Authoritarianism vs. Libertarianism

So far in our analysis, we’ve framed up a continuum with the extremes at either end: the absolute totalitarian state at one end and a void of any state at the other: anarchy. In the last post, we modified the terms to accommodate how this applies to state control over the economic arena.

In this post, I’ll modify the terms a bit more to describe the control of the state more generally over society at large:

Authoritarianism v. Libertarianism

Okay, so it’s self-explanatory enough! But allow me, if you will, to offer a bit of commentary. Let’s start with authoritarianism.

Authoritarianism, in essence, is related to totalitarianism. Combining various definitions and descriptions of the terms and my own study of history and policy, I define a condensed definition of authoritarianism as dominance of the state over the individual and society (duh!). A basic Google search of the term offers this definition from Wikipedia: “a form of government dominated by strong central power and limited political freedoms.” A key finding of my study into the various different political applications of the term is a lack of accountability on the part of the state.

This, too, operates on a range. As the state becomes increasingly dominant over individuals and society, it becomes increasingly authoritarian (especially as it loses accountability and increasingly limits political opposition).

Now for libertarianism. At some point in the near-term, I certainly intend to offer a more detailed specification on the history of libertarianism (especially how, if you lived in the 1700s, the modern day libertarian would have been regarded as a liberal), but for now, a few basics must suffice. Libertarianism, contrary to the views many readers will have of pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-marijuana activists, is merely related to the term liberty. As states have less and less dominance over individuals and society, that society becomes increasingly libertarian. In essence: more free.

Complicated? Not a bit, of course! But I would be remiss if I did not offer a quick description of these terms and include them in our fundamentals.

Now, this does not preclude the idea that libertarianism is most certainly a strict ideology based in property rights and holding the belief that government should be as minimal as possible in all areas and functions (and certainly, the ultimate extent of this is debated among those of the libertarian ideology). But it is often important to understand generalized terms prior to understanding the specific ideologies that adopt those terms as labels.


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