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Freedom Is NaturalThis is our Burning Libertarian Question (BLQ) of the day.

This is an issue that goes to the core of people’s misunderstanding of what Libertarianism actually means and it is also a very common tactic used by our opponents.

THE ARGUMENT

It is being argued that “some” types or Libertarianism may be OK while others are too extreme or unrealistic. Typically what is “OK” is determined by the opponent’s political point of view. For example, if our opponent likes the left then Left-Libertarians will be more-or-less OK while Right-Libertarians not so much. Thus, from this person’s point of view the former is “Good” and the latter is “Evil”.

Once this has been established, opponents typically then proceed to create a “straw man” type of argument. This type of false argument method is based on the idea of first creating a false and non-existent position for your target (a “straw man”) and then proceeding to attack this position. The falsehood of this tactic originates in the fact that the “straw man” is a flawed artificial entity specifically created so that it could be attacked and it does not represent the actual philosophy or position of the target. Or at least it does so in a flawed manner, thus creating successful ways of attack that would not exist otherwise.

The last step in this process is to attack this “straw man” because it is “Evil”. Once its “Evilness” has been “proved”, it is extended to the entirety of Libertarianism to one degree or another.

There!

Libertarianism is Evil.

THE REALITY

Let’s begin by saying that yes!, all kinds of Libertarianisms do exist. That is at the core of Libertarianism. As Libertarians, we are all free to do as we please and thus each one of us will choose to do something different. Therefore there will be as many Libertarianisms out there as there are Libertarians. Because each one of those Libertarianisms is different from the next one, they will cover the entire political spectrum from left to right. As such they will carry with them some of the ideas from the left and/or from the right. Therefore, they will also carry with them some of the flaws from the left and some of the flaws from the right.

This is to be expected. No political theory is perfect and, if you look at the political theories of our opponents, you will notice that they are not only imperfect but they have been proven disastrous by history! So much for an “objective” point of view!

Constructing a “straw man” is in and by itself a flawed tactic that is universally recognized as… well… flawed! However, in this case, it is done very cleverly. They are not creating a “straw man” from Libertarianism itself (this would be too obvious) but only from one Libertarian tendency, the one that it is easiest to attack successfully. Once this is done, the conclusions are extended to all libertarian points of view. Voila! Guilt by association without even looking at the arguments!

THE ARGUMENTS

What are the most commonly used arguments assigned to Libertarianism?

  • That Libertarianism is a reaction against over-regulation.
  • That many major problems can be solved through a hands-off approach.
  • That governments can’t do anything right.
  • That the market (and particularly industry) can’t do anything wrong.

We don’t deny that some Libertarian points of view do indeed hold those positions, but we need to understand them within the context of Libertarianism. For every person that so believes, there are many other Libertarians that do not. And this is important. This is so because there really isn’t a set of Libertarian currents in the same manner that they exist in “normal” political theories. There isn’t a defined and clearly delineated “Libertarian Left” for that matter. What exist is a set of Libertarians with Left orientations. On the same token, we don’t have an organized “Libertarian Right”. What we have is a set of Libertarians with Right-leaning points of view. As such, every Libertarian is free to accept or reject any and all of those arguments, regardless of where this person stands in the “normal” (left or right) political spectrum. What this means is that it is not possible to attack a specific Libertarian point of view because such point of view is likely to be unique to a specific person and not to a specific Libertarian tendency.

Opponents to Libertarianism use the tactics that we have described because they realize that Libertarianism is the ultimate distributed political theory. It has no centre. It is not commanded nor controlled by a unified point of view. It is not guided by a set of standardized principles. As such, it is impossible to defeat because it requires the defeat of every single Libertarian and this creates an insurmountable obstacle.

THE ANALYSIS

Part of this “straw man” attack takes the position that Libertarians act based on some sort of “deep seated belief” on their ideas instead of being amenable to discuss and analyze issues. Basically, the accusation is that they act on pure faith. And again, some Libertarians may do just that, but this is not the case. The case is that every single Libertarian person decides by him/herself whether or not to act on faith alone or to defer to rationality. And this decision is not based on a specific Libertarian current but on personal choice.

Most Libertarian opponents do not understand this process. They believe that certain Libertarian currents exist, just like well-defined Left or Right political currents exist. Take for example socialism; “social democrats” are more-or-less the same having more-or-less the same points of view regardless of which country you happen to live in. They all use the same economic and political tools to try to achieve the same “social” goals. Yes, many people have different ideas within socialism, but they all act in the same manner. This is no coincidence because all socialisms originate in the same political principles.

Libertarianism, on the other hand, originates on the idea that there is no higher political principle than individual freedom. Therefore Libertarianism opens the doors to political choice while other political theories close them to a very narrow gap.

There is a gigantic difference between having different “socialist” points of view and having and infinite number of Libertarianisms.

OUR POINT OF VIEW

It is for this very reason that declare that we will attempt to answer questions from a generic point of view as much as possible because answering them from our point of view wouldn’t be representative of anything… other than the distributed nature of Libertarianism.

And how would we answer the most common arguments above listed?

That Libertarianism is a reaction against over-regulation.

To a degree yes, it is. But so what? Isn’t every political theory a reaction to something? Communism didn’t appear as a hobby but as a possible solution to poverty and to what was perceived as “exploitation”. Libertarianism is mostly a reaction to piss-poor political theories that meddle in our life with no end in sight.

That many major problems can be solved through a hands-off approach.

By hands-off it is understood as government hands-off. This is correct. Libertarians do so believe, but this belief is not based on faith but on historical facts. Most problems were actually solved by people, not governments. This being the case, why should we believe otherwise? For example, socialist do hold the opposite view, that government can solve anything, even though that history has proven them wrong time and time again. However, we don’t see too many people posing this reversed argument!

That governments can’t do anything right.

Again, yes. Some Libertarians do so believe, but many don’t. Left-Libertarians believe that governments are necessary and as a matter of fact that government can and do things the right way. The Right-Libertarians also so believe but for very different reasons. Many Libertarians however believe that although governments can do some things right, the price we pay for a few “rights” is ridiculously high because it implies having a government which will do many, many things wrong.

That the market (and particularly industry) can’t do anything wrong.

And yes, some do so believe. However, most Libertarians do acknowledge that there is no guarantee in the marketplace, other than self-interest. It is through this self-interest that industry strives to do right, even when it gets many things wrong. We know that this is true because we see it every day in action. This is so common that it even receives a name in Austrian Economics, it is called Catallactic competition. The Libertarian point of view in this case is the opposite to the one dealing with governments. It is worth having a completely free industry because this industry provides many, many rights at the price of only a few wrongs.

GOOD AND BAD LIBERTARIANS

And so we get to the core of the issue. Giving all what we said above, it is patently clear that labeling any kind of Libertarianism as Good or Bad makes no sense whatsoever unless you are referring to the specific belief of one Libertarian.

That's right. The One. That One and nobody else.

Thus, concluding, people using these kinds of flawed tactics and arguments condemn the entirety of Libertarianism due to their point of view about One Libertarian. That's right. The One. That One and nobody else.

So much for fairness and objectivity!

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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