Debate:Are we too hard on libertarians?

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Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by Wazza.

I, for one, find the hard-libertarian philosophy (as opposed to simple civil libertarianism) every bit as disgusting as authoritarianism. But I know that what I find disgusting is not necessarily a measure of what is right or wrong. I have created this page as a place for discussion of whether pages about libertarian ideas here at Rationalwiki are too harsh on them, as has been alleged in recent days on some talk pages. Have at it! — Unsigned, by: Wazza / talk / contribs 2009-07-08T10:40:13

Libertarianism, in its complete form, is a very ridged philosophy. My problem with libertarianism is pretty much the means is all that matters with no concern for he ends. They have a philosophy of complete deregulation in economics and peoples lives, let the free market decide every thing, and they kind of hope for a good out come. That said liberals dream of a fair and equitable world, with little concern on the cost of getting there. - π 11:15, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
The distinction here between means and ends is a false one. So while a conservative or progressive may argue that doing X will result in desirable thing Y, the libertarian would point out that doing X also results in undesirable thing Z, and so X should not be done. The libertarian is arguing that the conservative or progressive is not taking all of the consequences into consideration, or that the consequences are really not desirable. Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
Libertarianism is 'I'm all right Jack, keep your hands off of my stack' dressed up to look pretty. It's basic precepts come from cloud cuckoo land and, when taken to their logical consequences, are extremely ugly. When pressed every Libertarian I've talked to has had to modify their position - well, 'no arms control' doesn't actually mean we'll allow nukes for the under fives... Are we too hard, no, we're not hard enough. Silver Sloth (talk) 12:10, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
We also have to remember that, like Christian fundamentalism, this is a very American issue. While not completely unknown outside the US it's outstandingly marginal.--BobNot Jim 12:13, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
The video game Bioshock presented nicely what would (probably) happen to a completely libertarian society. You'd have to pay for things like using the toilet and for air, and some crazy guy hopped up on genetic modification would kill you, too. Z3rotalk 13:35, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
You already pay for using the toilet; it is called the water bill. As to paying for air, people could not find any way to agree on how to privatize it for that purpose. A more realistic idea is that one would have to pay for using all the roads; ironically, privatized highways appear all the rage in Europe, not so much here. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 15:18, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Ah, but if I wanted to, I could go out in my backyard, dig a whole, and use that, free of charge. Or make it into fertalizer, which some (weird) people do. I don't need to use the water in the toilet. And on privatized highways, they're really more like subsudized, as the state still maintains them, they just lease them to private companies. A private company building and maintaining a tollroad would be a disastor. Z3rotalk 15:25, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
There are laws against going in a hole in your yard, even in rural places. It wasn't too long ago I read about certain Amish communities having this problem. Also, there are private roads and highways in the US. Some, like the Chicago Skyway, have been leased by private corporations for more than it would have taken for the company to build from scratch. The Dulles Greenway has been private from its inception, has never been subsidized (not even for police), and seems to be profitable and well-managed, despite having price ceilings imposed on it and having to fend off the occasional call to have the whole thing confiscated via eminent domain. So whatever criticisms of them there may be, "disaster" does not seem to be a valid one.Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
Was the Long Island Motor Parkway a disaster, not to mention all the turnpikes in the old days? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 15:45, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
So you want to compare the demands of building and maintaining roads 100 years ago to the demands of today? Z3rotalk 15:49, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

I believe that with mainstream Libertarian shows like South Park and Bullshit, I think someone needs to fill the void. I think every political philosophy deserves a good mocking (even my own Liberal views) in order to point out it's flaws and hopefully learn from them. But then again humanity doesn't like to learn lessons. — Unsigned, by: Ryantherebel / talk / contribs

Z3ro, how was the Long Island Motor Parkway so different from freeways today? And in what ways would the differences that do exist have prevented the successful operation of that road by its private builder? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 16:31, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, according to your own link, the state took over the turnpike in 1938 for back taxes, suggesting the road was a financial failure. But more specifically, cars today are heavier and far more numerous, leading to larger, better quality roads that need more regular maintainence. I don't know about your area, but in Chicago the roads are basically redone every 5-10 years. That's a lot of work for a private company trying to turn a profit. Z3rotalk 17:18, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
The Chicago Skyway is leased and run by a private company. Also, did you not consider that the taxes on the aforementioned turnpike's owners could have contributed to its financial troubles?Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
That is indeed the fate of many of the old turnpikes as well, turned over to the State when they ceased to be profitable. Having public roads is obviously the best solution, but private ones have not in general been "a disaster." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 17:28, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, those were many years ago. I bet a private company attempting that today would be a "disaster". Z3rotalk 17:33, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

In answer to the debate question: "No". Oscar Wilde might as well have been accurately describing the Libertarian mindset when he wrote of a person who knows "the price of everything and the value of nothing". It's rather telling that what he was actually describing was the values of a cynic. --DogPMarmite Patrol 16:45, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

The question needs to distinguish between Libertarianism and libertarians. Libertarianism as a philosophy has its faults, but raises some good points now and again. Libertarians, on the other hand, are by and large disgusting individuals. They tend to be arrogant and prone to overestimating their own competence in any field in which they've done four hours of internet research. Despite their insistence on knowing the "Real Truth", they often reach wildly inaccurate conclusions, and it's startling to discover just how many of these supposed rationalists can be linked to one or another kind of quackery or anti-science. They are such unwitting slaves to their own cognitive biases that I have literally taken an argument to the point where my Libertarian opponent's implied position was "Group A's conclusions are unsatisfactory because I don't like those people; group B's are correct because I do like them"; and he couldn't see what was wrong with that.
That being said, I should note that one of the most intelligent, self critical, and compassionate individuals I know is a Libertarian, who happens to believe that people are clever enough to make a free market really work. And while my personal experiences are probably not sufficient grounds for making broad conclusions about a Libertarian personality type, I think it's reasonable to say that there is a space there into which a Randian egotism fits perfectly (and that wasn't a typo).WilhelmJunker (talk) 18:15, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
That personality type is not unique to libertarians; any radicals fit the bill. The libertarian ones are only slightly more tolerable than the Reds because their world-view requires them to respect other people's property. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 18:22, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Having never known a sincere Communist (it is illegal in Texas, or might as well be), I'm in no position to contradict.WilhelmJunker (talk) 18:25, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
I talk some about the ones I have met here. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 18:38, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Edit break[edit]

I don't understand what's so disgusting about libertarians. I consider myself to be essentially libertarian. I'm a high school student, and while I don't have a great amount of knowledge of economic theory, from what I do know, I tend to support a more conservative viewpoint. However, being an atheist and something of a philosophical objectivist, and being a supporter of some types of abortion and same-sex marriage, I don't identify with the Republican party. On the other hand, I'm not a very big fan of evironmentalism and gun control, either, so I don't identify myself as a Democrat. Since philosophy and economics seem to go hand in hand with the two major parties, I tend to identify with the Libertarian party, since it closest matches my own views. This doesn't mean I'm an anarchist, or that I believe in a totally free market, but simply that I simultaneously believe in a more right-winged economic policy and a left-wing philisophical policy. I think that people should be free to do whatever they like on their own land, provided they are not hurting anyone else.

Please don't flame me. I'm willing to discuss and debate my personal beliefs calmly and as pleasantly as I can, if you guys are willing to do the same.Skreeran (talk) 14:48, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

There is nothing wrong with libertarianism in terms of "I think that people should be free to do whatever they like on their own land, provided they are not hurting anyone else.". There is quite a bit wrong, in my view, with the "I'm all right Jack, keep your hands off of my stack." side to it. The whole Libertarian pholosophy has no concept that the individual owes anything to society. Try this totally unbiased essay by someone I know Jack Hughes (talk) 15:00, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that even seemingly innocuous things like smoking a cigarette do harm others. Libertarian philosophy generally goes beyond "whatever you want, provided it doesn't hurt anyone else" and into just "whatever you want." Tetronian you're clueless 15:17, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
In Thunderf00t's foray into libertarian politics, he mentioned repeatedly that libertarians (at least the hardcore that do go a little further beyond the basic "what you do with your own life is your business and your business alone", which I can safely say most people should be able to happily agree with) forget that we are a social species. As a whole, humans do a lot of things together, that help and hinder each other. We can't all just swagger off and do what we like as hermits - otherwise society and all its benefits and its technology would cease to be. So we sacrifice some individual "rights" for the benefit of the group as as whole. We sacrifice a relatively small amount of cash in taxes so that there's a massive pot of money ready to help the group, from roads to hospitals to energy. We vaccinate (many hardcore libertarians are very anti-vax) to increase the herd immunity so that the vulnerable who can't be vaccinated are also protected. We sacrifice the "freedom" to drive cars however we want and as fast as we want using roads, speed limits and traffic control to make things quicker, easier and safer for everyone as a whole, with minor inconveniences to individuals and very few, if any, major inconveniences to a small minority. So while it's nice to agree to that basic idea, it sometimes gets out of hand and quite scary when they go on about legalising all drugs, because heavy abusers will just die out. Scarlet A.pngnarchist 15:44, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree with all that, and I would also add that the "freedom" to drive a car fast is a behavior that infringes upon the safety of others. Tetronian you're clueless 15:46, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Under the "your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins" clause? But the point is that we curb individual freedoms for the benefits of others, even if these freedoms don't necessarily affect the safety of others as directly as speeding. For instance, refusing to be vaccinated doesn't actively endanger anyone, you can't point to a person and say "they're going to die of measles because of you" - it's far more widely statistical than that. Scarlet A.pngnarchist 15:48, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
In many cases it is indirect, such as with cigarette smoking, yet the causation is there and we do act on it with broad regulation (and rightfully so, in my opinion). The vaccine example is interesting - I suspect we don't talk about this because it hasn't become an issue until recently. But, the case that it does become a serious problem, what would the ethical solution be? I'm not so sure.
For something like driving, as you mention, the causation is much more direct, so the solution is much easier to determine.Tetronian you're clueless 15:54, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
@Above: Well, yes. I understand the need for laws in order to protect people. I don't think that one should be able to drive recklessly, to use the earlier example. However, I do feel that I have a right to protect mysely, my family, and my home, and for that reason I believe in the right to bear arms. However, I also believe that I should be able to put whatever substance I like in my own body, provided it does not have others (and yes, I'll include secondhand smoke under "harming others," but within my own house I'm only affecting myself. Likewise, if doing PCP makes me go apeshit and hurt other people, I don't think I should be allowed to do that, either). I also believe that two people of the same same should be able to do whatever they like in their own bedroom, as long as there is consent. For these reasons I find both major parties to be flawed, and I find that it is the Libertarian party that comes closest to my own ideals. If there is another party that fits my ideals better, by all means, tell me. I understand that radical Libertarianism can be harmful, just as radical Conservatism and radical Liberalism. However, at it's roots, I think this party fits my beliefs best. I'm not sure if I'd want them running everything, but I don't know if I really want Conservatives or Liberals running everything either. (talk) 18:29, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
At the risk of flaming this demonstrates the biggest flaw in libertarianism, it's all about you. The problem is that Libertarianism is also about small government which is about society and, for me, this is where the wheels come off. Let's start with "I also believe that two people of the same same should be able to do whatever they like in their own bedroom, as long as there is consent." - nothing too controversial here but what if one of the consenters is, say, six years old? Too young to give consent? Who says so. Err... society says so and suddenly you have a law that affects your behaviour in the bedroom. OK, so the six year old is cut and dried but what about sixteen?,fifteen?, fourteen? Where do you draw the line? How do you draw the line? Here we have a place where it's not down to the individual. It's got to be down to society.
And then let's talk about money. It has become quite clear recently that capitalism with the gloves off - which is also part of Libertarianism, is fine if you're one of the winners but pretty poor if your not. Isn't it funny how all Libertarians are reasonably well off and well educated? It's the political system of "I'm all right Jack." Jack Hughes (talk) 18:47, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't think I can put it better than that. It's a very ego centric way of thinking once you scratch away the niceties of allowing some obvious freedoms, like the one allowing consensual sex between any people as they feel fit. But when you look at some of the deeper bits, particularly the financial side, it's very "oh, so you can't work because you broke both legs? Then FUCK YOU!" or "oh, you've got incurable cancer? How's that MY problem?" It can be very "fuck you" when you get into these aspects. Scarlet A.pngnarchist 18:55, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Libertarianism is a political philosophy. The libertarian claim is not that no one should help the man with broken legs. The libertarian claim is that no one should be beaten, imprisoned, or killed for refusing to help. I happen to believe that helping others does improve society, and am willing to shun or ridicule those who refuse to help the man with the broken legs. I just, as a libertarian, believe it would be wrong for me to use force against those who don't (assuming they haven't broken his legs). Nor am I willing to ask others (those people in government) to do something it would be wrong for me to do.

That seems like a criticism of Conservatism in general, though. As a self-proclaimed Libertarian(ish), I tend to agree with Liberals on many issues. I'd really rather the government didn't control every aspect of my life, however. I used to be a Conservative Republican, and have since changed my views on several things, but one of the thing that has characterized my beliefs in government all throughout is a general wariness of being controlled by the government. I understand the need for control, no doubt about that. I'm not an anarchist. However, I'm afraid that if I give up too much freedom to the government, I will not be able to get it back. I think that a society emphasis on individuals rights and freedom is better than a society with little freedom, but an equal standard of living for all.

Perhaps I'm not explaining this well. I have a tendency to trip over my words when it comes to political debate, and my knowledge of Government isn't very good. I'll admit that. Let me put it this way: I do not want my freedoms encroached upon. I fear that it will start with wealth redistribution and end with the government controlling what web sites I'm allowed to visit, or what books I'm allowed to read. Perhaps this is an irrational fear. Again, I admit that my knowledge of government and politics has a bias. I was raised Republican, I live in Texas, I'm only 18, I don't know all the facts. But I fear that losing freedoms is a slippery slope.

In addendum, I think my primary point in this whole debate is that while there is certainly a debate over the ethics of Libertarian philosophy, perhaps there could be explored some of the positives of Libertarians in contrast to Republicans. Would you agree that Libertarians are more correct than Republicans? If not, please, explain.Skreeran (talk) 06:38, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

It's about extremes[edit]

My problem with Libertarianism is similar to my problem with communism.

Politics is about resolving the conflict between the rights of the individual and their duties to society. In broad brush terms parties of the left emphasise the duties, parties on the right emphasise the rights. Across the western world we see successful societies finding the balance at various different points. The US is noticeably towards the right, Scandinavian countries are typically towards the left.

Where, for me, it all goes wrong is when the debate gets pushed too far to one side of the spectrum. With Communism it's all about duties and the proletariat is expected to dedicate themselves to the state. OK, massive over simplification but you see what I mean.

Over on the other side we have true Libertarianism. Here there is no emphasis whatsoever on one's duty towards society. The problems engendered in this are brushed aside in much the same way that Communists promise jam for all in the people's democratic paradise. All will be well because human nature is best left to itself and we will all look after each other because...

Excuse me if at this point I start laughing.

Seriously successful societies have a mixed economy. Just how they make that mix may differ but stray too far outside of the centre and injustices pile on injustices. It's for this reason that I treat Libertarians with the same respect as Communists. Nice ideas but here in the real world it just wont work. Jack Hughes (talk) 11:09, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure how you can look at the state of affairs in any western nation and draw the conclusion that mixed economies "work." Perhaps you meant they "work" for the small group of elites who get to regulate the economy?Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

From Democrat to Libertarian to...Democratic Libertarian (or something)[edit]

I was a pretty hardcore Democrat, who became a hardcore Libertarian, and who now goes for both in a kind of mushy way.

I was first exposed to a libertarian philosophy when my sixth-grade teacher actually took the time to read us every candidate's blurb from the Voter's Pamphlet. It's not that he was a big fan of libertarianism, mind you, but he felt it important to let us know that all sides existed.

I started to pay some attention to the LP during a 1992 debate between Presidential candidate Lenora Fulani (of the short-lived "New Alliance" party) and LP nominee Andre Marrou. I found Fulani singularly uninteresting (her solution for every single societal problem was to throw more money at it), but I liked some of Marrou's philosophy. However, I was 21, naive, and thought Bill Clinton was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

In 1999 and 2000, I became a big fan of Harry Browne. His online columns and his books really brought me into Libertarian thinking. I still love How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, as it taught that living life a certain way simply to gain others' approval it is pointless, and will not make you happy. I know that's obvious for a lot of people, but I had never thought that way before.

However, some things grated, particularly after the bill of goods that Browne's campaign had presented (Browne would get 10-15% of the vote, the national media would begin paying attention to the LP, and the U.S. political landscape would change forever) did not even remotely come true. When even Bob Barr in 2008 couldn't break the 6/10 of 1% barrier, I realized that no LP candidate ever will.

At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the financial crisis hit. I watched with horror as the LP opposed every single intervention proposed to help shore up the economy. Even the bank bailout, which almost every single major economist across the political spectrum said was absolutely necessary to avoid a second Great Depression, was opposed by LP leaders. Keeping your principles pure as the driven snow is one thing; fiddling while the entire western world slips into a financial apocalypse is quite something else.

I am still a libertarian at heart. I believe people should be free. I believe the government sticks its nose in far too many things, and often does worse than private enterprise does. I do not approve of a government that decides what size toilets people can have in their homes, or withholds potentially life-saving drugs for years for FDA-mandated testing while people needlessly suffer and die. I do not approve of a government that has troops in hundreds of countries worldwide.

And I cannot join a Republican party that actually believes that a bunch of ancient superstitions written by ignorant tribesmen thousands of years ago should hold precedence over reason, logic or science. When leading Republican candidates fall all over themselves to loudly parrot their religiousness, it almost makes me physically ill. I also note that the Republicans seem to have no plan for our coming national debt crunch, as resolving it will necessarily involve either raising taxes or heavily cutting defense, Social Security and/or Medicare; all of these are steps that leading Republicans oppose.

So, I'm kind of back with the Democrats. Yes, they're smug. Yes, they can be elitist. Yes, they place far too much faith in government and government money as the solutions to everything. Yes, they can be anti-business to the point of hurting the people they claim to help. But at least they're not insane.

Democratic Freedom Caucus: Get yer act together and I shall check thee out.

Oh, and to answer the question: RationalWiki is neither too hard on Libertarians, nor not hard enough. Different philosophies deserve major scrutiny and critical questioning. If a set of ideas cannot withstand examination, it does not deserve existence. Raider Duck (talk) 03:45, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

  • The rejection of the Corporate Bailout would not have spared the masses the damages of the collapse, nor is permitting it going to spare them those same damages, they will just be felt in a different form, and over a different period of time. The argument should more clearly be about whether it is moral to reward a company for decisions which led to financial ruin, at the expense of those who had nothing to do with those decisions, and whether habitually acting in this way will lead to future economic damages which could otherwise be avoided. It sends an unfortunate message to irresponsible industries. It says, "If you can engineer a situation where not giving you money will result in enough strife, we will concede to your wishes." It is basically an advertisement for financial terrorism. The buffet is open, folks. Bring your hostages. Balgan Hyrede (talk) 10:36, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

Fellow Traveler[edit]

My story is fairly similar to Raider Duck's. I was naturally predisposed to libertarian philosophy having an extremely individualist personality and first brushed with it in my teen years after stumbling upon Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Essentially, it proposed a libertarian skeleton state within which like-minded individuals could build their own mini-utopias. From then on, I started getting into the usual libertarian rags like Reason and soon counted myself among the Ron Paul supporters in '08 (although I liked Mike Gravel as well and I would say my politics are much closer to Gravel now).

Ironically, I saw through the Obama "hopey-changey" stuff (I noticed how much Bush garbage he voted for and wrote him off quite rightly as "just another politician"), but managed to rationalize away all the really cranky stuff Paul supported. "Well, he's not perfect but he's the best we've got!" As time wore on, I noticed how cultish the atmosphere was among Paul supporters and heard all sorts of wackiness, as just about every government service under the sun was seen as a form of creeping socialism.

I was recommended to read the works of Ayn Rand and the Austrian school economists. I was told they epitomized the support of individualism through reason. Sounded right up my alley, but oh how wrong I was. Unlike most budding libertarians, I saw right away that Rand's work was unmitigated bullshit, not to mention that her writing style sucked. I never made it all the way through any of her books, but I read up on some of her shorter essays and commentary. I couldn't see how Objectivism was any different from religion -- it just didn't involve god, just the goddess worship of Rand. The Austrians had me hooked for a little while longer. Since all their theories are fairly logically airtight (if you don't have a basic understanding of economics, as I lacked at the time) as they are all derived a priori, it seemed very convincing. Of course, I didn't realize that they had just pulled most of this stuff out of their asses at that point. I was drawn in by the fact that they did not assume rationality and saw the value of goods as wholly subjective, which seemed to gel much more with reality than what I had learned in Econ 101, which was all I knew about econ at that point. Then I came upon Ludwig von Mises' doorstopper Human Action, where he basically attempts to derive an entire field of pseudo-psychology called "praxeology" from the axiom "humans act." I realized then that the Austrians, too, had merely piled horseshit on top of bullshit. I was also a psychology major at the time and saw how deeply Rand and the Austrians violated the experimental findings of actual social science. How the hell could all my fellow travelers buy this crap?

My faith was further shaken by a number of other things: 1. Despite my extreme fiscal conservatism, I could never reconcile my belief in bare minimum safety nets and universal healthcare (what good is the "right to life" if you can be denied insurance coverage?!) with my fellow travelers' philosophies. It seemed that there was no such thing as a moderate libertarian, or that he was a very rare animal indeed. 2. I took greater pains to become environmentally aware, especially after seeing so many environmentalist bashing articles in the libertarian rags. I like to live radioactive waste free, thanks. I always, always put science ahead of my politics, and I realized how widespread global warming denialism among libertarians. I had bought into the "science is not settled" bullshit peddled by the mainstream and libertarian media until I did my own more in-depth research, upon which I realized just how much corporate astroturf makes its way into libertarian rags. 3. During the financial crisis of '08, I was taking courses in labor history and the Great Depression as well as reading up on my own about economic history to try to make sense of the financial crisis. I came away with the conclusion that unbridled capitalism and free market fundamentalism were ideas just as dangerous as communism and fascism. Interestingly, there's a libertarian cottage industry of revisionist history making the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age into heroes and FDR into a Great Satan. Not to say that the Captains of Industry never did anything praiseworthy or that FDR was an angel, but I think you can see the reasoning behind this sort of thing.

Ultimately, I try to approach politics with pragmatism mediated by ethical considerations. I often find that the practical and moral align surprisingly well. For example, I'm staunchly anti-death penalty on principle. The death penalty also happens to be a drain on state budgets and its effectiveness at deterrence isn't well-supported. Double jackpot! I find that many of my views still align with liberals and libertarians (sorry, the modern conservative movement is not interested in reason). However, a great deal of them don't really fit anywhere into the spectrum, or are not easily defined as belonging to one political philosophy. Although I absolutely detest the two parties and would gladly vote nearly every politician out of office if given the chance, though there are still a few honest guys in DC. It's also evident that utopian sub-societies can be created within the US without a Nozickian minarchist state, as evidenced by the Amish and various hippie communes kicking around.

So, ultimately, I can't see how the traditional Austrian/Randian/Nozickian libertarian philosophy isn't fatally flawed. I still think Nozick gives the best defense of it, but it's telling that he later renounced his own philosophy. This also excludes left-libertarians (or socialists), whose views I am much less intimately familiar with so I can't comment on them here. If we're talking about the ridiculous anarcho-capitalist and free market fundamentalist libertarian ideas, they can't be taken seriously and deserve nothing but mockery. Ultimately, I think libertarians are mostly just ignorant of history, as so many of their ideas have actually been implemented in the past (it's called the Gilded Age) and failed spectacularly (at least for those who weren't the oligarchs). I try not to be too hard on the ones who seem like they just don't know history, but the Lew Rockwell types who write revisionist histories around their ideologies are just flaming idiots.

  • Actually, you point out a major problem with libertarianism when you say "Since all [the Austrian School] theories are fairly logically airtight (if you don't have a basic understanding of economics, as I lacked at the time)..." You were attracted to Austrian School economics, until you actually learnt some economics. I keep seeing libertarians who must be operating in complete ignorance of history, government, economics and human beings. For example, many libertarians call for an end to government welfare systems, saying that the slack would be taken up by private charities. Clearly, they do not know why government started doing welfare -- because private charities were unable to do an adequate job. Similarly, calls to end agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Securities Exchange Commission ignore the reason for the creation of these agencies -- to solve real problems. Do libertarians believe that these problems will just go away all by themselves? JHobson2 (talk) 18:24, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Regarding your last point - Charities do a tremendous amount of good for those who need help. Freed markets do even better. Also consider that the reason many people are unable to adequately take are of themselves is because government hinders or outright prohibits people from prospering, through taxes, regulation, and other laws ...e.g. reserving enormous swaths of land for government purposes - like the military and national parks, or giving them to well-connected crony capitalists. To be fair, the typical libertarian also underestimates the extent of the government's interference in the market. Groups like C4SS and LvMI are pretty good at documenting and explaining this, for those looking for more info.Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Some theories of economics shared by Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists don't place the value of goods or services as purely subjective, but rather as situational. A glass of water in a grassy park is substantially no different than a glass of water in a desert, but its value is different in each of those situations. This is the primary motivator of economy. I'm willing to trade something I value less than what you do, to receive something I value more than what you do. In this sense, both parties in a transaction profit from the exchange. Which is why it's so absurd to imply that markets are 0 sum. Materials are finite. But materials can be transformed or transported to a situation in which they are of improved value to those who desire them. And profit can be derived by any number of factors: time, convenience, security, pleasure, freedom. It doesn't have to be just material or monetary profit.
There is a trend among some Libertarians and Ancaps to rely more on the question "que bono?" rather than on specific citable sources, as a potential profit is often a clearer subject than things which everyone writes conflicting accounts of, such as much of history. It's possible that many interpret events through a lens, but ultimately they are trying to make sense of patterns which do exist, and analyze the behaviors of business and political figures that do have motivations. To assume that figures in a position of power frequently make decisions that don't lead to situations they personally profit from, would be to assume they are incompetent. Incompetence is sometimes the case, and no rational person is denying that.
"Que Bono?" is pretty much the foundational question of markets. If we are to assume economy can and does function based on the needs and desires of those who participate it, then it must be able to respond fluidly to those needs and desires. Libertarians frequently criticize anything which would inhibit people from accurately diagnosing the market according to those needs and desires. Subsidies, tariffs, taxes, and regulation, are all things which muddy the waters, and make market movements less clear. It's like trying to diagnose a patient who sporadically gets injected with random quantities of icewater and adrenaline. Market is something which is ultimately compelled by human decisions, and these decisions are compelled by the pursuit of profit in all its forms. Understanding human motivation, and the myriad of ways in which profit can occur, is the key to understanding economy. This is not something I have regularly seen contradicted in Libertarian or Anarcho-Capitalist writings. It is, however, something I often see ignored by many other political philosophies. Philosophies that assume that economy can operate on zero profit, or which assume that profit must be dictated to everyone through some higher authority.
Global Warming is kind of a hotbutton issue, no pun intended. Logic would demand that, whether or not it is occurring now, or is anthropogenic in nature, it can and will happen eventually, and there's really no good reason to not prepare for it. Alternative, renewable energies will one day be necessary, even if they're not entirely necessary today. The Libertarian argument is largely that government endorsement of specific technologies may prove detrimental to their cost effectiveness and overall efficiency. The Corn Ethanol for instance, is a less efficient fuel source than gasoline, and developing it will increase carbon emissions to a degree that it won't be offset by the lower emissions of burning the fuel itself for almost a century. Also, Wind Farms don't significantly impact carbon emissions, because they can't be relied upon exclusively, some other power source would need to take up the slack when the turbines aren't performing adequately, and this will likely be coal or natural gas. And they can't just shut down the plant when they don't need it, either. This would result in brownouts and blackouts when there is an unanticipated demand, or a significant drop in wind speed. So it will largely release the same amount of carbon dioxide, whether the wind turbines are running or not. The best alternatives, with more sustainable levels of energy, would tend to be Hydroelectric, Geothermal, and Nuclear. Hydroelectric and Geothermal being largely limited by location, would leave a considerable energy gap for much of the US. And most people have a kneejerk aversion to Nuclear energy, even though modern plant designs are considerably safer than older ones, and some reactor designs could actually reduce the volume of nuclear waste already in existence, while extracting more energy from it.
Ayn Rand is, understandably, a poor introduction to free market economics. Her writing is notoriously dry, and she had a blind spot to her own religious reverence for non-religion. I would be interested in learning what specifically you disagreed with from Mises and the like. Your argument doesn't paint a very clear or specific picture.Balgan Hyrede (talk) 10:05, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

No Man is an Island[edit]

The idea that we can all somehow lead the exact lives we wish to lead without considering others around us is vile. This is why I hate Libertarians more than Conservatives. DogPMarmite Patrol 22:22, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

But what if the exact life you're leading doesn't actually hurt anyone else, but only "offends" them? Do they then have the right to make you stop leading it? Raider Duck (talk) 03:33, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Describe such a life to me and I'll give you an answer. DogPMarmite Patrol 08:31, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
There's no way for that to work. If we define libertarianism as "do whatever you want to do, without hurting anyone else," then the concept is flawed. If I want to kill someone (to use an extreme and absurd example), then I am hurting someone else's life. If I don't kill that person, then I am not doing what I want to do. To me, libertarianism basically boils down to "I wanna do whatever I want to do, and you can't stop me." It's just really selfish and self-centered, and shows a basic lack of respect for anyone besides yourself. InsaneBookBadgerUnleash the badger! 22:15, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
It's do what you want to without hurting anybody else. Murder, robbery and other violent crimes are obviously hurting someone else, so they shouldn't be allowed. However, if you wish to smoke some pot, or have weird sex with a consenting adult of a forbidden gender, or sell something to someone else who is completely aware of the risks, who else is it hurting? Note that I'm talking about actual, demonstrable harm; "he hurt my feelings," or "what she's doing offends my delicate sensibilities" do not qualify here.
A classic example of this "nanny state" thinking is seat-belt laws. Now, I don't go anywhere in a car without my seat belt fastened, and I get damned uncomfortable if anyone I'm riding with has their belt unfastened. But what business is it of the government's to tell me that I must keep mine fastened? It is not the government's life; it is mine, and I will preserve or end it as I see fit, not as the government does. If someone wants to be a goddamn idiot and not wear a seat belt (or a helmet if they're on a motorcycle), it's their right to be an idiot. It is not a legitimate governmental function to make us do things for our own good.
I can't see how asserting my right to live my life the way I want it (again, I'm not talking about using force or fraud against anyone) could reasonably offend anybody. Certainly, I would not object to anyone else living similarly. I may or may not approve of the way someone else chooses to live. But it's not my right to make someone else live the way I want them to. As long as they're not hurting anyone else, it's none of my business. Raider Duck (talk) 04:57, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
If you accidentally hit someone who is in a car while you are driving and they die, that's manslaughter automatically. If they are wearing a seat-belt, that reduces the chance of death dramatically, which would reduce it to just a standard car accident to be dealt with by insurance (medical and otherwise). If killing people is against the philosophy, then that same philosophy should support not making it easier for other people to accidentally kill someone. The same idea comes into play in workplace safety. "Well I didn't hurt them, they just didn't know how to balance on a ladder I needed them to climb. Or know to hold their breath around dangerous chemicals that I had them process." (talk) 22:00, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
Thought I might add my two cents into a part of the above. The whole seat-belt law thing is because driving without it and getting into a car crash does affect people outside of the people getting into a collision. Think about it this way, if you were driving along and got into a collision or were walking along and saw one happen from the side walk, what would you think if you saw that one of the people's heads were smashed into the windshield? This can cause trauma, which DOES affect people other than you in a negative fashion. The law is there to help protect someone, such as a small child from seeing someone else die in a brutal fashion. - Guest without an account (yet)
You are overlooking that cops will kill you to enforce the laws - including seatbelt laws - if you do not submit to a lower amount of force. Do you not think that seeing someone bleeding from numerous bullet holes and choking on their own blood isn't also traumatic? Should the government be willing to kill people in order to stop them from accidentally killing themselves? If your argument is valid that anything that could possibly affect others is rightfully within the government's scope to regulate, then that argument can be used to justify anything the government might do, no matter how heinous you may find it to be.Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
On the contrary, every man is an island but that doesn't mean he can't be part of an island chain. It's despicable to begrudge a man the life he wants to lead without considering others. If he doesn't want to, then that's his right! Forcing someone to help others defeats the entire goal of kindness. It's supposed to be voluntary. Enforced assistance of others hardly breeds good will between men. If a man has his hard earned wealth and property taken away from him and divided amidst others, then he's lost his liberty. Such a life, where authoritarianism is rampant and freedom is not considered a basic human right, would not be worth living and certainly not worth the supposed benefits of communism. There may not be an "I" in "team" but if you look closely, there is an "m" and an "e" and that's where it starts. --Let Them Eat Cake (talk) 17:06, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
To say you can only either be considerate of others or refuse to help them is a false dichotomy. Helping others is simply not the same as considering others, which is a much weaker requirement: help is active, consideration is passive. What you denounce could also describe a potlatch or feast (or taxes, for that matter). The custom exists in many pre-modern societies because when individuals accumulate material wealth, they develop a habit of greed (by getting used to their wealth, coming to take it as granted and considering themselves as superior) and thus threaten the basis of society as a whole. The problem with wealth which you miss is that it is never earned completely honestly – there's always blood on it. Wealth is inherently antisocial: it cannot be acquired without exerting force, without unjustly taking away from others. Property in general cannot be upheld without the use of force. A radically libertarian society would have to be anarchistic, devoid of force, without private property. -- (talk) 20:28, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

What could be more antisocial than the use of force to restrict the rights of others? To say that wealth is inherently antisocial is to state that happiness, freedom and individuality are inherently antisocial. We didn't seize technology and medicine from the Sahara Desert; we created them through Capitalism, the ideology that every man is entitled to the pursuit of his own happiness. The problem with socialists is that they see wealth as a static and limited amount of goods that exist to be seized or fought over, the same as feudal overlords or robber barons. Socialism and fascism are the same thing. What they both dictate is conformity enforced at the point of a gun, ergo: armed robbery. The simple fact of the matter is that some people are superior to others. To use an extreme example, would you describe a primitive like Joseph Kony as the equal of a genius such as Steve Jobs? Well if you had an ounce of sanity, no. Capitalism is the great equaliser because what it creates is equal opportunity. I wasn't particularly good at Sports back in High School but do I think that Sports should be banned just because some students won't win at football or Rugby matches? No I do not because I was superior to my fellow students in every other conceivable way and Sport gave them an opportunity to feel valuable. --Let Them Eat Cake (talk) 22:52, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Another thing about the seat belt laws: Seat belts have been shown to reduce the severity of injuries in car crashes. Thus, since insurance companies do not have to pay out as much in claims, auto insurance rates are reduced. If there were no seatbelt laws, insurance rates would go up for everyone. Thus, the libertarian argument against seatbelt laws amounts to "I want to be able to act irresponsibly, and I want you to pay for it!" Clearly, the libertarian claim of personal responsibility is a sham. JHobson2 (talk) 18:29, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
I fully agree. This is what separates my understanding of "classical liberalism" and the true intent of those authors from the mischief of modern libertarians. However, I think it is important that we do not significantly restrict liberty on the basis that we're protecting someone from themself, and in cases like seat belts (and universal health care), we need to phrase the debate in exactly the terms you just did, of weighing personal liberty vs the harm done to others (or benefit done to others). EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:52, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I would echo this sentiment. Reality is vulnerable to butterfly effects. How do we define aggression? Is it conscious aggression? Is it anything that causes harm to another? As a utilitarian, I am acutely aware of the problem of unintended consequences. Saving a life may result in the deaths of two if the life I save is homicidal/stupid. The most I can possibly hope for is to perform the action with the greatest possibility of the best outcome, and to understand the world around me as much as possible so that I may make more informed decisions.
I also have the problem that the NAP simply doesn't seem justified. As a utilitarian, and an act-utilitarian specifically, I do not see why it would be immoral to push one person (we'll assume here that I'm not heavy enough, given that I'm a lightweight that might be the case--in the event of an objection, the question becomes one of diverting a trolley) into a trolley to save five. By action or inaction, people will die. Better that it should be one person rather than five.
Either way, people will die. The only thing, in my opinion, that not pushing that one person accomplishes is to make myself feel better about myself.
It is for that reason that I find the NAP cowardly. -- Citrakayah
  • From a purely imminent and logistical point of view, yes it would be justified to sacrifice one life in the trolley scenario to save 5 others. But this is assuming all life is equal, and everyone is just as likely as anyone else to cure cancer or become mass murderer. Utilitarianism is a philosophy which judges itself entirely on results, not on means. How confident could you be that your decision would be the right one? The Trolley dilemma is a classic No-Win scenario. You can only gamble on losing a little less. The NAP doesn't deny that situations like this will occur. It is altogether possible for the morally repugnant action to be the logically correct one if your ultimate value is the quantity of human life. However, if your only criteria for morality is maximizing the quantity of human life, then why aren't you out having as many children is possible? Non-utilitarian morality declares that sometimes how we conduct our lives is more important than how many lives we save. There are many disgusting ways in which one could save lives, but what would be the quality of life in a world where disgusting actions are routine and acceptable? -- Balgan Hyrede 10:26, 2 Marc 2014 (UTC)
(Wow this was a while back.) Actually, utilitarian morality emphasis how we conduct ourselves as well. It's just that all things being equal, better to lose one person than two. The questions about what quality of life would be like--that's one of the most essential parts of utilitarianism, realizing that all actions have consequences down the line, and if we do something once it can be very easy to do it again. As a utilitarian, I need to take into account rationalization, cognitive bias, and in-group favoritism, because if I don't I can end up doing something horrible. -- Citrakayah/cheetah/Arthropleura/whatever

Isn't a friendly bashing alright?[edit]

For me, a libertarian in civic manners, the biggest problem of American libertarianism is the belief that "the market is going to regulate it, and we'll all be fine". I've made my Abitur (German High School Degree) at an Economic High School, so I've been trained to understand economics and the homo economicus to a very wide degree. As I calculated a lot of scenarios back in the old days, it became clearer and clearer to me that capitalism is basically a monetary manifestation of greed. In a libertarian society, people would only care for their own asses and would be very busy saving them - which is absolutly understandable. It's practically Social Darwinism without the "being better" element proposed with libertarianism. There's also a logical loophole in the whole thing, because if everybody would be fine without a state or with a minimalized state, why the hell did we get big states in the first place? If the whole thing were to be true, why would anybody have wanted to change it in the first place? But on the same side I have respect for libertarians and we also give them the right to bash us (no matter what may be your ideology). So if we bash libertarians but still respect the people behind it to give a friendly handshake, were is the problem with bashing if you do it with a friendly smile on your face? I think most of the pages here on RationalWiki go that route anyway. As long as we don't outright call them idiots we're good to go. -- (talk) 16:15, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Fully agreed on capitalism. As to states, however...It isn't as if most people had power to "decide" anything. They didn't hold a vote. The powerful, whether tribal leaders, warlords, what have you, established them, for their own advancement. This isn't hard to figure out. Hell, the nation state isn't any older than the 19th century even for much of Europe, let alone the world.--User: Mcc1789

Perhaps a Little Bit, Yes.[edit]

Any ideology when taken to a complete extreme can be pretty silly and doctrinaire. I won't hesitate to admit the extremist libertarians of anarcho-capitalist leaning are pretty batshit crazy, but on the other hand, take "standard" liberalism as its defined to the US to an extreme and you end up with Pol Pots and other unsavory characters. It isn't really fair to compare say, your average center left American liberal to Pol Pot, and it isn't necessarily fair to compare someone like me or Mike Gravel to Murray Rothbard or similar. Most libertarians are of a rationalist worldview like your average American liberal, we just prefer market solutions and reject the notion that the government should serve as a social engineer. Indeed, I'd suggest that we often have more common causes which tie us together more often than they separate us, I am (proudly) banned from Free Republic for defending Dr. Paul for his view that heroin legalization isn't a terribly bad idea (I should add that I'm not fond of Dr. Paul's overly traditionalist outlook and prefer Mike Gravel). While there is a tendency for a lot of libertarians to take an overly purist position, the philosophy as it should best be understood is simply that the government should encourage both a maximum amount of individual liberty in both personal affairs (and of course, I assume most if not all rationalwiki members agree with that), and in economic matters as well. Why the latter? Because the Free Market is better and regulation often serves as a means of forming oligopolies rather than promoting consumer well-being, by no means an irrational position.

Don't get me wrong, most of us are sane, sensible individuals. I can see the point of the Sherman Anti-Trust act and the FDA, but I dislike overly onerous red tape compliance regulations as a whole and prefer that regulations simply require disclosure by businesses to leave ultimate choice to consumers. We're intelligent adults, so why must the government prevent us from eating unpasteurized cheese? (I ate this stuff for years when I lived in France. I NEVER became sick from it or heard of anyone who did, thank you very much.) Just make businesses label it as such is my view and let the consumer decide. Why does the government tend to regulate in such a manner as to protect corporate interests, but doesn't even require disclosure with worrying things like GM foods or growth hormones? (Perhaps because the regulatory process is corporatized? Obviously!) Government power is inherently susceptible to being bought by corporate interests and can very often work against consumers.

I tend to think that there is a characterization of Libertarians as being nutty extremists, failing to realize that most of us are sane and sensible individuals who simply reject the incongruence of American liberal philosophy in being permissive of social activities but not of economic ones. Or, perhaps worse, the government actively trying to engineer society either in the name of someone's idea of fairness (Affirmative Action, Gun Control), which is in my mind no different than engineering society in the name of Christian morality. — Unsigned, by: A. Suvorov / talk / contribs

Well, I'm actually on board the Gravel bandwagon, but I find it difficult to see him as anything but an outlier in the LP. The libertarian movement in the US lacks a non-dogmatic intellectual base. I think guys like Brink Lindsey, Radley Balko, Will Wilkinson, and Tyler Cowen generally do very good work, but I can count their kind on one hand (and Lindsey and Balko were booted from Cato for not toeing the party line). But the organizations with real clout in the movement are mostly infested with corporate astroturf and faith-based economics, especially your big Koch-net think tanks like Cato, the Reason Foundation, CEI etc. Thus, denialism, anti-science, and anti-environmentalism are pretty much institutional in the movement, with libertarian organizations constantly spouting climate denial, DDT denial, etc. Vulgar libertarianism of the Steve Milloy variety is good work if you can get it. And let's not even get into the Rockwell-ite factions with their ties to dominionism and neo-Confederates. I would definitely like to see more Lindseys, Balkos, etc., but their voices are pretty much washed out by the vast amounts of astroturf and crankery in the libertarian movement. There's also the continuing problem with the libertarian/Republican fusion, as aptly summarized this cartoon. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 20:53, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

Not Hard Enough[edit]

The non-aggression principle, which all Libertarian Party members are *required* to agree with, is the biggest woo on the internet. Have any of you read it? Wikipedia defines it as, "a moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate" and the Libertarian Party pledge states, "I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals." and Ayn Rand has something similar that her job creators utter behind their invisible force field. This might be an acceptable motto for a hermit, but Libertarians promote property rights, copyrights, trademarks, and other ideas that simply can't exist without aggression between people.

For example, I don't need to initiate force to commit fraud. I'm not initiating force when I sell copies of Windows 8. Yet Libertarians support the idea of "MEN WITH GUNS" stopping me from doing such things. Further - how do people get materials to make goods? Where do you get land to place factories? Who decides that a certain plot of land is yours, and why does their opinion matter?

You guys are going far too easy on these kooks. Frybread (talk) 07:51, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

Well feel free to go on and insult the Kooks who defend your right to do so. --Let Them Eat Cake (talk) 19:09, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
So it's mostly libertarians who defend freedom of speech? That's a new one. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 19:47, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
The Church of Scientology defends freedom of speech, among other human rights in their magazine, "Freedom". Should I stop insulting those kooks? Frybread (talk) 21:40, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Well it's mostly the party not in power that defends freedom of speech. Libertarians are pretty experienced in both areas. Gtbob12 (talk) 20:00, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
  • You lack imagination if the only method you can think of to discourage non-violent crime is to commit violence. A company can refuse you service, and spread the message of your crimes, so that others will blacklist you until you pay restitution. Or they can simply reclaim property that is rightfully theirs, non-violently. As for your second statement, regarding goods, property, and land, the legitimacy of your claims is decided largely by legal precedent of the mixing of labor, and by the cooperation of those around you who would be interested in protecting your rights and property as it encourages reciprocity. If my neighbor respects my claim to my property, I will be more eager to respect his claim to his property, and more willing to defend him from those who seek to rob him. Libertarianism is not a declaration that the individual does not rely on the cooperation of society. It simply acknowledges that one cannot respect society without understanding society is comprised of individuals whose rights must be respected, first, and places ethical limits on the obligations of individuals to one another. Balgan Hyrede 10:56, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. The problem is that I care about the ends. The libertarians do not. It is a fundamental principle to not initiate force. Do they care if that results in a less prosperous, less happy, less free society? As far as I can tell, either they think it's patently obvious that it will, or they don't care. If they don't care, then they're evil. If they think it's patently obvious, then I think they're deluded. LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 22:22, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Society will be less happy, less prosperous and less free without the initiation of force? I'd ask you who you think you are but I think the answer is already pretty obvious. --Let Them Eat Cake (talk) 14:33, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

Are you a libertarian? Do you want a happy, free, materially wealthy society? Hypothetically speaking, if it could be demonstrated that using some tax dollars to fund some public works et al accomplished this goal, and all plans without the use of taxes for public works et al did much worse, would you consider changing your position? -- Note that I am adopting the usual libertarian wordage with respect to how taxes are the involuntary transfer of property by force from one individual to another. Paraphrasing Penn Jillette, if you don't pay taxes for long enough, eventually a man will come to your house with a gun. I'd call that the initiation of force. LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 19:35, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
If it could be demonstrated that using tax dollars to fund some public works produced universally more favorable results, it's doubtful that you would need to initiate force to collect funds for it, or that the funds from willing donors would be insufficient to accomplish your goal. Your hypothetical is inherently flawed. It assumes the noncooperation of the very people who would willingly give money if such a scenario were provable. I can say with some confidence, that if it could be irrefutably demonstrated that a specific public work could be of benefit to everyone, then you wouldn't need to hold a gun to Libertarian heads to get money for it, unless the public work runs on a fuel of liquid aggression. But for the sake of argument, let's say the benefit would be incredible, and that there is simply no voluntary way of funding it. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the benefit would be so amazing as to justify the coercion, so I honestly don't have a clear answer for how I'd feel about that. If it was a benefit so grand that it would render the stolen money completely irrelevant, than I could maybe see myself getting behind it, but I can't really imagine anyone who would really be upset over being forced to pay for it at the point where I would find it acceptable. Balgan Hyrede 11:15, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

Positive Externalities[edit]

One of the biggest problems with libertarianism is that it does not allow a workable solution for positive externalities. Civil suits and privatization of shared property can only "fix" so much. My still favorite example is "how do we reach herd immunity rates ala vaccines for serious diseases such as polio?". If we take the libertarian position that everyone is a rational self-interested actor (itself fraught with peril), and we don't allow governmental force to fix the issue, then there are good arguments that society would never reach herd immunity vaccination rates, and children would still be dying from polio. I think it's borderline insane to sue someone else, claiming damages that they got you sick because they didn't get vaccinated; I'd assume the libertarians would agree. You surely can't privatize everyone's body in a sense that would allow a fix to this issue. So, left to the market, this is what we would expect to happen: Let's say the herd immunity vaccination rate for polio is 80%. (The other wiki says 80% to 86%.) Perhaps there's some individual benefit to getting a vaccine, and individuals start getting vaccinated (a highly dubious position in and of itself). Eventually, we'll get vaccination rates close to herd immunity. At that point, any self interested actor is going to see that if he just waits a little until everyone else gets vaccinated, he'll gain all of the benefits without paying any of the costs. So, we should expect to see an equilibrium form below the herd immunity percentage. There are no ways out, except government force, and appealing to actors acting contrary to their own self interests, or appealing to ignorance of the actors, or other fundamental flaws of how the model doesn't accurately model the real world. (And if you want to say the libertarian model is inaccurate here, why can't it be inaccurate elsewhere, and thus the libertarian policies could be flawed elsewhere.) LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 22:14, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

It's possible that someone could be sued for knowingly exposing someone else to a disease, if it is reasonable to believe they could have prevented this exposure, but you would have to demonstrate origin. There is legal precedent for this already. But, people are exposed to so many other people that it would be hard to isolate who was responsible for infecting them. When someone refuses to become vaccinated, they accept all the risks that comes with it. The fact that some people aren't vaccinated would create an even stronger incentive for everyone else to be. If the vaccines really work, than no one who gets vaccinated has anything to worry about, and your argument is moot. If you're talking specifically about childhood vaccines, which by necessity occur when someone is too young to legally provide consent, and would rely on a guardian, then there's really no easy answer. State mandated Vaccines would run the risk of a mistake, many vaccines aren't entirely safe for everyone, even though they are generally safe. There are people with medical conditions, or unusual biology, who have a negative reaction to certain vaccines, or additives in vaccines, and these aren't always taken into account. The best we can really do is make safe, accessible, and affordable vaccines, and encourage people to use them. Adult children of people who refused to vaccinate them may be able to sue their guardians for damages, if they can demonstrate the lack of vaccine had a link to their illness. Eventually such lawsuits would discourage parents from refusing effective vaccines. Regardless of whom the decision to vaccinate minors relies on, they would have to be held accountable for damages resulting from the vaccines, or lack thereof. Balgan Hyrede 11:31, 2 March 2014 (UTC)
An example occurred to me of how a free market could solve the issue of achieving Herd Immunity. Insurance providers could give discounts on their premiums for those whose Vaccinations are up to date, and credits for clients to purchase Vaccinations if they are not. If the cost of insufficient vaccination to society is so great, it would also be a considerable expense for Insurance providers, which they would want to avoid. Profits in Insurance rely on the premise that people will generally pay more into insurance than they draw out of it. In a free market, Insurance providers have a natural incentive to want as many healthy(profitable)customers as possible, and will take measures to encourage their clients to remain healthy, rather than run the risk that those clients will cut into their profits. Similar measures could be used to address substance abuse. Someone who wants to lower their various insurance premiums can touch base with optional tests to record their healthy lifestyle, thereby making healthy lifestyle choices more economical. With fewer sick people overall, profits would be improved to such a degree that Insurance Providers wouldn't need to charge as much to cover the medical expenses of the sick. And with plenty of competition between Insurance Providers, they would have an incentive to reduce prices as much as can still remain reasonably profitable. This also could resolve the issue of Vaccine quality control, as an Insurance Provider would not want to endorse a vaccine that posed too high a risk of making its clients unhealthy, and therefore, more expensive. A Vaccine which carries too considerably a risk would also run them up on liability charges. Furthermore, Providers would have a vested interest in finding the most affordable methods of improving health, and encouraging its clients to utilize those methods. Balgan Hyrede 9:52, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Freely available information is not free[edit]

Another big problem with libertarianism is that it assumes that all actors are fully informed. This is simply not a realistic model. Accreditation of doctors is a good one. Frankly, for a lot of medical decisions, I am not in a position to have meaningful input on my own health decisions. That's why I pay a doctor. He spent years and years training and learning to be an expert in health matters. I am not. The best I can do is try to get a dozen different opinions, track records of patients, do statistical studies of how well the doctor performs, try to control for competing variables, etc. However, what I just listed out is itself obscene IMHO to require for every individual who wants to make a health care decision. Checking a couple posts on yelp or whatever online site for comments on the doctor from other people is woefully insufficient to make informed decisions. Requiring everyone do all the research themselves necessary to determine if the doctor is legit or not is just silly. It's duplicate work, and that's why we farm it out to a collective body, an accreditation agency. -- Of course, some libertarians would want to claim that such agencies arise spontaneously, but then we're back to the freerider problem, which most simply do not acknowledge, and I wonder if they even understand it. LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 22:19, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Libertarianism is ill-defined[edit]

The principle might be simple, but applying the principle is a different story. Land ownership itself is a form of statism, if not the definition of government. Landlord is the government of a given region. If you protect "your" land with a gun, you're initiating force. Some libertarians believe in the taxation of land and distribution of land rents to the citizens, to better share the land in a cooperative liberty, like the classical liberals. Unfortunately, hardcore libertarians believe such classical liberals are communists, even though the communists believe as the hardcore libertarians do, that land is like any other capital, rather than wealth held in common by the citizens and a distinct component of production separate from capital. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

  • It is not initiating force if someone is already attempting to rob you. The better question is, what degree of force is justifiable in that situation? Physical violence should generally be a last resort, or reserved for when someone is facing an imminent threat to life or limb. In a free market system, it's altogether possible to diffuse and discourage many acts of theft without the threat of violence. People in general dislike being robbed from, and could Economically Exile thieves and frauds by denying them service, refusing to do business with them, and by refusing to protect them from other outlaws until such time as they provide restitution to those they wronged. That aside, habitual offenders will likely find themselves shot at some point, either by someone who they are attempting to rob, or by another outlaw seeking to rob them. Not to mention the law would be indisputably on your side if you sought to non-violently reclaim your property from the thief, and if they tried to prevent you from doing so with violence, then you wouldn't be the initiator of force in that situation, either. Balgan Hyrede 10:22, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

The issues are more than just over land, especially when it comes to industries of usury, such as insurance and banking, which are ultimately just industries of legal fiction and a form of statism. Could you imagine the fraud in banking and insurance without government? They are already filled with fraud. Fractional reserve banking itself is a ponzi scheme. Unfortunately, libertarianism is largely defined by anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryist (feudalists) as government is all bad and free markets are all good except where government enforces the principles of capitalism as defined by banks and corporations. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

  • (1) Fractional reserve banking is indeed a Ponzi scheme and under any consistent law of contracts would constitute a cause of action against the bank in question. Everything is wrong with it. (2) Land is indeed like any other form of capital, and a failure to treat it as such, e.g. by imposing some vacuous concept like compulsory common ownership, guarantees the tragedy of the commons. Suggesting default common ownership of any other form of capital (say, a factory and its machinery) turns the speaker into a self-parodic Rand villain and betrays fatal ignorance of observed behavioral economic principles ('what belongs to everyone belongs to no-one') and history (Yugoslavia) to boot. Frostbyte (talk) 09:34, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

Libertarian arguments bog you down in false dichotomies[edit]

Libertarianism seeks to promote "simple" solutions to complex problems of various kinds faced by people. The free market is basically set in opposition to state governments. But when you unpack the rhetoric, there is actually quite a lot more in common than the rhetoric makes you believe. There will still be a need for "men with guns" to enFORCE various court decisions. Libertarians assume a lot of homogeneity in the society. If everyone has different ideas about rights (e.g. Europeans vs Native Americans disagreeing about ownership of land, or disagreement about intellectual property rights) then there won't be agreement about who "initiated force". If everyone has their own gang to enforce their view -- well, how is that better for promoting peace than a single government where people peacefully vote? Also, there are many different kinds of libertarians. The ones in the USA are mostly anarcho-capitalists, or minarchist-capitalists. Once again they simplify the concept of "ownership" by private individuals, overlooking the complexities of things (e.g. adverse possession laws, etc.) Governments of cities and states are special cases of management teams of organizations -- they are completely fine with an apartment landlord telling tenants what to do, or a co-op management team voting on and enforcing a no-pets policy, but not a city government running things in a city. At the end of the day, the assets and land found in the state of New York has to be managed by SOMEONE, whether it's a single individual or an organization with a voting structure. There are lots of variations -- you can have an NGO manage a park, or a for-profit organization, or a city government. All around the world people have formed governments for a reason. Libertarians have to put their money where their mouth is and show that an alternative system will work better. The question of how a system will work, regardless of the personalities of the people in the system, rests on what the incentives are. Unfortunately, the anarcho-capitalist system explicitly sanctions only one type of incentive: money. The free market runs on money, so the market eventually favors those companies that can make more of it faster. Taken to the extreme, this would mean that rich people or companies like Coca Cola can buy up lakes, justice, whatever they want. All they have to do is buy off enough people, since the anarcho-capitalists opted not to have a democracy. At the end of the day people WILL form groups and those groups WILL form management teams and constitutions. No libertarians can stop that. The question is about what the structure will be and what policies will be undertaken, and what the constitution will say. A look at history shows CIVIL liberties have been protected best when there was strong CONSTITUTIONAL protection for specific liberties. But it also shows that giving a voice to everyone, to balance the money inequality, results in policies that are fairer to everyone. So that means we should have a mixed economy, that balances the public interest with private ownership incentives, and with individual rights and perks. This is a messy, imperfect process and not everyone is going to agree. That's why debating with libertarians is just wasting time with a bunch of rhetoric and straw man false dichotomies. EGreg (talk) 22:06, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

  • First of all, "peacefully voting" entails the use of force to carry out the rulings on the unwilling, regardless of whether the unwilling are guilty of any wrongdoing, insofar as governments are concerned. This is completely different from a use of force to defend yourself from those who seek you deliberate and direct harm. In most businesses, if a vote is held, and you disagree, you can leave the company. You often cannot leave a government without physically abandoning much of your own property. Furthermore, you must often ask permission from a government to remove yourself from their authority.
What homogeneity is required? Is it truly so hard to believe that most people would generally be against theft, fraud, and aggression against innocents? These are the principles that a great deal of western common law is built upon. Why is it so hard to believe that people would generally continue to agree with it, even in the absence of a government?
Why would Libertarians be opposed to the formation of management groups, or Constitutions? Neither of these things are an explicit violation of free market or NAP axioms. Whether they would be seen as legitimate would depend on whether the edicts apply to the non-consenting.
Once more, criticism falls into the trap of assuming that the enforcement of laws would frequently necessitate the initiation of force. Just as there are many things a person can do to harm you without resorting to physical violence, so too are there many ways in which you can discourage someone without resorting to violence yourself. Much of these methods rely on a foundation of good will with your neighbors and associates, something that a habitual criminal would be less likely to possess.
Civil liberties aren't granted by a piece of paper, they are merely acknowledged by it. The continued existence of these liberties relies on your willingness to exercise them, and your willingness to defend your neighbors' right exercise them.
And finally, money is not the foundation of economy or free market. Profit is. You could have all the money in the world, and it would be next to worthless if no one was willing to accept it in exchange for their goods or services. If the only thing someone could receive in exchange for their property or labor is something that they value exactly as much as what they're giving up, no one would have any incentive to trade, which is why Profit is necessary for economy. Profit can be achieved by anyone who has any kind of desirable resource, whether it be a physical object, or simply a desirable skill or trait. Balgan Hyrede 11:38, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

It's not Anarchy[edit]

I think a lot of Libertarians forget that. I'm libertarian as far as average people are concerned, but economic Libertarian policies create abuses that are just as bad as Communism. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 03:24, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

On the contrary, what fundamentally distinguishes libertarians from other philosophies is what they consider to be the appropriate use of force. In this respect some anarchist philosophies are rightfully placed under the umbrella of libertarianism. This is especially true when you look at the origins of libertarian philosophy. Counterpoint (talk) 15:10, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
What 'libertarian policies'; that is, without any grant of subsidy, license or privilege, can you point to in all of human history, and what 'abuses' did this generate that remotely compare to the Holodomor? Frostbyte (talk) 09:35, 19 January 2014 (UTC)
How about grants of subsidy, license, or privilege? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 09:42, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

Libertarianism is unrealistic, in that it ignores history[edit]

To quote a guy over on Slacktivist:

“One of the things I’ve realized over the years is that the real brake on social and general human progress is the tendency among human to not be able to process that things used to be different and they’re better because of [this thing]. So if they see [thing] as the enemy that’s getting in the way of their goal they want to get rid of it and everything will be fantastic.

The big place where I see this is with unions. It was collective negotiating power that began to counter the robber barons. Then the government stepped in and started breaking trusts and regulating everything. Things got really good for the working folk through the 50s and 60s and into the early 70s. But then people started to see unions as corrupt (which, admittedly, some were) and a hindrance. Worse, though, they decided that the state of labor created by the combination of unions and progressive governance was the eternal, immutable way things were and started clamoring to get rid of unions and regulations (or, in many cases, were goaded into doing so by people who wanted to exploit them) because that would make things better.

Modern libertarianism is the zenith (or nadir) of this particular attitude. They genuinely seem to believe that the state we’re on is the launch pad and if we just get rid of all those pesky regulations we’ll shortly be rocketing to the moon.

What they don’t seem to get is that we’re actually on a platform that was painstakingly erected by the very things they hate and claim are causing problems. Right now the breakdown of unions and neutering of government regulations is destroying the foundations of that platform and if they get their way what will actually happen is that everything will collapse. It’s been wearing down for decades as wages have stagnated and the number of homeless, unemployed, and people on government benefits have increased.

But who’s been doing better and better? The super rich. They’re referred to in our history books as “robber barons” and their time was known as “The Gilded Age.”

History, as someone once said, may not repeat itself but it certainly does rhyme.”

--Gulik (talk)

  • Pot, meet kettle. Paragraph by paragraph, (1) it is only an interventionist state that even tolerates the idea of 'getting rid of' anything voluntary, be it booze, drugs, homosexuality, scripture of minority religions, 'bandit' cabbies, 'predatory' moving companies, raw-milk dairies or pre- or extra-marital sex. No state means no preexisting mechanism by which an artificial elite can impose its prejudices on others. (2) The idea that the robber-barons of the nineteenth century were beneficiaries of a lack of regulation is so preposterous that I'm hesitant to dignify it with a response. I overcome my hesitation, though, because I did promise paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal. 19th-century America implemented tariffs (in any form or amount, an egregious abrogation of economic freedom), patents (which scarcely any modern libertarian of any stripe defends in any form, let alone in currently-relevant forms like software patents, partly because they are unnecessary and mostly because they abrogate any logically consistent theory of property) and copyrights (at a minimum unnecessary, and in general terrible, awful, no good, and very very bad, for all the same reasons as patents) which allowed the legendary corporate concentration of the nineteenth century. [Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, by Kevin Carson] Unions arose as a response to business that had grown fat and invincible under the state's protection. If business and state had not been so intimately intertwined during that period, why were nineteenth-century institutions so gung-ho about executing Joe Hill and his ilk? Beyond that, 'Trusts' and 'monopolies' have never, at any point in history, arisen under even free-ish markets - they arise quite consistently, by contrast, where the state is active, as the military-industrial complex, whose existence is inextricably intertwined with the interventionist state, is all too happy to bear witness. The nineteenth century, anywhere on Earth, but especially in the United States, represents a vindication of the view that the abolition of regulatory privilege is a step forward. (3) And part (2) comes without even considering the examples provided in part (1) demonstrating the more or less total lack of separation between the moral and practical cases for economic freedom. How many people suffer poverty or unemployment because someone who purports to have their (or a potential customer's) good at heart dictates, at the implied point of a gun, the conditions and occupations in which they can work? (4) See above. The robber-barons never advocated for deregulation, never wanted it and never witnessed it. The Kochtopus, and indeed every other limited-liability entity, have power because of the action of the state, not its inaction.

tl;dr Read some bloody history yourself. Frostbyte (talk) 09:23, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Strict adherence to free market principles would not deny people the right to collectively bargain, it would only mean that unions, in of themselves, could not be mandated by law, and that participation in them would need to be voluntary. If an employer agreed to a contract to only employ members of a specific union, this would be legally binding. But only if it was signed willingly, and without fraud or duress. And specific reparations would need to be defined for the breach of this contract.
The "Deregulation" as you see it, is not, in fact, deregulation, but rather transforming "Fraud is bad" to "Fraud is acceptable for these specific entities" That's not deregulation, that's cronyism. In fact, even saying "Fraud is acceptable for anyone" wouldn't really be deregulation, it would simply be a declaration of the illegitimacy of the government. Deregulation, isn't a strictly accurate description of what Libertarians seek. A more specific term would be "repealing fascism"
Even if we did get rid of the government, with the current level of public consciousness and knowledge, people would very likely just create a new one, possibly just as abusive, or more so. But the goal of Libertarians isn't just to dissolve a tyranny, but to inform people so that they are better prepared to govern themselves, and so that they can resist future tyranny.
It is not enough that a government simply vanish, the people need the confidence and understanding of how they can operate without it. Which is why well placed criticism of Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists should be welcomed, so long as those criticizing are willing to fully entertain the possible answers, and not just disregard them out of hand, without any kind of real analysis. I have seen criticisms of Libertarians in the main article on this site which have existing rebuttals, but the rebuttals are entirely ignored within the article. Even if you believe the rebuttal is nonsense, for the sake of intellectual integrity, at least explain why.

Balgan Hyrede 12:33, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

My two cents[edit]

While I agree libertarianism sounds good on paper and has an encomiable idea -their defense of civil rights and their wish to remove unnecesary regulations (some are that) and bureaucracy; I'll better leave apart the hipocrisy of Milton Friedman in the Chile of Pinochet-, I find it's as uthopic as Communism (anarcho-capitalism takes this up to eleven as is as uthopical as anarchism; workable in small communities but not for societies as a whole)

My main concern with it is how, as Communism, it ignores that humans are very far of the perfect things they assume we're, no matter if one talks about the Austrian or the Chicago schools, and in the case of the latter than no mathematical model can predict how society works down to the smallest numbers -their results are cool until one looks what really lies behind those numbers (no trickle-down as they say, crappy jobs, etc) and of course ignores that if someone has power he/she will abuse of it. For example, they want to remove all labor laws and that employer and employee will accord the conditions but what about large companies of the abuses when jobs are scarce?

Alas, I love their hipocrisy -no unions, but no ways to stop abuses of large companies, Adam Smith at least suggested fragmenting them, pro-life but when someone's born on a poor family bad luck-. In my opinion, libertarianism left to itself, would evolve into crony capitalism -hard to think someone with money and thus power would not attempt to have that weak goverment at his/her side, kicking out the ladder used to climb there-, especially as places as this where having connections is almost a must. Humans at the gummint are as human as those who are entrepeneurs, and they keep ignoring that.

I could go on, but typing on a tablet is tiresome and this is just a resume, even thinking that the libertarian party here got just 6K votes in all the country -the less voted one-, and its main visible head is an economist who among other things suggested to break down cities, so suburbs would compete among themselves (no words on the same for big businesses), considered a hero Assange for reporting state abuses but as a bit less than evil incarnated the secretary of a swiss bank who passed to a judge information of tax evaders with accounts on his bank (because he violated the freedom of carrying their monies wherever they wanted), and loves to talk about "freedom" and anything that has to see with regulations and the like as "social-democratic". Panzerfaust (talk) 09:19, 2 September 2016 (UTC)