This is the best description I’ve been able to come up with for the fundamental principle behind liberaltarianism. A liberaltarian society should be organized to actively support the three goals of freedom, fairness, and friendship.
I kind of borrowed from the French motto “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, but I had been germinating the ideas before I realized the slogan was a good fit. I don’t know too much about the intellectual history of the French motto, so please don’t try to associate me with some horrible events during the reign of terror. I’m just borrowing the textual form, not the history.
Our society should support freedom. Allowing people to do what they want is an inherent good. But true freedom is not just the right to do something, but also the ability to do it. We should be concerned with all of the ordinary day to day roadblocks that prevent people from actually doing what they want with their lives even though they would have the legal right to do it. For example, how many people would like to start a small business, but don’t because they can’t get health insurance. Economic coercion can be as powerful an enemy of freedom as political coercion.
Our society should support fairness. I avoided saying equality because I don’t believe that giving everyone exactly the same is the only possible way to be fair. In fact, everyone gets exactly the same is often not fair. One person can deserve more than another based on their actions and choices. But society and every individual has a moral responsibility to be fair to others. Getting someone to agree to a deal that’s bad for them because you have information they don’t, or playing off a weakness you know they have is wrong. “Anything goes as long as they sign a contract” is not the definition of fairness. You have a responsibility to be fair to others even if you could take advantage of them and get away with it.
Our society should support friendship. We could have a society that is perfectly free and perfectly fair, but still not be the perfect society. Everyone could scrupulously keep to themselves, not restrict each other’s freedom, and always give others the bare minimum required by fairness, and yet I think we would want more than that. We would want a society where people want to be nice to others. I’m not saying the government should force people to like each other. I’m saying that our social norms and customs should clearly communicate that caring for each other is the right way for human beings to be. And we shouldn’t create legal and economic structures that encourage and reward people for acting like Ebeneezer Scrooge.