Socialism has become quite the boogyman for libertarians everywhere, especially since the majority of libertarians are more right-wing rather than left. To understand this on a very basic level, take a look at the political compass. It’s not perfect since it lacks distinction between moral beliefs and legal beliefs but can serve as an easy way to (broadly) categorize political identity into four sections: authoritarian left, authoritarian right, libertarian left, and libertarian right.
Both authoritarian quadrants represent a high government presence and little autonomy for the individual. These include communism, monarchism, fascism, and nazism. Most developed nations favor an authoritarian right-leaning government.
Libertarians on the other hand place more power into the individual’s hand with minimal government interference. Libertarian socialism seems infeasible off the bat. As we know it, universal healthcare, welfare, and other social safety nets require some type of government coercion to be functional in any capacity. This is clearly antithetical to libertarian belief, so how could libertarian socialism even be a legitimate ideology?
The ideas on either end of the spectrum are just two sides of the same coin. Libertarian socialists also maintain a belief in personal autonomy and individual freedom on all fronts. They generally reject the concept of having the state control aspects of a person’s life the same way right-libertarians do. The beliefs on the social axis remain on the same wavelength almost entirely but start diverging when entering fiscal policy.
Libertarian socialists tend to adopt similar philosophies as authoritarian communists and socialists but differ in the means of achieving that goal. They place heavy significance on the people owning the means of production and avoiding becoming wage slaves. In their ideal civilization, they would achieve this by decentralizing power or abolishing authoritarian institutions and utilizing trade unions, libertarian municipalism, and communes. Furthermore, they are anti-capitalist by nature and can view corporations and wage slavery as active infringements of their rights as citizens. This is a big leap from right-wing libertarianism as they typically view a free market as the ultimate economic system and want to operate within a capitalist framework.
Like any other system of governing, the interpretation of human rights is the biggest factor in determining whether or not one thinks a political ideology is legitimate. Anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-communism are both regularly subjects to dialogues stating that they could never function as envisioned. The interpretation is unimportant; the defining factor of libertarianism is a right to choose to live life as they see fit without interference from the state.
Libertarian socialism at its core espouses these ideas. They believe in abolishing government and placing power into the individual’s hands and focus on a voluntary form of living. Capitalism is just another form of authoritarianism to them and is included in the overall deconstruction of governing bodies. Whether or not a libertarian socialist society could function is another story, but they do in fact maintain a distrust of government and a belief in personal liberty.
Richard Douglas writes on firearms, defense and security issues. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a regular contributor at The National Interest, 19FortyFive, The Daily Caller and other publications.