This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on WordPress
“1960s Counterculture and Libertarianism”, seems like a strange title to me. And you might say that, “well its the title of your piece, so why did you call it that?” That would be partly true, but the title of this piece has to do with the title of Brian Doherty 2007 book about 1960s counter-culture and libertarianism. But why is that a strange title to me? I’ll tell you anyway, because libertarianism wasn’t even a term back then. They came around in the early 1970s with the creation of the Libertarian Party. Which isn’t much bigger today then it was back in 1972 or so. And I’m not saying there weren’t Libertarians back in the 1960s, because of course there were. Milton Friedman comes to mind and even Ayn Rand, but they were called other things.
People who believed in individual liberty back then were called Liberals and Conservatives. But they had different versions of what individual liberty meant to them. And I’m not talking about the Religious-Right or the New Left. But true Liberals and Conservatives not trying to change the definitions of those terms, but who truly believed in liberalism and conservatism. Conservatives who believes in conserving liberty and conserving the state and not expanding it. And Liberals who believed in expanding liberty for people who don’t have it and protecting liberty for people who don’t have it yet.
And that is where Libertarians come in and that is what gave them their opening. Because Libertarians didn’t want to conserve the state, or expand the state. But they want to expand liberty and they believe the way you that is by shrinking the state and getting government almost completely out of people’s lives. And just leaving government to protect our freedom from predators who would take it away. And by doing this both economic and personal liberty would be expanded to people who don’t have it yet. Which is much different from the Conservative who wants to conserve freedom and decentralize government, but not shrink it. And the Liberal who wants to use government to expand liberty both personal and economic.
One thing that I believe Libertarians can at least respect if not like about the 1960s counter-culture movement. Not the New Left crowd that was not just anti-war and use of force from government and wanting to tear down the American liberal democratic form of government and economic system. And replace it with a socialist collectivist model. But the anti-establishment movement that believed people should be free to live their own lives and even live differently from their parents and grandparents. Which is really individual liberty is about, right. The liberty for the individual to live their life the way they see fit, just as long as they aren’t hurting any innocent person.