Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Godless Capitalist

Are Libertarians Really Anarchists?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I realize that some libertarians are self-described anarchists. However, most libertarians I meet descibe themselves as advocates of limited government very similar to Objectivism's ideal government. So, for those who believe that most or all libertarians are really anarchists, what is your basis for this belief?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the claim was that the Libertarians (capital 'L', denoting the Libertarian political party in America) contained a lot of anarcho-capitalists, not that all libertarians (small l, meaning anyone with minarchist/classical liberal beliefs, including Objectivists) were anarchists? Small-l libertarian philosophers like Robert Nozick obviously arent anarchists.

The small-l/big-L distinction is quite important here, since not all libertarians support the Libertarian party. There are several I know who oppose it due its perceived lack of direction, and stance on foreign policy.

Edited by Hal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, for those who believe that most or all libertarians are really anarchists, what is your basis for this belief?
I would not describe myself as having that belief, but I do have a related belief, which is that the majority of libertarians do not adhere to a principle which excludes anarchy as a possibility. That means that the choice between restricted government (a proper Objectivist government) and complete anarchy is, for them, an arbitrary choice -- some of them may not feel like having anarchy, but there is no philosophical foundation to libertarianism that precludes it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also do not believe that most or all Libertarians are anrachists; I agree with the above poster who pointed out that most of the non-anarchists among them have no principled objection to the anarchists. Also, the anrachists among them tend to present the most consistent case; in my opinion the status of an "ism" is determined by its most consistent adherents.

Finally, I believe the official Libertarian platfrom still advocates the "right of secession", as well as other nods to the anrachists in its ranks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would not describe myself as having that belief, but I do have a related belief, which is that the majority of libertarians do not adhere to a principle which excludes anarchy as a possibility. That means that the choice between restricted government (a proper Objectivist government) and complete anarchy is, for them, an arbitrary choice -- some of them may not feel like having anarchy, but there is no philosophical foundation to libertarianism that precludes it.

In my experience, libertarians who argue against anarchy generally use either the same standard arguments that Ayn Rand used in her essay in VoS, or the more sophisticated ones given by Robert Nozick in ASU. Of course the primary objection to anarcho-capitalism is that it simply couldnt work, and I think pretty much everyone other than the anarchists are agreed on that.

Edited by Hal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What's a little practical hurdle to stop you from realizing your dreams, though? Anarchism can work, because they want it to real badly. Isn't that worthy of our undying approval?

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always used this as the "rule of thumb". Objectivists are more concerned with the nature of government while Libertarians are concerned more with the size of government. If I come across Liberatarians that wish to eliminate government for the sake of eliminating it, then I think it's fair to call them anarchists.

Most libertarians (little "L") that I come across have mixed/contradictory premises; one that comes to mind is a self-described "imperialist libertarian" that wishes to use excessive military force when necessary to push a libertarian agenda. Most are not concerned with philosophy, are quite pragmatic/whimsical and have no guiding force for any ethical agenda save the "golden rule" and the "coercion rule".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've always used this as the "rule of thumb". Objectivists are more concerned with the nature of government while Libertarians are concerned more with the size of government.

Do you think that the size of govenment and the nature of government are unrelated, or only loosely related?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What's a little practical hurdle to stop you from realizing your dreams, though? Anarchism can work, because they want it to real badly. Isn't that worthy of our undying approval?

:P

5 anarchists thinking about it can't make it work, but maybe if 5 million thought about it really, really hard it would work. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The size of government is really irrelevant--the principles upon which it functions is the only thing that determines whether it is a just institution. In fact, the more powerful and overbearing the government is in its protection of rights, the better. My only fear in a truly capitalist society would be whether the government could be powerful enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do you think that the size of govenment and the nature of government are unrelated, or only loosely related?

They are two different axes on the coordinate system, so to speak. There could be a small and powerless government consisting of would-be tyrants, and there could be a just government wielding a great and powerful army.

The premise "the smaller the government, the better" is anarchist by implication: if you can always improve things by shrinking the government, you'll keep "improving things" until you have no government left.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a question I'd like to inject into this discussion, particular as it pertains to the Libertarian arguement against Big government. The Objectivist belief is that the Courts should be the body to deal with all property disputes, if I remember correctly, and such a daunting task would require a pretty massive court system considering the sheer number of fraud cases that could come up, even in a country with no room for government manipulation to cover one's bases. Would it be correct to assert that one of the differences between Libertarianism and Objectivism is that Libertarianism arbitrarily makes the assumption that a free market implies a universal adherance to individual rights?

I've always been heavily critical of the Libertarian party because of it's hostility to reason, one which I have openly experienced when debating them on such issues as copyright and patent laws, foreign policy, and law enforcement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fraud is also punishable by law right now, and because you'd have a lot less bad laws in this case the courts can be smaller than they are now and still do what they are supposed to do more effectively. Besides, if you look at it from the expenses point of view the courts probably take up such a small part compared to welfare and various pressure-group associated costs that it is almost negligable.

Over here for example, if they'd reduce the functions of the government to the proper ones they could reduce taxes by about 85%, easily. That would mean going from almost 50% income tax to something like 9% or so, which is an enormous difference. But then, I've never seen anyone in politics trying to consistently cut down on taxes, and I doubt it will happen any time soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would it be correct to assert that one of the differences between Libertarianism and Objectivism is that Libertarianism arbitrarily makes the assumption that a free market implies a universal adherance to individual rights?
That is a typical characteristic of libertarians, but not universal. David Friedman for example recognises that rights violations can occur in a libertarian society.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I realize that some libertarians are self-described anarchists. However, most libertarians I meet descibe themselves as advocates of limited government very similar to Objectivism's ideal government. So, for those who believe that most or all libertarians are really anarchists, what is your basis for this belief?

Libertarians are simply anarchists by another name. In "The Perversion of Liberty," Peter Schwartz pointed out that

Libertarians direct their antipathy toward any limitation upon human conduct, including those enacted through the legitimate state function of identifying and banning the use of force. Law as such is an anathema to libertarians who reject all standards of behavior on principle. They abhor the law because it tells them in effect that they cannot do whatever they feel like doing.

Without limitations on human conduct including banning the use of force, we would have full blown anarchy. Sure, there are some libertarians who pay lip service to limited government and the rule of law, but they are no different than leftists who deceptively call themselves

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is absolute nonsense. Let me guess, he person who wrote this doesnt bother referencing any examples of prominent libertarian writers actually doing what he accuses them of, right? Edited by Hal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is absolute nonsense. Let me guess, he person who wrote this doesnt bother referencing any examples of prominent libertarian writers actually doing what he accuses them of, right?

If it is nonsense, then A = non-A. In another essay Mr. Schwartz provides several odious examples of libertarians tolerating and supporting the practitioners of force and mysticism, the Attilas and Witch Doctors of our age:

It is a movement that embraces the advocates of child-molesting, the proponents of unilateral U.S. disarmament, the LSD-taking and bomb-throwing members of the New Left, the communist guerrillas in Central America and the baby-killing followers of Yassir Arafat. These views have all been accepted under the Libertarian umbrella (and remain accepted under it by everyone who still calls himself a Libertarian). It is these types of vermin that one is lifting into respectability whenever one sanctions Libertarianism—or whenever one maintains that ideas can be analyzed without being evaluated.
http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...ivism_sanctions

Need examples? Just look at the Libertarian Party platform which calls for “the withdrawal of all American military personnel stationed abroad”! Imagine the chaos and bloodshed that would occur if U.S. troops were taken out of the Middle East. What a boost that would be for the baby-killing followers of Yassir Arafat! This “party of principle” also champions “the right to secession by political entities, private groups or individuals.” So once you, I and the rest of America secede from the U.S., what do we have left? That’s right, anarchy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
! Imagine the chaos and bloodshed that would occur if U.S. troops were taken out of the Middle East. What a boost that would be for the baby-killing followers of Yassir Arafat! This “party of principle” also champions “the right to secession by political entities, private groups or individuals.” So once you, I and the rest of America secede from the U.S., what do we have left? That’s right, anarchy.

Regardless of your views on withdrawing troops from the Middle East, I dont see why this is relevant to the claim that "Law as such is an anathema to libertarians who reject all standards of behavior on principle. They abhor the law because it tells them in effect that they cannot do whatever they feel like doing". There are obvious problems with the Libertarian Party's stance on various issues, but inventing ridiculous strawmen doesnt really help anyone. Schwarz's articles tend to be filled with poor scholarship and outright lies, even when the general points he makes are correct.

Also note that in their discussion of secession the, the LP explicitly state "exercise of this right, like the exercise of all other rights, does not remove legal and moral obligations not to violate the rights of others." (link) The secession issue is essentially a chioce to opt out of government programs or to get together with likeminded people and create a new state on land which you own, not a way to avoid action being taken against you if you procede to murder someone or whatever. There are no real Objectivist grounds for opposing secession as long as the new state is going to be rights-respecting.

edit: and to repeat what has also been stated several times in this thread, not all libertarians support the american Libertarian party (and conversely, not all members of the Libertarian party are libertarians; a significant minority of them are anarcho-capitalists).

Edited by Hal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Regardless of your views on withdrawing troops from the Middle East, I dont see why this is relevant to the claim that "Law as such is an anathema to libertarians who reject all standards of behavior on principle. They abhor the law because it tells them in effect that they cannot do whatever they feel like doing".

In the absence of U.S. troops in the Middle East, who do you suppose will be enforcing property rights and civil order there? The Fellowship of Muslims for Rationality? The chaos that would follow U.S. withdrawal is the very thing libertarians long for. Libertarianism is based on nothing more than subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism and as such must inevitably lead to a war of all against all.

There are obvious problems with the Libertarian Party's stance on various issues, but inventing ridiculous strawmen doesnt really help anyone. Schwarz's articles tend to be filled with poor scholarship and outright lies, even when the general points he makes are correct.

What strawmen, what lies, what poor scholarship? Read Mr. Schwartz’s “Libertarianism: the Perversion of Liberty” and the other essay at the Ayn Rand Institute that I linked to. He presents a devastating case against libertarianism and shows not only that it is an irrational philosophy, but evil and destructive as well.

Also note that in their discussion of secession the, the LP explicitly state "exercise of this right, like the exercise of all other rights, does not remove legal and moral obligations not to violate the rights of others." (link) The secession issue is essentially a chioce to opt out of government programs or to get together with likeminded people and create a new state on land which you own, not a way to avoid action being taken against you if you procede to murder someone or whatever. There are no real Objectivist grounds for opposing secession as long as the new state is going to be rights-respecting.

So what happens when New York City breaks up into a hundred or a thousand different republics? Suppose a pedestrian of the Republic of Bleeker St. and Broadway is robbed by a purse-snatcher from the Republic of Amsterdam Ave. and W. 145th St. Does the Republic of Bleeker St. and Broadway send its army into the territory of Amsterdam Ave. and W. 145th St.? And what if they are met by a local patrol who declare that they reject the claim of the professed victim? Then what happens? As Ayn Rand would say, “You take it from there.”

edit: and to repeat what has also been stated several times in this thread, not all libertarians support the american Libertarian party (and conversely, not all members of the Libertarian party are libertarians; a significant minority of them are anarcho-capitalists).

So? As Mr. Schwartz says, “There are Marxists who do not see that their philosophy leads to totalitarian enslavement, there are Kantians who do not see that their philosophy leads to nihilism.” And there are libertarians who do not see that their philosophy would lead to the end of civilization.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the absence of U.S. troops in the Middle East, who do you suppose will be enforcing property rights and civil order there? The Fellowship of Muslims for Rationality?
This misses the fundamental point about the function of government -- our government. Their need does not constitute a valid claim on my life. Our govenment has the responsibility to defend the rights of us, not of them. Let an altruistically-based (improper) government be in charge of protecting the rights of terrorists and others. We simple need to draw a line in the sand, and use whatever megatonnage is necessary to defend America from invasion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is absolute nonsense. Let me guess, he person who wrote this doesnt bother referencing any examples of prominent libertarian writers actually doing what he accuses them of, right?

Schwartz references Libertarian writers extensively, including Rothbard, Block, several LP publications, the LP platform, etc. Before you dismiss the entire essay based on one excerpt and label Schwartz a liar, I'd suggest reading the essay in full. The first time I read it, I was a little hesitant about accepting the conclusions. But when I reread the essay recently after becoming more familiar with Objectivism, I saw more clearly why he is correct.

Keep in mind that what Schwartz attempts to do is identify the *essence* of Libertarianism, which is subjectivism, and to show why the consistent Libertarian is at best unable to defend liberty on any grounds other than whim and, more likely, will follow his subjectivism to whatever brand of totalitarianism his particular whims point toward. Schwartz addresses the point that many will object to his conclusions and say that they do not adhere to anarchism etc. But all this means -- and the essay in full proves this powerfully -- is that those folks don't understand the nature of their own ideology.

If you have any specific examples of where Schwartz uses "lies" or "poor scholarship", please share.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This misses the fundamental point about the function of government -- our government. Their need does not constitute a valid claim on my life. Our govenment has the responsibility to defend the rights of us, not of them. Let an altruistically-based (improper) government be in charge of protecting the rights of terrorists and others. We simple need to draw a line in the sand, and use whatever megatonnage is necessary to defend America from invasion.

I am interested only in protecting the rights of Americans -- and that includes those whose work and technology made Iraq's oil wealth possible. I'm not a military expert, but I have serious doubts about reclaiming American assets in the Middle East unless we first subdue the local savages by armed might.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Schwarz's articles tend to be filled with poor scholarship and outright lies, [...]

Here the words "tend to be" are weasel words. With those words dropped, your statement asserts that Peter Schwarz writes articles "filled with poor scholarship and outright lies." What is your evidence for this attack on a prominent Objectivist?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am interested only in protecting the rights of Americans -- and that includes those whose work and technology made Iraq's oil wealth possible.
Irrelevant on the first account because any American laborers were compensated for their work. Under capitalism, workers do not own the means of production -- that is socialism. The proper concern is over the rights of the owners of the oil wealth (which happens not to be Americans). Irrelevant on the second account because one cannot own an idea. It is not the function of a proper government to protect a citizen's ideas from being used by foreigners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...