Libertarians are a persistent community. Ever since we started developing theories about free markets, non-aggression, and human flourishing, we have necessarily been interested in how we get from here to there. While our end goals are vital to flesh out and understand, what’s the point if they’re never realized? What’s all this for if we never get free?
It seems then, that libertarians need theories of social change. We need ideas about how to achieve a free society. Many libertarians have historically turned to political institutions as a force for change. Libertarians spend lots of time working on political rallying, campaigning, voting, and public policy analysis and proposals. I believe these efforts are well intentioned and the right line of work for many passionate, politically oriented people (you should do what you love, not what is “socially beneficial”). But in terms of pragmatic accounts of social change, I think politics is simply a bad means to achieve liberty.
We must not ignore the reasons for supporting our ends in talking about our means. If there is conceptual tension between your means and your ends, you’ve got a problem. Rationality demands that some kind of adjustment is necessary to bring your ends and means into cohesive alignment. While it may seem obvious that the way to decrease the size and scope of the state is to elect leaders who will do that, I think a deeper analysis reveals that the idea of state driven social change through political action rests upon a logic completely at odds with libertarianism. There is conceptual tension between our means and ends. (more…)