THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Can a libertarian be a Socialist?

My only grave objections to socialism are the force involved in establishing it and the (usually far greater) force involved in maintaining it. If all the Socialists in Britain want to pool their assets and share their joint earnings equally in a sort of virtual commune, that's absolutely fine by me. Actually, it would be great if that were a condition of joining the Labour Party. I am sure the multi-millionaire Milliband brothers and the even better-heeled Tony Blair would have no problem with it. Polly Toynbee would no doubt contribute both her homes in a heartbeat. I, for one, would follow their experiment with interest and would take their views far more seriously in future. I try hard to live my life in accordance with my principles and would admire and respect them for - for the first time in their lives - doing the same.

I just don't think they should be allowed to force anyone to join their commune or, having joined, to prevent them from leaving in accordance with the contractual terms. Not only would I think better of them for putting their money where their mouths are, I would also consider them libertarians from that point onward, no matter how restrictive and illiberal the rules under which they agreed to live.

This last may seem an odd observation to offer on a Thursday morning but then I had an odd response on Twitter to my recent post about whether libertarians can be social conservatives. Mr Leo Klinkers, who tweets as @europafederatie, told me firmly that:

A true libertarian is neither conservative nor progressive. He is a Libertarian.

It's not the worst view I have encountered from a non-libertarian as to what it means to be one. I am resignedly accustomed, for example, to those who think our beliefs reveal a personal desire to live a wild life of drug-fuelled libertinage. Still his observation puzzles me. As far as I am concerned libertarians are just as free to join a socialist commune as they are a monastery. They are perfectly free to campaign for voluntary arrangements to create any type of society they desire. Libertarianism can by definition have nothing to say about what people should do with their freedom, provided they don't use force or fraud on others. Individual libertarians, on the other hand can and do have firm, and widely divergent, views on how best to live a good life.

I am happy to embrace as libertarian brothers and sisters all those who would do far different things with their political and economic freedom than me. Pace Mr Klinkers, social conservative though I may be, I think that does make me a true libertarian.

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