A short article in Christian Century spurred my thinking about libertarianism. Here is my thought about it today.
Americans favorably view the idea of libertarianism. We like the idea that we can rely on ourselves, do it ourselves, take on the battles of life on our own and win or lose by our own skills. It is part of what helped create this country and this culture.
I think that libertarianism works especially well when the population is small and the land and natural resources are large. The freedom to choose for ourselves which part of our environment we will use to improve our life is appealing. Neighbors may be nearby but they are not intruding on our space. Discarding of our wastes does not affect them.
Our population has grown. We are much more crowded on this little planet than we have been. The population has doubled more than once in just my lifetime. As the population density increases our natural resources shrink, our waste products increase, and our neighbors’ actions affect what we can do for ourselves.
It seems to me that in today’s world we can not afford the luxury of libertarianism, as much as we love the concept of it. My freedom to do as I want to do impinges on the lives of too many others. Because of our population increases and dwindling natural resources we are losing the capacity of the natural world to absorb our own desires to “do it my way.” Increasingly we need to take into consideration the needs of others.
Libertarianism is a great concept. It works in smaller populations with abundant natural resources. We have passed the point where we can afford the luxury of libertarianism. We need to think about and care for our neighbors’ needs at least as much as we care for our own needs. Interacting in caring ways in community is more important now than ever.