Not a Libertarian

Why I am not a Libertarian

Long Ago and Not True Anyway has an excellent essay on the subject of What’s the Matter with Libertarianism? He's attacking "libertarianism" in its generic sense, rather than any particular denomination, but the arguments apply to all in any case. For me, there are two problems. The first is the deification of property rights and markets, rather than a recognition that they are simply a useful tool and therefore can be changed depending on the desired social end. The second is their monomaniacal fixation on the state as the sole limitation on liberty. This ignores the valuable role played by government in protecting the liberty of the individual from the depredations of the powerful, and reduces their vision of freedom to a cruel joke where people are considered to have "freedom of religion" even when some forms of worship result in private punishment no different from state oppression, "security of the person" where employers can demand sexual favours as a prerequisite for employment, and "freedom of movement" even when they are forbidden to step out of their house and onto the privately-owned sidewalk. This isn't freedom for all, it's freedom for the pike.

exercise your rights

Then there's the hypocrisy of many libertarians who proclaim the sanctity of absolutist property rights while opposing even token restitution by the government towards the descendents of this country's original indigenous owners. But as LAANTA astutely observes, rather than being consistent,

    What they’re really advocating is ‘start from now’ libertarianism which, funnily enough, almost-always finds its strongest advocates amongst those who are doing pretty well at present thank you very much.

Rather than being consistent and principled defenders of freedom for all, libertarians are simply engaged in what John Kenneth Galbraith called "one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy": the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Do you want more? Visit Idiot Savant's No Right Turn blog here.

 
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  • adam says
    Idiot/Savant,

    I will start by admitting I am a classical liberal. I would not, however, describe myself as a radical libertarian.

    Your sidewalk concern is a compelling one. Certainly, as far as I can tell, it would be possible to legally stop anyone walking on your footpath in a libertarian society. I do not, however, think it would happen on a regular basis because it would be costly for the owner, in many ways, to discriminate and stop certain people leaving thier houses. I also do not see why anybody else would want to buy a footpath to stop house owners using it. Either way I do not think we will see footpaths privatised anytime soon.

    As far as the other concerns:

    "The first is the deification of property rights and markets, rather than a recognition that they are simply a useful tool and therefore can be changed depending on the desired social end"

    Whos social end yours, mine, or someone elses? Who decides? Who knows your personal utility function better than anyone? You or the state? You are capable of making decisions in your own personal and economic life yourself.

    "(Libertarians) monomaniacal fixation on the state as the sole limitation on liberty."

    I have not yet met a libertarian who thinks that the state is the "sole limitation on liberty." Most libertarians believe in a voluntary and contractual society and that aggression against life, liberty and property is wrong wether that aggression is public or private. It just so happens that the state uses force more often than other private groups.

    "freedom of religion" even when some forms of worship result in private punishment no different from state oppression."

    If that punishment is voluntary (in which case I do not see it as punishment) I do not think you have the right to stop it. If it is not then the state has the right to interviene.

    "..."security of the person" where employers can demand sexual favours as a prerequisite for employment."

    In this case, unless the employee thinks that the employer looks sexy, they should probably not take the job. Besides, bussinesses that sexualy harrass thier employees will not usually do well nor last long. And personally, as a shareholder, I would not feel comfortable in electing a CEO who asks for sexual favors.

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