10 Problems With Libertarianism. - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14421970
I am not as caustic a critic of libertarianism as I once was. I have come to owe an intellectual debt to certain libertarians. In fact it is libertarians who are in many cases the only ones speaking up on certain issues, although some have gotten on the bandwagon in recent times. For instance libertarians have done a lot of the intellectual legwork on how zoning laws oppress the poor and stifle business by driving up costs and now moderate-liberal Matthew Yglesias has caught onto it and concerns about this are mainstream. On this and other issues (namely issues criticizing crony capitalism) libertarians are owed a debt of gratitude. However it still has a few problems.


Problem 1: By its definition libertarianism always favors smaller government.

It is popular to denounce "big government" in politics and perhaps government is too big. But libertarianism always answers the question of how big government should be with, "smaller." Indeed I believe government is too big in today's society, however was it too big in Dickensian London? According to a libertarian the answer is "yes." Yet the truth is for all their denounciations of big government most people on the center-right still favor bigger government than in the year 1900, but by its definition libertarians want to make government even smaller yet.


Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

Many libertarians (and some liberals) say you "can't legislate morality" yet by its definition all law is a form of legislating morality. In the end somebody's morality will be legislated, the question is not if, but the question is whose morality. Obviously we can avoid sectarian morality, for instance, preventing right-wing religious fanatics from legislating their agenda, but sooner or later moral questions will always work their way into the law.


Problem 3: Libertarianism cannot answer the problem of children without violating its own code.

One problem with libertarianism is the state of minors. Indeed libertarianism often talks of "consenting adults" and also "non-aggression axioms." Yet who could argue that children are able to enter into contracts or hold adult responsibilities? Few would, yet they are still human and with the non-aggression axiom you are violating their rights by restricting their freedom for their own good and allowing parents to do so, the paradox being that other adults could exploit children even more if they did not. For instance we "initiate force" against children by preventing child labor, yet it would be easy for children to be exploited by child labor and work in coal mines.

In the end we solve this by creating an age of majority, or more realistically, phasing in of various ages of responsibility. There can be legitimate debate about where the correct age of majority is, how old people should be before they can work, vote, sign contracts etc. In the end I think it would probably be somewhere between the late teens and early twenties which is where society sets it. Below or above this too much would defy logic, but like or not it is going to have to be arbitrary at some point. Why are 18 year olds adults? Some could say 17 year olds should be considered adults too, others would say 18 is too irresponsible and maybe it should be 19, but like it or not sooner or later it is arbitrary within a certain framework.


Problem 4: Most "libertarian" politicians are not libertarians. The reason being is most people are unwilling to accept full bore libertarianism.

This applies to so-called "libertarian" Republicans. Even so, these "libertarian" Republicans often support immigration restrictions and some elements of social conservatism, often reverting to a "states' rights" stance on social issues. For instance you don't see these so-called libertarians unapologetically arguing for the legalization of heroin and prostitution and for open borders. Yet in the end this is libertarianism. Short of this and you restrict liberty. Still they are somehow afraid to admit what it really is. You even have so-called "libertarians" arguing for piecemeal reforms like "personal accounts" in Social Security. Again, not libertarians.

Case in point you can build a coalition around legalizing marijuana, yet by definition a libertarian, being always for greater liberty, cannot escape the logical conclusion of favoring legalization of even harder drugs yet. Still how can anybody sit and deny the reality of supply and demand? You create a cost to produce these drugs by waging war on them, not having those risks would make them cheaper and by definition cheap things usually become plentiful. The argument around marijuana is not for me an argument about whether or not the drug war is "working" because the truth is most casual users get a slap on the wrist. In the end the issue is not whether marijuana legalization will make its use more plentiful (it certainly will) but whether or not the problems of marijuana are so trivial that they are no cocern of the government (a legitimate point). But how can anybody look at hard drugs and call them trivial?


Problem 5: Taken to its logical conclusion libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-capitalism is unworkable.

This is a point anarcho-capitalists are often proud to point out and in my opinion minarchists are merely doing mental gymnastics to justify otherwise. If you can't choose your police, your military and your government on a free market how is that anything less than a violation of the non-aggression principle? Indeed logically a true libertarian has to lead to "anarcho"-capitalism. The problem is anarcho-capitalism differs from historic anarchism in a few ways and is unworkable.

Anarchism historically did not ever propose multiple laws over one territory. The idea of anarchism is simply the abolition of hierarchy, not law itself. Thus the people rule as directly as possible. Anarchist theory has held varying degrees of thought such as radical direct democracy and syndicalist economics. However anarcho-capitalism differs in that it isn't the people directly ruling in a directly democratic commune, but various agencies resolving disputes over one territory. These dispute resolutions are often proposed to be peaceful, but in the end there will always be disagreements. I don't see how it would not degenerate over time into something resembling gang warfare. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't work because it tries to square the circle by having a society of law in which there are multiple private laws followed in one single area.


Problem 6: Libertarians are often right, but then go too far.

Case in point zoning laws. Perhaps it is a good thing to let development move organically and not try to restrict everything into low and high density, commercial and residential, promoting government enforced suburbanization. However libertarians would move beyond this and do away with building codes altogether. Yet we see how societies without building codes are prone to disaster (Great Chicago Fire of 1871). Yet for the libertarian stacking up wooden shanties with faulty electrical wiring is "property rights" even if it in endangers the property of others.


Problem 7: Property is a creature of society. There are no "natural rights" to property.

Indeed moving onto property rights, property rights in and of themselves exist within a legal framework. Someone has to define whose property is whose and how it works out. I am not saying abolish private property, absolutely not, but as a creature of society there cannot be a natural and philosophical right to invioable private property rights that exists in the same category as, for instance the right to life. This doesn't mean property rights should not be protected, merely that we have to be realistic about the origin of property rights.


Problem 8: The welfare state and social cohesion.

Perhaps our social safety net does too little to encourage work and too much to encourage sloth. Again one can apply common sense principles without going no holds barred. Yet there are indeed slothful people in our society, slothful and entitled people. Libertarians should by definition favor immediate abolition of the welfare state. Yet cut off from succor the natural human evolutionary drive kicks in. Indeed the welfare state has allowed many people to be fat and happy instead of being in survival mode, yet it takes weaning off over time. Indeed the natural reaction to crisis is survival by any means neccessary. It makes evolutionary sense that if a welfare state is available some people will naturally mooch off of this if indeed they desire little more than this, whereas others are incentivized to work because they seek to enjoy a standard of living beyond mere survival. We all have what we value. Yet most humans value survival and if survival is up in the air there no doubt you would see more crimes created in the name of survival.

Perhaps it violates property rights to tax for welfare, yet if people in desperate survival mode go out and begin to commit various crimes for survival it might violate property rights more significantly. Indeed a burned down business is much worse than filling out a form to pay taxes.


Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy.

This is one I just don't get. At the end of the day they can talk about how fiat money has no "real value" beyond what humans give it but gold is not much better. Yes gold has some electrical properties and malleability which make it a good industrial metal. Yet most of the value of gold is not from its industrial use, but merely from what culture has ascribed to it. Gold would be valuable without the cultural attachment to it as an object of beauty (imagine we lived in a world of purely utilitarian concerns) but it would still be significantly less valuable. Indeed golds value comes from scarcity of supply and demand, fiat money gets its value the same. In the end it seems the only real gripe about fiat money they have is it comes from (gasp!) government.


Problem 10: The seamless garment of liberty.

I am no neo-con and do not believe that the west can simply will democracy and freedom on the world, yet there is no doubt that various alliances of democratic nations such as NATO and the United Nations have at times intervened when times are dire. Indeed there is no doubt that the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo stopped genocide short before it could grow even worse. This is because society has grown sensitive to genocide after matters such as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide and the Japanese occupations of other Asian nations during WWII. Rightly we said "never again." We did fail at times (Cambodia, the Second Congo War, Rwanda etc.) to step in but in many others it worked.

Indeed even if one accepts minarchist libertarianism the question is why should we only worry about the liberty of our fellow countrymen? Is not liberty a seamless garment that should logically apply as a worldwide thing. Is it not desirable where it is feasible for NATO and others to intervene in times of great humanitarian crisis? Indeed borders are merely historical matters. Nobody has explained yet why an invisible line should mean that I worry about the liberty of those within it more than those outside of it.

Please note the same logic also applies to the interest in neo-Confederate ideas found in some sectors of libertarianism. How was it a greater violation of civil liberties for the North to intervene than chattel slavery was?
#14421979
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 1: By its definition libertarianism always favors smaller government.

Nah. Not really. Relative to the current size - yes. But if the government became really small, many libertarians would simply stop calling themselves libertarians any more.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

I don't understand the issue here.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 3: Libertarianism cannot answer the problem of children without violating its own code.

Not really... Perhaps that is the case if you listen to some strange extreme code, such as Rothbard's, but that's hardly representative.

nucklepunche wrote:Below or above this too much would defy logic, but like or not it is going to have to be arbitrary at some point. Why are 18 year olds adults? Some could say 17 year olds should be considered adults too, others would say 18 is too irresponsible and maybe it should be 19, but like it or not sooner or later it is arbitrary within a certain framework.

Yeah, so? What's the problem here?

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 5: Taken to its logical conclusion libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism

Nonsense. Only if take those "libertarian" principles from anarcho-capitalists. Hayek was a libertarian and was not an anarcho-capitalist. I don't see him binding himself in logical contradictions leading to lack of sleep.

nucklepunche wrote:If you can't choose your police, your military and your government on a free market how is that anything less than a violation of the non-aggression principle?

Libertarians don't normally deduce their whole political stance on one principle. The "non-aggression principle" is at best a general guiding principle rather than the way to decide on everything. Only an-caps take it literally and to the extreme, thus getting into such philosophical dilemmas.

nucklepunche wrote:Indeed logically a true libertarian has to lead to "anarcho"-capitalism.

I think you're simply confusing concepts. If you think A is logically equivalent to B, then it might just be a matter of your definitions.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 6: Libertarians are often right, but then go too far.

True.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 7: Property is a creature of society. There are no "natural rights" to property.

True. The "natural rights" argument is mostly rhetoric, much like the "inalienable rights" in the US Constitution.

nucklepunche wrote:Libertarians should by definition favor immediate abolition of the welfare state.

Not really. Hayek was much in favor of welfare.

nucklepunche wrote:[b]Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy. This is one I just don't get.

Friedman did not support a gold standard.
#14421988
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

Many libertarians (and some liberals) say you "can't legislate morality" yet by its definition all law is a form of legislating morality. In the end somebody's morality will be legislated, the question is not if, but the question is whose morality. Obviously we can avoid sectarian morality, for instance, preventing right-wing religious fanatics from legislating their agenda, but sooner or later moral questions will always work their way into the law.
Yes good but law does not reflect morality it is morality. For me its interesting how progressives do very much share the same philosophical root as Libertarians. Its just they latch on to different causes. Its funny in away how people still care so much about the American civil war. It points to the roots flaw of Liberalism there is no objective morality. There is no objective right and wrong. So we get this ongoing dispute between a bunch of Black lovers and a bunch of WASP lovers. I see the average person as a moral coward too psychologically inadequate to face up to this lack of objective right and wrong.

If we abandon the pretence of absolute morality we don't have to abandon practical liberalism. We don't have to bin practical private property and "the rule of law". But we just recognise law, government and societal codes as negotiation between power holders. Rights can be a useful principle within law, but they are not principles that precede law. In football, if someone fouls you, you have a right to a free kick. But this is not an eternal principle, merely a device that the power holders within football decided made for a good game.

Libertarianism is no better than it was at the time of slave Lords like Jefferson and Washington. What have Libertarians done to close Guantanamo Bay? Kidnapping people anywhere in the world, torturing them for months or years, no due process. But apparently Obamacare is a far more urgent matter of concern than Guantanamo. its just cheap popularism seeking to give principled cover for the most selfish, degenerate and corrupt elements with our society. Or take welfare. Jesus how much welfare do you get in America? It must surely be tiny compared to a welfare Queen like Thomas Jefferson who had a hundred and fifty odd slaves to do his work for him.
#14422150
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 1: By its definition libertarianism always favors smaller government.It is popular to denounce "big government" in politics and perhaps government is too big. But libertarianism always answers the question of how big government should be with, "smaller." Indeed I believe government is too big in today's society, however was it too big in Dickensian London? According to a libertarian the answer is "yes." Yet the truth is for all their denounciations of big government most people on the center-right still favor bigger government than in the year 1900, but by its definition libertarians want to make government even smaller yet.


Leaving aside all the hypocrisy concerning small government (small for whom?), this whole "statist" meme is mere cover for the basic bully-boy nastiness at the Libertarian core. Government is not the solution. Government is not the problem. Government is just a necessary function of people living together in a civil society. Government is the expression of the collective will of the people; it also the means by which the powerful subvert that will. This contradiction will hold whether government is effected by so-called 'voluntary' arrangements, or by traditional force-based government. The contradiction is part of the human condition and cannot be solved by libertarian or Anarchist strategies, unfortunately.
#14422359
My problem with libertarians is that their arguments are often focused on hypothetical situations using deductive logic to argue their points whilst ignoring mountains of empirical evidence and much of the historic record. It's like they're governing a computer simulation rather than a pragmatic reality.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy.

I'm not sure how many libertarians are gold-bugs. Their chief complaint is the government's ability to devalue people's savings by ordering inflation or debasement by fiat. A gold standard would be one solution but a system of free money in which people could make payments in multiple currencies and commodities could also be effective if people sold the currency that was being inflated and bought one that was a better store of value.
#14422419
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

I think this can be clarified by clearly defining what libertarians mean with "you can't legaslate morality". What libertarians want to legislate is the relationship between people. Thus, it is forbidden to iniate agression against another as that person clearly physically suffers from your action.

What libertarians don't want to legislate are what consenting adults do in their own time. If there is no person who physically suffers, then there is no crime. So things like prostetution or drugs wouldn't be legislated as there is no victim.



Problem 3: Libertarianism cannot answer the problem of children without violating its own code.

A child is someone who does not have the capacity to make certain choices. The child needs an adult to make those choices for him. To solve this problem you propose is easy. We just need to assess whether a person has the capacity to make those choices. In general an age-rule may be enough. In disputes, courts and psychologists can determine whether the person has the capacity or not.


Problem 4: Most "libertarian" politicians are not libertarians. The reason being is most people are unwilling to accept full bore libertarianism.
That's because many people dislike the extreme libertarian views. So some libertarians town it down a bit to achieve gradual gains. The only problem for libertarianism here is that people need to convince that libertarianism is the best way to run a community.


Problem 5: Taken to its logical conclusion libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-capitalism is unworkable.

I disagree. Why would anarcho-capitalism be unworkable? There's enough texts out there that try to show how it could work. Let me give one example of how multiple law organizations may work and actually work today. Two weeks ago I was involved in a little fender bender. No one got hurt, so no need to call the cops. But we did have a conflict, since there was physical damage. So we filled in the insurance paper work. We both had a different insurer. So the companies take our testimonies, determine who was at fault and what compensation will be paid. Both insurers could of course disagree and start a costly legal battle about who has to pay what. But instead insurers are much better off working within a specific rule set and just following those rules even if they are in that particular case on the losing side.


Problem 6: Libertarians are often right, but then go too far.

Yet for the libertarian stacking up wooden shanties with faulty electrical wiring is "property rights" even if it in endangers the property of others.

Maybe for some libertarians, but not for me. I believe that any physical threat, or risk thereof can be seen as a violation of property rights. It is then for courts to decide whether the perceived threat is an actual violation of property rights or merely one of the risks one has to accept when living in a community.

Problem 7: Property is a creature of society. There are no "natural rights" to property.
I think the projects-based view of property rights explained several times here by Eran should answer this question.

Problem 8: The welfare state and social cohesion.

You assume here that without governments forcing people to be charitable, nobody would be charitable. This is false. People are charitable and have several ways of expressing that. One way is the classic top down charity where rich people give to poor. Another way is the horizontal charity where people pay a membership fee and those who are in need receive help: mutual health organizations, or unemployment funds.

Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy.

I am in favor of free banking, not a gold standard per se.


Problem 10: The seamless garment of liberty.
Please note the same logic also applies to the interest in neo-Confederate ideas found in some sectors of libertarianism. How was it a greater violation of civil liberties for the North to intervene than chattel slavery was?

If people's rights are being violated, then it is right to help restore those rights. So it can be a just action if you use force to free the slaves and demand compensation from the slavers and protect against attacking armies that want to stop you from freeing slaves.

The problem with this is in the current nationstate system is that a war between nations is quickly an all out war between societies. Many innocent bystanders are getting killed. And instead of seeing this as the crime it is, they are just considered collateral damage. But to me they are murders like any other.

So I could get behind a war to free the slaves in another country. But the war should be limited to restoring slaves' rights and not other things.
#14422423
AFAIK wrote:I'm not sure how many libertarians are gold-bugs. Their chief complaint is the government's ability to devalue people's savings by ordering inflation or debasement by fiat. A gold standard would be one solution but a system of free money in which people could make payments in multiple currencies and commodities could also be effective if people sold the currency that was being inflated and bought one that was a better store of value.
Really libertarians don't seem to be able to grasp even the most basic economic concepts. You can't store value! At least not like the libertarians want. Life is not a computer game. In a computer game you can store value and the computer can always turn your virtual gold into virtual goods.

The current world order very foundation is based on the idea that you can't store value. Oil in the ground has value. We could store it by just leaving it in the ground. But our current system in as much as their is any consciously organised system at all, is predicated on the notion that the oil will decline in value relative to the average person's income. Hence it makes sense to consume now, in order to produce greater wealth in the future. We essentially assume that the post 1848 economy is the norm and the previous two hundred thousand years of human socio-economic history of political economy was an aberration. But whatever you certainly can't store value because value is a measure of exchange within a particular market at a particular time.
#14422434
There are two fundamental problems with libertarianism:
1) Concentration of corporate/economic power tends to lead these oligarchic elite to subvert your State and use exploit it for their own ends, destroying the "market-neutral" libertarian State (this is despite Libertarianism's otherwise laudable opposition to banksterism).
2) Immigration, because purely ideational libertarianism disregards the fact that libertarianism is the product of a very specific northwestern European cultural context which exists nowhere else in the world, and that immigrants that fail to assimilate to this culture will invariably act politically as collectivists (e.g., minorities overwhelmingly vote Left, typically for redistribution/discrimination against the majority).

These are the two main ways libertarianism self-destructs.

If one were to contain these two problems (somehow balance the power of oligarchs, limit immigration to assimilable levels), libertarianism might prove sustainable.
#14422539
Problem 1: By its definition libertarianism always favors smaller government.

That's true. Some libertarians (such as myself) are also anarchists, and consequently, for them, any government is too large.

For most libertarians, current governments are clearly and without exception too large. However, if they personally lived in a previous age, they might have merely supported preserving the then-current size of government and rejected calls to enlarge that scope.

In summary, "libertarianism" is the political philosophy that calls for a small or non-existent government.

Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

Libertarianism is a political theory that focuses on the proper scope of government or, in its anarchic form, the proper scope of the use of force in society. Non-anarchist libertarians believe government's role should be restricted to protecting people's (negative) rights and, in the case of less radical libertarians, also the provision of a small number of "public goods" such as transportation infrastructure.

Libertarianism isn't and has never been "relativistic". Rather, libertarianism argues that government's role in society (if any) shouldn't include mandating sectarian moral preferences.

Libertarians as individuals often have a rich set of moral codes they believe in.

Problem 3: Libertarianism cannot answer the problem of children without violating its own code.

Not so. The basic libertarian attitude is that all humans are "self-owners". Including children. However, children (as well as some mentally-handicapped adults) are unable to exercise their rights as self-owners. Consequently, others ("guardians") are entrusted to act as trustees in managing the "property" of children in themselves (as well as any potential conventional property) on behalf of, and for the good of the child.

Why is this position inconsistent with the core libertarian principle (NAP)?

Problem 4: Most "libertarian" politicians are not libertarians. The reason being is most people are unwilling to accept full bore libertarianism.

Sure. But that's a problem with politics and politicians, not with libertarianism.

Problem 5: Taken to its logical conclusion libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-capitalism is unworkable.

Yes and no. Yes, I agree that taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism (though most libertarians would disagree). No, it is not the case that anarhco-capitalism is unworkable.

But even if it were, so what? It is a perfectly acceptable position to say "we follow our principles for as long as it is practical to do so". Almost everybody else says that. If anarcho-capitalism is indeed unworkable, libertarian societies would stop just short of it.

However anarcho-capitalism differs in that it isn't the people directly ruling in a directly democratic commune, but various agencies resolving disputes over one territory. These dispute resolutions are often proposed to be peaceful, but in the end there will always be disagreements. I don't see how it would not degenerate over time into something resembling gang warfare. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't work because it tries to square the circle by having a society of law in which there are multiple private laws followed in one single area.

(My favourite topic)
Yes, there may always be disagreements. Just as there are disagreements in today's America regarding the proper interpretation of the Constitution. No, today's America isn't about to degenerate into warfare because while people differ over their interpretation of the Constitution, there is a very broad consensus that only certain peaceful means may be used to resolve such disputes.

In a similar way, an anarcho-capitalist society can only last as long as there is broad consensus that only certain peaceful means may be used to resolve such disputes. As today's America demonstrates, it is much easier to agree on means for resolving disputes than it is to agree on every potential point of dispute. So while an anarcho-capitalist society will certainly have disputes, it need not ever degenerate into "warfare", as such warfare falls outside the consensus of what is acceptable means for resolving disputes.

Anarcho-capitalism doesn't work because it tries to square the circle by having a society of law in which there are multiple private laws followed in one single area.

Not quite. This is a subtle issue, but there need not be "multiple private laws" just because there are multiple private law-enforcement (or even adjudication agencies). The Common Law is every anarcho-capitalist's favourite example. England under the Common Law had, arguably, a single law (with possible local variations) but that common law emerged from the rulings of many separate judges, not the action of a single unified legislator.

Problem 6: Libertarians are often right, but then go too far.

I don't believe libertarians go too far. In fact, as an anarchist, I believe most libertarians don't go far enough.

Specifically to your example (and I'm sure you have many others), 1871 Chicago isn't comparable to modern US in either understanding of risks or the means to address those risks. In 1871, the US was ruled by government, just as it is today. Yet the government of the time, no less than private parties, failed to prevent the fire. Lessons had to be learned, and the lessons could just as effectively have been learned by private sector actors.

You probably know the stock libertarian answer to building codes - they should be a matter of voluntary choice. I'll add a few comments:
1. In today's world, virtually all people of modest means use mortgages to purchase property. No mortgage lender would lend against a building that is about to fall or catch fire. In fact, mortgage lenders routinely require insurance and, again, no insurance company would insure a building that isn't up to good safety standards.
2. There is an open question as to the extent to which people may use their property to endanger the property of others. In my favourite formulation of the Non Aggression Principle, it is wrong to initiate force against the peaceful project of others. But a project which materially endangers others may not necessarily count as "peaceful".

Problem 7: Property is a creature of society. There are no "natural rights" to property.

Different libertarians differ in their understanding of the origin of rights. Many, myself included, do not believe that property rights are objectively provable. They are, rather, an integral part of a fuller moral attitude that most people share. Most people believe that, under normal circumstances, it is wrong to initiate force against the peaceful endeavours of others. Libertarians merely wish to extend that moral intuition to all actors in society, not just to non-government actors.

Property rights are such a great idea that even if there are circumstances under which the morally-correct thing to do is to violate them, it is still a good idea to adopt a legal system which, as a matter of law, prohibits all such violations. Society has a number of tools at its disposal to correct the result of the rare instances in which property right preservation creates an immoral result. For example it might be morally right to steal bread to feed one's starving children. That theft is a violation of property rights, and thus illegal. However, other members of society can easily donate money with which to compensate the owner of the bread such that the thief isn't punished for what was an illegal albeit moral act.

Problem 8: The welfare state and social cohesion.

I'm not sure how this argument is one against libertarians. Libertarians oppose the welfare state, but not welfare as such. In a libertarian society without the heavy burden of taxes, the sense that those taxes alleviate the moral obligation to help others and with an ability to choose the object of one's charity there is no doubt that ample contributions will enable multiple institutions to help those in real need out of starvation or the violence that the threat of starvation naturally arouses.

In addition to a massive reduction in the moral hazard created by modern public welfare, a libertarian society will open many more opportunities for people to find employment, and greatly reduce the cost of living for those at the bottom of society.

Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy.

Libertarians aren't pro-gold per se. Rather, libertarians believe government should be out of the business of making money, leaving that function to the free market. Libertarians note that historically, when allowed to operate freely, markets often picked gold as their favourite base money. Until fairly recently, it was a reasonable assumption that, left to its own device, a free market would revert to using gold as base money.

Recent developments in cyber-currencies have made that assumption less sound. It is entirely plausible that a libertarian society could, for example, adopt bitcoin as its base money.

Problem 10: The seamless garment of liberty.

Libertarians tend to oppose government-run wars, but not the use of force categorically. In cases of humanitarian disaster, it is perfectly permissible, by libertarian standards, to use force in defence of innocent people. I would envision a volunteer force, voluntarily both manned and funded, aimed at defending innocents in war-like situations. A more practical solution may simply be to allow refugees from war-torn countries to emigrate into a libertarian society. Most (though not all) libertarians support fairly open immigration policies.
#14422545
Ombrageux wrote:1) Concentration of corporate/economic power tends to lead these oligarchic elite to subvert your State and use exploit it for their own ends, destroying the "market-neutral" libertarian State (this is despite Libertarianism's otherwise laudable opposition to banksterism).

The libertarian response to the very real risk of corruption of government institutions by crony capitalists is simple - reduce (ideally- eliminate) the power of government decision-makers to help crony capitalists. Consider a Constitutional Amendment that would separate government from the economy in the same way that the First separates government from religion. Government police can still protect churches from being burned, and so separation of church and state doesn't preclude government from protecting church property rights.

Similarly, separation of government from the economy doesn't preclude government from protecting the property rights of economic actors. However, if constitutionally-bound, government influence would be of very little value to capitalists.

2) Immigration, because purely ideational libertarianism disregards the fact that libertarianism is the product of a very specific northwestern European cultural context which exists nowhere else in the world, and that immigrants that fail to assimilate to this culture will invariably act politically as collectivists (e.g., minorities overwhelmingly vote Left, typically for redistribution/discrimination against the majority).

Immigrants tend to culturally-assimilate after 1-2 generations. Again, by securing the separation of government and the economy constitutionally, there is very little that immigrants could do.

Most easily, allow people to immigrate, but don't give them the vote. There - problem solved!
#14422551
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 1: By its definition libertarianism always favors smaller government.

It is popular to denounce "big government" in politics and perhaps government is too big. But libertarianism always answers the question of how big government should be with, "smaller." Indeed I believe government is too big in today's society, however was it too big in Dickensian London? According to a libertarian the answer is "yes." Yet the truth is for all their denounciations of big government most people on the center-right still favor bigger government than in the year 1900, but by its definition libertarians want to make government even smaller yet.
This isn't a problem so much as a necessary tactic to counter government's tendancy to always grow. Statists pretty much always answer the question of "how big should government be?" by replying "bigger!".
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 2: Libertarianism is relativistic, yet all law reflects morality.

Many libertarians (and some liberals) say you "can't legislate morality" yet by its definition all law is a form of legislating morality. In the end somebody's morality will be legislated, the question is not if, but the question is whose morality. Obviously we can avoid sectarian morality, for instance, preventing right-wing religious fanatics from legislating their agenda, but sooner or later moral questions will always work their way into the law.
If only legislation was about codifying morality.. Actually most legislation is explictly geared towards raising revenue for government, it is a series of shakedown operations, basically. At the core libertarians are explicitly moralists its just that our moral core is quite simple and flexible, ie the NAP.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 3: Libertarianism cannot answer the problem of children without violating its own code.

One problem with libertarianism is the state of minors. Indeed libertarianism often talks of "consenting adults" and also "non-aggression axioms." Yet who could argue that children are able to enter into contracts or hold adult responsibilities? Few would, yet they are still human and with the non-aggression axiom you are violating their rights by restricting their freedom for their own good and allowing parents to do so, the paradox being that other adults could exploit children even more if they did not. For instance we "initiate force" against children by preventing child labor, yet it would be easy for children to be exploited by child labor and work in coal mines.

In the end we solve this by creating an age of majority, or more realistically, phasing in of various ages of responsibility. There can be legitimate debate about where the correct age of majority is, how old people should be before they can work, vote, sign contracts etc. In the end I think it would probably be somewhere between the late teens and early twenties which is where society sets it. Below or above this too much would defy logic, but like or not it is going to have to be arbitrary at some point. Why are 18 year olds adults? Some could say 17 year olds should be considered adults too, others would say 18 is too irresponsible and maybe it should be 19, but like it or not sooner or later it is arbitrary within a certain framework.
I don't think it is very difficult to resolve the apparent contradiction between principal and agent for children vs adults even though there is grey shading between the autonomy of adulthood and the dependancy of childhood as a person matures. Statists pretty reduce everyone to children, with only their ghostly state having true adulthood, which is just plain nasty.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 4: Most "libertarian" politicians are not libertarians. The reason being is most people are unwilling to accept full bore libertarianism.

This applies to so-called "libertarian" Republicans. Even so, these "libertarian" Republicans often support immigration restrictions and some elements of social conservatism, often reverting to a "states' rights" stance on social issues. For instance you don't see these so-called libertarians unapologetically arguing for the legalization of heroin and prostitution and for open borders. Yet in the end this is libertarianism. Short of this and you restrict liberty. Still they are somehow afraid to admit what it really is. You even have so-called "libertarians" arguing for piecemeal reforms like "personal accounts" in Social Security. Again, not libertarians.

Case in point you can build a coalition around legalizing marijuana, yet by definition a libertarian, being always for greater liberty, cannot escape the logical conclusion of favoring legalization of even harder drugs yet. Still how can anybody sit and deny the reality of supply and demand? You create a cost to produce these drugs by waging war on them, not having those risks would make them cheaper and by definition cheap things usually become plentiful. The argument around marijuana is not for me an argument about whether or not the drug war is "working" because the truth is most casual users get a slap on the wrist. In the end the issue is not whether marijuana legalization will make its use more plentiful (it certainly will) but whether or not the problems of marijuana are so trivial that they are no cocern of the government (a legitimate point). But how can anybody look at hard drugs and call them trivial?
This may be a real problem... there is something contradictory in attempting to promote libertarianism by becoming an agent of the enslaving estate. I don't think that is the only tool in the libertarian toolbox and it is one that increasingly is depreaciated as the mainstream libertarian thought is moving towards the anarchist model. We are very much less looking at getting libertarians elected and more with direct proselytising and activist solutions (bitcoin, seasteading, freestate project etc) that in time render the state irrelevant and unwanted.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 5: Taken to its logical conclusion libertarianism leads to anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-capitalism is unworkable.

This is a point anarcho-capitalists are often proud to point out and in my opinion minarchists are merely doing mental gymnastics to justify otherwise. If you can't choose your police, your military and your government on a free market how is that anything less than a violation of the non-aggression principle? Indeed logically a true libertarian has to lead to "anarcho"-capitalism. The problem is anarcho-capitalism differs from historic anarchism in a few ways and is unworkable.

Anarchism historically did not ever propose multiple laws over one territory. The idea of anarchism is simply the abolition of hierarchy, not law itself. Thus the people rule as directly as possible. Anarchist theory has held varying degrees of thought such as radical direct democracy and syndicalist economics. However anarcho-capitalism differs in that it isn't the people directly ruling in a directly democratic commune, but various agencies resolving disputes over one territory. These dispute resolutions are often proposed to be peaceful, but in the end there will always be disagreements. I don't see how it would not degenerate over time into something resembling gang warfare. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't work because it tries to square the circle by having a society of law in which there are multiple private laws followed in one single area.
I couldn't disagree more with this. Polycentric law exists already actually, every contract is a private law that concerns only those that are parties and geography has little to do with its authority or enforceability. Polycentric law is practically the human default, it is the perpetual statist craving to use violence to gain monopoly that warps that basic tendancy.

nucklepunche wrote:Problem 6: Libertarians are often right, but then go too far.

Case in point zoning laws. Perhaps it is a good thing to let development move organically and not try to restrict everything into low and high density, commercial and residential, promoting government enforced suburbanization. However libertarians would move beyond this and do away with building codes altogether. Yet we see how societies without building codes are prone to disaster (Great Chicago Fire of 1871). Yet for the libertarian stacking up wooden shanties with faulty electrical wiring is "property rights" even if it in endangers the property of others.
We would replace monocentric building codes with polycentric building codes. The problem here is not really in libertarian "policy" but perhaps our failure to communicate our vision and the failure of the statists and their drones to listen and understand that vision.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 7: Property is a creature of society. There are no "natural rights" to property.

Indeed moving onto property rights, property rights in and of themselves exist within a legal framework. Someone has to define whose property is whose and how it works out. I am not saying abolish private property, absolutely not, but as a creature of society there cannot be a natural and philosophical right to invioable private property rights that exists in the same category as, for instance the right to life. This doesn't mean property rights should not be protected, merely that we have to be realistic about the origin of property rights.
True property rights are product of an evolving negotiation between the individual and his peers. There is in practice a natural consensus that occurs almost everywhere, almost all the time. The disputes tend to be the exception actually. There is probably a rigorous and objective criteria of rightful ownership but it hardly needs to be articulated as most reasonable people get it intuitively.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 8: The welfare state and social cohesion.

Perhaps our social safety net does too little to encourage work and too much to encourage sloth. Again one can apply common sense principles without going no holds barred. Yet there are indeed slothful people in our society, slothful and entitled people. Libertarians should by definition favor immediate abolition of the welfare state. Yet cut off from succor the natural human evolutionary drive kicks in. Indeed the welfare state has allowed many people to be fat and happy instead of being in survival mode, yet it takes weaning off over time. Indeed the natural reaction to crisis is survival by any means neccessary. It makes evolutionary sense that if a welfare state is available some people will naturally mooch off of this if indeed they desire little more than this, whereas others are incentivized to work because they seek to enjoy a standard of living beyond mere survival. We all have what we value. Yet most humans value survival and if survival is up in the air there no doubt you would see more crimes created in the name of survival.

Perhaps it violates property rights to tax for welfare, yet if people in desperate survival mode go out and begin to commit various crimes for survival it might violate property rights more significantly. Indeed a burned down business is much worse than filling out a form to pay taxes.
There are plausible pragmatic arguments one can make for reducing welfare dependancy carefully sure, but the fact is in this day and age only a tiny, tiny percentage of people should be really incapable of pulling their own weight and those few (people in a coma?) should be able to be covered quite well enough through charity. If you are too lazy and feckless to take care of yourself then at least ask nicely if you want people to carry your fat arse around all day. Anything else is just uncivilised.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 9: The gold standard and monetary policy.

This is one I just don't get. At the end of the day they can talk about how fiat money has no "real value" beyond what humans give it but gold is not much better. Yes gold has some electrical properties and malleability which make it a good industrial metal. Yet most of the value of gold is not from its industrial use, but merely from what culture has ascribed to it. Gold would be valuable without the cultural attachment to it as an object of beauty (imagine we lived in a world of purely utilitarian concerns) but it would still be significantly less valuable. Indeed golds value comes from scarcity of supply and demand, fiat money gets its value the same. In the end it seems the only real gripe about fiat money they have is it comes from (gasp!) government.
Fiat money doesn't have to come from government. Mutualists for instance have a system called mutual credit which is essentially freemarket fiat currency and cypher-punks / crypto-anarchists created bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which though designed to mimic the commodity like qualities of gold and silver (stable supply) are really a kind of fiat money. The point about govenment's fiat money is they use it to defraud people through debasement, they get away with this only through essentially forcing people to use it through legal tender legislation. In a really freemarket of money, fiat monies that are debased will tend to be dropped in favour of other fiat monies that credibly don't.
nucklepunche wrote:Problem 10: The seamless garment of liberty.

I am no neo-con and do not believe that the west can simply will democracy and freedom on the world, yet there is no doubt that various alliances of democratic nations such as NATO and the United Nations have at times intervened when times are dire. Indeed there is no doubt that the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo stopped genocide short before it could grow even worse. This is because society has grown sensitive to genocide after matters such as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide and the Japanese occupations of other Asian nations during WWII. Rightly we said "never again." We did fail at times (Cambodia, the Second Congo War, Rwanda etc.) to step in but in many others it worked.

Indeed even if one accepts minarchist libertarianism the question is why should we only worry about the liberty of our fellow countrymen? Is not liberty a seamless garment that should logically apply as a worldwide thing. Is it not desirable where it is feasible for NATO and others to intervene in times of great humanitarian crisis? Indeed borders are merely historical matters. Nobody has explained yet why an invisible line should mean that I worry about the liberty of those within it more than those outside of it.

Please note the same logic also applies to the interest in neo-Confederate ideas found in some sectors of libertarianism. How was it a greater violation of civil liberties for the North to intervene than chattel slavery was?

There is no problem with aiding another in distress from tyranny regardless of imaginary borders, the problem libertarians have is with being forced to aid others in distress. Its a logical contradiction for a start and also downright rude.
#14422582
Eran wrote:The libertarian response to the very real risk of corruption of government institutions by crony capitalists is simple - reduce (ideally- eliminate) the power of government decision-makers to help crony capitalists. Consider a Constitutional Amendment that would separate government from the economy in the same way that the First separates government from religion. Government police can still protect churches from being burned, and so separation of church and state doesn't preclude government from protecting church property rights.

But how do you prevent elites with ultra-massive concentrations of wealth from subverting this governmental impotence? (Just as the U.S. Constitution has been subverted by corporate lobbying to subsidize/regulate in their favor.)

Immigrants tend to culturally-assimilate after 1-2 generations. Again, by securing the separation of government and the economy constitutionally, there is very little that immigrants could do.

Most easily, allow people to immigrate, but don't give them the vote. There - problem solved!

Even culturally-assimilated minorities (e.g. Asians, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, Jews) overwhelmingly vote Democratic even after many generations. On the other hand, if you're planning on abolishing suffrage, fair enough. Even so you're likely to lose the high level of trust and social cohesion which libertarian societies tend to need to work well.
#14422583
But how do you prevent elites with ultra-massive concentrations of wealth from subverting this governmental impotence? (Just as the U.S. Constitution has been subverted by corporate lobbying to subsidize/regulate in their favor.)

That's a good question, to which the only answer is the deep public support for the principle of government non-intervention. Note how despite the obvious power of religious organisations in today's US, the First Amendment holds fairly robustly. Despite the obvious power of Presidents, the democratic process in the US is still intact (not obvious, given the many failed democracies of past decades).

As an aside, keep in mind that ultra-massive concentrations of wealth are the result of allowing government to intervene, and the crony-capitalist capture that ensues. In a free market, concentrations of wealth will be smaller/milder.

Even culturally-assimilated minorities (e.g. Asians, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, Jews) overwhelmingly vote Democratic even after many generations. On the other hand, if you're planning on abolishing suffrage, fair enough. Even so you're likely to lose the high level of trust and social cohesion which libertarian societies tend to need to work well.

A libertarian society won't come about without major cultural shift, a shift that must include minorities.

As for the level of trust and social cohesion, those need not be at the level of the overall United States. A libertarian society allows people to express their social cohesion at whatever level suits them - national, regional, communal, religious community, etc.
#14422654
I think that's pretty reasonable. Would definitely be hard to put in practice, but it's coherent. Might be possible especially on a small scale, with secession, and a motivated and cohesive militia and political vanguard.
#14422769
Ombrageux wrote:I think that's pretty reasonable. Would definitely be hard to put in practice, but it's coherent. Might be possible especially on a small scale, with secession, and a motivated and cohesive militia and political vanguard.


Any number of things could happen, but what will happen is that selected elements of Libertarianism will be adopted by the mainstream without regard to coherence, but with an eye on its suitability in reinforcing the status quo.
#14422813
Ombrageux wrote:2) Immigration, because purely ideational libertarianism disregards the fact that libertarianism is the product of a very specific northwestern European cultural context which exists nowhere else in the world, and that immigrants that fail to assimilate to this culture will invariably act politically as collectivists (e.g., minorities overwhelmingly vote Left, typically for redistribution/discrimination against the majority).


A good point indeed. Indeed Republicans (although they are not libertarian but often resort to libertarian rhetoric on economic issues) keep running into this problem. Republican poiticos often say things like, "Hispanics are natural Republicans because they are often religious and work hard, its just Democrats have bought their votes by promising handouts," or "Asian-Americans are natrual Republicans because of their work ethic and traditional family values." There's this whole idea if somehow Republicans point out how these immigrant groups somehow "line up" with "Republican values" they will suddenly support economic libertarianism.

The problem is that if you look at where many immigrants today come from into the USA it is often from Latin American and Asia. To some extent the rest of the Anglosphere and other nations derived from northern/western Europe falls into the classical liberal/individualist paradigm, however these nations do not. Asian culture has always been inherently communitarian not individualist. There are some Republicans who scratch their heads when they see first and second generation Asian immigrants, who tend to have higher incomes even than whites, voting Democrat. They tend to have higher incomes, more intact families, etc. Why don't they vote Republican. Well part of it is because Republicans reference Christianity explicitly which leaves out a good chunk of Asian and East Asian people. However the more important part is that Asian culture doesn't fall into the individualist paradigm. For white Republicans it is simply natural that higher incomes should automatically mean voting for lower taxes, but it isn't the case.

As for Latinos the social justice movement is very influential in Latin America. Both the secular and religious left, and by left I don't mean some namby pamby Clintonian neo-liberals, but the actual left is very powerful in Latin America. Just look at Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope considered a "conservative" theologian yet on economics he sounds far to the left of most social democrats. Some people were "shocked" that he talked like this because in America we have this idea that left-wing politics automatically equals secularism, whereas in Latin America it is perfectly natural for conservative religious values like anti-abortion sentiment to link hand in hand with leftist economics.

In the end perhaps the children and grandchildren of these immigrants will assimilate into the broader individualist culture and reject the collectivist impulses. This happened in the past of course, but the difference was that Asians and Hispanics were much smaller in numbers so they HAD to assimilate into broader culture. However many parts of the southwest are Hispanic-majority and some cities on the west coast have significant Asian populations. In the end will these future generations of immigrants assimilate or will (more likely than not) they contribute to the melting pot and dilute the old Anglo-Saxon individualism of the past? I think the latter is more likely.
#14422832
AFAIK wrote:I'm not sure how many libertarians are gold-bugs.[.....]
Rich wrote:Really libertarians don't seem to be able to grasp even the most basic economic concepts. You can't store value! At least not like the libertarians want. Life is not a computer game. In a computer game you can store value and the computer can always turn your virtual gold into virtual goods.

Many economists, including non-libertarians, consider store of value to be a defining characteristic of money and it is a concern for many investors. A car is a poor place to 'store value' because of depreciation. Gold and artworks maintain their exchange value much better.

If you dislike the term store of value how about oppourtunity cost, purchasing power or exchange rate?
#14423006
quetzalcoatl wrote:Leaving aside all the hypocrisy concerning small government (small for whom?), this whole "statist" meme is mere cover for the basic bully-boy nastiness at the Libertarian core.




Government is not the solution. Government is not the problem. Government is just a necessary function of people living together in a civil society.


I've never really understood that last bit. Government has no real power except over those who have broken the law. I fail to see why I need an overseer, a parental institution, if I'm peacefully cooperating and interacting with my fellow citizens.

In addition, the US government is ostensibly authorized "by the consent of the governed". In other words, we as individuals grant powers to government. But you can't grant powers that you don't have. So if I can't walk to my neighbor's house and force him to pay my way, then I can't cede that power to anybody else either. Just because I get a bunch of other people together who think it's a good idea doesn't make it right.

Government is the expression of the collective will of the people;


It's the will of a majority if voters, which these days isn't even the majority of people. So no, it's really not. It is nothing but the authorized use of force.

it also the means by which the powerful subvert that will. This contradiction will hold whether government is effected by so-called 'voluntary' arrangements, or by traditional force-based government. The contradiction is part of the human condition and cannot be solved by libertarian or Anarchist strategies, unfortunately.


But it can be somewhat ameliorated by limiting (or eliminating) the power of government. Private institutions on their own can't do nearly the damage that police powers can.
#14423018
This contradiction will hold whether government is effected by so-called 'voluntary' arrangements, or by traditional force-based government. The contradiction is part of the human condition and cannot be solved by libertarian or Anarchist strategies, unfortunately.

Governments obtains its malign power from the perception that it has authority to initiate force against people working and acting peacefully. That power, like the ring in the Lord of the Rings, is inherently corrupting.

If governance in society is based on voluntary arrangements, this power focus no longer exists. The only way to acquire wealth and influence is by offering people something they are interested in.
#14423812
Consider one of the least offensive of the various strands of Libertarianism: Left-Libertarianism, or perhaps the similar-minded Bleeding Heart Libertarians (who actually dare to consider social justice as a foundational, rather that side-effect, value).

These are basically decent-seeming chaps, but they share the same problem as the rest of the libertarian universe.

The oldest and broadest usage of “left-libertarian,” and perhaps most familiar to those in the anarchist movement at large, dates back to the late nineteenth century, and includes pretty much the whole non-statist, horizontalist or decentralist Left — everybody but Social Democrats and Leninists, basically. It was originally used as a synonym for “libertarian socialist” or “anarchist,” and also commonly included syndicalists, council communists, followers of Rosa Luxemburg and Daniel DeLeon, etc. Many of us at C4SS would consider ourselves part of this broader left-libertarian community
[bolding mine]

The analysis that puts the state at the center of problems in human society it profoundly wrong. Force, and its counterweight control of force, are part of human nature. An organizational structure built on the idea that this problem can be solved through purely voluntary means is untenable - and worse, is ideally suited for co-optation by the the plutocracy.

It looks like I'm going to have to fess-up here. After long consideration, I must admit I'm a statist (by your definition). What I deny is the importance or value of the statist/non-statist distinction. Government is not the problem. Government is not the solution. Government is a means. What it is a means to is up to you.

Government, it would have to be emphasized, is not necessarily the only or best means (but sometimes it is). And sometimes government is a critical and necessary means to achieve ends that are central to any society's survival. This is the bottom line, and it's the reason why I am a statist.

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