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Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
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Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 1:14 am    Post subject: Libertarianism Reply with quote

One of our regulars sent me a private message, asking for me to start a thread about libertarianism and asked if I could provide any links which might help explain what a Libertarian might be.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy or rather a school of philosophies. Wikipedia has a decent section about libertarianism which gives a breakdown of the assorted libertarian schools of thought.

Although there is a Libertarian Party (or rather... there was) as a political movement in Canada, libertarianism isn't widely know. The majority of libertarians end up under the big tent of the Conservative Party since the reformation. Before that, many were Reformers.

The basic tenet of libertarianism is the concept of self ownership. Being a sovereign individual with authority and sovereignty over their own choices but accepting responsibility for the consequences (and the rewards) of their actions. So long as I don't harm or interfere with anyone else, what I do is no-one's business but my own.

On a practical level, libertarians seek to bring governments back into check. Governments have a legitimate role to play in society but being a nanny for each citizen from the cradle to the grave? I don't think so! Competing in business against private enterprise? Nope! The role of government is to protect it's citizens by providing armed forces, border protection, police and court services... and that's about it!

Libertarians recognize governments are generally poor at delivery of services for citizens like welfare, schools, even health care. Governments are bureaucratic in nature and bureaucracies are slow, cumbersome and expensive. Socialist governments, with their insistence on encouraging mediocrity, are even worse.

The strongest society imaginable would be a society of libertarians and I don't mean physical strength. Imagine, if you can, a whole society of self-sufficient, independent but cooperative individuals.

-Mac
kwlafayette





Joined: 03 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Libertarians are more of an American phenomena. Live free or die type of philosophy. Patrick Henry and other early Americans, including the framers of the US constitution were big on liberty, all though they did not all agree on what liberty meant.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
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votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many of the "great thinkers" of the past like John Stuart Mill were libertarians... and not Americans... but you're right. I expect the US has more libertarians per capita than any other country.

-Mac
gc





Joined: 23 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a libertarian, and yet most people here seem to think I'm a liberal.
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
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votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gc wrote:
I'm a libertarian, and yet most people here seem to think I'm a liberal.

Some of the regulars here are very socially conservative and inclined to using the government's coercive power to force their mores on all Canadians. If you argue directly against such tactics, they will accuse you of being liberal. Articulating your postion usually helps others to understand what you mean.

For instance, I'm pro-legalization of marihuana which is normally a liberal postion... but I make it clear I am not a marihuana advocate. I believe prohibition is useless and ineffective and a waste of resources... plus prohibition makes organized crime richer... My articulation of the latter explains the former. Without it, I would be accused of being liberal.

-Mac
kwlafayette





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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most people who say they are libertarians aren't really though. For example, a libertarian would be taking care of his own health care, and almost no one in Canada would agree with that position. In fact, there would not be much of a government at all, and almost anything would be legal as long as the people involved had the capacity to contract and they did not hurt anyone but themselves; prostitution, drugs, selling yourself into slavery, all would be legal. Not many people are actually prepared to take on the level of personal responsibility required in being a libertarian.
gc





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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac wrote:
For instance, I'm pro-legalization of marihuana which is normally a liberal postion... but I make it clear I am not a marihuana advocate. I believe prohibition is useless and ineffective and a waste of resources... plus prohibition makes organized crime richer... My articulation of the latter explains the former. Without it, I would be accused of being liberal.

-Mac

I believe in legalization of marijuana for those same reasons, but most importantly I believe in the legalization of marijuana because it is not hurting anyone else, so the government has no business in making it illegal. I don't think that smoking marijuana is a good thing (except for medicinal purposes), and I don't smoke it myself, but I don't think that's any of the government's business.
Of course, the more I talk with conservatives, the more I realize that they are pro-big government. For example, This Thread.
Vicki





Joined: 22 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac, I would agree with your definition of Libertarianism as it grew out of classical Liberalism (John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham and so on). I think that in a modern context it is also important to remember that includes acceptance of personal resonsibility for one's actions as well. I would actually classify Stephen Harper as a Libertarian by this definition. I don't think that contemporary Liberalism (especially of the sort we see in Canada) can be seen as part of that tradition and even compatible with it because of the emphasis on social engineering schemes and a desire to diminish the rights (and responsibilities) of the individual "for the greater social good." Unless of course, we are discussing the rights of a special-interest minority group whose special treatment is justified as compensatory due to historical (perceived) injustices.
mrsocko





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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great discussion.

I remember the Social Security debate in the States(when George 2 wanted to give people private accounts). The Dems where saying this was a libertarian attack on the viability of the whole system. Seems to me like it would make people partly responsible to manage their future retirement needs, which doesn't sound like a bad idea. In a small way it was giving people more freedom.

Our governments in Canada seem to me to be over controlling to many aspects of our lives. Has there ever been a libertarian movement to get rid of overbearing laws? The populism of Reform seemed likely to do this if had succeded in expanding past it's Western base.
Mac





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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an uphill battle for libertarians, mrsocko. Most people will agree when one present the idea of reducing and simplifying government but as soon as you touch one of Trudeau's legacy programs, they're shocked. Even the moderate move to toward the centre which Harper has managed is constantly decried by the Opposition as being extreme right wing.

Extreme right wing would be doing things like cutting off all funding of public heath care, eliminating EI, selling all Crown lands, privatizing all Crown corporations, etc. No-one is suggesting any of these things (but we can dream...) so contrast that with telling SWC that they can't be directly involved in advocacy... The current government is pretty milquetoast by that standard.

A few of the keys platforms of Reform which I hope that movement carried into the new coalition were things like the desire to improve property rights and the desire for smaller government, reduction of red tape and taxation. These concepts fit well with libertarians... but the social conservatism and the willingness to use government's coercive power to force compliance doesn't.

I don't know of any of the MPs who have openly declared themselves to be libertarian. I suspect doing so might play well in the major urban centres if the candidate was articulate and able to "connect" to the population. Although it appears the major urban centres are fully leftist, that's not necessarily the case.

Vicki, you raise some good points... but I cannot abide the concept of compensatory "special treatment" since doing so means someone is being rewarded for what they are rather than who they are.... and someone else is being punished for what their ancestors may (or may not) have done.

-Mac
Vicki





Joined: 22 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac - Please don't misunderstand me. I do not for one moment believe in special treatment for any minority or special interest group. In fact, I find the idea reprehensible and condescending. To extend special privileges to certain individuals or groups suggests that these people somehow cannot function on a level playing field with the rest of us. My personal feeling is that the sort of socially engineered, kuymbaya nanny society the Liberals and NDP would seek to impose upon us would be not unlike something out of Dante: Abandon all hope ye who live here.
It is my sincere hope that Pierre Elliott Trudeau is burning in Hell in a fire endlessly fed by copies of the Charter of Right and Freedoms.
Mac





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Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vicki wrote:
It is my sincere hope that Pierre Elliott Trudeau is burning in Hell in a fire endlessly fed by copies of the Charter of Right and Freedoms.

What a lovely image!! You just made my night!!

-Mac
peterjaworski





Joined: 04 Dec 2007
Posts: 11

Location: Bowling Green, Ohio

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The basic tenet of libertarianism is the concept of self ownership."

This is only true of *moral* libertarianism, but is false as a condition of *political* libertarianism. A political libertarian is anyone who wants the government to be extremely small, typically composed of a national defense, courts, and police function. Milton Friedman, a libertarian, also thought the state should be responsible for basic infrastructure and should provide a minimal social safety net. Friedrich Hayek, a libertarian, also thought the state should provide some sort of minimal welfare.

We might call a libertarian anyone who, for any reason whatsoever (including "natural rights" reasons like self-ownership, or utilitarian reasons, or liberty reasons, and so on), wants the state to consume no more than 10 per cent of GDP. This is a very rough criterion, but it beats all of the others. It will be relevant what the state spends its money on, but that's a separate issue.

It is possible for someone to believe that the government owns our lives, say, but that we should still have libertarian political institutions for utilitarian, or welfare-maximizing reasons. Economists tend to be both consequentialist and libertarian, since many believe that private property, plus a free market, equals big welfare gains.

Many people who think they are conservative are, in fact, libertarian.
peterjaworski





Joined: 04 Dec 2007
Posts: 11

Location: Bowling Green, Ohio

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kwlafayette wrote:
Libertarians are more of an American phenomena. Live free or die type of philosophy. Patrick Henry and other early Americans, including the framers of the US constitution were big on liberty, all though they did not all agree on what liberty meant.


This is false. Canada's history is rife with libertarian philosophy. Up until the Pierre Elliott Trudeau re-conceptualization of Canada's identity, Canada could justifiably be called a country that cared more about liberty than the U.S.

Examples: Our founders looked to classical liberals like, especially, Montesquieu and John Locke and David Hume for inspiration.

Louis Riel's rebellions, and the Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions were rebellions for freedom.

Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier can best be viewed as a libertarian. That label sticks to him better than any other, although there are plenty of non-libertarian policies and speeches that he approved of and gave.

The Underground Railway. Especially the Buxton settlement just outside of Windsor, is a perfect example of Canada's heritage of liberty. (Anyone here aware of the Buxton Liberty Bell? Yeah... that's a big problem)

Gun rights in Canada were much more fervently held on to here than in the U.S. until about the '60s.

And so on.

It is part of the mission of the Institute for Liberal Studies (www.liberalstudies.ca) to expose the myth of socialist Canada, and to make more available the rich, deep, and significant history of liberty in this country. Liberty is *our* heritage, even if it might also be the heritage of the U.S.
peterjaworski





Joined: 04 Dec 2007
Posts: 11

Location: Bowling Green, Ohio

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac wrote:
I don't know of any of the MPs who have openly declared themselves to be libertarian.


Maxime Bernier, Andre Arthur describes himself as libertarian, and Scott Reid sometimes says he is more of a libertarian than anything else. Stephen Harper used to call himself a libertarian, but his actions in government are hard to square with that political philosophy.
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