Libertarianism vs. Communitarianism:

Government or World Organizations are considered “coercive institutions.”  They exist to “…employ force or the threat of force to control the behavior of their members” according The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (p. 718).  Throughout the ages there is a plurality of opinions (Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Green, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Linen, etc.) about how this “coercive threat” from government should be applied.

Anarchists believe coercive institutions should be replaced by social and economic organizations based on voluntary contractual agreement.  According to anarchist philosopher Blanqui, people are encouraged to resort to violence to overthrow the powers that be in order to create a new system.  (But is this not simply replacing a coercive institution with another?)

John Locke

Liberalism tries to justify coercive institutions by promoting liberty (freedom).  For Locke, liberty requires a constitutional monarchy of parliamentary government.  From here, there are two interpretations of application:libertarianism and welfare-liberalism.

Libertarianism teaches there should be laws that constrain people from doing what they otherwise could do.  From this view, only a “night-watchman state” that protects against force, theft, and fraud can be justified.  (This is the ultimate freedom, because you are truly free so long as your freedom doesn’t impinge on anyone else)

Welfare-liberalism, on the other hand, puts constraints on liberty that prevent people from doing what they otherwise could do.  In other words, “failing to help people in need does restrict their liberty.” (p. 719)  Welfare-liberals maintain it is the role of the state to require a “guaranteed social minimum and equal opportunity…” (p. 719)

Both Libertarians and Welfare-liberals are committed to individualism, and believe the role ofcoercive institutions (such as the State) is to promote those rights.

Communitarianism rejects individualism.  “It maintains that the rights of individuals are not basic and that the collective can have rights that are independent of and even opposed to what liberals claim are rights of individuals.  According to communitarians, individuals are constituted by the institutions and practices of which they are a part, and their rights and obligations derive from those same institutions and practices.” (p. 719)  In plain language, conform to the standard of thecoercive institution and then you have freedom within the standards of the coercive institution to express individualism.  (But this is where freedom begins to be lost, because you have to conform to a social norm in your thoughts and deeds)

Fascism takes this to the next level.  Fascists advocate an Authoritarian State with limited rights for individuals.  An example is National Socialism of Nazi Germany, which was anti-Semitic and militarist.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s