Why Libertarianism Cannot Last.
Can a government be too free? The Sicilian Mafia arose to fill the power vacuum left by a weak central government.
Liberalism is one of the oldest modern political philosophies, and is still incredibly influential today. It seeks, as its name might suggest, to provide a set of key freedoms to all those governed. These freedoms include those of conscience, speech, association, movement, opinion, and the press.
Those rights mentioned above are considered by liberals to be basic. Basic rights are fundamental—meaning that they should not be impinged upon for the sake of any other non-basic rights—and inalienable—meaning that they should never be taken away from someone, even if that person gives consent.
Libertarianism takes liberalism and “goes one further,” also considering as basic rights to property and contract (Freeman, 123). It seems like a good deal: libertarianism secures for those governed all the rights associated with classical liberalism—and then some! We’ll find upon further analysis, though, that libertarianism’s addition comes at a cost.
Samuel Freeman argues that prioritization of these rights renders libertarianism illiberal; in other words, rights to property and contract come at the expense of liberalism’s standard library of basic rights. For example, consider that a truly libertarian government would have to respect and enforce someone’s wish, confirmed by contract, to sell himself into slavery (Freeman, 110). The slave’s rights to movement, association, and so on, then, become alienable and therefore not basic.
My argument is broader than Freeman’s. I argue not only that basic rights aren’t preserved under libertarianism, but also that libertarianism itself isn’t preserved. In other words, a libertarian government, because of its prioritization of rights to property and contract, isn’t sustainable, and is liable to change into or be replaced by other governments in the long term. Libertarianism cannot last.