Thursday, 6 September 2012

More on Libertarianism

Cartoon by Andy Singer

I was interested to note that a British MEP is sponsoring a competition inviting people to come up with the 'Definition of Libertarianism'.

Coincidentally, I blogged on this recently, drawing parallels between Libertarianism and Moral Relativism, the latter being a concept generally associated with Marx.  In a nutshell, moral relativists believe that there are no absolutes of right or wrong, only an awareness of what they can get away with.
Libertarianism is very much about pushing boundaries, and as such might be described as progressive, and certainly as left wing. If one is really interested in how left wing is defined within the context of socialist political thought, then I would recommend Lenin's 'Left wing socialism: an infantile disorder'. I think a reading would confirm my categorisations of libertarianism.

Pushing boundaries is good. Given that English law is based on precedent, and that many of our laws are very old, indeed ancient, and with many of our societal values being based on religious views that some may consider to be outdated, we should be asking ourselves constantly if we are being served well by our structures and institutions.

But libertarianism is often used in another way. Whilst I know a number of people who classify themselves as such, and who are above reproach, libertarianism can be used by others as a means of justifying, or more worryingly, of normalising behaviour that is outside the currently accepted boundaries.

Because I know that he himself is certainly in the former category, I will use Dr Sean Gabb as an example. He is without doubt the leading champion of libertarianism in the UK.

In 2003 Dr Gabb wrote: "When I say that some acts should not be crimes, I specifically mean possession of child pornography. By all means, those who produce such images by persuading children to take part in sexual acts, and those who commission such images, should be treated as criminals. But possessing such images, and even distributing them when produced abroad, should not be a crime."

I disagree with him strongly, but do I agree that laws, like values, should be regularly reviewed and evaluated. However, to place this particular issue in the context of a peripheral political ideology is, I would argue, dangerous, not least because it can attract those to whom Dr Gabb's argument might appeal for, shall we say, other reasons. I am aware of one person who has been subject to serious allegations in this area, and who is a committed libertarian. As a former senior police officer recently told me "Show me a coincidence, and I'll show you the chief suspect."

I would say at this point that whilst I am not a libertarian, I agree with Dr Gabb in far more areas than I would disagree with him. His opposition to political correctness and his conservatism in many areas show how blurred the line between left and right has become. To labour that particular point, libertarianism could certainly be defined as revolutionary (left-wing), whilst the concept of small government (right-wing) is at the heart of all libertarian manifestos that I have seen.

Isn't politics fascinating?

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