In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Black is White

The status of UKIP – whether they are a “democratic libertarian” party – instigates much debate, particularly when considering their stances on immigration and same-sex marriage. Ed Rooksby, writing in The Guardian, argues there is no contradiction in UKIP’s claims and:

As paradoxical as it may seem, rightwing libertarianism has always been a deeply authoritarian political philosophy.

Strong claims require strong justification. (Photo: XKCD)

Strong claims require strong justification. (Photo: XKCD)

Mr Rooksby does not define what he believes freedom is, but asserts that, for libertarians: “Liberty is defined almost exclusively in terms of private property rights”. Mr Rooksby follows that since “progressive taxation, trade unions, welfare and economic regulation” provide “expansion of freedom”, and generally libertarians rejects these things:

Libertarianism is in fact most concerned with defence of the particular and exclusive freedoms of the wealthy, employers and the powerful.

After Erich Fromm’s 1941 essay The Fear of Freedom and Isaiah Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty in 1958, the word freedom began to be applied to two separate concepts. Negative freedom, the historic use of the term, means the absence of coercion. Positive freedom means the presence of social agency. These two uses confuse a lack of coercion with wealth. Mr Rooksby asserts that libertarians believe economic liberty and human freedom are “synonymous”, but economic liberty is one neglected facet of human freedom – it is not the whole. Milton Friedman said: “Free markets and human freedom are related but not the same.”

Moreover, it is false that private property rights are solely beneficial to the currently wealthy: the perforation of these rights harms all citizens. Being unable to accumulate wealth through voluntary transactions harms those with little or no wealth, as they are unable to improve their position, and are much closer to losing it all. Incumbents in wealth can use private security to defend their affluence, even without property rights. Regulations, if excessive, can have a deleterious effect on economic growth.

Fallacies and Fascism

Mr Rooksby questions the motives of “hard-nosed libertarians” who profess the “need for robust systems of law and order”, trusting it is tacit recognition that “social inequalities breed crime”. In the past two decades, there has been a widening of social inequality along with steady decline in crime.

Apparently, “libertarian thought has been marked by a distinctly racist dimension from its very beginnings”, which the article attempts to justify by quoting Herbert Spencer and John Locke. This is a genetic fallacy – a political philosophy is not inextricably linked to the total views of its founders or adherents, as philosophies evolve. These writers can also be considered products of their historical time. Mr Rooksby does not explain why he thinks libertarianism is inherently connected with racism.

Lastly, the article claims, without citation, “libertarianism and fascism have long been bedfellows”. This selective quoting of Mises and Hayek underlies a Salon article by Michael Lind – their genuine views on fascism and democracy can be understood by actually reading their books.

Mr Rooksby’s article is a convoluted conurbation of catachrestic contortions: to claim libertarianism is socially illiberal is to claim that black is white.

This kitten is your prize for reading that article. (Photo: cuteoverload)

This kitten is your prize for reading that article. (Photo: cuteoverload)



This entry was posted on June 23, 2013 by in National Politics and tagged , , .
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