Saturday, May 16, 2020

Are libertarians left or right?

Are libertarians left or right?

Are libertarians left or right? This is not an easy question to answer, for several reasons. First, no one definition exists of what is a libertarian. Ask twenty libertarians, by which I mean people who self-define as libertarian, what is a libertarian? and you will get twenty different answers. Being libertarian might mean you consider yourself a member of a libertarian movement, or a Libertarian Party, of that you believe in one of the many different types of libertarian philosophy, like Austrian or AnCap. Second, when you ask are libertarians left or right, you assume that left and right are the only two options. Many libertarians think of themselves as neither left nor right.

What is left? what is right?

Many libertarians say that the left vs. right analysis is a false dichotomy. The famous libertarian Nolan Chart was designed to be a visual explanation of this fact. These libertarians do not choose to see things as left vs. right. They see left as social freedom plus economic control. And they see right as economic freedom plus social control. Libertarians want economic freedom plus social freedom. This is why libertarians sometimes say they are fiscally conservative, socially liberal. In fact, this became an old pun. Libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially awkward.

However, libertarians exist in the GOP who self-define as being on the right, are pro-life, support the conservative Republican movement, and support Donald Trump. The conservatives and the libertarians share many positions. We support free market capitalism. We take pride in the United States of America. And we hold a belief that the rich are good for society. Libertarians and the right hold a strong desire for tax cuts. Also, we both express staunch opposition to gun control legislation. The libertarians on the right may hold even more in common. They oppose immigration. They say abortion is murder.

However, points of disagreement exist between libertarians and the right. Many libertarians support legalized abortion. And many libertarians want open borders and free and open immigration. Libertarians are usually antiwar pacifists. In contrast, most conservatives on the right want a strong military. Libertarians are isolationists. Isolationism has grown in the right under Donald Trump. But previously, conservatives had wanted a strong foreign policy that would aggressively police the world. The Afghan and Iraqi Wars under George W. Bush are examples of right foreign policy.

Furthermore, most libertarians support legalizing marijuana. That position is almost universally hated on the right. Some libertarians would even go as far as legalizing sex work and all recreational drugs, things like cocaine and opioids. As you might expect, conservatives turn pale at the thought of such things.

What is libertarian?

Are libertarians left or right? In fact, you can have many different answers to that question. My own answer is that some libertarians are right, but most are neither left nor right, and a very small minority are left. The ones on the left are sometimes referred to as left-libertarians. The left-libertarians have carved out their own special niche. But they are a small minority within the movement.

Libertarians are right in some ways. And we are left in a few ways. Also, in some ways do not fit neatly into a left vs. right analysis. We simply do not have a place in the world seen from the left-right Democrats vs. Republicans point of view. We have our own unique worldview, where we are the alternative to both liberals and conservatives.