7 Misconceptions About Libertarians Extended
by Ethan Glover, Wed, Oct 16, 2013 - (Edited) Thu, Oct 17, 2013
That terrible site that posts the occasional gif based article for the reading challenged, BuzzFeed, recently posted “7 Popular Misconceptions About Libertarians“. I suppose the article is funny to the people who enjoy the low brow sarcastic humor (possibly the only kind of humor left), so it may be worth a look. However, I’d like to give it a bit more serious look and in my usual style, simply answer the supposed popular misconceptions about libertarians. Note* As usual, I recognize that libertarian applies to a broad range of groups, but I will be talking specifically about anarcho-capitalists.
Libertarians are all potheads.
Personally, I hate potheads. I hate druggies. I hate hippies. Well, drug hippies. I like the natural, organic, live off the land hippies. They’re always happy, and fun to be around. That being said, this misconception comes from the fact that libertarians (in this case anarcho-capitalists) support the legalization of all drugs. This is not because they want the government to recognize their pot smoking. If a libertarian wants pot, or it anyone wants pot, they can get it. Anarcho-capitalists want to end the drug war. This is a war that has cost millions of lives and millions of dollars for no reason. If drugs were to be legalized, the presence of safe and trustable drugs could actually exist. As of now, the people who want drugs must go to a dark alleyway to buy from a shifty dealer who probably has no knowledge of proper business management and no concern for consumer safety and happiness. Legalizing drugs means the consumer who becomes unexpectedly damaged by a bad batch can seek recourse.
Not every drug leads to addictive and violent behavior. This is the nature of the black market and working around the law. Until recently, people could buy what they wanted through the online black market the Silk Road. It acted as a great community where people could rate sellers, ask questions about the effects of certain drugs and really become informed about the potential consequences and benefits so that they may weigh them according to their preferences. There is no reason to deny people the right to make their own adult decisions and do with their bodies as they see fit. If we were to look at this issue purely from the “damage” point of view, and say that addictive and damaging recreational consumptives must be banned. The first things to look at would be soda, fast food, candy and GMO’s. Yet, we allow people to choose to eat unhealthy, even if it’s just a cake for recreation because those people have the right to weigh the costs and benefits for themselves. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own bodies.
Libertarians hate poor people.
This particular misconception comes from the fact that Anarcho-Capitalists do not support any public welfare programs at all. Instead, they prefer private organizations, charity and loved ones to help people out in their times of need. The basic line of reasoning here is that welfare programs steal money from people, whether they want to donate or not, and give it to others without doing a whole lot to solve the underlying issues. Millions of people live off the backs of the taxpayers and have no intention of getting back to work. There are loose vetting processes for welfare recipients, but the majority of those people undeniably do not deserve any extra support. Many people fear that if these programs did not exist, most of the current recipients would starve. Instead of telling people to simply trust me that such a thing wouldn’t happen, the people who make this argument must only look at what gets these programs passed. Presumably, they are passed because the majority of people support them. Because, you know, “democracy”. That is a subject I won’t get into here, but the point is if most people support welfare, how can it possibly said that when those taxes are removed, that money wouldn't be redirected into charity programs?
From there, charity programs can target specific purposes such as helping people find jobs, teaching them to build businesses, showing them how to save money or even teaching sex education and “planned parenthood”. (As in knowing the costs and managing it, not the organization.) When people’s money is freed up, they can find an organization and purpose they support and donate. When these companies become corrupt and allow people to take money without any good and effective vetting process, they lose popularity and funding. Thus, through market systems and competition, you can be sure money is going to the right place. Not only that, but this creates proper perspective on scarcity. When donators and organizations cannot handle the amount of people looking for help, no matter what it is for, they can not simply create more money or go out and steal more. They must either try and get more from the customer, or that’s it. If it is unsustainable, it is unsustainable. Solutions to such a situation could range from cutting support to those who don’t need it all that much and forcing them to go fully independent or signaling to low income families that they shouldn’t have that next kid. Really, when you are not limited by the government, there are an infinite amount of solutions. All based on the issue at hand, not 200 year old elitist economic theory.
Libertarians love big corporations.
Anarcho-capitalists don’t support the existence of corporations. Corporations are entities given extra legal privileges by the government. They get special treatment in the courts and hold little to no legal responsibility for their actions. Instead, anarcho-capitalists believe that the owners of companies and direct actors have ultimate responsibility over their actions. So, suing a company would most likely mean suing the owner or the manager at a particular branch. This way, the person who supposedly commits the crime is tried rather than a fake entity that can not be put in jail and whose funding comes from company funds. When people are held responsible to their own actions and risk legal repercussions, they are much more likely to follow the law and do the right thing.
It is not uncommon for people like anarcho-socialists, anarcho-communists and even the common government supporter (statist) to think capitalism and corporations are either related or synonymous. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The extra-legal activities we see in corporations today is often called crony-capitalism, or fake capitalism. Or it may be called mercantilism or corporatism. Capitalism is defined by private ownership and free trade. Not by scams, cheats and greed.
Libertarians are isolationists.
Not quite. Anarcho-capitalism is all about free trade as mentioned in the last point. That includes trade with other countries, assuming they exist. In a society without government, companies are freely able to trade with anyone they want and they are freely able to deny trading with anyone they want. This is no different from you as an individual deciding whom you want to buy from, or who you want to trade your money to. The misconception about isolationism comes from the fact that libertarians never want war and never go for it. On the other hand, libertarians and anarcho-capitalists both, believe in self-defense. That is, if someone is directly attacked, they have every right to fight back. If an anarcho-capitalist society is attacked, those who are damaged have every right to organize and fight back, and they have every right to rally the support of others for strength.
What anarcho-capitalists do not believe in, in any form, is the initiation of force. That is, they do not and will not strike the first blow. Doing so is an obvious path to making things worse and creating enemies. Anarcho-capitalists see free trade and not intervening in other peoples matters (or remaining neutral) as a way to foster and maintain strong relationships. Instead of picking sides and warring with others, the anarcho-capitalist usually seeks staying out of the issue and letting two fighters settle things themselves. Of course, it can’t be ignored that in such a society, some people may either pay a company to, or intervene in some affairs on their own. This may cause problems for them, and if that means trouble for the entire society, they can be tried for causing problems for others and stopped. When every single individual is a competing force, there are an infinite amount of checks and balances determined by individuals rather than by politicians who scheme for general votes and then turn around to make very specific decisions for the lives of others.
Libertarians hate old people.
This is a very similar argument to the welfare programs and according to the answer on BuzzFeed is based on the lack of support for Social Security. The original article correctly points out that Social Security is a very large and slowly collapsing ponzi scheme. People are forced to pay into it, and as a result, the management of it is piss poor. If you were a company owner and you knew everyone in town had to pay you no matter what, would you bother doing anything? What if you were given some minimum requirements? You’d probably just do the minimum and take the cash, right? Especially when the amount you earn is a fixed amount. This absurd business model is exactly how social security, and really the entire government is, unfortunately, managed and run.
Anarcho-capitalists do not hate old people. They want old people to have the chance to save like they used to. Before the federal reserve, before massive printing, before government bond buying, before the idea of keeping interest rates low came about there was little to no inflation. The average savings for a single individual was half of their income. Can you imagine getting paid double what you do now and finding no better use for that money than to save it? We have this world of consumerism because people know that there is really no point in saving money. Inflation is many times larger than savings returns. If they don’t spend money now, the prices will be higher tomorrow. People haven’t become dumber, bigger gluts, or lazier, for the most part they are just products of their environment. Now, I’ll admit, there are plenty of ways to rise above your environment, and there’s really no excuse for bad money management, but when looking at things on a large scale we cannot ignore these factors. Without government intervention people are better off and able to invest and save in a way to prepare themselves for retirement. Without any government, it is only better.
Libertarians have no morals.
In general anarcho-capitalists are more concerned with morality than anyone I have ever seen. They have a very fine and defined set of core values that leads their thoughts and decisions. In contrast, most people just react in the moment and find excuses for themselves later. Usually through sarcasm and dismissal. Instead of just memorizing a list of things that is right or wrong and trying to follow that, anarcho-capitalists trace what is at the core of these things and try to apply it everywhere. They recognize that tax is by definition theft. There really is no getting around this. The question becomes, “Are you willing to support theft or not?” The anarcho-capitalist says no. They don’t care what other people say. They don’t care what the thief says, they know and understand that it is wrong and look for answers on how to solve the issue.
As for personal morals such as gay marriage and drugs, the anarcho-capitalist sees this as just that, personal morals. As long as you are not harming someone or their property, fine. Every person has the right to make their own decisions and bear the consequences of those decisions. There is no reason for fully grown adults to act as busy bodies trying to tell other people to follow their own personal doctrine of what is and isn’t the right way to live. When you threaten to arrest people and put them in cages for not following that personal doctrine, there is something very wrong with you at a core level. When you look at things in the perspective of what you know to be right and wrong and forget about what your told the exceptions are, this becomes a very clear absurdity.
Libertarians are pacifists.
I don’t like druggies, and I don’t like pacifists. Ok, so apparently the word pacifism really more applies to war than an everyday doctrine. So I don’t actually hate pacifists. Instead, I hate people who think that they can get themselves out of any situation by not defending themselves and instead hugging a would be attacker. That is the kind of person this misconception really targets. But when you look at the dictionary definition of pacifism you will see that it just means looking for peaceful methods as alternatives to war. So really, this is kind of a tricky one to answer.
The real take away is that anarcho-capitalists are all for self-defense but reject any right to initiate force against others. As mentioned in the isolationist misconception, if someone is attacked, they may fight back or gain support from others. Those others then must decide if a person is worth defending. Ideally this should be through court and a neutral jury, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, every single individual in the anarcho-capitalist society is a power check on others. Every action a person makes affects the people around him, those people react in certain ways, and it creates an inevitable butterfly effect. When everyone is acting in their own ways, you get chaos. But through this chaos, when we are allowed to adapt to each other and work with each other, we get order. Pure, moral and free order.