Are You Really A Libertarian?
Matt Spalding says most libertarians aren’t Libertarians.
What can he possibly mean? How can you consider yourself a libertarian and not be one? You either support Ron Paul, or you don’t, right?
Dr. Matthew Spalding, author of the book We Still Hold These Truths – a title which made its way onto the subtitle of CPAC 2012 – explained that “most people who consider themselves libertarians [really just] believe in limited government.”
Yes. Isn’t that what Libertarians believe?
Spalding’s answer is no: “Libertarianism is really based on a different philosophy,” he says, a “radical individualism in which the individual creates their own sense of meaning.”
“Its roots,” he proclaims, “are very different from the roots of the American Founders.”
The Founding focused on a broader base of principles – truths which “we still hold,” such as equal rights, nature, consent, property rights, religious liberty, the rule of law, and constitutionalism. “It’s not a science,” Spalding admits, but all these principles culminate in self-government.
The Libertarian individualism, by contrast, follows the tradition of Rousseau, Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre – the slowly developing philosophy of Existentialism.
It holds that there is no human nature – individuals are free to form themselves into whatever they choose to become. Because they are free to do this, individuals should be allowed to choose any sort of lifestyle, provided that it does not hurt other people.
Since harm to others is the only moral wrong, this Existentialist Libertarianism happens to advocate for a limited government, one of the Founders’ principles. But their assumption that individuals have moral value is arbitrary.
People could just as easily choose another moral system from this foundation. After all, they have the freedom to choose their own meaning, and from this, their own principles.
So Libertarians stop short.
Nietzsche and Hitler bring this thinking to its logical conclusion. Nietzsche’s ubermensche, or Hitler’s Aryan, proves more logical when he believes that he can dominate everyone else, so long as he is able. Why should the ubermensche or the Aryan submit to any limit on his will? This Libertarian philosophy can provide no reason why a person who is able to lord it over others should not do so.
They arbitrarily assert that the government ought to protect every individual’s rights, even if someone with the ability to become an Alexander or a Napoleon wishes to rule. They presume that this dynamo will submit to an authority which treats everyone equally, even though it reins in his potential for the sake of everyone’s liberty.
But the Founders believed that government should be limited in order to protect individual rights, which are based in human nature. Following in the Natural Law tradition of Cicero, Aquinas, and Locke, they held that men do not create themselves, but look to a providential creator, who “endowed them with certain inalienable rights.”
The people establish the government in order to protect these rights, which, unlike the rights of the Libertarian, have a firm foundation in human nature.
Libertarians who abide by the Founders’ view of liberty, though they may call themselves “Libertarians,” do not ascribe to the radical Existentialism that actually undergirds the Libertarian philosophy.
But most libertarians on the street would just say “existential–what?” In truth, they’re just disillusioned Conservatives.
-Tyler O’Neil and Ben Murrey