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A Liberal's Constructive Criticism for Libertarians

Troubadour

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Libertarianism is not "the" answer to America's problems, but that does not mean it doesn't have some answers to some questions - at least within proper context. So I would like to offer subscribers to that viewpoint a bit of constructive criticism that may help them be more positive contributors to American politics.

1. If you are an American, then the systemic problems of its government, its economy, and its society are your problems.

Nobody wants to hear you talk about all the issues you don't care about. You may think something isn't your problem, but obviously it has consequences that are your problem or else you wouldn't bother talking about it. For instance, if Problem X results in Policy Y, and you oppose Policy Y, then clearly you have an interest in dealing with Problem X in order to remove the rationalization for Policy Y.

You may feel you shouldn't have to take responsibility for Problem X, but one way or another you do: If you don't, someone else will, and their solution will be far less likely to take your views into consideration if you simply oppose any attempt to deal with the problem. Because, once again, nobody cares that you don't care - you might as well walk into a restaurant and start loudly complaining that you're not hungry.

2. Don't deny the existence of problems arising from ideas you support.

Nothing is perfect in the real world, so regardless of what your ideas are they will result in problems if applied in practice. You may not care about those problems, but as noted in #1, your indifference is irrelevant: Either you will provide ideas to deal with them, or someone else will address them in ways you oppose. Being honest and constructive about the consequences of your ideas is a major step toward realizing them.

3. If you can't think of a better solution than one you oppose, concede the issue until you do.

Blanket opposition is the mark of dishonest participants interested only in playing power games. By conceding an opponent's ideas in the absence of a practical alternative, you show that you are engaged constructively with your fellow citizens to improve our country, and are not simply waging ideological war to dominate them. You don't have to say they're right, just that theirs is presently the best practical option.

4. Be prepared to be wrong.

Human beings are often wrong, so don't be enraged when confronted with facts suggesting you are. That doesn't mean a given idea you support is intrinsically insupportable, but the facts may indicate that under specific conditions, your idea will not succeed. If this is the case, be prepared to acknowledge the information and modify your idea: It will become stronger and more likely to make a solid contribution when subjected to an honest learning process. Refusing to acknowledge failure is not success - it is the most total failure possible. You may have legitimate circumstantial reasons to feel that a failure has not actually occurred, but if you cannot in all of history identify a single instance where ideas you support failed to succeed because they were not suited to the problems at hand, then you are not seriously examining them: Every idea has failed somewhere, for some reason.

5. Speak to the viewpoints of all involved sectors of society

The libertarian perspective arises strongly from the viewpoint and lifestyle of the affluent private business-owner, home-owner, and (tangentially) member of majority identity groups. This is perfectly valid in itself, but far more often than not these are the only groups whose interests are even acknowledged by libertarian commentary. Be aware of - and respectful toward - the viewpoints and interests of renters, wage-earners, the unemployed, public sector workers, union members, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and other groups who together represent the American people.

Don't insult people by acting as though the only valid way to benefit them is to make their employers and landlords richer: The interests of the average American are not the same as those of businesses and landlords, and are often at cross-purposes, so acknowledge those differences and address them. Modify your ideas to take those differences into account.

6. Come up with a more honest name for yourselves.

Anyone who identifies themselves by a term so fraught with connotations as "libertarian" should probably be more interested in actual liberty than with waging a perpetual Holy War against taxation. But the reality is the exact opposite: Taxes are the central concern of libertarianism, and exhaust the vast majority of its rhetoric, its activism, and its policy proposals. Matters like human rights, due process, search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, equal protection, ending drug prohibition, etc. occupy a relative minority of their time and resources compared to angrily denouncing welfare programs.

So I would suggest a more appropriate term for people whose focus is mainly on reducing taxes and public spending: Propertarianism. Property, not liberty, is clearly the central value of a viewpoint that does not think torturing people is worse than taxing them; that is violently offended by the thought of some poor guy getting by on the taxpayer dime, but can only muster qualified criticism of the most expensive, least accountable bureaucracy in the US government - the Department of Defense. I urge anyone whose views fit this description to adopt the more accurate term, Propertarian, and openly contrast your opinions with those of libertarians for whom basic human rights are obviously a much higher priority than fiscal policy.
 

VF500

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You've obviously spent too much time listening to long winded professors. No one cares to read a novel or term paper. Cut to the chase son.
 

pendulum_jaw

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If pretentious, professorial rhetoric could slaughter straw men, we'd have a bloody massacre on our hands here...
 
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Kushinator

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Question: most libertarians feel it is absolutely necessary to deregulate the financial industry. Did this type of "policy" compel those on Capital Hill to "socialize" their losses in late 2008/early 2009?
 

MKULTRABOY

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I dont think youre gonna get anyone to listen, amigo.
 

Paschendale

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In theory, libertarian ideals of self-determination are great. But in reality, people have differing amounts of power. And if you don't have power, and your interests conflict with those who do, you're screwed. Poor people, especially minorities, in a libertarian society, have no protection from the interests of big business. There would be no regulations preventing pharmaceuticals to be sold to them under false pretenses, nor to prevent corporations from dumping toxic waste into their backyards.
 

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All criticisms of Libertarianism rely on a sole fiction, a fallacious assumption most libertarians do nothing to rebut. It seems most libertarians are focusing on the trees while missing the forest.

This false supposition on which all anti-libertarian thought rests? That the State is proficient, or has any interest, in protecting the defenseless.
 
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MKULTRABOY

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All criticisms of Libertarianism rely on a sole fiction, a fallacious assumption most libertarians do nothing to rebut. It seems most libertarians are focusing on the trees while missing the forest.

This false supposition on which all anti-libertarian thought rests? That the State is proficient, or has any interest, in protecting the defenseless.

I dont get it.
 

Elutherian

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What makes you think this?

Human Beings are, by and large, selfish beasts. Upon entering a position of authority, this nature is amplified.
 

Ikari

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In theory, libertarian ideals of self-determination are great. But in reality, people have differing amounts of power. And if you don't have power, and your interests conflict with those who do, you're screwed. Poor people, especially minorities, in a libertarian society, have no protection from the interests of big business. There would be no regulations preventing pharmaceuticals to be sold to them under false pretenses, nor to prevent corporations from dumping toxic waste into their backyards.

This is based in ignorance and hyperbole.

Why do people insist on attacking libertarian philosophy based on their own bigotries, misunderstanding, and propaganda? It just makes you look stupid. Seriously.
 

FederalRepublic

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Dear President Obama,

Please see below:

1. The systemic problems of its government, its economy, and its society are your problems.

Nobody wants to hear you talk about all the issues you don't care about. You may think something isn't your problem, but obviously it has consequences that are your problem or else you wouldn't bother talking about it. For instance, if Problem X results in Policy Y, and you oppose Policy Y, then clearly you have an interest in dealing with Problem X in order to remove the rationalization for Policy Y.

You may feel you shouldn't have to take responsibility for Problem X, but one way or another you do: If you don't, someone else will, and their solution will be far less likely to take your views into consideration if you simply oppose any attempt to deal with the problem. Because, once again, nobody cares that you don't care - you might as well walk into a restaurant and start loudly complaining that you're not hungry.

2. Don't deny the existence of problems arising from ideas you support.

Nothing is perfect in the real world, so regardless of what your ideas are they will result in problems if applied in practice. You may not care about those problems, but as noted in #1, your indifference is irrelevant: Either you will provide ideas to deal with them, or someone else will address them in ways you oppose. Being honest and constructive about the consequences of your ideas is a major step toward realizing them.

3. If you can't think of a better solution than one you oppose, concede the issue until you do.

Blanket opposition is the mark of dishonest participants interested only in playing power games. By conceding an opponent's ideas in the absence of a practical alternative, you show that you are engaged constructively with your fellow citizens to improve our country, and are not simply waging ideological war to dominate them. You don't have to say they're right, just that theirs is presently the best practical option.

4. Be prepared to be wrong.

Human beings are often wrong, so don't be enraged when confronted with facts suggesting you are. That doesn't mean a given idea you support is intrinsically insupportable, but the facts may indicate that under specific conditions, your idea will not succeed. If this is the case, be prepared to acknowledge the information and modify your idea: It will become stronger and more likely to make a solid contribution when subjected to an honest learning process. Refusing to acknowledge failure is not success - it is the most total failure possible. You may have legitimate circumstantial reasons to feel that a failure has not actually occurred, but if you cannot in all of history identify a single instance where ideas you support failed to succeed because they were not suited to the problems at hand, then you are not seriously examining them: Every idea has failed somewhere, for some reason.

5. Speak to the common interest of all Americans, rather than dividing them into groups and pitting them against one another

The socialist perspective arises strongly from the viewpoint that common people are utterly incapable of making the correct decision in any situation and must, for their own good, have their decisions made for them by a smarter government official. A valid argument could be made, because some people are incredibly stupid and should probably not be making decisions, but far more often than not the people you intend to decide for are actually more knowledgeable about their particular situation than you are. Be aware of - and respectful toward - those who don't think you are the second coming of Jesus.

Don't insult people by acting as though the only valid way to benefit them is to forcibly take from their neighbors. The interests of the average American are not the same as those of politicians, and are often at cross-purposes, so acknowledge those differences and address them. Modify your ideas to take those differences into account.

6. Come up with a more honest name for yourself.

Anyone who identifies themselves by a term so fraught with connotations as "democratic" should probably be more interested in actual self-determination than with waging a perpetual Holy War against it. But the reality is the exact opposite: Control is the central concern of "democratic" politicians, and they exhaust the vast majority of their rhetoric, activism, and policy proposals trying to increase it. Matters of self-determination are essentially absent compared to angrily denouncing whatever particular group of people happens to be out of favor and seeking to limit their ability to make decisions for themselves.

So I would suggest a more appropriate term for people whose focus is mainly on controlling the people: Communism. Control, not self-determination, is clearly the central value of a viewpoint that does not think people are capable of making decisions themselves; that is violently offended by the thought of some guy getting getting to use his earnings as he sees fit, but can only muster qualified criticism of the most unethical of their bretheren in congress. I urge anyone whose views fit this description to adopt the more accurate term, Communist, and openly contrast your opinions with those of democrats for whom basic human rights are obviously a much higher priority than controlling the people.
 

Kushinator

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This is based in ignorance and hyperbole.

Why do people insist on attacking libertarian philosophy based on their own bigotries, misunderstanding, and propaganda? It just makes you look stupid. Seriously.

Did the dereguation of the financial industry allow for depository institutions to use their excess reserves to create/sell/hold toxic securities which caused systemic risk; risk that is insured by the federal government?
 

Redress

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Moderator's Warning:
The personal attacks and other comments on posters needs to stop, now. Infractions have been handed out, and more will happen if the attacks continue.
 

Ikari

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Did the dereguation of the financial industry allow for depository institutions to use their excess reserves to create/sell/hold toxic securities which caused systemic risk; risk that is insured by the federal government?

The latest financial collapse did occur due to the destruction of proper regulation and oversight. It was the Clinton/Bush 1-2 punch that allowed financial institutions to act in unsustainable means, and means that could only create a spectacular crash. These were the results. Measured reality. Yet this was not product of libertarian engineering. This is Republocrat engineering. So I don't see how it can be applied as proper criticism to the libertarian platform.
 

Demon of Light

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This false supposition on which all anti-libertarian thought rests? That the State is proficient, or has any interest, in protecting the defenseless.

My criticism towards the particular strain of libertarianism is actually due to one false assumption of libertarians: That the State refers only to government and that business cannot be just as abusive.

An example I think of to show where individual economic rights inherently conflict with human liberty is if someone were to buy all the land in a country. According to paleolibertarians that individual has the sole right to decide what to do with that land. In such a case "individual liberty" translates into a totalitarian dictatorship.
 

Kushinator

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The latest financial collapse did occur due to the destruction of proper regulation and oversight. It was the Clinton/Bush 1-2 punch that allowed financial institutions to act in unsustainable means, and means that could only create a spectacular crash. These were the results. Measured reality. Yet this was not product of libertarian engineering. This is Republocrat engineering. So I don't see how it can be applied as proper criticism to the libertarian platform.

A common pillar of the libertarian platform is financial deregulation. Markets will fail without appropriate government involvement.
 

tacomancer

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Libertarianism is not "the" answer to America's problems, but that does not mean it doesn't have some answers to some questions - at least within proper context. So I would like to offer subscribers to that viewpoint a bit of constructive criticism that may help them be more positive contributors to American politics.

1. If you are an American, then the systemic problems of its government, its economy, and its society are your problems.

Nobody wants to hear you talk about all the issues you don't care about. You may think something isn't your problem, but obviously it has consequences that are your problem or else you wouldn't bother talking about it. For instance, if Problem X results in Policy Y, and you oppose Policy Y, then clearly you have an interest in dealing with Problem X in order to remove the rationalization for Policy Y.

You may feel you shouldn't have to take responsibility for Problem X, but one way or another you do: If you don't, someone else will, and their solution will be far less likely to take your views into consideration if you simply oppose any attempt to deal with the problem. Because, once again, nobody cares that you don't care - you might as well walk into a restaurant and start loudly complaining that you're not hungry.

I don't think this critique is very fair. There are plenty of things that harm me in my daily existance to address problem that I have no stake in. However, I do have a moral right to be concerned with any possible harm caused by the solution to someone else's problem.

2. Don't deny the existence of problems arising from ideas you support.

Nothing is perfect in the real world, so regardless of what your ideas are they will result in problems if applied in practice. You may not care about those problems, but as noted in #1, your indifference is irrelevant: Either you will provide ideas to deal with them, or someone else will address them in ways you oppose. Being honest and constructive about the consequences of your ideas is a major step toward realizing them.

I probably should not speak for them, but my general impression from most debate I have had with libertarians is that they don't consider the natural fallout of their philosophy to be a bug, but more of a feature. Personally, I think such a world would be dystopian (even though, I suspect I would do very well in such a world, but a grown up should always be concerned with more than just themselves), but thats just me.

3. If you can't think of a better solution than one you oppose, concede the issue until you do.

Blanket opposition is the mark of dishonest participants interested only in playing power games. By conceding an opponent's ideas in the absence of a practical alternative, you show that you are engaged constructively with your fellow citizens to improve our country, and are not simply waging ideological war to dominate them. You don't have to say they're right, just that theirs is presently the best practical option.

This I think is a valid criticism. Often the response I get when I bring up very good points is "freedom" and then my point is ignored. However, this is something that I believe is up to the individual poster to correct. Some are less dogmatic and easier to talk to than others. Two good examples are Harry and Phantomez.

4. Be prepared to be wrong.

Human beings are often wrong, so don't be enraged when confronted with facts suggesting you are. That doesn't mean a given idea you support is intrinsically insupportable, but the facts may indicate that under specific conditions, your idea will not succeed. If this is the case, be prepared to acknowledge the information and modify your idea: It will become stronger and more likely to make a solid contribution when subjected to an honest learning process. Refusing to acknowledge failure is not success - it is the most total failure possible. You may have legitimate circumstantial reasons to feel that a failure has not actually occurred, but if you cannot in all of history identify a single instance where ideas you support failed to succeed because they were not suited to the problems at hand, then you are not seriously examining them: Every idea has failed somewhere, for some reason.

I am not sure about the context of this one, so I will decline from adding my two cents.

5. Speak to the viewpoints of all involved sectors of society

The libertarian perspective arises strongly from the viewpoint and lifestyle of the affluent private business-owner, home-owner, and (tangentially) member of majority identity groups. This is perfectly valid in itself, but far more often than not these are the only groups whose interests are even acknowledged by libertarian commentary. Be aware of - and respectful toward - the viewpoints and interests of renters, wage-earners, the unemployed, public sector workers, union members, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and other groups who together represent the American people.

Don't insult people by acting as though the only valid way to benefit them is to make their employers and landlords richer: The interests of the average American are not the same as those of businesses and landlords, and are often at cross-purposes, so acknowledge those differences and address them. Modify your ideas to take those differences into account.

This is indeed a problem. When any portion of the population feels oppressed for whatever reason, even society is acting in a moral way as viewed by another, we have a recipe for societal disorder and harm.

6. Come up with a more honest name for yourselves.

Anyone who identifies themselves by a term so fraught with connotations as "libertarian" should probably be more interested in actual liberty than with waging a perpetual Holy War against taxation. But the reality is the exact opposite: Taxes are the central concern of libertarianism, and exhaust the vast majority of its rhetoric, its activism, and its policy proposals. Matters like human rights, due process, search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, equal protection, ending drug prohibition, etc. occupy a relative minority of their time and resources compared to angrily denouncing welfare programs.

So I would suggest a more appropriate term for people whose focus is mainly on reducing taxes and public spending: Propertarianism. Property, not liberty, is clearly the central value of a viewpoint that does not think torturing people is worse than taxing them; that is violently offended by the thought of some poor guy getting by on the taxpayer dime, but can only muster qualified criticism of the most expensive, least accountable bureaucracy in the US government - the Department of Defense. I urge anyone whose views fit this description to adopt the more accurate term, Propertarian, and openly contrast your opinions with those of libertarians for whom basic human rights are obviously a much higher priority than fiscal policy.

I think you are wrong here. But I should let libertartians speak for themselves on it I think,
 
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Kushinator

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Markets "fail" regardless of government involvement.
It's a requirement of progression.

Of course "markets" fail, but it is important to consider scope, as well as the costs associated with said market failure, which are imposed on society.

Because markets are inherently unstable, should we just allow them to act on their own accord as your straw-man (bold) inherently implies?
 

Harry Guerrilla

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Of course "markets" fail, but it is important to consider scope, as well as the costs associated with said market failure, which are imposed on society.

Because markets are inherently unstable, should we just allow them to act on their own accord as your straw-man (bold) inherently implies?

I don't believe they are inherently unstable but that they are dynamic.
Change ≠ unstable.
We experience many of those "failures" on a daily basis, without forethought, yet most are fine.

How is it a straw man?
I went directly off what you said.
 
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