Can I be a libertarian and a realist at the same time?
How do my libertarian principles about foreign policy stand up to the fact that the world is an ugly place and many events are set in motion that cannot be stopped no matter how we roll back the military? How does the ideas of freedom ever appeal to people who essentially are born to seek servitude and domination? How does the non aggression principle work in a race of warlike savages?
Last week I watched a hardcore and intelligent libertarian stick to his (lack of) guns in the face of the Benthamite puzzles. He steadfastly refused to pull the hypothetical switch that saved eight people just because he knew he would be the agent of destruction for one. As a doctor he would ignore the deaths of many patients and focus on the one patient closest to him even if he knew the patient was probably going to die anyway. I wonder if he would walk away from Siamese or conjoined twins rather than choose?
It is a long way to go from choosing between the lives of babes to hunting down suspected terrorists and killing them and whoever happened to be around them. Is it a slippery slope for people with a conscience? I don’t know. I find it relatively easy to perform triage or throw the track switch. If it is my duty to save people, throw switches and fire missiles then I will do it. This view puts me at odds with fellow libertarians and perhaps with some fellow Buddhists but I feel closer to Arjuna of the Bhagavad Gita when I assert this stance.
I have great respect for Barak Obama as a statesman. People said that he was a realist. I’d like to think I share that trait with him.
There are shitty people in this world. There are lazy people in this world; there are people who love to tell others what to do. It’s a called a society and societies give birth to governments. As demented and deluded as governments are they are our babies and it is our duty to manage them and keep them from harming themselves, us and others.
One of my future dissertation’s directions is studying how Caribbean and Latin American ruling structures emerge from the hustling, scuffling and extortion rackets of ungoverned societies. Rules get implemented and enforced and people find a way to survive and strive in those informal systems. Complex social structures will emerge even without formal indoctrination in civics and politics. Official governments rub up against assimilate or compete with informal governments even as competing unofficial governments compete with each other.
I believe that the concepts and principles of both the left and right reside steadfastly within men’s hearts. The ideology behind left and right is as unrealistic as the reality is harsh. Everyone being equal is as ridiculous as divine right and class privileges. Last century, after the kings could no longer fight, governments of the left and right took up arms just as their regents had done decades before. The Third Reich was established and within that there were freedom oriented realists and the Soviet Union was established and within that, free thinking survived.
Protecting and promoting freedom in their own citizens and refraining from killing and torturing citizens is a libertarian realist outcome for government. Appreciating that there is no “redline” to be drawn and measuring the ebb and flow of freedom in response to the global climate is a libertarian realists world preoccupation. A libertarian realist should be educating and propagating the realities of freedom (not just the ideas) and plant seeds of freedom within each victory of the political left and right. A libertarian realist must accept where the world is going and ensure that there is always the possibility of freedom in that future. Above all a libertarian realist must triangulate. triangulate triangulate, using left against right and right against left whenever possible. A libertarian realist will accept that governments will exist and that violence, laziness and corruption will also exist and they will suggest solutions that benefit both the individuals within governments and those outside of it.