Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Libertarians vs. libertarians

I must apologize for the spotty content. Last week, I was literally too sick to blog. I was home from school for a week, but I was getting zero done, and this week has been spent trying to catch up. Let's hope there's more content as we go along.

Anyway, in our last installment, Oliver ( the old knives guy ) commented that he doesn't hate libertarians, only "Big L Libertarians." That was nice, except that he went on to point out that since I'm a school teacher, I'm probably one of those "Big L Libertarians" who just don't get it.

This puzzles me for a couple of reasons.

First, in what state in this fine union does one find that most public school teachers are libertarians, no matter what size any of the letters are? Not in Illinois, that's for sure. Here most teachers are old-school union-dues Democrats. A smaller but still large section of the school teacher population would call itself "progressive," which would have translated as "liberal" a few years ago and "pinko" before that. Now, here in the Heartland of America, there is a sizable minority of teachers who consider themselves "conservatives"--but their conservative streak is usually confined to wishing the schools did a better job of teaching children to love Jesus and stamp out The Gayness.

Second, what is a "Big L" libertarian? I learned about "Big R" and "Small R" republicans in school, but not libertarians. If a "Big L" libertarian, like a "Big R" republican, is a member of the Libertarian Party, then I'm not one of those. If a "Small L" libertarian is a person who basically thinks libertarian thought is a good idea, then that's me. I wanna be that one. I also consider myself a "Small R" republican, by the way, which means that I believe a republic is the most desirable form of government. A "Big R" republican would either be a member of the Republican Party or a political philosopher who bases his theory of politics on the concept of buying candy, ammunition, blue jeans and fence posts in the same store.

I believe that libertarian thought is the way to go as far as it's practical. I believe in non-aggression. I believe that the maximum possible individual liberty is desirable. I realize that I live in a nation and a world where that point of view is marginal at best and "wacky fringe" at worst, so I don't get my hopes up too much. But in general, yes, more freedom is better than less freedom, and the individual deserves his liberty. It's just too bad that most of the country has no interest in individual freedom, particularly if there are consequences attached to it.


Sevesteen said...

That is puzzling--I would think that a public schoolteacher couldn't be a Big L, because the Pure, Big L Libertarians don't believe in public education.

This is one of the major reasons I'm a small L--I think education benefits people other than those getting it, and therefore qualifies as a proper function of government.

Don said...

I don't have a problem with private education, but there are two reasons I don't feel too badly about working in a public school:

1. The world is what it is, and for better or worse, public education and the right to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is part of American society now and has been for generations.

2. Private education solves some problems and causes others. NOTHING solves all your problems; if someone says otherwise, he's selling something. Private schools have their own problems.
If public education goes away next year, there will still have to be schools, and I'll work at one of those because I'm good at my job. But I hold no illusion that we'll then have an educational paradise just because the people in charge want to make a profit.

Robert said...

Big L libertarianism can be more appropriately translated into anarcho-capitalism. These are the folks that believe there shouldn't be any government, and that its functions should be replaced by private businesses.

Small l libertarianism is more about having a minimum level of government. This is called "minarchy" by some. Its essentially the belief (which I'm sure you're familiar with) that government should be as small as possible, and only concern itself with its core functions of defense, etc.

Don said...

Meh. My eyes glaze over when people start dividing into these ever-smaller factions. I have no more patience for that than going to a record store and seeing a section for "Post-Punk Alterna-Core."

I thought Libertarian party people wanted a government to handle national defense and enforce contracts. No?

BobG said...

I don't think any of the political systems is practical, in their pure form. All of them assume that people are intelligent, honest, and responsible. Since a large percentage of the population does not match that criteria, the best we can do is follow a belief to a certain point, and then we have to add bits from other philosophies to make it actually work.
Just my opinion.

Don said...

Right. Whatever the merits of your chosen system, there will always be lots of people who want no part of it. If nothing else, that alone would torpedo the idea that you're going to make the world into a pure ideal of Your Way.

Robert said...

Meh. My eyes glaze over when people start dividing into these ever-smaller factions. I have no more patience for that than going to a record store and seeing a section for "Post-Punk Alterna-Core."

Heh, I know one guy who can rattle off fiften different flavors of "libertarian" and tell you exactly which category he fits in. I tend to avoid discussing that kind of stuff with him...

"I thought Libertarian party people wanted a government to handle national defense and enforce contracts. No?"

The Libertarian Party doesn't necessary personify the ideals of every libertarian.

Much like how Republicans are a coalition of somewhat related interests that compromise to push their related agendas, the Libertarian party is a coalition of different "small/nonexistent" government types, except since they spend more time arguing over which ideology is the most pure, they tend not to get anything done.

Which is the major reason I'm not a registered Libertarian, but choose "Not Affiliated" instead.

Eric Dondero said...

You sound like a Mainstream libertarian. Check us out at

Anonymous said...