The Dangers of Over-Zealous Libertarianism
by Ian Lucas Hull
In your effort to progress into a truly free society, keep in mind that the principle of freedom includes the freedom to not have freedom. This is true concerning many things, but it is manifested the most in contract law, religion, and culture.
A contract is a mutual agreement in terms of service or provision and it entails a commitment to honor your end of the deal. Every contract will come with provisions making one person sacrifice certain personal wants or needs in an effort to supply the other person with their wants or needs. For instance, a marriage contract (outside of State interference) usually includes a line such as “till death do us part”. This means that although one party in the marriage may feel strongly urged to abandon their contract just because their partner is now in a coma (thus reducing their enjoyment of life), the commitment until death (a very explicit word) binds them to uphold their end of the agreement.
By an individual adopting a certain religion (also applicable to philosophy), the person is implying that they agree with what is being taught by the people they are following. At times, a religion/philosophy will have a hierarchy of leadership that the individual is asked to abide by, do the bidding of, or simply respect or love. This, too, is an example of exercising the freedom to not have certain other freedoms. Of course, at any time, provided a contract was not signed saying otherwise, an individual can freely leave their religion or philosophy of choice and adopt a new one. Religion and philosophy are NOT, contrary to conventional belief, violent authoritarian dictatorships by nature, and any religion or philosophy exhibiting those traits for whatever reason would be subject to justice as per the non-aggression principle of a free society.
Extremely similar to religion, culture is naturally hierarchical and it asks much of people that voluntarily adopt it. Culture may ask an individual to abstain from eating certain foods, or engaging in certain non-violent practices (like cutting your hair or dressing a certain way), or it can ask you to submit to certain authorities (like elders, intellectuals, workers, etc), or it may even ask you to abandon your property in profound ways (including your body). As with religion/philosophy, culture is not inherently violent or dictatorial; it’s merely a way of constructing priorities of life based on certain principles.
The issue I take with many libertarians is that so often the right of the individual to forsake their own freedom for something they consider more valuable is condemned and attacked. We see this especially with religion, but even with contracts and culture as well. At times, these attacks are manifested in libertine suggestions, such as the abandonment of the “institution” of marriage and to adopt universal open relationships for all humans; other times they take on a violent nature of their own by suggesting that ALL religion and culture be banned, thus removing the freedom of individuals to actually choose ANY way of life beyond the non-aggression principle. Regardless of how they’re conveyed, these attacks against personal choices in faith, institution, culture, and commitment should not be tolerated any more than the State and its practices of violent coercion. Rather, the principled approach to all those things would be to look at the engagements of individuals as they interact with others through the lens of voluntary interaction. This means that we should look at the relationships and commitments that a person is making with another and see if there was violent coercion resulting in involuntary action on the part of the victim; i.e. Was someone threatened with force to join a cause, or adopt a creed, or commit their lives to another? Only through this practical application are we able to decide whether or not the choices of someone are compatible with the tenets of libertarianism.
Ian Lucas Hull