There are theories of social structure and there are theories of social engineering. As a theory of social structure, libertarianism argues for fully enforced property rights. Through some argumentation this can be expounded upon as the right to life, liberty and property.
However, the right to these things does not entail their positive fulfillment. This is a key distinction, one often overlooked by theories of social engineering.
What each individual does within these rights is not a concern of the libertarian. People may form communes, engage in free trade or enact some mixture of the two.
One could argue that a society with both communes and free markets would help counterbalance each economical system’s more extreme aspects. The libertarian ideal is for each individual’s property right to be maintained – and nothing more.
In direct contrast, a theory of social engineering seeks to mold society on its own terms based on how it feels particular rights should be fulfilled. An example of such a theory is Leninism.
The following is a brief discussion of this viewpoint by someone who knows considerably little about its intricacies. Anyone with more knowledge who cares to correct me at a later date would be more than welcome to do so.
Leninism espouses a hierarchical and centralized one-party government whose purported goal is an egalitarian distribution of wealth. This is typical of social engineers. It is nearly impossible to fight for a particular vision of society without guiding it there by hand.
However, problems arise when such guidance conflicts with the stated ideals of a given social theory. Even the social engineer has to determine what rights to enforce before he can seek to fulfill them. However, some theories seem to even skip this crucial step, notably Leninism and Marxism.
In the case of Leninism, the party strips egalitarianism to mere material equality, because anything more would be unmanageable by a government apparatus. Free speech seems unlikely when everyone must submit to the will of the party.
Would you trust Bush to fund an Iraq War demonstration? Why it would be any different for a Leninist-style government is a mystery to me.
To be fair, Leninism is supposed to conclude in the dismantling of the party. How this comes about is just as confusing as the Leninist’s conception of freedom.
History has shown us that while many socialist revolutions were genuine at first, their eventual degradation into a one-party government led to fascism.
Most socialists have learned from this experience and are not Leninists; such is not the case for the International Socialist Organization and its affiliates.
The above account of the failure of socialism is generally accepted. Still, the failure is taken to be a result of socialist economics. This is not the case.
The spiral toward fascism is the result of social engineering and a willingness to violate the rights of others in pursuit of “higher ends.”
Leninism and Marxism are just the starkest examples of such negligence because they reject any sort of ethics altogether.
A willingess to engineer society by creating incentives for particular behavior is characteristic of contemporary American politics, and if the government industrial complex is any indication of what such beliefs get you, America may be following Lenin lock and step.