RGTyler: Socialism vs Libertarianism

Its one of the most vicious rivalries in politics. The debate between state control and the market. However I recently had a very long discussion, a 5 hour beer fueled debate, with a socialist and it wasn’t long before we started agreeing with each other on various issues. As much as it pains me to say it it would seem that there is common ground between the two ideologies.

The best example of this shared common ground seems to be on the issue of immigration and free movement of people. I have outlined the Free Market case for this in the past but I will quickly explain again. The Free Market case is about creating competition in the markets that allows people and companies to move from country to country, or even between regions, in order to find lower taxes or better wages/quality of life.

The socialist argument is similar. They two advocate the free movement of people but also allow governments to put restrictions on who can enter the country. They also advocate allowing skilled workers in over un-skilled workers and job protection. Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” is a prime example of the socialist model of labour movement.

Another bit of common ground is in regards to the 2008 financial crisis. Both Libertarians and Socialists advocated letting the banks fail. As well as saying that the Tax Payers money must not be used to prop up banks. However once again the end result differs. Libertarians by and large advocate allowing the banks to fail and letting the market clean up the mess where as Socialists would rather that the state took control afterwards.

The freedom of Worship and the secular state seem to also be common factors however the British left like to forget these ideas of equality by putting other religions above others. Certainly the right wing is guilty of this as well. For example in equal marriage bill that exempts the Church of England. Or in the case of the left the constant insistence that minority groups should be allowed to wear their religious symbols openly whilst Christians can’t. True equality would be allowing everyone to wear what they want. No Gods, No King only Man.

Finally the issue of anti-interventionism is common. Bother socialists and libertarians are fundamentally opposed to war and intervention. However the recent rise of that scourge “Liberal Internationalism” has corrupted both sides with calls to bomb Syria and intervene here, there and everywhere.

However its at this point that the similarities end. And it is beyond this point that the vicious clashes take over. The claims that the state must be expanded and that nationalisation is the key to healthy economy destroy what in a wider sense are two fairly similar ideologies. But then again I wouldn’t make a very good advocate of state control and Owen Jones would make an even worse advocate of returning to a Gold Standard.

 

15 comments on “RGTyler: Socialism vs Libertarianism

  1. dr
    October 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I always thought that often the outcomes desired by both left and right are often similar, but the two sides disagree on how to get there.
    For example:
    Lefty: “We should improve the level of prosperity of the poorest in society”
    Libertarian: “Agreed”
    Lefty: “by massively increasing the welfare state”
    Libertarian: “No. By promoting Free Market Capitalism”
    or
    Lefty: “We should improve people’s quality of life, by giving them more rights”
    Libertarian: “How?”
    Lefty: “We can legislate for things that they are allowed to do, and create a new class of civil servants to promote the uptake of these rights and to regulate them so that they are not abused”
    Libertarian: “No. We must roll back the state to give people more Liberty, then they won’t need those extra rights, and also cut taxes so that people have more of their own money to spend.”
    This distinction doesn’t apply to the “hard left” though, who have both ends that are abhorrent to Libertarians and also try to use disagreeable means to get there.
    Another point, is that for example, when Marx created Communism, he was trying to create a method of generating more wealth for ordinary people than Capitalism. He wanted to remove duplication from Capitalism by stopping multiple companies from doing the same thing, (he saw this as waste), and also thought that if the rewards were distributed more evenly and fairly by a central body, that the vast majority of people would get more.
    Lastly, if you are comparing Libertarianism with Socialism, then note that typically, the social ends of these idealogies are similar. For example, on gay marriage, many socialists and Libertarians thought it was o.k., even if the reasons that they gave were different, whereas many conservatives were opposed.

  2. Anthem
    October 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I would suggest that under a truly socialist regime there would be no movement of people – no one would need to move as everyone would have their basic needs met and everyone would have their own role within society (as determined by the state, depending on what it deems society needs).

    I very much doubt a truly socialist regime would actually allow anyone to actually leave because that would upset the equilibrium.

    I’m not sure that there would be any banks to actually crash. Money would be irrelevant under a truly socialist regime. Everyone would be paid with their basic needs (food, clothing etc). Money has no role in a truly socialist regime.

    I would have thought that the fundamental difference between any form of collectivist political philosophy and the more individualist type philosophies is that one believes that we are all “owned” by the state whereas the other other believes that man is a sovereign entity – and end in himself and not a means to an end for others.

    Two philosophies may occasionally appear to share some things in common but as your article suggests, the underlying reasoning is often poles apart.

    Far better than discussing the periphery is to strip each philosophy back to its core and see what you find.

  3. Ben
    October 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    “The socialist argument is similar. They two [too?] advocate the free movement of people but also allow governments to put restrictions on who can enter the country.”

    So they want free movement of people across borders, but also want to restrict free movement. Which is it?

  4. David
    October 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Whoa – is this the right place?

    Interesting discussion. I think both sides can make mistaken assumptions about the other – and engage in childish mud-slinging over nothing.

    A good example in this country is the BBC. It is touted as Marxist, part of the liberal conspiracy of ‘brainwashing’ media. Yet to someone on the ‘left’ it can be seen as something just as distateful – it collects a tax by force from everyone regardless of ability to pay, with threat of prison – to fund outrageous pay scales. It gives full air time to any significant event held by royals, it reluctantly funded a regionalist move, and gives back no real access to ‘the people’ that fund it – most who work there are university educated ‘elites’ – or sons and daughters of.
    You could argue its leftist stance is just a smokescreen to hide its unfettered selfish troughing.

    I remember plenty of programs about Kings, Queens and military might – but cant remember the last series advocating socialism.

    So, in some ways, mostly at the extremes, the left who have long since given up being card carrying members, and the right who see likewise nobody really representing them – meet.

    Yet as pointed out – that is the point where the real differences become apparent.

  5. andyL
    October 4, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    Libertarianism is one of those things that we all think that we want; the perfect ideal. Individual freedom to do what we want. But of course in reality it doesn’t work. I love chocolate. But If I ate nothing but chocolate, I’d soon hate the stuff.
    It can cause much pain at either an individual level or on a Global level. Rocco recently advocated that it’s pretty much OK to stalk someone. That would be liberty in action, despite the upset it might cause. Whilst the banks were regulated under Labour (and more so than under Major), that regulation was toothless and powerless. It needed more regulation. As for saying that we should have allowed the banks to collapse, well fine, as long as you pick up the bill for your parents pensions that would not have been paid to them. Of course Libertarianism allows us to buy our clothes that were made just before the roof of the factory fell on the head of the eight year old who had just made them in Bangledesh. Yaay. Go you and your freedoms!

    Libertarianism is like Socialism, you’re right. It is the preserve and playground for the ideologically immature. The sort of thing that is fashionable on blogs and in cafes in West London visited by the under 30s who don’t yet have kids. Fun discussion, but utterly pointless and has no relevance to the lives of most people.

  6. Rocco
    October 4, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    Andy, I didn’t advocate stalking. You’re lucky I don’t believe in libel! 😀

    While I’m here: The regulation and government intervention was the cause of the recent banking crisis – more certainly wouldn’t have helped. That factory in Bangladesh was built according to government building codes, and they had the certificates to prove it.

    And if Libertarianism is so pointless, why have you spent the better part of today leaving comments on Bogpaper? ;P

  7. andyL
    October 4, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Rocco – Sorry if I over-simplified your article. It was a very entertaining read!

    Banking regulation – there was none in reality. The FSA was self-regulation with self-serving memebers on it so that didn’t count. If there had been robust regulation in place,then perhaps the crisis could have been averted. But I doubt it as the financial packages traded across the Atlantic were not even understood by those buying them. The secondary cause of the crisis could have been avoided more easily if the casino banks hadn’t been using retail banks as leverage. Also, if banks such as Northern Rock had not lent more than it could borrow, they would not have been caught out by a crisis that ironically it had little part in up to that point.

    How would less regulation have helped avoid any of the above?

    Andy.

  8. andyL
    October 4, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Oh, to answer your latter point, I clicked on a link that took me here. I read a bit, tutted, shook my head and posted 🙂 Anyway, on a long car journey I’d rather sit in a car with people whose opinions I disagree with.

  9. Rocco
    October 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    I didn’t say less regulation would have helped. I said more wouldn’t have. Busts are caused by booms. Booms are caused by expansion of the money supply, and are a deliberate policy of democratic governments.
    Without State interference, without the State as a safety net, banks that acted recklessly would go under before widespread damage could be done.

    Think of it this way. If the government told you that whatever bets you placed on the horses, if they lost they’d cover you. Would you be more or less inclined to bet on long shots? More, obviously, because you keep your winnings but someone else pays if you lose.
    Now, what if the State didn’t just give you this deal, but gave it to all your fellow gamblers? [apologies if you’re against gambling, naturally] Wouldn’t the rational thing be for you to be even more reckless, knowing that everyone else is going to be doing the same thing?

    On the other hand, when it’s your money you’re losing, you’ll be more careful about your bets. And if you’re borrowing money to fund your gambling, your creditors will keep a close eye on your activities, and how good your judgement is. As soon as you start losing, they will withdraw their money, and you’ll be forced to change your behaviour. Word will soon spread that you are not to be trusted with other peoples money, and your gambling days will be over. But only if the government allows you to fail.

  10. andyL
    October 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    My understanding is that the Government hadn’t said that they’d bail out the banks beforehand?

    Forgive me, but I am going to quote Marx: “Capitalism will eat itself”.

    I can now feel you all having a Goldstein moment or two….

    There’s always a choice. But in my view any Governement would have ‘bailed out the banks’.

    It’s only when you think about the minutae of the consequences of a complete banking collapse that it becomes obvious why.

    At least the recent regulation requiring banks to have a core capital buffer will help? Won’t it?

  11. Rocco
    October 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    The entire premise of modern banking is that the government will step in if something goes wrong. The entire premise of modern political life in general is that the government will step in at a moments notice.
    Sorry if I didn’t make this clear, but the argument was for complete divorce of State and banks.

    And that must be an incredibly long car journey. 🙂

  12. Ben
    October 5, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    At the heart of libertarian belief is the belief that private property rights are paramount. Socialism resides at the complete other end of the socialism, with socialism ignoring property owners rights almost completely. Any apparent similarities along the way to achieving either of these two states is transient and superficial, just as the arguments you put forward are superficial.

    Libertarianism and socialism are nothing alike.

  13. Ben
    October 5, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    At the heart of libertarian belief is the belief that private property rights are paramount. Socialism resides at the complete other end of the spectrum, with socialism ignoring property owners rights almost completely. Any apparent similarities along the way to achieving either of these two states is transient and superficial, just as the arguments you put forward are superficial.

    Libertarianism and socialism are nothing alike.

  14. Ben
    October 5, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Apologies for the duplicate comment, in the third line I corrected the first instance of the word socialism with the word spectrum and it reposed the whole comment.

  15. andyL
    October 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    “Of course Libertarianism allows us to buy our clothes that were made just before the roof of the factory fell on the head of the eight year old who had just made them in Bangledesh. Yaay. Go you and your freedoms!”

    Dang, I hate being right the whole time! Rocco – how happy are you that more kiddies burned to death last night whilst making your clothes? And don’t kid yourself that they don’t make clothes for top range brands.

    One reason why the ‘Right’ are nasty. But you guys will never see that…..

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