What Kind of Libertarian Are You?

     The Libertarian movement has grown tremendously in recent times, but there is still a large rift to be found between what can be best described as two competing sides, both of which essentially want the same thing, more individual liberty, but who have differing ideas on the methods to attain this result.
     The two factions are usually described, although this is not completely accurate, as “conservative” and “liberal” libertarians. Both have fallen victim to some extent to the trap of, “I am right and you are wrong.” I propose, however, that both sides are right, and that both have their proper place. I also lay the claim that both positions are wrong, in that neither will succeed alone, but both have a proper role to play, and both must be willing to recognize this and work together.
     The conservatives claim that the liberals want to remove all restraints on society and allow people to do anything that they want. The liberals accuse the conservatives of wanting to regulate certain behaviors which the conservative do not approve, and claim that because of this that they are not really libertarians. Both of these positions are correct in their goals, but are incorrect in their methods and timing. Yes, the ultimate goal is to completely remove the government from any regulation of individual behavior, except for that which harms another, or infringes on the freedom of another, but to go directly there is not possible in our current society. This is where the conservative side shows its merit. Since we must accept the fact that there are not enough workable moral and ethical restraints existing at present, we unfortunately rely on some form of government intervention, even though we do not like the idea, to keep people’s “bad” tendencies in check initially until a proper respect for the rights of others is gradually restored in our society. The problem with this is that if the government controls are maintained too long, they will naturally grow incrementally until we are right back to the situation we find ourselves in now, which is what happened in the previous two centuries of our history. This is where to liberal side will find its proper place. While the conservatives start the process, the liberals must educate people in the value of having a proper moral code, especially regarding the respect of the rights of others, so that the government controls can immediately, but gradually, begin to be replaced. If we can not work together in this way, yet still manage to set up a libertarian system, we will end up following the same path we have already seen in our own history, with a country initially among the most free on earth, but gradually being subverted by statists who take advantage of the fact that most people do not have a proper understanding of their own personal responsibility in the maintenance of their own freedom.
     The negative arguments in this are both valid, but not impediments in the proper context. True, allowing state control for the long term will lead to an authoritarian type of government, while not allowing state control at the outset will leave us victim to the depravity of those who do not have the proper moral structure in their personal lives to dissuade them from violating the rights of others. I maintain that both systems must be used in tandem, with mostly state control at the beginning, followed by a gradual, but intentional and controlled, transition away from that state control, until the end result is the absolute minimum necessary. It is unfortunate that this would be necessary, but since we are not trying to set up a society from scratch, and are trying to repair an existing society, we must devote ourselves to the task of gradually dismantling the broken country, then reassembling it properly.


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