X-Message-Number: 21900
Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 00:55:28 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Libertarianism and Socialism

Here I comment on Jerry Searcy's posting #21888 which responds to Matthew 
Malek's #21880.

>O.K.! Lets see. The Libertarian party that advocates the Libertarian
>philosophy I subscribe to was formed in 1971.

This is not the only libertarianism, as Matthew points out. The U.S. 
Libertarian Party (LP) is mainly focused on transforming the U.S. federal 
government and its subsidiaries (state and local governments), and is 
dependent on the U.S. Constitution. Libertarians of this persuasion have 
advocated tariffs as a way to raise revenues, which would not sit well with 
an internationalized libertarianism. The Constitution also asserts the 
right "to keep and bear arms" (2nd amendment) which some libertarians have 
asserted means citizens should have the right to have weapons of mass 
destruction including nukes. Maybe only a small minority in the LP actually 
endorse this, but it further suggests that dependence on this one document, 
the Constitution, can create particular varieties of libertarianism that do 
not encompass the whole. Inevitably, with their focus on one particular 
nation, the LP will be somewhat nationalistic in its philosophy.

>I have not a clue as to what
>Libertarian-Socialism means. The motto of Socialism is: "From each according
>to his ability to each according to his need".

True, this is often given as a defining feature of socialism, but I don't 
think it does justice to the concept. It is not really its essence but more 
a consequence that would follow from a (probably highly idealized) 
socialistic system. A more descriptive slogan (still reflecting an ideal) 
would be "the people collectively own the means of production."

>The government takes from the
>producer, in relation to the size of his product an "amount". It then
>redistributes that "amount" to someone with no moral claim to it (does the
>I.R.S. come to mind?).

But remember too that Marx himself asserted the state would wither away. 
Ideally, you could have socialism without a government at all. This would 
be anarcho-socialism, a form of libertarian socialism, in which everyone 
could do as he/she pleased so long as basic rights of others were 
respected. It would have to work, of course, by voluntary participation. 
The main "government" would be self-government (by far the best kind). I 
don't think we are close to such a system and don't expect it anytime soon, 
but it is my hope that eventually society will be structured along such 
lines. Maybe it will have to be post-Singularity, when we are advanced 
beyond the human level. But at such time I can imagine people will gladly 
embrace "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his 
needs." Again, this would be a voluntary choice, not coerced. I could 
imagine a general, informed consensus that this would be in everyone's 
best, long-term interest, thus dictated by force of logic alone.

>That is the understanding of Socialism I have. By that
>definition, Libertarianism (the type promoted by the 32 year old...not 
>or more old that you discuss...Libertarian party is in no way socialist!). 
>Libertarian party I am affiliated with IS NOT Libertarian-Socialism! They
>abhor Socialism for the corrupt and immoral product it has produced anywhere
>it exist. Take a look at Cuba, China, North Korea, etc. For that matter look
>at the American experiment in Socialism: Social Security Administration,
>Medicare, H.U.D., H.E.W., the "education" department, D.E.A.,B.A.T.,
>F.B.I.,...and on and on.

Again, these examples contain the implicit assumption that "socialism" is 
something enforced by a government (strongly enforced in many cases) but do 
not do justice to the socialist ideal of the people owning and sharing the 
means of production. There have been voluntary socialistic systems that 
seemed to work fine, in particular when people were united by religious 
beliefs to the point that they wanted to work for the common good rather 
than themselves separately. A monastery might be a good example of a 
small-scale operation of this sort. A more worldly but still religiously 
based one, not without some problems, is described starting in Acts 4:32.

Socialistic systems have been tried, and are still being tried, with 
varying success. A significant libertarian system along the lines proposed 
by the LP has yet to be demonstrated at all, as far as I know. This would 
be a big step forward, surely a necessary one if much progress is to be 
made in this direction. The thought also occurs that it is unlikely a 
strongly libertarian system which is not also socialistic will work. This 
would follow simply because people are unlikely to develop the particular 
cast of mind of being able to make a highly limited government work without 
also wanting to share their property and generally go most or all of the 
way to full anarcho-socialism. (If this is *not* so, well, let's see that 

I also think Michael Riskin hit the mark with his posting the other day 
(#21867). Libertarianism does have some good principles, but the way it's 
presented is often alienating to many.

Mike Perry

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