When I Was Wrong: About Those Libertarians

Sometimes when I’m pretending to work out, I’ll watch an interview or listen to a podcast. One of my favorites is the YouTube show The Rubin Report, a talk show where host Dave Rubin interviews a range of people, including authors, activists, journalists, comedians, actors, professors, and philosophers. It’s one of the best shows of its kind right now, and usually I really enjoy listening to it—but occasionally, I get annoyed.

Rubin and his guests will sometimes get under my skin because, more often than not, they’re libertarians. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have some sort of gut-resentment for libertarians (or “classical liberals” as they love to be called); moreover, I’ve been deeply interested in Libertarianism and its beliefs for a long time. It’s just that when most libertarians reveal their central beliefs, the ideas that fuel their entire worldview, that’s when they start to lose me. I find the libertarian foundation to be ideologically hollow. I reject their political philosophy motivated by freedom.

I said this same thing during the 2016 election [LINK]. While Libertarianism may have a number of likable ideas, its moral root is thoroughly unChristian and ethically unacceptable. No nation can thrive that is bent on giving the individual what they desire and catering to personal freedom. This has been my problem with Libertarianism. That is, until I listened to a recent episode of The Rubin Report and I heard about this thing called N-A-P Libertarianism.

N. A. P. Libertarianism, or Non-Aggression Principle Libertarianism, is the belief that it’s wrong to initiate or threaten any forcible interference with an individual or their property. When I heard this—and that it is a major stream of libertarian thinking—I was intrigued. I wasn’t immediately convinced, no, but the selflessness of N. A. P. Libertarianism provided a stark contrast to the Libertarianism I knew up until then—and it made me realize something that should have already been obvious: there are other forms of Libertarianism. This epiphany, as obvious as it was, was huge for me as it meant that there are more motivations for prescribing to Libertarianism beyond its namesake, liberty.

And that’s what made me want to give Libertarianism a second chance. If people can prescribe to free market innovation, ending the War on Drugs, or reduced government bureaucracy because they, for example, are striving to eliminate oppression, I can get behind that. Or maybe they want those same libertarian goals because they are motivated to increase the comfort and beauty in all people’s lives—I could get behind that too. Really, there are limitless foundations that are more moral or Christian than an obsession with personal freedom that could potentially motivate the efficient and sensible ideas of Libertarianism.

These other motivations help alleviate the central problem of most libertarians: opting for short-sighted freedom over expansive liberty. That is, most libertarians are content to pursue a surface level freedom, where they can do what they want and others can do want they want. But when we start from a perspective that acknowledges that the marginalized and the impoverished are impressed, we’re much more likely to realize that others aren’t perfectly free to pursue what they want (or need) unless we give up some of our wants.

So, as I seek to best participate in my community and government, I have to say that Libertarianism is back on the table. It has a lot of competing to do, but at least I know that what I said before was wrong—and that there is Christian path available here.

3 Comments

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  1. I’d like to follow up with you on this. How was your original viewpoint changed based on the N.A.P. model? I’m not following

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    • Originally, my view was that Libertarianism is morally bankrupt. Though it is certainly efficient, freedom as a guiding virtue is too individualistic and inevitably leads to the loss of more important virtues.
      NAP Libertarianism does not directly challenge liberty as ultimate good, but it demonstrated to me that Libertarianism can be more nuanced and multidimensional as to allow for a healthier framework–one that can be as efficient but more spiritually astute.

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