Many people look at libertarians and their support for free enterprise and see our entire movement as based on materialism, and the quest for personal gain. This is an incorrect assumption. Libertarians may also be people who reject the modern market economy to live an anti-materialist lifestyle. Communal living, (as was popular among some hippie groups of past decades), is not at all contrary to libertarianism. The voluntary form of communism that these small movements represent is perfectly in line with libertarian principals.
Libertarian support for a market economy stems from our opposition to the initiation of force or fraud. If the government does not try to forcefully impose itself in the marketplace a free market economy is what develops. People have differing ideals and ideas so it should be no surprise that many choose to reject the materialism of others. This is a personal choice that should be respected. It is the same respect that a Libertarian shows to the habitual marijuana smoker who has taken a far less demanding and productive career path than he might have otherwise. Your life is your business.
From a practical point of view it is clear that free market capitalism provides the highest material standard of living to the widest number of people. One must remember that people value many things, such as family, spirituality, and an appreciation of the natural world, that are not the products of trade and commerce. Practical arguments for freer markets are popular with libertarians in our country precisely because the United States is so geared to materialism and the competitive desire to succeed in the market economy. The creation of a freer economy need not imply an undermining of the many non-material items of importance to people.
The anti-materialist is willing to live without many of the goods, the services, and the quest for status that being an American implies. Their simple form of socialism is not a threat. Trouble occurs when the government gets into the business of promoting a single set of values and cultural ideals for all its citizens. This is true whether it is those who want government to create the kind of welfare state that reflects their values, or its those who want it to create a state where the moral codes of their religion are backed by statute. Both groups fail to see that the very strength of their values comes from the fact that they are voluntarily accepted. Forcing others to support your causes at the expense of their own goals leads only to conflict. And conflict always leads to more government and less opportunities for everyone to enjoy the lifestyle that reflects their individual nature.
Freedom and respect go hand and hand.
”’Tracy Ryan, chair of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, can be reached by email at:”’ mailto:email@example.com
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