A Redditor posted this series of questions, to which I have responded:
So, Im learning about libertarianism for the first time, and to me, there seems to be some really glaring oversights within. Maybe I’m missing something here. Could you guys help me with a few questions, as well as tell the general overview of the libertarian ideal? (I dont have any libertarian friends to ask, and wiki isnt as helpful as you’d think)
Question 1: How much government do you want reduced? I know you say you don’t like moral laws, like smoking laws and seat belt laws, but what about laws that aren’t based on personal decisions, like environmental restrictions, the EPA, FDA food standards? Things to keep OTHERS from hurting you.
Coercive funding of the State should be abolished. A distinction must be made between good government and the coercively funded State. Good government would be a system of private property rights enforcement funded by voluntary contributions in a free market. For example, private armored car services, bouncers at bars and nightclubs, mall security, (formerly private) airport security, apartment complex security, loser-pays private arbitration courts, civil courts, and other such private voluntarily funded security and arbitration systems.
As far as environmental laws are concerned, the vast majority of pollution that occurs is created by government regulation and a lack of clearly defined property rights. For example, BP’s damages for the recent oil spill were arbitrarily limited by government. BP also did not have to face civil suits by fisheries because the government does not enforce property rights on the ocean. If fishermen could “own” a section of the ocean, they could then sue BP for damages to their particular parcel of ocean property. This same principle is true for all pollution problems. If the government allowed private property owners to sue specific polluters for damaging their property, all pollution would rapidly be brought under control. All pollution problems are the result of a lack of property rights enforcement by a “good” government. Listen to economist Walter Block give a lecture on this very subject here.
In looking at regulations that attempt to prevent people from getting hurt or sick, such as food regulations or drug licensing, we can see that not only are they ineffective, they are downright dangerous. See this article for a review of food regulations, and see this article for a review of FDA drug licensing. Such regulations and licenses create moral hazard and restrict innovation and competition. People should only be charged with a crime if they intentionally hurt someone, and people should only face litigation if they intentionally, fraudulently or negligently hurt someone. Regulations and licenses create pre-crime – very Orwellian concept.
Question 2: Why no taxes? Why is it that you feel like you, simply by being born, were ordained these certain unalienable rights to things just because you feel like you deserve them? I mean that of land, personal wealth, etc. One argument ive heard is “I wasn’t born to provide for you, and vise versa.” To which I would argue “You werent born FOR anything, you werent created for a purpose. You just happened to be one of lucky people to be born. Reason doesn’t agree with Locke, reason and rational thought doesn’t permit you to simply HAVE unalienable rights to shit just because. You live on this big rock with lots of other people and (to use lockes on ideals) have signed a social contract by choosing to live in the country you have (one that feels its an obligation to help others)”
Taxes involve the initiation of force against innocent people. The use of violence against people who have harmed no one is immoral. All socialist and fascist States that have engaged in mass murder, tyranny, corporatism, and militarism have used the power of taxation to fund their endeavors. Because a government that is powerful enough to take what it wants from others against their consent necessarily has no limits on how much it can take, it will continually expand itself until it consumes itself like a parasite destroying its host.
All contracts must be voluntarily entered into and agreed to by all parties involved in order to be considered legitimate. Because taxation involves the use of coercion and is not something people voluntarily agree to, it is always illegitimate.
“Rights” come from the fact that we are human and that we act with reason. Economist/Historian Tom Woods gives an excellent lecture that addresses where “rights” come from. It should be self-evident that no one has the right to initiate violence against others, nor does anyone have the right to tell others to initiate violence against others on their behalf.
Question 3: What is the general libertarian view on things like state funded homeless shelters, health care for the poor, food stamps, etc? e.i. government services that help those in need.
Prior to the creation of a large American welfare state, most of those services mentioned were carried out by private charities. Consider that old people were not dying in the streets prior to the creation of social security. Consider that children were not dying in the streets prior to the creation of medicaid. Charity was able to meet the needs of the poor just as well as State created bureaucracies. American’s currently donate over 2% of GDP to private charity on an annual basis. This is more than enough to help those who truly need help. Of course, if taxes did not exist, we could expect faaaar more to be donated regularly. Private charities are crowded out by government welfare programs.
Question 4: What’s the importance of science vs. religion to libertarians?
State created religious institutions should not exist, such as marriage laws. The State has no business granting licenses for people to get married. People should be free to believe what they wish, without having to subsidize any particular religious practice with money that was taken from them through the use of coercion.
Similarly, research and development is best left in the hands of private entrepreneurs and businesses. When the State spends money on science, it wastes it on things like the Gravity Probe B experiment, LIGO, and the Tokamak. When private businesses spent money on science, they ALWAYS put it toward some research that will improve the condition of humanity (excluding those business which are extensions of the State, such as the military industrial complex). This is necessarily so because private business must create products that people want to buy voluntarily on their own.
No one wants to buy a space laser to shoot down missiles, but everyone wants to buy the latest mobile phone technology so they can communicate more efficiently. Private companies would not waste research dollars on technology that did not meet consumer needs.
Question 5: What do you feel the role of government is? Personally I feel its the role of the government to protect and provide for its people as much as it can afford to do, like Sweden.
If you believe the role of government is to protect and provide for its people, then what do you believe the role of free markets is? What are free markets? Aren’t they nothing more than individuals voluntarily trading goods and services between each other? If people are left alone, don’t they engage in building and producing things to trade with one another? Do people need bureaucrats breathing down their necks before they manage to create new computers or cars?
Is the government capable of creating new cars or computers better than private markets? In order to eliminate poverty, don’t we need to produce an abundance of goods so that everyone can have more stuff to make their lives better? Is the government capable of producing more stuff than private markets? Aren’t private corporations the largest beneficiaries of government welfare, rather than consumers, through the use of patents, copyrights, government no-bid contracts, bailouts, stimulus spending, and tariff protections?
Thanks for you answers in advanced, Ill be happy to discuss this further as well later on, but for now I won’t have internet for a while. I hope i didnt come off as being condescending! Im really just curious. Thanks