Why are you a conservative libertarian

A manifesto from the conservative Cato Institute Libertarianism, the political philosophy of freedom?

In the recent American debate, libertarians have (libertarian) Ideas played a significant role. That's how he understood himself Tea partyRepublican wings as a libertarian bulwark against the central state, and the struggle against Barack Obama's health care reform has been portrayed by many as a struggle for freedom against state tutelage. The theoretical background of libertarianism may become clearer if one looks at a statement from the Cato Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks. Its deputy managing director, David Boaz, recently published a primer on the Libertarianism published in a revised version.

The book is both a pamphlet and manual for the libertarian movement. The author points out that their growth is primarily due to the expansion of the state under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the loss of freedom rights after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the rescue (bailout) the banks and the auto industry and the skyrocketing government spending after the US financial crisis. Boaz contrasts this state expansion with the timeless principles of the American Revolution: individual freedom, limited state, and free markets. Libertarianism be the "philosophy of freedom". That Boaz did this with me libertarian translated word libertarian has its cause in the twisted American usage, where an attitude that is probably characterized by social democratic, perhaps also social liberal, which ascribes a certain role to the state in balancing social differences, is commonly known as liberal referred to as.

For Boaz, the essence of libertarian thinking is that everyone has the right to do what they want as long as they don't violate the rights of others. However, what Boaz regards as individual rights is narrowly defined. He sees life, freedom and property as real (namely natural) rights. A right of ownership can only be derived in two ways. Either one acquires (or generates) property that does not belong to anyone else (just appropriation) or one exchanges property rights of one's own free will (just transfer). Boaz does not see anything else as real property. The theory of just appropriation is accompanied by an axiom of non-aggression. Nobody has the right to take someone else's property through coercion or violence. Transfer of property due to fraud may be reversed non-violently. Overall, however, this means that if something is demanded from the individual with state enforcement, the state is in principle an infringer. In the final analysis, taxes should be abolished because they are used to forcibly take away what they have earned from those who produce. Not the rightful owner, but from their clientele and their cronies (Cronies) guided politicians determined what to do with property that did not belong to them and how to redistribute it. So the state affects the rights of the individual. If, on the other hand, you let the market rule, the problems would solve themselves. Everything that the state, i.e. illegitimate bureaucrats, does with its programs is misguided for Boaz because it unbalances the self-organization of society, i.e. the spontaneous order that society in the spirit of Adam Smith's image of the invisible hand generated. For him, what the free market creates is good per se, or at least does not need to be corrected.

The state actually only has the function of external defense, internal protection of individual rights and jurisdiction. Virtually all government programs are therefore out of place, not just stimulus programs, but student loans, unemployment programs, and pension schemes. If the state had not created the latter, the citizens themselves (and of course much better) would take care of their old-age security. In the absence of social programs, private welfare organizations would do this. State support, on the other hand, perpetuates the dependence of the socially weak. Minimum wages reduced the labor supply. The market, on the other hand, always creates more jobs than are lost. Anyone who wants to work, has a school leaving certificate and does not become pregnant out of wedlock (!) Can find work, at least some.

If the state does not intervene, companies could organize their behavior according to their own (religious or other) ideas; they were free to decide which employee demands they wanted to respond to. Workers could freely negotiate working conditions (or choose another employer). What is revealing about Boaz's rejection of labor protection laws is that his expressed vehement rejection of racial and gender discrimination is very relativized, because unlike the state, individual employers would apparently be allowed to make such discrimination. The correction should then be made by the market.

Irrational contempt for regulation

Although the author tries to give his libertarian "philosophy" a scientific coating with all sorts of borrowing from liberal thinkers, he reveals an almost irrational contempt for everything that regulates the free market. So he makes the decline of liberalism temporally, among other things. of Charles Dickens ’criticism of child labor, since it saved children's lives (probably because they were at work). He counters those who want to ban weapons for which there is no legitimate purpose that other things for which there is supposedly no reasonable purpose should also be prohibited, such as cigarettes or electric toothbrushes. In a free society, politicians or political majorities should not decide what can be sold by willing sellers to willing buyers. A view that seems downright ludicrous in its absoluteness. What about radioactive material or explosives for ready-to-buy terrorists?

According to Boaz, almost every state regulation prevents beneficial free competition. Licenses for doctors or lawyers only served to protect them from competition. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves which drugs they want to use, instead of letting an authority decide on the approval of a drug. Although Boaz repeatedly emphasizes that (state) power endangers individual freedom, it does not occur to him that economic power can also be dangerous for them and that different bargaining power can lead to individuals not exercising their natural rights in the same way Can assert themselves. It does not even occur to the author that checking whether a transaction is fraudulent (and thus violates the propagated axiom of anti-aggression) is hardly possible for individuals vis-à-vis large corporations and that they may need state help for this. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few does not play a role in Boaz's idealized image of society either, and even cartelization, a real problem for every market theorist, is not addressed in a single word.

On the other hand, all centralist-hierarchical (of course only state) structures are equally dangerous, so that Boaz lumps the Eurozone (!), Islamist theocracy and populism into one pot, including an "essential similarity" between Caesarism, oriental despotism, theocracy, socialism, fascism, communism , Able to recognize monarchism and the welfare state. Some of his statements seem almost ridiculous. For example, when he describes the drifting away of European and American intellectuals from the "courageous and visionary" libertarianism of John Locke, Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill to the "reactionary statism" of John Maynard Keynes or John Rawls and others. thereby declaring that the state co-opted these intellectuals and made them its henchmen.

What is Boaz's view of problems that can hardly be dealt with on a narrow private level? About pollution. Here, too, he comes to a »pluralistic« conclusion that ultimately rejects the need for state intervention. Nobody has all the answers, so nobody should force their answers on the rest of society. Environmental protection is promoted through growth and prosperity, because poor people have no sense of environmental problems. In addition, the common goods should be privatized to a large extent, because private owners would take better care of their property than the community. Innovation is a different way of protecting the environment, for example when Coca-Cola now produces cans with a fifth of aluminum than it did in the 1960s. Regarding global warming, Boaz said libertarians were also considering whether it was a serious problem. One should continue to study the phenomenon carefully without political bias. These last two points are noteworthy, however.

Return to the night watchman state

All in all, what Boaz is offering us as a »Manifesto of Freedom« is simplistic. All questions that even convinced market theorists nibble on are simply ignored in favor of a hypothetical model that has little to do with the reality of individual freedom. It is a reactionary liberalism that propagates a return or a turn to the night watchman state. What Boaz wants us to believe as empirical knowledge are often only beliefs. Even the postulate of individual freedom, upheld by him so highly, is no longer taken so seriously by him when he points out that the welfare state (not the capitalist economic order) has destroyed the solidarity context of the family. However, the family is the foundation of civil society. For economic and emotional reasons, children need two parents. The state, however, undermined the family, through the support of unmarried mothers, but above all through the pension insurance, because now pensioners no longer need family support.

Maybe everyone should go for that Libertarianism As a philosophy of freedom exerts a certain attraction at first glance, take this manifesto to mind in order to realize that libertarians do not care about the individual freedom of all, especially not that of the underprivileged. According to Boaz, the American Declaration of Independence established the Union to protect the rights (property) of individuals, not to make people good, to promote economic growth or to ensure that everyone had a decent standard of living .

David Boaz: The Libertarian Mind. A Manifesto for Freedom. Revised and Updated Edition of "Libertarianism: A Primer". Simon & Schuster, New York etc. 2015, 419 pp., $ 27.95.