Mondays with Murray: Why Be Libertarian?Submitted by Marc Clair on Mon, 07/01/2013 - 13:34
It's a question one gets a lot being an opinionated libertarian on the internet.
"What's the point of all this? Why do you waste your time with all this ranting and raving and what not? You aren't going to change anything you know!!"
Murray Rothbard must have heard this line of questioning quite a bit as well. In Chapter 15 of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, he writes:
Why be libertarian, anyway? By this we mean, what's the point of the whole thing? Why engage in a deep and lifelong commitment to the principle and the goal of individual liberty? For such a commitment, in our largely unfree world, means inevitably a radical disagreement with, and alienation from, the status quo, an alienation which equally inevitably imposes many sacrifices in money and prestige. When life is short and the moment of victory far in the future, why go through all this?
It seems the criticisms of libertarians hasn't changed much since Rothbard's day. The most common criticism of libertarians seems to basically be, "Why bother?"
Leave it to Mr. Libertarian to address the detractors head on, describing why he and many others devote themselves to advancing the ideas of liberty:
It is our view that a flourishing libertarian movement, a lifelong dedication to liberty can only be grounded on a passion for justice. Here must be the mainspring of our drive, the armor that will sustain us in all the storms ahead, not the search for a quick buck, the playing of intellectual games or the cool calculation of general economic gains. And, to have a passion for justice, one must have a theory of what justice and injustice are — in short, a set of ethical principles of justice and injustice, which cannot be provided by utilitarian economics.
It is because we see the world reeking with injustices piled one on another to the very heavens that we are impelled to do all that we can to seek a world in which these and other injustices will be eradicated. Other traditional radical goals — such as the "abolition of poverty" — are, in contrast to this one, truly utopian, for man, simply by exerting his will, cannot abolish poverty. Poverty can only be abolished through the operation of certain economic factors — notably the investment of savings in capital — which can only operate by transforming nature over a long period of time. In short, man's will is here severely limited by the workings of — to use an old-fashioned but still valid term — natural law. But injustices are deeds that are inflicted by one set of men on another; they are precisely the actions of men, and, hence, they and their elimination are subject to man's instantaneous will.
Rothbard rejects the "utilitarian" view of those who pursue libertarian ideals simply because of the knowledge that freedom provides more efficient markets and better economic opportunities. In Rothbard's view, this is a narrow-minded way of thinking for those looking to advance liberty. He believes libertarians are passionately driven not just to provide a more efficient society, but because they see understand that the State is inherently immoral.