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.
An important class 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.
NEW 6/06/2017: Anything private enterprise can do, government should be able to do too.
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.
Education as signalling [More...]
Our libertarian friends at Koch George Mason University frequently claim expensive educations are a form of signally 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 (1 link)
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
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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.
Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism [More...]
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.
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.
Libertarians Misunderstand Government
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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.
Musical Chairs Theory Of Economic Justice
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 (11 links)
Political libertarianism is the most important libertarianism because we are continually exposed to it through the media. It is a mass market astroturf libertarianism. 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?
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.
The US is a republic, not a democracy.
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 four fields consider rights: philosophy, law, economics, and anthropology. A good model would be compatible with all four fields.
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.

Quotations

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"
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