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Sorry Critics, Libertarianism Isn’t What You Imagine It Is

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career with a passion for all things libertarian to become the Libertarian Opinionizer.

What are most common criticisms of libertarianism?

What are most common criticisms of libertarianism?

Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

So many people in today’s left-right world have developed Conceptual-Reality Undifferention Disorder (CRUD) that it desperately needs its own entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Cognitive Disorders.

Cognitive activity, or cognition, is the mental function of “knowing” which includes perceiving, conceiving, recognizing, judging, reasoning, and imagining.

Yet virtually everyone in today’s world appears to be afflicted with some form of thinking disorder that causes them to fail to discern the difference between such cognitive activities as perception versus conception, recognition versus misunderstanding, imagining versus reasoning, realism versus idealism, et cetera.

This hasn’t come about accidentally. In his book Real Dissent, Tom Woods takes on “The respectables of left and right” who almost never state libertarian positions correctly. He then adds:

“Let me modify that: Once in a while they do try to show where we’re wrong, but they can almost never manage even to state our position correctly, much less muster an effective argument against it. The purpose of these alleged replies is not to shed light, but to demonize libertarians in the public mind.”

Book Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick

The Real Versus the Ideal

Symptoms of the disorder manifest when a subject obsessively identifies individual human beings as mere conceptual labels, categories or classifications and then proceeds to characterize all such individual persons as truly being that conceptual label, category or classification rather than being the actual, discrete, identifiable, real life, unique self that the person actually is.

This essay will concentrate on subjects who are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful individuals but who nevertheless frequently, almost to an obsessive degree, confuse a category of people with an actual individual person who might be identified as either directly or tangentially a member of that category.

An easy way to approach this cognitive malfunction is to examine how a person might think what the category “libertarian” means as opposed to what an actual libertarian person actually understands it means.

Keep in mind that throughout this treatise, The Modern American Libertarian Movement is based on the ideal of the non-aggression principle (NAP) against coercion, intimidation and fraud. Failure to acknowledge this easy-to-understand premise is the primary reason for the most common dysfunction identified by the lay public as a mental condition in which one fails to differentiate between “that which is thought to be” and “that which is.”

All of the following examples have been culled from the Internet and fall under the general psychological definition of “cognitive dissonance.”

Cognitive dissonance, psychology, the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information.—Encyclopædia Britannica

For most people, libertarianism is new information. Failure to integrate this new information places them somewhere on the Crud Spectrum.


"Libertarianism Is Fascism"

—from an online discussion board

By most common definitions fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce.

Since individual libertarians embrace the non-aggression principle they necessarily—logically—reject authoritarianism for self-ownership, nationalism for individualism, dictatorial power for personal responsibility, forcible suppression of opposition for freedom of thought and speech, and control of industry and commerce for an open, peaceful, voluntary post-statist free society.

Calling libertarians fascists is deep down the CRUD Spectrum.


“Libertarianism Is totalitarianism”

—from an ezine article

Totalitarianism is of course any system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires individuals to be subservient to the state to one degree or another in one form or another.

Libertarianism rejects the old Left-Right political spectrum that places certain collectivist concepts like communism and socialism on one side of a scale and other collectivist concepts like nationalism and fascism on the other side.

Instead, a better, more realistic spectrum is offered for identifying the world’s social and political philosophies: totalitarianism vs. libertarianism.

On this scale all forms of coercion are placed on the totalitarian side—communism, socialism, Nazism, fascism, monarchism, oligarchy, dictatorship and an almost endless list of imposed isms—while forms of non-coercion are placed on the libertarian side—voluntaryism, individualism, sovereignty, autonomy, self-ownership, self-governance, post-statism and a sadly short list of peaceful isms.

Calling libertarians totalitarians is deep down the CRUD Spectrum.


“Libertarianism Is Anarchy”

—from a blog

Anti-libertarians want you to believe that libertarianism will automatically result in bloodshed, carnage, lawlessness, turmoil, mob violence, street fighting and roving bands of gangs destroying civilization.

They use “anarchy” as a scare word because they believe you don’t know what the word really means.

Etymology: The word anarchy comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία (anarchia), which combines ἀ (a), "not, without" and ἀρχή (arkhi), "ruler, leader, authority." Thus, the term refers to a person or society "without rulers" or "without leaders".—Wikipedia

From that basic definition, there are many ways of defining anarchy, but any definition that doesn’t include the Modern American Libertarian Movement’s non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud is not “libertarianism.”

First understand that libertarianism comes in two basic flavors: minarchism and voluntaryism.

Minarchism is the position of virtually all politically-identified capital L libertarians as exemplified by the Libertarian Party, the so-called Libertarian Wing of the Republican Party, Objectivists and other “small government” advocates.

Their position is based on the presumption that physical geographical territories controlled by politically run governments must exist and that a “libertarian government” in its barest form must necessarily include police forces, law courts and military services.

Because “anarchy” carries so much negative baggage—assassination, bomb-throwing, car-burning, window-smashing—most modern libertarians prefer the term voluntaryist.

Voluntaryism refers to all forms of non-coercive libertarianism. People living in accord with the NAP in any way (pacifists, anarcho-socialists, communitarians, Amish, Mennonites, post-statists) are libertarians even if they’ve never heard of libertarianism or the NAP.

Post-statism is a voluntaryist form of libertarianism championed by the Zero Aggression Project. Post-statism, they explain, is a forward-looking approach to social organization in which The State has been discarded in favor of consumer-controlled governance.

So in response to the anarchy definition that includes “no rulers” or “no leaders” voluntaryist libertarians absolutely reject coercive rulers but accept voluntarily chosen leaders, managers, organizers, directors, bosses and others as long as they remain non–coercive and reject them if they don’t.

Calling libertarians anarchists with no understanding of voluntaryism is deep down the CRUD Spectrum.


“Libertarianism Is Childish”

—from a Quora post

Libertarians remember the most important lessons they were taught by their parents, teachers, ministers, coaches and many other responsible adults when they were children or they discovered or rediscovered the important truism for themselves as grownups: Don’t hit, don’t bully, don’t lie.

The adult version of that lesson is the libertarian non-aggression principle against coercion (don’t hit), against intimidation (don’t bully) and against fraud (don’t lie).

What so few non- and anti-libertarians ever get or deliberately ignore for their own ideological purposes is that intelligent, caring, conscientious adult libertarians define their libertarianism as requiring both individual freedom AND personal responsibility.

Every form of paternalism, from the most restrictive to the least, from leftwing democratic socialism to rightwing mixed-economy capitalism, is nothing less than paternalism—some adults forcibly treating other adults like children.

What could be more childish than adults treating their fellow adults as children? Libertarians treat adults as adults and children as children, just as they learned when they were children themselves.

Calling libertarians childish is deep down the CRUD Spectrum.


“Libertarianism Is Utopianism”

—From Aeon, “a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan [sic] worldview.”

Libertarians are branded utopians because their philosophy can’t work in the real world. What detractors really mean is that they can’t work in their own status-quo concept of the real world.

Yet libertarians have a saying: “Utopia is not an option.” Consider this etymological lesson:

In 1516 Sir Thomas More wrote the first 'Utopia'. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere'. But this was a pun—the almost identical Greek word eu-topos means "a good place."—The British Dictionary

Responding to a question on Quora “Why are so many libertarians so out of touch with reality?” Aaron Brown answered this way:

“Funny, I was going to ask why reality is so out of touch with libertarians. Think of any period in history more than 20 years ago. Think of any public issue. Ask yourself if the libertarian position would have been correct, or what realists of the time thought was reality”

He then lists libertarian positions against slavery, the divine right of kings, the death penalty for blasphemy, taxation without representation, wars of aggression and freedom of the press, speech and religion.

All of those libertarian positions must have sounded incredibly utopian (“no place”) to all the “realistic” people of the times. Without slaves who will pick the cotton?

A free libertarian society, rather than being “no place” would be “a good place.”

Perhaps the best-known connection between libertarianism and utopianism is Robert Nozick’s classic libertarian book Anarchy, State and Utopia. But even here, as one reviewer explained, “utopia is a philosophically fascinating concept” that Nozick never offered as a real place but only as a thought experiment. It’s left to others to make the specious claim that libertarians are utopians in fact rather than in thought. Utopia is an idea, not a place.

Calling libertarians “no place utopians” is deep down the CRUD Spectrum.


The grotesquely rabid anti-libertarian Salon once headlined an article “The question libertarians just can’t answer” and demanded in their yellow journalism subhead style “If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?”

In his book Real Dissent Tom woods has the real answer that all freedom-loving people must learn:

“We can’t expect to live in a free society if we play by the establishment’s rules.”

Day after day, year after year, more people are cleansing themselves of cognitive dissonance CRUD by learning about and incorporating the new information of libertarianism.

Libertarianism is Fascism The claim here is that libertarianism, not socialism, is more likely to lead to fascism. Why? By falsely re-defining libertarians as supporting crony-capitalism/corporatism while they really support free markets.

Libertarianism is Anarchy which is frequently compared to voluntaryism, but all too often the debate comes down to who is doing the definitions and the critiquing. Both anarchists and voluntaryists will agree/disagree even on the basics.

Libertarianism is Childish This might be the most childish attempt at calling libertarians childish ever written. It childishly ignores that libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle, that self-ownership also means self-responsibility and much much more.

Libertarianism is Utopian Ah, finally! Herein is explained that the true utopians are the statists who believe that “just the right amount of violence used by just the right people in just the right way can perfect society.” And THEY call libertarians utopians!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Garry Reed