Why Aren’t Libertarian Values More Popular?

Maybe Americans Don’t Love Liberty

Liberty and the Common Good

The Enlightenment reformers of the 18th and 19th centuries set the foundation for the beliefs that libertarians espouse today: the belief that free societies should maximize individual freedom by minimizing governmental enforcement of economic, personal and social concerns. This meant freedom from authoritarian rule of any kind; religious institution, monarchy, or government.

Liberty is… Selfish?

As mentioned, capitalism is now viewed by most on the far left, and mainstream left, as predatory; ultimately it will consume its consumers. Intense love of capitalism and fierce defense of free markets are defining characteristics of libertarian ideology, but this messaging is simply not compelling. This is especially true among a generation that already thinks Americans are privileged, selfish and heartless.

Liberty vs. Equality

All trends seem to indicate that certain defining traits of individual liberty, such as free speech, are no longer popular rallying cries in the United States. The election of Donald Trump proved that the authoritarian sentiments of the populist right, in hibernation for a time, had significantly influenced a large portion of American citizens. In turn, we see Democratic presidential candidates prepping for the 2020 election cycle by consistently threatening various reductions in individual liberties, with little resistance, and much support, from their respective bases.

Equality of Outcome vs. Liberty

Libertarians are huge proponents of equality of opportunity over equality of outcome. They believe the ideal of personal liberty trumps the ideal of fair and equal outcomes for all. The concept of equality of outcome “requires that individuals have some share of goods, not merely a chance to obtain them, without the hindrance of some obstacles.

Liberty Offers No Protections

The key character traits that differentiate libertarians from liberals (progressives) are described in fascinating detail in Haidt’s book. In chapter twelve, he describes the various moral matrices that guide liberal vs. libertarian morality. Not surprisingly, within the liberal moral matrix, the most sacred value is care for victims of oppression. Within the libertarian moral matrix, the most sacred value is individual liberty. Libertarians split apart from liberals in their love of liberty over care for the oppressed.

Liberty Isn’t An Existential Threat

Most Americans were mobilized to vote for their respective candidate in 2016 because they were presented with a binary choice. They saw each side as representative of an existential threat to their daily lives and that fear drove them to cast a ballot against the enemy.

Can Liberty Be Compromised?

A commonly held belief about libertarians is that they are a bit puritanical on policy and incapable of compromise. There is a reason that the Libertarian Party’s slogan reads “The Party of Principle.” Being successful in politics requires a certain amount of compromise and libertarians are seen as a group that isn’t interested in compromising their values just to win. This puritanical attitude is classified as simultaneously their strongest asset and their greatest weakness.

Can Liberty Win?

While Libertarian politicians may not be making waves on the national political stage, their values infiltrate our daily lives and consistently influence national policy making.

free minds = free people

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