The Moral Libertarian Horizon Wiki

Moral libertarianism looks like just another political ideology on the surface. It is a certain way of justifying a political attitude, liberalism, after all. A lot of what I have written about moral libertarianism references political history and political philosophy. However, I would actually consider moral libertarianism even more of a cultural movement. That is, the cultural aspects of moral libertarianism are perhaps even more important, and even more profound, than the political aspects. Let me explain.

Moral libertarianism is all about the equal distribution of liberty, and hence moral agency. Politics really needs to be changed for this to occur. However, politics alone cannot bring about this equality. If liberty and hence moral agency is to be equally distributed among each individual, without anyone having power over another, society will have to undergo an overall cultural change.

Let's start with free speech. Free speech is an inherent requirement of moral libertarianism, because if one is to have full moral agency over themselves, one needs to be able to at least voice their moral ideas without restriction. Free speech has theoretically existed in most of the West for quite a long time now. But I have to stress, it is only free speech in theory. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a need for the Free Speech Movement, as recently as the 1960s. In the recent Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, the No camp felt that it was less socially acceptable to voice their opinions. But my feeling was that the Yes camp actually felt more of this pressure, especially in areas where No won, even if only by a moderate margin. Either way, it shows that neither camp fully believed that they could say what they believed, wherever they were, without any social consequences. In fact, free speech does not really fully exist, where people can be easily offended by the difference of opinion. Instead, people need to be able to think rationally and resolve differences of opinion peacefully and rationally. Changing this culture of easy offense should be a big part of moral libertarians' work going forward.

Another reason why free speech could be effectively restricted is because expressing unorthordox opinion can bring discrimination on oneself in many parts of society. The sociological term for this phenomenon is the Overton Window. Ideas within the Overton Window can be socially acceptably expressed, those outside the window cannot. Over time, the Overton Window can shift, for example acceptance of homosexuality was outside the window a century ago, but is now firmly inside it. Since expressing ideas outside the Overton Window can come with a personal cost, most people refrain from doing so. Therefore, the existance of the Overton Window phenomenon means that there is not complete free speech. Again, moral libertarians should seek to change this, perhaps by expanding the Overton Window rapidly until there is no longer anything outside it.

Furthermore, the political aims of moral libertarianism can only be achieved with concurrent cultural change, including most importantly the way we think about government. While a few liberals and libertarians throughout history have flirted with the idea of having a non-democratic but very liberal governance, hypothesizing that where governments do not have to bend to democracy they can be more liberal, history has actually shown that democratically elected governments are the only species of liberal government. This is not surprising, as non-democratic governments need to maintain their rule against popular pressure, and suppressing dissent is almost always required for that. Furthermore, under moral libertarianism and the principle of equal moral agency, unavoidably collective decisions should be decided as close to one person, one vote as possible, and only democracy is compatible with this. Therefore, liberals have to support democracy, and work towards governance that is both liberal and democratic. Since in democracies, things are decided by majority mandate, if we want a liberal governance under a democratic system, we need to try our best to persuade our fellow citizens to take up liberal attitudes of thinking. If we are not successful in this, we will not succeed in any of our political aims. With the rise of the idea of 'illiberal democracy' in some parts of the world, as well as the increasingly collectivist attitude of some parts of the Western left in recent years, promoting liberal ideas about the role of government is of particular urgency in every Western democracy.

One important way moral libertarians can promote liberal ideas about governance is to promote methods of change that do not require government intervention. For example, if we want to raise awareness about certain issues, don't ask for the government to include it in the public school curriculum. Instead, use blogs, social media and word-of-mouth. Of course, where those with opposing ideas want to use governments and public schools to advance their agenda, we should consider that cheating, and protest strongly.