On Libertarianism

I ran across some libertarians, watched some videos on the subject, and read some articles. Here are my main insights:

  1. In case you didn’t know, libertarians are one step forward from liberals. They believe that no one has the right to jeopardize their rights, and especially the right of ownership. They are also adamantly opposed to the government and to its coercive taxes.
  2. It’s exhausting to argue with libertarians. Not because they are right (they might be, but it’s irrelevant), but because they employ a violent rhetoric which suggests that:
    1. Non-libertarians (and especially socialists) are evil and desire to keep people poor or downright stupid people who know nothing about economics.
    2. Non-libertarians are masochists (“Do want to get raped? because that’s what paying taxes means”)
    3. Libertarians are sure their philosophy is scientifically sound (and you can’t argue with “2+2=4”, right?)
    4. Libertarians aren’t bothered by empirical evidence laid against them and refuse to make inductions (inducing a general principle from a simple example)
  3. Libertarianism assumes that my personal interests don’t conflict with society’s interests. In reality, that’s not true unless I’m an extreme altruist. Libertarianism alone promotes selfishness. Say, for example, I’m aboard a sinking ship. Should I flee on a rescue vessel or should I help everyone else first? what would be the Libertarian choice of action and is it really in society’s interest? The answer I got was: “it’s irrelevant to discuss hypothetical questions.”
  4. Libertarianism refers to the free market and competition (i.e. survival) as their ultimate incentive:
    1. Competition forces you to survive. Not to excel. The output of the entire group is much greater when its members collaborate.
    2. What happens to the losers? Will they have a safety net they can trust or will they be thrown to the dogs as “competition” is actually survival-of-the-fittest?
    3. Will you kill an innocent person in order to save your loved one? Because let me tell you something about survivalism – you’ll do ANYTHING in order to save your loved one. And so will the other person. We don’t want to come down to survivalism.
  5. Libertarians claim that morals and ethics are universal, or they wouldn’t exist and we might as well descend into dog-eat-dog anarchy. That’s not true.
    1. Morals are based on general social consent of a society of people. Different societies have different ethics.
    2. Even if morality was based on an absolute and universal standard, it’s obvious that in reality many people simply ignore it. Who, then, should protect me from bad people? The local mob or militia? are we assuming that I have the money to protect myself from stronger and richer evil people?
    3. A gun represents the ability to use deadly force against another person. There are guns in the world and there’s nothing we can do about it. Unfriendly people might have guns, whether we agree to it or not, and there’s nothing we can do about that either. Who, then, should be allowed to possess a gun?
      1. Everyone? statistics show that most domestic homicides were carried out with licenced firearms.
      2. The local corporate Mafia? i.e. someone who shoots at the whim of the highest bidder?
      3. The government? whose official purpose is to take care of its citizens and who is regulated by checks and balances so no arbitrary single person can decide to use deadly force without answering to a court of law?
    4. Governments and taxes are also based on mutual consent. I don’t pay taxes because I’m being coerced, but because I want to. I want to because I believe this will serve society’s interests and (implicitly) my personal interests too.
      1. Taxes are not theft. They are based on mutual consent.
      2. Please refrain from the “Do you like being raped?” metaphor. No, I don’t want to get raped. I want to have sex, because I think sex is a good thing.
      3. And also with the “gun at your face” metaphor. Were you ever threatened at gunpoint  to compare the feeling? If you believe your taxes are used improperly, democracy has given you the platform to make a change. Involve yourself in politics and stop whining!
    5. Seriously, If you don’t like it, leave. Not in the sense of “Scram! I don’t want you here!”, rather then “I understand how you feel, but I would love to see how you practice what you’re preaching”
    6. Libertarianism would have worked out great if everyone was both moral and libertarian. I completely agree, but this could also apply to Communism and to democracy. Unfortunately, our world isn’t perfect and different people have different perceptions of ethics.
  6. Libertarians really hate socialists. Generally speaking, socialism is the belief that it’s society’s duty to take care of its weaker members. Libertarians, however, describe socialism as “coercion, theft, crisis, violence and death” (that’s an actual quote). I honestly think they’re missing the point and ignoring other people’s suffering on the way.
  7. Libertarians have a naive perception of the free market. Listening to a short lecture by Stefan Molyneux, I gathered the following:
    1. “A truly free market won’t have monopolies because the market would balance itself since as soon as I buy a competitor, the value of the other competitors would rise while I’ll go into debt”. That’s simply not true. A company’s value is a function of its customers and not of its competitors. Big companies crush small companies. That’s the truth.
    2. “A truly free market won’t have cartels to fix prices, because their natural competitiveness won’t let them collaborate”. That’s not true. Cartels usually divide the market to gain most profit by collaboration (that’s their interest, right?). They usually do so on geographical and infrastructure grounds (water companies are great example of this. Personally, for example, I’m locked into paying my local water utility and have no legal alternative).
    3. “In a truly free market, a single company won’t be able to lower the price to force competitors out of the market, because it will drive the company into debt”. That’s not true. Let’s take web browsers as an example. When Microsoft published a free browser, it simply crashed all its competitors (and particularly Netscape that controlled the market up to that point in time). Microsoft didn’t go into debt in order to lower the costs. It was pocket money for them. Moreover, their browser was much worse than the competition, which shows you that cheap bad quality can drive high-quality competitors out of the market.
    4. Which brings me to Molyneux’s last argument: “A company cannot force you to buy low quality products because a competitor will come along and offer you a better product”. That’s not true. The reality is that our products tend to break or become obsolete much faster than ever before. It’s true that a company cannot force me to do anything, but it can easily reduce my alternatives.
  8. Libertarians give really lousy excuses for why Somalia – a failed state with virtually no government which cannot collect taxes, and thus theoretically a Libertarian paradise – is in such a bad condition. These range from extremely racist arguments to “in order for Libertarian principles to flourish there needs to be a strong government that would enforce laws against “unfair business practices” and a strong court system to enforce “property rights”” (actual quote, I kid you not).
  9. My last insight isn’t specifically about Libertarianism, but rather about Pluralism. Pluralism doesn’t mean that “You can live with your wrongness”, but that  “I accept the fact your opinion is different than mine”. Most Libertarians I came across (thought not all) are not pluralists and I think it only reflects a narrow mindset. But this not only true for Libertarians, but for almost any “ism”. The notable exception is “pluralism”, which has a single flaw – it cannot accept the notion that there might be a single “ism” that is right. Personally, I’m OK with being flawed.

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