When you hear the word libertarianism, what comes to mind? The right wing in disguise, selling unfettered capitalism? Maniacal anarchists convinced that the moon landing was fake? A dazed Gary Johnson during an interview, confusedly trying to puzzle out where on earth the city of Aleppo might be?
Libertarianism has a lot of connotations (many of which unwarranted) that prevent people from understanding the philosophy behind it. In reality, libertarianism is very simple. It advocates for liberty as the primary goal in constructing society, which in politics usually translates to small government: free markets, lighter criminal sentences, less foreign intervention, etc.
Taxation: are libertarians just running away from the IRS?
Taxation is theft, says many a libertarian. The principled response to this from skeptics is generally some variation of social contract theory. In my opinion, the whole concept of social contract is inherently flawed; in order for a contract to be binding, one has to sign into it to begin with. In social contract theory, being born into a country is the thing that binds us to its very long list of rules.
Moreover, when you pay taxes, you fund a variety of different policies that you may or may not agree with. The fact that these policies are voted upon by elected representatives is irrelevant because it’s unfair for everyone else to get to choose what you’re paying for. That’s to say that if the majority of the population is in support of funding x thing, that still doesn’t mean that the minority should also have to fund it. If I’m a climate activist, my tax dollars shouldn’t go into building pipelines, even if the majority of the population supports these pipelines. Similarly, if I’m a pro-life advocate, I shouldn’t have to fund abortions, regardless of the opinions of others.
Social Services: do libertarians want to leave the poor to rot?
The main issue that the left has with reduction in taxes is a reduction in social services. Firstly, notice that in a system where taxes fund social services, taxpayers don’t get to choose which services they pay for, so they’re essentially being forced to help others, which in and of itself is problematic. Secondly, social services such as welfare can be funded through a voluntary donation, or shifting taxation to a system of voluntary taxation, where citizens choose how much tax they pay and to what sector of society.
Free Market: do all libertarians have a cold capitalist mentality?
A free market is also sensible as agreed upon by most economists. Propping up dying industries hinders society’s ability to make progress, and harms consumers from getting the best prices on goods and services. A prime example of this is at home in Vancouver, where the Vancouver Taxi Association succeeded in lobbying to ban Uber. Not only is this inconvenient, but it puts Vancouver behind other cities and doesn’t have the citizens’ best interests in mind. Likewise, preserving the monopolies/oligopolies of industries such as banking and telecommunications only harms Canada. Trust the invisible hand of capitalism.
In the end, no political viewpoint can be totally correct. Most leftists don’t support communism. Most rightists don’t support fascism. Similarly, most libertarians don’t support anarchy. I think there will always be a need for government to build roads, punish murderers, and keep people safe. In a democracy, enabling individuals to make their own choices and protecting the right to self-determination should be considered at all times by legislators. In other words, let people do what they want (as long as they pay for it).