February 23, 2015

Libertarian Safe Spaces

By In Bionic Mosquito, Blogs

My buddy, wanna-be-libertarian-philosopher Cory Massimino, has written a piece at Students for Libertine entitled “Liberty, Markets, and Safe Spaces.”  To give you some idea of his point:

The idea of safe spaces, traditionally associated with feminist and LGBTQ communities, refers to areas designed for marginalized people to feel free from the kinds of intolerant social norms, bigoted harassment, and general persecution that dominate mainstream culture. Safe spaces take the notion that “people shouldn’t push other people around” to its maximum extent within a minority community.

Feminist and LGBTQ communities’ idea of safe spaces is at its core libertarian. Safe spaces emphasize “living liberty,” independence, and a general culture of autonomy and liberty. They create an open area wherein people are free to succeed or fail; free to pursue their goals without reverence for oppressive social norms and traditions; free to be their real selves and not conform to an authoritarian culture of sameness and obedience.

The libertarian vision of a tolerant, free society is really just one big safe space. Ludwig von Mises recognized the value of tolerance in the libertarian cause, “Liberalism demands tolerance as a matter of principle, not from opportunism.” A free society offers everyone, especially the poor and marginalized, options to improve their lot, alternatives to oppressive arrangements, and the ability to exit harmful systems and relationships. A free society is one that values and respects freedom of association and personal space. (Emphasis in original.)

Much of it is either neutral or worth ignoring (as Cory himself has suggested in the past, “I don’t even believe in what I write. I just aim to be controversial.”), until I get to the last paragraph:

It’s time we in the libertarian movement took our ideas to heart and put them to work in our own lives. It’s time to stop living in the world of economic theory and philosophy, and to foster a mindset that can really change the world. It’s long been time to cultivate a culture of trust, charity, solidarity, tolerance, mutual aid, intellectual and expressive freedom, and most of all, community.

First of all, and not a minor point given that Cory pretends to be knowledgeable on such matters, libertarian theory says nothing about “economic theory and philosophy.”  Libertarian theory is simple: do not initiate aggression.  That this has applications in the economic sphere is true, just as it has applications in every other sphere of human action.

But to my main point: I cannot imagine a safer world than one in which everyone internalizes, accepts, and lives this simple idea: do not initiate aggression.  This isn’t safe enough for Cory; he wants libertarians to “cultivate a culture….”

Libertarian theory poses no positive obligation on anyone; it is incongruent and incompatible with libertarian theory to say that libertarians should “cultivate a culture”; libertarian theory says nothing beyond do not initiate aggression.  As I have written dozens of times, libertarian theory is not enough to answer every question raised regarding man’s relationship with his fellow man.

If you want to cultivate a culture, go for it – just don’t call it libertarian.  So-called left-libertarians or bleeding heart libertarians have no answer to the question: what happens when my property rights and your culture clash?  Which political theory wins?  Who gets to decide?

Libertarian theory, when unencumbered with the chattering of the milquetoast libertarians, makes for the largest possible tent: do not initiate aggression.  It says nothing about doing something positive toward or for individuals with whom one would prefer not to associate.  It only advocates to not do anything negative.

Why isn’t this enough for Cory?  Why does he insist on shrinking the size of the tent?

Written by Bionic Mosquito

Some talking head on CNBC, when referring to Ron Paul, called him a “mosquito.” My reaction – if he is a “mosquito”, he is a pretty powerful one. Hence the name…. More about me, with contact information, here: http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/p/about.html