How many of your friends or colleagues are familiar with the term and what it means? The following is a fairly quick and personal view of a very fascinating and relevant subject; and apologies for my somewhat dry treatment.
To me, at the heart of Libertarianism is the belief in personal liberty, small state or government and fiscal prudence. The outcomes or deliverables arising from personal liberty, by extension, should also in principle be covered; for example, businesses free to contribute to the wellbeing and wealth of society, and various associations free to serve a worthy purpose.
Small state or government implies limited responsibilities, restricted to activities beyond the capabilities of citizens acting alone or in organisations created by them; for example, defence and safety of the individual and the realm, the rule of just or equitable law and helping to facilitate some services for the benefit of all, although not actually being the providers.
Fiscal prudence could be more than just being careful spenders of our money, but also includes protecting our wealth and property today and the interests of future generations; although our view of wealth and property may extend beyond the purely fiscal to include whatever we value, such as heritage, traditional freedoms, and democracy.
However, I would add the caveats ‘as far as reasonably practicable’ and ‘in the light of current knowledge and invention’ because often any ‘ideal’ situation cannot be completely achieved in our imperfect world.
Libertarianism provides a ‘looking glass’ for seeing and interpreting the real world and a direction of travel for governments and us. These, and the ideals, assumptions and conceptual frameworks which underpin Libertarianism seem very different from those of other political parties judging by their policies and actions. To illustrate, our existing and previous rulers have for a long time, sought to extend the role of big government, centralise its control, manipulate us, reduce us to on-lookers and increasingly take or destroy our wealth, property and self-respect. But why is Libertarianism better?
Why is Libertarianism better?
There are various reasons for Libertarianism. Some focus on the need to lessen the negative side of government, the ruling Establishment and politicians; others focus on increasing the positive side of we, the people; yet others consider our unalienable rights or even responsibilities as individuals and members of a community.
We all have something to be proud of, for example, our achievements, a community we are part of, our job or profession. I am personally proud of the company I started and work for, what we do which benefits society, my colleagues; the charity I do voluntary work for and my contribution; my profession and qualifications.
So, are we proud of our ruling Establishment? For example, how they behave, run our country and lives, spend our money? Well, if we are proud of what we do well ourselves, whilst we are ashamed, disappointed or even angry about what they do poorly and wastefully in our name, shouldn’t we be doing more and our rulers doing less?
For a long time we have lived with the assumption perpetuated by the ruling Establishment that big government and great leaders are good for us; that they know best. When the government expands its role in our lives it eats into our personal ‘spaces’ leaving less for us to develop aspirations, self-esteem and ‘can do’ enterprising attitudes, strong moral or ethical values and sense of responsibility, humanity and compassion for others, community spirit, a sense of pride in our achievements, and money in our pockets for us to spend as we choose.
By contrast, leaving us alone or expanding our existing personal ‘spaces’ should help to facilitate positive outcomes which benefit us, our communities and our country. For example, does our personal experience repeatedly show us that most people are by nature, honest, law-abiding, hardworking and compassionate towards others?
In our society, through historic struggles against the rulers of the day and the works of various political thinkers and philosophers, we have accumulated personal rights and freedoms. The Libertarian ethos leads to these rights and freedoms being defended against efforts by government or wider ruling Establishment to undermine them, and looks at the existing situation as a springboard for further progress.
Personal rights and freedoms should not be seen in isolation, though. With our rights and freedoms come responsibilities to us and others especially for the impact of our actions. With the Libertarian ethos, responsibilities are more likely to be recognised generally as voluntarily resting with us especially as individuals and not abrogated, although in turn we may wish to then see legal clarification.
To summarise, Libertarianism focuses on personal freedom, small government and fiscal prudence, as far as reasonably practicable and in the light of current knowledge and invention. With freedom come the clearer personal responsibilities we all have to each other and to society.
The Libertarian nature of UKIP with its belief in we, the people, has recently been overlooked and the party is better known as a consistent and dedicated defender of us against excesses, mistakes and neglect by the ruling Establishment. Yet this same Libertarian ethos also leads towards a potentially better, freer, more prosperous and happier future for all. True to its Libertarian roots, ‘Everything we say, everything we do – UKIP begins with YOU’.
Photo by mfrissen