Over at Lewrockwell.com, Anthony Gregory wrote a column explaining the differences between libertarians. He starts by touching a bit on the differences between left and right libertarians. Then, he decends into doing what the average minion of Lew Rockwell does best, purge out libertarians who don’t agree with their doctrinaire libertarianism.
He goes to let us know what we are supposed to think on a variety of issues.
First, foreign policy:
Moderate libertarians lament that the U.S. empire has perhaps weakened its legitimacy and standing in the world by overstretching itself in unnecessary wars of choice such as Iraq. Radical libertarians see the entire U.S. empire as a grave threat to liberty and world peace, which must be completely dismantled, along with the standing army, and regard such imperial projects as the Iraq war as acts of murderous aggression consistent with what should be expected from such a military empire.
In other words, we are supposed to not only withdraw from every single foreign country U.S. troops are stationed in; we are to disband the U.S. military as well and rely on part-time militias for defense. That worked so well in the War of 1812 where the British Army proceeded to decimate US forces, which were composed mostly of guess what, militia, in battle after battle. The battles the US did win, on both the land and sea, were won largely by the small and professional army and navy and the army was augmented by professional Indian fighters.
Next up: privatization of state services.
Moderate libertarians think private enterprise is more efficient than the state, and so certain social service functions would be better handled through public-private partnerships or privatization of the provision of these services. Radical libertarians see private enterprise, unlike the state, as moral and, yes, more efficient, and are thus wary of corrupting business by pairing it with state, as well as of the prospect of making the state’s priorities more efficiently managed. State services should not be improved by corporatist deals between business and government, but outright abolished, with all legitimate functions taken over completely by the free market.
The main disagreement here is mostly on political tactics. In the real world, a world where political decisions are influenced by all citizens, including those who don’t agree with us on laissez-faire capitalism; it is always better to accept a decision that moves the ball more toward freedom than statism. It does not serve the purposes of liberty to cry and throw a snit when you can’t move the ball toward liberty all at once, when you can get it moving toward it a little bit more than before.
Moderate libertarians think some forms of taxation are much better than others, since they are supposedly fairer and are more efficient ways of collecting revenue. Radical libertarians see taxation as the negation of property rights, to be done away with completely, and do not spend much time proposing new taxes to replace old ones.
If you don’t believe in anarchy and if you have the audacity to believe that government has vital functions that must be funded, you’re a statist. Since taxation is necessary for the legitimate functions of government, we are better off trying to find a way to create a tax system that is fair and restrains government power.
Next, law enforcement:
Moderate libertarians complain that the police waste so many resources on such counterproductive programs as the war on drugs, when they should be doing more to protect our rights. Radical libertarians see government police departments as a threat to liberty in themselves; realize that the evil war on drugs is just what we should expect from socialist provision of law and order; see the prison system, courts and police as systematically criminal and corrupt and understand we’d be safer if we got rid of as much of the state’s involvement in law enforcement as humanly possible. In any event, the state should not be trusted blindly even when it’s doing something “legitimate.”
If we got rid of police and courts, what’s to stop me and my gang of 50 from killing the author, raping his wife, enslaving his children, and stealing his property?
Finally, the role of government:
Moderate libertarians think some functions are so important that the government must handle them – leading to equivocation on important matters like central banking, government road building, eminent domain, taxation, government enforcement of intellectual property, a huge prison system and a military empire. Radical libertarians trust the state least with functions that humans cannot do without.
Nevermind the whole Free Rider Problem.
So-called radical libertarians live in a place called Anarchotopia where there is no state, the market provides everything, and all men hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”. Of course this is absurd. The challenge is to reconcile classical liberal beliefs in an illiberal world and move it more toward liberalism. Just wishing for Anarchotopia or Libertopia, won’t make it so.