, as followers of Ayn Rand over at the right end of the libertarian spectrum seem to be quite proud to describe themselves that way.

(I originally posted this to Usenet. Naturally, a right-wing libertarian immediately followed up stating that there were no left-wing libertarians, by definition.)

It’s interesting that while left-libertarians readily acknowledge the existence of right-libertarians, the reverse is not true. Not so long ago, ideological purity was the obsession of left-wing politics, much to its detriment; now it seems that right-wing politics is following the same pattern. I have to wonder how much more luck the libertarian party would have if it could actually unite and be representative of the entire spectrum of libertarian views. It would certainly appeal to me more than the current image of tinfoil-hat-wearing wingnuts with blue faces.

© mathew 2017