Sunday, December 01, 2002

Hello. Please see "Not a Conservative at 20" below. Tonight, this:

Three Kinds of Libertarianism

Here are three kinds of libertarianism:

1. State minimalism. This is the view that we should strongly prefer smaller government. In other words, there has to be very good reason to give a power or function to the state instead of letting private mechanisms handle it. The primary reason is that the state is more likely to be incompetent at it. The opposite view is statism.

2. The view that there is a duty to help people in need.

3. The view that there is no such thing as an authority about ways of life, culture, aesthetics, or personal character development.

I've finally gotten John Jay Ray's message through my thick skull that #1 is distinct from the other two. I'm a libertarian in sense #1. Accepting #1 does not mean you have to be against minimal state-sponsored welfare programs if you are convinced that this is a case in which the bias against statism is overridden. I don't accept #2 or #3, and I favor a state-sponsored, austere, minimal welfare net, as well as some state sponsorship of arts (orchestras, museums, etc.). As you can see, someone on the authoritarian cultural right or the authoritarian left would strongly reject all three and go to the other extreme.

This sort of distinction making helps people on the right get their "big tent" in order by making it clear that the arguments amongst them are local and not global enough to cause the tent to be disastrously torn asunder. The next step is to make decisions about how to settle the differences politically.