Anyway, Unity has written a rather good post over at Liberal Conspiracy—following on from this piece of ill-informed, bigoted idiocy (which I commented on here)—in which he tries to define the difference between libertarians and "libertarian" Tories. You really do need to read the whole thing, but his conclusion runs thusly...
So, it you’re at all unsure as to how to spot a Tory masquerading as a libertarian, just ask them whether they believe that victims of crime, or just plain old law-abiding citizens have different rights to criminals.
If the answer’s ‘yes’, then you’ve got yourself a Tory (or a cabinet minister).
If the answer’s ‘no’ and they go to explain that both have the same fundamental rights but that the criminal’s freedom to exercise those rights may be legitimately, and temporarily, constrained in order to protect the rights and freedoms of others, then you’ve got yourself a liberal or libertarian.
Which is fair enough and certainly a reasonable test.
Meanwhile, inspired by Unity's article and in a must-read post, the lovely Bella Gerens addresses the all-too-often-levelled charge that libertarians are selfish.
So let’s lay to rest, once and for all, this ‘libertarians want the world to revolve around them and fuck everyone else’ crap.*
Yes – libertarians are self-centred. I’ve said it, it’s true, amen brother. Of course we are concerned with the self. The self is the only entity over which we do have and should have control. A libertarian is not concerned with others, because it is not for us to say what is good for others, or what others should and shouldn’t do. Our comprehension of others is determined by how those others affect the self. A libertarian refrains from affecting others in ways he would not himself want to be affected. A libertarian respects others who hold this same principle, because he knows they too have selves with which they are concerned.
Is that selfish? Yes. Is it wrong? No, because the self is always the first point of reference. First, not only. I’m afraid there is no getting around that, however much others might wish there were. It is impossible to act without reference to the self.
Libertarians, in the main, have no objection to helping others, or directing their concern toward others, as long as it is done voluntarily, in the absence of third-party coercion.
The wife then goes on to illustrate, pretty bloody clearly, who the real enemy is here—designated as Person B or "the state, the welfare system, socialism, whatever". Person B is the enemy because Person B deliberately sets out to try to ensure that Persons A and C—one with resources and one without, respectively—hate each other.
We all know Person B—and it isn't just "the state". As I said earlier, it is those who believe that they "should be sovereign over the individual".
We broadly call them socialists and they are the ones who believe that there is a one-size fits all way to satisfy people's needs rather than recognising that there are at least six billion needs and wants.
And remember, anyone who advocates this kind of attitude does not expect to the one being pushed around—they expect to be giving the orders.
As such, one could coherently argue that it is socialists that are the truly selfish people here, for they believe that their way of running things is inherently better than anyone else's. Worse, they believe that their wants and needs to trump everyone else's.
They are the enemy and, at the risk of repeating myself, they are winning the war.
UPDATE: Marius Ostrowski sums up the libertarian position in one long sentence.
The realisation that the only sphere over which anyone has, or should have, influence is the self; the belief that everyone has the same basic rights unless they forfeit them by attempting to transgress beyond their legitimate sphere of influence; and the acceptance that needs, desires and wants (broadly speaking, conceptions of the good) are unique to each individual and should be left to individuals to realise through own effort and negotiation, with the implication that there is no such thing as objective societal good, merely a whole lot of individual views that may or may not agree with each other.
* I am not really going to go into why Right and Left are inappropriate when describing libertarians—suffice to say that a belief in universal liberty does not really belong in either camp.
As I've said before, I prefer the torus view of politics—in which case, libertarianism is on the diametrically opposed side to authoritarianism. Left and Right, however, travel their respective ways around the torus away from libertarianism and towards authoritarianism.