An oft-repeated slight of libertarians by statists, is that people tend to support libertarianism when they’re young, but reject it as they mature. Supposedly this is because only immature or juvenile people would see merit in libertarian philosophy.
Aside from the obvious question whether this claim as a whole is even true, it is also seriously begging the question if, and why, libertarianism would be popular with people that are immature, and less so with people that are mature.
In order to answer this question properly, one simply needs to look at just what the political philosophy of libertarianism and the overall political attitude called statism represent.
First of all, we need to comprehend just what makes immaturity and what makes maturity. In my estimation, immaturity in an incapability to deal with the world, with reality, and with life itself without what one might call a “security blanket” close by. Reality, the world, and life itself can be very rough and unforgiving, and can for these reasons be very scary for those with little stamina or a solid backbone. Just as they would be for children. How will people find and keep a job, in order to be able to pay bills? How will they get healthcare in the case of a medical issue? How will they deal with the existence of injustice and crime in society? The list of worries about the reality of existence goes on and on. For many, it may be simply too much to bear, and the notion of having to navigate life independently, maturely and without the constant presence of a guiding and protecting presence may resemble a nightmare. Immature people will tend not to take the consequences of their actions and decisions very seriously, so long as there is a safety feature that can be used when things may get dire. To be completely dependent on oneself if one has to face the consequences of one’s actions and decisions, would certainly either act as a wake-up call for those looking to live life irresponsibly, or confront them with those hard consequences if they resume their irresponsible and immature lifestyle.
In our youths, we have parental figures that basically allow us to live life without having to worry too much about the consequences of our actions. Those parental figures will generally take the blame, and the responsibility of any negative consequences. They will bail us out; they will pay the costs of the damage we do; they will offer us the services we need free of charge. And all of this, they will do provided we accept that we generally have to live by their rules and obey their directions. As adults, we go it alone, decide for ourselves what we spend our money on, choose who we associate with, buy the services we need, and face the costs of the damage we may do.
As we mature, we take more and more responsibility for our own lives and our decisions, and we accept more and more that making bad decisions will confront us with the consequences of them. We realize we cannot have it all, and we must make choices that we have to live with.
When we look at the state, what we see is essentially no more than a political form of a parental figure on the societal level. It is there to ‘guide’ us, to ‘bail us out’, to defend and protect us from the angry outside world, to ‘teach’ us, to ‘soothe’ us and ‘nurture’ us, to ‘fix’ things for us, and to instill us with ‘norms and values’. The price for this parental replacement of our parents at the level of the family unit, is that, just as with our parents at the family unit, we have to live by its rules and obey its directions. We are supposed to love our government and our state, the way we loved our parents as children (and usually continue to do so). We are supposed to be loyal to it, and trust it, preferably without many conditions or questions. We are supposed to see it as our own, much more so than other states. As we would fight to defend the honor of our parents, we must be willing to fight for the honor of our state.
Is there any question that the arrangement that most resembles life as a dependent and immature person, is the statist arrangement? Is there any question that the move toward maturity; the move toward independence and dealing with life and reality as a grown and responsible person, most resembles what is expected of one from the philosophy of libertarianism?
There is a reason that protective family bonds are often associated with the state. The “motherland” or “fatherland”, the “mother” tongue, Big Brother, etcetera.
The state serves the function of the parent to its citizens. It can be a nurturing mother, a stern father, or both. It serves as a security blanket for people who fear the unknown that a stateless society would represent. It is no coincidence that a stateless society is associated with “chaos” and “Survival of the fittest”. For if one kind of person is not regarded as fit enough to be self-reliant and independent, it is the child. It is the state that takes care of people through various departments and the provision of services, such as public education and healthcare, because the assumption is not only that most people cannot take care of these necessities themselves in a voluntary manner; they should not even be expected to. Are we going to leave the ‘weak’ to their own devices? Would it not be essentially the same as parents leaving their children to their fate? The state serves to protect its citizens from threats internal and external, but threats from itself are not regarded as threats, but as discipline for disobedience. The state tells us what ethics, norms and moral values we ought to have, just as parents try to instill the ‘correct’ values in us, because parents assume they know better than children, and to know more about life. The state feels it is its responsibility, at least publicly, to treat us as equals amongst each other, and to remedy any great inequalities between us citizens that exists. It admonishes those of us who are not eager to share what is theirs, as it would admonish its children when they are not eager to share with their play mates. Despite this, both parents as well as the state do not actually themselves share all they have, for they are regarded to be superior and to have special privileges by virtue of their role. Especially in modern times, the state even uses verbiage about “free” services, the way a child receives free services from its parents. Of course, in reality there aren’t free services in either case. In both cases, money first has to be earned in order for any services to be provided at all, and in both cases loyalty, obedience and respect for their dictates are default demands.
Because money does not come out of thin air, the expenses of the state must come from somewhere else, and the only place that generates money is people in the productive sector. So one of the few differences is that in the case of the state, the “children” are always paying for their own services. The more successful ones are admonished for having more, and perhaps not being willing enough to share, and the less successful ones are soothed and reassured, while it costs the state itself nothing. The state redistributes resources from its citizens the way parents may redistribute toys between children, the difference being, of course, that children all get their toys as presents, whereas citizens actually earn their resources through labor.
The analogy between parental figures at the family level, and parental figures at the societal and national level is so clear it is baffling how critics of libertarianism even dare suggest that libertarians, not they themselves, are the immature and dependent ones, desperately needing a government as a security blanket to feel safe in a scary reality.
Libertarians are the ones no longer needing mommy or daddy to guide them through life, to pay their way, to soothe their egos, to instill the correct values in them, to be there to support them when life seems unfair. Statists are the ones that do.
Grown-ups embrace liberty and the responsibility that comes with it. Immature people fear it.
It is statism, not libertarianism, that is tailor made for immature people.