Monday, October 17, 2005

Barking Up the Wrong Libertarian

Diana Hsieh (Noodle Food) points to an article at The Ayn Rand Institute's site by Peter Schwartz, in which Schwartz asserts this:
Libertarianism belligerently rejects the very need for any justification for its belief in something called "liberty." It repudiates the need for any intellectual foundation to explain why "liberty" is desirable and what "liberty" means. Anyone from a gay-rights activist to a criminal counterfeiter to an overt anarchist can declare that he is merely asserting his "liberty" -- and no Libertarian (even those who happen to disagree) can objectively refute his definition. Subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain "wings" of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it. In the absence of any intellectual framework, the zealous advocacy of "liberty" can represent only the mindless quest to eliminate all restraints on human behavior -- political, moral, metaphysical. And since reality is the fundamental "restraint" upon men's actions, it is nihilism -- the desire to obliterate reality -- that is the very essence of Libertarianism.
I refuse to be lumped with the kind of libertarian to whom Schwartz refers, namely, the libertarian who is devoted to a mindless, "anything goes," libertarianism. For more, read my series, "Practical Libertarianism for Americans," which I summarize here. See especially Part III of the series ("The Origin and Essence of Rights") and sample my unorthodox libertarian positions at this collection of links.

My bottom line: True liberty -- the kind of liberty that advances happiness -- is incompatible with the removal of restraints on human behavior. If that makes me a Burkean conservative, in the mold of Friedrich Hayek, so be it.

But methinks that Schwartz vents his spleen on an increasingly uninfluential branch of libertarianism -- the anything-goes absolutists who adhere to anarcho-capitalism. I call them "fundamentalist" libertarians because their libertarianism is rooted in a priori beliefs that have little to do with the facts of human nature. I have addressed their baseless dogmas in many posts, including these:
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy (06/29/04)
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy, Revisited (07/23/04)
An Aside about Libertarianism and War (08/02/04)
More about Libertarian Hawks and Doves (09/24/04)
Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style (09/26/04)
The State of Nature (12/05/04)
Getting Neolibertarianism Wrong (04/19/05)
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense (04/22/05)
The Legitimacy of the Constitution (05/09/05)
Another Thought about Anarchy (05/10/05)
Anarcho-Capitalism vs. the State (05/26/05)
Rights and the State (06/13/05)
The Essential Case for Consequentialist Libertarianism (07/10/05)
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over? (07/26/05)
Sorting Out the Libertarian Hawks and Doves (07/27/05)
A Paradox for Libertarians (08/04/05)
A Non-Paradox for Libertarians (08/15/05)
Liberty or Self-Indulgence? (10/10/05)
Thanks to Diana Hsieh for calling my attention to an Objectivist essay that comes fairly close to echoing my brand of libertarianism. I say "fairly close" because Schwartz appeals to a priori judgments about moral values, judgments which -- like those of "fundamentalist" libertarians -- seem unanchored in reality.