Reconciling My Normative and Descriptive Thoughts

A fellow “small L libertarian” with whom I happily engage in thoughtful debate, but far too seldom for my tastes, recently reminded me of the one glaring point upon which we diverge the most…

His normative (how things ought to be) libertarian/anarchist ideology vs my descriptive (how things are) realist worldview.

This is not to say my “brother from another mother” and fellow libertarian is flawed in his thinking and I’m not, because that is not remotely the case. However, staying on the descriptive/realist side of things is a safeguard against being frequently disappointed by our country’s current political climate.

Staying in the realm of the descriptive allows me to maintain my perspective and to see (and consider) all sides of a political argument.

Not that my friend lacks this perspective, he is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. However, I don’t wish to spend my time defending or debating a political position that is more theoretical than pragmatic.

I think small L libertarianism is more pragmatic than other political ideologies and as I said in a previous post, I’m a libertarian because I’d rather align myself with an ideology that promotes freedom of the individual vs one that primarily promotes collectivism.

However, I reconcile this obvious dichotomy by understanding that human beings are fundamentally social (read:collectivist) creatures, ergo, humans tend to embrace collectivist solutions to problems over individualist solutions.

As Leonard Nimoy in his iconic role as Spock said “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; or the one”. As logical as that statement is, human beings are also selfish creatures who often put their own individual interests above the interests of society when given the opportunity and not always for the good of society.

That said, I appreciate my libertarian, nigh-anarchist brother’s normative perspective because of the salient point he frequently reminds me of…

The most oppressed group in any society is the individual.

-The Rational Ram

2 thoughts on “Reconciling My Normative and Descriptive Thoughts

  1. Philosophically and logically, there is no middle ground with artificial collectives like the State. You either believe a collective can simply grant themselves powers and rights none of the individuals within that group possesses naturally, by simple majority, including power/ownership/control over you…or you do not.

    Thus, what you call “normative” is simply my refusal to believe a collective can simply grant itself non-existent powers and rights over me because they possess a monopoly on force and violence, and then all the downstream thinking on any specific issue that traces back to that premise. What you call “descriptive” is acquiescence to that which cannot be morally or logically defended under any possible system of natural rights, and acceptance of the quasi-slave status quo.


    1. While I agree with you from an ideological perspective, the realities of power dynamics among humans is that there will always be collectives, such as the State, to deal with.

      In short, humanity as a group seeks to be governed by the few willing and able to do the governing.

      Even natural laws reflect this aspect of human nature.

      The problem is that most people are unwilling and/or unable to participate in their governance. They wait for others to do their thinking and hard work for them.

      This isn’t a modern problem, it is problem that has plagued man throughout his history. Not to go Machiavellian on you, but politics is about power and tyranny happens when the uneducated and lazy have a larger voice or a bigger platform than the educated and motivated.

      There is a reason a totalitarian government run by despots imprison, exile, or kill the educated dissidents first.


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