Freedom vs. Safety
David brin says: “Nobody makes me choose between freedom for my children and their safety!” That’s fighting spirit, and I love it! The idea that there’s a tradeoff between freedom and safety is the basis to all the post-9/11 hysteria and the resulting surveillance state. It’s also a proven strategy for pitting public opinion against ACLU types, let alone anarchists. I’m probably not quite as sold on the idea that there is absolutely no tradeoff between freedom and safety, but I’m so thrilled to see someone refuse to have their ideals pitted against one another, that I too wish to make a “no compromises” statement. Several, in fact.
Liberty vs. Equality
This is the big one. Strict NAPster libertarians of course insist that equality is a prerequisite for liberty, and that libertarian thought endorses egalitarianism—specifically analytical egalitarianism, according to Steven Horwitz, writing for the think tank Foundation for Economic Education:
Too often it is used to mean “equalizing outcomes” by the hand of the State as opposed to treating people equally and accepting that unequal, but just and socially desirable, outcomes will result. Libertarians who rightly defend such inequalities of outcomes need to recognize that those are only possible in a world where the assumption of analytical egalitarianism operates and where the State treats all humans as having equal moral standing and equal capacity for free choice. Equality should not be a dirty word for libertarians since equality of liberty and equality before the law are in our intellectual DNA.
Put another way, equality should not be a dirty word, because equality (like everything else) should be so narrowly defined as to be a formality. Basically the old right-wing canard “equality of opportunity, not of results.” Horwitz is advocating an even narrower understanding of equality, basically “equality at birth.” From that point forward, life is a rat race, and to the victors go the spoils. Like most Americans of my generation, I was raised with the mantra “you can be anything you want when you grow up.” Perhaps a variant on Brin’s statement above is in order: Nobody makes me choose between freedom for my children and their equality with their peers when it comes to life chances! Just to be clear, I think analytical egalitarianism is part of life chances, but access to resources is another part, and social capital is another.
Opportunity vs. Security
Whenever there is Euro-bashing (i.e. social democracy bashing) there is the rhetorical question: Would you rather live in an opportunity society or a security society? Hello? Economic security is a foundation on which economic opportunity is built. The freedom to take entreprenoorial risks often rests on some fall-back position, such as bankruptcy law. I’d rather live in an opportunity and security society.
when compromises must be made
Like I said earlier, I’m not 1,000% convinced that there are no trade-offs. I understand the idea of competing goals, or multiple objectives for optimization. As a matter of principle, we should go to great lengths to verify that whatever compromises we make between our most cherished values are as efficient as possible, that is, and we should always push the envelope and try to expand the envelope when it comes to feasible combinations of these factors.