One of the recurring criticisms I hear regarding libertarianism is this: “What you’re describing is utopia.”
To me, this dismissal demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of liberty, economics, and praxeology. Then there’s also the irony that those who feel this way and advocate for some degree of central planning are themselves the actual promoters of utopia.
Just listen to the questions about how a free society would function. How do you prevent murders? How do you prevent corporations from exploiting their workers? How do you deal with racism and bigotry? How do you make sure there are no poor?
Libertarians don’t claim that they can solve these issues once and for all. And most libertarians will include in their answers to these questions with “Well, how well has government done with those issues?” To make up for this, many will rephrase their questions (or simply begin their line of questioning this way). You want murders? You think it’s good for corporations to exploit their workers? You like racism and want minorities to suffer? You think that the poor should stay poor?
In reality, based on the track record of government, the libertarian should be the one asking those questions to the statist.
Because the advocate of central planning ignores that his criticisms of libertarianism should definitely be applied to his own views, that government would solve those problems, doesn’t that make his views utopian? Remember, not many people look back to how any given government evolved throughout history and wanted to go back to it, but it doesn’t stop them from trying over and over again. What masks this is that he’ll defend his positions by stating, “The government isn’t doing what it should be doing. If it did things my way or put into power the right people, they’d be able to solve those problems.” Of course, we all know that no two people would ever be in agreement on what government should be doing. We have yet to find a “just” government or even a government that took an overall path towards more justice over the course of its term.
What sets libertarianism apart is that it advocates for a form of society that realistically describes the way people will act, including behaving poorly, i.e., act in their own self-interest (do not confuse self-interest with selfishness). This acknowledges that man is fallible. While this is a general statement about people—this includes every single person as an individual, no one is exempt from the possibility of making mistakes. This is the honesty of libertarianism. An honest libertarian will not claim to eliminate injustice, but will instead claim that as a society becomes freer, the incentive to act unjustly lessens.
Statist societies, however, must make the assumption that people will act counter to their own self-interest. So not only must each ruler’s intentions be perfect, but their decisions and actions must also be perfect in order for this system to work justly by the criteria they created. This contradiction is their own fault since they’re basing their judgment of libertarianism on its supposed inability to prevent or solve any given number of injustices that continue to exist no matter the type of government in power.
If you compare central planning to libertarianism, you must compare apples to apples. It doesn’t work if you compare a hope to a straw man.