"What is a libertarian?" goes the question. "A pot-smoking Republican."
With replies like that, it is often a Herculean effort to teach people about freedom in general and about the specifics of libertarianism in particular. That is why, in my opinion, libertarianism has been associated with the Right (I mean the traditional Right, not the neocon kind of right) more than with the Left. Since the libertarian wants less taxes (or no taxes) as well as fewer regulation on businesses, it is not uncommon for libertarians to be labeled as Lovers of Big Business and Haters of the Poor.
In a freer society, sure, businesses and trade would boom, maybe big companies would get bigger as they satisfy more consumer needs, but I believe that a freer society has the potential to bring about many of the proposals that the Left (again, I mean Left in the traditional sense, not its modern version) pine for such as a greater role for the community (instead of, so they say, being "ruled" by companies), community-based organizations and local and small-scale services.
Absent most (or all) regulations and permits on businesses, there is really no reason that communities — perhaps at the city level or even smaller — can’t establish their own power companies or cell phone or Internet or gas distribution services. Neighborhoods would be free from the monopoly of the charters given to companies by city or county governments. Indeed, in most areas, there is only one cable provider. Maybe two if you are lucky. Why? Government interference is probably a major player. Local governments sign a contract with the cable company. The former gets taxes, the latter a monopoly. Nice.
Greater freedom would play a major role for grocery cooperatives, organic food farms, fruit and vegetable kiosks and stands, farmer’s markets and even art fairs. All these things have been attacked by governments who demand permits, licenses and taxes. These days, even giving hungry people food will get you jailed unless you ask for permission by the thugs in power.
Just imagine how much more dynamic communities would be, particularly smaller ones, if they could finally compete on an equal basis with larger companies. Startup costs would involve real costs: no inspection fees, occupational stickers, vocational papers, or hundreds of regulations to follow. It’s looking better for the underdog already.
Communities could easily open hospitals or specialized clinics. They would be able to freely manufacture medicines and take care of the sick. A less litigious society lowers legal costs and thus the price of health services would be lower.
Stronger property rights implies no more eminent domain, reduced taxation, more and better charity and, yes, you would be able to light up without the fear of being prosecuted.
Oh, and by communities, I do not mean a smaller government. I mean a group of people who come together, join resources and start companies, organization, non-profits and other voluntary institutions to address the issues of their families and friends.
So, come on you red pinko, join the ranks of the liberty lovers! Let go of the need to use government guns to force people into fitting your mold. Getting government out of the way makes your goal a real possibility. Voluntary persuasion and leadership is all that is needed.
Manuel Lora [send him mail] is a freelance TV producer and multimedia specialist in New Orleans.