Friday, September 21, 2007

The Argument for Libertarianism

Recently a discussion developed in the comments on an article on Gates of Vienna between one of the posters and me, as the poster threw libertarians in with multi-culturalists as the worst type of fanatics (while having previously stated that Islamists were, but that's a side note). The remark was triggered by an observation by Baron Bodissey that multi-culturists no longer need the nation-state, prompting the remark that libertarians also hate the state. Apart from the fact that this remark is unjust, it also ignores the vast difference between 'the state' and 'the nation-state'. Multiculturalists no longer need the nation-state, but they still very much need the state, as it enables them to extort the working people in order to waste the extorted money on their own immoral goals. As the comments section on GoV is hardly the place for a discussion like this, as it digresses off topic, I decided to devote an article to it and invite the reader to discuss it.

Libertarians don't hate the state, but they do object to it. They want to get rid of the state for precisely the same reasons the parasites support it: the massive fraud and corruption that is inherent to any state in general, and the welfare state in particular. A state has to be, by definition, a criminal organisation, having the monopoly on violence, and the ability to legalize its actions by creating laws that allow them. But that does not make those actions less criminal.

It's the state that allows Islam to colonise our countries, it's the state that criminalises free speech if that involves criticism that it does not want to allow, like Islam-criticism. It's the state that lies to their citizens about its true intentions. It's the state that takes taxpayers' money to hand it to the looters. It's the state that places the interest of groups above that of individuals. It's the state that goes to war. And because the state has the monopoly on violence, its citizens cannot defend themselves (try paying no or less taxes, you'll be lifted from your bed at gunpoint before you can say 'democracy').

Libertarianism is the closest thing to the original American Constitution, in that it guarantees (not: 'grants') people only three rights (negative, natural rights): life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness itself: you’ve got to put effort into it to achieve it. A fourth right, following from this, is the right to earned property: you get to keep the produce of your work. You don’t have the right to a house, a car, a boat or a million dollars in the bank; you’ve got the right to work for it, and once you earned it, by honest labour (physical or mental), then it’s yours to keep.

Basically libertarianism knows only one rule: you are free to pursue your own goals, as long as you do not impose on anybody else’s same freedom to do so. This is quite a bit different from ‘doing as you please’. The freedom to live your own life comes with the responsibility to bear the consequences of your voluntary choices. Ground rule is: no violence, except in self-defense. If you think about it, you do not need any other laws than this rule, based on negative rights. All positive 'rights' are assigned by people, and thus arbitrary.

When I read these angry, prejudiced reactions to libertarians it always makes me wonder where people get this hate. They are so far off the mark. Libertarians don't hate. Libertarians love individual freedom, free speech, free market, free enterprise. The state has to go because the state blocks these values, out of self-interest, by applying violence. It cannot be denied that states invariably end up killing their citizens, because when the breaking point is reached, the angry mob no longer can be controlled. Read F.A. von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. In the mean time, the state tries desperately to take away the citizen's right and ability to defend itself, in order to stay in power. In America, politicians call for gun control. In The Netherlands, where guns are already illegal, if you run across a burglar inside your house and hit him KO, you get charged with assault. The burglar, who does not honour the property rights of his victim, gets to claim all his own rights. The perp is made the victim. Rediculous: if you don't respect other people's rights, you forfait your own.

In the libertarian view, there are no illegal immigrants. Immigration has never destroyed a state. Colonisation has. Unless you hate everybody that looks different than you, has different beliefs than you and a different religion than you, there's nothing wrong with open borders. Immigrants, real immigrants, adapt, because it's in their best interest to do so. They move to a new venue because they feel it's better there, that they will have a better opportunity to pursue their happiness. Immigrants don't have a future if they don't adapt, as in a libertarian society there is no welfare state. They have to learn the language and work for their money, just like any local. If they are criminal, they will be punished, just like any local, and expelled.

Colonists, on the other hand, don't adapt, they want to submit their new society to their own values, rules and laws. As such, colonists are a threat and should be expelled. Most Islamic 'immigrants' to Western society are no immigrants at all, but colonists, which is why it's wrong to welcome them into our region. What rational logic is there in moving somewhere because the social and cultural values there offer more chances than the present ones, and then insist on taking these lesser values with you? It makes no sense, and thus betrays the real Islamic agenda.

I invite the reader to watch this short animation, read this article and read some publications by Ayn Rand, Roy Childs, Murray Rothbard, Walther Block, the list goes on... Think, think and think again. And then if you still feel that there's something fundamentally wrong with libertarianism or objectivism, put your arguments in the comments.


Mark said...


I write this in English, so other non-Dutch readers may read it as well. This is a very good piece, my compliments.

I have but a few remarks. First, you write: "Ground rule is: no violence, except in self-defense. If you think about it, you do not need any other laws than this rule, based on negative rights." It has to be said that it was Hobbes who thought the fear of violent death to be man's most passionate fear, and therefore the "right to bodily integrity" (as we call it in our 19th-century Dutch constitution) to be the basis of a peaceful society. As a consequence, he made all of man's duties conditional, subordinate to this right, and so laid the basis for a political philosophy in which rights, also positive ones, predominated over duties. It suffices to say that this is the very root of socialism.

Concerning your negative judgement on the state's monopoly of legitimate violence, I would like to add that the ability of the early state to claim this right was a rather important factor in establishing the nation-state in the first place. That the state nowadays intrudes far beyond that self-proclaimed monopoly is a product of the imposition of bad ideas, not so much of the "institution" of the monopoly of legitimate violence itself.

In general, of course, a free democratic society cannot exist without adherence to certain values and a sense of natural duty. If human behavior were merely a product of political institutions, Iraq would have a functional liberal democracy within ten years. Don't keep your hopes up.

Please do keep up the good work! It is ashame your weblog doesn't get updated more often, but I read your blogs with great interest (which, of course, you already knew). ;-)

R. Hartman said...


Thanks for your friendly comments. You correctly state that the introduction of positive rights is the very root of socialism. This is the main reason libertarianism does not recognise these positive rights, as they're always arbitrary, defined by some personal agenda of the person or group defining them.

"I would like to add that the ability of the early state to claim this right was a rather important factor in establishing the nation-state in the first place"

True, but why would you need that nation state at all? Ayn Rand's objectivism claims a minimal state is required for the collective interests and the protection of the citizen's individual rights, somewhat along the lines of the American Constitution. But the constitution also grants citizens the right to carry arms, to be able to keep the state in check once it tries to expand. Also, Thomas Jefferson strongly warned for the system of central banks hijacking power, as it would end the free state's existence, which is exactly what happened in the early 20th century.

In Roy Child's letter to Ayn Rand he convincingly makes the case for no state, arguing that a minimal state is a contradiction in terms, and as such, Rand should check her premises (basis of objectivism is that contradictions do not exist; if you encounter one, check your premises, at least one of them must be wrong). Rand responded by cancelling Childs'subscription to het newsletter and reimbursing the fees paid in advance for it. This clearly shows she was caught out but could not bring herself to admit that.

Iraq, and most of the Middle East, for that matter, is the product of a criminal totalitarian political doctrine, that, under disguise of being a religion, totally submits its followers into total obedience to that doctrine, calling for the extermination of any other ideas (and their carriers). This can only be maintained by propaganda and indoctrination from birth, inciting deadly fear, which is why Islam has hundreds of rules on how to eat, how to wash, how to shit, how to pray and how to think, imposing death penalties on any apostate and unbeliever. There's no room for any individual freedom of thought, because else people would start to object to being exploited that way.

You also seem to think that democracy is a fine system to build a state on. Well, it is, but only for the rulers, as it's the dictatorship of the majority. The Dutch democracy is no democracy at all, as it is ruled by a (fake) queen, who holds absolute power, as is becoming more and more clear with the totalitarian machinations concerning the EU constitution. The MP has already announced to undertake a 'Coup d'Etat' if Parliament insists on a referendum, by announcing to ignore Parliament in that case.

A true democracy will be a libertarian society, as it will be based on voluntary contracts between people, contracts that need to be obeyed and for the most part will be, as it is in the interest of both contractors to not violate it.

There are still a number of things I haven't sorted out about a stateless society (anarchy, but like selfishness, that has a negative ring to it, thanks to the leftists) but it seems Murray Rothbard has sorted these all out. I just need to find the time to locate the info and read it. Until then, I hover between minarchism and anarchism. The case against minarchism is a strong one, though.

Mark said...

Thanks for the long response, Hartman! I don't have much time to go into it right now, but let me at least say this:

Anarchism leads to anarchy. As people are tended towards evil (especially these days, in which morality seems to be a relic from the past), some will surely end up free-riding and choosing short-term selfish interests over the long-term benefits of society as a whole. Political philosophy's purpose is to find a balance between tyranny and anarchy, and liberal democracy (at least in its American shape) seems to be the least bad alternative. Democracy doesn't produce socialism, bad ideas do. And unfortunately, the (radical) Enlightenment has brought us too many of those.

R. Hartman said...

"some will surely end up free-riding"

Free-riding will not be possible, apart for those that have inherited wealth that allows them to do so. Remember there's no nanny-state. Anybody that's fit to work will have to work for a living, or perish. There will be a very small percentage of people that cannot do any work at all, and they can rely on charity. Charity will quickly exclude profiteurs, which the nanny state does not.

Yes, some will turn to criminal activities. Sure. But those will be powerless individuals that can be addressed and corrected, or removed from society. But currently the state is the biggest criminal organisation, and citizens have no way of correcting the state. In The Netherlands, over 50% of teh population is now directly dependent on the state, and the state keeps working to enlarge that quantity.

Turning the nanny state into a society of individual responsibilities, where people accept that freedom comes with responsibility, and that actions have consequences that need to be borne by the actor, will take effort, bcause, as you state, people have gotten used to be able to do just anything and leave someone else to pick up the pieces, a typical phenomenon of a socialistic society. Freedom has never been easy, but freedom is just.

"Democracy doesn't produce socialism"
Unfortunately, it does. As long as rulers can be elected on free-ride promises made by politicians, which is the heart of parlementary democracy, it will always lead to socialism and dictatorship, as Hayek wrote. Why? Because the system allows it.

Mark said...

First of all, thanks for your kind comments on my latest articles, and my compliments for your piece on Máxima, which was not very subtly worded either... ;-)

We've been here before, and I don't think we'll come to an agreement. You write: "Yes, some will turn to criminal activities." And people obeying their contracts with others because it is in their best interests might at some point tear them into pieces because it is in their best (short-term) interests to do so. These examples demonstrate that maintaining law and order will always require a state, I'm afraid.

I don't think a minimal state is a contradiction in terms. If anything, Reagan and Thatcher have demonstrated that it is possible to decrease government's role in public life, even though they have not quite completely reversed the unparalleled government expansion throughout the 20th century. I'm sure you'd be pessimistic about whether anyone can, but I believe that our powerful ideas might just do the job at some point.

Think of the shift within the immigration and integration debate in our little country. It's becoming a cliché that whatever "scandalous" and "racist" things Hans Janmaat said twenty years ago are now being said by people across the political spectrum. You'll still find stubborn multiculturalists, of course, but this change is not insignificant in my view.

I agree that democracy's weakness lies in the fact that discerning and addressing future threats and challenges occurs very slowly, but that need not be its nemesis.

Anyway, keep up the good work. You're a great sparring partner!

Mark said...

"These examples demonstrate that maintaining law and order will always require a state, I'm afraid." -- Bad wording. Please allow me to rephrase: "These examples demonstrate that maintaining law and order will always be necessary, and doing so requires a (minimal) state, I'm afraid."


R. Hartman said...

"These examples demonstrate that maintaining law and order will always be necessary, and doing so requires a (minimal) state, I'm afraid."

Well rephrased, Mark. But the conclusion you attach is still incorrect. The article by Stefan Molyneux on, that I linked in the last paragraph of my article, actually addresses this, and more specific your example. You just need a private firm that registers people that tend to break their contracts and sells this information as a commercial activity. Contract breakers will then quickly be out of business or employment, and will face severe problems in creating an income, as nobody will want to deal with them.

It's quite a long article, but halfway through you get the idea. I'm almost constantly reading and learning now, but it takes an awful lot of time, especially as you have to digest what you read and think about it from different angles. It's one of the reasons I don't always have the time to update this blog ;-).

So it is really in everybody's interest to stick to their deals, or they'll suffer the consequences. No state required for this, it's not even an option.

Mark said...

I know the problem of too little time and too much to do... ;-) I'll definitely read the article. On a different note: happy about the latest developments concerning the Dutch referendum on the EU Constitution -- which allegedly no longer is worthy of the label "constitution"? What a disgrace. This really pisses me off.

Hope you'll find the time to write something on that one.