If libertarianism means anything…

“If libertarianism means anything, it certainly should mean progress, not stasis; change, not medieval dogma; a liberation of energies, not a new cage. Of course, there is an opinion broad in the land that libertarianism does mean a mindless, heartless and mechanical system of medieval dogma. I don’t know how this impression came about, although it probably has something to do with Randroids and other robot Ideologists who occasionally infest libertarian groups. Frankly, I have always loathed being associated with such types and devoutly wish libertarianism could be sharply distinguished from Idolatry and fetishism of all sorts. If liberty does not mean that we can all be more free, not less free, then I need to find a better word than “liberty” to describe my aspirations; and if we are to be governed by a Natural Law Rule Book of extra-mundane authority, we can scarcely claim to have advanced beyond the dark ages and might as well make our submission to the Pope again. (He’s funnier than Ayn Rand, anyway.)

I do not see this dispute, then, as merely philosophical hair-splitting, and I would hate to see it degenerate into Ideology. I am not claiming to offer Eternal Truth here (I don’t know where such a commodity is to be found) but only stating an attitude. If Ideologists ever convince me that this pragmatic, individualistic, scientific attitude is incompatible with libertarianism, then I will find some other name for myself and not use the word “libertarian” anymore. I am not interested in Ideologies and don’t give a damn about labels at all, at all. I am interested only in what makes the world a little more reasonable, a little less violent and somewhat more free and tolerant than it has been in the past.

What I am writing about, might better be called life-styles than politics. As Tim Leary once said, the only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours, since it all comes down to territorial brawling in the end. The questions that I pose are basically matters of lifestyle and almost of taste: are we to be self-governors or are we to be ruled by ghostly abstractions from other worlds? Do we dare to trust our own judgments, fallible though they may be, or do we look for super-sensory Authority to decide hard cases for us? Are we willing to learn from others, and from the unique experience of each day, or do we have an abstract blueprint that we never revise? We all have brains which use rational programs to decide cases that can be decided that way, and which also use other circuits loosely called feeling and intuition and memory, and all of these, including reason, can be self-deceptive at times, but if we have a sense of humor and lack a sense of Papal Infallibility, we don’t make too many gross errors (most of the time); we will use that bundle of cells in our skull, or will we mechanically look up the answer in the rule book? Are we going to be individualists eventually, or must we always rely on metaphysical abstractions that look suspiciously like theological tabus in disguise?

As I say, these are questions of attitude and life-style, not of party politics and Ideology. But they all resolve to the one basic question that separates the sheep from the goats in every generation: are we learning and growing every hour, or are we still enthralled by verbal abstraction, by Ideal Platonic Horseshit that never changes?” RAW

Freedom is a choice, not a right “under” a set of laws, “Natural” or other.