There’s this meme going around which reads, “All cats are libertarians. Completely dependent on others but fully convinced of their own independence.” The implication is that libertarians have deluded themselves into thinking they have the skill set to provide everything they need in life on their own without assistance. They have deluded themselves into thinking they can farm, build a car, make a house and build a furnace.
Does anyone in their right mind really think libertarians believe this? Only the complainers who want to smear the philosophy who don’t understand it think this. When you meet a libertarian, ask them if they think this. None but a mentally disturbed person (or a really skilled one) would claim this.
No, libertarians understand very well they’re dependent on other people but what they want, is to choose who to interact with and not be forced through a government program or policy on who to interact with. So the meme remains true. But without the implication of delusion of being able to provide everything on their own. What we want, is the freedom to seek out the best people to rely on, not have a certain set determined for us.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen as of late is that being a libertarian means being selfish. Being a libertarian, they say, means only looking out for yourself and be damned your neighbors and community. But again, those that say this haven’t done their homework on what libertarian means.
The platform of the Libertarian Party reads, in part, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”
Does any of this sound selfish so far? Sounds to me like everyone gets to play and be nice and be happy. I’ve yet to find anyone who can reasonably disagree with this. Wait, I mean, unless they’re ready to claim that A) Other people know better than most other people how to live so they should be put in charge; B) Some lifestyles are not appropriate even if they don’t hurt anyone and must not be allowed; C) Those smarter people from A should be allowed to monitor some people to make sure their happiness isn’t too happy or happier than others.
A, B, and C are exactly what the complainers are engaging in when they say libertarians are selfish. They think that other people from a magic land of perfect people, pulled from maybe Plato’s Philosopher Kings, should be anointed (elected) to take a bit from some people and give to other people and that it’s okay to use force because if they didn’t, some people wouldn’t voluntarily help their community. It’s forced cooperation. They claim it’s necessary because without it, people can’t seem to take care of each other voluntarily.
And yet, it’s a myth. They can’t point to any group of libertarians actually neglecting their community. They can’t point to, say, New Hampshire which has a government most closely based on Libertarian policies and show the pit of selfish, disaster they predict. Their complaint that libertarianism is selfish is based on the same incorrect assumption drug warriors have; which is, if we legalize it everyone will be stoned!
The complainers, who mostly come from the Left of the political spectrum, are usually most at odds with the economic side of libertarianism. We’re actually quite in line with the social side. Libertarians and the Left agree that gay marriage should be legalized, we’re both generally in favor of ending the drug war, we’re both open for free speech and press, we’re both pro-choice and on and on.
So let’s look at some of the libertarian economic ideas and see if they really are selfish.
The complainers claim that our preference for a Minimum Wage of zero means we don’t value unskilled labor and would, if we could, pay them sweatshop wages. They claim we’d be a nation of robber barons, selfishly keeping profits and stepping on the little guy. On the contrary, the reason libertarians want to end the Minimum Wage is because it actually pushes people out of the work force. If the Left gets what it wants, which presently is a wish for $15.00 an hour, businesses would reduce their work force, and chances wouldn’t be taken on unskilled people. So the libertarian solution is actually less selfish because what we’re promoting is more employment.
The complainers claim that our view towards private property ownership means some businesses would deny service to some people based on color or religion or race or whatever factor is unfavorable to the business owner. It’s true some would do this. But I venture lots of people making this complaint don’t know how business works. Business owners recognize they’re in business to make money and a living. Denying certain groups of people would get around. People generally don’t share good service stories. They share bad service stories. If you own a business and say, choose not to serve black people, your business may very well fold. So you’ll probably serve as many people as possible. This myth of businesses suddenly becoming selfish and closing it’s doors to some groups if libertarian economics were installed is just not valid. The complainer can point to one or two bakers who refused a gay wedding. But I challenge them to find a significant problem like a large fast food restaurant or grocery chain engaging in this behavior. Or a motor vehicle company. If libertarian economics are suddenly put in place, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ford, Microsoft, Apple, General Motors, Southwest Airlines, you name it, will keep on serving everyone.
The second complaint about private property ownership says that our view means we’ll let the environment be trashed. But I’m not sure how this line of thinking goes. It’s always public parks and spaces that have the most graffiti and vandalism. Property owners have a vested interest in making sure their property and surrounding property are clean. They have an interest in not damaging or misusing the resources. A common complaint is that if Yellowstone Park were privatized, someone could buy it and turn it into a chemical dump. This is such a bunch of ridiculousness. Yellowstone Park’s value is being Yellowstone Park. Private ownership would keep it clean and safe for tourism to continue. I challenge that private parks are always better because owners are always ensuring they have a favorable place for customers to spend time and money where as government/public parks always rely on the mythical “someone else” to pick up the trash.
There are complaints that libertarians want to put health care into the free market and this is supposedly a death sentence to anyone who can’t afford it. The whole Right to Health Care movement is made up of people who think government should provide this very necessary service. But I never see anyone campaigning for the Right to Food and petitioning the government to take over grocery stores. Maybe because food is cheap enough while health care remains expensive. Fair enough. But the naysayers complain that it’s the greedy medical profession and industry that keeps it high because of the need. Well food is more important on a day to day basis and there’s no greed there. Doesn’t the food industry have just as much of an incentive to be as greedy? So why aren’t they? The answer comes down to choice. In most places, you have numerous grocery stores to shop from, big and small. In short, there is competition.
Why is it that a two-liter of pop is still about one dollar? Why is it that the top of the line cell phones are practically given away by phone companies in exchange for a service contract? It’s because of competition. In the medical profession, the problem is two-fold: Excessive government licensing and regulations and a general lack of competition. Prior to 1960, health care was rather accessible to everyone and doctors made house calls. Not any more. The government started up their own programs to help where they didn’t need to and drove up costs. Plus, the feds and states have regulations requiring certain things be covered where they’re not needed which makes you pay for things you don’t need. I know of someone right now who’s one-year-old daughter has maternity insurance, mandated by law.
What if the health care industry was in the same market as cell phones? This means deregulation and increase competition. And then you’d have truly affordable health care.
Competition is a theme here with all things libertarian. And maybe that’s another reason we’re called selfish. Competition sounds combative and, it sounds like someone will lose. But all competition means is several people make several businesses who compete for customers and this formula brings best services for cheapest prices to the consumers who will always be the winners. It’s working right now for cell phones, computers, two-liter sodas, television sets, automobiles and so many other products under the sun. Put health care into this formula and problem solved.
So as you can see, or should by now, libertarians want to see people excel and profit and prosper. We just have a different way of getting there. The Left considers government mandates and programs as the way to achieve this and libertarians argue a reduction of all that is the solution.
Will it work? Not for every one but it will for most. Libertarians aren’t selling utopia. Utopia doesn’t exist. It’s the Left who are trying to sell utopia with their claims that the right people in the right positions will be honorable enough to divvy up the goods and all will be happy. But we’re living that big government nightmare right now and it’s not working. At the very least, why not try the free market? We’re seeing government fail as a solution. Why does the Left want more government? Again, they’re seeking a utopia that doesn’t exist.
Libertarians are not selfish. In fact, our policies and positions help everyone get in on the action. Our platform is for everyone. The examples discussed above make it pretty evident the libertarian solutions are actions to bring more people into employment, more people into participating in business as owner and customer, giving more people access to health care.
So the problem of libertarians being labeled as selfish is a lack of education on what libertarian means and/or a desire to just smear because the Left has held on too long to the Utopian dream of the right people in the right positions theory. Big government (Democratic Socialist) policies have demonstrably failed. The continued push to impose them, expecting different results, is an act of faith. And faith means acting despite the lack of evidence. That’s what the Left is doing. There’s no evidence more government works. In fact, there’s evidence to the contrary yet they’re still holding on to it so they must engage in scaring people into thinking a free market, a libertarian solution is selfish.
Nope, it’s time to try what works. Let’s try the free market, the less selfish position, because we have ample evidence it works to help all people. If you want to help all people, why not give it a try? At the very worst, we can always go back. But I’m betting after a few years of a libertarian society, you won’t want to. Because no society has ever crumbled or found themselves in trouble when they’ve used too much reason.
Now go read on other topics covered in the Libertarian Party platform here. You’ll see the language is all about helping everyone. There’s nothing selfish about it. I challenge anyone to read it and find evidence where it says something about keeping out undesirables or having enough money so that others can’t get at it. And if after reading it you continue to claim this selfish nonsense, you do it at the expense of your own reputation for being disingenuous. Feel free to knock the free market. Feel free to bring up evidence against it. But libertarians being selfish? That’s ad hominem, uneducated and unfounded.
1 thought on “We, the Selfish Libertarians”
“Well food is more important on a day to day basis and there’s no greed there. Doesn’t the food industry have just as much of an incentive to be as greedy? So why aren’t they?”
This is hillarious, and if the writer spent a fraction of the time he spent writing this large defensive screed, he’d know that a significant portion of food prices have seen large groups buy out most other competitors and then fix prices upwards. Almost every major seller of chicken has gotten sued for it by the government. The idea that businesses are in any way responsibly behaved just based on customer pressure is laughably false. Almost as ridiculous as businesses giving worker unions a fair shake without outside limits.