Thursday, July 08, 2021

Libertarianism and "Generations"

Over the last few years, I've run into a number of individuals -- most of them, just to be clear, fine libertarian thinkers and activists -- who identify themselves as "second-generation libertarians." I take this to mean that one or both of their parents are/were libertarians, and that they were raised in an environment where libertarianism was discussed and/or taught, and/or exemplified.

I don't like the term "nth-generation libertarian."

Libertarianism is a philosophy, not an eye color. It's not something genetically inherited or magically transmitted. Even if it's discussed, taught, or exemplified, it has to be knowingly accepted or adopted.

From this, it seems to me that one of these three things are likely to come along with the whole idea of "nth-generation" libertarianism:

  1. The "nth-generation" libertarian is selling herself or himself short, not taking due credit for having done the work to learn about libertarianism, having recognized libertarianism as a correct philosophy, and having adopted and practiced it. Sure, you can be grateful to your parents for having exposed you to it, but you were the one who decided to be or not be a libertarian. In my experience, this is probably the most frequent case.
  2. The "nth-generation" libertarian doesn't really understand what libertarianism is, and the "generation" claim is no different than assuming one's self to be a "nth-generation" Christian because mommy and daddy were Christians, even though one has not done whatever things that particular type of Christian entails (e.g. being "saved" or "born again" in typical modern American evangelical Christianity).
  3. In the worst case, probably an extension of the previous one, the "nth-generation" libertarian sells whatever he or she happens to believe as "libertarian," treating that "nth-generationalism," rather than the actual merit of the ideas involved, as the test of what constitutes libertarianism.
What do you guys think?

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