Neil’s Left Libertarianism: What’s It All About?
Neil has described himself as a left libertarian. That would make him a subscriber to minimalist government with a social safety net. In the U.S., libertarianism continues to be a fringe ideology but it has come a long way toward mainstream acceptance. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, is a libertarian, as is Neel Kashkari, the first administrator of the Wall Street bailout program (“TARP”) during George W. Bush’s presidency, and Rand Paul, U.S. senator from Tennessee. (Kashkari and Rand are big Rush fans, apparently.) And, of course, Rand’s father, Ron Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas, has run for president as a libertarian and is now running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Although it’s never been thought of as mainstream, libertarianism has a rich intellectual history. One of the first to articulate a comprehensive libertarian philosophy, at least in the modern era, is Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian who after World War II became an American citizen. Over his lifetime he developed a set of classical liberal principles that others, primarily F.A. Hayek and Robert Nozick, have built upon. The objectivist novelist and fringe philosopher Ayn Rand was also a libertarian.
Libertarianism is about economic and social freedom. Unless what they’re doing harms others, people should be allowed to do what they want, rise or fall on their own merit. Because libertarians are considered to the right of Republicans on economic matters, they’re sometimes associated with conservative Republicans. But that would only make sense on economic matters. On social matters—gay marriage, religious freedom, and so on—they’re pure liberals. Government has no role in these private matters.
Left-wing libertarianism is a more radical school of thought. It incorporates anti-statism, anti-militarism, and anti-corporate activism. It’s almost anarchy.
Here’s one way we might see how Neil’s views (at least his early views) fit into the broader libertarian school of economic thought:
“Nothing is as ill founded as the assertion of the alleged equality of all members of the human race.”—Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism, 1927
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtues.”—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957
“The trouble with government regulation of the market is that it prevents capitalistic acts between consenting adults.”—Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, 1974
“Not only has liberty nothing to do with any other sort of equality, but it is even bound to produce inequality in many respects.”—F.A. Hayek, The Political Order of a Free People, 1979
“The government’s only function is to protect the rights of the individual. . . . The [ideal] economy is totally laissez faire capitalism and everybody’s free.”—Neil Peart, “Is everybody feelin’ all RIGHT? ( Geddit . . . ?),” New Musical Express, 1978
Here’s a fun piece of satire on how Rush and other Canadians unleashed Ayn Rand on the United States in an effort to destabilize the country.