American libertarianism (AL) essentially places certain rights in absolute priority over other rights. Specifically, it elevates individual rights over collective rights: the right of an individual to refuse to associate with another, for example, supercedes the right of an individual not to be discriminated against because of their group membership.
AL is largely a plutocratic hijacking of what was basically a liberal philosophy (libertarianism). It starts from the same premise -- the importance of individual freedom -- but proceeds to sanctify the tools of hierarchical control while demonizing the only viable tools for resisting it, i.e. those which allow the disempowered to become empowered by working collectively, and encouraging "rights" (e.g. the "right to work", gun ownership rights) which are likely to cause less cooperation and more suspicion among individuals.
AL is basically a tool for keeping the masses from uniting against oppression, disguised as personal empowerment.
It is largely a superset of free-marketism.
- marketism is another name for American libertarianism (articles may need merging)
- US/Libertarian Party: the US Libertarian Party was formed in 1971 to represent American Libertarianism in the political sphere.
- libertarian utopia: any society which adopts libertarian ideals
They generally advocate the idea that "free markets" (by which they usually mean free-as-in-unregulated) will solve all economic problems (and beyond), all of which are due to government interference, and that therefore government should be reduced or eliminated altogether. (This latter variety is more accurately described as anarcho-capitalism.)
Disbelief in Civilization
Another problem lies in the AL belief that it is not possible, by any rational process or method, to reliably distinguish between the sound and the arbitrary -- e.g. between arbitrary reasons for discrimination and sound reasons for doing so, or for enacting a given law or regulation. ("Government is opinion enforced at gunpoint" is a popular AL saying.)
Libertarianism also tends to see all of society as a set of interactions between individuals; there are no obligations outside of such interactions, i.e. to groups or to society at large. AL adherents sometimes repeat Margaret Thatcher's contention that "There is no such thing as society".
Both of these beliefs deny the existence of civilization.
Just World Fallacy
Many libertarian premises -- the lack of obligation, individual rights being sacrosanct -- seem to stem from a privileged assumption that we are all, more or less, playing on a level playing field, on which fortune and misfortune are, for the most part, deserved. People begging on the street, or buying legislation in DC, are not failures of meritocracy, but examples of it. If you disagree with the legislation they buy, then all you have to do is get off your butt, become rich, and buy your own legislation. If the Koch brothers did it, so can you -- if you really cared about it.
Libertarian philosophy not only elevates individual power, but would disempower groups as well:
- government: AL advocates small government and the elimination of income tax (or even taxes in general) in order to "starve the beast" so that legislators will no longer have the power to "interfere" in personal business -- such as how we treat the environment, how we treat workers, maintaining infrastructure, and so on. Then "the market" will create private entities that will somehow have the ability to stop pollution, protect workers, and maintain infrastructure -- without being government agencies or unions, and (of course) without the use of coercion -- although they nonetheless support unregulated ownership of firearms, which they apparently assume that nobody will use except in self-defense.
- unions: AL is against unionization in general. Despite being against government regulation in general, they are nonetheless in favor of government regulations which prevent employers from voluntarily contracting with unions in ways that place restrictions on employment.
- 2014-02-16 Much of the reworking of this page emerged from a discussion which took place here.