Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ten Common Practical Doubts About Libertarianism and the Relevant Answers

Critics of libertarianism operate on various intellectual levels. Those whose knowledge of it is very meagre tend to rely on superstitious slogans (“unregulated markets exploit workers”, “price controls are needed to combat speculation”, “who but the state can build the roads?”, etc.) which have been refuted a thousand times in the relevant literature, so they do not require any further comment.

Different critical arguments are used by those who have some knowledge on the subject of libertarianism and even sympathize with it, but also believe that they can balance what they regard as its excessive ambition with the requisite degree of „realism”, „practicality”, “compromising”, etc. This kind of critique has been somewhat less studied in the relevant literature.

Taking this into account, while also noting how often such arguments crop up in discussions between libertarians and their sympathizers, I decided to create a list of ten of what I consider the most representative of them, together with links to relevant answers. I hope that this list will help in reducing the “transaction costs” of successfully conducting such discussions and turning them in the direction of new, more complex problems, whose analysis will allow for the continued intellectual and practical development of libertarian philosophy.

1. The axioms of self-ownership and non-aggression describe the world of moral abstractions, which makes them unsuitable to address real-world practical problems:

2. The requirements of libertarianism conflict with the intuitions of most people regarding how to act in so-called „lifeboat situations”, where, e.g., not violating someone’s property rights will result in the destruction of the world:

3. Libertarians rightly point out the inherent immorality of politics, but at the same time they naively idealize the world of business:

4. Libertarians rightly emphasize that states are relatively inefficient in producing socially desirable goods and services, but they underestimate their exclusive ability to guarantee universal access to the most essential of them:

5. Libertarians dogmatically reject the possibility that wise and well-intentioned public officials could be more efficient than incompetent and short-sighted entrepreneurs in supervising at least some areas of the economy:

6. Libertarians who claim that “genuine free-market libertarianism” would not degenerate into crony capitalism are like communists who claim that “genuine communism” would not degenerate into Soviet-style totalitarianism:

7. The state is an evil, but it is nonetheless a necessary evil, since libertarian anarchy is inherently unstable and inevitably degenerates into a power struggle between warlords:

8. Statism may be inefficient and immoral, but at least it is a well-tried and workable system, while libertarianism is, in practical terms, a radical unknown:

9. Rulers have always existed, it is in the nature of man to submit to their control, and nothing suggests that anything might change in this matter:

10. Libertarians are clearly capable of creating interesting, intellectually inspiring, and logically coherent theories, but they are incapable of suggesting any viable methods of putting them into practice:


  1. Jakub, have you considered putting this together into a booklet and ebook?

  2. I second the vote for a book, especially a single volume sourcebook of Libertarian thought along these lines. You are becoming my favorite contemporary Libertarian writer.