Libertarianism

Is This The Worst Argument Against Libertarianism Ever? No, But It is the Most Recent.

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As one of the folks (along with Matt Welch, natch), who started the whole "Libertarian Moment" meme way back in 2008, it's been interesting to see all the ways in which folks on the right and left get into such a lather at the very notion of expanding freedom and choice in many (though sadly not all) aspects of human activity.

Indeed, the brain freeze can get so intense that it turns occasionally smart people into mental defectives.

To wit, Damon Linker's recent essay in The Week (a great magazine, by the way), which argues that the outcomes of U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Libya disprove libertarianism, in particular, the Hayekian principle of "spontaneous order."

No shit. Linker is being super-cereal here, kids:

Now it just so happens that within the past decade or so the United States has, in effect, run two experiments — one in Iraq, the other in Libya — to test whether the theory of spontaneous order works out as the libertarian tradition would predict.

In both cases, spontaneity brought the opposite of order. It produced anarchy and civil war, mass death and human suffering.

You got that? An archetypal effort in what Hayek would call "constructivism," neocon hawks would call "nation building," and what virtually all libertarians (well, me anyways) called a "non sequitur" in the war on terror that was doomed to failure from the moment of conception is proof positive that libertarianism is, in Linker's eyes, "a particularly bad idea" whose "pernicious consequences" are plain to see.

In the sort of junior-high-school rhetorical move to which desperate debaters cling, Linker even plays a variation on the reductio ad Hitlerum in building case:

Some bad ideas inspire world-historical acts of evil. "The Jews are subhuman parasites that deserve to be exterminated" may be the worst idea ever conceived. Compared with such a grotesquely awful idea, other bad ideas may appear trivial. But that doesn't mean we should ignore them and their pernicious consequences.

Into this category I would place the extraordinarily influential libertarian idea of "spontaneous order."

What nuance: Exterminating Jews may be the worst idea…! When a person travels down such a rhetorical path, it's best to back away quickly, with a wave of the hand and best wishes for the rest of his journey. Who can seriously engage somebody who starts a discussion by saying, "You're not as bad as the Nazis, I'll grant you that"…? I'd love to read his review of the recent Teenage Mutant Ninjas movie: "Not as bad as Triumph of the Will, but still a bad film…"

But in fact Linker attributes to Hayek and other libertarians a definition of spontaneous order (sometimes called the "extended order," as in Hayek's Fatal Conceit) that is made of the finest straw. In Hayek's writing—and that of most libertarians and classical liberals who preceded them—the term is essentially a modern vision of Adam Smith's "invisible hand."

That is, it helps to explain how goods and services and all sorts of social organization form absent centralized planning (or how alternatives crop up in the face of centralized planning). Especially in the context of the 18th and even the 20th century, the idea that markets and people could function autonomously from rulers dictating virtually every aspect of life wasn't take for granted. Explaining how complicated social and economic activity could happen absent such oversight and control was one of the main projects of liberal thought. 

Like Smith, Hayek was no anarchist, and spontaneous order is precisely about how rules, customs, and traditions inherited from the past inform current arrangements and how we evolve and add to them, sometimes displacing them altogether. An obvious example of spontaneous order from the contemporary moment isn't Iraq or Libya but something like the way Uber operates vis a vis traditional taxi cartels. The system of taxis is heavily regulated and all the participants are subject to varying levels of state coercion. By contrast, Uber started as an experimental service that built rules, customs, and norms that continue to be tweaked based on feedback from everyone involved.

The central insight of Hayek—and most libertarian thinkers—is simply this (I'm quoting from the very page Linker links to in his Week piece) is that things generally work better (not perfectly, but better) when people are given more space to choose among options or to create new options for themselves. That's as true in the social and cultural spheres as it is in the economic sphere.

As Hayek wrote,

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals. 

Tom Walls

That's from Hayek's Nobel prize lecture, which was titled "The Pretense of Knowledge." Though sometimes terrible in his personal political commitments, Hayek's first instinct was always to combat constructivism, or the idea that a few smart, violent, or powerful people have all the answers and can direct the rest of us toward some form of human perfection. 

Hayek's emphasis on the limits of human knowledge helps explain the tyranny of people such as Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein in Libya and Iraq, Islamists who want to control every aspect of human life, and the Nazis whom Linker feels a need to insert into random conversation about contemporary politics. They all sought or seek to do the impossible (control all aspects of human life) and the immoral (use other people as means to their ends). It's a shame that defenders of the invasion of Iraq didn't read more Hayek before settling on their plan, and it seems as if the brilliant minds who bombed Libya into chaos (and are doing so in Syria as we speak) skipped any and all classes on the Austrian School of economics.

It takes real chutzpah to pretend that self-evidently stupid foreign policy disasters based on the worst sort of hubris undermine a contemporary libertarian agenda focused on reduced government spending on defense (among other things), a general deregulation of economic activity (recall the housing and fiscal crises, which were caused and intensified not by lack of government involvement but a surfeit of it), and a push for tolerance in the social sphere.

At least Linker's colleague at The Week, Matt Lewis (who also blogs at The Daily Caller), is more forthright in his response to creeping libertarianism. Rather than construct a bad argument against libertarianism, Lewis simply points out that, to quote his piece's headline, it's "bad for traditional conservatives." Indeed, Lewis can't be bothered to generate new arguments for his piece and instead cites a 2011 column he wrote quoting a Catholic thinker who says "libertarianism is parasitic upon Christian civilization." Which would be news to Roger Williams, among other Christian thinkers who stress the indivdual's right of conscience as central to legitimate government. It's actually more accurate to say the classical liberal project that started in 17th-century England is in many ways based upon a Christian respect for the individual. In making the first case in the English language for a fully secular temporal government, Williams argued that forced prayer or worship "stinks in God's nostrils."

Lewis' anxiety clearly stems from the partisan political fallout of the Libertarian Moment (which of course is more a general direction than a brief moment in time…). If libertarians continue to grow in power and influence, the contemporary Republican Party will have to change from the policies that gave rise to the Bush years, a spend-and-regulate debacle that also saw the United States enter two unwinnable wars. Social conservatives, along with crony capitalists and those invested in the military-industrial complex will all need to adjust.

Change is tough, Republicans, but sometimes it's necessary. Especially when it leads to not to chaos but to a freer, more peaceful, and innovative society.

NEXT: Return of the Aqua Buddha! Rand Paul Survives Another Long Magazine Feature

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  1. Peak Derp is a myth.

    1. Damon Linker is trying as hard as he can to reach the summit.

      1. Is he Edmund Hillary or just Tenzing Norgay of this attempt to scale Mount Derp?

  2. No, the worst arguments against libertarianism are Salon’s bi-weekly “I used to be a libertarian but now I’m a progressive” articles.

    This is pretty stupid though.

    1. My progressive acquaintances who blame libertarianism for drug prohibition at least deserve a bronze medal, preferably upside the head.

      1. ..wait, what?

        1. Let me take a stab:

          Drugs destroy people’s lives, libertarians want drugs to be legal, hence libertarians encourage greater drug use, therefore the government has to correct the imbalance libertarians created, lest the evil drugs spill over into our schools and homes.

          FOR THE CHILDREN!

          1. That’s one guess I would’ve made. Another would be that libertarianism led to libertinism, which led to drug abuse, which led to the need for controls, which suck for responsible drug users.

            Yet another would be that libertarians split the opposition with “liberals”, allowing the “conservative” policy of narcotics prohib’n to carry on.

            1. The variation I usually hear is along the lines of this : Libertarians want people to be free to use whatever substance they wish. Therefore, if you allow people choice, they will destroy themselves. So, a higher power(government,God, ect..)must intercede to keep civilization intact. So the fact there’s a police state/WOD is a direct byproduct of libertarians’ reckless insistence on freedom. If we had just had Top Men in place to remove personal decisions in the first place, we’d all be blissfully unaware of such evils and be happier and healthier for it.

              I call this the Pleasantville Argument.

            2. liberals are sane, libetarians
              are goofy anachists

              1. I hope this is sarcasm. If not, you are seriously ill.

    2. The worst argument is pretty much anything Tony says.

    3. hahahah, libertaians have serious
      “issues” and need to seek help

  3. I imagine Naomi Klein could exceed Linker in the worst argument category.

  4. I set up a straw man and blamed libertarianism for the failure of something unlibertarian; therefore, libertarianism has been disproved. This is how statists actually (and consistently, in my experience) reason.

    1. Well, what you just described is projection of a sort, so that makes sense.

      1. If they can just work in some animism, it becomes the ultimate derpy argument.

        1. Sarah Brady, please pick up the white phone …

    2. Clearly if the purges of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot taught us anything it’s that liberty and freedom never work. Central planning by top men is the only answer.

      1. And yet, this is approximately my friends’ arguments. Along with, “sure emergent order is the keystone of life and unbelievably productive things from ant highways to transmitting Netflix packets down the internet efficiently, but do we really want to let people rule themselves and hope that emergent order is possible in an advanced technological culture?”

    3. You point out what they do, only I wish libertarians would grasp the fundamental joker in all this: subjectivism.

    4. libertarians are goofball’s who
      don’t have a clue

    5. you are a bunch of loonytunes

  5. “Just to be clear, I’m not calling you NAZIS NAZIS NAZIS!”

  6. “bad for traditional conservatives.”

    Feature!

  7. Is that a Hayek facepalm?

    1. Doesn’t the palm have to touch the face for it to be a facepalm? A headpalm, maybe.

      1. Murray Rothbard’s stereotypic pose was touching the side of his head, usu. while smiling & tilting it. I think Walter Block even picked up some of that, or maybe it was vice versa.

  8. If I’m following, he’s arguing that a society which has been subject to highly concerted and violent state action for decades to destroy any vestige of civil society proves that civil society can’t work.

    Umm, OK.

    So, if my car doesn’t run after its been totaled by a semi, that proves that cars don’t work?

    1. If your car fails to reassemble itself after having been totaled, it disproves the notion of emergent order in car problems. To Linker’s satisfaction, anyway.

      Of course, Linker’s essay says more about him than it does about his libertarian strawman. He wouldn’t seriously entertain the notion of emergent auto repair, but he very much places emergent civil order on the same level of plausibility. As such, for Linker and men of his following, society is an instrument which must be tinkered with by experts, and humans are the automata which drives it.

  9. If libertarians continue to grow in power and influence…

    Continue? Don’t you have to start something before you can continue it?

    1. We have started, your dull sadsackery notwithstanding.

      1. That was mature. How old are you? Twelve?

        1. Dude, forget it – it’s Canuckistantown…

      2. Heh. Sack.

      3. you people live in a made up world

        your all goofy

  10. The Week (a great magazine, by the way)

    I hope they paid you to say that.

    1. Gillespie: vogue the week just comes to the house.

      Shake: of course it comes to the house when you order it, you big fat lady!

    2. I got a free copy of that. I assumed it was because I used to take The Economist.

      What a load. The influx of children illegal immigrants was on the cover as “A surge of misery”. And then had 2 pages devoted to multi-million dollar real-estate “Best Properties on the Market”

  11. Yeah, see – this is what I’m talking about.

    I think it’s close to time to drop out…

  12. We have started

    Paranoiac mass murder fantasies don’t count.

  13. the whole “Libertarian Moment” meme way back in 2008

    So as Dippin’ Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future is always just about to happen…any moment now…just you see – so goes the “Libertarian Moment” creeping toward happening since 2008!?

    1. It’s just over the horizon. Like the practical electric car, fusion power, and thinking machines.

    2. It is happening. The incessant attacks on libertarianism is proof. Libertarianism wasn’t even a thought 8 years ago. Now every Team supporter in the nation is attacking us.

      First they ignore you…

      1. … then they shit their pants.

        1. I am serious! Look at Lewis’ picture. That man looks like he is enjoying the warm soft loaf that he just excreted into his underwear, contemplating the horror when his mommy discovers it; that will show her for not letting him have his juice-box an hour early!

          1. +1 crap ball rolling out on the floor

      2. Then they crush you, and forget about you for another few decades.

      3. this is corect ^^ attacks on libertarianism are up. draw whatever conclusion you prefer.

        1. Responding to idiotic attacks may be the closest thing we get to having an actual conversation for a while. Good thing I’m a sarcastic asshole.

      4. Eh, I remember a lot of attacks on libertarianism from “left” & “right” 30 yrs. ago.

  14. “If we destroy pre-existing power structures in totalitarian regimes that happen to be repressing fundamentalist Islamic influences, the repressed elements come to power and do exactly what they said they’d do for years! Libertarianism is disproven because these people don’t culturally shift to a liberal democratic mindset immediately after we drop bombs on them!”

    1. In fairness to this guy, he did not use Somalia as his “proof.” Points for novelty, I guess.

      1. Fairness to Linker, maybe, but “Somalia as libertarian paradise” was the only spot missing on my statist fallacy bingo card.

  15. Linker is reinforcing my inherent distrust of transparently mendacious cunts.

  16. I love the way this moron just waves away centuries of intellectual thought put into decentralized, uncoordinated order.

    Also, alt-alt-text for the fourth pic: Happy Birthday, Mises!

  17. Linker is being super-cereal here, kids:

    Super-cereal? What is that – some sort of special cornflake?

      1. Stupid url. Let me try that again.

        Super Cereal

  18. Indeed, the brain freeze can get so intense that it turns occasionally smart people into mental defectives.

    If they are smart only occasionally, can they be that far from being mentally defective to begin with? Or perhaps you meant that smart people occasionally are turned into mental defectives?

    1. If they are smart only occasionally, can they be that far from being mentally defective to begin with?

      Yes. Stupidity and mental defectiveness are apples and strawberries. There are some brilliant, mentally ill people (See A Beautiful Mind) and lots of stupid, perfectly sane people.

  19. Damon Linker’s argument is line with most anti-libertarianism arguments. The formula is simple. Grab a term used by libertarians, ignore and/or completely misrepresent the meaning of the term as used by libertarian thinkers, redefine the term so it becomes a strawman, and then grandly knock the strawman down. Throw in a couple of sentences comparing libertarians to totalitarians, and voila, you have an anti-libertarian essay/column/article/whatever. It’s so easy, even Catholics do it.

    What is strangest to me about these anti-libertarian arguments is the way they so often try to say libertarianism is little better than fascism, socialism, authoritarianism, etc, while at the same time they insist that centralized, strong government control is the only practical way to do things. It is sort of like saying the only defense against oligarchy is to ensure that government/society is run by a small group of people.

    1. Maybe the formula is simply a slight rewrite of : “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

  20. In both cases, spontaneity brought the opposite of order. It produced anarchy and civil war, mass death and human suffering.

    Anarchy and civil war? I’m sure it comes as a great relief to the families of the tortured and murdered that there are no archons in Iraq and Libya. Particularly Iraq, when the warring factions both refer to themselves explicitly as states.

    According to the bio on his website, Linker has a master’s in history from NYU and a Ph.D. in Polisci from Michigan State. Presumably he couldn’t get into MSU’s doctoral program in elementary education.

    1. Perhaps by anarchy he meant chaos – the two are sometimes used as synonyms.

      1. I would hope that having a doctorate in political science would give someone a basic understanding of what anarchy entails, particularly when he’s responsible for a political column.

        Maybe he’s just a populist hack.

        1. I would hope that having a doctorate in political science would give someone a basic understanding of what anarchy entails

          If we took a survey of the political and philosophical beliefs of every poli sci doctorate holder on the planet, I think you’ll find nearly all of them to be state fellators that can’t passing an Ideological Turing Test for any ideology other than the various flavors of socialism they were taught to accept.

          Having spent enough time in my university’s Poli Sci department as an undergrad, I’d wager that not a single one of my former student colleagues or the teachers could accurately explain what anarchy means nor what the various anarchists actually advocate.

          1. I was watching a friend of mine argue with a progressive on Derpbook this morning. This guy was calling Direct Democracy “Anarcho-Statism”. They are not even trying anymore.

            1. Anarcho-statism? lol That might be a good way to facetiously describe the anarcho-syndicalists and communists.

        2. You know – the words democracy and democratic are constantly used in public and political discourse in this country, but probably not since the days of the Founding Fathers have they been used in the strict sense of the political system that existed in ancient Athens. Likewise, the term anarchy has several shades of meaning when used in less than a formal sense or colloquially. The man may well be a populist hack – I’m not familiar with him. But maybe, also, he was not engaged in writing a formal political science dissertation?

          1. That was in reply to KY.

            1. No worries sasob. Though our comments lined up pretty well. =)

          2. I’m usually pretty lenient about the malleability of words (I won’t shit bricks every time Krugman calls himself a liberal, for one), but anarchy has a specific and estabilished meaning. It does not and has never meant “chaos” any more than “literally” has ever meant “not literally.”

            Still going with hack.

            1. Yeah I don’t think popular misconceptions necessitates that our terminology be designed to comport with the lowest common denominator. He’s definitely a hack. There are different shades of wrong, but this guy’s level wrong is indisputable from any rational perspective.

  21. My favorite Linker argument in this article was undoubtedly the bit where he claimed that the Iraqi War and the resulting carnage disproves the concept of ‘spontaneous order’. Apparently ‘the libertarian tradition’ predicted that sanctions, blockades and invasions produces liberty and free market prosperity.

    1. …”Apparently ‘the libertarian tradition’ predicted that sanctions, blockades and invasions produces liberty and free market prosperity.”

      Most of our trolls blame Ayn Rand for that claim.

  22. Though sometimes terrible in his personal political commitments,

    And Nick needs to learn what a “personal political commitment” is or at least read Walker’s column before he links to it.

    Hayek did not approve of Pinochet, he approved of Pinochet’s Chicago-inspired policy of economic liberalization that in turn led to social liberalization in the eighties. To say that Hayek was politically committed to Pinochet or dictatorial government in general is Klein-level libel.

    1. Not to be too harsh to Gillespie, but I really despise the cosmo tendency to bend over backwards to the left to show that libertarians don’t always agree with the Austrians (“look, I can make up shit about Hayek too, so I’m not unreasonable!”), even to the point of slandering the one Austrian who should be a cosmo hero given how flexible he was in his support of the state and its putative role in securing liberalism.

      1. I could not agree more about Nick’s approach. He proudly declares that he’s willing to accept some of the fallacious assumptions of the left in order to make libertarianism more palatable for the those who are not ‘thinking inclined’. I’d just be satisfied if the Austrians weren’t constantly asked to answer for the philosophical failings and happenings of the Chicago-school.

        1. The philosophical failings of the Austrians are even worse. They accidentally get a few things right, but rationalism is a fantastical approach to knowledge.

          1. Re: Libertarius,

            The philosophical failings of the Austrians are even worse.

            You must be confused. The Austrians are the economists who follow the methodology of the Austrian School of economics. They’re not political philosophers.

            but rationalism is a fantastical approach to knowledge

            You’re VERY confused. You make the error of thinking that the epistemology of the Austrian School of Economics is the ONLY epistemology an Austrian economist would ever use for everything else.

            1. The philosophical failings of the Austrians are even worse. They accidentally get a few things right, but rationalism is a fantastical approach to knowledge

              Another Chicago-school acolyte with physics envy.

              1. Nope, not a Chicagoan either. You guys don’t realize that the school of valid economics hasn’t been formed yet. Some of them get some things right here and there, but a valid system of economics (with a valid epistemology beneath it) has yet to happen.

                And why the hell would I have physics envy? The modern physicists are now rationalists too, telling me that their math equations prove that time travel is possible and that the act of human perception (somehow) affects the behavior of inanimate matter lol. Modern physics are also a joke.

              2. Libertarius is an objectivist. From his past posts and his universal appearance every time Wittgenstein is mentioned, I’d wager he’s an orthodox ARI kind of guy and not one of those open-system sellouts who don’t show up to picket Nathaniel Branden every time he speaks.

                That’s also why he uses “rational” differently than an Austrian might. By rational action, we mean that human action is performed toward an end, whereas Randians understand ration as the means of incorporating and judging sensory information. Thus (presumably) all his stuff about “valid” economics.

            2. You don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know where the hell your random reference to political philosophy is coming from…anyway, how does an Austrian economist remain such without applying his rationalistic premises? If he ditches rationalism, he’s not an Austrian anymore; such is the problem they attempt to escape by randomly deciding to be empiricists whenever it suits them.

              This dovetails perfectly with the phenomenon I’ve observed where pop Austrians snatch valid concepts from other schools and declare them to be Austrian.

              1. If he ditches rationalism, he’s not an Austrian anymore; such is the problem they attempt to escape by randomly deciding to be empiricists whenever it suits them.

                Austrian economics makes certain positive claims to describe what is. The ‘therefore we should do x, y or z’ part of it is not proscribed by Austrian school, that’s the part left up to libertarian philosophy. It just so happens that Austrian analysis leads to rational proscriptions that are libertarian. i.e. “Monopolies tend to reduce quality while increasing cost (Austrian) therefore we should abolish the government (anarcho-libertarian) or therefore we should minimize the power of government (minarchist libertarian) et cetera.

        2. Gillespie is a wonderful interviewer and a nice Maddow antidote when he occupies Mahr’s nut chair, but his writing and glibertarian pandering is unbearable.

  23. Now it just so happens that within the past decade or so the United States has, in effect, run two experiments ? one in Iraq, the other in Libya ? to test whether the theory of spontaneous order works out as the libertarian tradition would predict.

    “…right after we bombed the shit out of them. I mean, you see? YOU SEE? Chaos, everywhere! C’mon, people! There’s your proof that spontaneous order cannot happen!”

    How about the culture of general law-abidingness that we call the rule of law?

    “Only though a top-down imposition can you have rule of law! Ok, so it’s not top-down when the People delegates that power to the government, because without government that same People who delegated that power would act like savages… am I being clear here?”

    Ok, enough fun. This guy is worse than Shriek, Tony, Chad and Joe combined.

    1. to test whether the theory of spontaneous order works out as the libertarian tradition would predict.

      That’s the most awful part of this particularly awful sentence in this particularly awful article. His claim that ‘the libertarian tradition’ tacitly supports murdering and plundering governments to promote ‘spontaneous order’ has got to be the most ridiculous interpretation of libertarianism I’ve ever seen.

      Not only are there 0 libertarian authors, philosophers and thinkers who claim war is the proper vehicle to deliver prosperity and liberty, but even a cursory glance at libertarian philosophy is enough to tell you that this is a logical contradiction. This guy is either a despicable liar or a certifiable retard.

      1. Re: Free Society,

        His claim that ‘the libertarian tradition’ tacitly supports murdering and plundering governments to promote ‘spontaneous order’ has got to be the most ridiculous interpretation of libertarianism I’ve ever seen.

        It is also the laziest interpretation. There are many more examples that validate libertarianism and spontaneous order yet the author can’t make himself get of his lazy butt to find them and then criticize them.

        1. I mean criticizing spontaneous order is all well and good, but he should at least use an example of spontaneous order instead of citing it’s antithesis as though it were a valid example.

  24. I’m old enough to remember when “liberals” were the smart kids on campus. Ever since the rise of “The Kids” in the 1960s, “liberalism” (and by “liberalism” I mean of course “power-tripping State-fellation”) has grown progressively stupider.

  25. I don’t think one can consider a war zone an “anarchy”.
    Pretty much all of libertarianism is founded upon the non-aggression principle. There is oodles of aggression going on all over Syria and Iraq. Indeed the war is about which group of totalitarian assholes is going to win the right to force everyone else to live they way they want. At best the “moderates” are probably a bunch of socialists who want a left-leaning social democracy.

    Leaving aside the anarcho-capitalists, most libertarians agree that the foundaton of a libertarian society IS having a state that enforces the ground rules of a libertarian society: Non-aggression, private property rights, contract enforcement, equal justice.
    That state doesn’t merely spring into existence spontaneously. It took centuries of social development to get anywhere close to that.
    What it does do is provide a platform FROM which spontaneous order can develop in other areas of life.

    1. Re: HazelMeade,

      most libertarians agree that the foundaton of a libertarian society IS having a state that enforces the ground rules of a libertarian society

      So in order to have a society where force or aggression would not be used you need a state that uses force and aggression to enforce non-aggression?

      Sorry, but most libertarians don’t agree with that. Also, you seem to confuse the role of the state with the role of local government. You can have a limited, local government that informs the public of certain rules and protects the community through deputizing or by convoking the militia. Is this what you’re talking about? Because that’s not a state.

      1. Basically yes. If you don’t think you need a state then you are really more of an anarchist, which is fine. but the definition of libertarianism is generally considered one with a minimal state that maintains a monopoly on force.

  26. The thing is, I have both liberal and conservative friends. When I read shit like this I wonder, “Is this what my liberal friends believe? Are they that fucking stupid? Does their rank stupidity always come with that idiotic, smirk?

    And if so, why do I let them in my house?

    My con friends NEVER presume to go off on abortion or immigrants or why the Iraq war was such a great idea in my house. But some of my liberal friends drop political bombs every now and then. I ignore them.

    One recent visitor (amidst a discussion of TV shows we like from the 1960s) started babbling on about George W. Bush’s connection with Nazi Germany. I’m not making this up.

    I sweat to the gods, the ONLY “moment” this country is in right now is the “dumbass moment.”

    1. I sweat to the gods,

      The way Richard Simmons sweats to the oldies? 😉

  27. ” Teenage Mutant Ninjas movie: “Not as bad as Triumph of the Will,”

    What? what is this other movie of which you speak? I have never heard of it. It must be extremely obscure, which is what I have been so told by experts.

  28. Very good.

    One term that NIck might have used is the Puritan notion of “Ordered Liberty.” Roger Williams, John Winthrop and the Levellers would have recognized the term immediately.

    The problem Nick then faces is deciding whether or not ordered liberty and limited government is possible only in the context of an almost mono-cultural society.

    1. That last bit is what my friend Bob believes. He thinks a society has to be fairly homogeneous socially and/or genetically before it can sustain a good semblance of liberty (minus the controls needed to maintain its homogeneity). Like for instance, if you have too many Puerto Ricans around, you won’t be able to keep them from playing the loud music that’ll bother everyone else, and that will eventually lead to greater strife.

    2. I don’t think you need a mono culture, but you do need broad cross-cultural acceptance of certain basic ideas.
      I.e. People have to have a shared acceptance of the idea that it is morally wrong to use force against other people. If you have one cultural group that genuinely thinks that’s it’s ok, even morally imperative, to impose their religion on other people at the point of a sword, that society is fundamentally incompatible with a libertarian order.

      1. Every society has people who want to use force to get what they want or what they think is right. If that universal characteristic is incompatible with libertarianism then libertarianism is a fantasy.

        Libertarians are great at advocating against the use of force when it’s not appropriate. What they need to work on to be taken seriously is advocating FOR the use of force when it becomes regrettably necessary.

        1. All libertarians do seem to agree that extent of ones liberty of action ends where someone else’s nose begins. Accordingly, a libertarian government will act in the situation you suggested.

          As a historical note, libertarians do have have history of over throwing kings. The puritan parliamentarians did it in England in the 1640s in the name of the “ancient right and liberties of Englishmen”.

          American and French libertarians did it in the 1770-80s. “Liberty” has been one of the chief propaganda slogans of the US government since it was founded. Liberty, equality and fraternity was as much an American slogan as French.

          I don’t understand why you think libertarians tack towards pacifism or why you think that libertarians must necessarily tolerate sociopaths.

  29. We ran two experiments in libertarianism.

    My question is what would the progressives have done differently?

    Install Dostum as Warlord or something?

    No. They would have done the same exact thing: try to build institutions and have elections, etc.

    Its not like progressives wanted something different in Libya. They weren’t pimping some new dicator. (And Libya was their idea.)

    Secondly, exactly how long can we run the experiment?

    Because it seems to me that Iraq was breaking nicely into 3 sections. Maybe that’s what the emergent order should have been. Maybe that’s the more stable set-up – Sunnistan/Shiastan/Kurdistan.

    Finally, Somalia is a very bad example for progressives. Because they ignore history, they assume that Somalia under the socialists was good because it was out of the US news. Economically it was horrible. And it led to a civil war. I know, amazing that a centralized government and economy, i.e. what progressives think “works” led to a civil war…weird, huh? The current economy in Somalia is much better than under socialism and I highly reccomend the excellent wikipedia article on it. Number of flight, cell phone, etc. are all much improved under “chaos” vs. state control.

  30. I raised it in my above comment, but freedom of association is also a libertarian concept: what if Libya really is better off as a group of clans rather than a colonial construct that needs a Army Dictator to keep them together?

  31. Bringing up Uber as a counterpoint sort of makes the opposite case you want it to. Maybe limited, targeted implementations of more liberty are the preferred route for specific aspects of society (working under the assumption that deregulating taxi service will prove to be a good thing). But if you require centuries of strong government and directed organization to provide the foundation on which liberty will spontaneously emerge, well, there’s nothing spontaneous about that, and what about the poor schmucks who had to live under the regimes during that trial-and-error period? Presumably that would characterize people living in places like Syria. They’re a long way from having post-Enlightenment foundation for a libertarian society.

    1. Tony|9.29.14 @ 4:06PM|#
      …”and what about the poor schmucks who had to live under the regimes during that trial-and-error period?”…

      With any kind of luck, the government collapses as did your fave dictatorship in ’89, schmuck.

    2. Tony:

      Presumably that would characterize people living in places like Syria. They’re a long way from having post-Enlightenment foundation for a libertarian society.

      Clearly, this must be because of the weakness and peacefulness of their governments and the freedom they enjoy.

    3. Tony:

      But if you require centuries of strong government and directed organization to provide the foundation on which liberty will spontaneously emerge, well, there’s nothing spontaneous about that,

      In other words, Tony calls dibs on all future time, because the past had strong governments.

      Whenever I think I’ve read the laziest argument against libertarianism ever (see above), I just have to read Tony’s brilliant follow-up (see below).

      It’s laziness all the way down.

      1. You don’t have to put in that much effort to refute libertarianism.

        1. You don’t have to put in any effort to swat down your routine use of thoroughly fallacious reasoning.

        2. Tony:

          You don’t have to put in that much effort to refute libertarianism.

          I think it takes more effort than “Computers require vacuum tubes, because all research into computers is built on a foundation of devices using vacuum tubes. Therefore, we’d never have computers without vacuum tubes without computers with vacuum tubes. Therefore, computers require vacuum tubes.”

          Actually, I’m not sure if you need more effort or less effort to say something that stupid. That will remain an exercise for the reader.

          1. Thus, all you need to do to refute my argument is point me to some libertarian society somewhere that is superior to the alternatives. But you can’t find one because … libertarians are feckless pussies? I think that’s the gist of the excuse you guys always give.

            1. Collectivists are fucking pussies who would rather hide in a flock than face reality on their own two feet. It is leftoids like you (and all your ilk) who are existential cowards, not the libertarians, bitch.

            2. Apply that argument to gay marriage, genius.

            3. Tony:

              Thus, all you need to do to refute my argument is point me to some libertarian society somewhere that is superior to the alternatives. But you can’t find one because … libertarians are feckless pussies? I think that’s the gist of the excuse you guys always give.

              No, actually, all I need to do is reject your silly question-begging alternative and point out that this other horrible argument against libertarianism has also been answered about a billion times, with most answers pointing out, more or less, how stupid a question/argument it is. It’s right up there, possibly tied with argumentum ad somalium, for the title of “most logic-free argument against libertarianism.”

              Here’s one of my favorite summaries of all the problems with it. Essentially, it’s a false criteria fallacy: instead of arguing against libertarianism, allow me to pull my favorite criteria out of my ass and shift the burden of proof, preferably to something requiring time travel and nations not full of morons, such that it’s impossible. But, hey, morons like the direction that arguments point; logic isn’t their strong suit.

    4. Tony, the entire history of the development of government has largely been one that started off with strong central governments that got weaker and devolved more power to the people.

      Think about it. 4000 years ago, every state was ruled by an absolute monarch. It took millenia to get to something like the Magna Carta, which curtailed the rights of the British Monarch, and then several hundred more years to the American revolution, which explicitly limited the power of the central government further. And then another century to extend equal justice to all citizens. We’ve been gradually weakening the state in fits and starts for millenia.

      Very few people argue that a perfect libertarian state will spontaneously spring into existence from a system of tribal warfare or an absolute dictatorship.

      Is that an argument for strong central governments? Let’s all go back to absolute monarchy because hey, that’s where civilization started off?

      1. We have not been weakening the state, we have been liberalizing it. Decentralizing power. But the US, great product of centuries of liberalization, is not a weaker state than 1700s France. I’d say it’s the most powerful state ever.

        1. Fair enough, let’s say that “strong” means a state that has a low risk of instability and is capable of enforcing it’s rule. While a “liberal” state limits constitutionally what that government may do.

          Then you must admit the general direction of history (note that I’m NOT capitalizing that word), is towards states which may be more *stable* but have more legal restrictions on their ability to act.

          IMO the perfect libertarian state would maintain a monopoly on force, but be under all sorts of iron-clad constitutional restrictions from using force to do much other than police violence between citizen.

          1. The perfect libertarian state would be one with maximized liberty. As such, no institution having a monopoly right to arbitrate disputes even those involving itself, would be more libertarian.

            1. Maximized liberty would be no less hellish than maximized slavery.

              1. If you actually understood what “liberty” means, you’d know how nonsensical that statement is. Your liberty, or whatever you want to call it, ends where another person’s begins. Thus if the exercise of liberty in a society were maximized, there would not be infringement on the liberty of others.

                Though in another sense, I can imagine that for you Tony, not having a legitimate method to plunder and oppress your neighbors with impunity is a hellish nightmare.

      2. Incidentally, if you are saying that Syria isn’t going to spontaneously turn into a liberal democracy because we blew up it’s government, then I agree with you.

        But that’s not anything that any libertarian was saying. That’s Obama’s retarded strategy.

    5. But if you require centuries of strong government and directed organization to provide the foundation on which liberty will spontaneously emerge, well, there’s nothing spontaneous about that, and what about the poor schmucks who had to live under the regimes during that trial-and-error period?

      Nobody said liberty itself spontaneously develops. Rather, liberty is a prerequisite for the spontaneous order to develop.

  32. “But if you require centuries of strong government and directed organization to provide the foundation on which liberty will spontaneously emerge”

    Perhaps it works the other way round: if you require centuries of weak government liberty emerges much more easily.

    See British monarchy as limited by Magna Carta, parliament, etc.

    Nobody was limiting Qaddafi or Saddam Hussein. Also, Iraq has had centuries of strong government and directed organization. So has China and Korea.

    I think this argument can be safely thrown away.

  33. Triumph of the Will is actually pretty damn good, just too tedious to watch at great length.

  34. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society?a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

    Of course, today’s enviroleftists freely admit that the destruction of civilization is their goal.

  35. In response, some libertarian-minded critics have claimed that this just goes to show the damage that tyranny does to individuals, robbing them of the capacity to govern themselves once they’ve finally been granted their freedom.

    Quite so. But then that would seem to imply that postwar Iraq and Libya could have spontaneously produced a liberal democratic order only if its citizens had acted as if they’d already been enjoying life in a liberal democratic order.

    That sounds awful unspontaneous.

    There’s a good point there, one I’ve been making for some time, and that is that liberty doesn’t get established ex vacuo all of a sudden. You need a high degree of civility 1st before you can get close to perfect liberty, and you can’t get a high degree of civility before you have a low degree of civility 1st. The author draws the wrong conclusion, which is that the order can never come from within; if that were the case, we could never have gotten to it, for it’s people, and history, all the way down. Order had to come from disorder some time, it’s just that it evolved gradually.

    1. I agree. But it’s not just civility. It’s a long-term development of certain concepts and legal institutions like equal justice, individualism, and property rights.

      (Individualism here means the idea that each person is treated legally as a separate entity, thus for instance a punishment for a crime can only be inflicted on that individual, not on their relatives. Many leftists take this for granted – while condemning individualism, they have no idea how important this idea would be to tribal places like Syria. )

  36. recall the housing and fiscal crises, which were caused and intensified not by lack of government involvement but a surfeit of it

    This is why I call Obamacare “healthcare ‘deregulation'”? since previous “deregulation” efforts involved massive government intervention.

  37. Is it just me or does Matt Lewis resemble Paul Krugman?

  38. My buddy’s mother makes $83 /hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her income was $16557 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    you can check here ———- http://www.jobsfish.com

  39. I don’t understand this notion of `spontaneous order` as it pertains to libertarianism … can someone explain it to me?

  40. Title Correction: Tony’s/CraiginMass’/AmericanSocialist’s most recent comment is both the worst and most recent.

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