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User:Silver Sloth/Libertarian principles critique

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Preamble[edit]

I got involved in a series of debates about Libertarianism (or I'm all right Jackism as I prefer to call it so don't expect a NPOV). After a while it became apparent that the debate was a complete waste of time. I felt that my points were being ignored or misunderstood and I guess my opponent felt the same way. What should have been lively debate quickly degenerated into an abusive shouting match. However, it did prompt me to want to formally state why I dislike Libertarianism so.

The main complaints made against me were ignorance and misunderstanding. It was assumed that anyone who fully knew and understood the Libertarian way would be an instant convert. To research I therefore went on the Libertarian website and followed a few links to this statement of Libertarian Principles which was adopted in their 2008 Denver convention. It should therefore be representative of the current official Libertarian line.

The first thing I notice is that it's all about rights, with nothing about duties or responsibilities. Ask not what you can do for your country, ask rather what your country can do for you, as a former president did not put it.

Here's a side-by-side of the various principles with my woolly, Guardian reading, muesli eating, sandals with socks wearing response.

The paragraph numbering is mine but I follow the same order and have neither added nor deleted anything from the original.

The Principles[edit]

Personal Liberty[edit]

Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual's right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.

OK, so it's quite reasonable that we should all be free to make our own choices, no reasonable person would disagree with that, except, and it's a big except, it's a very self centred position.

Man is a social creature. We live in societies and, in order that we can co-exist we have to make a number of joint decisions. Some of these are simple - we all agree to drive on the same side of the road. Others are more complex. Take the age of sexual consent, for example. This is a semi arbitrary line which is agreed by society at large but it is difficult to deny that it is required to protect minors. Should, could, libertarian personal liberty be extended to personal definitions of the age of consent or are there areas where social responsibility overrides personal liberty?


Expression and Communication[edit]

We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.

No problem with this one.

Personal Privacy[edit]

We support the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating "crimes" without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Again no real problems. As regards the drugs thing, it is indeed far better tackled as a medical, not a legal problem.

Personal Relationships[edit]

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.

Again no problems. If it goes on like this I'll be reaching for the membership application. However, if taken to extremes it gets ludicrous. Can you really endorse accepting known paedophiles as potential adopters, or are there limits to the choice of sexual preference?

Abortion[edit]

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

So, that's pro choice then. Still with you.

However, this presupposes that the foetus has no rights which is a very interesting debate which has been largely ducked here.

Crime and Justice[edit]

Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.

Weasel words beginning to creep in here. It looks like Libertarians are fine with the concept of putting people at moderate risk of harm, as long as it doesn't reach significant.

There's also nothing here about who decides what constitutes significant harm. It is exactly this sort of legal nicety, where fine legal definitions have been hammered out over years of mostly democratic purposes, that Libertarians appear to want to overturn with dramatic black/white, yes/no definitions.

Self-Defense[edit]

The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the right to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.

Looks like it's fine to sell weapons to the criminally insane, or children. Looks also as if there's no limit to those weapons so a small thermo nuclear device is fine, or are we reaching significant levels of harm?

Economic Liberty[edit]

A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. - this is presented as a self evident fact.

What is significant is the emphasis on efficiency rather than equality. This is all about making the most bucks, there is no mention anywhere about fairness.

Property and Contract[edit]

Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights. The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all controls on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade. The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever. Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.

Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners. Does that mean that the Indian tribes shuld get all their land back, or is there some sort of statute of limitations.

Environment[edit]

We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.

Oh, yeah, free market forces have such a wonderful record on environment issues. Look at all the big business donations to Greenpeace, or Friends of the Earth. Don't make me laugh

Energy and Resources[edit]

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

No, indeed, let's leave it to big oil, I'm sure we can trust them. Again the belief that business can be trusted to be run for the good of mankind as opposed to the good of the shareholder shows a staggering naïvety and triumph of dogma over experience.


Government Finance and Spending[edit]

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.

I had to read this one twice to ensure that I got it right. No income tax and no forcing employers to serve as tax collectors which implies no sales tax. Looks like what's left of the government is going to be a little short of income. There is no explanation of how the duties which are left to Government are going to be paid for. This is typical politics, promise tax cuts but refuse to say how services will be paid for.

Money and Financial Markets[edit]

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies, the repeal of legal tender laws and compulsory governmental units of account.

Well, the money markets have been doing such a superb job recently haven't they? So superb that they are being bailed out to the tune of trillions of taxpayers dollars globally. That really raises ones faith in the free market.

Monopolies and Corporations[edit]

We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.

Not too many problems here, as long as you don't mind paying through the nose for a service because Mega-Corp is the only supplier.

Labor Markets[edit]

We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.

Deconstructed this is anti union - it says it's not but if an employer has the right to refuse to recognise a union then which ones are going to? I owe my pay rise this year to the efforts of my union so this is a difficult sell to me.

Education[edit]

Education, like any other service, is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Schools should be managed locally to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, we would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.

Now we're getting to the meat of the matter. Education, like any other service, is best provided by the free market, once again dogma stated as if it were self evident. If education is driven by market forces then it makes sense not to educate those with high associated costs - basically those with special needs. If you cannot afford private tutoring then don't have a child with autism.

Furthermore, what about those who cannot afford to send their children to school? There may be some talk of school vouchers or the like but that is essentially government interference - firmly against Libertarian principles - and how are they going to pay for these vouchers with no taxes being raised. This is the first of the real, if you're poor you're screwed, clauses.

The logical result of policies like this is to have a two tier system, the educated haves and the uneducated have nots. The have nots will not have the earning potential of the haves and will be unable to purchase the level of education required to cross the divide.

Health Care[edit]

We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want, the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.

This is another biggie. What if you can't afford health insurance? More pertinently, what about the five year old child with leukaemia who's parents can't afford insurance who is destined to die a painful and unnecessary death because (s)he was born to the wrong parents. Sorry, kid, life's like that sometimes.

Retirement and Income Security[edit]

Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. We favor replacing the current government-sponsored Social Security system with a private voluntary system. The proper source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.

And if you put all your retirement fund into the wrong stocks, well, that's tough. Or, as another example, suppose you spent all your life working for the Maxwell corporation only to find your pension fund went overboard with the crook that ran it. Sorry guys, you did all the right things but your retirement is at the bottom of the Atlantic and there's no one to sue because he's dead and the company's just gone bankrupt.

Securing Liberty[edit]

The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. The principle of non-initiation of force should guide the relationships between governments.

The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. So, who's going to build the Interstate highways? Who's going to build the LHC? Who's going to preserve national treasures? etc. etc.

National Defense[edit]

We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world and avoid entangling alliances. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.

Not too many problems here. I still wonder who's going to pay the troops with no taxes coming in to the government. I'm slightly surprised that it's not suggested that a free market solution is appropriate - it's supposed to work for everything else, what's so special about defence? Surely handing the defence of the realm over to Blackwater is the free market way?

Internal Security and Individual Rights[edit]

The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to domestic security. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. The Bill of Rights provides no exceptions for a time of war. Intelligence agencies that legitimately seek to preserve the security of the nation must be subject to oversight and transparency. We oppose the government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.

Right with you on this one.

International Affairs[edit]

American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.

So, Libertarians condemn the use of force, but aren't prepared to do anything about it.

Free Trade and Migration[edit]

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a threat to security, health or property.

Unlimited immigration - that one's going to go down a storm with the electorate!

Rights and Discrimination[edit]

We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.

Again, there's condemnation with no proposal as to how to do anything about it. Ooops, you can't as government must never intervene

Representative Government[edit]

We support electoral systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives.

With no tax-financed subsidies only the rich can afford to run. Again, it's a manifesto for the well off.


Self-Determination[edit]

Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.

No problem with this one, except that, once again, there's no mechanism in place.

Omissions[edit]

Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.

No problem here.

Conclusions[edit]

Whilst at first glance Libertarianism appears very attractive it fast reveals itself as a policy for the haves, a Gordon Gekko Greed Is Good viewpoint where those who cannot compete are 'inefficient'. There are plenty of precedents to show where such policies lead. Surely the greatest experiment in free market laissez faire economics was in Britain in the latter half of the 19th century, a time when incredible fortunes were made by the rich as the poor suffered in the slums. I am glad that we have moved beyond those times and would do whatever I could to prevent their return.

Personally I feel that the mark of a civilisation is how it looks after it's weaker members and, for the Libertarian, the answer is that it doesn't. I therefore reject it.