Saturday, November 13, 2004

Notes on political philosophy: Libertarianism

I've been thinking for the past week or so that I ought to write something about Libertarianism. I've quickly come to realize, however, that this term has a multitude of conflicting meanings, and I do mean conflicting. Witness the "locked" status of the Wikipedia article by that name.

My inspiration has been the political compass, to which I have referred curious readers before. The authors of that august site note the inadequacy of a simple 'left-right' distinction or continuum when discussing political differences. So they add another dimension, the 'authoritarian-libertarian' continuum. In this formulation, authoritarians are pro-state (or church/mosque/temple/synagogue, as the case may be) and anti-individual. Libertarians are pro-individual and against any restrictions to that individual's self-determination.

The two axes of the political compass describe four quadrants: leftist libertarians (or leftist anarchists, if you prefer), leftist authoritarians (think of Stalin's Soviet Union, for example), rightest authoritarians (believe it or not, both President Bush and John Kerry are in this quadrant) and rightest libertarians (the American Libertarian party, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand).

Today when I took the political compass quiz, I came up -8.12 left/right and -7.23 libertarian/authoritarian. This puts me deep into leftist libertarian country, along with the likes of Gandhi. This is pretty consistent with how I scored last Spring, although I seem to have drifted even further toward the extreme libertarian end of things.

This all has a point, namely to remind everyone of just how authoritarian (and anti-libertarian) the present regime, er, administration is. For example, Bush is pro-life (and thus against individual choice); he is apparently anti-gay marriage (at least his supporters are) and he has demonstrated a considerable fondness for police-state tactics.

The irony of this is that the Republicans have been selling themselves as a party of smaller government for decades now, and yet if the powerful religious right faction had it's way, we'd be living in an extremely authoritarian theocracy in a New York minute.

By the way, the Green parties of Europe (and presumably North America) fall squarely within the leftist libertarian (socialist libertarian/libertarian socialist/anarcho-socialist) camp. Happily, I'm already a member of my state Green Party.

So check out the political compass, take the test, and ponder the possible future directions of American (and Global!) politics. What I'm trying to figure out is how to get to a desirable place from here. Right now, it all feels like a train wreck in the making.

No comments: