Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/11

5

Libertarianism as ends and means

I haven’t had time to follow up my post below on libertarianism. But my friend Jim Manzi wrote something similar, at much greater length, in 2009: The Paradox of Libertarianism. I endorse it, though you may not!

10 comments

  • Acilius · December 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    That’s an interesting argument, thanks for linking to it. My first reaction is to express a deep skepticism about all talk of ends and means in political matters, or at least in political theory. I see a lot of means out there in the world, I’ve never encountered an end yet. So far as I can see, all that is ever accomplished by any political means is the advancement of other political means. So if Mr Manzi is right and the difference between libertarians and conservatives is that the former view liberty as an end and not as a means to an end, then perhaps libertarians are not to be taken very seriously.

  • Muffy · December 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Interesting article. Just out of curiosity, how do you think the “ends” and “means” libertarians would differ on foreign policy? I’m kinda going back and forth about which group I think would be more inclined pursue a non-interventionist foreign policy.

  • Angie Van De Merwe · December 6, 2011 at 4:33 am

    Liberty as means is “social engineering”. What is the difference, then, in allowing government, or other leaders, the liberty to impose their views without the population’s consent, from Facism or a Socialist Republic? Is this what the Founders desired for a Liberal Republic?

  • Angie Van De Merwe · December 6, 2011 at 4:37 am

    On the other hand, liberty as an end is a government free of such tactics, because it doesn’t want to intervene, so much as to allow individuals the liberty to pursue their own personal interests, values and ends. Such a government is concerned about protecting civil rights, not protecting itself from demise.

  • Angie Van De Merwe · December 6, 2011 at 4:43 am

    When governments seek to protect itself, we get a government that is bent on spending for fear that the federal budget will be decreased. Without the funds to further the interests of government officials, government shrinks, beauracrats loose jobs, and “pet projects” aren’t funded, which might mean the empowered loose government as a means to their end…..

  • Angie Van De Merwe · December 6, 2011 at 5:07 am

    But, it is true that States have to represent their constituents. Each State’s policies/laws would represent the people living within the State. Therefore, each State would represent a liberal or conservative orientation to policy issues.

  • John · December 6, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Manzi seems to be offering a J.S. Mill argument. Happiness is the end (utilitarianism), and since free societies are better at producing happiness, liberty is a good default condition. But he would obviously give up liberty in favor of the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Count me in the liberty as an end camp. Utilitarianism is every bit as much an ideology as libertarianism, but libertarianism is unique in that it is compatible with other systems. Want to form a commune? Have fun! Just don’t send me a bill.

    Muffy, I’d say libertarian as ends types are more likely to be non-interventionist. The folks at Reason Magazine certainly are. There are exceptions though (like me).

  • Angie Van De Merwe · December 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    What is government purpose, isn’t that the question? Obviously, citizens have a social contract, meaning that the contract is valid as long as it is consensual. This is why we have a voice in our government.

    There are necessities that government must meet to protect/provide citizens with basic necessities of civilization. And what and how these issues are met are the questions about policy issues.

  • Jonathon Smith · December 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I agree with Angie’s comment above:

    “What is the difference, then, in allowing government, or other leaders, the liberty to impose their views without the population’s consent, from Facism or a Socialist Republic?”

    You may be able to argue for Libertarianism as a means to the greatest happiness, but of course you are always subject to interdiction by a dictator who thinks that his rule is the means to the greatest happiness.

    I think the misunderstanding here is the role government should play in pursuing societal goals. In a “liberty-as-an-ends” society, you are free to pursue all sorts of societal goals, except that you are not allowed to use violence in that pursuit. Convinced that prostitution is bad for society? Then make your argument, get funding, and try and minimize the incidence of prostitution in society that way. The same can go for any other issue.

  • Author comment by David Hume · December 8, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Just out of curiosity, how do you think the “ends” and “means” libertarians would differ on foreign policy? I’m kinda going back and forth about which group I think would be more inclined pursue a non-interventionist foreign policy.

    i don’t know which way it would go. some “ends” guys are nearly pacifists, but some “ends” guys also veer toward neoconservatism (liberty for all!). though my impression is that more of the “means” people tend toward intervention because of their greater openness to conservative ideas (i’m not in that camp, i think intervention is folly the vast majority of the time).

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