In a Nutshell

Libertarianism started as a left-wing ideology, not a capitalist right-wing ideology, like we currently see in the Libertarian party of the United States. Your confusion comes from the facts that (1) you probably don’t understand socialism, and (2) you believe you hold capital, when you probably do not (unless you’re a multimillionaire or billionaire on Reddit). When you say “the government will take all my shit”, you’re assuming you actually own any shit the government wants to take. As if the vast majority of Americans aren’t renting or paying a mortgage on a house they don’t yet own, making payments on a car they don’t fully own, paying into corporate health care plans that decide when you can see the doctor, and what procedures you can afford. As if your money itself isn’t created by the government, stored in private banks you don’t own, protected for you by the government FDIC.

From Wikipedia:

“ Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and political freedom, emphasizing free association, freedom of choice, individualism and voluntary association.[2] Libertarians share a skepticism of authority and state power”

Fundamentally, Socialists want workers to own the means of production. If a socialist is a farmer, then she wants to own the farmland. If a socialist assembles cars, then he wants to own part of the car factory or its machines. If a socialist pilots airplanes, she wants to own the plane. Socialists believe that the people who do the work should reap the rewards from that work and have a controlling interest in how that work is done. And if workers do not own the means of production, socialists are willing to unionize and fight to put at least some of that power back in the hands of workers.

So as a libertarian, you have to ask yourself whether you identify with the worker, or with the owner of capital? Because if you are a worker, then socialism is going to maximize your autonomy and political freedom. Unionizing with your fellow workers, that’s freedom of association.

Now, socialism takes many forms from a controlled economy (not very libertarian) to market socialism (much more libertarian). With market socialism, you could imagine a free market populated exclusively by employee-owned businesses, with a very small government to handle all the same minimal functions of a capitalist-libertarian government.

The left-libertarian argument is that most people are workers, not owners. And workers can’t really control their own lives if owners are allowed to run amok. That the right-libertarian world view would yield a world run by a handful of elite billionaires, and everyone else would be mercenaries or slaves to those elites. Right-libertarianism would mean autonomy and individualism ONLY for the most elite. Unionization and solidarity among workers could provide autonomy and freedom for most, while still limiting the power and scope of government.

Even more simply: who holds your chains? The government? Or the wealthy elites who control the government?

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