Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is a libertarian socialist anyway???

What is a libertarian socialist anyway? A libertarian wants individual liberty and less government. A socialist advocates for more government to the point that it controls even the economy, with a concern for the welfare of all citizens. So it sound like a contradiction in terms?

But where's the fun in life without contradictions?

Now in the past many had equated libertarian socialism with anarchy or the rejection of government. I don’t reject government or want anarchy. But I do hope for a social order that combines much personal freedom with the social fabric of concern for others.

So, here’s how I reconstruct the term “libertarian socialist.” The libertarian part of me says we should have as much personal liberty as possible. The government should not be telling me how to live, what to wear, where I can or can't go, what language to speak, what color to paint my house, and it should stay out of the bedroom and out of my body. I don't think we should have this wholesale intrusion into personal liberty in the name of security.

But the first shortcoming of the pure libertarian philosophy is that the unchecked pinnacle of personal freedom is pure egotism – it’s all about me and my life and my choices and my money and my possessions. What about anyone else? I believe we have to integrate liberty with our concern for others.

The second shortcoming is the tenant that less government is always better than more. Government is not inherently good or bad, helpful or harmful. Rather, government should be a tool of society. Like any tool, it is good for some things and bad for others.

My socialist side is the need for society to care for each other and that the welfare of all is paramount. Unlike theoretical socialism, I don’t say that government need be the only tool of society to care for all. This is an individual responsibility – something to give back in thanks for living in a land of individual liberty. But we can accomplish the goals of care for others also through charities, religious organizations, as well as through government.

Also, the failure of pure state socialism in the Soviet Union and even China tells me you can’t franchise out the socialist ethic to government – the social concern for others should permeate all sectors of society including government, family, religious and non-profit organizations, and individuals.

This is the jumping off point for my other blogs. I will explore why, in a land of freedom, so many want to self-impose rules, regulations, norms, social pressure, etc. And I will discuss, how an engineer like me, realizes that most of the frenzy over security in the post-9/11 world really stems from a poor understanding of the laws of physics!

(Updated 7/13/08)

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