Libertarians Criticizing Each Other

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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.

In particular:

  • Abortion rights.
  • Has the US government initiated coercion enough that the Libertarian Party Pledge licenses revolt?
  • Consequentialism or natural rights (a priori) reasoning?
  • Non-Aggression or other principles?
  • Is Self-Ownership valid?
  • Is liberty a value or a right?
  • Religion or atheism?
  • Objectivism or libertarianism?
  • Austrian economics or Chicago economics?
  • Is Intellectual Property valid?
  • No government or minimal government?
  • Constitution of the US good or bad and why?
  • Georgist taxes or not?
  • Just what should be in a minimal government?
  • Are taxes justified to pay for school vouchers?
  • Should immigration be free or restricted?
  • Thick versus thin libertarianism?
  • Rationalist versus antirationalist?
  • "No True Libertarian would...." (The No True Scotsman Fallacy)
  • Koch allied or Rothbard allied?
  • For or against the Libertarian Party?
  • Purges within Objectivism, the Libertarian Party, The Cato Institute and other libertarian organizations for not following the party (or management) line.
  • Left or right libertarian?

The list goes on and on....

Links

A Critique of Narveson's The Libertarian Idea [More...]
"Despite having given us much food for thought and having described a more pragmatically appealing and credible kind of libertarianism than most radical writers, Narveson's claim to have provided a philosophically rigorous contractarian foundation for libertarianism must be rejected."
A Libertarian Rehabilitation of Hobbes [More...]
"[...] you, libertarian, are prepared to coerce your equal to do what you demand [...] you are prepared to subordinate your non-libertarian fellows to your will [...] Traditional libertarian, in at least one sense, Hobbes was less authoritarian than you."
A Tale of Two Libertarianisms [More...]
A review of Murray Rothbard's posthumous "Rothbard vs. the Philosophers", where Rothbard shits on everybody else who is not as pure as his style of libertarian.
Against Utilitarianism and Self-Ownership Defenses of Libertarianism [More...]
"Utilitarianism is too consequence-sensitive and self-ownership is too consequence-insensitive."
Are you a Real Libertarian, or a ROYAL Libertarian? [More...]
"... we base property rights on the principle that everyone is entitled to the fruits of his labor. Land, however, is not the fruit of anyone's labor, and our system of land tenure is based not on labor, but on decrees of privilege issued from the state, called titles."
Bitcoin Exposed [More...]
Paultard silver promotion versus Bitcoin evangelism. 26 reasons why Bitcoin is not as good as silver, when neither is a particularly good investment. A pox on both their houses!
Bullies, Sissies And Other Libertarian Nutjobs [More...]
Shanu Athiparambath's personal story of the wackiness of libertarians in India. Libertarianism is cross-culturally looney. He includes some excellent, relevant cartoons; but without needed statements of permission from their authors.
Confessions of a Recovering Ideologue, Part I [More...]
Gene Callahan claims to be post-ideological, which frees him to recognize that property is just as coercive as government.
Court Libertarians on Parade [More...]
Cato Unhinged attributes the CATO/Koch infighting to Ed Crane badmouthing David Koch. In addition, a scathing description of the underhanded political machinations of a supposedly "pure" organization.
Fanatical, Not Reasonable: A Short Correspondence Between Walter E. Block and Milton Friedman (on Friedrich Hayek ’s Road to Serfdom) [More...]
Milton Friedman did not like Walter Block's review of Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Friedman is very harsh: "you are a fanatic who finds it absolutely impossible to understand the thinking of anybody other than himself." Block is a smarmy, absolutist gasbag in response.
How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much? [More...]
Steve Horwitz denounces the paleolibertarian strategy of Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. "What the media has in their hands is only the tip of the iceberg of the really unsavory garbage that the paleo turn produced back then."
Immigration (6 links)
(Especially immigration restriction.) Libertarians have many stands on immigration. Some take the position that the state has no right to restrict freedom of movement. At the other extreme, some (including Milton Friedman) say that the welfare state should be able to restrict entry to save on welfare costs.
Intellectual Property Reform (11 links)
Many others besides libertarians propose reform or abolition of intellectual property, in part because there has been substantial regulatory capture. Some libertarians oppose it ideologically because it is obviously a government creation, others scream "my property!" Many non-libertarians pragmatically question whether it actually advances the useful arts. When intellectual property expires, it is returned to the commons; thus shortening of terms is often desired. The US Constitution does not mandate intellectual property because even then it was controversial whether it was a net benefit. A good alternative has been public subsidy of research.
Libertarian Admissions (1 link)
Every now and then, a famous libertarian backs himself into a corner and says something honest that conflicts with popular libertarian belief.
Libertarian Social Justice [More...]
Libertarian Paul Crider argues that libertarians conflate social justice with redistribution, which is only one solution to the numerous problems of oppression, exploitation, and other assaults on human dignity. Some excellent references and a much-needed start for opening the eyes of libertarians.
Look at the Violence Inherent in the System! [More...]
Libertarian Gene Callahan points out that private property is a social invention, which explains why some nations have "trespass" where others have "right to wander".
Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State [More...]
If you can ignore the standard libertarian tropes, this makes the good point that libertarians must not ignore racism but must actively combat it if they want to attact blacks.
Mises and Hayek Dehomogenized?: A Note on a Schism in Modern Austrian Economics [More...]
Some fratricidal minutiae of Austrian economics. "Both Misesians and Hayekians live in a fantasy world, with respect to the price system." You can skip the technical parts to appreciate the fanaticism of both sides.
Objectivism Versus Subjectivism: A Market Test [More...]
Ayn Rand's objectivism and Ludwig von Mises subjectivism are compared with a bizarre, self-parodic test. "We conclude that the market has spoken: Ludwig von Mises is the more important classical liberal thinker!" Really atrocious statistical bullshit. Gated.
Objectivism, Libertarianism and Anarchism [More...]
It's a three-way cage match to determine which ideology is the true standard bearer for liberty! An index of 25 webbed articles at the Objectivism Reference Center. A pox on all their houses.
On the Problematic Political Authority of Property Rights: How Huemer Proves Too Much [More...]
Kevin Vallier eviscerates Michael Huemer’s anarcho-capitalist "The Problem of Political Authority" by pointing out that the same arguments undermining political authority of a state also undermine the political authority of property.
Political Philosophy’s Fundamental Question [More...]
Libertarian philosopher Kevin Vallier explains why social contract theorists "got it right", which pretty much implies why almost all libertarians get it wrong.
Reading The Ethics of Liberty, Part 2 – Rothbard on Natural Law [More...]
Matt Zwolinski points out that right at the beginning, The Ethics of Liberty runs into the famous "is-ought problem" that David Hume identified as a fundamental problem of much philosophy.
Reading The Ethics of Liberty, Part 3 – Rothbard’s Confusion About Self-Ownership [More...]
"Rothbard proceeds to argue in the chapters that follow as if he had established the normative claims of self-ownership and ownership of external goods. Indeed, his entire understanding of the free society is based on these concepts. And so, the oversight here is not a minor one. It is, instead, absolutely fatal."
Reading The Ethics of Liberty, Part 4 – Rothbard’s Second Argument for Self-Ownership [More...]
" Rothbard’s argument for self-ownership, I will argue, reveals a basic mistake in his understanding of the concept of property – a mistake that plagues not only a great deal of Rothbard’s thought on the subject, but that of many other libertarians as well."
Self-Ownership Theses [More...]
"... we can see from the foregoing that the apparent simplicity and determinacy of the self-ownership principle is likely illusory."
The Alternative to Ideology [More...]
Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center claims to ditch corporate libertarianism in favor of more social justice. He accuses most libertarians of having drunk the kool-ade of Koch ideology.
The Case Against Egoistic, Libertarian Baby-Starving [More...]
"According to some Libertarians and Objectivists, it is permissible to abandon or refuse to feed one's children [...]"
The Contrarian Trap: The Source of the Liberty Movement’s Dark Side [More...]
"I think it is no surprise that many libertarians are also atheists, climate change deniers, paleo dieters, anti-psychiatry, conspiracy theorists, transhumanists, cryonics-supporters and hardcore nativists about intelligence."
The Failures Of Milton Friedman [More...]
With classic objectivist zeal, Slade Mendenhall is affronted because Milton Friedman criticized fellow libertarians Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises. His solution? Criticize Milton Friedman, with extra bonus points for strawmen and misrepresentation.
The Non-Aggression Principle Can’t Be Salvaged -- and Isn’t Even a Principle [More...]
Julian Sanchez points out "the non-aggression principle is ultimately circular, and shouldn’t be the basis for a libertarian theory of politics."
The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought [More...]
A celebration of the fall of communism as somehow a vindication of libertarianism, but also some good criticisms of libertarian failings. Especially with regard to organization of capital enterprises.
The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult [More...]
Murray Rothbard's scathing description of 1972 Objectivism as a cult. "Thus, power not liberty or reason, was the central thrust of the Randian movement." Excellent reporting.
Tyler Cowen: Statist, anti-Rothbardian agent of the Kochtopus [More...]
Tyler Cowen is a strong critic of Austrian and Rothbardian views, and he is hated for that.
What's Wrong With Libertarianism [More...]
Jeffrey Friedman, editor of Critical Review. thoroughly skewers four books on libertarianism. "Libertarian arguments about the empirical benefits of capitalism are, as yet, Inadequate to convince anyone who lacks libertarian philosophical convictions. Yet ‘philosophical’ libertarianism founders on internal contradictions that render it unfit to make libertarians out of anyone who does not have strong consequentialist reasons for libertarian belief. The joint failure of these two approaches to libertarianism explains why they are both present in orthodox libertarianism -- they hide each other’s weaknesses, thereby perpetuating them." Reviewed: Libertarianism, A Primer, by David Boaz; Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal, by David Conway; What It Means to Be a Libertarian, by Charles Murray; Bringing the Market Back In, by John Kelley.
Why Aren’t There More Black Libertarians? [More...]
If you can ignore the standard libertarian tropes that lard this article, it points out that blacks are familiar with the historic racism of capitalism both in the USA and abroad. And the extent of past and current racism within the libertarian movement.
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 I Am Not an Objectivist [More...]
Libertarian philosopher Michael Huemer accepts all but one of Ayn Rand's five major Objectivist claims: he does not agree that "Every person should always be selfish."

Quotations

I don't like Narveson's "teutonic" approach (of purporting to build up a logically rigorous philosophical structure from fundamentals) because once the author makes a logical error in the exegesis (and every author I've ever read makes many) everything that follows is suspect... a teetering pillar which can too easily become a monument to folly.
Paul Birch, "A Critique of Narveson's The Libertarian Idea"
I suspect most libertarians will respond that they can use coercion to protect their justly acquired property no matter what other reasonable people think. After all, libertarianism is true and statism is false. But that means that you, libertarian, are prepared to coerce your equal to do what you demand even though she has not agreed and will likely not agree were you to explain your reasoning to her. That is, you are prepared to subordinate your non-libertarian fellows to your will.
Kevin Vallier, "A Libertarian Rehabilitation of Hobbes"
Since many of the people who take a similar position [libertarianism] are narrow and rigid, and filled, paradoxically, with resentment at other freer ways of being, my now having natural responses which fit the theory puts me in some bad company.
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
Your tone is that of a theologian examining scripture, not a social scientist tackling existing institutions to improve them, or an open-minded analyst of partial improvements. You treat Hayek as if he didn’t understand the simple largely a priori principles of economic analysis that constitute your armory. Truth to tell, he was trying to analyze a far more complex reality than you are prepared to admit exists. There are indeed market failures, externalities, conflicts of “ultimate” values, ruled out by logic but not by imperfect human understanding. Every question does not have a simple logical answer.
Milton Friedman on Walter Block, "Fanatical, Not Reasonable: A Short Correspondence Between Walter E. Block and Milton Friedman (on Friedrich Hayek ’s Road to Serfdom)"
Hoppe has done us the great favour of demonstrating that the logical upshot of Rothbard's system is not "a new liberty," but a totalitarian plutocracy that tolerates no dissent whatsoever.
Gene Callahan, "Do You Know About..."
"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!"
Libertarians need to actively combat racial prejudice instead of relying on assumptions that the market will work it all out on its own. If libertarians are going to maintain that government answers to racism are usually inappropriate, then libertarians must be among those leading the private, society-driven remedies to injustice. It is not enough to be passively ‘not racist’—libertarians must be actively anti-racism. To do anything else is to accept the status quo and hide behind the logic of markets, despite the deeply seated, inherent illogic of racism.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
[T]here is a prevalent libertarian assumption that the dearth of black libertarians is traceable to black ignorance of the benefits of free markets, perhaps enabled by poor public schools. Yet one may argue that libertarians are largely ignorant of how exclusionary American markets were when its moneyed participants were left to their own devices.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
The dominant libertarian assumption that rational economic self-interest would trump racism if government just got out of the way fails to reckon with more than 200 years of evidence to the contrary. Consequently, the strident libertarian argument against positive law and government writ large flies directly in the face of the historical black experience. The federal government protected the rights of freedmen and established schools during Reconstruction, only to abandon blacks to Southern white terrorism in the name of States’ Rights. Positive law destroyed Jim Crow, breaking up both formal and informal segregation in accommodations not just in the South where it was law, but throughout other parts of the country where it was standard practice within a supposedly free market. The federal government took an active role in criminal justice because local police often did not investigate anti-black terrorism and murders -- or, if they did, sometimes testified in the murderers’ defense. And today, governments offer jobs with security and benefits in a job market that still disfavors blacks. This is not to say that blacks are particular fans of Big Government, but all of these government actions addressed problems in private society -- ranging from indifference to murderous hostility—that should test anyone’s faith in an unfettered free market.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
I would venture that many, if not most libertarians -- like the general American public -- haven’t come to terms with the widespread, systemic subversion of markets and democracy American racism wreaked on its most marginalized citizens. Consequently, libertarians have concentrated rather myopically on government reform as the sole function of libertarian social critique without taking full reckoning of what markets have failed to correct throughout American history.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
... I think the Austrian business-cycle theory has done the world a great deal of harm. If you go back to the 1930s, which is a key point, here you had the Austrians sitting in London, Hayek and Lionel Robbins, and saying you just have to let the bottom drop out of the world. You’ve just got to let it cure itself. You can’t do anything about it. You will only make it worse. You have Rothbard saying it was a great mistake not to let the whole banking system collapse. I think by encouraging that kind of do-nothing policy both in Britain and the United States, they did harm.
Milton Friedman, interviewed in Barron's (August 24, 1998)
What is wanting in many libertarian political theories is the recognition that property rights are coercive and so stand in need of justification to others.
Kevin Vallier, "On the Problematic Political Authority of Property Rights: How Huemer Proves Too Much"
Libertarian thought is wonderfully sound as far as it goes, but there are two gaping holes in it that that are now taking on a decisive importance. For one thing, there is no very distinct libertarian vision of community -- of social as distinct from economic process -- outside the state; the alluring libertarian contention that society would work better if the state could somehow be limited to keeping the peace and enforcing contracts has to be largely taken on faith. Nor have libertarians confronted the disabling hypocrisy of the capitalist rationale, which insists that while capitalists must have extensive freedom of action, their employees may have much less. Their analysis of how an invisible hand arranges economic resources rationally without authoritarian direction stopped abruptly at the factory gate. Inside factories and offices, the heavy, visible hand of management continues to rule with only token opposition.
Richard Cornuelle, "The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought", Cato Policy Report Volume XIV Number 1, pg. 10.
As the dust settles on the ruins of the socialist epoch, a second crippling deficiency of libertarian thought is becoming more visible and embarrassing. The economic methodology that the Russians have lately found unworkable still governs the internal affairs of capitalist and socialist countries alike. An economy presumably works best if it is not administered from the top; a factory presumably works best if it is.
Richard Cornuelle, "The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought", Cato Policy Report Volume XIV Number 1, pg. 12.
... all legal systems, including libertarianism, coercively enforce rules that assign the “ownership” of all persons and all bits of the world. Every legal system throws a net of coercion over the entire society it covers, prohibiting by force any deviations from its definitions of rights. Inasmuch as there is just as much of the world to be parcelled out under each system’s set of property rules, and the rights governing all of this property are just as coercively enforced in all systems, there is no difference in the “amount” of coercion -- or, conversely, the amount of (negative) freedom -- under different legal systems, including libertarianism... So, strictly in terms of negative liberty -- freedom from physical coercion -- libertarianism has no edge over any other system
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
Amartya Sen has pointed out that all contemporary moral theories, including libertarianism, are essentially egalitarian; we can press on from this observation to ask why, if (as Boaz maintains) the liberty of a human being to own another should be trumped by equal human rights, the liberty to own large amounts of property should not also be trumped by equal human rights. This alone would seem definitively to lay to rest the philosophical case for libertarianism.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
To my knowledge, all libertarian philosophers (except Conway), from Hayek to Nozick to James Buchanan to lesser-known writers such as Antony Flew and Tibor Machan, reject the positive-libertarian alternative, preferring to rely on the claim that only negative liberty is “real” liberty. It may be surprising that, 700 years after the collapse of Scholasticism, there should still be philosophers who assume that there are “correct” and “incorrect” definitions of words. But it would be a mistake to underestimate how important to libertarian philosophy is the conviction that only negative liberty captures the “essence” of the word liberty. Even if negative liberty is “true” liberty (and even if liberty is intrinsically valuable), however, this cannot constitute an argument for libertarianism without the further assumption that negative liberty is either uniquely or relatively embodied in libertarianism. The assumption that liberty is embodied in libertarianism relatively more than in other systems is necessarily false, however -- unless we are speaking of positive liberty -- since, as we have seen, there is no difference in the amount of negative liberty afforded people by libertarianism and by competing systems of property law.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism" pg. 431.
In editing a journal that has received manuscripts from virtually every libertarian scholar, famous and unknown alike, I have long been struck by the consistent juxtaposition of what another observer delicately calls the “intermingling of positive statements and normative pleadings”: the coincidence of libertarian philosophical sentiments with weak empirical research, leaps of logic, and contempt for nonlibertarian points of view (of which the authors usually appear ignorant). The polemical tone and deficient evidence, however, and the tarnishing of often-good ideas by doctrinaire rhetoric and low scholarly standards, are only the least of it. The worst thing is not the waste of effort that goes into producing propaganda barely veiled by the robes of scholarship. The greater tragedy is what libertarians could produce, but do not.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
Barry Goldwater, generally believed to be the most libertarian major party presidential candidate of the past hundred years, famously voted against the Civil Rights Act, the most liberating piece of federal legislation since the end of Reconstruction... This sort of adherence to principle at the expense of the tangible freedom of millions of African Americans sent a clear message of whose liberty received priority. Fairly or unfairly, holding such a man up as a hero of liberty sends a mixed message, at best.
Jonathan Blanks, "Why Aren’t There More Black Libertarians?"