By way of Amanda, I found this great FAQ about libertarianism. My favorite part where he explains why he debunks libertarianism:
As I told creationists who wondered why I bothered, it’s interesting to me to study unusual beliefs for the same reason it’s interesting for doctors to study pathologies. You don’t have to catch a disease to be able to understand it, fight it, or vaccinate against it.
I find it surprising that so many have apparently recently discovered the NLFAQ. Huben’s been at it for a while, even in the pre-blogosphere, pre-internet BB Usenet days. And his FAQ has been a pretty common reference.
What I love is Mike Huben’s unabashed love and faith in government.
“4. Libertarians are defenders of freedom and rights.
The foremost defenders of our freedoms and rights, which libertarians prefer you overlook, are our governments. National defense, police, courts, registries of deeds, public defenders, the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights, etc. all are government efforts that work towards defending freedoms and rights.”
It is nice that he pointed out many of the areas of government that most libertarians (I think the closest term he uses to us would be “minarchists”) already support, as if we don’t (how often do most moderate Democrats or Republicans like to be painted with the same brush as the extreme members of their own parties?). Tell me, O Master of Libertarian Critique, are the government’s illegal an Unconstitutional wiretap and data collection programs all part of their role as “foremost defenders of our freedom and rights”? Is the government’s ability to take away your private property, your home, to sell to a private land developer to turn into a Wal Mart, condos, etc. part of their role as “foremost defenders of our freedom and rights”?
Government is not the foremost defender of our freedom and rights–we should be as individuals (and local communities), and it follows completely logically. How is the government harmed when it takes away our freedom and rights? We can replace the individuals, but its not very often that the next set of elected officials gives back. It is a creeping accumulation of power that has been giving power to the economically powerful and intellectual “elite” class for generations and taking power away from us. Individuals have a vested interest in the protection of their own freedoms and rights. Who do you trust more to look out for your freedoms and rights, you? Or a bureaucrat possibly thousands of miles away in Washington D.C.? Are you certain that they care as much about even their own freedoms and rights as you do yours?
So much of the linked critique rings hollow that I’m amazed anyone would bother to use it as a reference.
I’ve always been fond of Libertarianism Makes You Stupid, myself. Your link is more comprehensive, but mine is funnier, so nyah.
Jim, I guess you missed the part where he explicitly states that he’s debunking only the commonly used bad arguments rather than claiming to disprove libertarianism as a whole.
The quote directly from “About this FAQ”:
Yes, see, I took one of his “debunking” points and indicated why I believe it is fallacious in and of itself, thus and by implication that his other debunking points may be similarly flawed. It is also being quoted in a post entitled “Libertarianism Is Silly” and tagged as “Fucking Morons” (I’m assuming that is not a reference to Mike Huben and the individuals contributing to the FAQ).
Not sure what you think I missed, except perhaps Mike’s intent, which I may have misread. If Mike is a great libertarian proponent, then I apologize to him. I feel pretty comfortable that I get this blog’s Mike’s views of libertarianism.
I’ll also add, for completeness, that this blog’s Mike brought the link in via Amanda, whose views (“Libertarianism is so silly it can be shot down in a one page FAQ.”) and the views of many of her commentators relating to libertarianism seem quite clear. Unless I have also misread Amanda and she is merely being facetious, and is also a big supporter of libertarianism.
It is sympathetic that he is attacking a set of fallacious arguments, since it is indicative of the type of denialism that denialism blog identifies. I find it very hard to identify libertarianism outside the fallacious philosophical one, and “want to minimize government” doesn’t cut it since others may chose this, even consistently from wanting to minimize taxes outside wanted expenditures. (“Choosing to minimize government over expenditure” is feasible, since that is what makes it denialism and fundamentalism.)
Oddly, I never read the FAQ (or might have read it and forgot it) – the links are some varied and interesting.
What a hoot. “My government is spying on me, taking money from me to subsidize people who are trying to kill me, and it claims the right to imprison me without informing me of the charges or letting me see an attorney, but at least I have a register of deeds!”
If you combine the Libertarian and Green parties, you have the blue serge suit of American politics- each attracts kooks and cranks the way as blue serge suit attracts lint.
Which is the jacket and which the trousers is debatable.
I guess it isn’t hard to come on and say libertarianism is silly, that it is filled with kooks and cranks.
I guess it would be harder to actually address the points libertarians have raised, since no one has made the attempt.
This FAQ is structured a lot like Dawkins’ The God Delusion . It starts off by observing that many members of a group are not kooks, but nonetheless, the kooks are the dangerous members of the group, and therefor, it is the kooks that the document focuses on. The NLFAQ skips the sound points that some libertarians have raised, largely because the sound points are not a danger, and not terribly relevant to the kooks among libertarians.
I am a Libertarian of sorts. I wholly agree with their position on personal liberty. I just wish to be left alone. With whom I choose to have sexual relations (adults only, natch), whatever substances I choose to ingest, what food & drink I choose to consume, and what god I choose to worship (or not) is up to me.
I am not Christian, Republican, Democrat, Sikh, Muslim, or any of the major categories.
I own a home and what I do in that home is my business, not the government’s. So long as my actions do not impact others’ lives, then stuff it. Mind your own damn beeswax.
“How is the government harmed when it takes away our freedom and rights? We can replace the individuals, but its not very often that the next set of elected officials gives back. It is a creeping accumulation of power that has been giving power to the economically powerful and intellectual “elite” class for generations and taking power away from us.”
Um, no. The most drastic accumulation of private power occurred during the Robber Baron era in the late 19th. century, when America (except for high tariffs, which were also in place in large part for the purpose of protecting indigenous industry) was the closest to the libertarian laissez-faire fantasy as it ever was. Disenfranchisement of the working poor was the primary result, and wasn’t ameliorated until the reforms of the New Deal were implemented.
You could see a similar trend at work in recent times during Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Pinochet implemented more of the libertarian “shrink government” reforms than anyone in recent history (he was notoriously close to the “Chicago school” of economics, which included such libertarian note-worthies as Milton Friedman and James Buchanan). He abolished taxes on wealth and income, privatized the pension system, banned union confederation and placed a 60 day limit on strikes, etc. The result was anything but an empowerment of the common people.
I would argue that the company towns are the closest thing to socialism that America has had. (Outside of the military.)
“The result was anything but an empowerment of the common people.”
That’s because without political liberalization, economic liberalization alone will not give rise to liberal democracy. See Lenin’s NEP, Singapore, China.
I am neither a libertarian nor a socialist; I support a mixed economy.
“I am neither a libertarian nor a socialist; I support a mixed economy.”
I suspect that most people here are on the same boat as you. Not only am I not a socialist, but I’m actually to the right of much of left-blogistan on many issues (e.g., trade and immigration, which puts me on the Brad DeLong/Jason Furman wing of the left).
It was Jim’s rather silly, libertarian generalizations about “big, ugly gubmint” that prompted my post. In no way, shape or form did I intend to give the idea that more government necessarily meant more freedom; I only meant to convey the fact that the converse wasn’t true either.
Colugo certainly has a point regarding company towns, federalism does not always equal freedom.
For a counter-critique of what happened in Chile, one can get started at Wikipedia:
Two sides to the coin and all that.
You people all know that calling someone one someone’s ideas silly doesn’t make it true, right? It seems as if you think saying it makes it true, so I just wanted to check with you on that.
Libertarian philosophy, taken to the extremes that many (though certainly not all) libertarians take it, is silly. It has absolutely no basis in reality, at least not a reality that most people are interested in. Taken to it’s extremes, it is really no different than extreme socialism, which to me, is the silliest aspect of it all.
It is all fine and good to decry regulation, welfare and pork. There are fairly serious problems with misuse of those things in the status quo. But the notion of just rushing blindly in the opposite direction, is worse than silly, it’s dangerously irresponsible. So I think you have something of a point. Silly is really not the right word for it, mindbogglingly fucking stupid, is still not quite there, but it’s a good start.
All that said, I’m right there with you on the side of personal liberty.
So if I point out that the “extreme” left is communism, and that therefore all liberals are mindbogglingly fucking stupid, we’ll be in agreement?
I’m sorry Jim, did you have trouble with comprehending the statement, “certainly not all?” I have a brother, for example, whom I disagree with on a number of things, but who is neither extreme nor mindbogglingly fucking stupid. However, there are a lot of libertarians who do take a fairly extreme hardline, who’s stance definitely fits the bill. Libertarians who will happily ignore reality or support an exceptionally harsh, ugly reality and just don’t care. And please note that I didn’t say those who believe in it are stupid, just that their ideological stance is. I know a lot of very intelligent people, who believe very stupid, sometimes dangerous things.
Too, pointing out that the extreme left position is communism, is incredibly naive and stupid. Socialist, yes, communist, certainly not. Communism is as much an aberration of leftist philos as fascism is of libertarian philos. The problem is, that history has shown that pushing fairly pure socialist principles, lends itself to communism, while pushing fairly pure libertarian principles lends itself to fascism. Go figure, extreme, pure ideology is a bad idea.
I also think it’s incredibly naive, if not outright ignorant to assume that libertarian philos and socialist philos are polar opposites. Far from it, the goals are identical while the ultimately the methods for achieving them are not as dissimilar as they appear. In any case, either taken to any sort of extreme, is mindbogglingly fucking stupid and exceptionally dangerous. No matter what the goals, the inevitable result is totalitarianism. They look great on paper, but short of changing human nature toto will always be the result.
I should also note, that I know a lot of libertarians, who consider themselves to be liberals. I know very few, who would consider themselves to be righties, though they certainly exist.
“I also think it’s incredibly naive, if not outright ignorant to assume that libertarian philos and socialist philos are polar opposites. Far from it, the goals are identical while the ultimately the methods for achieving them are not as dissimilar as they appear.”
Have to agree to disagree on that one.
“I should also note, that I know a lot of libertarians, who consider themselves to be liberals. I know very few, who would consider themselves to be righties, though they certainly exist.”
Cato Unbound did a piece a number of months back about each party courting libertarians (October 2006). You should look it up sometime, it was interesting reading. Markos Moulitsas wrote the lead essay.