First thing’s first: society oppresses everyone. There are social rules and expectations which can result in praise or shaming for all people, regardless of race or gender. Economic inequality and government influence are systems that work against everyone to varying degrees, but they are things one simply cannot change. This present day isn’t optimal for you, whether you’re white, black, male, female, or the hybrids in between. This is just reality, because reality itself is oppressive.
But most of us don’t know why this is so, and so we search for reasons. If you’re a woman, you find the answer to your oppression in Patriarchy. If you are black, you find it in your Afro-American history and the legacy of racism. If you’re gay, your oppression is from heteronormativity and homophobia.
But what if you’re male, and white, and straight?
There is an ideology that explains your oppression, and it is no different, practically speaking, than the gender/heritage studies. It is Libertarianism. For the white man, there is no better justification for one’s oppression than economics and the state.
For the longest time, I saw Libertarianism as the polar opposite to the left’s oppression studies, but after reviewing my own Libertarian positions, I now see that the ideology is opposite to left ideologies in the sense that mirrors offer a copy in reverse.
Both Libertarian and its liberal counterparts have their own oppression narrative – only different sources of that oppression. For Liberals, it’s economic inequality wrought by the rich; for Libertarians, it’s economic inequality wrought by the state. Liberals see a right-wing state holding back progress while Libertarians see the exact reverse. Both focus on different forms of Liberty – Liberal positive liberty vs Libertarian negative liberty. Libertarians and Liberals fight endlessly as to whose “rights” trump the others, but it’s always an argument on rights, never mind that rights themselves are simply fictions. Libertarians and Liberals both have egalitarian views, though expressed slightly differently. Liberals declare that everyone is equal, while Libertarians hold the view that people are individuals and have equal rights and should get equal liberty – so, essentially, equality. Libertarians don’t judge people’s actions because they value liberty so highly while Liberals don’t judge people’s actions because they value tolerance so highly. Libertarians and Liberals are both content with overturning advantageous social traditions and taboos in favor of expanding individual autonomy. And finally, Libertarianism, like the Liberal counterparts, is complete with its own University departments and activist groups.
The irony is that Libertarians think they are the exception to the Liberal narrative, just as I thought it was when I was a Libertarian. Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that my personal journey from Liberal to Libertarian was a quick bait and switch, for so many aspects of what made me a Liberal also, in the end, made me a Libertarian.
That is not to say that Libertarianism is completely 100% wrong, or that I have something personal against the ideology. It is useful to a degree. For example, weighing down the virtuous and good with state regulation, which is meant to control the chaotic and immoral, is surly an overreach into tyranny, tyranny that Libertarians valiantly oppose. In that respect, the ideology is beneficial, but at the same time Libertarianism has its problems.
Libertarians hold economic matters as an extension of personal liberty, and in holding that liberty as the highest ideal they tend to overlook other, sometimes more powerful systems that control a people. For example, the Libertarian will be against government intrusion of free speech, but the Libertarian ideology is powerless against political correctness in the market. On principal, the Libertarian is fine with censorship, firing of political dissidents, and media ideological control just so long as it occurs without direct coercion. Their response would be something to the effect of: “well, if you don’t like political correctness, just watch another channel. Let the market decide. If people want to pay for political correctness, then they have every right to do so. If your employer doesn’t like your views, then they have every right to fire you just as long as it’s not a breach of an employment contract.”
And I would bet that a Liberal would say the same thing.
By focusing so much on economic matters, Libertarians miss the social and media influences which can create tyranny and despotism without having to appeal to the government. The tyranny that is found in a free and politically correct Libertopia would likely be worse than anything the state could do in suppressing one’s speech. It’s not as if the government could fire you for being a racist, but you could lose your job and empire if the media thought you were. As a white man’s social justice movement, and as a minority in the face of other, more powerful social justice movements, Libertarians would likely be crushed as the PC police use the media and markets against them. No bureaucrat would need to lift a pen. Since the Libertarian is trapped defending the means of their own destruction, they would have no defense against such an exercise of mass personal liberty.
Another thing I find wrong about Libertarianism is that in holding such a high esteem of personal liberty, they tend to devalue personal judgment, for if someone wishes to destroy themselves on drugs, then they have the “right” to do so. This view of liberty holds both virtue and vice in equal weight, since both are exercises of personal autonomy. There is no judgment regarding what people should do, only that they should be allowed to do whatever doesn’t directly hurt someone else. However without higher virtues, philosophies, disciplines, etc. there is no reason to deny yourself the self-destructive pleasures of this world, pleasures which, in on a free market, would be plentiful and cheap.
What Libertarianism lacks is a value that surpasses liberty. Strength, honor, loyalty – these are aspects that transcend far beyond the basic ability to choose. Indeed, choice is needed in higher virtues, but choice itself is such a lessor ideal. Ironically, Libertarian ideology is stuck at the bottom of human action, supporting the diversity of behaviors but not the value of those behaviors.
And ultimately, Libertarianism tries to spread a diversity of behaviors to people who should not get them. Extending liberty means that not only will people have the option to improve, but the option to self-destruct. Many, if not most, lack the intellect to differentiate between the two. Allowing people free reign assumes they can handle it when most cannot. This is no different than allowing a small child the liberty of using the stove when they are unprepared to do so. The moral thing is not to give liberty to those who would crash and burn, then walk away when they inevitably do so, but to give it to people who need to ascend higher and are currently held back by the system. Libertarianism, however, does not differentiate between the two.
So what’s the endgame of Libertarianism? Libertarian economic policy is about allowing market efficiency to replace inefficient, centralized bureaucracy. I think that’s great actually, but where is all the excess wealth going to go? Well, it’ll return to the economy. But when the people have no higher virtues or values because Libertarians ignore such notions and Liberals destroy them, what goal does the economy have? Without higher values, hedonism is the default. So all the economic surplus gained from Libertarian economic policy will simply grow the tumors of an economy that are geared toward supplying hedonistic demands of pleasure and entertainment. How then is that not replacing government economic waste with private economic waste? There needs to be something more here, not just a restructuring, but also a rechanneling. Libertarianism stops half way.
In the end, I have to ask myself, who benefits from Libertarianism? It’s not the people at the bottom who would exercise their new liberty by making self-destructive choices. It’s not the government and its employees who would see a drastic (and much needed) trimming of fat. Clearly, the beneficiaries of Libertarian economic policy are the merchants who dole out simplistic pleasures. Ah, there’s the rub.
I realize that I’ve been a little harsh on Libertarianism, but that’s because those who are dejected from an ideology are also the ones who hold it in lowest regard. And that’s not to say I don’t like some aspects of Libertarianism, it’s just that its worldview is incomplete. The ideology needs something more, some greater value which recognizes liberty as a means to an end rather than just an end. Freedom, the opportunity to ascend, is only the first step in one’s personal evolution.