Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Problem with "Liberal" and "Conservative"

It can often be extremely difficult to get people to understand precisely what libertarianism is; where it stands on the political spectrum. Especially when one takes into account the one-dimensional and erroneous view of the political spectrum that the media portrays, in which essentially one generally "must" be a liberal, conservative or centrist. And these three simplistic labels are supposed to accurately represent most of everyone.

The problem is that it is not accurate at all. This leads the libertarian into a situation where many leftists acuse them of being "extreme right" and many rightists acuse them of being "extreme left". Yet it is an oxymoron to be far left and far right at the same time, as the libertarian is neither. This demonstrates the error of a one-dimensional political spectrum.

It is only when we add a second dimension to the political spectrum that things fall more accurately into place. Essentially, there is an economic axis and a social axis. The higher on the axis one goes, the more intervention they believe in or support. The "left" is merely a tendency towards economic intervention, while the "right" is merely a tendency towards social intervention.

The model of a "liberal" tends to be high on economic intervention and low on social intervention, while the model of a "conservative" tends to be high on social intervention and low on economic intervention. The libertarian is defined by neither left or right, as they are generally against much of both economic and social intervention. They are defined by an anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment sentiment. A libertarian is likely to be a disestablishmentarian, in the broad sense of the word.

The libertarian points out that the liberal and conservative are the ones in contradictary positions, for they are juxtoposed and repellant between the economic and social domains. They are polarized between the two. How can the liberal believe in individual rights/civil liberties and heavy economic control at the same time, and how can the conservative believe in property rights/free enterprise and heavy social control at the same time?

How can the liberal support individual rights and be a proponent of more taxation and spending at the same time? How can the conservative support free enterprise and be a proponent of expanded and centrally planned military and executive power? The modern conservative and liberal are walking contradictions. It is the libertarian that seems to be consistant in that they try their best to believe in non-intervention and free choice in both domains; liberty is the unifying goal, hence the term libertarian.

To the modern liberal, the government is a caring mother that heals the sick, clothes the needy and balances everyone's checkbook with their magic wand and chrystal ball. A welfare state. To the modern conservative, the government is an all-knowing father that makes people moral, makes everyone "secure" and militarily spreads democracy and freedom around the world with their fairy dust and rifles. A warfare/police state.

It should be no wonder why many libertarians say that the left and right are irrelevant and twins in this respect. Both use government as a tool in an attempt to accomplish things that are impossible, and those things have some very negative effects on liberty. Both make an idol out of the state in some way and use it as a means to impose their most personal fantasies onto everyone else. The libertarian is the person that tries to point out to that the emperor has no clothes.

The extreme leftist makes the considerable mistake of assuming that capitalism is their ultimate enemy while the extreme rightist makes the considerable mistake of assuming that social permissiveness is their ultimate enemy. Both are encouraged to completely clash on most issues out of partisanship, which leads to people supporting some things that are dangerous. We then have an environment in which liberals and considervatives are constantly battling over issues.

To the libertarian, this is all distressing and irrelevant. While the left and right are busy fighting over political power and what to spend tax dollars on, the libertarian is busy trying to eliminate as much political power, taxing and spending as possible. It should be no wonder then, that the libertarian is cynical to both the liberals and conservatives, as they are both trying to either expand or retain government power.

Indeed, left and right are rather irrelevant. The libertarian's ultimate enemy is totalitarianism, and left and right are merely diversions in between freedom and tyranny. In short, if "L" (libertarianism) is "good" and "T" (totalitarianism) is "evil" - then left and right is a confused middle of the road between the two; it is ethically ambiguous and contradictary. A complete distraction from the battle between liberty and tyranny.

While the public's battle is mostly focused on left vs. right, the libertarian's battle has always been up vs. down - big government vs. limited government or statism vs. liberty. That is the historical battle and that is still the battle. It's about the state vs. the individual, not left and right. When things are viewed in such a light, everything starts to fall into place.

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