March/April 2014

Liberty, Community, and the State — on the Air

Libertarians are often accused of being “anti-community.” That’s an unfair charge, of course. But it’s a plausible one if you assume no difference between community and the state. This mistake is a rather common one, resulting in many misconceived arguments against libertarianism. So what is community? And what is politics? And can we have one without the other? In a new series of weekly podcasts on Libertarianism.org called “Free Thoughts,” editor Aaron Ross Powell and research fellow Trevor Burrus explore the many facets of libertarianism and the ideas that influence it. In the first installment, Powell and Burrus discuss the relationship between politics and community, noting that community is based on voluntary association. By definition, politics is not.

“It’s violence — or, more often, the threat of violence — that sets politics apart, making it fundamentally different from other modes of social interaction,” Powell says. “So when I say we should limit or abandon politics, I mean we should limit the presence of violence in our interactions with others.”

Each week, Powell and Burrus tackle a new issue — ranging from the presence of bias in scientific research to whether or not we have a duty to obey the government — often bringing a guest into the discussion to examine the issue from an outside perspective. In doing so, they are able to consider the principles behind libertarianism not just as a guide to policy, but as a rich system of political thought. Guests have included Tom G. Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Jason Brennan of Georgetown University, and Matt Zwolinski of the University of San Diego.

Libertarianism.org features a collection of additional resources — including a blog, new and classic videos, essays on great classical liberals and libertarians, electronic versions of out-of-print works, book reviews, reading lists, and much more.

“Libertarianism is more than a set of policies about education, health care, defense, and trade,” Powell says. “Behind those, providing their foundation, are ideas and history, the writings and actions of great men and women who have argued and fought for liberty.” Libertarianism.org offers the opportunity to explore that philosophy at a deeper level and introduces people to the principles of liberty that, through application, become those policies.