Some good discussion on Twitter has had me thinking more and more about how I shifted from being particularly left, bordering on socialist, to being quite liberal, bordering on libertarian.
When I left Uni I was relatively naive (although quite opinionated) about politics, and my basic stance was: the inevitable cost of left policy implementation (in efficiency and freedom) was more than offset by the benefit to society as a whole. My fierce individualist streak was attracted to the left’s social progressiveness, and I either didn’t know about or forgave the more invasive policies.
But the older I get, and the more I learn, the more the left seems like an inconsistent, contradictory and self-serving mess.
The core principles of the left ideology (as I understand it) are egalitarianism, opportunity and fairness. But there’s so many inconsistencies in the application of those principles it’s hard to be sure.
For example, how can you be pro-choice for abortion, but not for bicycle helmets? How can your heart bleed for the world’s poor while you support trade protection and limitations on immigration?
More and more I get the feeling that the left is about looking and feeling like you care, without doing anything that would either help those who need it or endanger your own wealth.
One of my favourite examples is sweatshop factories in third world countries. The left are (quite appropriately) outraged by the conditions, so they boycott the companies and campaign to have the factories closed, then go away feeling happy because people don’t have to work in those conditions. But they completely ignore the fact that those workers have now lost their jobs. The alternative work is either non-existent or undeniably worse.
To me this seems more about relieving first world guilt than actually helping people. It’s easy to feel partly responsible if someone was “exploited” to make your shoes, but less so if circumstances have led to them needing to dig through piles of garbage for food.
The irony is that the left look and feel like they’re helping, while really looking after themselves. Whereas libertarians look selfish, but actually help people.
That’s a pretty big call, I know.
One of the most attractive things about libertarianism is that it is based on a single, righteous principle: that everyone should be free to make their own decisions, provided they don’t interfere with another person’s ability to do the same. Every truly libertarian position, no matter how nutty, should be able to trace its intellectual lineage back to that principle.
As a result, it is the only truly egalitarian political philosophy that I’ve come across. The left make a show of being egalitarian, but in reality it only applies to the in crowd. The unionists who are such a large part of the left believe in equality for workers, so long as those workers happen to be in Australia. Even the bleeding heart Greens have particularly nationalist policies when it comes to “food security” and immigration.
A lot of left’s policies are inherently racist. What else do you call refusing someone the opportunity to live and work based on where they were born?
If libertarians had their way, people could move between countries at will, but most of us would just settle for increased immigration. And immigration is the single most effective method of helping third world countries: not only do a portion of the population get to find well-paid work, but in most cases the money immigrants send home to their extended families outweighs foreign aid.
Essentially, I find libertarianism more humane, consistent and fundamentally useful than left socialism. It’s just a shame that libertarians are naturally adverse to careers in politics.