By Andrew Lepore | United States
There is, and always has been, a significant wing of the libertarian ideology that takes a hedonistic approach to life. They focus fully on pursuing a life where they can do whatever they want, which in fact everybody also should pursue. Though they forget about the aspect of corresponding responsibility and consequence of their actions. Liberty grants us the freedom to do good things with our lives, but it also grants us the freedom to do very bad and stupid things with our lives (as long as you don’t deprive others of their own liberties of course). For libertarians, living a life of duty and responsibility, and encouraging others to voluntarily live that way, should be just as important as making sure living “responsibility” isn’t forced upon us through the barrel of a gun.
In order to have a truly free and prosperous society, there must be an equal emphasis put on liberty and personal responsibility. The American Founding fathers understood this, and although there was an obsession with the idea of individual rights there was also a corresponding idea of duty. But This duty was to be socially and voluntarily generated; Not by the iron fist of government but by family, churches, small communities, and imposed upon oneself. These duties include making yourself the most moral and competent person you can be, along with being as charitable and contributive to your community as you can.
It’s very important for us libertarians to make clear the importance of duty and responsibility in our ideology, without this piece outsiders will view libertarians as cynical, greedy, or just plain stupid. For example, when we say we want to legalize all drugs people must think we’re saying it’s okay to do all drugs. No, we just want people to assume responsibility for themselves and not lock them in a cage for making self-destructive decisions. Also when we say we want to abolish the welfare state, people think we want the poor to go homeless and starve. Well no we want to take personal responsibility for our charitable efforts and not have the state decide where our money through inefficient social programs. Not to mention being dependant on the welfare state isn’t very responsible in and of itself.
Libertarianism is about embracing liberty and personal responsibility, authoritarianism is embracing the state and believing people aren’t capable of personal responsibility. Liberty truly cannot exist without responsibility. With Liberty comes a complete assumption of personal responsibility, and responsibility for the consequences of your actions; like I said, true liberty gives you the freedom to make very smart and very stupid decisions. But making stupid decisions does not come without punishment and good decisions without reward. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, whether those consequences are positive or negative. That’s not to say people don’t make mistakes and get themselves into tough situations. Those people will have family, friends, churches, non-profits etc, but just because you are in a tough financial spot doesn’t give you the right to steal from your neighbors at gunpoint through programs designed to redistribute wealth. Especially not when they have assumed responsibility to get themselves to the point of financial stability where taxman is involuntarily collecting part of their income to pay for your failures.
In conclusion, it’s important to remember that in libertarianism duty and liberty go hand and hand. They are two corresponding and equally important pillars of not only our ideology but of a prosperous society as a whole. Liberty without responsibility is chaos, and responsibility without liberty is slavery.