January 3, 2008

5 Common Libertarian Arguments Debunked: Part II – “Inviolable Rights”

Posted in Economics, Politics tagged , , , , , at 9:50 pm by Travis Bedford

Yesterday, in Part I of 5 Libertarian Arguments Debunked, I debunked the utilitarian argument. Today, I will address the natural rights argument. The natural rights argument is thus:

2. The natural rights argument, which emphasizes the idea that individuals have inviolable rights to life, liberty, and property that it is morally wrong for anyone, including the state, to violate even for allegedly good reasons (such as taxation for the sake of helping the needy).

The author of this summary is clearly not a libertarian himself, though his observations seem to hold, and fit with my observations of libertarian debating style.

This particular argument is dependant on the assumption that there is nothing an individual can do to waive his rights in exchange for others if they so choose. In democratic countries, there exists a sort of unwritten contract between the government and its citizens. The citizens agree to allow the government to control certain aspects of their lives to improve their lives overall. While some government actions may be inconvenient for an individual, as a whole, the actions of democratic governments improve the lives of their citizens.

The Constitution of the United States is an example of a government's contract with its citizens.

Looking at countries like the U.S., it can be hard to imagine a system more self serving. Still, it serves (this is not an endorsement of the U.S. government, only a remark on its few benefits). Without government, infrastructure does not develop, or develops very slowly. The industrialization of the U.S. was very much government controlled. While corporations may have done the actual work, the government paid the bills, or at least created opportunities.

Infrastructure (and government programs, something for which corporate equivalents are almost nonexistent) and scientific development usually go together. Difficult tasks call for easier solutions, and science is the way to find them. Advances in infrastructure and science usually improve the quality of life, and quality of life is what governments are there to improve.

Add it all together, and government intervention is a good thing in many cases, even if the contract it has with its citizens is unwritten.


Go to:



      1. […] to Part: II, III, IV, […]

      2. […] Part II […]

      3. […] truck you can just pile assertions on. You need to keep the tubes clean. Premises b) was proved in Part II – “Inviolable Rights”. Premise c) was proved in Part I – “The Free Market”. Premise a) requires a bit more […]

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