While looking over a social networking website that caters to college students recently, I came across the profile of one person who expressed a desire for one Rigoberta Menchu, a darling of the far left despite the fact that her socialist-endearing life story is a fraud, to become the next president of Guatemala. This caught my eye and prompted me to continue looking over this person's profile, which turned out to be a massive wad of socialist/communist propaganda.
But what really got my attention was not these things, but how this person classified her political views: "Libertarian."
For some time now, I've noted an increase in the number of people who endorse clearly socialist political and moral ideals claiming to be Libertarians. Generally, they are indistinguishable from your average socialist, except that they pay more lip service to individual autonomy. The twist, however, is that "individual autonomy" in their lexicon comes to mean "free from the economic and social consequences of being stupid."
Generally, the thinking of these so-called libertarians runs like this: each individual is a sovereign being with hopes, dreams, and goals; it is wrong to initiate force against others (coercion); thwarting an individual's personal aims, if they do not cause harm to others, is a form of coercion and is unjust; a lack of resources will frustrate an individual's goals; if one person has more than enough resources to meet his goals and he does not give the rest to those who do not have enough resources to meet their goals, he is thwarting the hopes and dreams of those other people and thereby acting unjustly; unjust actions justify the use of force to correct the injustice, so it is therefore just to seize the resources of the better-off individual to satisfy the goals of less well-off individuals.
Those who have not before heard of this sort of "libertarianism" may be scratching their heads at this point and wondering how this is different from run-of-the-mill socialism. The fact is, this really isn't very different at all, except for one key detail: instead of justifying the seizure of private property for the benefit of an abstract "society," the violation of private property is justified in the name of "the free individual."
Think about that for a moment and you will understand the insidious nature of this twist of terms. It's easy to attack claims of social good that are aimed at the betterment of "society," because society being an abstract, one can simply ask "whom exactly do you mean?" Someone trying to justify wealth redistribution along these lines then has to name specific people or groups, leaving them open to attack for any number of reasons.
But who can argue with individual liberty? That is the evil twist this philosophy takes. If you agree with the thesis that individual humans are sovereign and should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and since you cannot argue against the fact that it takes resources to do so, then according to these "libertarians" you cannot argue against wealth redistribution!
This view suffers from the usual logical and moral flaws of socialism, the largest being who it is that gets to decide who has enough to satisfy their personal ends and who does not, which ends are worthy ends, the metric by which such things will be determined, etc. Ultimately, this so-called libertarianism ends up in the same place that collectivism will always go: totalitarianism.
I took a quick look around the 'net at the people who endorse these views and who use the title of libertarian in this way, and soon discovered certain common traits. Basically, every one of these people were pining after comfortable, upper-middle class lifestyles (on average - some wanted far more, but almost none wanted less) completely divorced from the usual means by which millions of people have achieved this vision: hard work and personal discipline. Frequently, I found that the people who endorse these twisted views are engaged in indulgent lifestyles, the types that frequently come with undesirable side effects - drug use, polyamorous sexuality, etc. It is also common amongst the small number of these "libertarians" I read up on to live far outside of their means, often involving them moving to areas where they would like to live alone or as a couple in single family dwellings, but where the cost of living is far beyond their means, "forcing" them to seek roommates, run down housing, etc. Many of these people also were engaged in some sort of social work of dubious benefit that would not provide income for them to live on while continuing their work, but that they clearly derived personal satisfaction from, which they outright demand that the rest of us fund.
Libertarianism, as I and most people who know of it know it to be, is the opposite of this. While there are certain lifestyle choices exhibited by these people that I do not approve of, I leave it to them to make these choices and suffer the consequences - if they value the fleeting pleasures over the permanent damages, it is their right, so long as they do not bring harm to others. That is the essence of true Libertarianism, which is why this other version is a fake: while these people pay lip service to respecting individual choices that do not bring harm to others, they twist the definition of libertarianism around and demand that all of us share in the harms that individuals bring upon themselves. While these "libertarians" clearly would not approve of one person shooting another, if an individual shoots himself, they want all of us to pay for the damages. Regardless of the self-inflicted nature of the harm (whatever form it may come in), these people would make it a harm that we all suffer, albeit indirectly.
Personal responsibility is therefore out the window, which is ultimately what these "libertarians" are after. That is why, for the sake of eliminating confusion and to rescue the otherwise good name of Libertarianism, I am proposing that people of this ilk call themselves the "Libertine Party." It is a name much more suited to the sort of base, childish greed that they have attempted to elevate to the level of a political/moral philosophy. It would also make them a more honest bunch, since a less-acquainted individual would not be unfairly confused by their use of a name that describes a better, truly moral, and practical body of beliefs and ideas.