Some of my closest friends are libertarians. I love them to bits. Yet, their politics strike a chord in my heart that makes me shudder. Since i’ve been taking the Lakoff class, i’ve been faced with the dichotomy between conservatives and progressives. It always makes me wonder where the libertarians fit in.
In Moral Politics, Lakoff argues that libertarians are fundamentally conservatives ++ (read this chapter if you’re a libertarian!). Barlow concurred, telling me that’s what he used to think that he was. He’s always told me that the approach libertarians take boils down to “leave us the fuck alone.”
In thinking of the values of libertarians, the first that immediately comes to mind is meritocracy. Interestingly, most of my friends who espouse to be libertarians are some of the most privileged intelligent folks that i know. I’m not convinced that meritocracy gave them that privilege. From a meritocratic value system, everyone has equal opportunity to succeed. It is their responsibility to work hard; if they do, they will have access to the fruits of success. Another strain says some people are more intelligent and they simply should have the rewards of that.. this is the outright elitist strand. The work-ethic value comes straight out of conservative thinking. In either case, both go against my own progressive value system.
I strongly believe that the world is inherently unequal and unfair. I believe that fairness is essential and that no one should suffer simply because of the position they were born into. I believe that we must work to make access open to everyone. I believe that a diverse community offers different perspectives, all of which are exceptionally valuable. This means diversity across all axes. A pure meritocratic system consistently excludes people from lower socio-economic classes and poorer countries. This bothers me.
In theory, libertarians and i have the same views on a lot of policies. We’re both pro-choice on lots of topics. We’re both anti-military. Yet, our motivations behind these stances are fundamentally different. Take the military. Libertarians simply don’t want to pay for it. I think that we need to be a part of an international community and that cannot be done by force. Libertarians would never be in favor of working with outside agencies for anything. Most of the libertarians i know are mostly of the civil liberties style. They don’t want the government to curtail their liberties. I don’t want the government to curtail equality or opportunity, which often boils down to not wanting the government to curtail liberties.
While we have similar beliefs, no libertarian that i know is in favor of social programs of any sorts. Education. Housing for the poor. Affirmative action. Economic support for working mothers. Environmentalism. Yet, these are all policies that i’m adamantly in favor of. And my motivation comes down to my strong belief in equality, fairness and opportunity.
The thing that i cannot resolve is why so many of my younger libertarian friends think that they’re more aligned with progressives than conservatives when they don’t believe in any of the underly motivations of progressive and their underlying motivations are more attuned to conservatives. What am i missing? What don’t i understand about libertarians?