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Debatetarians Divide Us against Each Other

By: Ángel Soto - @angelsotochile - Feb 17, 2015, 12:23 pm

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Everyone wants to look like a liberal these days (or libertarian in US vernacular). It’s a fashionable brand, although many often understand liberalism as it suits them, picking and choosing the most convenient aspects of the label.

Personally, I tend to agree with Tom Palmer of the Cato Institute, who tells us that “if you already act like a libertarian, maybe you should be one.”

Advocates for strains of liberalism, libertarianism, and even libertinism are engaged in internal struggles to show whose philosophy is the purest. That is in contrast to working together and using their platforms, intelligence, and arguments to exercise and defend freedom — rather than merely delineating themselves — and not only on paper.

The greatest threat to freedom, says Peruvian poet Héctor Ñaupari, is not those who want to get rid of it, but “those liberals who do nothing to defend it.”

The question is, who are the real defenders of freedom, and not those who amount to little more than “paper tigers,” as Ñaupari calls them?

Could it be those intellectuals who lecture us about their “absolute truths” with severity and intolerance — all from the safety of European libraries, business-class seats on airlines, boutique café terraces, comfortable homes, or even the rare foray into “the field,” accompanied by applauding entourages?

Is it those business leaders who believe that they can buy ideas with their money, wrap them up in seductive packages, and distribute them as if they were their own products to be consumed and measured?

Could it be the technocrats, kings of statistics, slaves to surveys, management, and public policy, who with their postgraduate degrees issue jaded slogans about their rehashed models? Those who think they’re trendy and elite by issuing pseudo-intellectual criticisms of everything without proposing anything new?

None of the above. These are smoke-and-mirror salesmen, who can’t resist any opportunity to bang the drum and inflate their own egos by “exercising” their freedom.

As Ñaupari says, ethics are born of liberty, and from ethics we can offer respect, tolerance, service, and solidarity. Nothing could be further removed from the consumerist collectivism that the high priests of PowerPoint and acolytes of Excel spreadsheets want to force on us.

Freedom doesn’t require numbers, figures, or indicators. These are mere auxiliary tools. Freedom needs words, feelings, heart: in a word, poetry.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

Ángel Soto Ángel Soto

Ángel Soto is an historian and political scientist. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and a professor at the University of the Andes, Chile. Follow @angelsotochile.