Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mohandas K. Gandhi, Libertarian?

In the end, of course, the case for Mohandas Gandhi as a libertarian is closed by the fact of his pacifism. In online forums where blowhards with little information pontificate on subjects in which they are particularly uninformed, you often run into the assertion that "libertarianism is not pacifism." "Perhaps you have confused libertarianism and pacifism," a self-appointed pundit will intone, with an air of great confidence and certainty. And there is a grain of truth behind all this posturing.

It's true that libertarianism is not pacifism -- at least, not necessarily. On the other hand, pacifism is libertarianism. If you abjure all violence, you must abjure the state. Thus, while not all libertarians are pacifists, all pacifists are libertarians, whether they realize it or not (and, admittedly, a great many pacifists have not realized it). Gandhi, it appears, did realize it.

As all the world knows, Mohandas Gandhi returned to India in 1914, at the age of 44, just after the outbreak of what later came to be called World War I. Over the next three decades he organized and led the movement to free India from British control, a movement that succeeded in its aims.

On January 30, 1948, while on his way to the platform from which he was to address a prayer meeting in Delhi, he was murdered by a Hindu nationalist wielding a pistol -- "assassinated" is the term usually employed, because Gandhi was both a political activist and a public figure. He was 78 years old.

Does he deserve a place in the libertarian tradition? I'd say so.

Does Gandhi Deserve a Place in the Libertarian Tradition?

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