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Libertarians are often attacked by moral busybodies for our laissez-faire posture concerning real and perceived human problems. Unfortunately, the “clowns to the left of me” and the “jokers to the right” falsely equate laissez-faire with “don’t care.”
The right tends to see libertarians through a pejorative looking-glass as libertines because we will not join these court jesters in their fetish to wield state power and privilege to “impose virtue” on the population’s sexual, religious, or recreational habits.
The left tends to see libertarians through a heavy fog of disdain as selfish and anti-social kooks because we will not join them in their circus to unleash state power and privilege to bring about social justice in all its imagined forms.
Either way, those among us who love liberty are accused of being nihilistic: the idea being that because libertarians are against the institutionalized predation and monopoly privilege of the State, then we must be against any standards, rules, morality, or community whatsoever.
This could not be further from the truth.
In general, the libertarian worldview is a positive, progressive, and productive philosophy based upon human freedom. The libertarian calls for peaceful cooperation and flourishing between her fellow human beings.
She tells her fellows, “human beings should not prey upon other human beings.”
She advises them, “Engage in production, trade, and charity for the sake of prosperity and peace.”
She holds a deep-seated conviction that the individuality of each person is the engine of society and that each individual has the potential to achieve happiness and share that happiness with others freely.
And I would venture if you were ever to sit down for coffee with this lady liberty, she would tell you with a gleam in her eye that a profound respect for life, liberty, and property rights is the keystone for emancipating human beings from the exploitation that has plagued humanity for most of its history.
All this being said, she is no nihilist.
Libertarians are all for standards, rules, morality, and community; as long as they are freely chosen. This is not because of some arbitrary or peculiar penchant for personal liberty; rather, the libertarian contends voluntary standards are superior to imposed diktats because standards, rules, morality, and community are predicated on individual consent, e.g. a morality that has not been freely chosen is no morality at all; if imposed through coercion, it is a form of subjugation.
Take a case of two libertarians and their conflicting moral codes; one libertarian is a devout, practicing member of the Roman Catholic Church, while the other libertarian is an atheist and secular humanist. These two do not agree on the morality of sexuality; one believes in practicing monogamy in marriage, while the other prefers polyamorous relationships. Where both parties do agree as libertarians is this: their sexual lives are theirs to discover, experience, and fulfill freely, i.e. free from not only state coercion but coercion in all its forms. There is no need for the imposition of the State.
This is because libertarian sees the State, and its ruling caste, as a great burden on society’s future development. The modern State’s “compassionate” and “pragmatic” attempts to propagate virtue, wealth, and equality through programs of centralized coercion and privilege have ironically eroded virtue, diminished wealth, and promoted vast inequality.
Are we not way overdue a new social contract that embraces a different principle than that of command-and-control and vertical hierarchy? How about a system of voluntarism?
To display the superiority of voluntary standards, I would like to move away from the traditional “controversies” of partisan demagoguery and instead shine a light on a space in great need of voluntary rules and solutions: money and banking.
We are beginning to see the rise of Bitcoin and other decentralized crypto-currencies. These alternative forms of monetary interaction are injecting a much-needed dose of free-choice and competition into a sector long plagued by State privilege, power, and corruption.
By voluntarily accepting a few simple rules represented in the Bitcoin protocol, the technology is poised to become the future of money.
And its very existence posits a wonderful future! A future where the dinosaur that was the State has become extinct without anyone so much as firing a shot or shedding a tear.
For instance, look at this this explanation from John Biggs of how a few simple voluntarily accepted rules can do the job of powerful government bureaucracies and heavily protected industries:
Bitcoin is a mix of three monetary processes. First, it handles its own transaction processing (think credit card companies,) fraud prevention (the SEC and security firms), and currency issuance (the treasury). In a real world these things are very complex systems with many moving parts. The beauty of Bitcoin is that each of these systems are reduced to very simple, very powerful cryptographic methods that ensures that each step in the chain verifies the next.
The emancipation of money and banking through such technology was unthinkable only a short while ago. Now, the ramifications of such a change in the world economic order extend way beyond the space itself; once we free money from its State shackles then the potential for providing more choice in more parts of human life–education, healthcare, entertainment, protection services, etc.–greatly increases.
With this increase in voluntarism, the goal of a more peaceful, prosperous, and equitable society becomes achievable through horizontal organization and decentralized, voluntary networks.
It is a future I very much wish to live, and I humbly ask those who remain skeptical to quietly consider joining those of us who love liberty in this endeavor to build a free-society.
With liberty as our Northern star, I imagine it will make strange and unexpected bed-fellows of us all.