Sunday, September 9, 2018

Liberty and the common good

A Libertarian Case for the Common Good | America: The jesuit review - Stephanie Slade:

August 6, 2018 - "One of the widespread misconceptions about libertarianism is that it denies the importance of community — assuming, in the words of the Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen, that “the individual lives, or could live, in splendid isolation” from others. Another is that it preaches a selfish unconcern for the plight of one’s fellow humans, especially the least among us.... But ... in fact, neither of those positions is integral to the libertarian worldview.

"One way to think about libertarianism is that it is a political philosophy that prefers voluntary, nonviolent human interactions over coercion. Because government dictates are by nature coercive — we do not get to choose whether to pay taxes or comply with zoning restrictions — libertarians advocate relying on private solutions to problems whenever possible. Civil society institutions — family units and neighborhood groups, labor unions and trade associations, churches and charities — must do the heavy lifting. State interference in people’s lives should be a last resort and then undertaken only for grave reasons.

"As David Boaz of the Cato Institute has put it, libertarians generally believe 'the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force — actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.' Everything else people should be free to work out organically, through trial and error, give and take, pressure and persuasion.

"Ask a libertarian why we believe what we do and the answer may be rooted in abstract moral principles: We think people deserve to be treated as ends, not means — which is to say we think their autonomy should be respected as long as they are not infringing the rights of others. But very often, the explanation you get will be pragmatic. An honest assessment of reality tells us that maximizing the scope of freedom from government coercion creates the conditions for material progress and human flourishing.

"That is not limited to progress and flourishing for a select few. Good-faith skeptics might be surprised to learn how active libertarians have been in the fight to end mass incarceration and advance criminal justice reform in the United States, for example, or how many libertarian groups filed amicus briefs siding with the Little Sisters of the Poor during their showdown over the Obamacare contraception mandate....

"I came to identify as a libertarian after studying economics in college. I was moved by the realization that market capitalism is the most efficient engine of economic growth the world has ever known. Both theory and empirical observation told me that government regulation is more likely to interfere with this process than it is to correct flaws in the system....

"Material well-being is part but not all of the story.... Libertarians extol capitalism because it provides a framework for people to interact peacefully and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. (Have you ever noticed that after a commercial exchange, each party instinctively thanks the other?).... we want people who are struggling to escape desperate, backbreaking poverty to get the same material opportunities we are lucky enough to have. There is a thoroughly moral dimension to our worldview that is hard to miss when observed with an open mind.

"In the final analysis, libertarians see the human person as worthy of respect. For the most part, they do not recognize the deeper truth: that this is so because we are made by God in his image and are incomparably valuable to him. But in a real sense, without meaning to, libertarianism takes that idea more seriously than most other political philosophies."

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