Jun 24, 2010

What it means to be a libertarian!

I wrote this article for two reasons:

1) My readers who liked my view-points wanted to know what libertarianism is. It was a new concept for them.
2) I was very very annoyed by this misleading article published on Republica, "Ironing out the People" and wanted to clear out the confusion caused by the ignorance of the writer.


What it means to be a libertarian!

It’s an exciting time for a global citizen to live in this world. Totalitarian socialism and other forms of tyranny are crumbling all over the world with the advancement of human liberty and prosperity. However as a Nepali, it’s a mixed time. For some making history is the glorified goal they want to achieve while for the common man, the time presents problems every other day. The transitory period and political instability has coupled together to create widespread anarchy.  Rampant anarchy is making the life of an ordinary citizen too difficult to survive and progressing in these times is a far cry.  With a dysfunctional government, lack of law and order, lack of a proper constitution in place and the already defunct collectivist thoughts presiding over the public policy discourses, a libertarian would not only be sad but also suffocate in our society.

 Libertarians believe in individual’s supremacy and thereby individual liberty and voluntary exchange of free markets. Libertarians believe in liberty not anarchy. Liberty is the freedom to act as you please so long as you don’t interfere with similar rights of others which means you are free to do whatever you like for a living, associate with others voluntarily, trade with whoever you like, you can speak and publish freely, run your own business and live as long as you please. They consider an individual the primary source of power not the government, not the political leaders and definitely not the kings.  They uphold liberty to the highest value as it is as much our requirement as other basic needs like food, shelter, air and water.  Libertarians despise coercion of one individual against others be it in the any form or name, which is one of the reasons why they hate collectivist tyrannies – even the ones that appear in the markets!

For a society to function freely, it is necessary to protect an individual from being harmed by others through coercion or violence. For this reason, governments are formed. Hence the government is supposed to be a referee who sets the rules of the game and arbitrates between the players if any conflict arises. The government is not a player who takes sides with a certain team and exploits its privilege to use force against the other players. The primary functions of a government hence are maintenance of law and order, administration of justice, protection of a country from foreign invasion and protection of civil liberties. However, our government seems to have failed in all of its primary functions. Neither our lives are secure nor our properties. Neither are we saved from violence nor do we receive swift justice.  Nevertheless, our state never ceases act like a nanny state making rosy promises to its citizens with free food, free education, free health services, which are neither the functions of the state nor are they free as many perceive it to be. It’s an irony that our state is quite worried that we won’t know or read that smoking is dangerous (ref: recent government edict that cigarette manufacturers should have 75% of their cigarette packets covered by the statutory directive) but is nonchalant about the proliferation of violent activities and crimes (most of which are promoted by the political parties themselves) like extortion, kidnapping, murder that claim our lives and properties. Libertarians believe any government that imposes itself in every facet of people’s lives is the major impediment to progress and the greatest threat to human liberty.

Libertarians believe in private ownership property. Private ownership of property gives people incentives to make the best use out of the available resources and it also promotes entrepreneurship and innovation which are the key components of prosperity. Nations and societies who have failed to acknowledge this truth have failed miserably impoverishing millions of their inhabitants like Soviet Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and East Germany. With every political party, exploiting every means (open extortion to land ceiling in constitution) to extort and plunder private properties for their personal uses, our society is in precipices of doom. Libertarians believe in a system that protects every individual be it a poor or a rich person and his property from robbery of the predators. However such a system is still a far cry for us. Yet for all the evil doings and plunders of the State, capitalism is always blamed. For a country which has never seen a capitalist party, let alone some capitalistic policies to promote growth and prosperity, it’s shameful to blame capitalism for the poverty. And turning a blind eye to the advancement of human civilization and prosperity that the world has achieved through free human action doesn’t please a libertarian at all.

Along with individual liberty, libertarians also believe in individual responsibility. When a person is given the opportunity to choose, he is also supposed to bear the consequences that entail. Liberty not only asks for the freedom of an individual but also demands the individual to be on his guard while making his choices. Believing in cheesy dreams and giving away your money and blaming free markets after being cheated is not a likely characteristic of a responsible individual. However, the philosophy of free markets or libertarianism never condones fraud. Fraud is a crime that deprives an individual of his life or property through mental coercion and hence should be punished accordingly. Before blaming markets for frauds such as Unity scheme, a person should question the morality and dependability of the government whose officials including the president and the prime minister were found to have been involved in Unity’s programs.

One should understand that it was the fault of the irresponsible consumers and the government, not of free market, that created the Unity Scam. President inaugurates Unity’s event and the blames goes to free market. No, such irresponsible behaviors never please a libertarian.

What this country needs are more self-reliant individuals who are responsible enough to account for their choices and actions to create a truly free society, a society where every individual is able to enjoy his life and liberties safely. To be prosperous all Nepal needs is sound ideas that promote entrepreneurship and innovation not parasitism of the collectivists or patronization of the state. Until then, libertarians cannot afford to sleep well for some misguided self righteous person is all too ready to blame liberty for all the evils present in our society.