Sasha Volokh on libertarian belief

There is an intriguing post on the Volokh Conspiracy that puts forth some beliefs and helps (in my view) to show some of the diversity in the libertarian ecosystem, and is titled "What are libertarians against?"

The devil is in the details, it is said, and even amongst us Catallarchists, on certain subjects (such as Minarchism vs. Anarcho-Capitalism) there is lively disagreement and debate. Of course, for most who aren't in the libertarian ballpark, many of the differences between different styles & strands of libertarianism certainly may seem like so much 'inside baseball'- trivial compared to the wide gulfs in meta-context among, say, illiberals, socialists, and conservatives compared to libertarians.

In particular, Sasha hits on a point close to our hearts (Democracy vs. Liberty) that bears repeating:

On eminent domain -- where I, and IJ, advocate an increased role for the courts in determining whether or not a taking of property is for a public use -- my reader points out that such a view is undemocratic, which is true enough if by undemocratic you mean constraining the decisions of the current majority.

Let's set aside the argument that democratically appointed judges administering the Constitution is also a part of democracy. Even assuming the worst about judges' political accountability, such judicial review isn't an expansion of government power at all but only a reshuffling of government power among branches, and for a libertarian, the question isn't whether the result is more or less democratic but whether it furthers liberty.

Exactly. For me, I would add that the same is true for judging government policy- is a particular policy going to bring us closer to, or further from, a libertarian ideal, and liberty in general? I believe that question is more important than "is government going to be involved" in determining whether those of a libertarian bent should approve.

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Good thoughts from Sasha,

Good thoughts from Sasha, especially this bit:

My reader describes my fish post as "advocating for a massive increase in government power," and yes, if government defines and enforces property rights, that's an increase in government power relative to anarchy or the commons. But libertarians (aside from anarcho-capitalists -- a respectable position, but I'm not one of them) aren't against government power as such; they're against theft and slavery, none of which are implicated by a definition of rights where none existed before.

However, I would be cautious with your final thoughts, when you say:

For me, I would add that the same is true for judging government policy- is a particular policy going to bring us closer to, or further from, a libertarian ideal, and liberty in general?

I agree with your sentiments as long as it doesn't drift into the 'the ends justify the means' zone, which is completely antithetical to the very moral arguments from which libertarian belief stems.

Of course, the ends do not

Of course, the ends do not justify the means- means must be justified on their own, separate from ends.

However, what I object to is the tendency among some libertarians to reject government programs simply because they are government programs- such as, say, privatization of social security accounts (as you suggested in this comment). Yes, it would first involve the government saying "you must do X with your cash", but on the other hand, it establishes a property right which was not present in the prior system, it removes money from the government's general coffers, and finally it helps lead the way to general acceptance of privately-funded social and retirement insurance/saving, all of which is a good thing that I believe balances out the fact that its a government mandate at first. To say "that's socialistic!" and reject it, is to leave a far worse system in place (unfunded promise based on the government's TAX ability).

To me, that would be the worse error.

However, what I object to is

However, what I object to is the tendency among some libertarians to reject government programs simply because they are government programs- such as, say, privatization of social security accounts (as you suggested in this comment).

I don't oppose those programs relative to the status quo, unless I truly think that they might result in shift away from the libertarian ideal, like school-vouchers might be. I oppose the underlying 'meta-context' that they are built upon - namely that these programs have value solely because of their utilitarian outcomes, not because they respect individuals rights also. Freedom has to be sold for its own sake, along with the fact that it works. What I am opposed to is that support for these programs is built upon the notion that they work, but no mention is made that individuals should have self-determination.

I'm glad my comments have

I'm glad my comments have sparked some discussion. Let me go out on a limb and say -- as a way of illustrating the differences among libertarians -- that I actually do endorse what one might call an "ends justify the means" philosophy. (Provided that "ends" is defined broadly enough to include all result of the means.)

Sasha, Let me go out on a

Sasha,

Let me go out on a limb and say -- as a way of illustrating the differences among libertarians -- that I actually do endorse what one might call an "ends justify the means" philosophy.

Can you clarify this point?

The atrocities of the last century were largely due to people who were so enamoured with their vision of society that they were willing to use brute force to make it come true. This is not an approach I could endorse to create a libertarian world.