Liberal Criticisms Of Libertarianism

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Liberals (in the American sense) understand that government has a useful track record.


Libertarianism Makes You Stupid [More...]
After 20 years, still one of the shortest, clearest explanations of the fundamental errors of libertarian rhetoric.
What’s Wrong With Libertarianism? [More...]
A very complete (but not too long) summation of most of the problems of libertarianism.
11 questions to see if libertarians are hypocrites [More...]
"But the libertarian movement has seen a strong resurgence in recent years, and there’s a simple reason for that: money, and the personal interests of some people who have a lot of it... This revival is Koch-fueled, not coke-fueled, and exists only because in political debate, as in so many other walks of life, cash is king."
A Dim View of Libertarianism (7 links)
Ernest Partridge's multi-part criticism of some of the major aspects of libertarianism.
An FAQ for Libertarians [More...]
Nine common libertarian questions/accusations answered by UnlearningEcon. Gets to the heart of things nicely.
Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’ [More...]
An analysis of the ideology of cyberlibertarianism, placing it within the neoliberal thought collective along with classical liberalism, neoliberalism, and libertarianism. A must read!
Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left [More...]
"We put faith in a technocratic progressivism that does not clearly emerge from leftist foundations and that, without close and careful work, is unlikely to support those foundations. Most worryingly, we put aside active efforts to solve social problems and advance leftist perspectives by giving in to a technological form of magical thinking that is the opposite of engaged political action."
Deconstructing Libertarianism: A Critique Prompted by the film Thrive [More...]
"The reactionary program sold as a "vision" on the Thrive website is nothing short of a dark fantasy that would catapult us back to the 19th century with “voluntary” types of social regulation; i.e., no taxes, no labor laws, no child labor laws, no environmental regulations, no Social Security, no Medicare, no public education, no civil rights, and no government programs for the people. We see how well that worked in the 19th century."
Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies [More...]
151 brief statements about the nature of politics that mostly ridicule libertarian and other right-wing ideology and attitudes.
Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View [More...] (2 links)
An important academic paper that shows that libertarianism is incompatible with six fundamental liberal institutions. "[...] the primary institutions endorsed by the liberal political tradition are incompatible with libertarianism.[...] what we have in libertarianism is no longer liberalism, but its undoing.
Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism
An exploration of why libertarians can believe the kinds of things they believe. How they can be so callous, ignore obvious problems, be so dogmatic, etc.
Its Hip! Its Cool! Its Libertarianism! [More...]
"Libertarianism isn’t some cutting-edge political philosophy that somehow transcends the traditional "left to right" spectrum. It’s a radical, hard-right economic doctrine promoted by wealthy people who always end up backing Republican candidates, no matter how often they talk about civil liberties, ending the wars and legalizing pot. Funny how that works."
John Kenneth Galbraith on Conservatism. [More...]
"The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness..."
Liberals and Libertarians [More...]
Ernest Partridge details the irreconcilable differences between liberalism and libertarianism.
Liberapedia: Libertarianism [More...]
A liberal community's analysis of libertarianism.
Libertarian Fundamentalism [More...]
"Many of the most powerful promoters of libertarian fundamentalism are themselves unscrupulous crony capitalists who gain advantage by corrupting and manipulating our legal and political institutions."
Libertarian Mugged by Reality [More...]
Alex Beinstein, a U. of Chicago student, gets a job and loses his libertarianism.
Libertarianism: For and Against (book)
Tibor Machan argues for libertarianism, while philosopher Craig Duncan defends democratic liberalism, which aims to ensure that all citizens have fair access to a life of dignity.
Mike Huben's Criticisms (3 links)
Developed over roughly 40 years of networked debate with libertarians.
Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism...
"Two new books by libertarians. Are they bad? Yes." Reviews of David Boaz’s The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom and Charles Cooke’s The Conservatarian Manifesto.
One-Sided Delusions of a Libertarian [More...]
"Shorter Ron Paul: Property Rights Superior to Civil Rights" Why Ron Paul would allow private segregation.
Scourge of the Libertarians: Interview with Mike Huben [More...]
Hyperbolic title, but a wide-ranging interview about libertarianism's place in the world. How it relates to religion, anarchism, epistemology, atheism, skepticism, conservatism, the Republican party, isolationism, liberty, civil rights, other values, the UN and Pax Americana.
So I invented a new law the other day [More...]
"In any discussion about libertarians, the comments by libertarians will invariably make the stupidity of libertarianism clear." A variant on Lewis’ Law.
State of the Debate: The Libertarian Conceit [More...]
Books by Isaiah Berlin, David Boaz and Charles Murray are compared. "Reading the books side by side elucidates both the appeal and the basic dishonesty of libertarianism and highlights the importance of wiser responses to skepticism about politics."
The 6 Strangest Libertarian Ideas [More...]
Actually, seven of modern libertarianism’s strangest and most extreme notions from Murray Rothbard, Nick Gillespie, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, and Peter Thiel.
The Majority Report with Sam Seder (YouTube) [More...]
The Majority Report with Sam Seder is a listener supported, internet talk radio program and podcast hosted by actor/comedian Sam Seder. Frequently ridicules libertarians. Home page.
The Myth of the Libertarian Internet [More...]
Matt Yglesias ridicules Peter Thiel for the foolishness of standard libertarian ideological analysis.
The Non-Libertarian FAQ (aka Why I Hate Your Freedom) [More...]
Scott Alexander Siskind's graceful utilitarian explanation of the immorality or impracticality of many libertarian ideas.
The Seven Biggest Economic Lies [More...]
Libertarians have repeated all these lies: small wonder, they are promoted by the Koch brothers. Robert Reich provides very short rebuttals to each of them.
Top 10 Libertarian Lies [More...]
"They don’t hate government or love freedom, and their propaganda sucks... While libertarians are hardly a monolithic group, I believe that this list provides the most common fictions that American libertarians frequently spout. Let us bury them, once and for all."
Turning the tables: The pathologies and unrealized promise of libertarianism [More...]
"Libertarianism is a confused political outlook resting on misunderstanding key terms essential to its message, such as contract, property right, individuals, coercion, and democracy. In an internal critique of its key tenets and major thinkers it is shown to have failed in its chief project: outlining a genuine philosophy of freedom and well-being."
What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? [More...]
Phil Agre explains: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy. Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world. The aristocracy libertarians support is plutocratic/corporate.
What is the Matter with Libertarianism? [More...]
Peter Corning points out a number of frequent libertarian assumptions that just don't fit reality.
What's wrong with libertarianism (Rosenfelder) [More...]
Libertarianism is the un-Communism, prefer fact-free arguments, want full scale implementation rather than small-scale tests, worship the founding fathers in silly ways, support Republican party policies, misunderstand social liberty, ignore history, have a single-villain ideology, ignore market abuses, and have an unacceptable morality.
Why I am not a Libertarian [More...]
"The Libertarian Party seems to be completely unaware that the robber baron era ever happened at all in American history. Although libertarians profess to want individual liberty, their platform is a blueprint for unrestrained rule by the rich and powerful."
Why I’m Not a Bleeding-Heart Libertarian [More...]
'What “libertarian” tends to mean to most people, including most people who self-identify as libertarian, is flatly at odds with some of what I believe. So I guess I’m just a liberal; the bleeding heart goes without saying.'
Zombie libertarianism [More...]
Amanda Marcotte: "At the end of the day, libertarian ideology is about making sure that huge parts of our society are put out of the reach of the democratic system, meaning that oppressed people can’t use their power to vote to relieve their oppression."


Thus despite, for example, the dogmatic insistence on “spontaneous order” as the exclusive result of market-based transactions -- transactions that in core neoliberal dogma are said to be the only permissible form of social planning -- the social policies pursued by the MPS [Mont Pelerin Society] and its outer shells [libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc.] are often exquisitely planned, anything but spontaneous, and have nothing to do with any market.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’"
Having no conception of a political society, libertarians have no conception of the common good, those basic interests of each individual that according to liberals are to be maintained for the sake of justice by the impartial exercise of public political power.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
I argue that libertarianism's resemblance to liberalism is superficial; in the end, libertarians reject essential liberal institutions. Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power, to be be impartially exercised for the common good.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 107
Libertarianism is, in the end, not so much about liberty as it is about protecting and enforcing absolute property and contract rights.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 133
Jim Crow laws were not the primary cause of segregation in the South. In many places few laws, if any, explicitly restricted blacks from entry into desirable social positions, from purchasing property in white neighborhoods, from entering private schools and colleges, or from using hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and other private businesses frequented by whites. Still, these events rarely occurred due to tacit (often explicit) agreement among whites. Because of privately imposed restrictive covenants, discriminatory business practices, and blacks' abject economic status, there was little need for laws imposing segregation and discrimination. It could be left up to the invisible hand.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 135
The non-consensual constraints on conduct recognized by libertarians are quite extensive. Our duties to respect the lives and the physical integrity of others' persons, and their freedom of action and extensive property claims, our obligations to keep our contracts, avoid fraud, and make reparations for harms we cause, are not based in free choice, consent, or any kind of agreement (actual or hypothetical). These are natural rights and duties, libertarians claim, that people possess independent of social interaction. Despite their emphasis on consent, voluntariness, and contract, libertarians are averse to appeals to consent or social agreement to justify their preferred list of moral rights and duties.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 125
Libertarians of course deny the institutional conception of property. Fundamental to their arguments are ideas of noncooperative natural property and pre-social ownership. They assume the lucidity of these concepts, and take it as self-evident that property involves unrestricted rights to use and dispose of things.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 130
Having no conception of public political authority, libertarians have no place for the impartial administration of justice. People's rights are selectively protected only to the extent they can afford protection and depending on which services they pay for.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith, "John Kenneth Galbraith on Conservatism."
This notion, that the preservation of freedom sometimes requires the restriction of freedom, may induce incomprehension or apoplexy in the libertarian—but it should not. After all, [minarchist] libertarians are themselves committed to such a thought in their basic justification for the state: the coercion of the state frees people from the “wild” coercion of lawless individuals.
Chris Bertram, "Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace"
The key to understanding this, and to understanding Libertarianism itself, is to realize that their concept of individual freedom is the "whopper" of "right to have the State back up business". That's a wild definition of freedom.
Seth Finkelstein, "Libertarianism Makes You Stupid"
Libertarians are for "individual rights", and against "force" and "fraud" - just as THEY define it. Their use of these words, however, when examined in detail, is not likely to accord with the common meanings of these terms.
Seth Finkelstein, "Libertarianism Makes You Stupid"
It seems to me that there are five areas in which government spending has a demonstrated superiority over the private sector -- health and disability insurance, education, old-age pensions, infrastructure spending, and military spending. It seemed to me that structural changes in our economy and society were driving the amount of money we ought to spend in sum on those five up, hence the enlargement of government.
Brad DeLong, "Nick Eberstadt and the "Takers" Once Again: More Reflections on the General Theory of the Moocher Class"
And deserts—the fact that some people deserve what they have and others do not? That idea never made any sense to Adam Smith, for he saw that the overwhelming bulk of our wealth is our joint product through our collective division of labor, rather than the individual creation of some Randite John Galt, who if truly left to stand alone on his own two feet without the social division of labor would soon have his bones bleaching in some Colorado canyon.
Brad DeLong, "Shrugging off Atlas"
In any discussion about libertarians, the comments by libertarians will invariably make the stupidity of libertarianism clear.
PZ Myers, "So I invented a new law the other day"
To use one of Ayn Rand’s favorite words, this country is infested with looters: only they’re not the poor, they’re not the mythical “welfare queens”, they’re bankers and obscenely overpaid executives and corporations that demand the right to buy elections. And there stand the libertarians, the useful idiots who cheer them on.
PZ Myers, "So I invented a new law the other day"
Despite the intelligence of many of its supporters, libertarianism is an instance of the simplest (and therefore silliest) type of politics: the single-villain ideology. Everything is blamed on the government.
Mark Rosenfelder, "What's wrong with libertarianism (Rosenfelder)"