Synergy Between Idealism And Pragmatism

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

I’ve always been convinced that what makes sense idealistically ought to parallel what works practically.  There shouldn’t be a deontology/consequentialism debate in Libertarianism.  The same principles which grant ideological sanction to liberty cause it to be an effective ideology in terms of meeting needs.

Individual people decide what it is they want out of life.  Sure, we sometimes want things by means of our place in a group – but we arrive here for individual reasons.  Sure, there are universal human needs such as food, but the context in which people consume or enjoy food, including the costs and trade-offs, vary infinitely.

Liberty, ideologically, says that people should make their own choices as it pertains to their own life and values.  Why does this ideological position exist?  Because people recognized the natural conditions which show that people generally desire liberty – that free choice is consistent with free will, that liberty reflects fundamental axioms of human action.

Liberty, according to the conclusions of free market economics, and Liberal politics, promotes the optimal level of wealth and social harmony that a society can attain over the long run.  Why?  Because it’s the “system” most consistent with what it is people want.  The market is efficient because it makes room for the natural reality that people have different preferences that are unknown to the central planner.  Maybe it’s that socialists discount this natural reality in believing in the efficacy of their own economic programs.  That is, if people didn’t have varied preferences, if we didn’t express and explore our preferences individually – as an axiomatic principle of human nature – then maybe socialist economics would be more efficient.

The question isn’t whether ideology or pragmatism should rule the day.  It’s not even a question of which economic system seems more efficient, or which moral system seems more noble.  It’s a question of: what are humans like, and what are we willing to say or not say about the purpose of human life?  Everything else follows.

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Zachary Sorenson worked for the United States Air Force for six years as a Navigation Officer. He recently quit because of a principled opposition to war. He considers himself to be a Libertarian, and studied Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He would like to see the resurgence of a non-political commitment to peace for its own sake, across the spectrum of ideologies.