Separating Your Practical Beliefs from Your Philosophical Ones

To some libertarians, the pursue of liberty is about practicality. 

By Mark Tordai

I’m not like most libertarians because I’m not into philosophy.

In fact, I think philosophy is extremely overused in our movement and has become a crutch that we rely on far too often. When it comes down to it, I’m actually quite the pragmatist. I prefer the practical over the philosophical even though some consider pragmatism a philosophy in its own right.

I believe in a kind of duality when it comes to deep issues and like to separate what I believe in philosophically from what I believe in practically. Philosophy for me is contained within our thoughts and ideas. They are abstract theories on how we think the world should be, as opposed to what we believe in practically, which could be considered more concrete, workable, and realistic. More than just thoughts and ideas, practical beliefs help us see the world for how it is and not how we would like it to be. So, what do I believe in philosophically and practically?

Philosophically speaking, I’m an anarchist.

I believe a truly free human society should exist without a state or rulers. I believe that the concept of the state and any individual holding authority over another is not only a false ideal but dangerous and morally wrong.

I strongly oppose nationalism, internationalism, monarchism, all form of socialism and the idea of a collective social consciousness. I would rather call myself an Anarcho-Pacifist over an Anarcho-Capitalist but still highly respect the work of Murray Rothbard and agree with a lot of what he says. I’m a follower of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and am inspired by the Transcendentalist movement of 19th Century New England. I hold strong philosophical influences from science fiction authors Robert Heinlein, especially his idea of rational anarchy as outlined in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and the non-violent, anti-war activism of Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling.

Practically speaking however, I consider myself a classical liberal.

I see the practical need for a government but one that is limited in size and power. I agree with F.A. Hayek that a social safety net is necessary because all societies are limited to the Bell Curve theory. It seems like no matter what we do as human beings, some people fall through the cracks, and I personally don’t want to live in a world were those who can’t keep up are left behind.

I’m not that sold on “markets without limits,” or that free markets are magic that can do everything if we just let them. To me, these ideas are what make libertarians sound very idealistic. Idealism and trying to build a utopia are fine if you want to write a novel but they tend not to work in real life. All of us are bound by the laws of physics, nature, and economics. A perfect world will probably never exist and if we look for perfection—like so many have before us—we might get the opposite instead.

Nature, and in particular human nature, is an unpredictable beast that doesn’t care what you believe in.

I can hear the cynics snarl as they read my thoughts. I can hear them saying: “all small and/or limited governments will grow into big ones eventually, just like the US.” That might be true but all societies without a state end up creating a one and all utopias that isolate themselves from the real world, fail.

So where does that leave us libertarians? I think it would be best to separate our ideas from our actions.

If we really want to create a better society, we have to let the theories go and begin seeing the world for how it can be rather than for how it should be. Otherwise, we are nothing more than idealistic dreamers.