- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Marxism of the Right

Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government. Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs. It promises a consistent formula for ethics, a rigorous framework for policy analysis, a foundation in American history, and the application of capitalist efficiencies to the whole of society. But while it contains substantial grains of truth, as a whole it is a seductive mistake.

There are many varieties of libertarianism, from natural-law libertarianism (the least crazy) to anarcho-capitalism (the most), and some varieties avoid some of the criticisms below. But many are still subject to most of them, and some of the more successful varieties—I recently heard a respected pundit insist that classical liberalism is libertarianism—enter a gray area where it is not really clear that they are libertarians at all. But because 95 percent of the libertarianism one encounters at cocktail parties, on editorial pages, and on Capitol Hill is a kind of commonplace “street” libertarianism, I decline to allow libertarians the sophistical trick of using a vulgar libertarianism to agitate for what they want by defending a refined version of their doctrine when challenged philosophically. We’ve seen Marxists pull that before.

This is no surprise, as libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon’s wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

Advertisement

Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. Therefore freedom, by giving us choice, supposedly embraces all other goods. But this violates common sense by denying that anything is good by nature, independently of whether we choose it. Nourishing foods are good for us by nature, not because we choose to eat them. Taken to its logical conclusion, the reduction of the good to the freely chosen means there are no inherently good or bad choices at all, but that a man who chose to spend his life playing tiddlywinks has lived as worthy a life as a Washington or a Churchill.
Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual. But some, like national security, clean air, or a healthy culture, are inherently collective. It may be possible to privatize some, but only some, and the efforts can be comically inefficient. Do you really want to trace every pollutant in the air back to the factory that emitted it and sue?
Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens. So even if the libertarian principle of “an it harm none, do as thou wilt,” is true, it does not license the behavior libertarians claim. Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.

Libertarians in real life rarely live up to their own theory but tend to indulge in the pleasant parts while declining to live up to the difficult portions. They flout the drug laws but continue to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate. This is not just an accidental failing of libertarianism’s believers but an intrinsic temptation of the doctrine that sets it up to fail whenever tried, just like Marxism.
Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?
In each of these cases, less freedom today is the price of more tomorrow. Total freedom today would just be a way of running down accumulated social capital and storing up problems for the future. So even if libertarianism is true in some ultimate sense, this does not prove that the libertarian policy choice is the right one today on any particular question.

Furthermore, if limiting freedom today may prolong it tomorrow, then limiting freedom tomorrow may prolong it the day after and so on, so the right amount of freedom may in fact be limited freedom in perpetuity. But if limited freedom is the right choice, then libertarianism, which makes freedom an absolute, is simply wrong. If all we want is limited freedom, then mere liberalism will do, or even better, a Burkean conservatism that reveres traditional liberties. There is no need to embrace outright libertarianism just because we want a healthy portion of freedom, and the alternative to libertarianism is not the USSR, it is America’s traditional liberties.
Libertarianism’s abstract and absolutist view of freedom leads to bizarre conclusions. Like slavery, libertarianism would have to allow one to sell oneself into it. (It has been possible at certain times in history to do just that by assuming debts one could not repay.) And libertarianism degenerates into outright idiocy when confronted with the problem of children, whom it treats like adults, supporting the abolition of compulsory education and all child-specific laws, like those against child labor and child sex. It likewise cannot handle the insane and the senile.

Libertarians argue that radical permissiveness, like legalizing drugs, would not shred a libertarian society because drug users who caused trouble would be disciplined by the threat of losing their jobs or homes if current laws that make it difficult to fire or evict people were abolished. They claim a “natural order” of reasonable behavior would emerge. But there is no actual empirical proof that this would happen. Furthermore, this means libertarianism is an all-or-nothing proposition: if society continues to protect people from the consequences of their actions in any way, libertarianism regarding specific freedoms is illegitimate. And since society does so protect people, libertarianism is an illegitimate moral position until the Great Libertarian Revolution has occurred.

And is society really wrong to protect people against the negative consequences of some of their free choices? While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes. People are allowed to become millionaires, but they are taxed. They are allowed to go broke, but they are not then forced to starve. They are deprived of the most extreme benefits of freedom in order to spare us the most extreme costs. The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

The political corollary of this is that since no electorate will support libertarianism, a libertarian government could never be achieved democratically but would have to be imposed by some kind of authoritarian state, which rather puts the lie to libertarians’ claim that under any other philosophy, busybodies who claim to know what’s best for other people impose their values on the rest of us. Libertarianism itself is based on the conviction that it is the one true political philosophy and all others are false. It entails imposing a certain kind of society, with all its attendant pluses and minuses, which the inhabitants thereof will not be free to opt out of except by leaving.

And if libertarians ever do acquire power, we may expect a farrago of bizarre policies. Many support abolition of government-issued money in favor of that minted by private banks. But this has already been tried, in various epochs, and doesn’t lead to any wonderful paradise of freedom but only to an explosion of fraud and currency debasement followed by the concentration of financial power in those few banks that survive the inevitable shaking-out. Many other libertarian schemes similarly founder on the empirical record.

A major reason for this is that libertarianism has a naïve view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.

Libertarian naïveté extends to politics. They often confuse the absence of government impingement upon freedom with freedom as such. But without a sufficiently strong state, individual freedom falls prey to other more powerful individuals. A weak state and a freedom-respecting state are not the same thing, as shown by many a chaotic Third-World tyranny.

Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash. They can imagine nothing more threatening than a bit of Sunday-afternoon sadomasochism, followed by some recreational drug use and work on Monday. They assume that if people are given freedom, they will gravitate towards essentially bourgeois lives, but this takes for granted things like the deferral of gratification that were pounded into them as children without their being free to refuse. They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock. Society is dependent upon inculcated self-restraint if it is not to slide into barbarism, and libertarians attack this self-restraint. Ironically, this often results in internal restraints being replaced by the external restraints of police and prison, resulting in less freedom, not more.

This contempt for self-restraint is emblematic of a deeper problem: libertarianism has a lot to say about freedom but little about learning to handle it. Freedom without judgment is dangerous at best, useless at worst. Yet libertarianism is philosophically incapable of evolving a theory of how to use freedom well because of its root dogma that all free choices are equal, which it cannot abandon except at the cost of admitting that there are other goods than freedom. Conservatives should know better. _______________________________________________________

Robert Locke writes from New York City.
March 14, 2005 Issue

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "Marxism of the Right"

#1 Comment By JIM PHILLIPS On July 31, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

I SEE MYSELF AS STRONG CONSERVATIVE.
HOWEVER, OUR PRESENT CONGRESS SEEMS TO BE OUT OF CONTROL.
THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM.

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED WITH LIBERTARIANS LOCALLY
WILL IT COST ME MUCH MONEY ?

#2 Comment By ben franklin On August 12, 2012 @ 12:52 am

this is bullshit the governments sole responsibility is to ensure our freedom

wether it be from foreign invaders, guaranteeing economical transportation to give you the freedom to get from one place to another, to giving you freedom to do as you please as long as it doesn’t affect someone elses ability to do as they please.

libertarianism is the only governing style that can flourish indefinitely.

America is crumbling because we strayed too far from our libertarian roots.

#3 Comment By Chris On August 30, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

I stopped reading after a few paragraphs because if the rest of the article is based on the premise that all libertarianism is about is individualism and selfishness, then the rest of the article will be poppycock. Libertarianism isn’t about selfishness. It is about self RELIANCE. It isn’t about individualism. It is about individual responsibility. It is about not relying on the government. The Left and Right alike want government to set the rules for society where as Libertarians want the PEOPLE to set the rules for society. Until you understand that, your understanding of Libertarianism is completely off.

#4 Comment By Rafael On September 6, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

The sad truth about libertarianism is that they think too much about individuals but nothing about, people and how contradictory they are.

#5 Comment By paineite On September 10, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

Thanks for a thoughtful and perceptive analysis.

#6 Comment By Vincent On October 10, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

Aside from what Chris said…

People do practice libertarianism every day, even when they don’t know it.

Also, the author really has no clue about Marxism if he thinks it’s anything like libertarianism; Marxism = neoconservatism: both are two war-like ideologies that have perverted anything and everything they touch.

#7 Comment By James On November 2, 2012 @ 10:55 am

Thoroughly impressed. I loved this article. It is an excellent analysis of the folly of libertarianism.

#8 Comment By Jackson On November 8, 2012 @ 3:17 am

Thoughtful and well-written article.

#9 Comment By Dave Metric On November 13, 2012 @ 1:27 am

Locke – “This is no surprise, as libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism.”

This is a typical strawman argument. Confusing Objectivism with libertarianism. Libertarianism is based on the NAP. Not “individualism” although many confusedly so claim that it is since Ayn Rand has been very influential in its upbringing.

Marxism has absolutely nothing to do with altruism. It is based on forcing the “upper class” to bend to the egoism of the weak.

Locke – “Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function.”

Society may to some extent require collectivism it does not however require altruism. The only action I know of that is truly altruistic is a solider landing on a grenade for a buddy. Every other action can be explained in terms of egoism.

Locke – “Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. ”

The author is implying that democracy itself is an empirically sound form of government. Is there any precedent in history than can prove this? I will cede for a moment there is very little if any empirical evidence to support the theoretical pure libertarian society, but can we honestly look at the effects of Greece and Rome as evidence to the sustainability of democracy? How would the author care to explain away the problem of rational ignorance, or the “tyranny of the majority” problem, or the problem of dependent class voting? I highly doubt he will be able to answer any of these long known but rarely addressed arguments.

Locke – “The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. ”

I agree there is a problem with the entire concept of “freedom”, but this author’s critique of it isn’t very good. Basing a political movement on “freedom” is impossible because freedom is a relative or incoherent idea. See “negative rights versus positive rights”. This is why some libertarians now based their philosophy on the NAP rather then on some end goal of freedom.

Locke – “Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. Therefore freedom, by giving us choice, supposedly embraces all other goods. But this violates common sense by denying that anything is good by nature, independently of whether we choose it. Nourishing foods are good for us by nature, not because we choose to eat them.”

There is no such thing as “common sense”. Something either makes sense or it doesn’t and saying something is “good by nature” makes no sense. It is a categorical mistake to say something IS good with no reason or standard in which to explain why it is good.

“By nature” is not a standard. Nothing can be good “by nature” since you can’t get an ought from an is. You can only get an ought from an IF.

Locke – “Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual. But some, like national security, clean air, or a healthy culture, are inherently collective. It may be possible to privatize some, but only some, and the efforts can be comically inefficient. Do you really want to trace every pollutant in the air back to the factory that emitted it and sue?”

I will cede that all of the above except “a healthy culture” are weak points in libertarian philosophy (the idea the government can promote a healthy culture goes against all empirical evidence. It always leads to economic dependence and millions in jail), but I will expect the author to answer the weak points in democracy I outlined earlier.

“Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens. So even if the libertarian principle of “an it harm none, do as thou wilt,” is true, it does not license the behavior libertarians claim. Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.”

“Vulgar” is an opinion.

Locke- “Libertarians in real life rarely live up to their own theory but tend to indulge in the pleasant parts while declining to live up to the difficult portions. They flout the drug laws but continue to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate.”

Apparently, the author doesn’t seem to understand that the government is paid with taxes and that libertarians are probably going to be paying these taxes.

I think I’ll stop here. I think I’ve given the author plenty of fireballs to deal with for one sitting.

#10 Comment By gbuddha2012 On February 23, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I asked a libertarian one time why he was a libertarian. The answer i got chilled me to the bone… “Isn’t it obvious that the weak must perish”. There you have it, libertarianism in one sentence.

#11 Comment By SGT Caz On April 30, 2013 @ 1:47 am

What most people call libertarianism is based on a structural idea: the individual holds authority over the self, and all interactions with others are based on the concept of consent. This is foundational to Western thought, and nowhere does it require that the individual not be responsible for the consequences of interacting stupidly in their social environment. The “natural order” of reasonable behavior comes about through incentives, not wishful thinking. And society has run like that quite often in the past.

While there are certainly utopians who call themselves libertarians, most of them are not the idiotic freedom fetishists conjured up here. Most of them will accept the notion of communities restraining problematic behaviors, albeit through tools other than the government, which basically exists for the sake of property rights. Other disciplinary structures can emerge with this as the base establishment. I’m thinking church and family to start.

It’s tricky to endorse this, especially in a society made so large scale with communications technology, and with so many government support systems for the individual that voters generally like. The most attractive thing about those systems is that they do not require the individual bending to, or even respecting, the opinions of those around them. That excessive freedom is becoming the problem, the absurd irreverence for the close, dynamic relationships with others nihilistic to the core.

I’ll take libertarianism precisely for its disciplinary potential. Certainly, I’ll take it at the federal level, with state and local governments holding the legitimate scale for the promotion of cultural values. Empathy is not for bureaucrats, particularly on the national level.

#12 Comment By Bill N On May 5, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

This writer completely PWNED libertarianism.

Listen to people like Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano, Jesse Ventura, and John Stossell and detect the underlying elitism, subtle urging of revolution, wacko economic theories, and a huge silence on civil rights, morality, racism, the impoverished, the disabled, and countries with huge human rights violations.

I understand why this cult philosophy is so cool among fellow netizens and college student, after all both liberalism and neo-conservatism have failed us. But let’s not kid ourselves and think by worshiping an absolute “free market”, ignoring terrorism, and obstructing law enforcement will make a better society.

Once you get past the revisionist history from libertarians, you can see it is a truly heartless political theory.

#13 Comment By RanDomino On June 4, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

Left-Libertarianism (Anarchism) answers most of these questions by doing away with the archaic capitalist system of property and replacing it with use-based property rights, organizing labor syndicates and communities for mutual aid and defense, and letting people produce and distribute goods and services based on need rather than deifying profit. “Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.”

#14 Comment By SinisterCulturalMarxist On July 14, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

Nice little straw men about Marxism. Here is a good advice to all reactionaries and conservatives: if you don’t know what it means don’t try to speak about it.

#15 Comment By canteluna On July 19, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

“libertarianism is the only governing style that can flourish indefinitely.” (comment from B Franklin)

– and yet, ironically, has never flourished or existed at all.

“some libertarians now based their philosophy on the NAP rather then on some end goal of freedom.” (Dave Metric)

— Ah, yes, the “non aggression principle.” Sounds nice. This minor prerequisite to voluntarism reminds me of the Steve Martin joke, “How to become a millionaire: First, get a million dollars.”

“Society may to some extent require collectivism it does not however require altruism. The only action I know of that is truly altruistic is a solider landing on a grenade for a buddy.” (Dave Metric)

– Altruism cannot be forced, so (your implication that) the wealthy paying a higher % of taxes is not an example of altruism, but rather an example of collectivism. That a progressive tax structure is “required” for the good of the society means that freedom/opportunity is extended to more people, resulting in a freer society. To imply that freedom is measured on an individual basis or that one individual or one class of people can enjoy the highest level of freedom/liberty while others enjoy less, depending on wealth, is not how most people want their society to be structured–it is not their choice, and as Locke notes, most of us to not choose Libertarianism.

“How would the author care to explain away the problem of rational ignorance, or the “tyranny of the majority” problem…”

— The “tyranny of the majority” tends to be more of a talking point philosophically than an actual problem. There is more of concern in referendum politics, which is, perhaps ironically, generally supported by Libertarians. Milton Friedman’s concern that in a democracy 51% could kill the other 49% hasn’t been an issue, partly because we don’t have pure democracy, we have a constitutional democratic republic, and mostly because majorities and minorities switch categories depending on the issue, so MF’s example is a “straw man.”

— One scenario of majority tyranny has had to do with racist and apartheid policies. This, however, is not the result of real democracy and, in fact, occurs due to a lack of democracy. A democracy means that everyone has a voice & can participate (regardless of whether they are in a majority on any given issue). Racist policies are an assault to democracy and are the result of an elite power using the state to disenfranchise a weak minority, usually so that the powerful can continue to economically exploit the weaker group.

— Another scenario is war, and civil war but this is not the result of democracy. It is usually the case of an elite in favor of the war, somehow forcing it on the rest of us. War tends to be a problem for states that are not democratic (I include the US and Israel in this category). Since WW2 most democracies have had no war.

““Vulgar” is an opinion.” — Yes, but social norms exist for a reason, to promote the social good. This is not to say that norms are always justified (in the case of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) when they infringe on the liberty of others, but some norms should be, and have been, challenged by the state (e.g. persecution of or discrimination against minorities). In a Libertarian society, anyone is free to discriminate as he/she sees fit. The only antidote to discrimination is if harm can be proved (defined how & judged by whom?) or through the market (the idea being that rational behavior will trump prejudicial behavior, though history (empiricism) shows another story).

“we honestly look at the effects of Greece and Rome as evidence to the sustainability of democracy? (Metric)

– We needn’t look to Greece or Rome as models of democracy only as versions of it that we can learn from and build on. Democracy should be about inclusion of all and the participation of all. Locke makes an excellent point when pointing out that a prerequisite for a democratic society is education.

How would the author care to explain away …the problem of dependent class voting?”

— You’re begging the question. A better question is what is meant by a “dependent class” and why does it exist? We are all dependent, on natural resources, on each other. So, to say that there is a “dependent class” as if this represents an underclass burden to society needs to be explained, not explained away or assumed.

— Metric is taking a page from Romney’s 47% idea here. The 1% is dependent on the rest of us galley slaves to row their boats. The outrage should not be against the 47% but against the ruling elite who create the 47%. The 47% would be fine if resources and opportunities were made more equally available.

“The “natural order” of reasonable behavior comes about through incentives, not wishful thinking. And society has run like that quite often in the past.” (SGT Caz)

What’s your point? Libertarians did not invent the concepts of freedom or reasonable behavior. There is no “natural order” and to suggest there is, is wishful thinking. Reasonable behavior may indeed be a result of incentives while the incentives may not be reasonable. Welfare State government provides incentives to encourage a desired behavior. For example, we want people to be healthy so we provide free immunization (yet not free health care because most illness is not contagious). We want a strong economy so we provide free education (though only to a certain level because we (business) also need ignorant, desperate laborers).

“excessive freedom is becoming the problem, the absurd irreverence for the close, dynamic relationships with others nihilistic to the core.” (SGT Caz)

– Interesting coming from a Libertarian or someone sympathetic to the philosophy given that it contradicts their core principle.

“after all both liberalism and neo-conservatism have failed us.”

– I don’t accept that Liberalism has failed us, we’ve barely begun to realize a liberal society and lag behind Scandinavia, much of Europe, Canada, Australia. I think the failure of our biggest institutions to function democratically is our current challenge, most significantly our businesses and economic system. Half of our society functions as an oligarchy and prevents us from realizing true democratic socialism.

#16 Comment By tripletwentyy On July 21, 2013 @ 11:59 am

How does half a society function as an oligarchy?

#17 Comment By Rob Graham On July 27, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

My own view of libertarianism is that it is a marketing ploy, a rebranding of an existing product. Since the central idea of libertarianism is that all forms of authority save personal are illegitimate it seems to me the original product was anarchy.

So why the rebranding? In my opinion there are two reasons.

The first reason is to cut libertarianism off from history. Anarchy has a very bad rep from an historical perspective. From what I have read anarchists were frequently terrorists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The rebranding means libertarianism no longer carries anarchy’s historical baggage. It’s ‘new and improved.’

The second reason is rhetorical. By using ‘liberty’ as the root word for the new product name it makes it appear that any person arguing against libertarianism is arguing against the very idea of liberty itself. Any one who dissents from or criticizes libertarianism appears to be an enemy of freedom. A ridiculous assumption but one many ignorant people fall for.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen libertarians as anything other than anarchists, and dishonest ones at that.

#18 Comment By tripletwentyy On July 29, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

“It’s been many years since I’ve seen libertarians as anything other than anarchists, and dishonest ones at that.”

So what other things have you seen them as (just honest anarchists?) And when? Who?

#19 Comment By Rob Graham On July 31, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Arg! A touch! I do confess it! I fear I breathe my last!

#20 Comment By Jackryanvb On August 7, 2013 @ 11:36 am

Agreed. This was a very well reasoned essay highlighting the dangers of libertarianism.

I will go a step further and call true believing Libertarianism a cult, a very dangerous cult that e traps many high IQ White Americans and it seems that only White Americans fall down in to this terrible individualistic cult, all other racial, ethnic, religious (Muslims) groups understand that they must promote the interests of their group or they will be conquered, dominated by other groups who do work, vote, fight for the collective power, wealth of their group.

Libertarians like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson push insane, suicidal open borders immigration, it seems to be some fundamentalist commandment of Libertarianism.

I’ve written some strong articles exposing the immigration treasons of the libertarian cult. Would the American Conservative be interested in publishing them?

Jack Ryan

#21 Comment By GB On April 24, 2014 @ 10:42 am

The opening two paragraphs are extremely clever, while at the same time being extremely dishonest and demagogic. The author defines libertarianism as essentially libertinism with references to sexual eccentrics and drug users. Next comes the assertion that the philosophy itself is primarily concerned with constructing an ethical framework which the “believers” can use as a moral justification for engaging in hedonistic behavior.

In the second paragraph, the author acknowledges the existence of various strains of libertarianism, then proceeds to assert that they are virtually all the same. The clever trick the author uses is to suggest that if one disputes HIS definition of libertarianism, viz. “street” libertarianism (what this means I have no idea, nor does anyone else because it is literally meaningless from a philosophical perspective), one is himself engaged in sophistry. The author’s contrived definition of libertarianism, reduced to aesthetic rather than philosophical parameters, is fundamentally unrepresentative of libertarianism. As a result, the rest of the article is utter nonsense that discredits his straw man but does little to advance truth.

The core of libertarian philosophy centers around self-ownership, property rights, and the non-initiation of force. Most libertarians I associate with develop their philosophical convictions after reading the likes of Locke, Jefferson, Adam Smith, Spooner, Tucker, Menger, Mises, Mencken, Hayek, Nozick, Friedman, Rothbard, Hoppe etc. These are hardly men of the “street.”

#22 Comment By Gordon Hilgers On September 21, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

Interesting point-of-view. Libertarianism seems awfully airy-fairy in its implicit belief that government should be small enough to be only the military and a shell of public offices. That, of course, would mean the military would have all the power–and bingo, you’ve got yourself a military-run government.

Libertarianism doesn’t consider that a high-tech, highly industrialized society needs a governmental infrastructure large enough to counter the unintentional negative neighborhood effects of capitalism. Back before the Industrial Revolution, that small government stance would be fine. But read your history books. The first example of a technology large enough to make a mess–railroads–sent the railroad barons right to Washington DC for help coordinating and regulating competition.

#23 Comment By Nick Hancock On July 20, 2016 @ 4:19 pm

This is rife with erroneous, baseless claims, the first of which conflates Libertarianism with Marxism on false grounds (so false as to suggest the author has little more than a vague sense of libertarianism), and the second of which treats Libertarianism as an appendage of Conservatism (when Conservatism itself arose as a reactionary Statist force against philosophies espousing Individualist, Natural Rights-based governance).

We are not your unwanted appendage. You are our unwanted acquaintance. If anything, our association with your bigoted joke of a party is, in my mind, our biggest hurdle.

The philosophical meat of the piece is predicated on a misunderstanding, or plain lack of education, about libertarianism.

Nowhere at all is there or has there ever been any semblance of substantiation for the claim that libertarianism “den[ies] that anything is good by nature”. It’s a clever thing to say, and if it were a belief of libertarians, you’d go on to illustrate a meaningful point. It is not, and has never been, ever, at all, part of libertarian doctrine to say that no “thing” is good. What libertarian doctrine DOES say is that you and I are not fit judges of what is good for someone else.

Go ahead, Locke—tell me about how I’m a sophist, or use one of your other preloaded defense mechanisms against your points being dismantled (like, notably, the off-the-bat conflation of libertarianism crime and the taboo).

A man who spends a paragraph preloading defense mechanisms against argument is a man who feels he is out on a limb with his assertions.

In sum, this long-winded piece amounts to nothing. There are no actual philosophical grounds for any of the claims made here. The title comparison, and what I presume to be the thesis, is not substantiated.

#24 Comment By Chuck On June 24, 2018 @ 2:05 am

This is such and odd article. In 2005, Japan was the second wealthiest country in the aggregate. Japanese citizens were poorer than their american and swiss peers, who lived in less regulated economies. The Russian government didn’t lose control of the economy after the collapse of communism, but handled it to connected cronies and oligarchs, all without dismantling regulatory burdens or abolishing subsidies. The idea that there was no government control over the economy in post 91 Russia is so absurd and factually wrong it’s not even worth addressing.

#25 Comment By Sabbie On July 3, 2018 @ 1:02 am

Marxism has nothing to do with altruism, not sure where you got that from. And when you say that libertarianism would never arise democratically, you forgot about the birth of America. Libertarianism does have some of the flaws you mention, but voluntarism while also protecting rights is the only moral choice to aspire to.

#26 Comment By Maria C. Mitchell On July 8, 2018 @ 11:05 pm

What happened to TAC? The old TAC used to understand the difference between libertarian and libertine. It used to be paleoconservative – now, it’s not that at all. Shame. RIP TAC = you will be missed!

#27 Comment By Ghost of Buckley On August 22, 2018 @ 3:39 am

I’m not a libertarian, and I think this article is so horrible, it’s disgusting.

Firstly, characterizing Russia as a free market or Japan as wealthy is just dishonest. Neither was true in 2005.

Secondly, for all the empirical evidence that refutes libertarianism, the author fails to mention anything.

Thirdly, the author fails to address the real arguments for libertarianism (non-aggression and the success of free markets) and instead knocks down strawmen.

Finally, the author undermines any good moral points (like how libertarianism could only be implemented by force or how it can’t deal with children) he makes by making all these consequentialist arguments, which really undermines the author’s attempt to take the high ground.

Overall, a magnificent piece of sophistry that rambles about nothing and is full of hot air.