Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.
Last updated 10/25/07.
This site is intended to benefit audiences in ways that may either confirm or disconfirm their libertarian or other beliefs. For example, I regularly get email from libertarians praising my site for helping them eliminate the weak arguments from their understanding of libertarianism. As well as compliments from non-libertarians who want to oppose libertarians.
My site is more or less impartial: I feature writings from libertarians, objectivists, anarchists, liberals, etc. I've also allowed a great deal of input from libertarians to help shape my own ideas and writings, even though I myself am not impartial.
You see, let's say I wrote my arguments from a Marxist viewpoint. Lots of folks would say "YUCK! Marxist poppycock!" and not bother reading any further. Likewise if I wrote from liberal or conservative viewpoints. Or even more unfamiliar viewpoints.
So what I've attempted is to focus solely on the problems that are self- evident in vulgar libertarian evangelistic argument. If I can get you to recognize that the arguments are bad without turning you off, then you are free to seek better arguments, either in libertarianism or other political systems. Indeed, creating dissatisfaction will prompt you to search harder than presentation of an opposing view: you might simply reject the opposing view "because it has to be wrong."
But I've never made any bones about my position. It's somewhere between liberalism and David Friedman's ideas, closer to the liberalism because I think government works better and the market more poorly than he does.
What that works out to in practice is that I disagree with most libertarian complaints about taxation and redistribution, agree with many about needless government interference in private lives, and disagree with most libertarian proposals for reforms. For example, I too dislike the prohibitionary "war on drugs" and think it is very harmful. But while I would legalize most drug usage for recreation, I would do so under a regulatory policy that would address what I consider real, harmful problems due to a variety of market failures. Likewise tobacco.
The protean nature of libertarianism causes problems for critics in open debate. There is no single basis which can be argued: you need to rebut a half dozen or more sets of assumptions, which the pseudo-intellectual libertarians mix and match with a delightfully inconsistent abandonment of rationality. (There are some libertarians who are more intellectually consistent.)
If I demolish any one foundation, supporters of another can simply call it a straw man because it is "a weaker argument". How do they know it is "weaker"? Because I happened to argue against it first?
This presupposes I am attacking more than the individual arguments. If I claimed to have demolished libertarianism (which I don't) by defeating these arguments, then I could be guilty of the strawman argument. I prefer to be humble enough to restrain my claims to the arguments, and let people decide for themselves whether they should doubt libertarianism on the basis of my arguments.
But I do intend to address the numerous philosophical and other "foundations" of libertarianism systematically in the next couple of years. I've made a substantial amount of preparation already.
This is not to say my arguments are unassailable. They can be argued against from libertarian perspectives very well. (Usually they're not.) However, I can argue back likewise. There is a trade-off between how thoroughly an argument can be made and how much somebody will read: I'd rather err on the side of the latter.
Exposure of error or fraud is beneficial in that at least you have a chance to find something correct or honest. Libertarians ought to be grateful to have an outsider tell them that sometimes their emperor has no clothes. (Or since they have no emperor, that they aren't wearing any pants. :-)
I despise advertisements, gratuitous icons, scrolling messages, and most of the visual noise that bedecks all too many sites (and makes them slow to download to boot.) I prefer simple functionality. That's why I even keep most counters on a separate page, rather than on each page.
At some point, if I get a really nice logo or background, I may add them to my site. In the mean time, I'd rather add content. I hope my readers agree.
Of course, I could observe that with 8 web responses (and counting) to my FAQ alone, libertarians seem afraid of me. That's the problem with those sorts of rhetorical arguments: they cut too many ways. But many libertarians seem to like them.
Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
This document may be freely distributed for non-commercial purposes if it is reproduced in its textual entirety, with this notice intact.