When the topic of libertarianism comes up, the first question is always, “Are they conservative or liberal?” Then someone pipes in with, “They’re so conservative that they’re liberal.” I find the desperate need to place everyone on the political spectrum to be rather shallow.
It seems to be a device used by some people to determine whether they are going to actually listen to what you have to say or not. Thus, one’s choice of characterization can be very important, albeit unjustly so.
Libertarianism is difficult to classify because it really doesn’t take a stand on many of the social issues that occupy political discussions. Libertarians are for a social structure strictly consisting in the property rights of individuals, a system of voluntary exchange.
What the individual does within those bounds is up to him. This leaves a lot to be discussed and worked out by particular people. It is in this realm of personal choice that either the progressive or conservative lifestyle can be chosen. It is interesting to note that neither of the groups are enemies in this situation.
The remainder of this article will be a discussion on the possibility of social movements enacting change within the system of voluntary exchange. This particular example pertains to the possibility of a progressive movement.
Since a system of voluntary exchange strictly limits a social movement to education of the public, it can no longer lobby the government for coercive action to be taken on its behalf. In this case, one may feel that the movement would have little impact; however, this is not true. The market seeks to satisfy the preferences of consumers.
If you succeed in altering the preferences of consumers such that they demand their goods to be made in a certain manner, then the market will take over and act in accordance with those demands.
A good example of such an approach to social activism is the Fair Trade movement. Fair Trade coffee is a product made by sustainable farmers who are paid a living wage. Campus organizations like Amnesty International and Progressive Student Alliance are involved in an education campaign on campus regarding Fair Trade coffee.
Their goal is to increase awareness on campus and to get the library caf? to realize that students are interested in the product. Both of these goals fall outside of the realm of government and inside the realm of voluntary exchange. Achieving such a positive end through the voluntary actions of others is the only method I can see someone labeling as “ideal.”
Some people disparagingly label such activism as “lifestyle politics.” As my previous comment suggests, I find any attack on such activism to be highly questionable. Would it be better to incite further “class warfare”? Why are the peaceniks so hawkish when it comes to social change? These are questions I have never really heard answered.
Instead of finding a mutually acceptable solution for their differences of belief and lifestyle, both groups seek to employ the most inflammatory policies possible. Among other things, the progressive forces the conservative to pay for an abortion and public school, while the conservative demands intelligent design and prayer be a part of school.
It’s time to drop the cowboy persona and think about a way to let one another live as they choose. The libertarian’s proposal appears to be the only one that even allows for this possibility.