Libertarians demonize government and grossly misrepresent the nature of government, the effects of government and the differences between governments.
The state is only one type of government. Government exists wherever some have the authority to issue orders, backed by sanctions, to others. Thus, masters govern their slaves; feudal lords govern their serfs, tenants, and retainers; men in patriarchal marriages govern their wives; employers govern their employees; clergy govern their parishioners; parents govern their children.
- Government Creates Rights (4 links)
- All rights are created by violent enforcement, and modern government is where we choose to sequester legitimate force. Government creates property: without government, there are temporary holdings, but not property in the modern sense.
- Government holds allodial title. (4 links)
- Allodial title refers to land ownership by occupancy and defense of the land, something common to all nations. It is a part of Sovereignty. That's what makes the government the ultimate owner, and why it has rights of taxation, expropriation, escheat and eminent domain. Allodial title is a fact that is required for any nation (or anarchist equivalent) to persist in the face of other competitors for the land. Libertarians may call this coercive, but it is a fact that all property and rights are coercive this same way. What is ordinarily thought of as real property in the US and other common law nations is held in "fee simple".
- 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.
- Taxes (31 links)
- Libertarians hate 'em! But minarchist libertarians (the vast majority) have no coherent answer to how to pay for even a minimal government. Libertarian and Republican criticisms of taxes usually overlap.
- Things Government Should Do (36 links)
- There are plenty of ideas of what governments should do born out by long history of where governments have been successful and where markets have failed. Not just defense, but things like basic research, infrastructure, social insurance and a host of other practical needs.
- A Dim View of Libertarianism, Part VI -- The Inevitability of Government [More...]
- "markets, private property and corporations are good things, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For these worthy and indispensable servants of the body politic can become cruel and insufferable masters, to prevent which, we establish laws and regulations -- i.e., government."
- A Thought About Property Without The State [More...]
- "I’d like to use a thought experiment to show how a world of solely private property is little different from our current world and how private property contains many of the arbitrary coercion that libertarians so passionately denounce in states."
- 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.
- Central Planning (12 links)
- Central planning is responsible for the largest fortune in the world: Walmart. It is behind the most economical medical care in the first world: everywhere but the US. Central planning in the former Soviet Union and Communist China also had pretty strong successes. Economics and history show that where the market fails badly, central planning is often a much better solution. For example, central planning is by far the best solution for territorial defense.
- Charter Cities (8 links)
- Libertarian Utopias! Libertarians want to experiment with Charter Cities: being given a region of their own to manage themselves. What we will probably see is is a corrupt autarchy controlled by international corporations and dependent on second class citizens or workers commuting in or out. A form of Crony Capitalism. You cannot assume democracy or civil equality for charter cities. The City of London is an actual existing charter city, and the state of Delaware is similar because corporations outnumber inhabitants.
- County Supremacy Movement (1 link)
- A crank idea that the only legitimate policing power belongs to the county sheriff. All higher government activity is a conspiracy to rob the people of their rights.
- Decentralizing Government (2 links)
- Libertarians frequently prefer to decentralize government power by moving it to the states. Sometimes that's not good planning. There is also a long history of "state's rights" as a justification for allowing slavery and later discrimination.
- Defense (1 link)
- Defense against predation both external and internal is a classic public good which libertarians have no real way of providing short of re-inventing government. Even Nozick thought private defense agencies would consolidate into a monopoly which would justifiably tax. Individualist plans for defense are fundamentally fantasy.
- Democide (9 links)
- R. J. Rummel's term for "killing of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder". It conveniently excludes much larger private and commercial killing such as drug deaths, especially by slow causes such as tobacco and pollution. It also conveniently overlooks lives saved by the efforts of the same governments. Democide numbers are much smaller than the numbers of lives saved by government eradication of smallpox (which killed an estimated 500 million in its last century of existence), let alone other vaccination, potable water, sewerage projects and other Public Health measures.
- Democracy (20 links)
- Representative democracy with division of powers is the other enlightenment theory (besides markets) that has created today's world. Libertarians often view democracy as opposing markets, grossly misrepresent it, and often overtly oppose democracy, calling it "mob rule" or tyranny.
- Dismantling Democracy: The forty-year attack on government... and the long game for the common good. [More...]
- Long-term conservative strategies to discredit government and secure political control over public goods have empowered plutocrats over the past 4 decades. An analysis of their strategies and recommendations on how to combat them. Includes libertarians and the Kochs.
- Government Cannot Do Anything Well (6 links)
- A common assumption of libertarian ideologues, which is easily belied by experience. Governments do much better than markets for a number of goods.
- Government Corruption Is Bad (5 links)
- Anti-corruption politics has been going on for millennia. It has been a major theme in Progressivism for well over a century. Corruption is a capitalist phenomenon: it is for private self-interest. Government has a significant role to play in anti-corruption efforts, both for government and private industry.
- Government Failure (2 links)
- Actually, this should be called Hierarchy Failure, and is ubiquitous in businesses as well as government. Generally used as a distraction from arguments about market failure -- an invalid demand for perfection from government (that is not made for business.) What matters is what combination of government and/or market is optimal.
- Government is only violence: it doesn't produce anything. Not. (2 links)
- A common libertarian ideological claim attempting to persuade you to overlook all defense, schools, infrastructure, research and other products of government. See also: State monopoly on violence.
- Governments are just the biggest mafias. (3 links)
- A prized libertarian claim for denouncing even the best governments. Mafias are capitalist, profit-making, private governments. Good modern governments are about PUBLIC benefit, not private benefits to owners of the government. This is a major theme in the Federalist Papers.
- Innovation (12 links)
- Libertarians ignore the enormous history and pervasiveness of government innovation to claim that innovation is primarily from the private sector. Both sectors are very important. Nor is innovation always beneficial, as we've seen from private financial innovation, which caused the great recession.
- Libertarian Economic And Political Experiments (17 links)
- Chile and New Zealand are often cited by libertarians as sites of successful libertarian economic reform. They tend to cite a few "benefits", but there are many downsides....
- Markets Are Created By Government (11 links)
- Modern markets rely on stable property, transportation, currency, educated workers and customers, and other factors with enormous market failures. Remove the government infrastructure of these, and markets will shrivel.
- Mercantilism And Industrial Policy Works (16 links)
- Merchantilism, protectionism and industrial policy (AKA dirigisme) have a long history of being effective in the US, Great Britain, postwar France, etc. with free trade being adopted only after dominance is achieved. These policies are responsible for the huge reductions in poverty in India, China, Korea, and the rest of eastern Asia. Government support of export industry is key.
- Mixed Economy (23 links)
- Existing markets are important parts of our mixed economies. The most socialist or communist economies in the world still use mixed markets, though they are more weighted towards central direction. Likewise the most capitalist economies are still weighted towards central direction within corporations.
- Private Government (13 links)
- Most workplace governments in the United States are dictatorships, in which bosses govern in ways that are largely unaccountable to those who are governed. They don't merely govern workers; they dominate them. These are feudal forms of tyranny and coercion. Our liberties (such as free speech) are often very restricted by private government.
- Public Expansions Of Liberty (17 links)
- Government creation of enforceable rights makes markets for those rights, as in cap and trade. Public safety protects us from crime and accidents, giving us the freedom to use our resources productively rather than protectively. Infrastructure such as roads lets us travel and do many things more freely.
- Public Goods And Club Goods (17 links)
- Libertarians often refuse to recognize public goods and club goods, or that governments have a role in their provision. The list of important goods with substantial public or club goods components is very long, and includes education, law, safety, health, transportation, research and much more. (Club goods are like public goods but excludable and only rivalrous with congestion.) Markets underproduce these because of the free rider problem.
- Radicalism (1 link)
- Libertarians are, by self-admission, radicals. They wish to overthrow numerous institutions and replace them with their idealist and untested private substitutes. Radicalism usually has horrendous results: let them try it some place with less to lose than the entire USA.
- Regulation (27 links)
- Regulation can protect important liberties, such as freedom from poisoning by pollution. Regulation can benefit by eliminating some bad choices or protecting from side effects. Complaints that regulation "destroys jobs" are laughable because ordinary productivity increases routinely destroy vast numbers of jobs. How many of us have farm jobs any more? Meeting regulatory requirements may even create new jobs.
- Reinventing Government Badly (10 links)
- It is patently obvious, even to many libertarians, that some form of government is needed. Libertarians thus reinvent governments according to their own lights as defense associations, private monarchies, and a variety of other bad solutions that privatize power.
- Research (5 links)
- Scientific research and statistical information gathering are vastly better performed by government, and underproduced by private actors. There’s a clear pipeline from government-funded discoveries to private-sector innovations. These are classic public goods.
- Social Security (13 links)
- Social security (and other social insurance such as Medicare) is one of the great enemies of libertarians and conservatives. They continually misrepresent it and claim alternatives are better. It is also the largest pot of money in the world: hence it's destruction would provide a huge windfall for the economically dominant.
- Society (3 links)
- Humans live in societies, and societies are inescapably political because humans have conflicting interests. All societies rely on coercion to enforce their rules. A libertarian society would be just as coercive (primarily about property) and political (enacting rules by force) as any democratic society, but libertarians don't usually seem to realize that: they often believe their rules are "natural". The difference is that libertarians don't want to allow any changes to their rules, no matter how unpopular they are.
- State monopoly on violence (3 links)
- This is a quotation out of context from Max Weber. He wroterther on : "The right to yse physical force is ascribed to other institutions or individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it." The state judges what violence is LEGAL, and often without a monopoly. This allows the state to permit and regulate violence by lesser governments and private parties, as well as making some of its own violence legal. We deliberately delegate much violence to the public state, because private parties are too partial when unregulated. Not to mention states are only local monopolies: there are 100+ states to choose from.
- The Choice Isn’t Between Capitalism or Socialism [More...]
- "All countries practice a mix of both, and the U.S. isn’t the free-market leader some might think. "
- Tragedy Of The Commons (8 links)
- The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource. In other words, due to capitalist greed. But there is only a tragedy of an UNREGULATED commons, as history has shown. Regulation is an obvious workable solution.
- Why Do Government Enterprises Work So Well? [More...]
- Bryan Caplan points out that Murray Rothbard's (and other economists) criticisms of government prove too much: they predict total government failure and cannot explain why government works as well as it does.
- Why Do Libertarians Believe In the Conquering State? [More...]
- "[Franz] Oppenheimer, still accepted as gospel by many twentieth and twenty-first century libertarians for his supposed grounding of libertarian conceptions of the State in the historical record, instead gave us a limited and incomplete account of the origins of caste rather than of the State."
To those who say they would shrink government without end, who say they would deregulate enterprise without end, who say they would cut taxes without end, it must forcefully be said, in the end, that you cannot have a civilization and eat it too.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Government may even be called the most beneficial of all earthly institutions as without it no peaceful human cooperation, no civilization, and no moral life would be possible.
Ludwig von Mises, "Economic Freedom and Interventionism"
Libertarians are a strange bunch. They are the most predictable of political thinkers since the answer to every social problem is the exact same thing: The cause of the problem is government and the solution is less government. Full stop.
John Jackson, "Frank Chodorov: Scrappy Libertarian, Crappy Oracle"
There is an alternative view of the state and law [...] found within the German historical school, the original American institutional economics, parts of the new institutional economics, and elsewhere. The basic proposition is that the state provides an essential social and legal scaffolding for all private enterprise. Consider property rights. Individual property is not mere individual possession; it involves socially acknowledged and enforced rights. Individual property is not simply a relation between an individual and an object. It requires some kind of customary, legal, and moral apparatus of recognition, adjudication and enforcement. Similar considerations apply to the market: rather than the mere ether of individual interaction, markets are social institutions. Most of them are structured in part by statutory rules.
Geoffrey Hodgson, "From Pleasure Machines to Moral Communities: An Evolutionary Economics without Homo economicus", pp. 158-9.
The evolution of government from its medieval, Mafia-like character to that embodying modern legal institutions and instruments is a major part of the history of freedom. It is a part that tends to be obscured or ignored because of the myopic vision of many economists, who persist in modeling government as nothing more than a gigantic form of theft and income redistribution.
Douglas North, "Institutions and economic growth: An historical introduction"
You must first make a government, before you can have property. There is no such thing as property without government.
General William Sherman, Letter to H. W. Hill, Camp on Big Black Septbr. 7. 1863
What has been created by this half century of massive corporate propaganda is what's called "anti-politics". So that anything that goes wrong, you blame the government. Well okay, there's plenty to blame the government about, but the government is the one institution that people can change... the one institution that you can affect without institutional change. That's exactly why all the anger and fear has been directed at the government. The government has a defect - it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect - they're pure tyrannies. So therefore you want to keep corporations invisible, and focus all anger on the government. So if you don't like something, you know, your wages are going down, you blame the government. Not blame the guys in the Fortune 500, because you don't read the Fortune 500. You just read what they tell you in the newspapers... so you don't read about the dazzling profits and the stupendous dizz, and the wages going down and so on, all you know is that the bad government is doing something, so let's get mad at the government.
Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism" May, 1945
There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such as, to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fair share in the common defense, or in any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection; and to perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a fellow-creature's life, or interposing to protect the defenseless against ill-usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man's duty to do, he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing.
John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"
In the particular circumstances of a given age or nation, there is scarcely anything really important to the general interest, which it may not be desirable, or even necessary, that the government should take upon itself, not because private individuals cannot effectually perform it, but because they will not.
John Stuart Mill, "Principles of Political Economy with Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy (7 ed.) Book V Chapter XI" pg. 606.
If the State may be said to properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for anyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property.
Murray Rothbard, "The Ethics of Liberty" p. 172.
Authority and liberty are interdependent, not simply opposed. As Kant, among others, made dear, rights (including property rights) are defined and enforced by the state. Referring to "natural rights," Emile Durkheim convincingly wrote that "the State creates these rights, gives them an institutional form, and makes them into realities." To violate liberal rights is to disobey the liberal state. In a sovereignless condition, rights can be imagined but not experienced. In a society with a weak state, such as Lebanon for the past decade, rights themselves are weak or underenforced. Statelessness means rightlessness, as the story of migrating Kurds, Vietnamese and Caribbean boat people, and many others should by now have made abundantly clear.
Stephen Holmes, "The Liberal Idea"
Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations"
Anarcho-capitalism exists; landownership just happens to be dominated by about 200 corporations called governments.
Karl Widerquist, "Why Do Philosophers Talk so Much and Read so Little About the Stone Age? False factual claims in appropriation-based property theory"