Speaking simply, libertarian thought is based on two related premises : politicians are no smarter than others and do not know any more what is good for us than we know as individuals living our own lives, and that it has been proven again and again that government does not work.
This article is a short overview of sociolibertarianism, not libertarianism. Admittedly, sociolibertarianism is my invention, as it is : this is certainly the first overview that I have ever written of it, and it is only an overview. I hope this will give you some idea of what form of system I am talking about, and perhaps whenever you are interested in this idea.
Sociolibertarianism is simply an extension of the libertarian principles to the social area, as far as it is regulated by politics. The basic principle of sociolibertarianism is the Choice Criteria, that is, the end of government intervention in people’s choices. The reason for this is simple : when the government restricts choice, the use of reason by individuals is therefore lessened. Reason is the means by which we acquire knowledge, and by extension take decisions in our lives, so this lessening is not conductive to people’s lives. For a more comprehensive review of the Choice Criteria, and a comparaison with the natural rights argument, please consult the article “Natural Rights”.
Note that this does not contradict natural rights and non-initiation of force. The right of self-ownership, property and action are the ways to maximize individual freedom, and therefore choice. But the Choice Criteria also goes into issues not covered by natural rights. For example, foreign trade – the flow of value thru barriers – is not covered per se in the context of natural rights, but the choice criteria shows us that, obviously, opening up free trade gives consumers more choice than they would have otherwise, without attacking anyone’s choices. And of course most libertarians support free trade, if only because it reduces government intervention and supports the choices of the consumer.
In practice, sociolibertarianism is different from standard libertarianism in that it emphasizes the importance of a free market of structures and communities, in the following three main elements :
1. The elimination of political power
2. The presence of contractual structures in all domains and in all possible voluntary respects – social freedom
3. A complete opening of all legal markets to private interests, even governmental functions.
Political power here is defined as the power to change the legal context of the country, usually in order to get more votes. Political power in practice decides of the capacity to get more votes. To completely eliminate political power forever is an impossibility, if only because political system are ran by people, with all that this implies.
However, that does not mean that it cannot be limited as much as possible. One of the means to do this is by making the passing of new laws and amendments so difficult that only massive, inevitable changes will be made official. Another, complementary way to do this is to fix an absolute limit on government spending – both by making direct taxes illegal, and by putting a generous cap on spending, for example, 1% of the GDP. Presently, even the most economically free countries in the world spend 10% of their GDP, which is grossly unacceptable, as any cursory calculation will reveal. This is a good way to limit economical intervention in the same manner than the bill of rights limits social intervention (or at least, was supposed to).
The end of the power of politicans over our lives, of course, also implies the end of the power of local politicians over our lives. Therefore, local governments would have no more right to attack our choices than any other government. All rights not reserved to the central government would be reserved to the people, notably thru the use of communities – contractual structures.
The existence of contractual structures in all domains and in all possible voluntary respects is the pivotal point of a sociolibertarian system. We already have such a thing as the right of association, but it’s certainly not all-inclusive. For example, you cannot commit crimes, even if they are covered by the structure in which it is committed. In short, you cannot establish your own, complete, government, under the aegis of your country.
And yet this is the key to a free system. A libertarian system alone cannot satisfy the people’s desire to live in any system they so desire, if that system does not permit relatively independant governments to establish themselves. The focus of power, as much as there remains power, is still the government. The push and pull game will still exist as long as their lives are controlled by a government. But if you can have private systems where crimes are contractually allowed, such as tax collection, then you have the possibility of establishing any possible political structure in a free market of structures.
In essence, people could live in any system they so desire without having to use the government in order to do so, just like a free education system would let people choose the kind of education they want for their children without having to beg the government.
The complete opening of all market to the private sectors is simply an extension of contractual communities. Of course, sociolibertarianism is not an anarchist system – there would still be a public army, judiciary, and police, as necessary. But the free market would also have access to these markets, either thru communities or as private companies. And in functions where the government is not involved, free markets could be allowed completely and unregulated, except against force or fraud.
The reason for this once again is the Choice Criteria. The existence of public services and companies puts the focus of supply power in the hands of the government, and not of private citizens. Therefore, in order to maximize choice, the government should handle as little economical power as possible.
We would therefore expect to see private polices (not just security companies), judiciaries and armies, just as we have today with sports leagues. National sports leagues have a person, or a committee, who judges the players according to their actions during play and give out penalties suitable to the sport played (game suspensions, monetary penalties). There is no reason why a full-fledged judiciary system could not exist independantly (as much as possible) of governmental authority. Indeed, many libertarians would argue that this arrangement would be beneficial for all – both by reducing the burden of government, and by permitting efficient free market solutions to emerge, which we can imagine the government will inspire itself of in return, if its officials are any good.
One may argue that this solution is suspiciously similar to anarcho-capitalism. This is correct, as far as we can say that it benefits fully of the power of free markets. However, it is not anarchic because a government is necessary to maintain it. Without a government, it is impossible to have a self-limitating organism that regulates daily life, the right of property, and other things that we take for granted in a civilized society.
I have already written at length on the subject, so I will only say the following, as it is important to our concept of a sociolibertarian society. It must be acknowledged that a temporary anarchic state in a given system is a superior alternative to a temporary statist state in a given system, and therefore we should think about limiting government as much as possible instead of thinking about expanding it, whenever the situation of the government is unstable. This is very well and good : however, we should not lose sight of our goal, which is a small, self-limitating government, able to help us reap the benefits of life in society. While it may seem to anarchists as an impossible dream, it is, as far as I am aware of, the best system that we human beings can achieve.