Somalia is often called a Libertarian utopia, despite actually having strict laws, a myriad of warlord and anything but a free mark. This is not a place for liberty
Somalia is often called a Libertarian utopia, despite actually having laws, a myriad of warlords and anything but a free market.

A constant refrain against Libertarianism and Liberty comes in the form of asking if any countries are Libertarian or pointing out that no country is Libertarian. Anyone who has been involved in debating on behalf of Libertarianism for quite a while will have been subject to this statement on a number of  occasions. Sometimes, it is just an innocent inquiry by genuinely curious individuals while often, it is used as a method to attempt to discredit the ideology.

The reasoning for this claim by the opponents of Liberty is that if an ideology has never been put into practice, then it has no credence as an ideology. This is, of course, illogical, as by this very logic, no ideology should ever have been credible. Every ideology in its infancy started out as a theory, with no practical application. Through a process of rational evaluation, spontaneous order and decent marketing, ideologies have been adopted throughout history.

Libertarianism, as an organised political movement, is relatively new. It is a non-violent movement and anti the perceived popular form of revolution. Libertarianism recognises the dangers of the mob and, as a result, resents protest action and mass mobilisation as populism in action. As a result of this, Libertarians can’t appeal to the voting crowd. We don’t shout catchphrases. We don’t have hand signs. We don’t have rallies with thousands of screaming zombies. What we have are rational individuals coming to accept Liberty on their own terms. That is the nature and the goal of Libertarianism.

No country has adopted Libertarianism as its ideology, but almost all decent countries have drawn inspiration from Libertarian thought and policy. To add to this, no decent country has a dominant ideology. It is ridiculous to ask for an example of a Libertarian nation when almost no country in the world has an ideology. Those which do, historically and presently, are not pleasant places to live and are arguably not even fulfilling their ideology, just the logical results of it.

What Libertarianism as a global theory has contributed to the world is policy and ideas. Libertarian thinkers have changed the way we think about economics, politics, law and our rights as human beings. Libertarianism, as a theory, encompasses most of the ideas that free society takes for granted – legal equality, free speech, free markets, government accountability… the list goes on.

While it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Libertarianism didn’t invent all of these, the same can be said of all ideologies. Ideologies are a collection of prescriptions for society. They are formed from pre-existing ideas. Socialism didn’t invent the idea of material equality. The idea existed before and the ideology developed from that idea. In the same way, Libertarianism developed as a collection of policy prescriptions finding commonality in their advocacy of human freedom.

When dealing with people who aren’t sure if they are Libertarians or not, I often bring up a check-list. If they support the overwhelming number of prescriptions, then they are a Libertarian. The same goes for other ideologies.

Post-Classical Liberalism (the forefather of Libertarianism), the collective ideology of freedom, has made leaps and bounds for society. We’ve seen the growth of liberal democracy with accountability, separation of powers and independent judiciaries. We’ve seen the acceptance of legal equality, where an individual grows by their intellect, labour and thrift rather than inherited station. While the inheritance of wealth may contribute to innate material inequality, Libertarians espouse and have worked to form a society where anyone can climb out of the hole, without harming others directly or indirectly.

Some practical issues that Libertarians have fought for and won recently are the legalisation of same sex marriage and decriminalisation of marijuana. We continue to fight for shrinking bloated government, reducing criminal national debt, retaining our natural rights, ending wars and making sure that humans remain free or are freed wherever they may be.

As Libertarians, we see these as worthy goals. It’s not about if America deigns to adopt them, or if Switzerland has Libertarianism written as its national ideology. We espouse these virtues and these policies because we have come to the rational conclusion that they are the best for society. The policies that have been applied have shown themselves to be a boon for the societies that have accepted them. As a rational society, we hold the virtues of freedom to be self-evident. In this regard, Libertarianism is a successful ideology – with or without a motherland.

Nicholas Woode-Smith is co-founder of the Rational Standard and its Technical and Marketing Director. He is a student at the University of Cape Town, with majors in Politics, Philosophy and Economic History. He is the youngest council member of the Institute of Race Relations in history and the Regional Director of Southern Africa for African Students For Liberty. He also writes science fiction – prominently, the Warpmancer and Cape Zero series.