Are Libertarians Utopian?

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July 27, 2015 by Liberty

Back when I was a Republican (*cold-chill,) I was listening to a communist discuss his ideal form of government. To be completely honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with politics beyond the Republican talking points at that time (hence being Republican.) I ended responding to this guy with a line that today, I would find cardinally annoying. I can’t rephrase it perfectly having taken place years ago but it went a little something like, “That would be nice but people don’t work that way.”

DA-DA-DAHH!!! What an argument.. Right? I made a claim. I provided tons of evidence. And I totally didn’t come off as an arrogant asshole! (If you can’t see the sarcasm leaking out the sides of your monitor then you’re not reading close enough.)

I was accusing this communist of being utopian.

Painting a concept as utopian is easy. If it’s not in the world as of this exact moment then it’s utopian. To this day I don’t consider myself an expert in communist ideology but I feel as though he could have completely twisted my brain if he went on to say something like: “Well… how does your family work?” If he suddenly started comparing the way most families worked to a communistic model I’d have to curl into a ball in the corner of the room and cry. (I know it’s not a perfect comparison but it would have worked.)

Utopian is a word many people use in the same way they use conspiracy. It’s an insult. If you respect the research someone has done on a subject to prove some hard to prove scheme you’d say, “That’s some great research you’ve done.” If you don’t respect it you say, “what? you think it’s some kind of conspiracy?” If you respect a person you call them an idealist or a visionary. If you don’t respect them you call them utopian. It’s about as practical for arguments as farting at the end of your argument. (“Is that what you think?” *toot*)

To answer whether or not someone is utopian often comes down to an individual’s interpretation of the world as it is. But even then it’s a complicated subject.

Utopi… Oh…. Nevermind

Imagine that you’re a fan of the United States Government. (I know it’s hard but play along.) Look at the American system as if it’s the perfect system to run a government with. Imagine every single law has been planned out to perfection and we have reached the pinnacle of progress for a society. Now imagine one week from now…

Suddenly new laws have been added to the books. In fact, maybe a law or two has been taken off the books. The system is no longer that perfect system. It’s now a slightly different system. Either you change your interpretation of a perfect system and admit that your previous belief of the system being perfect was naive or you admit that the once perfect system is no longer a perfect system.

Believing in a single (and very) specific political system definitely comes off as a bit utopian. There is absolutely no point in history with political stability. Politics are always changing dramatically. Even in the most long lasting societies through history, major upheavals took place on a regular basis. Having a single final political goal is utopian (or idealistic or visionary or just plain ol’ nutso.) Politics is constantly under adjustment.

Libertarians are often told to run off to Somalia. The arguments against that idea are easy to come by. Calling Somalia a small government or anarchy is bull. Just because the world doesn’t recognize a single ruler (and they do for part of it,) it doesn’t mean states (aka mafias, gangs, etc.) aren’t taking power. Even if you assume Somalia is anarchy or libertarian, suddenly you have to compare it to the country it was before (and the surrounding countries.) Doing that makes an interesting case that Somalia might just be better off than it was. (That’s not the important case for this article. I’m just leading to an actually important point.)

States have been collapsing like Somalia for all of history. While history tends to focus on the warlike empires that conquered their way around the world, it rarely records the slow declines in government’s relevance. Partially because no one there cares to record them. Powerful political leaders try to control the dialogue of history. That’s where virtually all our historical documentation comes from.

Many relatively anarchistic societies have existed throughout history. Many relatively libertarian societies have existed throughout history. History just never was all that important of a concern when people are at the most basic levels of survival.

Ranges And Directions

I feel like the only way to have a non-utopian political standard is to live within a wide range or possibly only a direction. Considering how unpredictable the world is around us, the idea that any one political concept will remain stable for any significant amount of time is naive.

To most libertarians, libertarianism is a range. A government from a certain size to another certain size would be the goal. The same goes with most democrats and republicans. (I would argue democrats and republicans regularly change their goal but that’s a separate point.) Governments have wildly bounced into and all around these ranges throughout history. The range may still be a bit utopian.

To be an anarcho-capitalist, often comes off as utopian. The idea that no government will exist (no mafia will exist, no warlords will exist) is utopian in any long time scale. That’s not a range of scenarios. It’s a single yes or no situation. Is there someone successfully taxing? Oh… It’s not a free market anymore!

Throughout history anarcho-capitalist societies (or close enough) have existed. They didn’t last. It’s not absurd to think you can have one for a period of time. It is absurd to think it will stay that way for good.

If you are an anarcho-capitalist you might be thinking, “I don’t think that way!” If so, good. That’s kind of my point. I consider myself an anarcho-capitalist (and libertarian, and anarchist, and lover of all things taught in kindergarten.) I don’t think it’s smart to think politically in precise goals. As an anarcho-capitalist you might think, “How much violence do I want in society?” and answer it “None!” I personally try to ask, “How much violence (replace with government, if you’re not ancap) do I want in society?” and answer it “less.” I know the idea of utopian (idealistic or visionary) is a subjective matter that I don’t expect anyone to agree on but that’s where my cutoff line currently lands.

Precise policy goals are absurd. Ranges of policies are a wee-bit utopian. Directional beliefs are a sliver utopian in the sense that you’re hoping for the world to change. The only way you can completely eliminate the utopianism is to accept your fate as a leaf blowing in the winds of political change.

Being a leaf blowing in the wind would ensure you never have to feel bad about what happens because nothing could have stopped it from happening. If you’re anything like me, that’s much easier in theory than in practice.

I don’t know the right place to be. Perhaps living with the hope of a perfect utopian world allows you to push harder for that goal. Perhaps accepting your fate as a leaf blowing in the winds is the only way to guarantee you’re not dissatisfied (by politics at least.) Perhaps tomorrow I’ll change my mind completely…

To actually answer the original question: I think so. I think everyone is.

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