What follows is my response to a group of friends in our discussion of the Pros and Cons of Libertarianism:
The libertarian argument, put plainly, would seem to be: do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm me.
Problem? There is nothing of the Good of all in it. It is purely a negative. My argument has been that libertarianism is in fact a form of co-operative statism.
Can no one else see this?
Once you have a State that seeks to impose it’s programs on all equally (“free” medical care, or, now, “death care” as euthanasia, for example) and society has been reduced to just a mass of free individuals (do what you want as long as you don’t harm me), there is no common public vision of the Good upheld by the people to oppose the State. In fact, I would argue, there is nop longer “a people” – if by that term we mean a corporate body united by their vision of the common good.
This why I say that Libertarianism is the real handmaid to Statism, because it conceives of “society” as a fiction. But society has always been considered by Conservatives as a real entity bonded by a voluntarily upheld public philosophy that alone has the authority to resist the coercive powers of the State.
It is true that society, so conceived, always imposes it’s “authority” on its members. But…
KEY POINT: “authority” is not “Power”.
So, a distinction is essential:
The moral “authority” of your parents, pastor, teacher, coach, friend, etc., can be escaped, at a price (shunning? Exclusion from a group? A spanking? Expelled from school?).
But “Power” is coercive (laws of state, police, threat of jail, compulsory taxes, death penalty, etc), and cannot be escaped.
Libertarians, from the start, have always failed to make this distinction. And this is their Achilles heel.
J.S. Mill, for example, argued (in his booklet On Liberty), that what he called “Public Opinion,” (his Caps) is a form of coercion. But that is false. Your parent, pastor, boss, or coach may play a huge role in directing your life. But they cannot tax you, throw you in jail, or execute you.
Anyway, give it some deep meditation, and when this point hits you, I think you will see that to do its insidious work of destroying all voluntary group Authority in the interests of replacing it with Power, the all-powerful State absolutely needs a libertarian public philosophy upheld by what have become the morally-disconnected masses (we can’t say “the people”), this mass conceived solely as a mere collection or aggregate of individuals (in a now thoroughly atomized society) upholding as its highest Good, only a pathetic, and selfish negative (don’t harm me).