Libertarian Is Not an Insult Part 2

I posted something yesterday about some progressives using dehumanizing language about libertarians, and sadly the comments appearing at the bottom provided tangible examples of what I was talking about in vague terms. Just as I’m sure such comments have not changed the mind of any libertarian, they have not changed my mind either, but quite the opposite.

I want to take my opportunity to explain my own position better.

My own problem with libertarianism is this: it’s too optimistic about human nature. It’s all rooted in the ideas of primitivists like Rousseau, who thought if you only let children free they will automatically grow to be good people. Libertarians feel that if you let the society free, it will do good on its own, private charities will take care of the poor, that the process of (or the evolution of) competing forces is filter enough to make sure the society goes on. Make that a bit more optimistic and you will have a specific form of anarchism, that all people as free agents will be able to create security and prosperity for themselves if you only leave them be.

So I completely agree with the phrase that commenter Ed used for this ideology – it’s a naive utopia. It’s naive because it’s based on a simplistic view of human nature, it’s utopia because it seeks to found a perfect society based on few principles.

There are many things to respect in that point of view at the same time. I think the strong opposition to power is something very apparent in libertarian mindset and something to be respected an encouraged. However, I disagree with reducing power into government. All social institutions can be powerful, and if you leave any of them unchecked, they will grow to be too powerful. If the government is too weak, the market will become a dictator (signs of which are the fact that some banks are too big to fail and can’t be prosecuted, etc).

I understand that libertarians are going to say “But Kaveh, we don’t support big corporations as well. We want a small government AND a competitive market and big corporations are an anathema to that”.

Again, I find that view too simplistic. You need big government to rein in corporations or they will grow big. And the duality between market and government is wrong, there are many other institutions that can grow and become autocratic when the government is weakened – gangs, the mafia, religious bodies, tribal leaders, etc.

And of course, the government itself can easily grow too big as well. We have that in Iran. The economy is shared by the military, the institutions attached to the office of Supreme Leader, and the executive branch. People can get rich only by taking part in some limited forms of service industries, or mostly by buying and selling stuff again. This has not worked well for us. Plus, Iran’s economy is based on oil, and the government owns the oil, and the government is the biggest employer and the biggest spender and it’s in debt up to its throat and it’s massively corrupt.

So, it’s not like free market and small government are issues that we can just toss out of the window. A good human society is the one which has moderate libertarians who are a part of the big debate. Iran needs to move towards a more libertarian vision. The United States needs to move towards a more socialist one, and that is completely true in both cases. If there are too big to fail banks and the corporations and the big business have too much power in the western world, they’re nonexistent here.

This is part of the problem. Libertarianism is a philosophy. It has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist forever. It has taken too many forms and it will continue to take many forms. And it spans around the entire globe. Not only British libertarians are much more rational and play a major good role, Iranian libertarians could be considered socialists by your standards. A majority of them do support socialized healthcare and multiple welfare programs. And don’t say they’re not real libertarians, they are,  because they have the same basic principles and values, but have different policy decisions.

Even if libertarianism is as uniformly terrible and radicalized in the United States as you claim it is you cannot reduce that topic into a specific movement, because it is historical and global by nature.

The same goes for Marxism. Marxism is a very valuable ideology, with all of its flaws (being authoritarian one of them), and we can’t brush away the importance of great thinkers like Marx himself or Gramsci or Althusser because of their flaws or the radicalism of those like Stalin and Pol Pot.

But most importantly, the majority of those who supported Marxism were great people, people concerned with equality and justice, intellectuals with a desire for change.

Simplistic and insulting treatment of libertarians is false and wrong. Let me quote some of those comments that were simply too hateful.

Libertarians who knowingly embrace the economic policies of libertarianism are vile, disgusting, miserable excuses for human beings. So, the choices are some combination of staggeringly ignorant, self absorbed and sheltered, or evil.

To me, “Libertarian” is now very much an insult. When I say someone is a “Big-L” libertarian I mean they are at the least a crank and, given the ideas and the most noted Big-Ls, likely to be a racist and Randian – and always a complete and total hypocrite (far, far more so than the average human, like myself, so definitely is.)

Haha sorry but libertarians are basically the worst kinds of people, and deserve the least sympathy for their lack of regard for their fellow man. It’s not my fault they willingly follow an anti-humanist ideology!

Their ideology is based on selfishness and ignorance. They would supplant democracy with an oligarchic corporate feudalism… I have known only a few evil people, perhaps eight or ten. Of these people, over half were libertarians.

Libertarians, generally speaking, are naive, selfish and close minded. On line Libertarians display characteristics of kind yiou would expect to see from members of a cult. And their famous catchcry “taxation is theft”…only a selfish moron would utter these words and believe them true.

Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re people with strong values who are not selfish, who don’t want to destroy the poor, who are very much concerned with the idea of democracy, but they disagree with you. When I said “claim a monopoly” on being good, I meant that.

Plus, since I have libertarians posting on my blog, comments like these directly violates this rule of my commenting policy:

 You may never attack other commenters personally. You can criticize their ideas, as vehemently as you want, you can use humor if you like, but, their personality is off-limits. Don’t make assumptions about what people know, on people’s intelligence, on their morals, or their personality. You don’t know them. Even if you did know them, this is not the place to use that knowledge.

Saying “What you say is wrong and irrational” is OK, saying “You are stupid” is not.

Saying “This position of yours is morally reprehensible” is OK, saying “You’re an asshole douchebag for having this position”, is not.

You can address what other people say, not who they are.

If you do this, first I will ask you to refrain, then I will delete your comment, then I will ban you.

So, all of you can consider yourself forewarned. This is your first warning. If you’re interested in commenting here, you cannot use such abusive and hateful language about hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.

Basically, the position that “everyone who holds this position is evil” is false. It’s lazy and easy, because you can dismiss the person without addressing the position, because you can easily exile these people and make sure their voice is not heard. It means that there are simply no good reasons to hold a specific position, it means that it is OK to stop listening to specific people and shield them from the public discourse, because no decent person would ever say that. It’s a way to end the discussion rather than beginning one.

What would you do if you lived in Iran? If your political opponents were supportive of a strict execution of sharia law and the continuation of a theocratic state?

Even they are not evil. There are many purely evil people inside the regime, and many evil people supporting them, but I would still never allow myself to generalize. Some of these people are really decent kind and god-fearing (in all the positive sense of this wretched word and concept) folks. Many of them really and genuinely think that the regime is the representative of Allah and the very definition of good.

And I’ve always benefited from talking to these people, to make them open up.

In the same thread, many commenters stuck to the criticism of ideas rather than people, who opened a dialogue rather than closing it. Among these people the strongest language was used by Sally Strange, and sometimes her conclusions were too harsh (in my opinion), but she did criticize positions and philosophies rather than resorting into character assassination, and this is all I ask. I’m using her as an example to make it clear that I’m not necessarily asking for “polite” arguments, but substantive, non-ad hominem ones.

I’ll consider that previous thread dead and forgotten. But if you use my platform to insult your ideological opponents again, using abusive language, (that includes conservatives, Tea Party advocates, Muslims, Christians, progressives, etc) I will ban you, because you are not welcome here.

As I’ve said in my comment policy: “The ultimate aim of this blog is to create for the readers an opportunity to contrast my views with yours, and to decide for him/herself what is the truth.”

Thank you very much for your understanding. Goodbye.

About Kaveh Mousavi

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.

  • colnago80

    Keveh has to understand relative to Karl Marx that the economic system that was finally instituted in the former Soviet Union and the satellite states in Eastern Europe was not Marxism as ole Karl understood it but state capitalism. The workers had nothing to do with the ownership of the means of production, which were owned by the state. Just ask a Trotskyite.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      When you post on my blog, please address me with “you”, and don’t use third person. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why but it does. Thank you very much.

    • timothycarter

      Ha! Marxism turned out badly? Well, it wasn’t really Marxism, it was actually a form of capitalism! This claim is no different from the libertarians who reply to examples of the evils and excesses of corporations by saying it is really socialism, “corporate socialism”, to mirror your term, “state capitalism”. That is not a *true* Scotsman! You could respond to the libertarian by pointing out that there have been many attempts to create a “free market”, but corporate socialism is what it inevitably leads to *in the real world*. And you would be correct. But guess what? There have been dozens of successful Marxist revolutions in history. How many have turned out well?

      • colnago80

        The plain fact is that Karl Marx would not have recognized the economic system that was finally adopted in the former Soviet Union as having much of anything to do with his notion of Communism. As a Trotskyite once remarked to me when I was an undergraduate, private capitalism, state capitalism, what’s the difference (this was the favorite slogan of the Trotskyite Socialist Worker’s Party in the US)?

        Marxist systems can work in small enterprises. Example: the Israeli Kibbutzes. However, in large enterprises, one runs into the same problem that private large enterprises run into, namely that CEOs get appointed answering to boards of directors. Your just can’t have plebiscites held among the workers every time a decision is to be made. Nothing would get done under such a system. The closest thing to an enterprise owned by the employees are ESOPs, which are not really Marxist enterprises as the employees own a majority of the stock in the enterprises, not the enterprise itself. Example, the US defense contractor SAIC.

        • doublereed

          It should be mentioned that even those Israeli Kibbutzes have been disappearing in favor of the more capitalistic communes.

        • 3kramer

          Um, in the UK employee owned business make up about 2% of the whole economy. The John Lewis Partnership is the largest at £10 billion revenue and 90,000 owner/employees. They are proudly socialist and routinely outperform their capitalist competitors. Their guiding principle is “The Partnership was created wholly and solely to make the word a bit happier”.

      • funknjunk

        myeah, i generally agree with your idea, but there is a reason why Libertarianism in general (and it really is difficult to even have this conversation since there are so many stripes of Libertarianism – which one are we really talking about here? Google it, there are many, and when one idea is roundly trounced, the proponent , as evidenced by the last thread, usually says ‘that’s not MY understanding of it … as you are saying) is wildly hated by lots of progressives. My opinion is that it’s an overarching notion. Libertarianism is a reaction against rules and laws and guidelines. Here you are above, saying that Marxism doesn’t work. Others say Libertarianism doesn’t/wouldn’t work. People have touched on it, but the fact is laissez faire capitalism doesn’t work either. It produces, as Marx said it would basically, Oligarchy, which is now what we have. When we have had the most success in the US, post WWII, the explosion of the middle class – which does not appear naturally – a middle class must be intentionally created – capitalism doesn’t create a middle class, it creates a class of rich and a huge underclass of working poor. FDR wanted a 100% income tax for the top bracket. Basically a maximum income. He got 91%. I mean … !! That’s what he got. That’s what helped produce the huge middle class in America. Restrained capitalism. No to mention the investment in infrastructre that could NOT have taken place if left to private industry. You can’t turn your head or open your eyes in America without seeing the continuing influence of New Deal infrastructure and programs. And progressives, much like to do with many other issues, thought we had learned these lessons. But Reagan and Thatcher proved we haven’t, and it’s continued ever since. Unrestrained Capitalism DOESN’T WORK for the vast majority of the people. And that’s what many Libertarians are all about. That’s why people are pissed. Tony Benn said it many times before he died, every generation needs to learn these lessons over again and re-fight the fights. But I think progressives are irritated about that. I am. I won’t call anyone names, but I basically believe many of the anti-Libertarian posts from the other threads. It’s an empathy-free, pathologically perverse economic system, and I find proponents to generally be historically illiterate. And it’s galling. And as far as I’m concerned, these ideas continue to be put forward by privileged people who have been propagandized into believing in an economic system based on all the worst characterisitcs of being human. Re: FDR – some people think that after he was diagnosed with polio, he became a changed man, and understood viscerally what needed to be done. That is what empathy and understanding can do. Characteristics sorely lacking in most Libertarians I’ve read and talked to.

      • Jim Baerg

        This guy’s thoughts are very relevant

        • Jim Baerg

          I’d like to just edit the above to say he leans very libertarian, but also cares about reducing inequality.

  • imthegenieicandoanything

    I’m sad that you are made sad so easily, as if new to the internet and it’s unparalleled incivility.

    I hope you do good work, but your attitude about what IS “Libertarianism” at this time saddens me. It’s your blog, of course, but I don’t think I’ll be back.

    • Ed

      Simply because major incivility is the norm on the internet doesn’t make it right. About time someone stood up for basic civilized standards! If you don’t respect other people, respect your own dignity and respect the value of serious ideas by not discussing them like kids going off on each other over different opinions of comic books adaptations on an IMDB board.

      • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

        @2.1 Ed : Agreed.

  • Great American Satan

    Not the first thing I’ve disagreed with you about. Libertarianism is evil and I won’t apologize for dehumanizing its adherents they way they dehumanize people like me. To me the difference between a “fiscal conservative” and a “social conservative” is whether they wanna kill poor people or kill gay people, and fuck ‘em all. Have a nice blog tho. Good bye.

    • WithinThisMind

      Hey now! I think you are making a severe generalization here!

      —-whether they wanna kill poor people or kill gay people,—

      You’ve completely erased the rather large percentage of conservatives who want to kill both!

  • WithinThisMind

    —-Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re people with strong values who are not selfish, who don’t want to destroy the poor, who are very much concerned with the idea of democracy, but they disagree with you. When I said “claim a monopoly” on being good, I meant that.—

    If they were people with strong values who were not selfish, gave a damn about the poor, and were concerned with the idea of democracy, they wouldn’t be Libertarians. If they were reasonable people, they wouldn’t be libertarians.

    Just like if they were people who were genuinely loving and caring, they wouldn’t be Westboro Baptists. And if they weren’t misogynists, they wouldn’t be members of the Slymepit. So on, so forth.

    I won’t apologize for comparing them to MRAs. All the libertarians who entered the thread did was prove I was correct in my assessment. There is a reason so many MRAs identify as libertarian.

    We’ve repeatedly addressed the position. We’ve addressed it ad nauseum. And just like with the MRAs, it is clear that we are not dealing with rational or logical people, and all that is left now is to mock. We tried being nice and understanding and reasonable and got treated like crap. So, since we are going to be treated like crap, we might as well not bother with being nice anymore.

    Libertarianism is just as mockworthy as anti-vaxxers, MRAs, woo-followers, Slymepitters, and fundies. For a lot of the exact same reasons.

    I’m not going to be nice to people who support libertarian ideals. Just like I’m not going to be nice to misogynists, folks who talk about how it is the victim mentality harming the church and not the fact that the church covered up molestation, ditto with universities and etcetera, or people who advocate policies that are causing the death of children. Because libertarian policies also advocate the death of children and provide for environments of bigotry-based harassment, slavery, and poverty. And those aren’t ideas worthy of being treated with respect, nor are those who hold such ideals worthy of respect.

  • fismanerd


    I’ll commend you for sticking with this discussion. I have seen other discussion threads like this and haven’t really yet figured out why all the vitriol against libertarianism. Your first thread on this illustrates the difficulty of having a discussion about politics or religion on the Internet. The loudest most persistent voices are demonizing the opposition and in a lot of cases, just making stuff up.


    I do have a question on word use: as one poster in the previous thread noted, terms may be used differently in different parts of the world. As I understand it from my reading, at one time “libertarian” was used as an adjective with socialist (and may still be). What gets called “libertarian” is the US may be referred to as “liberal” in other parts of the world. People who are inclined to US libertarianism may also use the label “classical liberal”. Some would like to go back to just being called liberal, but that term is now applied to people who might also be called “progressive” or maybe “social democrat” (I’m not sure) else where. As an additional complication in the US we have a Libertarian (political) Party and I am not sure how libertarian they are.

    • EnlightenmentLiberal

      People who are inclined to US libertarianism may also use the label “classical liberal”.

      Modern US-style libertarians frequently use the label “classical liberal”, but that label is very often a grossly inaccurate description.

      IMHO, the modern US libertarian philosophy is largely the logical conclusions of very strong private property rights combined with the non-aggression principle.

      In short, the standard US libertarian generally holds that as long as someone is not actively engaging in activities that have negative impact on someone else, then it should be allowed. Specifically, this philosophy is that it is not allowed to use force to compel someone to perform a positive duty for the benefit of others. The use of force is allowed only to compel someone against action that has a negative effect on others.

      For some modern US-style libertarians, following these rules is a moral good itself. For others, these rules are mere means that lead to moral ends, such as happiness, safety, freedom, etc. It’s been my experience that libertarian thinkers are too muddled in their thoughts to be able to distinguish between those two justifications, and often switch between the two at will.

      If you disagree with that description, then you are not a libertarian, and you should stop using that word to describe yourself. There are other (better) philosophies that also value a limited form of government, such as the values of the European enlightenment, after which I named myself.

      IMHO, the term “classical liberal” is meant to invoke the European enlightenment. The philosophy I described above, the modern US-style libertarianism, is not found in European enlightenment philosophy. A cursory reading of some authors may falsely lead to that a conclusion, such as John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, but a full reading of their work leads to exactly the opposite conclusion.

      Let’s look at some examples.

      One can easily misread John Stuart Mill and his harm principle to be the non-aggression principle of modern US-style libertarians, but a full reading of On Liberty gives many examples where Mill says it is right for society to impose a positive duty on its persons by force.

      Adam Smith was for progressive taxation. If I recall correctly (it’s been a while), Adam Smith was also for very, very heavy estate taxes.

      Many of the founders of the US government and state governments were active at the time of the European enlightenment, and taking part in it, and it was a very common theme at the time for very heavy estate taxes. Some went even further with what would be called today “radical socialism ideas”.

      Of course, many of these same thinkers argued for a greatly reduced and constrained government. I do believe the spirit of this movement was best captured by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty. There is nothing incompatible with the values espoused in On Liberty, a limited form of government, and wealth redistribution government programs. In fact, that is the only compatible option allowed by the logic of On Liberty.

      I reject the insinuation that the philosophy of the European enlightenment bears any similarity to the modern US-style libertarian movement.

  • Rebecca Turner

    Part of the problem here, I think, is that in the US, Libertarian is a political party, which specific positions and ideological goals– they’re pretty firmly anarcho-capatalists. For much of the rest of the world, libertarian refers to the full gamut of anarchists, but mostly left-anarchists (eg anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists).

  • koren2535

    If anything WS SMITH made me look into Libertarianism again, I saw no reason to hate him. The people shoving their libertarian ideas on him were just wrong. Its like “you can be a feminist and not support Skepchick, because feminism just means equal rights for women, you can be a libertarian and not support Ron Paul, because he’s not part of the definition…

    • WithinThisMind

      There is a difference between hatred and contempt. There is no reason to hate him. But his ideas are contempt-worthy, and his inability to defend or even articulate his positions means that there is nothing to differentiate him from other libertarians.

      When you choose to label yourself with a word that actually means something – libertarian, republican, tea-partier, etc… that means that you are identifying with that group. And you will be judged by the people you choose to associate with. There is simply no good reason to do otherwise.

      If all of my friends were bigots, I willingly and deliberately identified as a member of their group, I never gave you any reason to think I believed differently, and more to the point – I never called them on their shit, you would be well within your rights to make a judgement on what kind of person I am. And perhaps most importantly – you would NOT be wrong.

      Not all men at least has the tiny redeeming feature of people don’t choose to be male. They do choose to be libertarian, and that choice says a lot about who they are.

      Libertarian ideas are wholly irrational. No one was ‘shoving libertarian ideas on anyone’ in that thread. One person was trying to backtrack and hide and deny and use logical fallacies to try to pretend those ideas actually had merit, and was repeatedly called on that.

      Ron Paul is a libertarian. You don’t have to support him, but the ideals he is espousing are in fact, libertarian. He wasn’t just saying he didn’t support Ron Paul, he was trying to claim Ron Paul was not, in fact, libertarian. And that is just as ridiculous as trying to claim Skepchick isn’t feminist just because you don’t happen to like them.

    • colnago80

      Excuse me, Ron Paul is not a Libertarian, no matter what he calls himself. He is a conservative who is all in favor of government intervention into matters he doesn’t like, such as abortion and same sex marriage.

      • doublereed

        Ron Paul is an anti-federalist. He’s fine with state authoritarianism, just not federal authoritarianism.

      • WithinThisMind

        —-He is a conservative who is all in favor of government intervention into matters he doesn’t like—

        So what makes him different from other libertarians then?

  • Rebecca Turner

    Most US Libertarians I’ve met are, well, self-deluded and hypocritical– in ways that conveniently increase their personal power over others. I think the real problem though is that they’re nearly indistinguishable from Objectivists. It all comes across as appalling self serving that it makes it hard to take them seriously. Which is probably why even when there’s common ground between, say, civil liberties orgs and libertarian orgs, they only occasionally work together.

  • Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges

    If you’re under the age of 23, you get a pass. Otherwise the naïvité is so willful as to be unforgivable. I mean, honestly, would you be defending any other similar group or ideology, Kaveh? We should give MRAism a break because it says it’s for “rights” right in the name? MRAism wants “fair” judicial handling of child custody cases in theory, so ignore the misogyny? White Pride really just wants white people to be proud of their ethnicity and doesn’t want to see their nationalities disappear, after all. Let’s ignore the whole supremacy BS and whatever we do, don’t call them racists because that would be mean.

    Libertarianism is the ideological equivalent of psychopathy: charming on the surface if you look at it in a flattering light and not too much analysis, but in reality morally bankrupt through and through.

    No other ideology is comparable in this regard save for fascism.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I consider calling people MRA, psychopathic, and fascist to be also abusive language.

      You could have shown where in their ideology there is potential for moral corruption, and that would be fine, because I do this with religion – among other examples. I would never allow for such talk about religious people as well.

      So, this is your last warning.

      • doublereed

        MRA is an insult but Libertarian is not? I’m a little confused.

        If I were to say that libertarianism is a Neo-Feudal ideology, would you consider that abusive? Because I mean that as an actual criticism of the ideology, where corporations and wealthy CEOs become the arbiters of power over the lowly serfs because there is no government to provide protection to the masses.

        After all, in democracies, the people have power over government, so trying to eliminate the government would eliminate the powers of democracy. In fact, you only need to press libertarians on this point a little to reveal that they really just hate democracy. It is an anti-democratic, feudal ideology.

        Is that sneering? Is that too harsh? Do you disagree?

        • Kaveh Mousavi

          “MRA is an insult but Libertarian is not? I’m a little confused.”

          MRAs are a hate group, like KKK or Nazis.

          “If I were to say that libertarianism is a Neo-Feudal ideology, would you consider that abusive? ”


          “Is that sneering? Is that too harsh? Do you disagree?”

          No, no, and no. I think it’s a very intriguing and true way of showing the faults of libertarian thought.

          I still think libertarianism can avoid that extreme form and in that case can play a valuable role. But many libertarians are the way you say and it’s true.

          • EnlightenmentLiberal

            “MRA is an insult but Libertarian is not? I’m a little confused.”

            MRAs are a hate group, like KKK or Nazis.,

            Politely, I think many of us are speaking past each other. You are be coming from an entirely different culture where the word “libertarian” may mean something different than it does to people in the United States.

            I identified some common traits of libertarianism here


            and compared them to “classical liberalism” aka the philosophy of the European enlightenment.

            Do you agree with that characterization of libertarian philosophy? Or does the word “libertarian” mean something else to you?

            I strongly side with the values and relevant fact-finding of the European enlightenment thinkers on this topic. Including:

            Great wealth inequalities is destabilizing to a free government. The facts of the matter are that modern US-style libertarianism does lead to a concentration of wealth and great wealth inequalities.

            Private property is a fiction, like any other legal right. It is merely a means to a moral end. Private property can increase happiness, safety, and improve the quality of life. Private property to some degree is also necessary for free markets and the specialization of labor which lead to increased production of wealth (capitalism 101). However, material property is finite, and thus one person’s private property is the denial of the use of that property by someone else, and it becomes morally indefensible to defend absolute private property rights in the face of great wealth inequalities.

            We can look at the history of philosophy of private property. One very influential thinker was John Locke. John Locke made the argument that if one person goes into the woods and collects apples and wastes them, that does not deprive another the opportunity for another to go into the woods and get his own apples. John Locke recognized that this fails when all land is already owned, and he used IMHO a very dishonest cop-out of “there is unlimited free unowned land in America” (also ignoring its current inhabitants). However, even today that cop-out does not exist. All land is owned. That justification of private property is now bunk.

            I have attacked one of the foundational beliefs of modern US-style libertarianism – absolute private property rights and especially inheritance rights. I also strongly disagree with the other foundation of modern US-style libertarianism: the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle loosely states that the use of force is justified only when someone is taking positive action that has a negative harm on someone else. I strongly disagree. I hold that this position is immoral.

            In the US, there is jury duty. The government will pick random people from the population as needed to serve on juries. This violates the non-aggression principle.

            Taxes themselves are a violation of these libertarian principles. Taxes are the use of force to collect money for the betterment of others. Taxes are not done in response to a positive action that causes a negative harm.

            Of course, often modern US-style libertarian philosophy includes some naked special pleading that taxes are justified only if spent on a small laundry list, like the army, the police, courts, … (I think that’s it). Any other use of taxes constitutes an unjustified use of force, a violation of the non-aggression principle and an unjustified violation of private property rights. For example: universal health care is right out. So is welfare, food stamps, public education, and more or less almost every single government program that exists. Modern US-style libertarians are one step short of anarchists.

            Again, my case example of the extreme vile immorality of the modern US-style libertarian position is this: If there was a program that could solve for hunger in a country as rich as the US by wealth redistribution, and that would cost less than a hypothetical 1% income tax, it would be morally obligatory to implement this program (or some better program which also solves for hunger). Modern US-style libertarians are against such programs. They want those people to rely on private charity. They often argue that private charities would “do better”. Further, I argue that even if 90% of that collected money went to waste, corruption, or “lazy bums”, it is still a moral obligation to do this program to solve for hunger. Yet again, modern US-style libertarians argue against the program, and say that any such “inefficient” program should be canceled, cannot be justified, etc.

            As I said earlier, I find it extremely difficult to think of a more vile stance than being against all government programs to end hunger, such as the US program called “food stamps”. Really. People starving and dying when we have plenty of wealth is completely inexcusable and one of the grossest and most vile things that happens in the world today, and modern US-style libertarians are fighting tooth and nail to keep those people hungry.

            To come full circle, I find that modern US-style libertarians are a group with vile values and policies and practices just like MRAs. In fact, I think that modern US-style libertarians are worse than MRAs. Modern US-style libertarian thought precludes the possibility of using the government to help fix any inequality between the genders, thereby helping perpetuate the problem.

            I understand this is not just US speakers. I will say though that if one is in the context of US speakers, this is what the word “libertarian” is commonly understood to mean, so if one does not hold to these values, then one should not call oneself a “libertarian” in the context of US speakers.

            I still think libertarianism can avoid that extreme form and in that case can play a valuable role. But many libertarians are the way you say and it’s true.

            Again, I have to ask, what do you understand “libertarian” to mean? Do you understand it to mean just “proponent of small government”? Then sure, what you said makes sense.

            However, that’s not how I see the word used. I see the word used specifically with the foundations of the non-aggression principle and absolute private property rights (and inheritance rights), and so I don’t understand what difference you could make between “extreme” forms and less extreme forms. As far as I can tell, the only way a libertarian can be less extreme is to be less of a libertarian. The foundational values of libertarianism are vile, and the only way to be less vile is to distance yourself from the foundations of libertarianism. The only way to be less extreme is to not hold those values, or weakly hold them. Just like the only way to be a non-extreme Christian is to not be a Christian, or to weakly hold many of values of Christianity. Just like the problem with Christianity is at its core. Just like the only way for a Christian to become more moral is to be less Christian.

      • Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges

        I was very careful to direct my comments toward the ideology (thus the ugly coinage “MRAism”), not people. I don’t think there is a “potential for moral corruption” in libertarianism which is why I didn’t say that. I believe that it is itself a morally bankrupt ideology.

        • Kaveh Mousavi

          OK then, sorry for misunderstanding.

  • mhboc

    I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time in the US.

    When you’re done fixing what you perceive as the misuse of the pejorative term libertarian, try fixing the pejorative term Hoosier or hoosier.

    Hoosiers might be proud to be so in IN, but go to St. Louis and call someone a hoosier. Quite a difference – I’ll get you an icepack for that black eye.

    You’re running into the same thing here. I told my wife she was sounding like a republican and I learned quickly those are fighting words. I was shocked – a couple of years ago she wouldn’t have blinked an eye at that, but it’s definitely pejorative in her mind now.

    Libertarian is no different – you can try to put lipstick on the pig, but you’re going to find an awful lot of people who view libertarian as an epithet here in the US.

    You said “Even if libertarianism is as uniformly terrible and radicalized in the United States as you claim it is you cannot reduce that topic into a specific movement, because it is historical and global by nature.”

    ‘Mericans don’t give a rat’s ass about your historical world view, especially libertarians here in the US. Because freedom! Perhaps the problem you’re having is that you allow ‘Mericans to comment on your blog. And by your definitions you’ll have to ban us.

    I might take your arguments more seriously if you could point me to libertarians or Libertarians in the US who don’t have a bottom line of “let them die.” Because if there’s no safety net, that’s what happens. And I haven’t met one yet who has an answer to what happens to people who don’t get help privately when we can’t compel people to help through taxes. Other than let them die – and I’m not sure what’s more selfish than that.

    Ask yourself why the minions of US governments (federal state and local) infiltrate, spy on, abuse and try to jail as many left wing anarchists as they can while leaving the right wing anarchists (libertarians) alone. It’s because you’re wrong about their motivations, and the US governments are right. (Same for “Christian terrorists,” which don’t exist vs. “Muslim terrorists, ” which, of course, includes every Muslim according to those same US institutions.)

    You said “What would you do if you lived in Iran? If your political opponents were supportive of a strict execution of sharia law and the continuation of a theocratic state?”

    Am I generalizing when I say they are bigots, misogynists and reactionaries rejecting science?

    Fundamentalists by definition reject science if it contradicts their creed, which science started doing as soon as the creed was put to paper.

    By definition all of the Abrahamic religions’ fundamentalists are bigots because of their fear, hatred and attempted and actual discrimination against homosexuals. They’re misogynists because their gods have spoken to them, and the gods said women are inferior. You’re going to ban me for recognizing that?

    You’re going to tell me I’m wrong or ban me when I say that anyone who says that prepubescent children should be mutilated and used for sex (married) are evil?

    You also said “Many of them really and genuinely think that the regime is the representative of Allah and the very definition of good.” If that definition of good includes executing homosexuals for their sexuality, yep, they are evil. That is an evil act, an evil thought process and evil laws that lead to that result. Ban me if you must, but tell me how it isn’t evil.

    The libertarian in the debate audience who shouted “let them die” when Ron Paul was asked what happens to people who can’t afford insurance – evil.

    You also said “Basically, the position that “everyone who holds this position is evil” is false. It’s lazy and easy, because you can dismiss the person without addressing the position, because you can easily exile these people and make sure their voice is not heard. It means that there are simply no good reasons to hold a specific position, it means that it is OK to stop listening to specific people and shield them from the public discourse, because no decent person would ever say that. It’s a way to end the discussion rather than beginning one.”

    I disagree – if the position is fundamentally evil, why would I want to discuss it? Why would you want to discuss it? Should we talk about the benefits of violent ethnic cleansing? (I’m saying no). Then why would we talk about the benefits of sexual, economic or racial cleansing that includes abuse and death? If those discussions make it to the broad public they shouldn’t be censored, but they should be mocked and jeered to the point they crawl back under their rocks.

    I’ve known people in the KKK and other white supremacist groups. Actually had friends like that. I can’t say that I’ve benefited much from my discussions with them, and some seemed (were) really nice (to me because I’m white?), but ultimately they WERE evil because they were so wrong about how they wanted to treat others. I’m better off having segregated myself from them. I don’t want to censor them. But I also don’t want to talk to them or in any way encourage the mainstreaming of their perverted ideals.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      If you do have compelling arguments that libertarian positions are evil, or lead to evil, go ahead, offer them here. What I’m objecting to is broad generalizations, abusive language, and false and insulting equivalences.

      “if the position is fundamentally evil, why would I want to discuss it? Why would you want to discuss it?”

      Because you want to change people’s minds rather than shutting them up? Because they might have good reasons? Because it’s not fundamentally evil to have a slightly different economic priority than you?

      Of course people who should “let them die” are abusive and wrong, and I would never tolerate any libertarian saying that on my blog. None of them has, though.

      When you compare libertarian positions with ethnic cleansing, you lose even me as someone who might take your views on libertarianism seriously, let alone someone calling themselves a libertarian.

      “If those discussions make it to the broad public they shouldn’t be censored, but they should be mocked and jeered to the point they crawl back under their rocks.”

      I don’t see how this is not censorship. It’s mass censorship rather than governmental censorship, which is not that different.

      And again we have equivalency with KKK and white supremacists.

      • SallyStrange

        In practice, in the USA, there is a lot of overlap between white supremacists and prominent self-identified libertarians. I know, other libertarians will cry that Ron and Rand Paul and their like-minded fellows in various levels of state and national government aren’t TRUE libertarians, but the fact is that they have seized on the libertarian ideal of small government because, not in spite of, the fact that the government has been the main agent of redressing historical racial inequalities for the USA. Shouting “No True Libertarian!” as libertarians usually do in response to this is not an adequate response. Libertarians need to demonstrate a convincing mechanism by which racism can be diminished without the use of government power, or accept that their philosophy has been and will continue to be used in the service of white supremacy.

        • WithinThisMind

          Exactly. If Libertarians stand up and demonstrate exactly how libertarianism doesn’t end in bigotry, racism, classism, wage slavery, etc… I’ll be happy to take them seriously. But instead, just like in the other thread, they state that ‘well, if people want to be racist, bigoted, and engage in wage slavery that is their choice and who cares if they have all the power’.

          That libertarianism is used in the service of white supremacy is more feature than bug. Libertarianism is all about a society run by robber barons rather than anything approaching democracy, and we already know how that turned out – racism, misogyny, starvation, child labor, etc… I am not going to pretend I am completely ignorant of history just to avoid hurting some libertarian’s fee-fees.

          Libertarians have a political platform. They publicize it. Maybe, if a self-identified libertarian doesn’t subscribe to that platform, they should self-identify as something else?

      • SallyStrange

        “If those discussions make it to the broad public they shouldn’t be censored, but they should be mocked and jeered to the point they crawl back under their rocks.”

        I don’t see how this is not censorship. It’s mass censorship rather than governmental censorship, which is not that different.

        Widespread social disapproval of certain positions does end up being censorship, in a way, as it basically determines who gets to have their positions taken seriously in society. But it doesn’t throw people in jail, yank their visas, tap their phones, or confiscate their belongings, which is an important difference vis-a-vis government censorship. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it; the question is whether it’s aimed at things that are genuinely harmful or not.

      • mhboc

        Fascism was a political ideology that you apparently feel IS pejorative. You do realize neo-fascists (all the fascists are dead…) still run for office and are trying to assume power in other ways in governments as we type?

        Why is it OK to use fascist in that manner but NOT libertarian? And see Sally Strange’s reply on the difference between a libertarian and a white supremacist.

        If you want to use a label on yourself you’re stuck with the prevailing definition of that label. (See hoosier.) In the US the Kochs and the Pauls are the face of libertarians. If you want to be a libertarian you’re pretty much stuck with that, and you can cry true Scotsman all you want, but…. It’s like a Democrat saying Obama isn’t a “true” Democrat. If you want to call yourself a Democrat, you own him.

        If I want to call myself an atheist I should understand that the term is pejorative for many in the US. I can try and change their minds or laugh at them – or both! Although I think that’s really different because it’s not an ideology or political party, it’s simply not believing in a god. Libertarian suggests a set of specific beliefs.

        As for censorship, atheists are the most vilified minority in the US. But I can say I’m an atheist in most places without ending up in jail. Government censorship is orders of magnitude different than self or public imposed censorship. I’d like to see libertarians more vilified than atheists – not censored or thrown in jail. You apparently have a problem with that and don’t want me to say it on your blog?.

        You’re the one that brought up Iran and theocracies, not me. I responded to you. I made no comparison between libertarians and ethnic cleansing. It was US Neocons, not libertarians, who launched the war that led to the ethnic cleansing of Iraq, not libertarians.(but of course the Koch family has a long history of war profiteering). I’m happy to leave that OR to ask WHY you would want to discuss the efficacies of ethnic cleansing or killing homosexuals. (Neither of which many libertarians would support.) I’m happy to shame the homobigots and ethnic cleansers rather than engage in a substantive discussion.

        Why wouldn’t you let a libertarian say “let them die” on your blog when that is a central tenet of the ideology for at minimum a significant minority, if not majority of them in the US? Yes, it’s hateful but it’s what “libertarians” advocate in the US. Quietly, for the most part, and they don’t get called out for it much. I’d rather you let them say it so they can be mocked and ridiculed.

        You didn’t say if you’ve spent much time in the US. I know it’s easier to segregate yourself here from societal norms than many other places. (See the polygamist child-rapers at the AZ-UT border). On a broad scale we’re starting to do that in red vs. blue states. But that’s also easier to do if the government isn’t using violence or the threat of violence to prevent your views or behaviors. I’d rather get caught with a gram of weed in most blue states than red. Or be gay. Or atheist. Or non-white or non-English speaking. Or non-christian.

        Of course, I’m in a blue state in a hotbed of batshit craziness. (Which absolutely affects my views on libertarians, teabaggers and christian nationalists.) But we’re protected by the laws and, somewhat, the prevailing attitudes of the state.

        • SallyStrange

          You didn’t say if you’ve spent much time in the US.

          Considering that Kaveh is a young person living in Iran, it’s highly unlikely that he has. I am chalking up the difference in opinions here in large part to differences in cultural context.

          • mhboc


          • Kaveh Mousavi

            I have never been outside Iran. -_-

      • EnlightenmentLiberal

        “If those discussions make it to the broad public they shouldn’t be censored, but they should be mocked and jeered to the point they crawl back under their rocks.”

        I don’t see how this is not censorship. It’s mass censorship rather than governmental censorship, which is not that different.

        This is an important issue. I am sorry that I do not have a good answer to it. I think this is a very important question.

        Offhand, I would again such John Stuart Mill and his book On Liberty as some great thought on this topic. I don’t think he reaches hard and fast rules either.

        We want people to be able to live their life as they see fit as long as it does not harm others (and as long as they fulfill their basic duties to others). That effectively requires freedom of thought, freedom of association, and freedom of speech.

        We do not want to be wrong. The best way to not be wrong is to allow everyone to speak their mind, to explore, and to pursue other options. Then, we can come together and talk about those options, and try to pick the best option. That’s the “free marketplace of ideas”. It’s the Aesop, the moral lesson, of free speech.

        For this to work, we need to allow every idea to be considered and debated, even things that most people would consider vile and outrageous. However, for this idea to work, we also need to be free to disagree, and call ideas bad or evil when we deem them bad or evil.

        Just at this moment, I realized that there is a difference between a honest seeker of the truth who is pursuing what others may consider to be vile, and those who argue for the same ideas in bad faith, in dishonesty. For example, someone may legitimately argue that libertarianism is a good and moral system because it fixes hunger, poverty, improves happiness, and improves the human condition. However, if that person is presented with good arguments that he’s wrong, and libertarianism leads to hunger, poverty, misery, injustice, etc., and they persist in arguing for libertarianism, then mere disagreement is not enough. That is when ridicule, mockery, scorn, etc., need to be employed. That’s when we need to employ shaming to ensure that these bad ideas are crushed.

        Again, I need to distinguish between an honest seeker and a dishonest scumbag. Often that’s hard to do in practice.

        PS: Talking about free speech, I can never help but post my favorite video on this topic, also the best speech IMHO ever given by Christopher Hitchens:

    • colnago80

      Excuse me, the nickname of the University of Indiana football team is the Hoosiers. There was a movie named Hoosiers about a small town high school basketball team in Indiana which starred Gene Hackman. I don’t seem to recall folks from Indiana demanding that the nickname of the football team be changed or the name of the movie be changed. St Louis is in Missouri. Who cares what someone in Missouri thinks about a term relative to Indiana?

      • mhboc

        IN is the Hoosier state. It’s official, they’re all Hoosiers. There’s no escaping it. If you’re from IN you’re a Hoosier!

        And people in other states use hoosier as a term of derision. As in, you’re a fucking hoosier!

        I’m sure libertarians are proud to be so, but libertarian is a term of derision for many who are not of that ilk. They’re fucking libertarians!

        It sounds like your response would be who cares what a non-libertarian thinks, which is what bloggers positions should be instead of trying to protect groups from their idiocies and association with the likes of the Kochs.

  • M can help you with that.

    My own problem with libertarianism is this: it’s too optimistic about human nature. It’s all rooted in the ideas of primitivists like Rousseau, who thought if you only let children free they will automatically grow to be good people

    I can definitely see this where “libertarian” is used in the original, anarchist-socialist sense. (I’d even agree with you WRT a number of ‘em.)

    With U.S.-style Libertarians, though…

    The influence of Rousseau is still definitely there. I’ve never heard of a U.S. Libertarian, though, whose view of a perfect Libertarian society involved anything resembling what we (or Rousseau) would be likely to call “good.” Beyond the thinnest public veneer, the Libertarian utopia is horrendous — a fusion of Gilded Age exploitation, Objectivist self-righteousness, and usually more than a bit of pseudo-Darwinist (or social-Darwinist) fantasy.

  • Timothy Roscoe Carter

    “I might take your arguments more seriously if you could point me to libertarians or Libertarians in the US who don’t have a bottom line of “let them die.””


    1. Matt Welch, the current editor of Reason magazine, who believes the government should give everyone a basic income unconditionally, small but enough to live on. Welch also supports French style universal health care.

    2. Virgina Postrel, a prominent libertarian writer and former editor of Reason magazine who also supports a basic income.

    3. Charles Murray, another prominent libertarian writer, wrote a book supporting a basic income. Murray is, however, a despicable asshole for other reasons.

    Dead, but still important:

    1. F. A. Hayek, supported a small basic income.

    2. Milton Freidman, proposed a form of a basic income known as the Negative Income Tax. This idea was watered down by politicians and became the Earned Income Credit.

    None of this means that libertarianism is correct, but not all believe in just letting people die. And this list does not even include Georgists, who are basically libertarians who believe that all land and natural resources should be taxed at 100% and the money distributed as a dividend to all citizens in a manner similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund.

    • lochaber

      I’m not familiar with any of the names you posted (aside from Freidman), but I’ll have to look into this. The whole idea of a minimum income (mincome?) is something I’ve seen come up a couple times, but seems to be about as desirable as a nuclear war followed by ebola in the U.S. I’ve ran into a few articles claiming this or that country (Switzerland maybe? I’m too lazy to google it now…) was considering it, and that seemed to be enough to set of a majority in the U.S. screaming about welfare queens and government theft (unfortunately, even amongst self-identified democrats and liberals…).

      Personally, I think it’s a wonderful idea. First off, I think it simplifies the social safety-net aspect, so long as it’s tied to something that ensures its an adequate amount. Also, it frees up a lot of people doing survival work to pursue something they are absolutely interested in. (including non-profit, volunteer, and charity work) I think it would be more likely to encourage people to explore fields they find interesting, as opposed to the current practices of pursuing a field that will make you the most money (or at least enough to prosper on (or survive on…)). And I think it has the potential to make certain fields more exclusive to people who were previously limited by a need to make money/survive.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone who identified as a libertarian and even tolerated, let alone supported a minimum wage, let alone a minimum income.

    • colnago80

      Excuse me, Charles Murray is very much alive. His co-author, Richard Herrnstein is deceased.

      Before co-authoring The Bell Curve with Murray, Herrnstein was a notorious contributor to the racist “journal” Mankind Quarterly.

      • timothycarter

        I put Murray as #3 on the list of “Living” libertarians. “Dead” was to refer to the next two names. That would have been clearer if I had left a blank line between the Murray comments and the “Dead” list. My apologies.

    • mhboc

      Thanks. If only they were in Internet forums or local to me.

      I remember the negative income tax actually started in England? And Friedman’s proposal as well as the earned income tax credit depended on an income to begin with, no?

      Of course the Gerogists are socialists, like my friends in Alaska who just don’t know it. How influential is Georgism in US libertarian circles?

      • timothycarter

        I have never heard of NIT proposals being considered in England, but I am far from an expert on that and if it is true I would very much like to know it. Friedman’s proposal did *not* depend on an income to begin, only and income tax, he suggested giving tax refunds to people with 0 income, that is why it was called a “negative” income tax. The Earned Income Credit *does* require an income to begin with, that was a primary (but not the only) way in which it was watered down from the NIT.

        Georgists believe in free markets with little to no government regulations with no maximums on income or wealth, and many use the term “geolibertarian”, which makes them odd candidates to be called “socialists”. (The only business regulations Henry George himself seems to promoted was the elimination of monopolies.) Some Georgists accept that they are 1/3 socialist. I think the existence of coherent philosophies like Georgism help demonstrate the meaninglessness of the terms “socialism” and “capitalism”. Georgists are actually hugely influential among academic libertarians having theory discussions in ivory towers, mainly because their premises are so damn irrefutable. But among rank-and-file libertarians you are likely to encounter in day-to-day discussions on the internet, no, unfortunately, not so much.

        • mhboc

          I was pulling the NIT in England from the recesses of my old brain, but Wikipedia says “It was developed by British politician Juliet Rhys-Williams in the 1940s[1] and later by United States economist Milton Friedman.[2][3][4]” That’s not what I remember but, take it for what it’s worth.

          I’m old enough to know not to label myself with an ism or any label I can get away from. So I don’t have much sympathy for anyone who says they’re a “…” and then must fall back on the true Scotsman to defend themselves.

          I was being facetious when I called the Georgists socialist. But public ownership of the means of production, which includes natural resources, is pretty much the definition of socialism/communism. So people who disagree call them Georgites?

          Your socialist is my National Socialist, my libertarian is your fascist, your nazi commie muslim Kenyan Indonesian is my Black president, mine is a Democrat…. I prefer to see discussions about specific issues and solutions. That’s where the evil comes out as well as the seriousness of positions.

          • timothycarter

            Thank you very much for informing me about Juliet Rhys-Williams. This is something I needed to know.

    • Ed

      I’m glad someone mentioned Reason magazine. I strongly disagree with libertarian economic theory as I’ve said several times, but this is an example of a sophisticated, cultured publication which holds a moderate, adaptable version of the ideology.

      Salman Rushdie was once interviewed in it and was praised for fighting censorship. Intellectual and artistic freedom (and simply the freedom to live as one pleases so long as other’s rights are respected) are as much a focus as opposition to “big government’”.

      I don’t know what percent of libertarians like it’s approach, but it must be doing well as it has a professional and aesthetically pleasing quality almost equal to publications like the New Yorker.

      • Drolfe

        Reason is doing well because very rich organizations/people subsidize it. It would have failed in the free market already.

        (But you knew that already, since you know Libertarianism isn’t popular and issues don’t cost 100s of dollars.)

    • B-Lar

      A basic income for every citizen paid by the government = socialism/communism.

      Expecting everything to be magically brilliant for everyone if we just let everyone do what they want = libertarianism

      Libertarianism is going to be the “religion” of the future, in the sense that those who want a an intellectual/moral sounding way to justify their own selfishness will spout it at fancy dinner parties. It makes me sad to see socialists lending legitimacy to the ideaology that will eventually crush them…

      • Timothy Roscoe Carter

        B-Lar –

        So, if you ever see anything supported by a libertarian that is good, it is not *true* libertarianism, therefor libertarianism is always evil. And *you* get to determine who the true Scotsmen, er libertarians, are, and it is definitely not the editors of America’s most popular libertarian magazine or two of the three most influential libertarian economists. Got it.

        • Drolfe

          If you’re going to appeal to celebrity, at least name names.

          You’re talking what, like Nick Gillespie and his homies? That’s the leading light on True Libertarianism and not the academy employed by Koch and Exxon think tanks? (Again ignoring that Reason and its foundation is funded also by Koch and extraction industry organs.)

          • Timothy Roscoe Carter

            I named the names at the top of this sub-thread, in comment #12. And *I* ridiculed appealing to who is a *true* libertarian, I am only saying that these people are important in the libertarian movement and it is crazy to try to deny that the term “libertarian” includes them. And why on earth do you believe one group of Koch funded libertarians is any more representative of the movement than another group of Koch-funded libertarians?

        • Drolfe

          Oh, right. You did. Matt Welch and Virgina Postrel. I apologize.

          It’s refreshing, I guess, that you think redistributionists and statists are the leading lights in movement libertarianism and not the propertarians and anti-contractualists (or the rest of the taxes are theft crowd). It’s not my experience, for all that’s worth.

          I didn’t mention “the movement” though, I mentioned “True Libertarianism” which I imagined to be the sort of academy-defined libertarianism. Hayek as you mention or Nozick.

          Do you think the bulk of the libertarian movement in the US, or those that self identify as such, know what libertarianism entails and implies? As it always comes down to in these discussions, who’s the true Scotsman, in your estimation?

        • Drolfe

          In hindsight I also apologize for attributing “leading light” to your position rather than merely “important to”. I think I was reading into it again.

          It seems that you’re only willing to go so far as to say:

          Not all libertarians!

  • lochaber

    I’m really hoping there is just some sort of difference in how we define ‘libertarian’ going on here.

    First off, before I start, I want to state that in my post in the previous thread where I made the claim that libertarians favor slavery, when I used the term “you”, I meant it in the more general sense of the reader (if they opposed a minimum wage), and not aimed specifically at Kaveh Mousavi.

    A long time ago, about when I first encountered people identifying as libertarians, I actually thought they were ok, maybe even admirable. Granted, I’m looking at everything in hindsight now, and can’t say for sure what their specific issues actually were, but in memory, they appealed to me because a lot of them were against so many of the things I took issues with (homophobia, theocracy, criminalization of drugs), and at the time, these struck me as their major concerns.

    I don’t know if I just never thought about it, or if I thought it wasn’t their major issue, or if I was just being rather dumb (I’ve a long history of that, and while I hope I’m less dumb know then I used to me, I even more so hope that I’ll be less dumb a few years down the road then I am now…), but I don’t think I ever really paid attention to their ant-regulation stances in terms of environmental protection, anti-discrimination, workplace safety, or minimum wages until rather recently.

    For a little while, I sorta acknowledged these issues as problems with their viewpoints/ideology, but was willing to give it a pass, since I still thought they focused more on the criminalization of drugs and corporate subsidies.

    Maybe this was all my misunderstanding of their values, but lately (in the U.S. at least, I can’t really say I know what sorts of stuff is going on in other areas of the world…) it seems that many of the people that identify as libertarians seem to care little about corporate subsidies, but to be highly against any sort of social safety net, environmental protections, minimum wages, or basically any sort of protective regulation/legislation. I’ve heard self-described libertarians blame the explosion in Texas a couple years back on “overbearing federal regulation”, when the problem was actually not enough funding to enforce current regulations.

    Henry Ford, who (in the U.S. at least) is often held up as some sort of entrepreneurial hero and role model, was taken to court for increasing the wages to his employees. He lost, and that case established the precedent that a corporation’s sole legal obligation is to maximize profits.

    I think I agree with Ibis3′s bit about cutting them some slack (I’d just gauge it on how new to the idea they are, and whether they’ve been exposed to it’s failings, and a bit less on age, but that’s a pretty minor quibble), I think a lot of people hit on some aspect of libertarian ideology that appeals to them, and don’t realize what the other aspects, fully realized, imply. Once they are exposed to those failures (the problems of no environmental regulation, no workplace safety laws, no minimum wage, nothing to stop monopolies/monopsonies, no protection against discrimination, etc., etc.), they should acknowledge a problem with libertarianism. If their response is something along the lines of “we haven’t had a truly libertarian society, so you can’t say it won’t work”, or “people/corporations would behave more honestly/fairly if their wasn’t regulation requiring them to behave honestly/fairly”, then I feel fairly certain that they aren’t worth talking to.

    Maybe I’d feel different if I ran into more self-identified libertarians who admitted to problems with the extreme version of their philosophy/belief/idealogical, and were mostly using it to push against something they disagreed with, rather then an absolute end-goal, but I haven’t ran into any of that sort yet, while I’ve ran into plenty, who despite their claims for support of freedom of assembly, and detestations of government violence, are totes cool with the police beating down a bunch of strikers or occupy hippies.

    I’m sorry, but I fail to see the justification in holding a libertarian philosophy when the problems it will lead to are obvious, ubiquitious, and rather well-documented (in regards to loosening of/eliminating/or just plain lacking regulations)

    • John Morales

      I’m sorry, but I fail to see the justification in holding a libertarian philosophy when the problems it will lead to are obvious, ubiquitious, and rather well-documented (in regards to loosening of/eliminating/or just plain lacking regulations)

      Perhaps many self-proclaimed adherents mistake an attitudinal political predilection for a philosophy.

      (I don’t see reason to rule out that hypothesis on the basis of the comment thread on the previous post)

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I didn’t find your comments troublesome either. There is legitimate concern and criticism in them. Apparently I can’t fully express what I object to.

      • EnlightenmentLiberal

        @Kaveh Mousavi

        Let me ask you this.

        It seems that you believe certain groups who have well-known policy positions are evil, and we are free to call them evil. You used the examples of MRAs and nazis. Right? We can say that the public policy positions of these groups is simply evil, right?

        So, you’re willing to identify certain political groups and political philosophies as evil, right?

        What about economic policies? What about a policy where everyone had to support the Roman Catholic Church via taxes? That’s be pretty bad right, maybe even evil? What about a policy where people of certain religions or ethnicities had to pay double the taxes of the privileged group? We can talk about how some economic policies are evil too, right?

        What about political and economic policies which allow dumping toxic or hazardous waste, or pollution, without repercussion? We can call those policies bad, and even evil, right?

        What’s so special about libertarianism? If it’s a concrete specific set of policies like what I’ve outlined above, then we can analyze these policies and make a determination as to whether they are good or bad. (Of course, the determination has to be made relative to alternatives.) Any public policy can be judged in this way, and it should be.

        I’m trying to get at position espoused by Sam Harris and others. Morality is not some relative thing. Public policy affects people’s lives, and we can judge that. Perhaps imperfectly, but we don’t need perfect knowledge to make judgments. For example, we might not know everything about nutrition, but we know enough that eating lead is bad for you. Similarly, we might not know everything about the ideal economic systems, but we know enough that no redistribution of wealth programs and a non-aggression principle of government and force is bad. Evil is just a synonym for bad in this context.

        I don’t see an escape from this conclusion. I’m pretty sure there isn’t.

  • Leo Buzalsky

    My own problem with libertarianism is this: it’s too optimistic about human nature.

    Yes, that’s certainly seems to be the case for a number of libertarians. (Others, like some of the commenters from the last post seemed to be hiding a lack of human compassion behind this optimism, though.) But to say that there is this flawed premise and then still be supportive of the conclusions is illogical. Sure, the conclusions could still be true, but they’d be true for other reasons. Any conclusion reached based on false premises cannot be trusted. And, yet…here you are, back to defending those conclusions. You are essentially admitting to holding an irrational position.

    And don’t say they’re not real libertarians, they are, because they have the same basic principles and values, but have different policy decisions.

    I find that hard to believe. If you’re going to tell me they use essentially the same premises (principles and values), yet reach different conclusions…something is off here. Some group has to be reaching the wrong conclusion. Or else they don’t have the same basic principles and values. Or maybe it’s additional principles and values. The point is either something has to be different or some group can’t be “true” libertarians.

    And then your comment policy…this actually pisses me off a bit. I’m highlighting the crucial part to this discussion.

    You may never attack other commenters personally. You can criticize their ideas, as vehemently as you want, you can use humor if you like, but, their personality is off-limits. Don’t make assumptions about what people know, on people’s intelligence, on their morals, or their personality. You don’t know them. Even if you did know them, this is not the place to use that knowledge.

    And, yet, here you are, essentially trying to tell as that they are moral people, etc, etc. You assumed in the comment I quoted just moments ago that “they have the same basic principles and values.” You don’t know them! (Same goes for the remarks you made about Marxists.) Now, sure, I suppose the owner of the blog need not follow their own commentary rules…but it can be kind of obnoxious from the perspective of a reader like myself that you would hold double standards. Or is your policy just for negative attitudes? If you take a positive attitude, is that OK? The policy does not state this.

    Basically, the position that “everyone who holds this position is evil” is false. It’s lazy and easy, because you can dismiss the person without addressing the position, because you can easily exile these people and make sure their voice is not heard.

    Likewise, doing the reverse (e.g, the position that “everyone who holds this position is a good person”) is also lazy and easy. Then, you can get into the position where you won’t address the position because the person, you think, really as good intentions. (That’s the type of thinking that gets the Catholic church off the hook for all the crap they pull.)

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I’m sure there are evil libertarians as well, but when someone says libertarians are evil and selfish it is important for people who stands for intellectual discourse to point out it is not necessarily so.

      • WithinThisMind

        Then perhaps it is the responsibility of libertarians to actually provide an argument or take a stance that demonstrates that they are not evil and selfish, instead of trying half-assedly to defend rather evil and selfish ideals.

        • doublereed

          What if libertarians donate to charities and such. Hell, even the Koch Brothers do that.

          I think Kaveh has a point that attacking the people as selfish is not a good way to go. Far more effective and courteous is to attack their ideology specifically.

          • WithinThisMind

            I addressed that already by pointing out what, exactly, charity the Koch brothers actually donate to.

          • doublereed

            You posted one thing that they donated to. I responded above with links to other things they also donate to.

          • WithinThisMind

            David Koch donated to a hospital after needing the hospital. He also gets very nice tax breaks in return for his donations.

            I fail to see how donating to operas and ballets counts as ‘charity’. Supporting the arts, yes. Charity, no.

          • doublereed

            $100 million to the hospital. That’s some mad cheddar.

            Tax breaks irrelevant to this conversation. Those organizations still benefited mightily from their contributions. Not to mention that everyone gets tax breaks.

            Most of their charity goes to cancer research and education. But that’s all charity, man. I don’t really understand why you’re denying this. The Koch brothers have done plenty of horrendously evil things. Does the very idea that they might do some positive things (that doesn’t even come close to the serious damage they’ve done all over) scare you?

            There’s no need to play this game. You can demonize the Kochs plenty while recognizing their contributions.

          • colnago80

            The Koch brothers also partly funded the PBS/NOVA 7 part program on evolution, which did not endear them to the born agains.

          • WithinThisMind

            —Does the very idea that they might do some positive things (that doesn’t even come close to the serious damage they’ve done all over) scare you?—

            Oh don’t be ridiculous. Does the idea that they few good things they did really don’t matter in the long run scare you? George Bush opened some libraries and gave a bit of humanitarian aid to Africa. Doesn’t make him a good man or a good president. It also was nowhere near as much as he could have done had he actually cared instead of just been trying to get a bit of good PR.

            Let’s get some perspective, shall we? David Koch donating 100 million dollars to the hospital is the equivalent of me donating about 10 bucks, relative to our wealth.

            Yes, he has made some donations. In the big picture, not a hell of a lot. Especially since there is little evidence they did it out of the ‘goodness of their hearts’.

          • doublereed

            I wasn’t being ridiculous. You were downplaying major contributions to point of denying them.

            Suddenly now you aren’t. Now I don’t disagree with anything you said. Fistbump.

  • SallyStrange

    I appreciate the shout-out, but ultimately I don’t quite agree with you. Libertarianism (in the context of the USA, which is my context) is a philosophy that would, if put into practice, lead to evil consequences and has in the past been used to support evil policies, and continues to be used that way. Ultimately the nicest thing you can say about a self-identified libertarian is that they unknowingly support evil. That, like religious followers in some cases, they have been convinced that hurting people is really helping them. In the worst cases, they are self-consciously promoting selfish and destructive policies because it benefits them. It’s an extraordinarily pernicious philosophy, not least because, to paraphrase Galbraith on conservatives, it appears to give a superior moral justification for selfishness. I’m more interested in stamping out that kind of evil from my politics than I am in protecting the feelings of people who perpetuate such toxic nonsense.

    TL;DR: the good intentions of ignorant libertarians don’t excuse their support of destructive, harmful policies. Intent, for me, counts for less than it seems to for you.

    • Drolfe

      I agree with Sally above. If Libertarians in Iran aren’t advocating for policies that result in more starvation for our own good, then OK, our sample sets are different. If libertarians are the lesser evil somewhere then great, support them.

      I imagined it would go without saying my comments were in the same US context as those made by WS Smith and others. That’s a generalization I’m willing to apologize for.

      As I tried to make clear, I consider accommodating harmful ideas to be immoral. There is an ethics of belief, and faith-based ideologies that harm society don’t pass. Libertarianism doesn’t pass. Libertarianism as formulated and practiced in the US not enlightenment liberalism, it is Austrian School economics wed to Just World philosophy that has never come to terms with Rawlsianism or contractualism or the last 200 years of history and the last 50 years of sociology and psychology.

      In my context it will continue to be worthy of suspicion and contempt until the bulk of its adherents have accepted some reality-based reformulation. I’ll stop considering movement libertarianism my enemy when it begins to offer evidence-based public policy. For me, this isn’t just philosophy it’s also politics.

  • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    I think that the main problem with the US version of libertarianism is rooted in the idea that “every poor person is just an unlucky millionaire” aspect of the American Dream.

    What most of those espouse the view are not willing to admit that they would be firmly on the shitty end of the stick.

    Just like communism, it’s great in theory but does not take human nature or existing conditions in to consideration.

    As a UKer, I have a friend who’s a classical libertarian. He’s a lot brighter than I am, also has a degree in economics, and has pulled himself up by his bootstraps in his chosen profession in true libertarian style… I see where he’s coming from but it just won’t work for society as a whole.

  • jesse


    I am with SallyStrange on this. The thing is, you have to remember that you’re in a rather different context than a lo of people here.

    Look, again I don’t know as I do not live there and unlike Christopher de Bellaigue I don’t speak Farsi. But my sense is that there are certainly political terms in Iran that would be used in a similar way. For many people it’s like referring to someone as a fascist. Yes it can be an insult, but often that “insult” is being used very specifically. I would describe many Republicans in the US, for example, as proto-fascists, because they display all the pathologies thereof.

    Also, good intentions don’t matter. I am no expert, but as I recall there were lots of sincere religious people who opposed the Shah for perfectly good reasons and believed very strongly in the economic justice mission of the mosques. Problem is, they ended up supporting people who were less interested in the human rights side of the equation with respect to religious belief, and the result was what you have now. (Lord knows the Iranian Left also made some pretty serious missteps back in 1980). The good intentions don’t freaking matter.

    Then there’s the pernicious aspects to Libertarian philosophical underpinnings (in the US). I can tell you it has little to do with Rousseau and everything to do with the worst parts of Adam Smith. The basic assumption is that what is profitable is what is socially useful or good by definition. The logic is that if it wasn’t good people would not buy it. That’s so obviously false it’s laughable: cigarettes sell pretty well and they are plainly harmful.

    I joke that if everyone had telepathy, could teleport, and there was no inherited wealth or social capital — f we all started of naked in the wilderness — than Libertarianism makes sense. Since none of those things are true, it doesn’t. Libertarians completely ignore costs that markets cannot measure and that what is marketable or has price information is rather arbitrary — after all, in the US there was a market for slaves. That doesn’t mean that slavery was a good idea. They also ignore that in markets that do work efficiently — the stock exchange is one — it’s because of a plethora of rules that govern who knows what and when. Another assumption is that everyone walks into a transaction on an equal footing.

    I actually had to explain to a libertarian type that if an employer compels a woman who works for him to have sex on pain of firing that is rape. Not harassment. Rape. The idea that someone working might not have a choice of employment was lost on him.

    Libertarians simply have no conception of such dynamics. It’s not about optimism. It’s about priorities. Libertarians’ fundamental premise is actually rather Calvinist; it assumes that if you have wealth you must deserve it. But by that logic we shouldn’t prosecute Pablo Escobar for murdering his rivals. After all, he sold cocaine more efficiently, right?

    I don’t care that some libertarians I know are nice people. I know nice fascists too. I’m sure a lot of people who supported Franco in Spain were wonderful grandmas who made a mean longanisa that I would happily eat and served a nice Rioja with it. None of that matters. Not when engaging in debates like this.

    There’s no reason to be insulting, but I have little problem with using libertarian as a term of opprobrium for the same reason I use the terms fascist and Nazi that way. I’m describing something specific and something that is fundamentally wrong at so many levels.

    Again I stress that part of the problem might be definition of terms. After all it took me some time living in England to learn to clarify what I meant when I railed on about Republicans and conservatives. (A Conservtive party member in he UK would be considered a wild-eyed leftist radical by the current US Republican leadership, I expect).

    • CaitieCat, getaway driver

      jesse says it very well, as always. Co-signed.

    • Chris Hall

      Put me down with Jesse, also.

  • Setár, Elvenkitty

    The problem with your argument here is the same as in your original post:

    This is part of the problem. Libertarianism is a philosophy. It has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist forever. It has taken too many forms and it will continue to take many forms. And it spans around the entire globe.

    The “good libertarians” you keep citing, much like “good cops” that come up in discussions of institutionalized police corruption and brutality, are deafeningly silent with regards to the far-right hyper-privileged who own the public face of libertarianism.

    People like WS Smith from the last thread. People who not only espouse a horrible belief system but also behave horribly in discussion. WS Smith provided a case study in this: they would make responses that repeated arguments refuted by the post being responded to, they would ignore responses they couldn’t deal with unless they could find some other way to discredit them (like by ignoring Al Dente until they got angry, at which point Smith suddenly cried foul), blatantly misrepresenting their opposition, even ignoring past statements until someone dug them up and presented them. They were not so much participating in that discussion as trying to control it; indeed, about half the time they didn’t respond so much as simply insult their opponents’ intelligence by claiming they didn’t know anything about True Libertarianism or demanding they read and refute Ayn Rand in full the same way religious apologists often do.

    All the while pointedly not drawing any sort of ire, quotes or criticism from you, why? Because WS Smith remained mostly “civil”, avoiding direct insults in favor of implicit ones that could easily be hidden by plausible deniability (“I’m just asking!”/”I’m just stating a fact!”), even though they behaved almost downright abusively towards anyone opposing them.

    Basically, the position that “everyone who holds this position is evil” is false.

    THIS IS NOT WHAT WE ARE FUCKING SAYING, AT ALL. And this goes in all caps because holy shit did you seriously misrepresent the position you’re trying to attack.

    People use hyperbole a lot (apparently, this requires constant re-explanation). In this case, you probably are taking hyperbolic statements literally. I and many others (likely including the people you rather selectively quoted) do not literally believe that all libertarians are evil. We have found, through personal experience, that libertarians support an ideology that reinforces, if not increases, horrific systemic oppression. Moreover, when interacting with libertarians, we have found that they often do not carry out discussions in good faith, preferring instead to control the discussion so that they may come off as “winning”, even though this usually means throwing out the general rules of discussion.

    In short, when we see someone identifying as libertarian or supporting libertarian views, a red flag goes up in our brains telling us “this person is not likely to discuss in good faith or behave well, use extreme caution and avoid if possible”, based on our past interactions with libertarians ending badly due to their behaviour, not ours.

    So. Please. Stop giving horrible behaviour a pass just because those calling it out display extreme frustration with having to deal with this horrible behaviour supporting these horrible views over and over and fucking over again. Sure their language may irk you, but, really, it should irk you even more when someone like WS Smith comes in to literally shit all over a thread with “civil” abuse. One wonders why it apparently doesn’t =/

  • funknjunk

    This might help … I’m sure Yves and the others at Naked Capitalism have other helpful articles about the subject too.

    • fismanerd

      funknjunk says:

      This might help

      I am not sure how you intended that. I did follow the link. It looks kind of familiar. Although titled “11 Questions to Ask Libertarians to See if They Are Hypocrites”, it looks more like a kind of internal propaganda for anti-libertarians (progressives maybe?) to pass among themselves to rationalize how bad they think libertarians are. I don’t label myself a libertarian (or much of anything else), but read enough to think I have an idea of the kind of responses you might get. I’ll try a couple:

      Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

      Spontaneous order is a rather fascinating idea. It applies to a lot of disparate situations; there doesn’t seem to be any way to explain how it works except to observe the results. The writer of that question seems to have a somewhat muddled idea of spontaneous order. See

      Wikipedia for a better description. It refers to the order that occurs among a large collection of interacting entities without having a central planning or controlling agent. That is, over the economy or society as a whole.

      Unions, political parties and social movements are voluntary organizations that may be components of a spontaneous order. Unions and political parties are usually run by a board or committee that plans their activities and would thus not be considered a spontaneous order. Perhaps the social movement could arise as a spontaneous order. I can’t figure out how elections got on that list.

      Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

      This preceded by a list of government developed technologies and mention of government provided education. There should be a name for this type of bad argument. The wealth was produced by government but it does not follow that it “wouldn’t exist without government”. Besides, what is wrong with using the current state of affairs to argue for a better one in the future? (Just because you think less government is not a better future doesn’t negate the argument.)

      Many libertarians will counter by saying that government has only two valid functions: to protect the national security and enforce intellectual property laws.

      This person is reading different libertarians than I am. I have never heard that. In fact, I have seen some fairly recent discussion by libertarians saying that IP laws should be limited or done away with. (Sorry, can’t give details; haven’t kept up with it.)

      If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

      Now this is just silly. Is there any progressive who is not just embarrassed about possibly being associated with this nonsense (including most of that article)?

      • John Morales


        I don’t label myself a libertarian (or much of anything else) [...]

        You’ve just labeled yourself as someone who doesn’t label themself.

      • funknjunk

        Yup, I’m not embarrassed in the least with being “associated” with the article. I think that your ‘arguments’ about the specifics of the article point to the ridiculousness of the arguments made by Libertarians generally. You are basically trying to pick apart the points by saying, ‘well, x doesn’t really mean what they think x means’, referring to the terms spontaneous order, free market, and Libertarianism itself. Interesting. This, after the writer describes how ‘many’ Libertarians use those terms themselves. Now, there are entire sites out there really digging into all of the ridiculousnesses of the economic system that is described by ‘many’ Libertarians (I say that, like the writer does as well, because there are so many stripes, it’s difficult to pin things down. Exactly as you mentioned. I don’t doubt that those you’ve spoken to have differing opinions). And the final point that you believe is so silly I think is perhaps the most important. Much like the modern conservative talk show movement and Fox News, Libertarianism is benefitting from a long term investment by people with deep pockets in order to propagandize the population. There’s a reason Thomas Frank wrote “What’s the matter with Kansas”. People have been propagandized into voting against their best interests and into thinking that unrestrained capitalism is a natural order. Rush Limbaugh famously lost money for years before finding the magical formula for success. Only survived because of deep pocket, long view conservatives. Why is it silly to question the distortion of the very foundational notion of Libertarianism again? (that “competition” and the “free market” will be self-correcting mechanisms and solve all our problems) Seems to me, it proves the point pretty well……

  • Thomas Webb

    I showed the first part of this to my libertarian friends and it broke into a discussion about “statist” unduly being used as an insult.

    How about this as a rule: no anecdotal evidence/ad hominems: “Every libertarian I’ve ever met EVER is a psychopath, therefore everything any libertarian I don’t know says must be wrong”

    • John Morales

      “Every libertarian I’ve ever met EVER is a psychopath, therefore everything any libertarian I don’t know says must be wrong”

      Who wrote that (or its equivalent) in these past two posts?

      (Avoiding an argumentum ad hominem is a good thing, but so is avoiding a straw man argument — both fallacies of relevance)

  • Ed

    But it all comes back to the principles by which we judge great writers and artists and other influential figures of the 20th Century who admired the Soviet Union or the Chinese Cultural Revolution. if they admired Stalin, let’s say, because they were aware of what he was really about and liked the idea of purges and planned famines then we can make judgements about their character. But this was hardly ever the case.

    With a particular libertarian, ask yourself (and them if possible)a similar question–what do they imagine the world will be like if they’re successful? If they are imagining a scenario where there are more potential jobs than people to fill them and medical care is cheap enough for an ordinary person to pay for it out of pocket and the individual rights doctrine makes prejudice and discrimination obsolete then they are simply mistaken. If they actually want a robber baron kind of world, that’s a different story.

    What about people who believe in things even more unworkable than libertarianism? Anarchism is much more dependent on the idea of self-regulation and the rational and well intentioned nature of people. Only the goodness of people’s hearts or the will of the masses to regularly refuse to submit to attempted tyranny would keep an anarchist culture alive.

    As soon as anyone gets enough thugs together and enough people are scared, it’s all over. Or if the people just get angry enough with each other to stop working the farms until they get their way–almost instant collapse. But anarchists are not trying to do a anything wrong. Their answers as to why these problems would never happen are convincing to them.

    Same goes a hundred times more strongly for neo-primitives who want to abandon technology and go back to hunting and gathering (a surprising number of intellectuals support this–not a whole lot, but there is a vibrant and vocal subculture and some popular well written books). But progressives don’t generally react with moral outrage to these views.

    • jesse

      The equivalence you are drawing is only partly valid, though.

      Look, the issue to me isn’t whether Libertarianism is workable or not. The problem is that whatever principles they say they are about, the people they work with and the policies they support have done genuine harm to people I know. They continue to do such harm. And as WS Smith demonstrated in the last thread, there’s a real lack of empathy streak with a lot of Libertarians that is simply messed up. There’s also a view of economics that goes with it which is simplistic at best.

      Were there famous writers who thought the USSR and Stalin was OK? Sure. That doesn’t make their work bad. (There’s a whole other discussion here in how you discuss art).

      And let me tell you something: Progressive people have been dealing with the “communist” as a term of opprobrium for decades, and some have been jailed for it. the FBI wasn’t infiltrating groups of right wing libertarians or Klansmen. They were going after Martin Luther King, a very explicit plan to discredit him (or kill him if they could, but the former is better). All this is well-documented, by the way: reading the COINTELPRO papers is fascinating in how it shows that even a relatively healthy democracy can sometimes end up with a secret police.

      So there’s a pretty vastly differing history here. It’s like when white people talk about black racists. Yeah, I suppose in some weird world where there was no history you could have a black racist. But that makes so little sense in the real world that it’s just laughable. No matter how much a black guy hates you he’s still the one who the cops are going to shoot, straight up. The white guy? Not so much. And it’s this very idea of power dynamics that sails right over most libertarians heads.

      Unlike anarchists and neo-primitives, libertarian are actually getting people elected. You see the difference? I’m sure there’s a Maoist candidate out there somewhere. But those guys are irrelevant. Libertarians are not.

      (By the way there have been anarchistic societies — it’s just that most are pre-industrial. The thing that drives people to work farms or herds collectively is the simple idea that if you don’t you will all die. Collectively run agriculture is almost as old as human societies that were more than a few hundred people, because it was necessary. This is also a reason why authority in such societies can be rather diffuse. There’s a whole other argument as to whether you can run an industrial society that way, but that’s a different question).

      • Raging Bee

        (By the way there have been anarchistic societies — it’s just that most are pre-industrial…)

        Were those societies really “anarchistic?” From what I’ve read, they were tribalistic tyrannies, and in many cases their people fled to more advanced societies to find more freedom than their primitive tribalistic societies offered. Let’s be careful with the idealized visions of “noble savages” past.

        • jesse

          First, not every pre-industrial agricultural society was identical. But it depends on what you mean by tyranny. For example, among the Yanomamo, agriculture is collective. It has to be, because there isn’t any “extra” to make surpluses for a “ruling class.” You’re also not in a village of more than a couple of hundred people. So you are likely related in some way to everyone. Power accrues to a “headman” but that office is nominal — and it’s based completely on whether or not everyone around you trusts you or not. Lead a dozen people into battle and get most of them killed and that’s it, nobody will ever listen to you again. In a society where nobody has much except food and each other, one of the most important resources is people.

          In a more modern context, yes, people leave the countryside to go to cities, sometimes. And people go to more “advanced” societies, but let’s not forget that many such “primitive” cultures were attacked and destroyed and sometimes had their material basis deliberately removed.

          It’s not a matter of saying people should be prevented from getting modern things, it’s a matter of setting things up so the choice is a real one. You can’t say that the Waorani or Lakota would want to live one way or the other when you make every effort to kill them and then destroy what makes their culture work, and then say “well, see, they weren’t that interested in the remnants we left them.” It would be as though I burned down your house and said “Oh, you obviously don’t like living in that neighborhood and don’t enjoy four walls and a roof.”

          Anyhow, I’m not saying these situations were ideal either. Such societies can be very conservative. But there’s a reason for that: it’s all about survival. The desert and forest nomads (actually, they would re-use piece of territory they had visited before, so nomad is probably a misnomer) weren’t doing it because they were stupid. They did it that way because it bloody well worked. That’s why the old British policies in the Middle East and Africa of forcing Maasai and Bedouins into towns was so disastrous for them — they were being asked to alter a way of life that whatever its problems was keeping them alive in a way that was sustainable. And they weren’t behaving sustainably out of some new-agey love of the land. (Though that became a part of many cultures in many regions). It was because if they overgrazed or sucked all the water out of the wells everyone would die. Cooperation became a cardinal value because without it everyone would die. In the desert the rules of guest right and hospitality are what they are because if you can’t trust your neighbor everyone dies. It’s not much more complex than that.

          And that’s also why such cultures are conservative. Tell an Inuit why he needs to innovate and he’ll note that if your innovation fails, you die in the Arctic. The Inuit were amazingly technically sophisticated, but they could not (as we do) treat novelty in and of itself as a good thing. Fuck up that newfangled idea you had for a boat and the consequences are death, full stop. If you have a new idea, it had damned well better work.

          The concept of freedom and such that we have is a modern one because it rather depends on having enough stuff. Societies without a lo of material “stuff” look at things differently. And the systems they build are remarkably sophisticated. Again, it isn’t about noble savages, it’s about what works in order to live.

          All this affects the way people did culture. But it’s no accident that less egalitarian systems appear after the Neolithic. Specialization becomes necessary with settled existence; no one person can have all the skills.

          • Raging Bee

            First, not every pre-industrial agricultural society was identical.

            Where the fuck did I say they were identical? I said they were not anarchistic. Your misrepresentation of my words says a lot about your honesty.

            For example, among the Yanomamo, agriculture is collective. It has to be, because there isn’t any “extra” to make surpluses for a “ruling class.” You’re also not in a village of more than a couple of hundred people. So you are likely related in some way to everyone. Power accrues to a “headman” but that office is nominal…

            Yes, that’s what I was saying: pre-industrial societies were not anarchic. They weren’t even close to anarchic.

        • jesse

          I think I might have misread what you mean by anarchistic, and perhaps misused the word, my apologies.

          • Raging Bee

            No problem. That word is so grossly misused, and so poorly defined, that I’m inclined to retire it from my own vocabulary altogether, at least until someone gives me a definition that’s meaningful in the real world.

      • Ed


        good response to my post, and the following discussion was interesting. I’m just getting a chance to respond.

        Yes, there are a lot of assumptions built into libertarianism that takes the fruits of laws and public institutions they oppose for granted. And I’m talking about the more sensible-seeming, educated, cosmopolitan, for gay marriage(or any other voluntary living arrangement) ones reading Reason magazine at Starbucks and getting into a good natured argument with a liberal about how everyone will benefit. I’m not that familiar with the intentionally bigoted and hostile kind except on TV. Those just call themselves conservatives, not libertarians, in my neighborhood.

        You’ve brought up a great example of not wanting racial (or other) discrimination but not wanting the government to have the power to do much about it. This is one of the the most morally relevant examples (along with alleviating poverty and having access to healthcare) but most of their philosophy amounts to some form of “don’t worry, we’ll work it out as we go along.”

        Just about anything an a modern society depends on elaborate coordination, regulation and public infrastructure. Much of our day to day environment is more manufactured than it looks. There are tunnels under us and pipes and wires going everywhere. Millions of fast moving vehicles have to be kept from harming people. We cross bridges all the time. Even if you don’t use mass transit, it benefits you by getting workers to their destinations and diverting car traffic from the streets and freeing up parking.

        Private companies trying to run this would be a nightmare if even possible. Some libertarians cave in a lot on infrastructure and civil rights and a bit on basic welfare, but to me that kind of makes them ordinary liberals, conservatives or centrists depending on the nature of their compromises.

        If they don’t compromise and wouldn’t accept a Mad Max kind of future it’s the usual utopia through good consumer choices. Then there’s any kind of law enforcement more complicated than stopping street violence. There have to be a lot of laws and government employees to fight sophisticated kinds of crime.

        And while the pot smoking do as you please as long as you don’t bother anyone else libertarians aren’t getting elected, the right wing fringe barbarians who probably think Eisenhower was a communist use their rhetoric to do so. The “freedom” rhetoric is a good disguise for the retro-medieval mentality. If complex bureaucracy and formal legal structures are oppressive by definition, feudal peasants were “freer” than modern citizens, but it isn’t a freedom I’d want.

        I’m not sure true anarchist societies really exist without stretching the meaning of the word too much. Aside from the primitivists, anarchists usually want some kind of large scale social organization of a voluntary nature. Traditional, pre-state societies have authority contingent on age, trust, experience and other factors mentioned in the discussion.

        Good point about how having to struggle for survival forces people to cooperate. That’s one problem of a modern society with surplus wealth. People have the luxury of isolating themselves, ignoring reality and fighting about nonsense until things start to come apart.

  • Raging Bee

    Again, I find that view too simplistic. You need big government to rein in corporations or they will grow big. And the duality between market and government is wrong, there are many other institutions that can grow and become autocratic when the government is weakened – gangs, the mafia, religious bodies, tribal leaders, etc.

    Thank you, you’ve just admitted that libertarianism is dead wrong in its most basic tenets. So what are they right about?

    And of course, the government itself can easily grow too big as well. We have that in Iran…

    Actually, from what I’ve seen, you have a government that’s too weak and primitive to resist both mob and theocratic rule. The remedy is not to weaken the government, but to strengthen its civil service, democratic institutions and processes, and other secular institutions so they can fight the corruption and religious bigotry. Dismantling the government is a fake solution that would only make things worse.

  • Damion Reinhardt

    Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re people with strong values who are not selfish, who don’t want to destroy the poor, who are very much concerned with the idea of democracy, but they disagree with you.

    This comports with my experience as a libertarian in Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Most of the people I met in the movement were kindhearted and sincerely believe(d) that their policy proposals would have the effect of increasing liberty and prosperity for nearly everyone.

    • jesse

      Maybe the issue isn’t their personal feelings, but an inability to recognize that their own experience isn’t representative.

      Almost every libertarian I have met is a white male, or solidly middle- or upper-class guy. As such, it’s sometimes hard to see the institutional structures that prevent “success.” (However defined).

      The problem I always have is that I have met few libertarians who acknowledge that such a thing as institutional racism even exists. I’m sure they are nice people. But when you tell me you are voting against anti-discrimination proposals because it’s “big government” (a really stupid term in itself) because somehow, the market will fix itself — even though the market is made up of people with biases and terrible attitudes — that’s where I say it doesn’t matter how kindhearted you are. I no longer care, you know?

      In an above example I noted that an employer could very well tell a female employee “sleep with me or lose your job.” Libertarians never seem to be able to tell me what’s supposed to happen if the woman can’t afford to move because the job doesn’t pay enough and she has kids to feed. Or that an employer will sometimes fire someone for being gay, or black, or Jewish. (They also always seem to assume there is some kind of labor shortage, where employees can punish employers by not working for them. See my comment about class above, and they also miss the concept of information asymmetry). I’m glad that some libertarians are kindhearted people. But they’ve consistently been on the wrong side of cases like that.

      These are the kinds of experiences that a cis male who has money will never have to deal with. And libertarians can’t seem to grasp it. So no, I no longer care how kind they are when it comes to taking policy. I’ll go for beers and light up a spliff with you and talk about baseball, but don’t tell me to spare libertarian’s feelings about stuff like this.

      I’d be more charitable if teleportation and telepathy were realities. They aren’t.

    • Raging Bee

      This comports with my experience as a libertarian in Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Most of the people I met in the movement were kindhearted and sincerely believe(d) that their policy proposals would have the effect of increasing liberty and prosperity for nearly everyone.

      How “kindhearted” were they when someone tried to show them how wrong their beliefs were? Every authoritarian religion has its share of kindhearted people who sincerely believe a lot of stupid, insane and hurtful things — and whose kindheartedness tends to be reserved for their own kind.

      • Damion Reinhardt

        As members of a marginal third party with relatively radical ideas, they were fairly experienced with people trying to show them how just wrong, stupid, insane, and hurtful their beliefs were.

        • John Morales

          Ahem: the question was not whether they were experienced, but whether they were kindhearted.

        • Raging Bee

          You didn’t answer my question, which was how they responded when people tried to show them how wrong their beliefs were.

          • Damion Reinhardt

            Patiently and thoughtfully, for the most part. Then again, I’m thinking of real-world face-to-face interactions at events like the Peace Festival or the Pride Festival, where most people are pretty laid back and non-confrontational.

          • Raging Bee

            Did they show any sign of changing their minds, or admitting they might have been wrong?

            Your “answers” so far are suspiciously evasive.

  • =8)-DX

    I think part of your problem is linguistics. When people call libertarians evil, they are talking about a specific meaning of this word, for which certain policies are crucial: reducing taxation on the one hand and reducing social programs on the other. This is very problematic, since such libertarians are often unable to aknowledge or debate very basic risk-benefit evaluations of public policy, while accepting an “it’s ok if some people have it shit, if most people have it better” mentality. That mentality deserves ridicule and often the label “evil” (not by intentions of course).

    In my country (and parts of Europe), US libertarianism is called “economic liberalism”. To be “liberal” often means to be against government control of the economy, while for “cultural liberalism” it means ot be against government control of people’s private lives. So here, if I say I am liberal, I talk about specific areas of public interest, not broadly, otherwise people will think I am a libertarian.

    What people in comments were (or are) criticising, is a particular type of their local libertarianism. If in your country you call certain people libertarians, you are referencing the local situation linguistically. On the other hand, if in Iran government control of the economy is a problem, then libertarians may seem to be fighting on the side of progress.

    This is why I try to use the word “progressive”, while defining what I mean in different political spheres and cultural contexts. The target political structure for any people is to have effective governance. That means, to have a government that takes into account the needs of all of its citizens, and thusly regulates the economy, allowing enough freedom for natural processes such as market capitalism and citizen participation.

    Throughout history, nations fail and individuals suffer if certain criteria are not met: to have the best working, most efficient government, economy and citizenship as possible. In some countries, a libertarian mindset is a move in the right direction, in others a more socially-oriented move is necessary. But creating societies based on any of these individual ideologies is not the end goal.

    The end goal is to live in a happy, peaceful and prosperous society for all.

  • =8)-DX

    *and yes, people who disagree with that end goal and ideologies which ignore that are warranted to be called evil. People and ideologies who hold that goal, but propose measures which wont lead to it are wrong.

  • anbheal

    In the American context, and in many a conservative or nationalist front in other developed countries, Libertarianism is a laughably contrived term. As with race being a social construct, not an innate condition, so it is with the “Liberties” even the most engaging and helpful and cheerful Libertarian enumerates:

    There is a RIGHT to live in a neighborhood free of minorities

    But there is no RIGHT for minorities to live in the neighborhood of their choice

    There is a RIGHT to set up a crèche scene on city hall steps

    There is no RIGHT for Muslims to build a community center in Lower Manhattan

    There is a RIGHT to deny an employee a living wage

    There is no RIGHT to earn a living wage

    There is a RIGHT to never pay any taxes ever

    There is no RIGHT for workers to organize

    I could keep going for pages and pages, but every single RIGHT in modern Libertarianism is simply wanting to have their way, like two-year-olds, and much more obvious RIGHTS that most decent human beings think of as being a RIGHT is somehow sneered off as “big gummint”, “special interests”, “nanny state”, “the victim lobby”, etc. My child has a right not to get hit in the head with concrete outside a construction site? Nope, but the libertarian construction company owner has a right to be free of commie rules. It’s not even a political or economic philosophy, it’s the tantrum of a two-year-old denied candy.

    That the movement happens to be constituted almost exclusively of children who already have the most candy is ominously convenient (not many blacks, Latinos, LGBTs, women, Jews, poor, etc. extolling the virtues of allowing the most privileged cohort maintain and expand its privileges).

    And I’m sorry, the very first thing out of the standard American Libertarian’s mouth, after informing you that they are not Republican, but Libertarian, will almost inevitably be, “I’m not a racist, but……”

    Hope you get a chance to visit here someday, it’s a cool country, and its people aren’t as bad as the politicians they elect to serve the companies they work for — but I’m guessing thirty seconds in the presence of an American Libertarian will clue you in. A better society for all is the very LAST thing on their list, and in their shared vision of Utopia, only people just like them are allowed in.

    • Iamcuriousblue

      “so it is with the “Liberties” even the most engaging and helpful and cheerful Libertarian enumerates:

      There is a RIGHT to set up a crèche scene on city hall steps


      There is no RIGHT for workers to organize”

      This seems to be a straw-man you’ve constructed here. Even the die-hard, right-wing, capitalist libertarians don’t espouse the positions you outline above, much less “even the most engaging and helpful and cheerful Libertarian”. You seem to have conflated Tea Party positions with libertarian ones, and they’re not necessarily the same thing.

      Quite simply, libertarians of any stripe support a wall of separation between church and state, as much as any left-wing secularist. And even right-wing libertarians support the right of workers or anybody else to organize under the principle of free association. Albeit, right-libertarians undercut that with “right to work” laws that undercut union power, but no libertarian worthy of the name would argue that workers don’t have the right to form a union.

      This isn’t a “no true Scotsman” argument either – the above does not merely describe idealized capitalist libertarianism, I mean, the two positions I’ve noted above would not get the support of any majority of self-described libertarians, either.

      • Iamcuriousblue

        BTW, there’s a post by the head of the Cato Institute on pretty much the same subject today

        Not saying their positions are unimpeachable, but if one is going to argue against their politics, take issue with their actual positions.

        • Raging Bee

          The Cato Institute is a pack of corporate-funded lying propagandists who support global-warming denialism, and have been feeding stupid bullshit and outright lies to the media since 1980. They’re not a reliable source on any subject.

          • Iamcuriousblue

            The Cato Institute is a reliable source on what right-libertarians actually believe, they being a major exponent of that ideology.

        • John Morales

          There’s not really much specificity there, but their political position seems clear enough, vague and general though it may be:

          Conservatives want smaller government in the fiscal sphere, but they condone bigger government when it comes to empire building and regulating personal behavior.  Liberals want fewer government restrictions in the social sphere, but they embrace strict limits on economic liberties.  Unlike liberals and conservatives, Cato scholars have a consistent, minimalist view of the proper role of government.  We want government out of our wallets, out of our bedrooms, and out of foreign entanglements unless America’s vital interests are at stake.

          That last sentence seems to be the sum total information they provide about the actual political position they hold, though I quoted the preceding claims to preserve its context.

          One presumes there’s something more than that (it certainly is minimalist!), but it’s hard to take issue with it without knowing a bit more; — for example, how government can assist without being funded is left to the imagination*, and it is unclear whether international treaties are considered to be foreign entanglements.

          * I note that in the previous thread, one of the apologists (WS Smith) wrote: “Um… Taking in less tax revenue is not the same as spending tax revenue.“, thus evincing their fiscal acumen.

      • Raging Bee

        And even right-wing libertarians support the right of workers or anybody else to organize under the principle of free association.

        Yeah, libertarians support a right to organize, but then throw in a “principle of free association” to undercut any organization’s ability to actually function or accomplish anything — as the very next sentence of this doubletalk flatly admits:

        Albeit, right-libertarians undercut that with “right to work” laws that undercut union power…

        Yep, that’s the “principle of free association” at work.

        Libertarians say the same thing about women and minorities trying to fight discrimination: they’re all for it as long as you don’t do it collectively, because “collectivism” is always bad. Basically, libertarianism is an ideology carefully crafted to deny people the ability to solve their problems or fight injustice by unified collective action.

        Quite simply, libertarians of any stripe support a wall of separation between church and state, as much as any left-wing secularist.

        They also oppose every meaningful law or policy devised by government to enforce that separation; which makes their “support” for such separation nothing more than another cloud of opaque stinking brown air.

        PS: I notice that anbheal offered four instances of libertarian hypocricy, and you only tried to address ONE of them. And you didn’t try very hard at it either. That strongly implies that you know how full of shit libertarians really are.

    • funknjunk

      I like the way you’ve constructed your argument here because, to me, it brings to the fore the implied conversation that has to happen. What is the role of government? The beauty of what can be considered at least the intent of the American system is the empowerment of the people. We The People. The government is supposed to be of us and serve us. And the implication is that the economic system as well is of us, and we should decide how it should be structured to serve the people. Libertarians, like other free market advocates of all stripes, tend to try to argue that there is a certain “natural” order — the magic free hand of the market is one way of putting it. And that’s a ridiculous, anti-democratic, and i would say dangerous idea. There is no natural order. That is pro business proaganda that has been bludgeoned into the American psyche by lots of big money. WE create the economy and we can make it perform how we want to perform. And if you want a society free of poverty and ‘more’ equal (however we want to define that is up for grabs – I would say to create a basic standard of living and care with dignity for everyone born on this planet – which is not a utopian goal), you have to put into practice systems to create that state. So, the assumption or presumption that a lack of regulation is the null state or natural order, is wrong. The foundational philosophies of Libertarianism are just plain wrong.

  • anbheal

    Oh, and in the American context, Libertarianism is almost completely correlated with the belief that: My RIGHT to murder you with my gun is much more important than your RIGHT not to be murdered by my gun.

    Oh, wait, unless you’re black. Angry Single-Issue Posses of heavily armed BLACK men busting down the aisles of Target and Wal-Mart is not permitted in American Libertarianism.

  • funknjunk

    Here’s another link to Naked Capitalism and an article by Bill Black

    And the money quote at the end of the article is Frederic Bastiat, ironic, because he was another ultra-righ winger: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

  • Tony! The Queer Shoop


    Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re people with strong values who are not selfish, who don’t want to destroy the poor, who are very much concerned with the idea of democracy, but they disagree with you.

    Who cares how strong their values are if they don’t have the evidence to support the efficacy of those values?

    Who cares if they didn’t *intend* to destroy the poor, if that’s the outcome resulting from their policies?

    They can disagree all they want, but have they actually thought through their vile philosophy?

    When you support economic policies that-if enacted would increase pain and suffering, especially amongst those least able to handle an increase in either (i.e. the poor), you’re supporting a vile philosophy. It’s not enough to say ” I’m a libertarian and here are my beliefs”. What happens when those beliefs are put into practice? How will that impact people? If, as a libertarian, I support policies that would eliminate government benefits, how is that going to impact the people who rely on those resources? They won’t have those resources, and as it’s been shown private charity cannot replace government social programs:

    The idea that community or faith-based charities were more efficient, effective and capable than the government of addressing economic stringency hasn’t been true since the industrial revolution transformed the U.S. from an agrarian to an urban nation.

    To suggest that such organizations can effectively supplant government social programs is worse than a mere fantasy — it’s a cynical and dangerous fantasy that serves only as a talking point to cut those programs.

    The truth is that private, communal and religious giving simply can’t meet the needs that government programs handle. Let’s examine why.

    To begin with, charitable organizations typically fall prey to the same economic pressures as the rest of society. “Giving falls when it’s needed the most,” observes Christopher Wimer, an expert on poverty and the social safety net at Columbia University.


    Another issue is that philanthropic giving is not synonymous — at all — with helping the needy. Quite the contrary.

    As charitable giving is structured in the United States today, it too often plays out not as the rich helping out the poor, but as the rich increasing the gap between themselves and the poor.

    A 2007 study by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy found that only 30% of individual giving in the benchmark year of 2005 was aimed at the needs of the poor — including contributions for basic needs, donations to healthcare institutions, for scholarships and allocations from religious groups. (The study was commissioned by Google.)

    The smallest allocation of philanthropic giving to basic needs of the poor was made by the wealthiest donors, those with income of $1 million of more, who directed 3.8% of their giving directly to the poor. For the $100,000-$200,000 income group, that allocation was 12.4%.

    Charities cannot fill the role of government in providing a safety net for those who need it most. To shift to safety net by way of charity would result in poor people suffering far more than they are now. I’ve seen no libertarian that takes this into consideration or even thinks this far through. They cannot simply assert that their policies will work. They have to demonstrate it. When you follow through on the implications of eliminating the social safety nets, and you discover that doing so results in an increase in suffering, it should become apparent that government assistance programs serve the needs of the poor more efficiently than charity.

    Another aspect of charity vs. government assistance is that so many libertarians complain about their taxes being “taken from them”. Many of them complain that it’s so unfair that their taxes are being taken and used for assistance programs.

    This is a selfish view and one that assumes they’ll never be in the position of needing financial assistance themselves.

    Shit happens.

    People get fired or companies close down and layoffs occur. That can happen to all but the richest of us. It can happen to libertarians. Social safety nets are [ostensibly] there for the benefit of everyone. You pay into that, and if you find yourself in the position of needing help, you receive assistance. Even if you don’t ever find yourself jobless, I’d argue that it is compassionate to continue paying into that system. I don’t want people to suffer. Why? Largely because I can empathize with others. I wouldn’t want to be placed in a situation (well I am right now, actually) where I’m financially suffering-struggling to put food on the table or pay for necessities. By virtue of that, I can easily see how rough that would be on others. I don’t want people to have to go through that. I support having my taxes pay into a social safety net so that the burden on other people is reduced.

    Most of the libertarian complaints I’ve seen are that they don’t want to pay taxes bc they don’t want to support a social safety net. Yet the amount of taxes being taken out isn’t terribly high:

    A person making a $50,000 salary pays 10 cents a day in taxes for food stamps while corporate welfare costs every American family $6,000 per year.

    If they really want to complain about what their taxes are funding they should focus on national defense and healthcare. At $50K, 25.79% of an individuals’ income taxes will go towards defense spending, while 25.19% will go towards healthcare spending. After that 18.77% of one’s income taxes goes to job and family security, which includes government assistance programs (source).

    You could argue that it’s still “my 10 cents a day, and I should have it”, but then if you’re not willing to pay those taxes (even if you had the option to opt out), then you also shouldn’t benefit from the various services your taxes help support- public schools (elementary and up), infrastructure (don’t use the roads, highways, bridges, sidewalks), sewer system, utilities, and more.

    To whine about paying taxes and wanting to keep that money for yourself is selfish, and one of the big reasons why many progressives (myself included) refer to the libertarian mantra as “I’ve got mine. Fuck you.” It doesn’t matter that they don’t intend for their policies to fuck people over. Intent is not magic. It’s irrelevant to the outcome. If the outcome screws over people–and libertarian policies would do just that-it doesn’t matter if they didn’t intend for people to be screwed over, because that’s what is going to happen. They need to follow through on the impact of their philosophy. They need to explore how it will impact society. I’ve *never* seen that in discussion with libertarians. I always see the response of “the free market will sort it out”. No explanation given to explain how. It just will.

    All of that is a big enough problem with libertarianism. When you start discussing deregulating companies, other problems arise:

    • Public entities have to follow non discrimination policies. If those are eliminated, are employees just supposed to hope that corporations are going to have their best interests at heart? What protections will exist if someone is fired for being black? What resources will a woman have if she’s passed over for a raise bc she’s a woman? What recourse would a lesbian have if she’s fired for being gay? Are they supposed to hope and pray that companies are going to treat them well?

    • Regulations are also in place to control the amount of pollution dumped into the air and water. Without those regulations, what’s to stop companies from polluting the environment even more? That’s a massive health risk that could affect millions of people. But companies are in the business of making money, and many of those decisions are not based on what is best for society. Who’s going to set acceptable levels of pollution for companies?

    Others can (and probably have) offered further explanations for the horrors of libertarian policies. In an ideal world, libertarianism would be awesome. We don’t live in that world. Libertarians all too often fail to think through the implications of their philosophy, and at the same time, they demonstrate a short sightedness that prevents them from seeing how their ideas would fuck over others.

    So yeah, libertarianism is a selfish ideology that only benefits those at the top. For everyone else, we’re screwed.

    That’s why I despise libertarian philosophy, and that’s why I think libertarians are assholes.

    And I think you’re far too sympathetic to them. That’s not a good thing.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Don’t make assumptions about what people know, on people’s intelligence, on their morals, or their personality. You don’t know them.

    Again, it seems that you would be ok if someone identified as a (anti-feminist) MRA, and someone else said they were vile, right? The hypothetical person used language, and a specific term, “MRA”, in order to convey a lot of useful information. Thus, what you said doesn’t apply. I do know that person because they told me about themself, in a very condensed but very expressive form, and that is enough to make a value judgment about a lot of their character.

    Similarly, if someone says that they are a libertarian in the modern US-style, that’s telling me a lot about their beliefs and values. It conveys about as much information, or arguably more, than if they identified as a MRA. Then, because modern US-style libertarianism is just as vile or more vile than the MRA movement, an acceptable option should be to point out how they’re wrong, and if they persist in their mistaken beliefs, then to employ public ridicule and scorn. (Of course, be open to the possibility that oneself is wrong, and hear them out.) (Also of course, that doesn’t mean one has to waste one’s time listening / reading the same vile comments over and over again. One can skip ahead most of the time if one knows what is coming.)

    As I’ve mentioned many times now, most of the problem may be that we understand the word “libertarian” to mean different things. I believe the usage in the US context is very clear. I have to ask what do you think it means?

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