Mike Huben's Criticisms

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Developed over roughly 40 years of networked debate with libertarians.

A Non-Libertarian FAQ
A general introduction to discussion with libertarians, with an extensive discussion of arguments commonly used by libertarian evangelists. This is the original FAQ, little changed from when it originated in 1994. See also: More FAQS and Criticisms of the Non-Libertarian FAQ.
A Positive Model Of Rights
A good model of rights should be consistent with observations from law, economics, and anthropology. If it is based on observation, we can call it a positive model, like other models in the sciences. (But not necessarily philosophy.)
A Regulated Kidney Market Designed To Minimize Social Harms
Libertarians endorse unregulated organ markets, but that would bring many social harms. Single buyer markets where the payments go to the donor's choice of charity might solve most of the problems.
An example of "Will you stop being violent?" (by being a statist.) [More...]
A fine example of a libertarian with no rational or supported argument claiming (a) he is rational, (b) accusing statists of being violent (c) claiming he is non-violent, (d) claiming "defensive" force is not violent, (e) redefining words to make his claims circular and (f) etc. Repeatedly, more than 25 times in some responses.
Anything private enterprise can do, government should be able to do too. (1 link)
Libertarians frequently condemn government for doing things that libertarians would permit to private enterprise. This is a simple hypocrisy or special pleading. Between property and private contract, there is hardly anything government could do that hasn't already been done by private enterprise.
Bitcoin predictions. [More...]
At some point in the not-so-distant future, a nation will issue its own crypto-currency that is exchangeable one-to-one with its ordinary currency... Even the rumor of these currencies will make Bitcoin plummet.
Characteristics of the Libertarian Family
Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi, faced with the chaotic diversity of libertarianism, attempt to find basic characteristics that are typical of libertarianism. Beyond the problem of whether these are actually valid, there is the problem that they are not realistic. In addition, they correctly discount "liberty" as a characteristic, while omitting "rhetoric of liberty".
Does the FDA's regulatory monopoly kill large numbers of people? No.
Libertarians and other drug industry shills have long accused the FDA of causing deaths through slow approval and overregulation. That's an illusion due to a trolley problem, 20-20 hindsight, and ignoring the deaths that would be due to ineffective drugs. Imagine if the FDA was allowed to regulate The Tobacco Industry, with 300,000 or more US deaths per year.
Education as signalling [More...]
Our libertarian friends at Koch George Mason University frequently claim expensive educations are a form of signalling and that nobody learns anything in college. That doesn't pass the sniff test.
Fraudulent Controversial Books
Part of the propaganda program of libertarianism has been a steady flow of books based on fraudulent claims that take months or years to debunk. Some are directly produced or financed by libertarians, others by academics or conservatives are heavily endorsed by libertarians.
How Class War Has Impoverished The Middle And Lower Classes (2 links)
Gradual changes in wages, opportunity, debt, risk, tax policy and other factors have badly hurt the vast majority of families over the past 40 years.
How Plutocratic Policy Has Changed The United States Since 1950
Huben on Nozick (2 links)
Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" can be quickly summarized as a game of hide-the-fallacy. After almost 40 years, it is still easy to identify new fallacies or describe the fallacies more obviously.
Important classes of exceptions to the broken window fallacy.
Frederic Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy claims to show that claims of benefits to destruction are wrong. But there are plenty of reasons why there can be strong benefits to destruction: so strong that rational economic actors destroy things all the time.
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.
Introduction To Libertarianism
The big picture of libertarianism. Three realms of libertarianism and its place in politics.
Involuntary (1 link)
There are many things which are inescapably involuntary on an individual level in our lives. Start with social institutions such as property. And commons, many of which are biological, not social. Demands for voluntary or voluntarism conveniently ignore these issues in order to oppose social choices such as taxation.
Libertarian Framing
A 24 word statement demonstrates 7 libertarian framing tricks. "Why on earth are you in favor of giving the state any more governmental power than is absolutely unavoidable? It'll just be abused."
Libertarian Velikovskyism
Understanding libertarians as like believers in Immanuel Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collision".
Libertarianism in One Lesson (Parody)
Mike Huben's guide to becoming a libertarian. If you've argued with libertarians, you'll understand them well enough to ROTFL. :-) for the humor-impaired.
Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Second Lesson
Why is there a second lesson when the title says one lesson? Libertarianism is so double-plus-good.... :-) for the humor-impaired.
Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Third Lesson
Still attempting to try to catch up with David Bergland's arithmetic, where 1 lesson = 16 chapters in 99 pages. Libertarianism is the communism of the right: they both sound good, until you spend about five minutes in the company of actual human beings. Here's what they mean.
Libertarians haggling over price.
It seems obvious.
Libertarians Misunderstand Government (7 links)
Libertarians are generally guilty of misrepresenting government. They also overlook the fact that anarcho-capitalist land ownership does not differ from government by a dictator: the landowner can require anything he wants on his land, including abiding by his rules (laws), taxes, and punishments (up to and including death) by the contract to be on his land.
Market Failures in Everything: iodized salt [More...]
"Worldwide, about two billion people — a third of the globe — get too little iodine, including hundreds of millions in India and China. Studies show that iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. Even moderate deficiency, especially in pregnant women and infants, lowers intelligence by 10 to 15 I.Q. points, shaving incalculable potential off a nation’s development."
Mechanism, Not Policy: Creation Of The Second Invisible Hand
Libertarians and their right wing ilk read far too much into the Constitution. It was not meant to spell out many specifics: but rather to provide a mechanism for reigning in law.
Mike Huben and Taner Edis criticize Jan Narveson's "The Libertarian Idea".
In 2001, I had an email exchange with Jan Narveson, where I detailed four major failings of his book/philosophy and appended some criticisms by Taner Edis (since I had permission to publish them.)
Musical Chairs Theory Of Economic Justice (2 links)
Competition, self-improvement and meritocracy do not improve economic justice outcomes in a musical chairs model. No matter how loudly Horatio Alger is invoked, there still will be only one winner of a game of musical chairs, and many losers. Likewise, no matter how responsably the players attempt to act, how much they struggle to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, only one will finish in a chair.
Nozick's Natural Rights And Other Gut Feelings
Any time a natural rights author uses the term rights, you might as well substitute the word fairies.
Parable of the ship: why Austrian Economics fails.
The great fault of Austrianism is that it is not scientific. It is structured as a medieval philosophy based on authority, rather than systematic adherence to real-world data.
Political Libertarianism (23 links)
Political libertarianism is the most important libertarianism: a mass market, public relations, astroturf libertarianism that we are continually exposed to through the media.. It has been a plutocratically-funded effort since the 1930's and has been wildly successful in concentrating wealth since the 1980s. It is about redistributing society's wealth to the rich and calling that just and moral.
Progressivism explained. [More...]
Mike Huben explains his view of progressivism by its objective, not by its history.
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.
Skepticism of Rationality [More...]
Ask your average person what rationality is, and they will inevitably come up with a charicature, like Spock from Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, Mentor of Arisia, or some other fictional character. Political and philosophical arguments are full of claims about rationality of postions, all contradicting each other. What do we really mean by the word rational?
Taxation is rent; non-payment of taxes is squatting.
Allodial title means that government is the ultimate owner of the land. As the property owner, government can do as it sees fit with the land, including who resides there and makes use of it. The idea that "taxation is theft" attempts to blame the government when the non-payer is at fault.
The Entitlement Theory of Justice
Like most of Nozick's arguments in Anarchy, State and Utopia, the strength of the Entitlement Theory of Justice is illusory. It suffers critically from a lack of foundations and vulnerability to simple counterexamples.
The Kochtopus: Home-Grown Subversion Of The United States
During much of the 20th century, a great fear was communist subversion of the United States, and indeed there were spies and political movements that proved to be directed by the Soviet Union. During the last 40 years, a much larger and more thorough subversion has taken place to implant the anti-democratic political views of the Koch brothers in all parts of government and society.
The libertarian and the genie.
A libertarian finds a magic lamp, and when he mixes his labor with it a genie appears. The genie tells him he can have three wishes...
The many divisions within libertarianism.
Libertarians are united only by a rhetoric of liberty. Socially, philosophically, and economically they have innumerable, unreconcilable divisions. If you ever want to side-track a group of libertarians, raise one of these divisions in discussion.
The pseudoscience of libertarian morality. [More...]
An extended critical discussion of the pseudoscientific article "Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology" by Ravi Iyer et al.
The Short, Simple Dismissal Of Libertarianism
99% of libertarianism is obviously untrue or unacceptable for one or more of these reasons. My Gish Gallop through 40 (or more) reasons.
The US is a republic, not a democracy. (2 links)
This libertarian/conservative meme is an equivocation fallacy, intended to disrupt statements by their opposition. It is indisputable that the US is a republic. It is also indisputable that the US is a nation with democratic elections, making it a type of democracy.
The worthless Lockean Fable of Initial Acquisition
The ahistorical labor theory of property fails in many ways. Including ignoring the evidence in front of our noses.
What Are Rights?
Rights are a far more complex subject than we usually think. Most people would be surprised at how much that their folk models of rights leave out. Libertarians rely on such simple models because they can lead to the right ideological conclusions. At least five fields consider rights: philosophy, law, economics, sociology, and anthropology. A good model would be compatible with all five fields.
What Is Liberty?
Liberty (AKA Freedom), the supposed object of Libertarianism, is hardly ever defined or discussed analytically by libertarians. Liberty, as used by libertarians, is a glittering generality of propaganda: an emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason. But liberty is susceptible to analysis and that analysis reveals enormous problems with libertarian ideology.
What Is Property?
Property is a complex set of coercive rights. Most people rely on simple folk models, but at least four fields are important for understanding property: philosophy, law, economics, and anthropology. Libertarians want an absolute, full liberal property over everything, that has never existed and that most people would not want. See also Proudhon's What Is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government.
Why the asshole is the most important organ
A parable where all the other organs admit it.
Why the Thai Navy was able to seize the Ocean Builders seastead under international law.
Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet lived for about two months in the cabin hailed as the “first seastead” by the group Ocean Builders. It was outside Territorial Limits but within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Thailand established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. That gave the Thai government the right to regulate the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures.
Why we won't have Mars or Moon colonies for a LONG time. [More...]
"... it isn't enough to have a technology for commercial exploitation only: you must have an array of technologies for daily living of a community before you really have a colony. Otherwise you're just an outpost."


Contra Locke, property is not made by mixing labor: it is made by mixing coercion.
Mike Huben, "Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism"
We live in the richest societies in history. We produce so many times more than past societies that we could abolish almost all poverty, as has been done in so many Scandinavian nations. We are at the point where we can ask what ALL people should have. All people should have the Four Freedoms. All people should have education, medical care, food, clothing, housing. Who should be excepted and why? Libertarians have no answer here: their obsession with property above all other values produces Procrustean solutions at best. Libertarians have no ideological guidelines for balancing property with other values, no way to go beyond "I've got mine."
Mike Huben, "Libertarianism Has Unbalanced Values"
The FIRST product sold in an "unfettered" market system would be fetters.
Mike Huben, "Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Third Lesson"
All political governments today behave as if consent to a social contract is tacit and implied: just as all libertarians behave as if consent to a system of property rights is tacit and implied.
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"
It is a true slight that a man who occupies himself dissecting ten thousand mites gets the same pleasure of libertarians.
William Westmiller, email.
The invisible hand of the market makes a very good pickpocket.
Mike Huben
Anybody stupid enough to think education works like consumer goods markets should have to explain why there isn’t a McHarvard franchise on their block.
Mike Huben
People smoke in large part because they have been persuaded to. Persuaded by a tobacco culture carefully nurtured by the tobacco industry. Persuaded by an industry that suppressed hazards of smoking for decades after they were known. Persuaded by an industry that knew its product was addictive, and knew it had to addict juveniles to maintain the smoking population. This history is well known from internal tobacco company documents. You can pretend that the word "choose" absolves those corporations from all responsibility: but even libertarians shouldn't accept that. Otherwise, there would be no prohibition against fraud. People must make choices to be defrauded. The folks who invested with Bernard Madoff chose their investments, but that does not absolve Madoff. Nor are tobacco companies absolved because people chose to smoke. Those people were persuaded by an industry that spent enormous amounts on advertising, promotion, and disinformation. The amount they spent shows how critical they felt that persuasion was: that shows their responsibility.
Mike Huben, email July 26, 2009
[M]ost libertarians would say that we have a non-voluntary responsibility to respect property, and would enforce that with violence. That’s the basic hypocrisy of voluntaristic ideas of libertarianism: everything is supposed to be voluntary and non-coercive BUT the basic principles of your ideology such as property are obviously not.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
You NAP idea is entirely vapid: EVERY political/moral system says "defensive force and properly-justified retaliatory force is not considered immoral": they just differ on what "defensive" and "properly justified" is. For libertarians, this bafflegab protects assertions that absolute property is the only morality.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
Non-initiation of force is a phrase which is used to hide the entire baggage of libertarian theory of entitlement. Since every culture has different theories of entitlement, using the same phrase just conceals the basic question of entitlements.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
As for whether I’m ideological, I don’t need ideology to rebut your arguments. Your ideology is YOUR weakness. It provides you with a bountiful supply of ready-made errors to spare you the pain of rubbing your own two brain cells together to come up with an original idea. Your ideology necessarily makes stuff up and ignores the real world where it is inconvenient. I don’t need ideology to spot such lies and omissions.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
Nobody agrees about what natural rights are any more than they agree on which gods to believe in. Because they are just made-up claims. Real rights require enforcement by society: we put our money where our mouths are.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"