Libertarians often give pragmatists a hard time, and poke fun at supposedly “pragmatic” political solutions. Unfortunately the general public, and the libertarians that poke fun, are dead wrong. They have it absolutely backwards.
First let’s be clear about terms. The basic definition of “pragmatic” is
Practical, concerned with making decisions and actions that are useful in practice, not just theory.
The opposite of pragmatic is usually considered to be “idealistic,” as opposed to realistic. Moderates poke fun at libertarian solutions for being “idealistic.” Again, this is dead wrong.
A society where the right to life, liberty, and property are uncompromisingly upheld is a pragmatic solution. I as a libertarian understand that there will always be murder, theft, corruption, terrorism, and poverty in any society. Maximizing liberty is simply the only moral way to minimize these problems, and it also happens to be the way that minimizes them the most.
It is the moderates’ solutions that are idealistic. They are the ones who want to end drug abuse, end racism, end terrorism, end poverty, etc. Yes, they really think they can end these things! And they are desperately trying, with programs like the war on poverty and the war on drugs. (They also want to prevent natural forest fires.) Proof of their non-pragmatic idealism: What is the point of fighting a drug war if you don’t intend to win? Did Nixon really think he was starting a domestic war that would never end? Bush II wants the war on terror to continue “until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”
Does that Bush-Obama policy sound pragmatic, or is it idealistic?Published in