I like thinking about the tension between optimism and pessimism in forming a realistic outlook on life. For example, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe notes, the right-winger or conservative can be characterized as one who believes in mankind’s fundamental inequality, whereas the left-winger or progressive believes in man’s fundamental equality. But both appear to be true, even within Hoppe’s conservative form of libertarianism: even if people have different abilities, they all share in equal dignity, which in libertarian thought means in particular the right to be free from aggression against their persons and property.

So I can characterize myself as a pessimist in that I believe in humanity’s fundamental inequality and in the futility of trying to engineer equal outcomes, or even equal opportunity. If people are conceived and born with different abilities, even the most meritocratic society will sort them into a hierarchy, and this would true under a utopian libertarian regime where everything is organized by voluntary contract and association.

At the same time, I am optimistic in my belief that liberty and the abolition of the oppressive state will bring about a maximization of human flourishing. So I trust in humanity’s ability to work out optimal solutions for society’s problems when they are given the maximum freedom to do so. Having said that, I still believe that liberty is morally superior to statism, and that even if free individuals cannot always work out the best solutions, and even if it were possible to engineer the perfect society, it would be immoral to take away people’s liberty by force in order to achieve this.

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