November 18, 2004

Practical Libertarianism: Connecting Private Solutions to Libertarian Political Action

In a multi-post symposium over the future of libertarianism (I’d link but there is no search box) comes this gem

Secondly, and lastly, the commenter asks me how I can find the federal government too incompetent to deliver the mail, yet trust it to spread democracy. Well, I am all for postal privatization, but, you know what -- the mail, ultimately, does get delivered.

This is the normal person’s objection to classic doctrinaire libertarianism in a nutshell. The mail eventually arrives, food arrives on our table, the system works so why rock the boat? And it’s not an unreasonable position to have, that ideological change must be proven to work better before applied, that blindly following a political faith into policy prescriptions without detailed plans of how it will work is dangerous.

The government is more than willing to provide solutions. They might be inefficient, provide precedent for all sorts of long-term threats to our liberty, might even be counterproductive when examined more closely but when you have something and you’re trying to compete with it by offering nothing, nothing will lose most every time.

That’s a real challenge to libertarianism because while the reality is that the replacement is not “nothing” in the libertarian system, it very much is “nothing political” with private action substituting for public. With private action and public action fully bifurcated, this reasonably translates into “nothing” in the public mind because work in the public interest done by private groups is not generally connected to the political work necessary to avoid government crowding out private action. How to make that connection in the public mind is one of libertarianism’s greatest challenges at the moment.

Posted by TMLutas at November 18, 2004 01:08 PM