Friday, June 28, 2013

More Misleading Attacks on 'Libertarianism'

The ongoing attempts to discredit "libertarianism" and "classical liberalism" are almost laughable, if so many smart people didn't uncritically accept the rhetoric:
While libertarianism as a philosophy is superficial, juvenile nonsense, particular libertarian proposals are sometimes worthwhile on their merits.
— from Michael Lind at;
Again, Lind conflates the Libertarian Party with libertarian and classically liberal ideals. The ideas he argues are "libertarian" are not, they are the ideas of a political party or a specific politician (Ron Paul), neither of which I consider representative of my ideals or the ideals of the thinkers I admire.

First, for me "classical liberalism" means one thing: freedom from government interference in my life; freedom from the threat of force and coercion to behave according to some majority idea of what is "best" for me.

My libertarianism is not about wealth. It is not about blind allegiance to the free market. It is about being left to live as I want, while appreciating that we must all live together and make some social compromises. Adam Smith, J. S. Mill, and even Thoreau influence my ideals. When we must collaborate and share responsibilities, we must ensure that the common good does not unnecessarily infringe on liberty.

The free market and capitalism I support is not crony capitalism or corporatism. And, it is not about maximizing profit. It is about being free to market my ideas, my inventions, and my labor on an open, transparent market. This does require the rule of law, contract enforcement, and a great deal of morality. But, it also requires limited regulation — something Lind and others assume all "classical liberals" reject, which is not the case. We reject over-regulation and regulation of private behaviors.

We must worry about government and industry collaborating (colluding) against the people and other businesses. That is why I want government limited and constrained. Social engineering and economic planning, via tax policies or any other regulations, comes with unintended consequences. Government should respect and protect individual freedom, and that means not trying to save us from ourselves.

Lind claims libertarianism is the following:
Maybe at some point in the future some country will take the plunge and unilaterally adopt the gold standard, replace police and soldiers with private contractors, abolish all taxation except for a flat, regressive consumption tax, eliminate all public safety net programs, eliminate most or all environmental and occupational regulations, allow foreigners to move in and out of its territory without registration or regulation, and so on. And maybe that regime will even endure for a while, instead of quickly collapsing or suffering rejection by voters with buyer's remorse.
As with many embracing Austrian economics, I do not support the gold standard. I prefer it to some fiat currency models, but it is no panacea. Gold is just another artificial representation of barter. I don't care what people use as money, as long as I can trade goods and services equitably and conveniently. And yes, I know transactions are never "perfect" in economics, but that's true whether we use gold or traditional barter. Each party wants to benefit from an exchange. The gold standard is simple-minded, but exists because people fear currency manipulation. That's a different issue.

Why in the world would anyone want to replace police or the armed forces with contractors? Maybe some lunatics suggest such nonsense, but I want police to be answerable to elected officials, who are in turn answerable to voters. The "common defense" is a legitimate role of all governments. The idea of "corporatized" law enforcement reminds me too much of the Robocop movies or the Continuum series on SyFy.

I also have no desire to abolish all taxes, though I do support — as Adam Smith did — a simplified system with far fewer tiers and exemptions. That's not a radical idea. A complex tax system encourages gaming of the system, especially by those with the resources to get special favors written into laws and regulations.

Consumption taxes are problematic, since people are taxed on income and wealth (property) already. I fear that adding any new tax won't replace or reduce existing taxes. Sales taxes are already ridiculously complex. I understand use taxes, such as toll roads, while I also understand those can be regressive. There is no ideal tax system, but taxes are necessary to support even a smaller, more restricted government. I'm always open to ideas on improving the system.

You get the idea. Attacks on classical liberalism assume there is "one" set of policies all libertarians and classical liberals might support. That's not the case. We can agree that freedom is primary, yet disagree on how to best promote and protect that individual sovereignty.

Libertarianism is no more one thing than any other political school of those can be reduced. Curiously, commentators admit there are many "Marxisms" without admitting the same of classical liberalism.

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