LIBERTARIANISM AND ITS CRITICS Thesis uri icon

Overview

abstract

  • Thesis (Ph.D., Political Science) -- University of Idaho, 2016 | The most paramount question in the field of political theory is the question of how best to organize our political community. In other words, what should be the relationship between the government and the governed. To answer these questions, different political theorists from ancient ones like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to modern ones like John Rawls, Sandel, and Nozick have postulated different answers. These answers range from the focus on groups to focus on individuals as the basis of analysis. In this work, however, my focus is on the libertarian alternative as an appropriate solution to the question. The core of libertarianism is that the individual is the most important factor in any political community. For libertarians, each person is the owner of himself/herself and is free to dispose of his/her life as he/she deems fit. The only reason for government intervention in individual affairs, according to libertarians, is to prevent crime and enforce contacts. Any government activity other than these two is a violation of individuals’ autonomy and should be resisted, libertarians claim. After considering the libertarians’ positions on specific policy questions like education, equality of opportunity, political morality and democracy, I compared them to other alternative positions by the critics of libertarianism before coming out with my alternative positions to both libertarians and their opponents. I find the libertarian alternative very attractive on the face value. However, after a deeper reflection, I am convinced that unbridled individualism does not augur well for the common good as it destroys the concept of community as known traditionally and does not take into cognizance the fact that there is no individual without a community and that the community is prior to the individual. Individuals only find meaning to their existence in a shared culture and language. To this end, political theorists should find an equilibrium between individual freedom and the communal good as both are not mutually exclusive as suggested both by libertarians and perfectionists. In all, the basic question of political theory still remains without a conclusive answer acceptable to all and sundry. To this end, I hope I have been able to contribute my little quota to the discussion and hopefully one day, we may finally reach our Eldorado in political theory and the rest would be history.

publication date

  • June 1, 2016

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