Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Libertarian Socialism

Not long ago I read several stupendous articles on Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as I attempted to learn more about Canadian history and our past leaders. When diving into the information, one major undertone surrounding Mr. Trudeau struck a chord with me, which essentially inspired this post. What I come to learn in these readings was that the 15th Prime Minister of Canada struggled greatly between two conflicting ideologies; Libertarianism and Socialism. One particular essay I remember reading built upon the hypothesis of how these conflicting, but corresponding, ideals essentially became the Canada we've all come to identify with... up until most recently perhaps.

I bring all this up now, not because I want to talk about Pierre, but because it flows nicely from my last topic on co-operation across ideals. That, and because I myself identify with that same inner battle between a Libertarian and Socialist mindset. The Libertarian in me strongly believes in having as little government involvement in my life as possible. Pierre once brilliantly said "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation" and no words that I could speak could do the thought more justice than those. On the flip side however, the Socialist in me believes that a strong safety net is absolutely necessary for those who are caught in circumstances where they can't compete as easily as perhaps other people can. So while I do believe in the free market and other pseudo capitalist ideals, I also believe we should never leave anyone behind for any reason.

When I first started writing this post, it was intended to build upon the last one I wrote about populations needing co-operation and compromise of ideologies to build a better world. That was before I dove into countless articles on politically philosophic topics all falling within a new sets of ideals. Since reading those articles on Trudeau, my near obsession with all sorts of information kicked in and it wasn't long before I searched the term 'Libertarian Socialism'. Anyone who does the same will see many articles on this merger of beliefs, with some arguing that it's an oxymoron, and others discussing how neatly they work together. It wasn't until I did this search that I realized that some of the most influential thinkers to me personally are proponents of the Libertarian Socialist mindset. People like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky are champions of this perfectly viable political philosophy, and it shocked me to realize they relate to that term. Looking back at what I know they believe in, it all makes sense, but at the time of discovery that they identify with that term specifically, I was quite taken aback.

Not only did I discover new things about people I strongly admire, I also came to learn far more about several practical explanations of new social, political and economic structures all falling within this Libertarian Socialist ideal. For example, the Wikipedia entry for Libertarian Socialism begins with this:
Libertarian socialism is a group of political philosophies that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialists believe in converting present-day private productive property into common or public goods, while retaining respect for personal property. Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor. The term libertarian socialism is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism, and by some as a synonym for left anarchism.
When I first read these words, and during my deeper dig into all their meanings, in my head I kept saying "Yes. Yes. YES!" as each new term or phrase was presented to me. While I don't absolutely agree with everything I read of course, I certainly gained a new arsenal of information I could use to present ideas. What I mostly came to realize is that any new idea that I may present in the coming days or weeks will likely not be that new at all. After learning a wonderful amount of information, far beyond that Wikipedia entry, I see that there is bevy of beautiful philosophies out there, much of which we refuse to give the time of day too, or worse, have squashed thoughts of entirely.

In the end, I do indeed hate labels. I despise being referred to as a Capitalist for any Right leaning values I have, and hate the hippie label I am given for any of my Left leaning 'Granola' values I hold. If I were to be labelled anything though, the Libertarian Socialist is pretty darn close to something I could stand behind. It's such a clash, that it works for me personally, and combined with the backing set of ideals I now realize have already been developed through history, I feel more complete. There is no doubt that much of the coming information on reforms and revolutions will be inspired by being this Libertarian Socialist... and not because this information defined me after reading it, but because how I defined myself alone happened to have a definition.

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