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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Only libertarians believe in liberty. None of the main parties does any more"

James Delingpole of the Spectator reports on a debate held recently in the UK on the subject "Who holds the liberal torch in 2010: libertarians, liberal democrats or the liberal elite?" Delingpole has a go at Guardian assistant editor Michael White:
Most left-liberals, in my experience, are quite terrified of libertarians. They can cope with the more traditional, authoritarian kind of Conservative because they can glibly dismiss them as Daily Mail-reading racists who don’t give a damn about the poor. But with libertarians they find themselves on a much stickier wicket: how exactly do you outflank someone who believes that tyranny is akin to death and that we should be free pretty much to do whatever the hell we like so long as it harms no one else.

White had a stab. He said: ‘If you really believe like Delingpole that government’s such a problem, go and live in Mogadishu, then see how you like it.’ He must have been really proud of this line because he said it twice. A classic straw-man argument, both times. It’s small government we libertarians believe in — not no government. Of course we want stuff like property rights and the rule of law: how could we possibly enjoy our liberty without them?


But I do think it’s about time lefties like White realised that they no longer have a free pass to sneer at those of us on the right just because we’re on the right. They have been getting away with it for years, acting as though their moral position is so superior there’s really no need for them to engage in anything so sordid as a debate where they have to advance their argument using ideas and facts. But after 12 years of the New Labour disaster, it just won’t wash.

Liberal-lefties like White need to explain to us what’s good about a philosophy which favours bureaucrats and rent-seekers over strivers and risk-takers; which steals people’s hard-earned money and squanders it on ‘social justice’ projects; which despises human nature and seeks to remould it and force it to act against its own interests through social engineering; which stifles ambition, creativity, invention; which is the enemy of freedom and therefore the enemy of life. So far, they’re not doing a very convincing job.


Charles said...

I call myself a "constitutional libertarian". Libertarian freedoms in everything that isn't explicitly prohibited by the country's constitution; although the "no harm to others" idea would have to be applied in concert with that.

johndoe124 said...

Unfortunately, the title of your post applies to Canada also.