A Libertarian Confession

It is still Holy Week. And while I have busied myself with trifles (see previous post), I have also been doing the work of the church. So this posting will be short too. I have a song to practice for worship tonight…

In polite company I often times call myself a libertarian. (In impolite company I call myself an anarchist, which is closer to the truth.) But I feel compelled to explain exactly what I mean by this.

The libertarianism I largely espouse is prophetic. It is not law. I believe that involuntary collectivism and communalism is humanity’s inescapable lot. There is much voluntary cooperation between human beings, but there is much that is not. But that said, those who believe in the moral legitimacy of some kind of collective or communal aspirations for human beings often ignore that collectivism and communalism often times demand the unwilling sacrifice of some human beings — their time, their talent, their wealth, their lives. Those who believe in a common good often ignore the very real fact that “common good” they seek is usually seen by an individual or a tiny handful of individuals and it is imposed — with a combination of consent, assent, indifference and begrudging acceptance in the face of raw power — on the community. Most days, I doubt there is even such a thing as the “common good” at all. Just the self-interest of those individuals who have or aspire to power over others.

In fact, all that is left, then, is raw power — the power to coerce, to compel, to control what Gramsci (and, I believe, the Frankfurt School) saw as the language of discourse, so that people have little intellectual choice but to assent or agree to the exercise of power.

And power will ALWAYS — I cannot emphasize this enough — ALWAYS be used on those least able to resist it. Believe in “justice” all you wish, but in the end, the power you use creates and sustains marginalization, impoverishment, and suffering. Any power that can corral the wealthy can annihilate the poor. Any power which can elevate the marginalized can also further push them into the margins. Guess which is easier? Even well-used power will do these things eventually.

I believe libertarianism is, or can be, a prophetic critique. Individual human beings matter. No one should be sacrificed against their will for the alleged wellbeing of all. No order is so important, necessary or righteous that some individuals within that order can be thrown away because their lives are less valuable or are viewed as a threat to the community or collective. And yet, that is what all collectivism and communalism does. It throws human beings away. Regularly. And calls it righteous.

In the end, I believe it is important for those who have been marginalized, abused, and excluded from whatever involuntary community they find themselves in, from political and social power, to have safe places to flee to. Where they can build some kind of community with others like them. This is why I like big cities. And why I’m not keen on civil rights movements. I do not understand — why would anyone demand to part of a community or a society that has clearly rejected them?

That makes absolutely no sense to me.

3 thoughts on “A Libertarian Confession

  1. Thanks for the fine post, Mr. Featherstone. You’ve succinctly drilled down into the one the major stumbling blocks that I’ve encountered with friends and acquaintances with socialist/collectivist leanings: the phantom ‘common good’. It’s supposed to be everywhere in our welfare state, and, yet, when one starts to look at the facts on the ground, it’s not there – but seemingly always reappears somewhere else – or so my acquaintances would have you think.It has struck me over the years that ‘the common good’ is just a nice stand-in, albeit diabolical twist, on the old creator/creature construct. Wanting to make ‘society’ or ‘community’ – local, regional, or global – into their own image (and up to their standards), these social engineers, politicians, bureaucrats, talking heads, local elite/social butterflies, etc., demand that this group or these individuals live, breathe, act to a certain common standard.Of course, most don’t or can’t no matter how much money or coercion is expended. And, so, a new program or new initiative is started to square that human circle.As I understand Christianity (and other religions), the ‘common good’ cannot be coerced by man but must be achieved through the divine.Pardon my ramblings. It kind of comes down to the statement made at Easter dinner yesterday. When the perennial question of why we can’t learn from our mistakes (doomed to repeat history), the young, but wise, twenty-something piped up that the next generation always think they’re better at engineering the problem than the last generation. They’re better creators than the last. And I’m afraid that the rapid advance of technology in the 20th and 21st-centuries has only reinforced that notion.


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