May 31, 2011

Business Insider: Libertarianism Won't Tend My Lawn

From Business Insider:
I wandered over the Libertarian Party and I found their Platform. I'm sure there are a few items here and there with which some libertarians disagree, but in general, it seems to me to be a pretty fair representation of libertarian beliefs, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. That said, I do not believe libertarians live up to their stated beliefs. Here's the first sentence of the pre-amble:

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

To that end, of course, the libertarian philosophy also seeks to minimize government, in particular, government coercion . . .

And it is precisely here - in the first sentence of the pre-amble, and its implications, where libertarians go off the rails. Consider the following... my neighbor, whom we have never met and might not even have seen (we're not certain) despite living in this house for two years, seems to enjoy letting her lawn grow uncontrollably . . . 

4 comments:

TiradeFaction said...

Pretty decent argument against Libertarianism (or I suppose Free Market minarchism) though it could have been written better.

But weird seeing this here, it seems barely on topic in so far of what is usually posted here.

d.eris said...

I highlighted this piece because it discusses the LP platform and doesn't just dismiss it out of hand. imo, the argument isn't very strong, though it is not uncommon so far as criticism of libertarianism goes, and there are a number of standard rejoinders I've seen in response. Among them is the so-called "harm principle" from J.S. Mill's 'On Liberty according to which the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over anyone, against his will, it to prevent harm to others. It is often considered basically synonymous with Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous maxim that "the right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

According to this principle then, the argument from the Business Insider piece is a non-starter. Either the neighbor with the unkept lawn is harming others and therefore can rightfully be constrained. Or the neighbor with the weedy lawn is not harming others, and the anal-retentive jerk who calls the cops because he doesn't like his neighbor's unkept lawn needs to get a life.

TiradeFaction said...

I think there are plenty of good arguments against minarchism in general, particularly free market minarchism. I agree though, the post was written up rather sloppily, almost sophomoric.

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