Instead of a Blog Post…

“Human Flourishing as the Basis of Thick Libertarianism”, on the Mises forums.  Here’s the OP:

Given the debate occuring in the “The Libertarian Revolution: The Proletariat Revolution?” thread, I thought I would make clear, once and for all, why I think opposing non-aggressive social evils is a necessary part of a truly libertarian politics.

Fundamentally, what I value is eudaimonia, best translated as human flourishing.  It is the actualization of each person’s unique potential, living intelligently, fulfilling one’s natural end as a rational, social, and political animal.  Different goods and habits (virtues) make up one’s eudaimonia, including rationality, pride, productivity, benevolence, etc. (some of the major virtues) and health, wealth, honor, friendship, etc. (some important goods).  The individual weighing of goods and virtues, and what actually constitutes them, is ultimately up to one’s practical reason.

However, one must be in control of their actions for them to be truly good; if you aren’t making decisions for yourself, you aren’t flourishing.  This is because no one can have more knowledge of what constitutes your natural end than yourself; it is dependent on personal attributes that differ from person to person.  Thus, one must be autonomous and in control of one’s actions, just as a precondition (not a guarantee) of flourishing.

This is why aggression is wrong; fundamentally, it is the control of one person over another (you can think of property as being an extension of self in this situation).  By initiating the use of force, or the threat of the use of force, you are imposing yourself on a person and preventing them from flourshing.  What’s more, you yourself are impeding your own flourshing.  As  rational, social, and political animals, humans have the potential to communicate and interact peacefully, and without the use of aggression.  Given that this potential is uniquely human, and a universal part of everyone’s natural end, aggressors, to the extent that they are using aggression, are not flourishing.

However, there is more than just aggression that can comprimise one’s autonomy.  Manifestations of collectivism, such as racism and patriarchy, can also constrain one’s choices in a way that leads one to deviate from one’s natural end, through no fault of their own.  This, of course, cannot be solved through the use of force; that would be aggressive, and acting aggresively, as I stated earlier, is fundamentally not an instance of flourishing.  It can, however, be solved by non-aggressive means, including but not limited to education, economic boycott, and social ostracism.

There are also other related reasons why non-aggressive social evils should be opposed.  For one, they tend to encourage instances of aggression; racist attitudes encourage lynchs, patriarchy encourages rape, and so on.  For utlitiarian reasons, then, one should also oppose such systems.  Also, collectivism (which all social evils are ultimately manifestations of) is fundamentally irrational; by judging people by which arbitrary class they belong to, rather than the quality of their character or what they have to offer you in free association, you are going against your own natural end.

For more, see “A Groundwork for Rights: Man’s Natural End” by Douglas Rasmussen, “Aristotelian Liberalism” by Geoffrey Allan Plauche, and “Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin” by Charles Johnson

~ by wombatron on 07/20/2009.

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