Libertarian and Socialist – allies on the political battlefield?

In my post a couple of days ago, I outlined an idea of common ground between libertarian right and what I called ‘progressive left’. This short piece set off something of a torrent of comments over on facebook. I would like to expand a little on what I wrote in that post and, in addition, I hope to reflect some of those responses. If I’m really lucky I might even generate that much controversy again! 😀

As I said in my previous post something is changing. We are seeing libertarians playing a role in the Occupy Movement. We are also seeing people who claim to be socialists supporting Ron Paul in his attempt to be president. Both of these seem odd, but perhaps make more sense than they seem to at first glance.

We’ll start with the left supporting Ron Paul. First off, Paul’s stated policies are anti-war, anti intervention and anti big state corruption. It is also clear, by way of the unholy alliance described in that previous post, that governments are in thrall to transnational corporations and global money markets. These are familiar enemies for the left and so the perception is that power needs to be returned to democracy in order for things to be better. The problem with this is that national governments lack the power to act alone to reign in this problem, no matter how much the people may will them to do so.

The idea of libertarians engaging with occupy seems perhaps more odd at first glance. Libertarians are generally pro-capitalism and so might not seem naturally inclinced to the occupy movement. But this is an oversimplification of The libertarian view I think. For a start, it has been pointed out to me in comments received that there is both left and right libertarianism. I don’t want to get too much into this distinction so I will leave the reader to look into that if they wish.

What the two schools of libertarianism do share though (as far as I can tell) is this basic principle:

A libertarian is a person – any person – who consistently advocates individual freedom and consistently opposes the initiation of the use of coercion by anyone upon the person or property of anyone else for any reason.  (Coercion is here defined as any action taken by a human being against the will or without the permission of another human being with respect to his or her body or property.  This includes murder, rape, kidnaping, assault, trespassing, burglary, robbery, arson and fraud.)… A person who violates the rights of others by initiating coercion, violence, or fraud against them forfeits his right to be left alone by government and may be arrested, charged, tried, and imprisoned, deported or executed if convicted (depending on the nature of his or her crimes).

Crucially, it follows that:

The basic, proper function of lawful government is therefore limited to protecting these rights of the peaceful individual from criminals and foreign aggression, and in not violating these rights itself, for if government is allowed to go beyond this legitimate function and itself initiates force in violation of the rights of peaceful citizens, it necessarily contradicts the only rational justification for its own existence by acting criminally itself.

Personally, I would change government for governance in those passages. The libertarian then, be they right or left, must also challenge this unholy alliance as being contrary to these principles. What some libertarians are increasingly recognising is that, though they vehemently oppose global government, they must necessarily embrace global governance. This is because only global governance can protect these rights from initiatory coercion by transnational corporations and national governments ensnared by the system of destructive international competition and the all powerful money markets.

What seems to be emerging from these and other various nascent movements is a principle of localism. But this principle is matched by a need for protections of the people and their rights at all levels. What is basically required is a system based on the principle of subsidiarity:

an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.

But for this to be possible, governance must be available at every level, from the local to the global. Such multi-level governance is crucial to protect the principle of subsidiarity and to avoid initiatory coercion undermining it.

In addition, it is recognised by both sides, it seems, that the power of democracy must be returned to the people in order to make it legitimate.

Simpol offers both a means for people to take back the power to create their own agenda and the means to create global governance.

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