Thin and Thick Libertarianism and Sustainable Liberty

So when are you a Libertarian?

A question that is debated when people discuss the idea of ”thin” versus ”thick” libertarianism. Those in the thin camp argue that libertarianism is simply a rejection of the inititiation of violence. (you don’t think the worlds problems are solved by having someone else hurt others and take their stuff to force your ideals). While those in the ”thick” camp argue that libertarianism should go further into stronger advocacy for the oppressed, multiculturalism, essentially really advocating that people can and should make an effort not just coexist but thrive together.

I agree with both, I just feel they are answering very different questions.

The ”thin” crowd is arguing for a strict and clear definition of being libertarian as a view on the use of violence in governing society (violence is bad). They don’t want other virtues or social values to be added in because then it becomes unclear and drives people into a neverending fight on definitions. This bothers the ”thick” crowd because someone with social or cultural views they may abhor can fall within the libertarian banner as long as they don’t think violence and especially violence through government is the answer to bringing upon their worldview. Although we can’t redefine every aspect of ourselves to reduce commonalities with those we don’t like. I’m a male, and there are other males who’ve raped, murdered, etc. but I don’t suggest people redefine male to exclude those who do those things.

Although I do think the particular social virtues and values you promote play a role in building a world where Libertarianism can grow and thrive. One of the things that brings many to look into libertarianism is when they begin to see the effects that individual freedom has on general welfare. Many of these effects come from the network effects of markets, the exchange of good, services and ideas that create wealth and innovation. The smaller that network of interacting individuals the smaller these effects may become.

So to illustrate when I’m getting at I’ll make use of a rhetorical tool called a ”reductio” (taking things to their extreme). Let’s imagine a world where everyone rejects violence but their personal values and virtues still lead to isolated communities that voluntarily don’t trade, don’t travel, don’t talk. Many of the most positive effects of the market may not quite play out leading to less prosperous communities which can lead to an environment where the isolation and struggle leads to a reversal on the use of violence. (it’s easier to use violence on people you don’t know and especially when your struggling)

Throw in tolerance, forgiveness, empathy and pluralism in the virtues we promote, it may be beyond the scope of libertarianism but would contribute to an environment where libertarianism can sustainably be a value that travels generation to generation. The market network effects will create prosperity and non-violence that would reinforce continuing down that path. The interaction of individuals makes calls for violence that much more difficult.

Will the world hit either extreme, probably not. Although in the hopes of a sustainable libertarianism it seems valuable to want to push in the direction of the later extreme.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s