Please share and use this libertarian resource and help me to improve and perfect it by using the comment thread below to offer suggestions, criticisms, and commentary regarding the choice and scope of objections as well as the libertarian answers to them. If you know of an article or video that better or more succinctly answers an objection than what I have included, please share it in the comments! If you can think of an important objection that I have missed, please let me know!
Economic Objections to Libertarianism
1. We need the government to prevent monopolies.
This is one of the most common objections to libertarianism. The very best answer to it I have ever encountered is in Ayn Rand’s book:Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal. In it, a very young Alan Greenspan (before he sold out) wrote an essay called “Anti-Trust” which demonstrates how theoretically and historically, it is actually only government intervention that can create a true, coercive monopoly, not the free interaction of individuals in an unregulated market. You can listen to the first half of this essay in audio format here. Those of you with no scruples about copyrights can read the entire essay here (but I highly recommend you buy the entire book— I daresay it’s one of the most important libertarian books ever written). Milton Friedman alsomakes his case here, listing multiple examples of monopolies created by government intervention.
2. Capitalism inherently exploits labor.
This depends firstly on your definition of capitalism. Defining our terms clearly is very important to prevent equivocation during political discussions. If I may say so, one of the best explanations of capitalismcan be found at this very website. If this is your definition of capitalism, and it is what libertarians actually mean by capitalism, then the notion that it exploits labor evaporates. Another great explanation and defense of capitalism can be found at Mises.org. Finally, you can simply point out to objectors that since the advent of more capitalist economies, the rate of return on capital (how much profit you can make by investing in capital) has remained steady, as has the rate of return on land (rents from real estate) when compared to the explosive growth in the rate of return on labor (hourly pay). Do workers in more capitalistic countries work harder than their counterparts in less capitalistic ones? They probably work less hard and in better conditions. So why are they paid more? Because capital has made each hour of their labor vastly more productive. Capital and capitalism have done more for the laborer than any other development in human history. For more on this, I again refer you to Ayn Rand’s Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal.
3. Cutting government spending would harm the economy.
Libertarians can refute this objection with one simple analogy and a few historical examples. Besides, government spending is almost always, if not always less efficient than private spending, which results in a net economic loss, or at least less net economic gain than would be possible without the government spending.
4. The TARP bailouts were a necessary evil; libertarians would have done nothing and let the economy crash.
In my six reasons not to bailout the “big three” auto companies, I make a solid case against all such corporate bailouts of mismanaged companies. When conservatives make this argument, ask them why they think free markets would have failed to do a better job of resolving this problem than government. Ask them why they support socialism and point out that the TARP bailouts socialized corporate losses by spreading them out to the rest of society. Also ask them why they support welfare and point out that the bailouts were an example of welfare, and that they incentivize more unproductive behavior the same way conservatives feel that welfare for the poor does. When social democrats make this argument, ask them how they could support taking money from the working middle class and poor to give to rich, Wall Street banks. When they answer, as Obama did in one 2008 presidential debate, that it was necessary to keep businesses running so they could continue to employ the working middle class and poor, say: “So you’re arguing that if the government gives money to the wealthy, it will trickle down to the poor?? Now you sound like a right-wing Republican!”
5. Libertarianism is good for big corporations.
If that were true, why don’t more big corporations support libertarianism? Instead they seem to support more big government. Go ahead, browse OpenSecrets.org for yourself.
6. Libertarians want to take us back to the gold standard.
First of all, even if this were true, what would be so bad about that? Objectors will act as if libertarians are backward and unsophisticated for supporting a gold standard currency, but libertarians should point out that fiat currency is nearly as ancient as currency itself, and that centralized governments have been inflating currency for centuries with the same result each time: monetary collapse, often followed by civil disorder. But secondly, this objection isn’t even true about most libertarians. Most libertarians do not advocate some kind of government monopoly gold standard like we had over a century ago because it can be all too easily manipulated; they actually prefer what most libertarians would call a free market of currency that allows individuals to decide for themselves what currency is and how much they trust it.
7. Libertarians would let foreign countries put Americans out of work.
Because protectionist economic policies force American businesses and consumers to pay higher prices for certain things (like steel or sugar) than they would have to pay in a free market, most economists agree that such policies have the effect of a net economic harm to the domestic economy and are overtly anti-consumer. And it is actually protectionist policies that put Americans out of work by causing this net economic harm to the growth of the domestic economy.
8. We need government to stabilize the economy and prevent steep booms and busts.
Booms and busts themselves are actually caused by government intervention into the economy. Libertarian economists who understand this (many of them belonging to the “Austrian School of Economics”) have been incredibly accurate predictors of economic booms and busts. They predicted the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970s (that their opponents had always claimed was impossible), and the most recent credit and housing collapse. Their predictive powers are the result of their accurate theories and understanding. Here, I’ll let “F.A. Hayek” rap it for you.
9. We need government to provide “public goods.”
Wrong. No we don’t. Not for lighthouses and national defense. Not for dikes. “Public goods” is simply a concept that has been used as the theoretical basis to justify all kinds of disingenuous, rent-seeking behavior.
10. We need government to regulate negative externalities.
The argument that negative externalities are examples of market failure does not necessarily prove the necessity for government intervention, and does nothing to address the
possibility unavoidable reality ofgovernment failure. Just one example of government failure, for instance, is unintended consequences. Libertarians do have a solutionto negative externalities, however, which is using our system of civil law to enforce and protect private property rights.
11. The recent financial collapse proves that capitalism doesn’t work.
Myth. Really stupid myth too. How on earth the housing and financial markets prior to the recent bust could possibly be characterized as capitalist is beyond me.
Moral and Religious Objections to Libertarianism
12. Libertarians are immoral hedonists.
Ouch. Not really.
13. Libertarians would let drugs flood our streets.
Portugal has empirically proven this false. By completely decriminalizing drug possession over a decade ago, the country has actually achieved better metrics on drug abuse than it had before and better than we have in the United States.
14. Okay, maybe marijuana should be legal, but not hard drugs like heroin!
Look again to the example of Portugal above, which decriminalized all hard drugs, not just marijuana.
15. A libertarian society would let sexual immorality run rampant.
Like Jesus did when he chose not to use the apparatus of the state to enforce sexual morality, instead telling those around him that he without sin should cast the first stone? And isn’t putting politicians in charge of our sexual morality kind of like putting alcoholics in charge of our sobriety?
16. Libertarianism is un-Christian.
That’s not what they think at LibertarianChristians.com. Their about page has a lot of good information and links to good arguments explaining that it’s perfectly sound to be a Christian and a libertarian.
17. Libertarians are religious fanatics.
On the one hand Christians will make Objection #16 above, but on the other hand, atheists, agnostics, and progressive, mainline Christians will accuse libertarians of being too “extremely” Christian and obsessed with excluding the government from every area of their lives on religious pretexts and brainwashing their children via private, religious homeschooling. Ask them why Ayn Rand was a libertarian then.
18. Jesus was a socialist.
No he wasn’t. But he wasn’t really a capitalist either. His message wasn’t: “This is how you should live” or “This is the ideal form of government.” His message was: “I’m God.” It falls into an entirely different kind of category and answers entirely different questions from the claims made by capitalists and socialists. Let’s just agree to leave him out of this. For those who simply can’t agree to this, answer:
"Christ taught that one cannot live by the sword- I’d add that one cannot give by the sword. If the Good Samaritan had robbed the priest in order to take care of the man in need and pay for his lodging at the inn, he would have been the Bad Samaritan. If he had fancied himself charitable while doing so, he would have been the Hypocritical Samaritan. Christ taught to take care of those in need. It is a leap of logic to infer that Christ supported the modern democratic social welfare state.”
19. Libertarians are all pro choice.
No we’re not. Ron Paul, for instance, a doctor who has delivered hundreds of babies and one of the most visible champions of libertarian thought is 100% pro life. But we’re not all pro life either. Libertarianism does not inherently dictate a particular view on this matter.
20. Libertarians oppose Israel.
Okay, if the person making this objection can read this essay in its entirety (which was written by a Jew), without budging or at least experiencing the sudden onset of a cognitive dissonance headache, I don’t know if there’s much you can do to help them. You can try my essay, which is addressed to Christians and makes a Biblical case against Washington’s foreign policy toward Israel.
21. Libertarians are anti-family.
22. Ron Paul’s supporters are like a cult.
'Yet the Paul movement, as should be obvious, is the very opposite of a cult. For one thing, their leader hardly ever uses the word “I.” For another, they have substantive reasons for supporting him. Speak to a Ron Paul supporter and you’ll find someone who knows much more than the average person about topics like monetary policy, the Constitution, U.S. history, economics, etc. That person can give as many solid, substantive reasons for supporting Ron Paul as you have time to listen to.' -Tom Woods
Social Welfare Objections to Libertarianism
23. Who will take care of the poor in a libertarian society?
"Roughly half the American populace currently votes for Democrats and Democratic policies that believe in the role of government as ‘collective citizenry’ to support the welfare state in order to prevent mass poverty. Yet, these same voters believe that without these specific welfare policies in place, the half of the populace that so deeply believes this would still allow this poverty to occur. Either these individuals are afraid of something ridiculous, or confident in their own hypocrisy." -Eric Olsen
Also some of the very earliest libertarians were primarily concerned with the problem of poverty, and among the first theorists in human history to suggest that poverty could and would be entirely eliminated. As Ayn Rand said, if capitalism had never existed, any honest humanitarian should have been trying to invent it. It has, as a matter of fact, raised the standards of living beyond anything ever achieved by central economic planning in human history.
24. Health care is a necessity and a right, not a product.
What is a right? Health care is not a right, it’s a good. That doesn’t even make any sense. When you think of it as a right, you create some strange logical corollaries. The first government to guarantee cradle-to-grave health care as a “constitutional right” unwittingly unleashed horrors on its people. Okay, Soviet Russia doesn’t count for some arbitrary reason? What about Canada? What about Massachusetts? Government interventions and market distortions are at the root of lack of access to health care in the United States today. Advocates of government-run medicine may have less than the best intentions in mind, and may have some of the very worst, most vicious, most evil ideas at heart.
25. How would we educate our children without government?
The same way that colonial Puritans educated their children without government, producing a universal literacy rate, a feat that bests that of present day America in the era of public schooling. The premise behind public schooling may be well-intentioned, but is grotesquely paternalistic. One libertarian solution, a school voucher program, was tried in D.C. where it produced better results at a quarter of the cost! The program was canceled while government bureaucrats hid the studyshowing the program’s success.
26. So you would get rid of Social Security?
Libertarians absolutely do not advocate the government ripping off people who paid into Social Security. They deserve to get back the money that they put in. We do support allowing people to opt out of paying into a system that we know is mathematically incapable of not ripping them off in the future (thanks to big government). Many of us also support making a step in the right direction by privatizing Social Security accounts.
The net present value of privatizing Social Security is estimated to be as much as $20,000,000,000,000. The historical data on countries that have privatized their government run pension-systems promises us great reward if we follow their example. When Chile made this revolutionary reform to its own government pension system in 1980, the results after 15 years were exemplary.
27. People deserve to make a living wage.
At whose expense? Low-skilled workers? Racial minorities? And what’s a “living wage?” Enough to afford air conditioning? Enough to afford a television? An iPhone? Eating out twice a week? Brand name athletic shoes?
28. Libertarians would end student loans for college.
Non-libertarians would keep college expensive.
29. Libertarianism benefits those who already have money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
This just isn’t true and unwittingly betrays an ugly underlying premise which isn’t at all concerned with the welfare of the poor, as humorously demonstrated by Margaret Thatcher.
30. How would libertarians make sure people have adequate housing?
By making sure the government stays out of their way; ending the bubbles that create boom and bust cycles created by government interference; not allowing government to displace people from their homes and destroy communities; and lifting zoning rules andgovernment regulations that drive up the prices of housing.
31. The wealthy should give back to society.
Maybe. But that’s an ethical claim, not a political one. Even if it is true, it is a different assertion than: “The government should force the wealthy to give back to society.” Ask the objector if they believe that the government should legislate private moral beliefs— regarding sexuality for instance. Ask them how their private moral belief in charity is any different, and why government should legislate that one. Also point outas Milton Friedman does, that the wealthy do “give back to society” when they invest their profits in the capital that improves society’s productive possibilities and raises society’s standard of living.
Regulatory Objections to Libertarianism
32. Child labor would run rampant in a libertarian society.
33. We need regulations to keep us safe.
No we don’t. Who regulates the regulators? The perfect example of regulation actually causing the problems that people then call for yet more regulation to solve is the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.
34. How would libertarians guarantee workplace safety?
By the hand of the free market.
35. Who will maintain housing standards and safety in a libertarian society?
Reread the answers to Objections #30 and #33.
36. How would libertarians keep corporations from defrauding us?
By forcing them to compete for our dollars by providing us value instead of defrauding us of our money by lobbying for it from government. By recognizing that regulation does not prevent fraud. By enforcing contracts that protect our property rights in courts of law.
37. How would libertarians protect the environment?
Remember first of all, that the worst polluter in the world is the United States government. Significantly curtailing its size, role, and influence, especially that of the Pentagon, would drastically decrease the amount of pollution in the world. Remember secondly, that the world is far cleaner today than it was a hundred years ago, and the reason isn’t environmental regulation, but private enterprise and the explosion in wealth. This makes sense because environmental protection is a consumption good that we can afford more of as we become more wealthy. Note thirdly, that libertarians offer private property rights with their corresponding legal protections as the best solution to protect the environment. And observe finally, that the language and “reasoning” of environmental hysteria is often without substance, fraudulent in its claims, bears the hallmarks of religious faith rather than scientific inquiry or philosophical discourse, and posits— without justifications other than aesthetic appeals— that the pristine, untouched (by humans) environment is somehow intrinsically valuable, and thereby implies necessarily that man is somehow flawed and alien to the intrinsically good “environment” around him, that humanity and the requirements for its survival are evil.
38. What about food safety?
What about it?
39. What about drug safety?
What about the damage done to life and liberty by FDA regulation?
40. Who would enforce transportation safety?
Not the government!
41. Who would enforce broadcasting standards?
No one. Though consumers would be free to express their preferences by viewing or listening to programs that matched their differing tastes and standards.
42. Who would promote energy alternatives to fossil fuels?
National Security and Foreign PolicyObjections to Libertarianism
43. Libertarians are all isolationists.
Calling people like Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, and other critics of military intervention in countries like Libya (not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan) “isolationist” would be like calling a high school prom king, president of his senior class, and editor on the yearbook staff, an introvert… because he never gets in any fights.
On both an individual and geopolitical level, violent conflict is not a necessary part— and certainly not the only means— of interacting with others, making friends, and being a leader. That anyone should even need to hear that clarification is a bewildering indictment of prevailing American attitudes toward global conflict and Washington foreign policy.
44. Libertarians don’t believe in a strong national defense.
Sure we do. We’re just smart about it. And we recognize that not all spending marked as “defense” actually makes America safer or our defenses stronger.
45. Libertarians don’t support the troops.
That’s funny, because the troops support libertarians.
46. Libertarians would leave our borders open.
If the objector means to foreign threats, libertarians would actually protect our borders better than anyone else by worrying less about the borders between foreign countries half a world a way and focusing on defending our own borders and points of entry from potential threats. If the objector means libertarians would support an open door policy regarding immigration, many of us would. Economically immigrationis a net positive for American wages, jobs, and productivity. Culturally, we don’t see what conservatives are so opposed to in the mass immigration of people from Latin American countries, people who closely share their conservative values of family, hard work, and religious piety— and even their opposition toward abortion and their respect for masculinity and cowboy machismo. But don’t worry, libertarians also oppose letting immigrants take advantage of government handouts (we don’t even like American citizens taking advantage of government handouts).
47. Libertarians don’t comprehend the danger of the threats opposing America.
Actually we do. In fact, we might comprehend the danger with a more accurate sense of scale than the fear-mongers who would make this objection. You see, we’re just not afraid. And we’re not going to let foreign terrorists scare us into giving up our American values and form of government.
48. Libertarians would just let Iran and similar countries go nuclear.
Yeah. So what? To say that Iran having a nuclear weapon is a potential threat to its neighbors is one thing — to say that it is a threat to the United States is quite another. Maybe the best policy to keep America safe in our post-atomic age would be not to antagonize other countries in the first place, so we don’t have to worry at all when they acquire nuclear capabilities. And please forgive me for pointing out the absurdity of Washington acting as world police for nuclear weapons, when it is the only government in history to actually use a nuclear weapon on another country.
49. Libertarians wouldn’t water board a terrorist to keep Americans from dying.
Neither would John McCain, who knows a thing or two about torture. Neither would Ronald Reagan, who prosecuted a sheriff for waterboarding. And waterboarding does not make America safer anyways. It is a part of very un-American torture techniques ”based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes.” It does not provide accurate information: “In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain.”
50. World War II got us out of the Great Depression.
No it didn’t. Wars destroy wealth by allocating labor and capital toward the destruction of other labor (people) and capital instead of toward producing things. There’s an opportunity cost for the first kind of labor and capital and an overt destruction of the second set of labor and capital. Wars also lower standards of living by crowding out consumption.
51. Libertarians like Ron Paul always blame America first.
No, libertarians like Ron Paul put America first.
52. How can we let atrocities happen in other countries without intervening?
We do all the time when they don’t have oil, or aren’t planning to swap out the dollar for another reserve currency. The humanitarian justifications for war are always just rationalizations, and the effects of Washington’s global interventions throughout the last century have been tragic on a horrific scale.
Political Objections to Libertarianism
53. Libertarians don’t offer solutions, just criticisms.
Huh. What’s this? Or this? Or this? Or this? Or this (a self-described libertarian, who didn’t just offer solutions, but enacted them to spectacular effect after becoming governor of his state)?
54. Libertarians are too liberal.
On the contrary, libertarianism fulfills conservative values best.
55. Libertarians are too conservative.
On the contrary, libertarianism fulfills liberal values best.
56. Libertarians are unwilling to compromise.
Actually it’s the partisans in Washington’s party duopoly that are unwilling to compromise. Libertarians hardly even have the chance to compromise because we’re hardly even allowed into the conversation. In fact, libertarians offer many difficult, but necessary compromises that would help solve many of the problems facing America today.
57. You’ve got to have some taxes.
Libertarians don’t necessarily believe in no taxation. They just believe in a lot less than we have today. Though some of them have made surprisingly convincing arguments against any kind of taxation. Ayn Rand for instance, offered a very clever replacement for coercive taxation in the form of user fees for government services that would be voluntary because the user only has to pay the fee if they choose to use that particular government service. One example Rand gives is a fee, paid in advance, for any future enforcement of legal contracts in civil courts. It is from these fees that a properly restrained and delineated government would be able to carry out its basic functions, and Rand even reasons that big businesses and wealthy individuals would and should pay most of these fees because they have the most to lose without a government to protect property rights.
58. Libertarianism can’t succeed in America’s two-party system.
Actually, America can’t succeed in America’s two-party system.
"The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’? Why should Hitler be ‘right’ and Stalin, his temporary friend, be ‘left’? Who is ‘reactionary’ and who is ‘progressive’? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. ‘Orthodoxy’ is not an evil if the doctrine on which the ‘orthodox’ stand is sound. Who is anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is ‘nationalist,’ those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?" -Ludwig von Mises
59. The Commerce Clause allows government to do many of the things libertarians claim are unconstitutional.
Nope. Not true.
60. The Constitution allows government to “promote the general welfare.”
Not quite. At least not the way you mean it.
61. The Constitution is a living document.
Whatever— so long as it “lives” and “breathes” in its own, clearly delineated space and stays out of the space that has been reserved for the people.
62. The government can’t just go back on its promises and pull the rug out from under people.
Well actually, it does that all the time (ask the Native Americans), which is one more reason to stop trusting it with more and more of our money, liberty, lives, and future, but most libertarians would agree that we should find ways to limit government growth while continuing to honor promises it has made to the American people (for instance, via Social Security). The only way to do this is to stop making new promises (because the government simply, mathematically cannot continue to do so at the present rate with any reasonable chance of following through), give people the freedom not to be obligated to pay into unsustainable systems like Social Security, and severely curtail the size and cost of the Washington establishment to reduce costs and siphon that money toward paying down obligations until they’re gone. This third step involves ending corporate handouts, freezing federal hiring as well as increases in public compensation, and ending all the unnecessary wars and foreign aid.
63. What do we do with all the people who already have government jobs?
Put them to productive work. And don’t worry, even some of the strictest of libertarian budget cutters like Ron Paul, don’t support firing government employees, but propose to put a freeze on new hiring and diminish the number of public sector workers via attrition, which might be why Ron Paul is ironically getting so many donations from federal workers.
Practical Objections to Libertarianism
64. What about roads?
Oh the roads. They always, always bring up the roads. No worries. The Ludwig on Mises Institute’s got your back here, here, and here.
65. What about fire departments?
66. We need some gun control.
Tell that to Malcolm X. He probably makes a better case for gun rightsthan I could. In case that doesn’t work, remind your objector that preventing gun violence won’t prevent all violence: determined lunatics like the Virginia Tech or Tucson, Arizona shooters could simply resort to another method like a car bomb. But gun control laws might prevent people from protecting themselves from violence: if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. And gun control is empirically proven as a matter of record to increase rates of crime (and fascism), while more permissive gun laws are strongly correlated with lower rates of crime, which is why jurisdictions with notoriously strict gun control measures paradoxically tend to suffer from the worst rates of violent crime– that is, places like Washington DC, Chicago, and the United Kingdom. Ever try dialing 9-11 while being mugged?
67. What about funding for science and research?
First re-read the answers to the economic objections above regarding market failure and public goods, replacing every instance of “public good” with “scientific research,” then read this Mises paper explaining why the entrepreneur, operating by profit and loss, does better scientific research than the government, operating by (…???).
68. You’d get rid of NASA?
Yeah. We don’t need NASA. The world would be better off.
69. What about patents and copyrights?
Libertarians are divided on this issue, with some like Ayn Rand who strongly believe in patents and copyrights as a necessary part of property rights, and others like Thomas Jefferson who regarded them as government-granted monopolies that served no useful purpose. So there’s really no single libertarian answer to this question, though in a libertarian society, it’s complicated issues like this that policymakers should be able to discuss and debate in good faith and with the common goal of maximizing human liberty.
70. What about funding for the arts?
Writing in the 1800s, French economist Frederic Bastiat answers.
71. What about police departments?
Most libertarians believe police departments are legitimate role of government and should be provided by the public sector. Those who disagree provide compelling arguments for a free market in security.
72. How would libertarians deal with major disaster response?
Better than FEMA.
73. Who would deliver the mail in a libertarian society?
Not the USPS. Lol. Free market alternatives and substitutes like: FedEx, UPS, email, text, super cheap long distance plans, cell phones, Skype, Facebook, and on and on the list could go…
74. People would just be allowed to sell their organs in a libertarian world.
Theoretical Objections to Libertarianism
75. There will never be a libertarian society.
There might never be a society where no one ever murders anyone else. That doesn’t mean that such a society wouldn’t be preferable to the one we live in and it certainly doesn’t mean we should strive by increments toward the goal of living in such a society. This question is irrelevant. The question is whether a libertarian society is a good society. If it is, then the question is not “Will good win out over evil in the end?” as if there is some ultimate “end” in the first place, but here and now, in this very moment: “Will you be good? Will you strive for the good? Will you defend the good against its detractors? Will you oppose what is evil? Will you speak out against it? Will you fight it? Will you thwart it?” If you believe liberty is good and you answered yes, then you are a libertarian. Besides no one can actually be sure of this objection. Ask them, “How do you know?” They’ll likely give some of the other objections in this list and you can proceed to answer and settle those. I, for one, usually lean toward believing that there absolutely will be a society more libertarian than any other in human history and that it will happen in the lifetime of my own generation (I was born in the late 1980s).
76. People are too greedy / selfish / imperfect for libertarianism to work.
Right, people are greedy. In fact, people are too greedy, selfish, and imperfect for centralized political power in the hands of an elite few to work. If people are so horrible by nature that they can’t be expected to get along with each other fairly, how on earth is concentrating the force of political power in the hands of just a few of these horrible people going to make matters any better? The record of history shows it doesn’t. It makes things worse. The historical record of government is a record of greed, selfishness, and human imperfection without limits or restraint, armed with the aura of moral ascendancy and the guns of an army, stomping on the face of humanity, prone to mismanagement, abuse, misuse, malfeasance, corruption, secrecy, lies, mass theft, and mass murder. If people are imperfect and unworthy to govern even themselves, then they are certainly more unworthy to govern others.
77. You can’t have no government at all.
Most libertarians don’t argue for no government at all. They argue for constitutionally-limited government, which confines itself to the role of acting as a policeman to protect its citizens from aggression. Those libertarians that do argue for no government at all, at least deserve to be heard out instead of dismissed outright on the basis of your preconceived notions of what they believe and how well they can defend it.
78. Libertarians are too idealistic.
Reread Objection #76 —statists and non-libertarians are too idealistic if they believe that the state has their best interests in mind and not the special interests of the well-connected elite and powerful in mind. They are too idealistic if they believe the people who brought you the Postal Service will ever outperform the people that brought you the iPhone. They are too idealistic if they would trust their health care or the education of their children in the hands of a government that took days just to bring water to Hurricane Katrina victims.
79. Libertarianism is too extreme. We need a balance.
Extreme is merely a modifier. Too often in modern political discourse, the word itself is taken as evidence of something sinister, but what’s sinister about a man of “extreme integrity?” Or what would we make of the claim that someone was “moderately honest?” Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
80. Libertarianism is social Darwinism.
The activity of government and of the rent-seekers that shoulder up to the trough of government is more like social Darwinism. Study the history of just about any government to observe the behavior of the strong manipulating and controlling the weak. Contrary to that paradigm, libertarians offer a social order that allows everyone to benefit from the achievements of the able instead of suffer at their mercy.
81. Libertarianism has it all wrong— I’m an anarchist / voluntaryist / agorist / etc.
When people say this, they’re just trying to get attention and feel “badass.” Smile and nod. Or ask them this: “So you’re an anarchist, huh? Because you believe a society without a state is preferable to one with a state? Because you believe that a stateless society would maximize human liberty? So your criterion here is human liberty? Soooo…. you’re a libertarian.”
82. Libertarianism could work on a smaller scale, but not with so many people and not in modern times.
Why not? I’m inclined to think that central planning becomes more difficult the more people there are to manage and the more new modern technologies and complexities there are to take into account.
83. You can’t just let people do whatever they want.
From my e-book, Learn About Liberty:
'To enjoy freedom or liberty presupposes a prepositional object. To be free from what? To enjoy liberty from what?
Thomas Hobbes understood liberty to mean “license” -license to do whatever one pleases. Hobbes found liberty- as he understood it- to endanger human happiness and prosperity. Without a strong, central government to forcibly limit our destructive whims at whatever price (including the destruction wrought by the government’s own whims!), life would be a “war of all against all,” rendering the average human life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Indeed the liberty to follow any whim or wish at anyone’s expense, running roughshod over the lives of other human beings, would be a very dangerous kind of liberty. Who could have any liberty at all if anyone else who pleased could come along to rob, enslave, or even murder them? But there is another way to understand liberty: to be free- not from whatever principle, convention, or constraint impedes one’s every terrible whim as Hobbes defines it- but to be free from aggression. It is in this sense that libertarians understand freedom.’
84. It’s not a violation of your liberty because you had a chance to vote on it.
You will often hear some variant of this objection to libertarian ideas. Sometimes a critic will just say, “If you don’t like it, you can vote to change it.” The problem with this argument is the moral impotence of democracy. What makes government so special? And who says voters are so smart?
85. Government does do good things.
At what opportunity cost? With what unintended consequences? And are even the best-intentioned government programs the first step on the road to serfdom?
86. We have to give up some rights to get others as part of “the social contract.”
Says who and by what special authority?
87. Libertarianism is adolescent. You’ll grow out of it.
Smug condescension is sophomoric. You’ll grow out of it.
Historical Objections to Libertarianism
88. There has never been a libertarian society.
Answer: “If I were arguing for the abolition of slavery in 1700, would you object by saying there has never been a slaveless society? No? See how that particular objection isn’t relevant?”
89.How’s libertarianism working out for Somalia?
90. So would you repeal the Civil Rights Act?
So would you force a black restaurant owner to serve a Klansman? Would you force a bartender at a gay bar to serve Fred Phelps?
91. Too many libertarians are racists.
What’s racist about balanced budgets? Besides, too many politicians are racists… and too many journalists let them get away with it.
92. Libertarians are closet secessionists and neo-confederates.
If anyone makes this objection to libertarianism, RUN LIKE HELL. Get out of there before they eat your brains.
93. Libertarians are “crazy.”
This is just empty name-calling. Ask your objector what they mean by that and press them until they stop using vague insults and make substantive criticisms. They’ll likely make one covered elsewhere in this list.
94. Libertarians are all conspiracy theorists.
Remind your objector that a conspiracy theory is a particular view of history, a theory that a certain conspiracy has happened or is happening. Libertarianism is an entirely different kind of thing. While it draws on history’s lessons to support its ideas, libertarianism is not a particular view of history, but a normative political philosophy that prescribes the best way for human beings to live and interact. If a few, or even if all libertarians happen to believe in certain conspiracy theories, whether those theories are true or false is a separate question from whether libertarian political and economic theories are true are false.
And conspiracy theories themselves are not inherently libertarian. The “birther” theory got started in the Democratic Party by supporters of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the 2008 presidential nomination and spread to the Republican Party after the primaries where it is alive and well to this day. The 9-11 “truth” conspiracy theory is also as rampant if not more rampant among Democrats and the political left as it is among libertarians. Every major political group or school of thought is going to have its fringe members with odd ideas that are irrelevant to the school of thought itself.
95. Libertarians are mostly rich, white men.
Tell that to me (poor), Frederick Douglass (black), or Ayn Rand (woman). Libertarian ideas are not inherently modern nor ancient, neither are they inherently ethnocentric, neither are they inherently androcentric. They do not favor any specific class, which is plainly evident in their theory and amply proven by the record of their history. It’s funny libertarians should always be slandered as stupidly wide-eyed idealists one minute, and totally self-interested pigs the next. Pick a lane, people! And oh yeah— actually governments are mostly run by rich, white men. Just in case ya didn’t notice. If you’re skeptical of “rich, white, man bias,” you should be skeptical of government… like libertarians.
96. Libertarians are heartless.
"What? I thought we were brainless idealists. Which is it?" (Then once again, ask your objector to be more specific, which will lead to discussions of substantive issues.)
And: assuming that statists have a monopoly on the golden rule just because they want to use the most coercive, inefficient, blunt-trauma institution in the world— the US Federal Government— to express their love is facetious.
97. You want things to go back to the 1800s?
You want your wealth and standard of living to increase by a factor of six??
98. We need a strong federal government to keep the states in line.
Thomas Jefferson best addresses this in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, explaining how we need strong states and a strong citizenry to keep the over-reaching, police state powers of the federal government in line.
99. Libertarianism got us into the Great Depression.
Not true! All kinds of massive government interventions preceded and caused the Great Depression.
100. Spending got us out of the Great Depression.
Wrong again! I’ll let Hayek take it from here.