Friday, March 22, 2013

Glenn Greenwald is Not a Libertarian (Yet)

On one of his side blogs, Glenn Greenwald writes an interesting post on “frequently told lies” about himself. One lie, he says, is that he is a libertarian, and he certainly is correct, as several public positions he documents are blatantly anti-libertarian.

Yet Greenwald is very much a “civil libertarian”; in fact, he is proud to be a “civil liberties extremist”. This is why libertarians so frequently applaud his work. It’s a bit confusing for us, though, why he supports liberty in some cases and not others. Is “economic liberty” or any kind of liberty less important? Why is my right to work for an employer on terms we agree to, for example, less of a right than free speech? If I want to take a job for $5 an hour, shouldn't that be just as much of a right as free speech?

This is where the non-aggression principle is so instructive. It is the foundation of libertarianism, and very difficult to reject. In short, it states that using force is unjustified except in self-defense. Any other use of force is a violation of someone’s ownership in their body and their other property. Therefore, just as it would be illegitimate for the government to outlaw my speech, it would be just as illegitimate for them to outlaw trade.

For another example, take Social Security, which Greenwald doesn't want to cut at all. Forcing me to participate in a retirement savings program is no more legitimate than, say, forcing me to participate in some religion. Civil liberties and economic liberties are really the same thing: it’s all liberty. As Ron Paul has correctly urged, we had best stop separating the two. It’s both inconsistent and unjust.

It’s my hope that Greenwald winds up becoming a consistent libertarian.  What he wrote further down in his post, is similar to the process all of us go through on the way to becoming libertarians, and thus may be reason for optimism (emphasis mine):

I had to rely back then on standard political and media venues to form my political impressions of the world. When I first began writing about politics, I had a whole slew of conventional political beliefs that came from lazy ingestion of the false and misleading claims of these conventional political and media sources. Having the time to examine political realities first-hand has led me to realize how many of those former beliefs I held were based on myth or worse, and I've radically changed how I think about a whole slew of issues as a result of that re-examination.

…When I still trusted and relied upon the claims of the political and media class - when I was basically apolitical and passive - I tacitly accepted all sorts of views which I've come to see are warped and misleading. I've talked often about this process and am proud of this evolution.

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