FOR Libertarianism

AGAINST Libertarianism


A common misconception of libertarianism is that it proposes a system without any rules at all. In fact, libertarianism seeks to create a society where individual freedoms and liberties are protected by law. That obviously includes freedom from government oppression, but it also means freedom from other members of society (as the famous maxim goes: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”).


The problem with libertarianism is that power in any society resides not just in the state, but also with those that control and own the means of production. Furthermore, once you hold the means of production, you have the resources to retain that control. If you are rich, for example, you can afford a better education for your children (not to mention the fact they stand to inherit your fortune upon your death). Libertarianism lacks the strong redistributive mechanisms needed to prevent oligarchy.


The 20th century taught us the sort of horrors that the machinery of the state can inflict upon individuals. States have enormous resources at their disposal and have, in the past, been guilty of directing them towards programmes of mass surveillance, confiscation of property, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and the indoctrination of the populace into totalitarian ideologies. Libertarianism is the best way to guard against the tyranny of the state by ensuring a limited government, and a vigilant and free citizenry.


There is a myth that if the state would only get out of the way, private enterprise could innovate and produce new technologies to improve all our lives. However, the truth is that not only do commercial businesses rely on public infrastructure (including transport networks and education systems), but only states have the resources to invest in “moonshot” technologies that aren’t guaranteed to work. Contrary to what libertarians would have you believe, government has a vital role in driving innovation.


Libertarianism allows individuals to flourish and be who they want to be. Statist philosophies treat people like children, coddling and nannying them, whereas libertarianism invests individuals with both freedom and personal responsibility. It is up to individuals themselves to actualise their personhood and become who they want to become, and libertarianism gives them the freedom to do so (though that also means the freedom to fail).


Libertarianism is morally bankrupt. It essentially advocates for Social Darwinism, where the competent rise to the top in a free market Utopia. However, this is a dangerous fantasy. Not everyone starts from the same place in terms of opportunities and privileges, and commercial success can be – despite the protestations of billionaires – as much about dumb luck as it is competency and persistence.

Image Credits: Flickr – (cc) Gage Skidmore