The following is an email I sent to a Unitarian minister regarding his comments on “responsibility” that isn’t included in any libertarian thought he can find (meaning the LP’s national platform, various libertarian writings and other research tools he used for a sermon on libertarianism). I BCC’d a friend of mine, Dale, who responded to me with the writings below mine. I think most will find this a good discussion of libertarian thought and what “accountability” really means.
To address your question on accountability, the core of Libertarian philosophy is “no force nor fraud.” This means I cannot commit these acts against you and vice versa. This is accountability at its core.
To be honest, a political party (or philosophy) is definitely not going to highlight the “down side” to its thinking. The downside to true freedom and liberty is the freedom and liberty to screw up, go bankrupt, ruin your body, etc., etc. Choices have consequences.
The term “freedom is not free” is usually used today by freedom advocates who usually mean that we must have an arsenal of weapons, spend money on activist groups, etc. However, this phrase was coined earlier in the 20th
century to mean that freedom has the cost of accountability. In order to exercise your freedom, you must be willing to take the consequence: good or bad.
In fact, I would postulate that the entire idea of a “social safety net” or “entitlements” is entirely new thinking which probably started in the 1930s as our society moved towards more socialistic thinking.
Libertarian philosophy includes the idea of accountability (you screw up, you pay the price) in its core thought without articulating it as it is foreign to the entire premise of freedom. You cannot be free if you are not free to screw up as well as succeed.
Today’s “progressive” thinking (this is a new term which replaces “liberal” or “social” thinking) leans heavily towards public payment of individual debts. General thought seems to be more and more moving towards an attitude that we are “owed” something for one reason or another.
In reality, we are not owed anything but the right to exercise our freedoms (the LDS faith calls this “agency”) provided we do not infringe on the freedoms of others in their pursuits.
For instance, in the limited freedom we now enjoy under our current government, I have made many choices: some good, some bad. I have made choices which made me money, lost me money, landed me in jail, elected me to office, ostracized me from one group or another, alienated myself from my own family, gained me a wonderful wife, ruined my credit, helped my credit, etc., etc. These are all choices I’ve made and all carry consequences for which I am accountable and have dealt with on my own.
In short, libertarian thought includes the consequences for actions, but does not understand the idea of “entitlement” or “social safety nets” to shield people from the consequences of their own actions. Choices are useless if the outcome is not yours to bear, good or ill.
And from Dale:
I have yet to comprehend what the Reverend, or anyone else for that matter, means by “responsibility” or “social responsibility.” [Aaron’s note: the minister’s remarks mentioned only “responsibility”] Responsibility to whom? The collective? The collective good? Who decides what that is? Even if the distillation of that definition was a truly democratic process (it never is), what evidence from history suggests that placing authority for the disposition of wealth (the means to do things “collectively”) in the hands of the collective is likely to yield a benign outcome?
History suggests that collective human endeavor, when brought about through the use of coercion has, in fact, almost always produced malignant results. The problem is in the acceptance of the concept of the “collective” in the first place. There is no such entity. There are only groupings of individuals. A faction of the individuals in any “collective”, regardless of the original mission of the group, will always seek supremacy over the group’s other members. The compulsion to dominate other men, and the ready, institutionalized means of doing so, have always proven to be too great a temptation — George Washington being the exception to the rule. Its called human nature. When the thugs take over, the original intent of the collective becomes superfluous. This is part is called gang rule.
The only preventative to this evolution (an evolution that has been documented hundreds of times in our lifetimes alone) is the removal of coercion from the process. Without the threat of brute force, no “collective” action that does not serve the interest of the participating individuals can be perpetuated. The institution that serves as the guarantor of this prohibition on force (more accurately, the prohibition of the initiation of force) is private property. What was it that Ayn Rand said? “Without property rights, there can be no human rights.” Without the institution of private property, whatever its inherent inequities, there can be no permanent rule of law. Instead, there is the rule of despots and the bureaucrat bastards that serve them.
Does making private property sacrosanct guarantee the process of social evolution — you know, the path to the holy grail of every Democrat utopian? Who knows? And, if it inhibits the process of social devolution (progressivism), which we are now in the thick of, who cares.
If society is going to evolve, like the education of an individual, the process will advance on the basis of personal volition — not by dint of social engineering forced on us by a “guiding class.” What the institution of private property can do, despite all the societal warts that it may fail to remove, is keep the gulags from being established and filled up. If all that we accomplish as a generation is the avoidance of the mass internment of dissidents and “unreliables”, we will have exceeded the generations before us by light years.
How many more hundred millions are going to have to die before the statists/altruists among us apprehend the lesson of history: Consolidated government is the bane of mankind!
I am responsible to no man for the welfare of himself, his family or anyone else — until I do him harm. Only I can designate what is my responsibility. Until someone can prove that I interfered with his prerogatives, the prerogative to determine my own responsibilities must remain solely with me.
Got comments? Email me, punk!