Exposing fake libertarianism


The desire for state action is largely motivated by fear and concern.  Leftists, for example, want the state to provide welfare and healthcare.  They fear that people won’t be able to survive or get treatment without it.  Conservatives want the state to provide police protection.  Without government police, they argue, crime would be rampant and life would be dangerous.

Libertarians, on the other hand, point out that the market and its voluntary transactions are superior to the state in providing any good or service.  Interference by the state in the market constitutes violence since there is no opting in or out by the parties on whom the state is imposing its will.  The interference adds cost and time and leads to inefficiency and distortions in the market.  State action, therefore, should be rejected for both moral and practical reasons.

This is difficult for most non-libertarians, i.e. statists, to accept because their intentions to make society better are genuine.  This does not excuse the violence they unwittingly propose and it certainly does not make the outcomes of their interventions any better.

This also applies to some libertarians who have recently begun to look to the state for solutions for problems are a bit more complex than usual.  There have been calls to enforce border control, institute a universal basic income, engage in wars overseas, and more.  If you are a libertarian and want to use the violence of the state to get what you want, how are you different from any other statist?

You say, “But my goals are pure!  I want to do what’s best for everyone!  I’m not muddled by biases and ignorance of economics and ethics!”

But isn’t that exactly what every statist says?  No one ever says, “My goal is to ruin the lives of the people who will be affected by this program.”  The fact that you advocate a prescription for central planning demonstrates that you have what F. A. Hayek referred to as the fatal conceit.  The implication of central planning is the possession of perfect knowledge and the solution to the economic calculation problem.

The common rebuttal to this is: “This is the best we can do at the moment.  We don’t have the framework for a stateless society yet.”  Maybe they will say that the welfare state needs to be eliminated first or that Muslim extremists need to be dealt with before we can pursue ideological purity.  But this would require the use of the institution that is the root of the problem to solve the problem.

Furthermore, this again is the same argument that the statist would use to defend any state program that he supports.  The statist would concede that if people weren’t selfish, shortsighted, stupid, evil, etc, then maybe the libertarian’s proposed market solutions would work.  But this is not a representation of reality, he argues, so the state is necessary to implement solutions.

If libertarians are to claim intellectual and moral high ground over statists, then they ought not use the same arguments and solutions as statists.