Authoritarianism vs Libertarianism

By KnoFear

Greetings all!

This post comes a little earlier than normal because I will be heading to Atlantic City on Monday, and I felt that it would be best to create my work before things got too hectic. My school year will be starting shortly, so expect my posting to become more regular due to a set schedule during the coming months. In this post, I intend to take a look at the two sides to power which governments exercise. As a precursor to this, I must denote the fact that authoritarianism and libertarianism are aspects of ideology that are independent of the left or the right. Either side of the political spectrum can exhibit characteristics of both, and governments past and present have done both. I only plan on examining both and providing my stance on which I believe is better, using both facts and opinions.

Moving on, I’ll be starting with authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is a form of government in which the federal entity is very strong and often large, exerting significant control over smaller governmental bodies and citizens. Authoritarian governments typically exhibit few democratic rights, and are generally devoid of much political debate due to repression of the opposition. However, authoritarian governments can react much more quickly to problems (as there is no need for debate over what the solution will be), and can often ensure stability for nations that would split and suffer under more liberalized regimes.

I myself am highly critical of authoritarianism. There are certainly benefits to a government that exercises a strong arm, but that’s exactly it; these benefits rarely extend to the populace. I’m especially critical of military authoritarianism, the kind of government which is run by an armed establishment, void of any politics at all. These kinds of governments don’t even have ideological issues; there is only power, and those who wish to tear it down. I know that some of you may be confused; many of you likely think that because I’m a communist and therefore a supporter of big government, I should love authoritarianism. This is a false stereotype among leftists. Not all of us are fans of authoritarian governments, and as a Trotskyist I can definitely say that I prefer libertarian establishments. Most leftists believe in some form of mass democracy, and this belief runs strong especially among communists. Authoritarian governments on either side of the political spectrum can have problems, and I can be critical of both.

It’s fairly easy for me to attack authoritarian right-wing governments. These systems subjugate people in huge numbers, and destroy any sense of democracy in a flash. The most recognizable example of a government like this is Nazi Germany. We all know the terrible things that occurred under such a government, and why they were horrible. We know why the system crumbled as well. Nazism essentially called for endless war and conquering of territory in order to support itself, and once Germany hit a wall invading Russia the war machine began to falter. Pretty soon, there were people starving on the street, and there were Soviet soldiers taking Berlin. If you need more of an example of why Nazism and fascism were terrible ideas, see my previous post explaining it in careful detail here: [link].

As for authoritarian left-wing governments, the case is a little different. It’s not necessarily harder to rail against these systems, but it must be taken at a different angle due to the way things are run. The clearest example of a leftist authoritarian government would be the Soviet Union under Stalin, one that I’m sure anyone born during the Cold War will know about. Stalin ruled the USSR without much question from the time of Lenin’s death in 1924 until his own in 1953. Certain things about his rule were incredibly poor; his collectivization programs forced peasants to rapidly industrialize an agrarian economy, leading to famine and suffering all over. The Great Purges severely put down opposition, ending any chance of moving towards a democratic model of communism. However, at the same time it was Stalin’s heavy hand and unwillingness to falter which allowed Russia to survive the German invasion during WWII, completing the goals of the Allies in the Eastern Front. It’s possible that had the Soviet Union been forced to deal with democratic process and debate over the war, the Germans could have entrenched themselves further, possibly making the war a lot more deadly or even creating the chance for Nazism to have won. Don’t get me wrong, I would have more than loved if Trotsky had become the Soviet leader after Lenin, and I don’t doubt he would have handled the war effectively, but we can’t know exact results when it comes to alternate history. Based on this model, I find that authoritarian left-wing governments can have some merit to them, but pale in comparison to more libertarian regimes.

And now I will move on to a look at libertarianism. Libertarian governments give more choice to their citizens and generally are quite decentralized, with full democratic processes. However, this can lead to issues over preserving sovereignty and in some cases political gridlock can occur. At an extreme, some libertarian governments suffer from the fact that without enough power to wield, government becomes useless and weak. These are the first signs of a failed state, and are particularly difficult to counteract.

Libertarian right-wing governments contain inherent flaws due to certain aspects of ideology versus control. For example, conservative ideology typically favors large scale spending on and support of national defense. This is ostensibly to serve as a buffer to threats and as a powerful tool for crafting international politics based on military strength. However, a libertarian regime will have trouble getting this kind of thing together due to decentralization of the state. Because the state cannot force money into the military by virtue of its own weakness, it must betray certain values of its ideological base simply to exist. A libertarian economy is also inherently faulty when combined with conservatism; laissez-faire policies have been proven to fail when imposed on a national scale (my example being the Great Depression: [link]). As such, I do not support libertarian right-wing governments; the notion that a society where a government should do so little for its people is simply wrong in my eyes.

I won’t be elaborating too much about why I support libertarian left-wing governments. I have done it before in previous posts, and I already intend on delving further into my own ideology in my next post. I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of that, of course. I can say this: my main reason for supporting a leftist libertarian system is because it gives people freedom, along with all the benefits that leftism strives to guarantee. From universal healthcare to marriage equality, the ideology and the power structure fit well together. This is the cornerstone of my beliefs. Once people realize how much good the left can do, they will choose to side with it. I will say this: there is a limit to how libertarian a government should be. No matter how in line a government is with leftist doctrine, if it has no power then its goals will never be accomplished. This can create a failed state quite easily, so the government must be allocated enough power that it can enact laws without trouble.

That is all for this week’s post, and I hope I’ve provided all that is necessary for you to understand my point. If you have questions or comments, I encourage you to put them down right here. If you prefer to contact me otherwise, I would suggest doing so through my email at, my Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ accounts. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.

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2 Responses to Authoritarianism vs Libertarianism

  1. Abandon TV says:

    In a free society – that is to say one in which the majority of the people respect the non aggression principal (ie the most basic moral principal that it’s wrong to initiate force against others) – we could all live under whatever ‘ism’ we choose.

    For instance, you could choose to live according to your communistic ideals – assuming you could find enough people willing to share in your lifestyle choice, and I’m sure you could.

    Other people could choose to surrender their rights and half their wages to an authority and live under some kind of right wing authoritarian regime. I’m sure there would be plenty of people willing to assume the role of ‘dictatorship service provider’ with all the perks that would entail (not least the right to confiscate and spend half of their wages each week).

    All ideologies and lifestyle choices could be catered for in a free society – assuming there is enough of a demand of course. The only thing NOT permissible in a free society is for anyone to impose their ideologies/ lifestyle choices onto others by force.

    If a particular ideology/ lifestyle choice proves to be NOT sustainable without the participants initiating force against others (such as stealing their wealth and so on) then that lifestyle choice is by definition immoral, non-viable and invalid. This is no different to (for example) sex, which is a perfectly A-OK thing to do until the moment when force needs to be applied against someone else – at which point it becomes immoral, non-viable and invalid. It becomes rape.

    But in a free society you could live a communistic lifestyle (either in an enclosed commune or out in general society – or more likely combination of the two) but you could NOT initiate force against me (or anyone else) to force me to live that way too. As long as you do not impose on others everyone is happy.

    If communism is indeed a valid and morally acceptable lifestyle choice (and I’m not saying it isn’t, don’t get me wrong) why should communists require everyone be FORCED to adopt it even against their will? Obviously they should not. In fact they MUST NOT impose it on others if it is to remain a valid and morally acceptable lifestyle choice – just as sex, or sexuality, or scuba diving or jazz must not be forced on anyone if they are to remain valid and morally acceptable lifestyle choices.

    That seems fair, wouldn’t you agree?

    We already accept this basic non aggression principal when it comes to all other aspects of society and all other lifestyle choices. The very idea of imposing one set of lifestyle choices onto another set of people by force is abhorrent to everyone with any shred of moral integrity. I hope you are no exception and would never find it acceptable to FORCE me to adopt your lifestyle (ie communism) against my will, or advocate for a third party (such as a government) to FORCE me (on your behalf) to adopt your lifestyle against my will.

    After all, ‘the use of intimidation and violence (AKA force) in the pursuit of political aims’ is defined in my dictionary as ‘terrorism’. Therefore to force me to adopt communism, or advocate, petition and fund a third party (such as a government) to force me to adopt communism is – by definition – an act of terrorism.

    To summarise:

    Vive la difference!

    Live and let live.

    Let’s all put down the guns (however veiled under political euphemisms they might be) and let’s all be responsible, peaceful, non aggressive, co-operative grown ups instead.

    I would never dream of initiating force against you to prevent you from adopting a communistic lifestyle if that is your desire. Will you, in return, respect my freedom and right to live as I desire… or are you going to pull a gun on me? 😉

    • This is KnoFear, and I would never force you to adapt communism into your lifestyle. I doubt I’d ever have the power necessary to do that, let alone would I ever have the conviction to trump your choice on the matter. I hope for revolution to take place, revolution that will envelop the world and change it for the better by the strength of the masses. At that point, I doubt force will even be required.

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