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Debate: Libertarianism

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Is Libertarianism a sound political philosophy?

Background and context

Libertarianism is a broad spectrum of political philosophies, each sharing the common overall priority of maximum limitation of government combined with optimum possible individual liberty. Its goals, though often varied in detail, prioritize freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of association, freedom to bear arms, freedom of and from religion, Press freedom, economic freedom, and freedom of ownership. It rejects the compulsions of socialism and communism so far as to uphold, at one end of the spectrum, private property, whether held on an individual or group basis. It promotes personal responsibility and self-organized charity, as opposed to welfare statism. There are, broadly speaking, two types of libertarian: rights theorists (also called libertarian moralists) and libertarian consequentialists. Rights theorists, which include noted deontologists, assert that all persons are the absolute owners of their lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their own bodies or property, provided they do not infringe on the rights of another to engage in that same freedom. They maintain that the initiation of force, defined by physical violence against another or non-physical acts such as fraud or threat, is a violation of that central principle; however, they hold that protective violence, such as self defense, does not constitute an initiation of force since they hold that such actions necessarily reflect an individual's reaction to a danger initiated by another individual. Many philosophers proclaiming this theory recognize the necessity of a limited role of government to protect individuals from any violation of their rights, and to prosecute those who initiate force against others. Some other rights theorists claim to oppose the existence of government altogether, perceiving taxation, among some other usual basic government actions, to be initiation of force (these include anarcho-capitalists). Consequentialist libertarians, on the other hand, do not speak against "initiation of force," but instead highlight the notion of a society that allows individuals to enjoy political and economic liberty. They believe these cornerstones set the foundation for human happiness and prosperity. Therefore, instead of adhering to the Right Theorist viewpoint, Consequentialists rather focus primarily on the belief that liberty is conducive to good consequences rather than being concerned whether provision of liberty includes or requires initiation of force. This particular branch is associated with Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and James M. Buchanan. This debate discusses the issue of Libertarianism.

Some content for the introduction was retrieved from Wikipedia:Libertarianism, which allows reuse under the terms of the GFDL, which Debatepedia is licensed under.

Contents

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Rights: Is the Libertarian perspective on individual rights appropriate?

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Yes

  • Individuals have a right to own themselves with full independence. If an individual wants to live in the forest in complete seclusion and without any interaction with other humans beings, shouldn't he be allowed to do so? Why should other people and government have binding rights over that individual? This is the reality in modernity, and contradicts our natural state as fully independent and self-sufficient creatures.
  • People choose best for themselves; they should have a right to this choice. When people are given the choice of what they want to do, they are likely to choose the one that is best for themselves and society. Because this is true, it is in the collective interests of society to trust in the choices of individuals. Because society is better off with full individual choice, we should extend to individuals full independence in their decision-making.
  • Individuals are entirely free, except to violate the freedoms of others A bedrock principle of Libertarianism is that citizens have rights that nobody can violate. As long as a citizen is not violating the rights of others, they are acting in accordance with these principles. Similarly, government cannot restrict or coerce individuals beyond protecting individuals from each other. If a government restricts an individual who is doing nothing to violate the rights of other citizens, government has gone too far. Government must be minimized to the extent that it only prevents citizens from violating the rights of other citizens. These principles are known as the law of equal liberty or the non-aggression principle.
  • People are free moral creatures, accountable to nobody but themselves. Individuals are independent in their ability to make moral choices based on their own moral compass. Individuals, therefore, must be held accountable to themselves. Libertarianism acknowledges that individuals must be accountable in this way, while major government programs and welfare programs do not (making individuals accountable for other other individuals). This undermines the dignity of an individual as their own free, moral agents. In general, if an individual wants to make poor choices, it is important that they alone are held responsible for the consequences. This is the only way to teach individuals to take responsibility for themselves and change.
  • Libertarianism offers voters an important political alternative. It is important that voters have alternatives. Libertarianism offer such an alternative to the conservative/liberal dichotomy of view-points.



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No

  • Libertarians overlook that government/law exist to preserve rights. Most Libertarians consider government the main impediment to individual rights. This ignores the fact that constitutions are written to enshrine individual rights, and governments are tasked with upholding these rights with laws and other acts.
  • Libertarianism contradicted by mere existence of body of law Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa (replying to county-rights advocates), 1993 - "There has been little or no mention of the vast body of law which contradicts your position. I think you owe it to the people whom you address to explain its existence."[2]


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Consent: Should all interaction with government be voluntary?

Libertarians believe that all interaction made with anyone should be voluntary. This includes interaction with government.
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Yes

  • People can be trusted to make the right choices. When people are given the choice of whether they want to enroll in a system of government, they are likely to choose the one that is best for themselves and society, whether government or no government is a better choice.


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No

  • Making all government interaction voluntary would cause a huge increase in crime. All criminals would choose not to interact with government, and, as a result, no one is preventing them from committing crimes.
  • People can not always be trusted to make the right choices. Without compulsory government, it would be down to individuals to make the right choices. As some people do not make the right choices, this would result in a crises.
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Property: Is the libertarian perspective on property appropriate?

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Yes

  • People have full rights to their property that governments can't deprive. Governments violate the rights of citizen when they force, or threaten to force, individuals to transfer their legitimately held wealth to the state in order to provide for pensions, to help the needy, or to pay for public goods (e.g., parks or roads). Individuals have a natural right to life, liberty, and property. Depriving any one of these rights diminishes the others. Therefore, these rights must be considered inviolable. They are important to uphold for their own ends, not merely for other expediencies. Therefore, no matter what the cost, the individual right to property must be upheld as an absolute.


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No

  • Society must collectively own many form of property through government - Benjamin Franklin - "All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his matchcoat and other little Acquisitions absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the creature of public Convention. Hence, the public has the rights of regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man is his natural Right, which none may justly deprive him of, but all Property superfluous to such Purposes is the property of the Public who, by their Laws have created it and who may, by other Laws dispose of it."[3]
  • Liberal democracies should ensure a degree of "equality of outcome" A principal 20th century liberal theorists, John Rawls, originated the idea of a the "veil of ignorance". The idea is that, imagining we all had no idea how we would "come out of the womb" and whether we would be "advantaged or disadvantaged", what kind of social contract would we construct. We would want to construct one in which we minimized the risks to ourselves if we happened to get the "short-end of the stick". This is why a degree of "equality of outcome" is important. Libertarianism does not recognize these ideas.
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Small government: Is the libertarian idea of smaller government a good idea?

One of the primary ideas of Libertarians is smaller government. They believe that larger government will result in greater restrictions on the Liberties of people.
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Yes

  • The benefits of government can be obtained by voluntary mechanisms.
  • People should be able to choose. By having government people are restricted in their freedom of choice as the government restricts what people are able to do. Having more private property will mean that the general public will not have to pay for property that they have never used.
  • Government benefits don't justify the means; non-consensual coercion. While government might produce some benefits, these benefits are not justified by the means. It is not enough to argue that government can produce "good" social outcomes by the non-consensual coercion of individuals into transferring their wealth to the state for such social purposes (or other means). Such coercion is wrong, making it irrelevant if performing this wrong produces a good social outcome; the ends should not be used to justify the means.
  • Government is corrupt and works against the interests of the people Neil Smith - "To politicians, solved problems represent a dire threat — of unemployment and poverty. That's why no problem ever tackled by the government has ever been solved. What they want is lots of problems they can promise to solve, so that we'll keep electing them — or letting them keep their jobs in a bureaucracy metastasizing like cancer."[4]
  • Libertarianism was the philosophy of many US Founding Fathers (e.g. Jefferson). Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America advocated very vocally for the highest degree of individual rights, and the protection of those rights. Thomas Jefferson was such an individual, and he was significantly skeptical of government.


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No

  • Libertarianism does not allow for essential public services (i.e. roads) Because Libertarianism does not allow for the collectivization of resources, it does not afford the sufficient resources to a public to provide essential public resources such as roads. While there are some examples of private roads or private fire-fighting services being provided, the problem is that the quantity and scale of these private services will always be insufficient for our needs.
  • Libertarianism contradicts the need for government monopoly of force It is commonly understood in Western democracies that a government and civilian leaders have a monopoly over the use of force. If there is no or little government, under Libertarian principles, then this basic principle is undermined. If this is the intention of Libertarians, then they risk anarchy, rule by military might, militia-power, civil war, and even the decentralized initiation of war with foreign countries.
  • People need government to prevent them from making mistakes. The laws enacted by the government are there to protect people and prevent them from making mistakes. They are needed for a fully functioning society.
  • People can not always be trusted to make the right choices. With smaller government, it would be down to individuals to make the right choices. As some people do not make the right choices, this would result in a crises.
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Economics: Is Libertarianism economically beneficial?

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Yes

  • Libertarians are rightly against trade blocs and for free trade. Libertarians, because they believe that all economic transactions should be free from government intervention, believe in the economic theories of free trade. Free trade involves "free markets" globally, and is believed by most economists to be the most efficient economic system. It incentivizes countries to produce only what they are best at producing and buy from other countries that are best at what they are producing. This results in lower prices internationally and generally the production of greater value.


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No

  • Free-market capitalism is a sub-optimal socio-economic model... David Shea - "I'm skeptical of claims based solely on logical deduction, especially in the social sciences. This is especially true in economics where many have pointed out the incredible premises that are required to show that laissez-faire achieves even a minimal sort of optimum."[7]
"1935: Social security will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1944: The G.I. Bill will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1965: Medicare will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1994: Health care will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!"
  • Free market capitalism is a non-existent myth in modernity Jonathan Stein - "Once we begin distinguishing the many forms capitalism can take, analytic utility is lost by retaining talismanic terms like "free market." There is no national economy in the world today that is not a mixed economy, which also means that there is no market that is free, or even "mostly" free. Rather, markets are structures that are culturally bounded, always regulated, and genetically dependent on government intervention for their reproduction. Never are they simply "permitted.""[8]
  • Libertarian economics runs contrary to modern economic theory. Paul Krugman - "Because economics touches so much of life, everyone wants to have an opinion. Yet the kind of economics covered in the textbooks is a technical subject that many people find hard to follow. How reassuring, then, to be told that it is all irrelevant--that all you really need to know are a few simple ideas! Quite a few supply-siders have created for themselves a wonderful alternative intellectual history in which John Maynard Keynes was a fraud, Paul Samuelson and even Milton Friedman are fools, and the true line of deep economic thought runs from Adam Smith through obscure turn-of-the-century Austrians straight to them."[9]
  • Free market economics fosters capitalist authoritarianism; undermines rights The main premise of "getting rid of government" is to replace it with the "governance" of the free markets. In other words, Libertarians propose "solving" "big government" with a capitalist authoritarian regime. This would not end "big government" abuses, but would rather simply replace any such abuses with the more egregious abuses of an authoritarian capitalist regime.


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Foreign policy: Does libertarianism improve foreign policies?

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Yes

  • Libertarianism correctly adopts a neutral, non-interventionist foreign policy. Countries that have adopted neutral, non-interventionist policies leave both their own citizens and foreign citizens better off. Countries that opt to engage abroad often make mistakes, destroy lives, sow resentment, and waste money. While there may be some costs to such a policy, the overall gains are greater.


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No

  • Libertarianism adopts a faulty isolationist foreign policy. Libertarianism is wrong in believing, effectively, that a nation should leave the world to its own devices. It is important that countries act diplomatically and actively in their engagements abroad.


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Disadvantaged: Would the disadvantaged/unemployed survive in a libertarian society?

Many people have claimed that the government is the only way of helping people who can't work. In this section this is debated.
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Yes

  • People will receive money from charities. If, for some reason, people are unable to work and they are not able to make money they would still survive as they would receive money from charities.
  • People will receive money from families. If, for some reason, people are unable to work and they are not able to make money they would still survive as they would receive money from there families, who would clearly want them to survive.
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No

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Social issues: What are the positions of libertarians on social issues? Are they right?

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Yes


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No

  • It is important for society to set some moral boundaries. It is possible to call some things moral and some things immoral. Actions that are seen as immoral, if they are agreed upon as immoral by society, can be rightfully outlawed. This is important for society in establishing moral boundaries and improving the ethical sensibilities of a citizenry.


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Crime: Would crime increase in a Libertarian society?

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Yes

  • In a libertarian society people would feel more responsible for their actions. Due to the emphasis libertarians place on personal responsibility by Libertarians, people would feel guilty about committing crimes. As a result, less crimes would be commited.
  • Libertarians would decriminalize many crimes, so reduce "crime". By decriminalizing many crimes, particularly victimless crimes such as smoking marijuana, Libertarians would reduce the number of "offenses" that are considered "crimes", so reduce crime. This is important particularly from the standpoint of sending people to jail for minor offenses.


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No

  • People need government to prevent them from making mistakes. The laws enacted by the government are there to protect people and prevent them from making mistakes. They are needed for a society that is not overrun with crime.
  • Libertarianism would give criminals an immunity from loss Because Libertarians uphold the absolute rights of individuals against government, a problem occurs in regards to how criminals are dealt with. The problem is that it may become difficult or impossible to imprison or punish criminals (e.g. by fining them and depriving them of some property) if their rights are inviolable by government. This is a dangerous situation, and would likely reduce the fears in the minds of criminals associated with committing crimes.


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Environment: Would libertarianism be good or bad for the environment?

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Yes

  • Individuals have the right to appropriate natural resources. Individuals, having a right to make independent choices, have the right to appropriate natural resources for their own purposes.
  • People can be trusted to make right environmental choices When people are given the choice of whether they want to help the environment, they are likely to choose the one that is best for themselves and society, which is likely to involve helping the environment. Russell Means - "A libertarian society would not allow anyone to injure others by pollution because it insists on individual responsibility."[10]
  • Many left forms of Libertarianism call for environmental protections. Not all forms of Libertarianism call for the availability of natural resources to individual ownership. Left-Libertarianism limits this, while allowing form any other forms of individual ownership.


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No


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Does the Libertarian party follow the principles of Libertarianism?

The Libertarian party claims to be the 'party of principle' due to its Libertarian Ideas. Some Libertarians, like the hosts of the Free Talk Live radio show have claimed the the Libertarian Party is abounding its original principles.
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Yes

  • The Libertarian Party only exists to promote libertarianism. People joining the Libertarian Party only join because they want to promote libertarianism. As a result, the Libertarian party follows libertarian principles.
  • All people joining the Libertarian party a required to confirm they are Libertarian. When you join the Libertarian, you a required to see that you believe in smaller government and the non initiation of force. These are key Libertarian principles.
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No

  • By being involved in government, the Libertarian Party has stopped being Libertarian. Libertarians do not promote any interaction with government. As a result, people fro the Libertarian Party, who interact with government, are not true Libertarians.
  • Some Libertarian party members are not Libertarians. Some members of the Libertarian Party believe in government restrictions on issues like drugs and immigration. This stance is not the traditional Libertarian stance.


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Is the Libertarian viewpoint right wing?

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Yes

  • Libertarianism promotes many right wing view points. Libertarians believe in several view points that are often considered right wing. For example, Libertarians believe in the relaxation of gun laws.
  • Ronald Reagan, the fortieth President of the United States, said he believed that "the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism."


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No

  • There is no point in defining a radical form anarchism (Libertarianism) Noam Chomsky - "There isn't much point arguing about the word 'libertarian.' It would make about as much sense to argue with an unreconstructed Stalinist about the word 'democracy' -- recall that they called what they'd constructed 'peoples' democracies.' The weird offshoot of ultra-right individualist anarchism that is called 'libertarian' here happens to amount to advocacy of perhaps the worst kind of imaginable tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny. If they want to call that 'libertarian,' fine; after all, Stalin called his system 'democratic.' But why bother arguing about it?"[12]


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Is the Libertarian viewpoint left wing?

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Yes



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No

  • Libertarianism promotes many right wing view points, not just left wing points. Libertarians believe in several view points that are often considered right wing. For example, Libertarians believe in the relaxation of gun laws. This position is hardly ever taken by left wing politicians, and, as a result Libertarians can not be considered left wing.
  • There is no point in defining a radical form anarchism (Libertarianism) Noam Chomsky - "There isn't much point arguing about the word 'libertarian.' It would make about as much sense to argue with an unreconstructed Stalinist about the word 'democracy' -- recall that they called what they'd constructed 'peoples' democracies.' The weird offshoot of ultra-right individualist anarchism that is called 'libertarian' here happens to amount to advocacy of perhaps the worst kind of imaginable tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny. If they want to call that 'libertarian,' fine; after all, Stalin called his system 'democratic.' But why bother arguing about it?"[13]


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Pro/con resources

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Yes



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No

Videos

See also

External links

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