Libertarianism, Liberalism, Anarchism, Legalism and our Regulated Society.
I am sure we can find a few more ‘ism’s’ to describe different philosophical ideas on how society could or should be managed, but let’s just take a little look at these four and see how the modern world stacks up against them all.
The term libertarianism originally referred to a philosophical belief in free will. The freedom to choose who you associated with, how you raised your children, what type of work you felt was ethical etc.
In basic terms Liberalism is the philosophical belief in freedom and liberty. Freedom to choose; freedom to change your world view, your social and economic status, your religious views and more. Not to be confused with the political ideal of liberalism.
Now Anarchism has often been misunderstood, but in its most basic form it is the philosophical belief that we could self govern. That no government should makes the rules and or enforce such rules.
Legalism is usually referred to in the context of religious or philosophical discipline and enforcing the rules, often without mercy or grace and in many cases to the detriment of the spirit.
What does this all mean for our modern society?
The sexual and spiritual revolution of the 60’s was an example in human history of Liberalism, Libertarianism and even Anarchism growing in strength. Of course, this isn’t the only historical account of these philosophical beliefs rising to ahead, but it is probably one of the best known periods of our modern western society.
Humanity, for the most part, has never fully embraced being ‘ruled’. Historically this cycle of Legalism, followed by periods of Liberalism, Libertarianism and Anarchism have run their course.
The Jewish church created over 800 individual rules to control their people through religious legalism. The Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi ruled with his ministers in what was known as the Qin state. Where inflexible rules were made and the consequences for disobedience were extreme.
As a modern society, we are entering a phase of Legalism once more. There are some who say we have more freedom than we have ever had. Yet we have more little pieces of legislation sneaking through our parliaments every day. In Australia we have so many new laws being implemented:
- Bikies are no longer allowed to meet in groups of two or more or wear their club colours without risk of prosecution.
- The G-20 Summit in Australia has seen drastic new laws introduced which allow police to search anyone in the area for any reason without due course.
- You can ride an electric bike on the road, but not an electric skateboard, even if you are acting responsibly.
- New Anti-terrorism laws have been introduced by the Australia parliament which may bypass freedom, liberty, due course and accountability.
What can we learn from this?
The new laws are being introduced to protect the people and combat fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of life, fear of injury and more.
This is not a new concept as the Jewish and Chinese histories mentioned above show. Yet in history, prophets, theologians, political figures and many others have raised the questions of how to protect society without impeding freedom. Some of the most influential agents of change historically such as Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were not autocratic or legalistic in their methodology. They were liberalists, libertarians, even anarchists of sorts. They believed we could self govern our own behaviour and make wise choices when faced with challenges. Even when faced with violence these figures of freedom showed us a better way.
In this time of fear, can we face it without loading our society with too many rules which risk taking away the very freedoms we fight for?