Why You Can’t Pigeonhole Libertarians

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The current left-right divide often forgets the role of libertarians.


I often find myself living in a no man’s land where I am too “liberal” for my conservative friends and too “conservative” for my liberal friends. Although I may agree with the Left on ending the drug war and the Right on lowering taxes, I come to these conclusions from a different framework of thinking.

The fundamental difference between the Left/Right paradigm is whether an institution should be preserved or reformed through government advocacy. Conservatives believe in “preserving” marriage, so they advocate government policies to to do so while the Left wants to “reform” marriage and advocates government policies accomplish this.

The libertarian view isn’t about having a preference on how societies institutions should and shouldn’t look but rather accepting that institutions persist and change for a variety of reasons. A libertarian wants to protect individual autonomy so that an institution can thrive or dissolve as a result of people’s actions and preferences. Do citizens want to further existing institutions and traditions, change them, or create new ones?

Libertarians view government intervention as disturbing the natural ecosystem of individual action. If a government protects an institution, it prevents that institution from adapting to new challenges or situations. For example, if the government acts to protect a declining industry, it prevents the natural replacement of this antiquated industry with new types of entrepreneurship. More troubling is that government intervention can create a backlash that makes organic change take longer than it otherwise would have.

While a libertarian may have his own preference on how society ought to be organized, he recognizes that government intervention is not the best means for accomplish this. Educating and influencing private citizens to adopt new practices is preferable to coercion. When someone chooses to do something, they are recognizing the value in the choice they are making and will be more likely to continue this new habit in the future. Something quite fundamental is lost when the opportunity for a private individual’s free choice is replaced with government coercion.

Alex Merced was the Libertarian Nominee for New York State’s 2016 U.S. Senate Race.  He is currently running for NYC Comptroller in 2017 and is the host of “The AlexMercedCast” podcast and other media at AlexMerced.com.

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