Or, at the very least, that there is no agreement on what constitutes “pure” libertarianism.
Laurence Vance makes this comment on the blog at Lew Rockwell.com that exemplifies what appears to be a growing schism between “left” and “right” libertarians. This is a fascinating development for those of us who once called ourselves simply “libertarians” and who were attracted to the philosophy in large measure because it appeared to dispense with the left-versus-right dogma we were all so tired of and that failed to satisfactorily explain the economic, political, and social dynamics of the world we live in. Unfortunately for libertarianism’s proponents, they failed to consider the tenets of the philosophy that are every bit as unrealistic and unworkable as its opposite, Communism.
The center of Vance’s comment is the recent law signed by New York’s Party Secretary General Andrew “Elderslayer” Cuomo making it easy for mentally-ill perverts confused about or dissatisfied with their God-assigned biological sex to change their God-given and unchangeable sex to their sex-of-choice on official government documentation. Vance anticipates that it will be no time at all before “left libertarians” praise Cuomo’s move.
Although he doesn’t expressly say so here, those who are familiar with Vance and his contributions to LRC are aware that he is an evangelical Christian, a Southern Baptist, so one can assume that this is part of what influences the tone of his comment. While one could interpret it as Vance’s disgust with the State facilitating yet more perversion (no doubt he feels this way, as do most of us), it might very well be driven in equal measure by his libertarian grounding that leads him to believe that the State has no business inserting itself into such matters under any circumstances.
What seems to escape Vance and most other libertarians is that under the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), which is the closest thing libertarianism has to a sacred code, the issue of “gender” (using the abused meaning of the term adopted by modern society) is one that a libertarian should be neutral about, politically, because the person who seeks to alter their physical sex is doing so to their own body and no one else’s. Stated differently, to the extent that the individual is tangibly harming anyone, it is themselves and themselves alone. Therefore, no one else has any moral right to interfere with their decision to alter their own body, no matter the potential danger to the individual making the decision. This certainly does NOT mean that others, even other libertarians, are required to accept or support the other individual’s decision to mutilate themselves. Strict adherence to the NAP, however, would preclude any conscientious libertarian from intervening.
As a Christian Vance certainly encounters situations on an almost daily basis where his libertarianism clashes with his Christian beliefs. For example, he adopts the libertarian position that vices that are currently outlawed by most governments (e.g., narcotics sales and usage, prostitution) should be decriminalized or legalized (a position that I agree with, for the same practical and philosophical reasons Vance and other libertarians have). This does NOT mean that he endorses these vices at all, merely that the practical effect of letting the State outlaw them and criminally prosecute those who engage in them leads inevitably to worse outcomes than the vices themselves. However, as a Christian Vance also recognizes the cost to not only the human body, but the human soul by condoning the vices in question. He knows that as a servant of Christ it is his duty to try to lead his fellow man away from paths of darkness and eternal death. So which does he choose in the event of a conflict?
Then there is the subject of “private property,” particularly where commerce is concerned. Pure libertarianism sees human associations as voluntary, not bound by any coercive external force. However, the philosophy’s shortcomings are especially obvious here in that it sees this concept in starkly black and white terms. Example in point: community homeowners associations. We all recognize these malignant bodies as the bane of modern suburban home ownership, quasi-governmental bodies largely exempt from the rule of law that trample on the rights and freedoms of homeowners in ways that totalitarian regimes can only dream of (I’m not exaggerating by much here; municipal governments are restrained from doing the things most HOAs do regularly and with impunity). Libertarians assert that membership in HOAs is voluntary, that “no one forces you to join an HOA.” If you are trying to buy an affordable home in a suburban area nowadays, it is almost impossible to find one that isn’t governed by an HOA, which means that, de facto, you ARE forced to join an HOA, as one cannot obtain a mortgage on residential property in most planned communities without the inclusion of a homeowners covenant. It’s either accept a covenant you don’t want and have your freedoms restricted. or you can’t buy the home. Ergo, since home ownership is tied in almost all cases to HOA membership, the libertarian position is obvious nonsense. HOAs violate the NAP by forcing people to commit to organizations and groups of people that they would otherwise never choose to associate with. Libertarians find this intolerable when the State does it, but when private corporations do it, suddenly it becomes acceptable, simply because corporations are “private property” and “not the State.”
This has led to some very interesting commentary in places like LRC, The Independent Institute, The Future Of Freedom Foundation, and The Mises Institute. Dogmatic libertarians, who for so long have never applied their philosophy to the real world, are now beginning to see its implications and its deep flaws as “private sector corporations,” the neo-gods of ideological libertarianism, are now taking the place of the State and revealing themselves as the destructive monsters they’ve always been. Many libertarians are quick to claim that what these corporations represent is “crony capitalism,” or “state corporatism,” yet they have no coherent response to offer whenever one points out that the corporation is a creation of the State, libertarianism’s ultimate bête noire, and therefore cannot function as an entity that either exemplifies or promotes economic or social freedom. I have yet to find a extensive work by any libertarian economist or philosopher of note that satisfactorily reconciles the contradiction, which probably explains the dogmatic libertarian’s fixation on the abstract and theoretical rather than the concrete.
In closing, we can readily admit that certain basic tenets of libertarianism are not only appealing, but both workable and compatible with God-given natural law. The idea of the NAP is one of the underpinnings of the Christian faith and is a standard that every human being with a healthy moral compass strives to live by. However, where libertarianism falls short is in its failure to recognize that beyond a certain point, the quest to ensure maximum freedom for the individual damages human civilization as a whole, leading to the abuses that undermine the very things libertarianism seeks to perpetuate. Given fallen human nature, it is ludicrously unrealistic to believe that a society founded strictly upon the NAP can survive in dogmatically pure form. The best we can hope for is some balanced hybrid of highly moderated libertarianism, in which its most salutary characteristics prevail, and reactionary tribalism., in which the welfare of the commons is also considered How realistic that would be to attain will depend on many factors, most immediately along what lines the USSA splits when the inevitable Civil War II erupts, followed just as inevitably by secession/ breakup of states.