By Christiaan van Huyssteen (@cvh23)
These arguments tend to be clichéd and sometimes immature. The people who make these arguments are not ignorant, but they tend to repeat ideas that sound obvious to them, because it has never occurred to them to question their own arguments.
- “Communism is good idea in theory.”
At least they understand that it is a bad idea in practice. However, communism is a very bad idea in theory, for economic and moral reasons. For a start, under a communist system, people are not equal. There is a ruling class, and there is a working class. People in a communist country have no personal liberty. They get assigned jobs, and only have access to the bare basics for survival. To force people to play a certain role in society requires violence, this is why all communist systems tend to be oppressive dictatorships. Ordinary civilians have no rights. Private property gets stolen. This is obviously an immoral system. There is no social mobility. There is no incentive to be productive, as you can never escape your dire circumstances by working hard. Under communism, there is no reward for being creative and innovative. No communist country has ever produced a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs or an Elon Musk. Under collectivised agricultural practices, you can have a large proportion of the population working on farms, but still have a massive undersupply of food. The agrarian system instituted by Mao under the ‘Great Leap Forward’ between 1958 and 1961 resulted in a famine which cost the lives of 30+ million people.
To outline the bizarre nature of communism, take a look at this famous story about Milton Friedman:
At one of our dinners, Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earthmovers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”
- “If you like anarchism, move to Somalia.”
Not all libertarians are necessarily anarchists. Somalia is far from being a voluntarism paradise. It is haven for pirates, and is marred by tribal wars. One day there is a military dictatorship, the next day there was nothing. There was no philosophical or intellectual movement towards a free society. Somalia is quite far away from being a free society, in fact, the government has recently banned all Christmas celebrations, the state religion being Islam.
- “If you don’t like it here, leave!”
No. You leave.
- “Without government regulation, monopolies will take over.”
– Name any monopoly or oligopoly.
– Eskom? State owned.
– SAA? State owned
– Too big to fail banks? Bailed out by the state.
– Wal-Mart? Subsidised by the 70 million Americans who receive food stamps from government.
– Gazprom? State owned.
– Central banks? Run by the state.
– Military industrial complex? State funded.
After a small investigation, it becomes clear that the opposite of the claim is true, it is the state which has allowed monopolies to flourish.
- “You don’t want your income redistributed?! You hate poor people! What about the social contract?!”
I don’t recall signing anything. People who give time and money voluntarily to charity are much more compassionate than the state, which distributes through force. There is nothing virtuous about a bureaucracy that threatens the use of violence to take money from some to give to others. Friends, family, charities and churches can do a lot more than the cold hand of the state that simply gives handouts. Forcing a middle class to give up a large portion of their income only creates a culture of bitterness and resentment. We need a culture of compassion, understanding and kindness.
- “Capitalism has failed us!”
Although we have never had pure capitalism, what we have had of capitalism has given us the greatest improvements in quality of life in history.
“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – Bennito Mussolini
Currently we do not have capitalism. We have fascism, or crony capitalism. The system we have benefits those with the most political connections, not those who are most productive. Government regulations are a barrier to entry for small business. This means that young people with good ideas are prevented from opening up shop and uplifting themselves and the community they live in. Capitalism is about success and failure, not just success. In capitalism there is no room for bailouts. Why should good resources be wasted to bailout businesses or industries that can’t be productive? If bankers know that they can take outrageous speculative risks, and simply be bailed out when they get it wrong, they will never operate in a sustainable manner. In a free market system, no one would be given a monopoly over the supply of money (central banks), and the price thereof (interest rates). The current inequality in my opinion is down to the fact that government and central bank policy rewards the asset bearing class of people (money printing and low interest rates inflate asset prices). Where as savers are effectively robbed by government because inflation exceeds the nominal interest they receive. Economists of the Keynesian persuasion (those running the world financial system at the moment) will tell you it is all about spending. They set interest rates low to encourage people with savings to spend in an effort to boost inflation (they do this, because they have not yet found a way to tax the increase in purchasing power that comes from the falling of prices/deflation). The Austrian School of economists will tell you that capital and savings play a significant role in the economy, because they understand it is a complex system. They know that an artificial lowering of the interest rates leads to an artificial boom caused by the mirage of profitability and leads to malinvestment. When interest rates are eventually forced up by the markets due to inflation, the party ends, and a crash is inevitable.
We don’t have accurate prices in the world today. The Federal Reserve sets an artificial (artificial in the sense that it is done to satisfy a political agenda) interest rate (price of money), and thereby influences virtually every price on earth. It distorts any benchmark of value.
We do have elements of capitalism in most of the world today, but it is tainted by the major institutions which are fascist or socialist in nature.
- “Libertarians are too idealistic”
Is there anything idealistic about sticking to your guns when it comes to principle? Surely peace should be an end in itself? A peaceful society is more desirable than a coercive one. There is a world of difference between treating people equally, and attempting to make them equal. If you are going to attempt to make people equal, you will invariably have to treat them unequally.
- “By being against affirmative action, you are against the advancement of black people.”
Apart from the abovementioned economic effects, the social effects should also be considered. Does the lower standards of achievement required of previously disadvantaged people create independence? Does affirmative action policies not simply serve to subsidize lower standards of performance? Whether it is university entry requirements, or workplace quotas, previously disadvantaged people do have an advantage (this is not to say that other people didn’t have an unfair advantage in the past). These policies create dependence and complacency. It is also important to note that affirmative action does not create any new opportunities, it only takes opportunities from some, and give them to other. What if these policies were to ever end? Previously disadvantaged people will have become used to these lower standards, and will have to make a sudden adjustment to fit into a new, more open system.
- “By using public services offered by government you are consenting to the government running them.”
No, I have no choice but to use Eskom and public roads. The state has an enforced monopoly on public services. Private people are not allowed to compete with Eskom by generating and selling my own electricity, and are not allowed to build public roads.
- “Billionaires should just give half their fortunes to the government to be distributed to the poor, they’ll hardly feel it!”
There are two types of people, winners and losers. Winners look at someone like Bill Gates and admire him. They look at him and recognise and appreciate what he has contributed to the world. They try to follow his example and be successful in their own right. His net worth may be $50b+, but his economic contribution to the world is many, many times that. Losers on the other hand hate seeing others succeed. They see themselves as victims, and their own belief in their victimisation breed failure. People who claim to be victims lose their integrity, and their ability to work hard for what they want. ‘Victims’ despise those who succeed in life, those who overcome the odds, and they try to pull them down. The majority of successful people, there are exceptions (notably those who work in government), accumulated their wealth by being productive, and benefitting society. They did not take from others unduly. They are not rich because you or I are poor.
Of course, there are many more points which could have been addressed here, and those above could have been elaborated on in much greater detail.
The main difference between a libertarian/classical-liberal/non-interventionist and a statist/socialist/modern-liberal is their approach to problem solving.
The statist looks for injustices (real or perceived) or things that he doesn’t approve of, and launches a personal crusade by insisting that coercion must be used to make (policy) changes in order to meet certain ends. He then judges the success of that policy by looking at its intentions, and not its outcomes (intentions seldom equal outcomes).
The libertarian sees a problem and asks: ‘how can we solve this by increasing freedom, and adding individual liberty?’ There may be instances where ‘more freedom’ won’t work. There are however so many real problems that can be solved by allowing individuals the freedom to pursue their own separate interests in a non-coercive manner.
Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. – Robert A. Heinlein
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