THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 549, December 20, 2009
"The United Nations must be destroyed."
Liberty does not need Justification
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
Libertarians have written a great deal of literature trying to make a case for individual freedom using the concepts of morality, ethics, utility, private property, non-aggression principle and various other values. But so far no libertarian has asked this basic question: do we need to justify our desire for individual liberty?
If the affirmative answer sounds obvious to you, consider what it means to 'justify' something.
If 'A' is justified in terms of 'B', then logically B is a higher value than A. The value 'B' is therefore placed in a higher rank in the ladder of the hierarchy of values than value 'A'. The value 'B' is not being justified in terms of 'A', thus value 'B' is considered to have an inherent justification to it, at least with regards to value 'A'; while value 'A' is dependent on being consistent with value 'B'.
Now how does that relate to discussions of individual liberty? Let's ask our question again: do we need to justify Liberty? And should we try to justify Liberty to those who are against it?
If Liberty needs to be justified in terms of Morality, then it de facto means that morality becomes a higher value than liberty. Wouldn't a person making such an argument be a moralist first, and liberty lover second?
If Liberty needs to be justified in terms of Ethics, then it means that Ethics is a higher value than liberty. Wouldn't a person making an argument for liberty in terms of ethics then be, an ethicist first and a liberty lover second?
If Liberty needs to be justified in terms of its utility to either an individual or to a society, then utilitarianism would become a higher principle than liberty. Wouldn't the persons arguing for liberty based on utility be, utilitarians first and liberty lovers second?
If Liberty needs to be justified in terms of property, then property is being placed on a higher pedestal than liberty. Wouldn't that make the person relying on property rights to justify liberty, a properterian first and a liberal second?
If Liberty needs to be justified in terms of Non Aggression Principle, then 'NAP' is given a higher priority than liberty itself. Wouldn't that make the person using NAP to justify individual liberty, a non-aggressionist first and a liberty lover second?
I have repeated myself, but to make a point. When we classical liberals/libertarians try to justify Liberty, with resort to another value, we give short shrift to Liberty itself. What we are saying is that Liberty needs to be compatible with another value for it to be worthy of consideration and acceptance. What kind of liberty lover does that make oneself? Why do we call ourselves freedom lovers: because we love freedom and it is our highest value. Then we do injustice to it by trying to justify it in terms of any other value. I love libertyshould be enough of a statement in itself.
It is also not the case that those other values are synonyms of liberty. Only Freedom and Liberty are synonyms of each other, all the rest have their own distinct definitions.
Notice that the opponents of liberty do not try to justify their values. The conservatives and moralists do not try to justify morality, they just announce it as a given. The egalitarians and leftists do not try to justify equality, they proclaim it as a given. The statists do not try to justify the state, they also proclaim it as a given. The utilitarians, mixed-economy types, and assorted middle of the roaders, don't justify pragmatism or utility, they also announce these as inherently good.
Only libertarians have taken to try to justify liberty, in terms of these and various other values.
I claim it is time for us to stop pandering to these opponents and their values. Those of us who love individual freedom should proudly proclaim our value of Liberty/Freedom and feel no need to justify it. We should place Freedom on the highest rank, just like many other philosophies and ideologies do with their values.
Liberty comes first, and then we will think about other values. Our love is liberty and the only justification needed is:
I want liberty because I love liberty and that's the way it is!