I thought about titling this “Hey Hihn, how’s this for deep libertarian thought?”, but I’m not that spiteful. This article is based upon an idea I’ve been tossing around in my head for a while. It usually comes back to the forefront whenever we’re talking about transfolk or open marriages. As with all of my articles, I make no representation that I’m not unknowingly ripping off some philosopher or, even worse, walking into some trap.
There seem to be two types of libertarians… really more of a spectrum with clustering near the edges. On one end is what I’ll call the Deferentialists. The Deferentialists work from the premise that when an individual makes a decision, it is the right decision for them. Deferentialists’ motto is “live and let live.” They’re deferential to the individual’s decision making.
On the other end is what I’ll call the Restraintists. The Restraintists work from the premise that when an individual makes a decision, it is their decision to make, whether or not it is the right decision. Restraintists’ motto is “who am I to tell you what to do?” They restrain their own sense of morality to avoid overstepping their authority.
I’ve written in the past about my authority-based view of rights. To sum it up, your mom had the authority to wash your mouth out with soap when you cussed as a kid, but a politician doesn’t have the authority to punish you for your speech. This places me firmly in the Restraintist camp, and I think that all libertarians who care about being effective should join me.
The Ineffectiveness of Deferentialism
When viewed from a simplistic and static point of view, Deferentialism and Restraintism achieve the same thing. Should the government implement a law implementing some social goal? Deferentialism says no because the social goal may be right for some people, but it may also be wrong for some people. Restraintism says no because even if the social goal is good, the government overstep of its authority is evil, and the ends don’t justify the means.
However, Deferentialism is ineffective in two ways. First, people, even Deferentialists, tend to have a line drawn in the sand where they shift from relativistic deference to the individual to a more absolutist stance. For example, Cosmotarians tend to be Deferentialists up to the point where their particular identity politics ox is gored. Second, Deferentialism gives no answer to Cultural Marxism. Deferentialists are either forced to kowtow to the virulent left, or they end up drifting authoritarian.
In contrast, Restraintism handles both of these issues differently. Restraintists have absolutist stances for everything, so there is no line drawing to be done. Any failure to properly act libertarian on a certain issue is a failure of moral restraint, not a philosophical deficiency. Similarly, Restraintism isn’t hampered when facing off against Cultural Marxism. While Restraintists would never strip away the rights of Marxists, they’re free to criticize, ostracize, and attempt to curtail the creeping growth of Cultural Marxism.