Libertarianism is dead, or, “What does it mean to be a Jacobin Today?”

Libertarianism is dead. Unfortunately, our entire political system is built on moderated versions of libertarianism. “Liberty” is a libertarian notion – so long as we grasp freedom as liberty, we are thinking in a way fundamentally at odds with grasping ourselves as part of a complex community/ecology/catastrophe.
What would be an alternative? The obvious alternative to Mill is Rousseau (although the dates don’t line up – even Hegel predates Mill! And Kant is between Hegel and Rousseau, both historically and in the genesis of anti-libertarian liberalism.
What is essential about Rousseau? Freedom is not freedom from compliance, freedom from society, freedom from taking up obligations towards others – freedom is doing your duty in civil society. And what do we do with libertarians – those who refuse to actively take part, and whose inaction poisons the planet (for Rousseau – state)? They must be gotten rid of.
What would getting rid of those interests which do not, could not identify with the general will today mean? The cheap answer is the terror – all the carbon criminals to the guillotine! But more seriously – what justifies, if it justifies, the terror – the poorly discriminated killing of suspected infidels? Two things: first, the virtue of the revolutionary state, and second, the state of emergency caused by the real counter revolutionary terrorist operations being perpetrated by every other nation in Europe against france during the 1790s. So, quite clearly, neither justifications currently obtain.
What would a more reasonable, liberal version of terror look like today? I venture to say it would look something like the massive nationalization of assets from those actors who are climate criminals. If an asset is not managed for the good of all by the private market, then it must be managed by the state. Of course, the virtue of the state is not optional – but this is what we should demand from any genuinely democratic government. And “virtuous” does not mean virtuous on Rousseau’s terms – it would mean what it means on our terms, which means modern Canadian values of tolerance, free speech, multi-cultural, etc… The universality of virtue would be singular only on universal problems, and climate change is the only universal problem today. In fact, it may be the only truly universal political problem to ever exist.

4 thoughts on “Libertarianism is dead, or, “What does it mean to be a Jacobin Today?”

  1. I don’t think it is the conceptual underpinnings of libertarianism that have been undermined. Rather, it has been undercut for practical reasons. Economic and environmental interdependence are simply facts of the world that, by extension, constrain what libertarianism permits you to do.

  2. (Note that this post has no title and an odd URL. I am refraining from linking to it from my libertarianism post, since the URL might change.)

  3. You repeated a huge block of text.

    You also need to re-read Mill, with specific interest on the effect self-regarding and other-regarding actions have on individual licence.

  4. My point isn’t that Mill is incorrect. Of course individual license in Mill is restricted in various ways, most famously the harm principle. The point is this breaks down as a way of evaluating action – both because of the frail distinction between positive and negative freedom, and because the actual effects of actions in a complex world is difficult to know.

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