For as long as I’ve been interested in libertarianism, I’ve run into an insurmountable objection to the whole scheme.
DK once wrote a piece outlining the difference between positive and negative libertarians.
Positive Libertarians are those who believe that more freedom will be good for everybody—that society will, on the whole, benefit. They are those who actually like people and who believe, essentially, that people will—given the right tools, e.g. information, motivation and the ability to think—make sensible choices for themselves. Positive Libertarians tend to believe that the state is evil because it removes those essential tools from people and thus demeans them. Positive Libertarians believe that people are essentially decent.
So what of negative libertarians?
Negative Libertarians are generally those whose emphasis is on the "leave me the fuck alone"—the "don’t tread on me"—aspects of libertarianism. They rail against the state because they want to get the state out of their lives; they tend, also, to be the greatest advocates of guns, for instance. They are, effectively, people who don’t like people—misanthropes if you will.
That’s me, that is. In. a. nutshell. And this is my party:
And the problem is this: because I have vanishingly little faith in the populace overall, it is very difficult for me to argue that libertarian policies should prevail.
And yet. And yet. I hate Labour’s nannying. I hate the Tories’ nannying. But if people are moronic drones, who eat out of buckets and gawp at X-Factor, isn’t the state’s nannying necessary?
Or has the need for nannying become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
DK and Obo might argue that the attendant nannying has left us with an institutionalised population, suffering from something akin to political Stockholm syndrome. That, freed from their shackles and deprived of their soma, the people would rise up and embrace freedom. Presumably, they’d do so responsibly, without the government imploring and then mandating it.
But I’m not so sure. The tenets of libertarianism seem fundamentally incompatible with human nature. In fact, they’re so designed.
For example, freedom from violence and coercion: They are parts of the human condition that libertarianism seeks to constrain, or suppress. But how? They’re not a by-product of the nanny state.
The point is, people need to be lead.
Old Holborn has written a very good post here, but it is laden with imperatives.
So instead of sitting on the sofa watching mindless pap on Sky, go and plant some carrots. Instead of endlessly texting your mates, read a recipe book. Learn something that will keep you alive, whether it be a skill everyone needs and will pay you for (clue:it isn’t HTML or aromatherapy), or how to cook a meal, learn something useful. Learn how a chicken works. Learn how to plant a potato. Learn how to look after YOU and yours. You’re going to need it. The people who have been overpaid with your money to do it all for you are not going to be there much longer. And do it now, the internet has all the answers to all the questions.
The implication is that people need to do these things, for their own good, but aren’t doing, so they need to be told.
If Caroline Spelman or Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech to this effect, we’d tell them to piss off. If they followed it up with a public awareness campaign extolling the tangible benefits of the above strategy, we’d accuse them of spending our money on patronising us.
Contrarians, like I, would tie ourselves in knots undermining and subverting their message and would actively engage in oppositional behaviours.
Or we would become gamekeepers and hypocrites.
I’m finding the whole thing quite intractable.