Libertarian issues

South Africa & Libertarianism


Oz Conservative, September 8, 2018:

The South African government is changing the constitution to permit it to take the land of white South African farmers without compensation. Property rights, it seems, don’t matter much in the real world if you lose state power to a different group. Even the right to life is not very secure for white South African farmers, with thousands being murdered in farm attacks in the past two decades.

This led me to think some more about libertarianism, a political philosophy that has been influential on the right, particularly in America. I should say from the outset that I have never been attracted to libertarianism, regardless of its real world practicality, because I believe that we fulfil ourselves as individuals (develop toward our natural ends) within unchosen, uncontracted forms of community, such as family and ethnic nation. The individual derives from these the deeper forms of identity and the strongest loyalties and social commitments. We live better, more meaningful lives within these traditional forms of community.

Libertarians prefer to think in terms of the individual developing solo within the market, with the only permissible social commitments being voluntary, contracted ones (i.e. to “civil society” understood to mean voluntary associations, like sports clubs). What South Africa suggests, though, is that this ideal, if it can exist at all, can only survive within a relatively homogeneous society. Property rights and even personal security are much more likely to endure when there is a natural fellow feeling between people who share a common history, culture and tradition, and not when there is a contest within society for power, and the spoils of power, between different groups.

I expect that some libertarians would concede this point. There has been something of a drift lately of libertarians toward the dissident right, with a concern for the securing of borders. Perhaps these libertarians have grasped that their preferred model of society cannot thrive when there is rapid demographic change and the newer groups are self-confidently asserting their own power in society.

Although I welcome libertarians drifting the right way, there is a problem in trying to base a defence of borders on a pragmatic “libertarianism won’t work without it”. The problem is that libertarianism begins with a concept of man as being an atomised, rights-bearing individual, whose purposes are individual, whose connection with others is voluntarily contracted, and whose best interests are secured by a pursuit of individual ends and personal profit within a free market. This understanding of man, this “anthropology”, is blind to communal tradition – it does not tie us, by nature or purpose, to those we share a particular tradition with.

Libertarian anthropology pushes toward open borders, even though libertarianism is more conceivable within a homogeneous, settled society. There is a conflict, in other words, between the anthropology and the type of society libertarianism requires.

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