From Critiques Of Libertarianism
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The ideological universe of libertarians: how to view them with less distortion from propaganda.


Liberty (45 links)
Liberty, or freedom, is a zero-sum game. For me to have a liberty, your liberty must be restricted by a duty not to interfere. The liberty of your nose depends on a coercive duty imposed on me to not swing my fist into it. Liberty can be redistributed, but not created or destroyed. Pretending otherwise is one of the great frauds of libertarianism.
Rights (25 links)
Libertarians play fast and loose with ideas of rights. If they are not resorting to Natural Rights or claiming that all rights are property rights, they are making up rights out of thin air that serve their purposes. Rights are human-created social relationships: we create the many and varied rights we are willing to enforce. No rights are absolute, as in the metaphor "sphere of rights". Actual legal rights much more resemble Swiss cheeses.
Property (52 links)
Property, like all rights, is a coercive social institution, not a mystical relationship of individuals with objects. Property redistributes liberty: it protects some specific liberty for owners, and coercively denies that liberty to all others. The pretense that property is not coercive is one of the great libertarian lies.
Coercion (24 links)
Coercion is used in libertarian propaganda to brand things they don't like. Property and rights are fundamentally coercive; pretending that they are not coercive with the excuse "defensive force" is one of the great libertarian lies. We choose public government to perform our desired coercion, because people are too partial to their own interests to be trusted.
Philosophical Individualism (10 links)
Individualism is merely one viewpoint in an enormous hierarchy of viewpoints ranging from Planck length to the universe. Individualism as a tenet of a philosophy transforms that philosophy into a Procrustean bed that cannot model the real world well, because the real world is not based on individuals.
Government (40 links)
Libertarians demonize government and grossly misrepresent the nature of government, the effects of government and the differences between governments.
Markets (24 links)
Existing markets are not spontaneous: they are social institutions that have been often created, heavily modified and regulated by governments throughout history. Because markets are amoral, they need regulation. Markets are not distinctive to capitalism; they exist in all economic systems more sophisticated than a hunter-gatherer economy.
Capitalism (53 links)
Capitalism (and entrepreneurship) are based upon the coercion that creates rights. Capitalism, like fire, is most valuable when it is used only for desired purposes (regulated), not burning indiscriminately. Without strong regulation, capitalism is responsable for colonialism, imperialism, mafias, slavery and many other atrocities. Capitalism always exists as a part of a Mixed Economy or Social Democracy. Bartering and other exchanges, even in markets, do not make capitalism: private ownership of the means of production does. Indeed, markets are not distinctive to capitalism; they exist in all economic systems more sophisticated than a hunter-gatherer economy. A major problem of capitalism is that generally the upper classes rob the lower classes.
Descriptions Of Libertarianism (31 links)
Libertarianism is far too amorphous an agglomeration of contradictory propaganda, pseudophilosophy, economic twaddle, legal phantasm, historical revisionism, and other fabulist nonsense to be well described. There are numerous varieties of libertarianism, so no one description will suffice. Here are some overviews and classifications that will give you a broader picture of libertarianism.
Libertarians Criticizing Each Other (44 links)
Libertarianism is full of schisms over numerous philosophical and political points. We hardly need invent criticisms when libertarians create them plentifully to argue with each other.
Selfishness (5 links)
Selfishness (closely related to greed) is a variable characteristic of humans that the state channels into (often) productive behavior in capitalism. Without state-organized large-scale restrictions on when to permit selfishness, we wouldn't have capitalism: we'd have organized crime. Where selfishness is insufficiently regulated, we have enormous harms.
Analyzing Libertarian Arguments (15 links)
First steps to analyzing libertarian arguments. Libertarian arguments literally make every fallacy of logic and informal fallacy of argument. After a while, it gets fairly easy to spot the problem in the arguments. Here are some of the major problems.
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.
Epidemics (4 links)
Libertarians have no way of defeating epidemics of contagious diseases. Their ideology does not allow quarantine, mandatory vaccination, and other measures that are essential to stopping epidemics such as Ebola, Corona virus, SARS, measles, polio, smallpox, etc.
Fallacies Of Ideology (40 links)
Ideology commonly makes a number of different mistakes than more ordinary philosophy.
How Ideology Blocks Reality [More...]
"Upon encountering an objection to one's ideology, divert the discussion into something that is related to the objection but actually does not respond to it at all. Make a valid point about that side-topic. From then on, whenever someone raises that objection, note the valid point made on the side-topic, and then say, "So that is handled in the literature: I can't believe you don't know that!""
How Libertarian Ideas And Attitudes Are Spread (62 links)
The spread of libertarianism is not due to some "truth" or intrinsic goodness. Libertarianism would have stayed a fringe belief were it not for enormous public relations programs financed for generations by the extremely wealthy.
Ideas Libertarians Do Not Own (27 links)
Some ideas are described as libertarian, but in reality have long been held by innumerable others. Drug legalization, for example.
Ideology Underlies Economics (6 links)
Claims that economics is a non-ideological science are transparently false. There's far more evidence than just the right-wing funding of Chicago Economics, Austrian Economics, and the George Mason University Economics Department. The ideology goes back at least to John Locke, who provided justifications for his class' policies of expropriation and enslavement. The wealthy have always created economic ideology to justify their wealth.
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 Ideas the Public Rejects Strongly (3 links)
Many fundamental ideas of libertarianism, such as greatly reducing or eliminating government, are vey strongly rejected by the public.
Libertarian Propaganda Terms (102 links)}
Libertarian and conservative think-tanks have labored mightily to make propaganda terms such as libertarian and free market part of the thinking of ordinary people. Most libertarians have no idea how they are manipulated by this perversion of language and how it creates their ideology, starting with the word libertarian itself (which everywhere else still means "anarchist".) Frames, phatic expression, shibboleth, terms of art: very simply, they have a coded meaning for libertarians that is not standard English.
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.
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 Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism (book, online)
Supposedly allows examination without preaching. Some very good overview and summary information. "Among the Handbook's chapters are those from critics who write about what they believe libertarians get right as well as others from leading libertarian theorists who identify what they think libertarians get wrong."
Why Free Market Ideology is a Double Lie [More...]
"Free-market thinking is effective, I believe, but not at promoting freedom and autonomy. Instead, it promotes the growth of hierarchy and the accumulation of power." Based on group selection theory. Good takedown on Ayn Rand and a slap at the Kochs as well.


[...] 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"
[A blind spot]... a simply weird refusal to acknowledge the huge role played by money and monetary incentives promoting bad ideas.
Paul Krugman, "Conservative Intellectuals: Follow the Money"
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’"
Ideology is not so much a way of seeing the world as it is a set of blinders designed to keep you going in the ‘right’ direction, even when you would normally bolt and run the other way from horror at the sight of the place your faceless rider, Ideology, is taking you.
Daniel Larison, "If History Is For Us, Who Then Is Against Us?"
The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful -- not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom "to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values.... In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and 'being at peace with oneself'" There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.
Pontifical Council for Social Communications, "Ethics in Internet"
Ideology is the curse of public affairs because it converts politics into a branch of theology and sacrifices human beings on the thoughts of abstractions.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "Foreign Policy and The American Character"
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"
We have to start by decoding a whole system of intellectual distortion before you can even talk.
Noam Chomsky, "Libertarianism vs. American Libertarianism @5:00"
The essential unifying idea in this core of libertarian ideology is that the existence of rights and the propriety of liberty are either obvious, or matters of faith, or sufficiently explained by the word “natural”; accordingly, deeper moral or philosophic arguments in support of them are unnecessary. Why provide philosophic arguments for that which people can know by just opening their eyes, or closing their eyes, or waving their hands and saying “natural”? The fact is that people do not and cannot know anything about the nature of rights or the propriety of liberty by such means.
Craig Biddle, "Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism"
The only self-evident fact about rights is that rights are not self-evident.
Craig Biddle, "Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism"
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"
Libertarian capitalism... is a curious ideology in many ways... On the one hand, the sanctity of private property and private contracts is held to be a matter of inalienable natural right, guaranteed by the fundamental facts of morality, if not a basic part of Objective Reality; capitalism is the Right Thing to Do. On the other hand, much effort is devoted to arguing that unfettered laissez-faire capitalism is also the economic system which will produce the greatest benefit for the greatest number, indeed for all, if only people would just see it. Natural right therefore coincides exactly with personal interest. A clearer example of wishful thinking could hardly be asked for.
Cosima Shalizi, "Liberty! What Fallacies Are Committed in Thy Name!"
"Is the main difference between you and, say, Stephan Kinsella, that Stephan can give a long answer to the question, "OK, how do we define a just law?" whereas your answer is, "I don't know, but I know Nazism doesn't count"?" Close, but not quite. Stephan can give you a long and detailed answer because he has an ideology. The purpose of ideology is to do away with the need for practial judgment and replace it with rules. I could tell you, but not in the abstract. Imagine sitting between a really skilled NBA coach and some "average fan" at a bar. Your team is down 10 and falling further behind with 5 minutes to go. The fan is likely to have a rule like "They have to put in a three point shooter!" But, if you ask the coach, "I don't know -- it would depend, depend on who I have on the bench, how much I've played them, who is on the other team, how the game is developing, the crowd, and more." So, now Murphy says to the coach, "If you're so smart, how come he had a ready answer and you don't?" Essentially, in a series of posts in which I've been criticizing ideology, you're here responding, "Well, then, what is YOUR ideology?"
Gene Callahan, "Look at the Violence Inherent in the System!"
There is nothing wrong with markets, private entrepreneurship, or incentives -- when deployed appropriately. Their creative use lies behind the most significant economic achievements of our time. As we heap scorn on neoliberalism, we risk throwing out some of neoliberalism's useful ideas. The real trouble is that mainstream economics shades too easily into ideology, constraining the choices that we appear to have and providing cookie-cutter solutions.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
[W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
George Orwell, "Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell"
Similarly, those selling an ideology also take advantage of antiscience conspiracy theories, and vice-versa. In other words, many conspiracy theories are tactical. In other words, the origin of some conspiracy theories is not genuinely held erroneous beliefs, but rather they are the result of an intentional campaign of disinformation designed to produce a political or ideological end... Conservative free market fundamentalists, who abhor anything that would justify a larger role for government or increased government regulation, are more than happy to spread the conspiracy theory behind climate science denial.
David Gorski, "Science denial: A form of conspiracy theory"
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"
[T]here is a sub-culture of libertarian "philosophers" and scholars that have their own "institutes" and meet regularly at conferences around the world... This alternate universe is comprised principally of economists and scholars from third-rate colleges and state universities whose "theories" were generally ignored....
David Vickrey, "The (Sick) Mind Of Hans-Hermann Hoppe"
Ideology means taking some idea -- often legitimate in its own sphere -- to the extreme... Ideology offers certainty -- clear cut choices between good and evil, truth and falsehood. It pretends to have scientific answers to complex problems and holds out one easy standard to judge all cases. It thus relieves thinkers of the tedium involved in making difficult distinctions. In Procrustean fashion, ideologues cut facts to fit their ideas, rather than ideas to fit the facts. More often than not, their claims to science turn out to be little more than manipulative quackery.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex: Industry, Labor, and Government in the American Economy, Second Edition"
In his book Free To Choose, Milton Friedman analyzes the difficult question of the inequality of rewards that is an obvious feature of the distribution systems we find in capitalism, and he raises for consideration whether this unevenness is "fair." If fairness means equality, he concedes, the distribution system under capitalism would not be fair, but Friedman goes on to say that inequality is part of life. Some people are born with better looks than others, some with more native abilities, some with musical abilities. Admitting that it is easier to interfere with the distribution of property than of talent, he asks "From the ethical point of view is there any difference between the two?" There is such a difference——although perhaps it escapes Friedman's eye——namely, that whereas the distribution of talents is a matter beyond human intervention, the distribution of property is not. Friedman is a brilliant man, but in his attempt to defend capitalism from the charge of unfairness he is not. He cannot see the differences because he is an ideologue.
Robert Heilbroner, "The Embarrassment of Economics"
If you want to know why a bushman hunting party divides its kill as it does, you read an anthropologist, not an economist.
Robert Heilbroner, "The Embarrassment of Economics"
... in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
Bertrand Russell, "The Triumph of Stupidity", 1933.
The libertarian movement annoys me because I feel like it's sucked up a lot of mental energy, creativity, and idealism that could have been put to better use - like the communist movement did generations earlier. I think it did some good, but it's a maximalist, package-deal ideology, and like all such ideologies it's gone into la-la land. I don't think it's killing the country but I think it's done some damage. So there you go.
Noah Smith, "The libertarian solution to inequality"
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"
Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions.
Blaise Pascal in Top Atheist Quotes
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)"