Monday, April 18, 2011

Why I am Libertarian

While I was in college, John Stossel came to my city and gave a presentation.  I didn't attend, but my parents did, and they bought one of his books, which I read.

And it made -sense-.  It wasn't perfect, but there weren't any gaping holes in the ideas presented within it.  It wasn't full of hatred for the opposition, it wasn't full of justifications for why we should take control of people's lives for their own good.  It was defined by a good-natured respect for other people, by a subtle recognition of and acceptance of human failures, and more, a recognition that those failures cannot be regulated away by those who think themselves wiser, any more than a parent can teach their children to avoid their own mistakes.

This is the abiding wisdom of the grandparent - the recognition that we make mistakes to learn from them, a wisdom learned making first their own mistakes, and learning through their children that those mistakes must be made anew.  And it is the fundamental wisdom of libertarianism - the recognition that mistakes are a necessary part of our lives, that people must be free to make them - free in a nontrivial sense, for a mistake without consequence is not a mistake at all, but a meaningless act.

And this was a wisdom I could relate to.

Over the next five years I investigated further.

In contrary to my abandoned political beliefs, libertarianism is founded on respect; respect for people's capacity to do good, respect for their ability to refrain from evil, respect for their right to choose between the two when no harm is concerned save their own.

Even as these ideas settled, there were a number of issues I was ambivalent on; things like the death penalty, gun control, and later, abortion.

The death penalty I remain divided upon; I regard it as being a similar moral question to whether or not we have the right to imprison people, however, and cannot find a solid moral distinction between the two; an hour stolen, a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand, life is limited, and I cannot find that the death penalty, merely on the basis that some part of the penalty cannot be taken back, to be fundamentally less moral than imprisonment.

Gun control was settled quite firmly by The Munchkin Wrangler, in the post I've linked on the right.  Before I read his Why The Gun Is Civilization, I regard gun rights as silly.  After that post, I regard them as critically important - perhaps the most important single right we possess.  Because of that post, I own a gun today - because of that post, all of my siblings now own guns, where all of us would have been ambivalent about the matter previously.

Abortion I have grown more ambivalent over time about, as a result of the growing recognition that the disagreement is fundamentally philosophic; the argument has nothing to do with women's rights, and everything to do with the definition of human life.  I disagree with the fundamentalists on their definition, but I cannot regard it as the affront upon women's rights that the left makes it out to be, any more than forbidding mothers from abandoning infants is an affront upon their rights.

And so I've grown further and further libertarian.  My next post in this vein will address why I am an Objectivist, but not tonight.

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