No philosophy is unified: liberal, conservative, marxist and libertarian philosophies are numerous and varied. Libertarian philosophies are all based on fundamental fantasies which are easily contradicted by common knowledge and science. If they claim to be based on firmer foundations, they make magical, unexplained leaps from those foundations to their conclusions: the logic that would connect them is missing. Instead, we see academic versions of Calvinball.
- Libertarianism (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [More...]
- Matt Zwolinski's excellent, succinct overview of the diversity of libertarian philosophical theories and the criticisms of them.
- Anarcho-capitalism (16 links)
- The "logical" extreme of libertarianism, doing away with all government in favor of hi-tech feudalism. But libertarians have missed the obvious fact that Anarcho-capitalism exists; property ownership in land just happens to be dominated by about 200 firms called “governments.”
- Anarchy, State, and Utopia (book, online) (13 links)
- (1974) Robert Nozick has written the most academically important attempt at libertarian philosophy. Starting with the fantasy of Natural Rights, it is rife with fallacies, misdirection and unstated assumptions.
- Anthropology and Scientific Psychology (21 links)
- Libertarian philosophy and ideology (and indeed almost all economics) omit basic facts of anthropology, such as the fact that humans naturally engage in gift networks and sometimes barter, but that markets are unnatural to our psychology. They also usually ignore scientific psychology findings in favor of pop psychology, if not ludicrous claims of "human nature". Capitalist exploitation relies on this fact.
- Capitalism, Markets and Laissez-Faire (23 links)
- Libertarian ideology worships these gods with feet of clay, and wishes no limits to them. History and common sense tell us that limits must be imposed on them, they must be regulated.
- Cyberlibertarianism (9 links)
- A utopian, incoherent front for neoliberal exploitation of technology. Some excellent spin-offs, such as Wikipedia, and some enormous threats, such as Algorithmic Prison.
- Failures Of Libertarian Philosophy (90 links)
- Libertarian philosophy has some conspicuous failures. The numerous libertarian attempts to demonstrate self-ownership and property rights fail badly. This undermines essentially everything else they attempt.
- Fallacies Of Ideology (40 links)
- Ideology commonly makes a number of different mistakes than more ordinary philosophy.
- Fallacies Of Philosophy (16 links)
- A great deal of philosophy is grossly misleading from the very start.
- Libertarianism Is Not Liberalism (4 links)
- The overriding role of property and capitalism in libertarianism prevents it from fulfilling liberal objectives and contradicts basic liberal ideas.
- Minarchy (3 links)
- The foolish idea of a minimal government, which overlooks the better idea of an optimal government. But libertarians have no moral justification for or alternative to taxation in a minimal government. Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand are the best known minarchists, and both fail miserably.
- Non-Aggression (22 links)
- The "non-aggression axiom" , also known as non-coercion and NAP, is one of the most widely repeated bits of libertarian propaganda. It simply means "we want to coerce you to live by our rules whether you like it or not." "Steal my candy bar? Then you must die!" It is an incoherent piece of rhetoric. And just how is a libertarian compelled to adopt the NAP? Without such an explanation, claiming the NAP would be followed or is a feature of libertarianism is bullshit.
- Objectivism (24 links)
- Ayn Rand's Objectivism is based on little more than a fine Russian/European tradition of obscurantist philosophy and a number of patently false axioms. For example, as soon as you recognize that reproduction is as ultimate a goal as life, then egoism doesn't make sense.
- Praxeology (11 links)
- Ludwig von Mises' anti-scientific, axiomatic, a priori methodology for supporting his preferred conservative political economy. Also used by Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and some other libertarians. Ignored by academia, promoted by the crank vanity press Ludwig von Mises Institute.
- Single principles of Libertarianism
- Libertarians have a dazzling array of conflicting and irrational single principles that they use to define their ideology. There are all examples of Greedy Reductionism. There are many, many one-line descriptions such as "no initiation of force or fraud", but there are major problems with such descriptions. First, all such examples are heavily value-laden: ideas of "initiation", "force", and "fraud" vary greatly even among libertarians. Second, as libertarian David Friedman points out, such simple rules may dictate results that even libertarians find grossly undesirable.
[...] the central analytical failure of libertarianism as a worldview: a total and disqualifying inability to measure or account for power as it exists in the real world.
Freddie deBoer, "Brief insights into the libertarian mind"
Libertarianism is supposed to be all about principles, but what it’s really about is political expedience. It’s basically a corporate front, masked as a philosophy.
Thomas Frank in Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right" pg. 123.
[...] Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
David Hume, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", 12, "Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy" p. 176.
What it means to be a “libertarian” in a political sense is a contentious issue, especially among libertarians themselves. There is no single theory that can be safely identified as the libertarian theory, and probably no single principle or set of principles on which all libertarians can agree.
Matt Zwolinski, "Libertarianism (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)"
The downside of this approach [foundational philosophical commitments] is that anyone who disagrees with one’s philosophic foundations will not be much persuaded by one’s conclusions drawn from them—and philosophers are not generally known for their widespread agreement on foundational issues.
Matt Zwolinski, "Libertarianism (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)"
The weak logic and bad scholarship that suffuse libertarian responses to my article tend to reinforce me in my view that, if they were not paid so well to churn out anti-government propaganda by plutocrats like the Koch brothers and various self-interested corporations, libertarians would play no greater role in public debate than do the followers of Lyndon LaRouche or L. Ron Hubbard.
Michael Lind, "Libertarianism’s Apocryphal Past"
The problem is that libertarian principles, which revolve [around] the abstract notion of self-interest, are really not principles at all; they have no content and allow anything to be attached to them. Abstract self-interest alone can provide no instructive rule of thought and can disqualify no particular course of action, because each person is free to concoct what is in their best interest, and because “aggression” can be and has been defined in a variety of spurious ways.
John Ganz, "Libertarians have more in common with the alt-right than they want you to think"
The jump from the right to self-ownership to the right of property ownership always occurs hastily, as if the libertarian knows full well he’s fudging one of the most dubious steps of his proof. Boaz makes the unfortunate decision to choose John Locke’s theory of “labor mixing” as his preferred means of papering over the leap. This is the theory, dating from 1689, that when a person “mixes” her labor with a thing (say by turning a tree into a chair), she develops a property right in it. Why this should be so, nobody knows. What “mixing” even is, nobody knows either. Boaz doesn’t attempt to define it; its function is simply to jury-rig a rickety theoretical bridge that will suffice until the next deduction is made. So long as the reader blinks, she will fail to notice that the entire natural rights justification for property is built upon flashy prestidigitation.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
Let us clear from the ground the metaphysical or general principles upon which, from time to time, laissez-faire has been founded. It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive 'natural liberty' in their economic activities. There is no 'compact' conferring perpetual rights on those who Have or on those who Acquire. The world is not so governed from above that private and social interest always coincide. It is not so managed here below that in practice they coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the principles of economics that enlightened self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to promote their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these. Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less clear-sighted than when they act separately.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
I wouldn't confuse conservative libertarianism with a genuine philosophy, open to considering reasoned objections. Bryan Caplan is a libertarian, because that's his job! It is a completely synthetic ideology, deliberately manufactured by a cadre of full-time professionals. And, I don't think their employers intend to make the masses any smarter about the economy or society. In short, libertarians are a product of increasing inequality; of course, they are in favor of increasing inequality, and would prefer that no one draw attention to its deleterious effects; libertarianism is one of increasing inequality's deleterious effects!
Bruce Wilder, "The libertarian solution to inequality"