Pity the American Libertarian

From the “Letters” section of the March 13, 2010 issue of The Economist comes this quip, with emphasis added:

Moreover, your use of the term “radical libertarianism” was disturbing. While I would not join the mobs at a tea party, I do know there is nothing inherently “radical” about libertarianism. Why cast the philosophy in such a bad light? Free trade, limited government, personal responsibility, the rule of law and free markets are fantastic aspects of Western civilisation. Pity the American libertarian.
Dennis Colasurdo
San Diego

Libertarianism is often thought of as radical – case in point being the blog, The Radical Libertarian, the tag line of which reads “we reject all forms of government.”
That position is not shared by many Libertarians, who believe that limited government has a role in society, and that freedom does not require (or equal) anarchy.
That being said, such a position is not without challenge, as posed by The UK Libertarian, who write in their post, “Limited Government (minarchism) is not ethically consistent”:

[L]imited government, of the kind argued for by many libertarians, is a dead end. I’m talking about the people who argue that a government’s sole functions should be to provide national defence, policing, and the courts.

The problem with the argument posed by our friends across the pond is their repetition of the mantra, “The government uses its guns to take money from people by force and then redistribute that money…” If government truly exists at the will of the people, it does not have the right to force the people to do (or give up) anything. If the government does that nonetheless, it is not a government, it is a tyranny.
The Libertarian challenge is in creating a government that can have necessary powers to protect personal and economic freedoms without sliding down the slope of tyranny. No one says such an effort is easy, but it is also not impossible.
Don’t pity the American Libertarian for trying; rather, support his cause.

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