An Invitation for Libertarians
An Invitation for Libertarians
Here at Angry Bear, we’ve had a number of posts on LIbertarians over the years. Inevitably, someone writes to tell us we’re misrepresenting Libertarians… even when we’re quoting well known libertarians.
So… if you are libertarian consider this an invitation. Send me one to three paragraphs on what it means to be a libertarian or what libertarianism is. Or put it in comments. (I beg the indulgence of non-libertarians to please not put up comments of their own.) If you feel what you are writing about applies particularly to one or another strain of libertarianism, please make that clear.
I will put up as a separate post, verbatim, those e-mails and comments I get sent that seem to me to best tell the libertarian story from the libertarian perspective to the slightly left of center audience that resides here at Angry Bear. (I can’t promise to print everything that comes in to avoid the sort of repetition that will simply detract from the story.)
Here’s your chance to have your story told in your words.
You two couldn’t resist…ah well. Resistance is futile! Delete and not delight for this post Matt and Joel.
I did something wrong?
Ok I’ll bite. libertarians try to apply the non-aggression principle. No one has the right to initiate force fraud or coercion. Oh yeah, and they favor strictly enforced property rights.
The Libertarian Party platform is here: http://www.lp.org/platform
No Matt…just this post does not use one liners.
The Party Platform explains it very well. Are there specific questions your readers/contributers have? This is my introduction to Angry Bear so I am not familiar with past discussions. Was there some kind of negative connotation about Libertarians? We are really kind people… lots of love and we really care 🙂 – for me, Libertarianism promotes thought and questions the motives and results of goverment actions. I ask if government is the right place for a function and how that function will be executed and what the real result will be. It is this follow-thru of logic that sometimes puts me at odds with other political platforms. Regulation is a good example – I believe that the system of lobbying throughly corrupts any regulation imposed by our federal government and therefore regulations actually often have the opposite effect they appear to have.
Lobbysts do not corrupt government, it is their paymasters, corporations and other moneyed interests, that are the corruptors. Are we to believe that doing away with the government tomorrow will take away their ability to corrupt? These forces will just switch tactics by rigging libertarian’s precious contracts, manipulating the information flow, squelching competition, etc. Corporations do these things already. Lobbying is just one small part of their multi-pronged attack.
At least one-man-one-vote restores a modicum of influence to those who “own” this country. A tiny glimmer of hope remains that democracy will will bring about effective regulation to ensure that the rich and powerful cannot dispose of the weak as they see fit.
Check out the comments in the follow-up to this post:
I see – it’s philosophical incompatibility…. really hard to find common ground when that is the case. I have faith in people and that if given the opportunity to funciton in a truely free market that the good and fair would prevail – others believe that greed and other indecency would prevail and therefore must be controlled by force. I respect the differing opinions – I would have once argued the very points that are in opposition to Libertarianism. Becoming Libertarian was a long process – I wasn’t born this way.
One misrepresentation I saw in several of the posts is about the character nature of Libertarians. Of course individuals will vary, and I am sure you can find people who value money and power over freedom and liberty, however that has not been my experience with those who call themselves Libertarian – kind, fair and caring is more like it. The kind of people who help each other, who share and give… even if we disagree with your philosophy.
A free market does not rely upon nor hope for businesses to ‘regulate themselves’ but rather the market puts regulation into the hands of those who use the products or services that an industry produces. Businesses which do not produce a quality or safe product are rejected by the market (show me a company/product in our current state which consistently endangers people or is of such poor quality that it amounts to fraud, and I will show you how government intervention has caused it, or has stagnated the market solutions which would have better regulated that product).
Spontaneous order does occur in human interactions. . . the government can only hamper this, they cannot improve on it (i.e. central planning never works). Take a look at ebay . . . . if anything, it should be the most risky market out there. Think about it. . .you are buying things from random people out there, site-unseen, with no government regulations in place to safeguard the consumer. . . and yet, this has been to the advantage of the consumer, and the market has found ways of rating, regulating, and doing quality control. Bad things still happen, of course, even on ebay. That’s why the market would also provide courts and arbitration where necessary.
The point is that having multiple competing regulators, who are on a more local level and who have financial incentive to regulate effectively and fairly, is worlds better than centralized, monopolized regulation from a central government. That is what Ron Paul stands for. . .but most ‘liberals’ and neocons cannot fathom this, nor have they studied the market alternative position at all. . .so they continue to spew rhetoric about Ron Paul types wanting to just let greedy corporations do whatever they please. If anything, it would regulate them more tightly and have them more beholden financially to do right by their customers. The existence of government regulation also tends to lessen the liability of industry, and it also produces a moral hazard where buyers become complacent and trust the government to protect them, rather than practicing ‘buyer beware’ and/or setting up 3rd party watchdog groups and market regulations where necessary.
Thanks for the article. For information on people using voluntary/libertarian tools worldwide, please see http://www.Libertarian-International.org the Libertarian International Organization or LIO.
We’ve had a number of posts on libertarianism here over the past few months. I don’t think most people here think there’s a problem with the personality of libertarians (with the exception of the Ayn Rand acolytes, if truth be told). The problem, we feel, is that libertarians are naive. There are plenty of thugs out there. I mentioned on another thread the Cuyahoga River being on fire. Now, that is famous case, but there are plenty of other cases of major externalities being imposed on third parties. For some percentage of people, profiting by putting their costs on other people is simply good business. The market doesn’t fix that. The market didn’t fix the Cuyahoga River, or reduce acid rain.
And that, I think, is the problem. Most libertarians feel it will, despite what seems to the rest of us to be a preponderance of evidence ot the contrary. Again – we aren’t calling libertarians (of the non-Ayn Rand variety) bad people. We are calling them naive in not seeing that there are bad people whose behavior will not be restrained, and will, if anything, be encouraged, by the free market.
Yes, I know… I’ve been called naive before – it can rankle a bit to be called naive when one’s position is based on an evolution that started with the very position of the one making that judgement. It is a disrespectful assertation that I try not to react to. I can tell you about my experience, my chronology, my appliction of mathmatical logic… but it does not matter. I may as well try to change your religion.
There is no evidence to disprove free market self regulation becuse a free market is theoritical – I believe that it would work but can’t site examples of its success because it does not exist. Nor can you site examples of its failure for the same reason. I know for certain that the system we have now does not work. Greed and corruption reign supreme and it is getting worse.
I’ve always liked the way Murray Rothbard described it:
“The fact is that libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life.
“Political theory deals with what is proper or improper for government to do, and government is distinguished from every other group in society as being the institution of organized violence. Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit, except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.”
“There is no evidence to disprove free market self regulation becuse a free market is theoritical – I believe that it would work but can’t site examples of its success because it does not exist. Nor can you site examples of its failure for the same reason. I know for certain that the system we have now does not work. Greed and corruption reign supreme and it is getting worse.”
That’s a really great quote, maybe the most elegant I’ve seen on the subject.
Of course we can’t cite examples of a free market. But the communists can make the same argument: well, nobody knows with certainty that communism won’t work because its never been tried.
Now, I think both you and I would agree with the communists that communism has never been tried. But I suspect both you and I would dismiss that as an argument that communism might actually work.
I can’t speak for you, but my argument against the communist would go something like this:
1. we’ve seen a broad spectrum political approaches. those that look most like communism (say, the anti-Franco army in the Spanish Civil War, or some kibbutzim in Israel in the 1950s) quickly end up with either shirking or pluralisis, and the experiment gets abandoned. Alternatively, movements that get launched and sold as communist (e.g., the USSR, North Korea) never even get to the point of being communist because a strongman takes over pretty quickly
2. it doesn’t work with human nature. It might even be that some percentage of the population can function well as communists (and that percentage may be very high), but the bullies and the psychopaths and the shirkers will take advantage.
Change the examples slightly and leave the words the same and you have an argument against free market libertarianism.
“…show me a company/product in our current state which consistently endangers people or is of such poor quality that it amounts to fraud, and I will show you how government intervention has caused it, or has stagnated the market solutions which would have better regulated that product.”
Tom is saying that he can tell a story, provide a counterfactual, which makes the libertarian view seem correct. He is not claiming to have evidence. At least, I hope he is not, because what he is offering to do is to show that his position is not falsifiable. Non-falsifiability is, of course, not something one wants to see. It is the stuff of faith, not reason. Show me a season in which the Cubs failed to make it into the playoffs, and I can show you how libertarian intrusion into baseball, or the use of food die in babyfood or animal cruelty was the cause of the Cub’s poor performance. And I can make the argument in a way that cannot be falsified, as long as I get to set the terms of the argument.
There is no legitimate libertarian “demonstration” that an unregulated market leads to high quality, safe goods and services. There is merely the unfalsifiable, question-begging argument that can never step outside its own terms.
“. . .but most ‘liberals’ and neocons cannot fathom this, nor have they studied the market alternative position at all. . .”
Tom has built an argument based on a strawman. He insists he knows what liberals and neocons (one with scare/sneer quotes, one without) can and cannot fathom, what they have studied and what they have not. Again, we have Tom creating a non-falsifiable argument, at least as far as “fathom” goes. If one doesn’t agree with Tom, then Tom can simply insist one isn’t fathoming, no matter how clearly one has thought about what Tom has said.
This approach to making the libertarian case is not new, sadly. I would note, however, that that there is a polite way to insert received dogma into one’s position, and an impolite way. Saying “this is how things work” is polite. Saying “and all you guys are too shallow to see it” is impolite. If Tom insists on being impolite, I will feel free to respond in similar manner.