Objectivists are Libertarians

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Consider Joseph Stalin, Christopher Hitchens, and Ayn Rand. The three of them are wildly different on so many levels from each other, from their personalities to their jobs to their philosophies and everything in between. Despite this, there is at least one axis along which they share a commonality that distinguishes them from many other people1: religious belief. All three would agree that there is no god and that organized religion is a bad thing. Did they all come to those views for the same reason? No. Would their common belief be enough reason for them to work together for some delimited common cause? Not necessarily. But there is something to be gained in recognizing this particular commonality and, in the right circumstances, treating all three as units of the same group. We know, for a trivial example, that none of these three can be expected to be spending their Sundays in a church. The commonalities these three share are begging for conceptualization, and most Objectivists would readily apply the English word to all three: atheist.

Consider John Stossel, Radley Balko, and Ayn Rand. The three of them are wildly different on so many levels from each other, from their personalities to their jobs to their philosophies and everything in between. Despite this, there is at least one axis along which they share a commonality that distinguishes them from many other people: political belief. All three would agree that the vast majority of activities between consenting adults should be legal and that the current US government acts far out of the bounds of the proper scope of a government. Did they all come to those views for the same reason? No. Would their common belief be enough reason for them to work together for some delimited common cause? Not necessarily. But there is something to be gained in recognizing this particular commonality and, in the right circumstances, treating all three as units of the same group. For example, I would definitely prefer to have any of the them be a legislator over almost anyone that doesn't share this commonality. The commonalities these three share are begging for conceptualization, but most Objectivists wouldn't apply the English word to the third: libertarian.

The question of whether Objectivists qua Objectivists are libertarians boils down to two other questions: Is there a valid concept that unities Objectivists and non-Objectivists with similar general political views, regardless of the origin of those views? And if so is that concept the same one referred to by the word 'libertarian'? I think the answer to both questions is a definite yes. Objectivists and people like Neal Boortz, Milton Friedman, or my brother absolutely have a lot of important political views in common, especially when contrasted with the political views of the average person. That political similarity is fundamental enough to allow for valid generalizations encompassing those who share it to be formed, such as "people who share this set of political views are regularly unimpressed with the offerings of the major political parties". Moreover, I contend that the group of people who share the political similarity is exactly the group meant when people use the word "libertarian". This is definitely the case for all the non-Objectivist political blogs, newspaper articles, Wikipedia entries, etc. I read online and all of the real-life conversations I have with non-Objectivists. So why do Objectivists typically have such a big problem with describing themselves as libertarian?

I want to make it clear that I'm not claiming Objectivists should join libertarian organizations or that Objectivists and non-Objectivist libertarians should work together on political activism. I simply don't know enough about activism or any particular libertarian organization to say either way. Nor do I think that an Objectivist and a non-Objectivist libertarian would agree on every political issue, or that a non-Objectivist libertarian can be expected to be as consistent in his politics or philosophy as an Objectivist. But those concerns do not invalidate the concept "libertarian", nor do they exclude Objectivists from classification under it.

So, Objectivists who don't consider yourselves libertarians: What gives?

1: This, by the way, is why "atheist" is a real concept and "agremlinist" or "aunicornist" are not: In a world where (effectively) everybody holds a certain view, there is no cognitive utility in grouping those with that view together.