Saturday, April 18, 2015

Libertarianism and the Idealization of Business

When libertarians juxtapose the vices of politics with the virtues of entrepreneurship and recommend substituting entrepreneurship for politics as the most effective method of improving social welfare, they are sometimes accused of demonizing politicians and idealizing entrepreneurs, apparently forgetting that entrepreneurs, too, happen to steal, cheat, eliminate competition through dishonest methods, etc.

Such an accusation misses the essence of the libertarian argument. Admittedly, some entrepreneurs happen to engage in all the unsavory activities mentioned above, but those, by definition, are antithetical to the entrepreneurial ethos. In other words, an entrepreneur can fulfill his function perfectly well without engaging in any of those unethical activities, and one can even say that insofar as he engages in them, he ceases to be an entrepreneur and becomes a lobbyist, a rent-seeker, a plutocrat, etc.

A politician, on the other hand, must by definition engage in all the abovementioned unethical activities – the source of his income is, by definition, his ability to forcibly expropriate productive individuals, the source of his influence on social life is, by definition, his control over a monopolistic apparatus of violence and coercion, etc. In other words, the more he engages in the abovementioned unethical activities, the more full-blooded a politician he is.

In sum, it is not libertarians who demonize politicians and idealize entrepreneurs – it is politicians who demonize themselves, while entrepreneurs by definition cease to be entrepreneurs insofar as they morally diverge from the entrepreneurial ideal.

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