January 3, 2008

5 Common Libertarian Arguments Debunked: Part I – “The Free Market”

Posted in Economics, Politics tagged , , , at 5:03 am by Travis Bedford

The more conservative the right wing gets, the more liberal the left. Libertarianism is becoming increasingly popular, especially on the Internet. In my opinion, libertarianism takes both liberal and conservative too far.

Under many forms of the idea, libertarianism is just another word for liberal. A moderate libertarian might argue that people should be left to themselves when their actions do not harm others, and the free market should be maintained. This is generally a good idea.

Unfortunately, some go too far. “Extremist” libertarians, or – anarcho – capitalists as some have taken to calling themselves – claim that government in any form is “evil” or “immoral”. Here, I present responses to some of their most common arguments for this surprisingly popular viewpoint.

1. The utilitarian argument, the suggestion that a free market and free society best fulfil the goals – prosperity, alleviation of poverty, technological innovation, and so forth (Edward Feser, “What Libertarianism Isn’t”).

Superficially, this looks like a good idea, and I partly agree with it. “Free society”, taken to mean free speech and other similar liberties, is a very good idea. What isn’t a good idea is an unregulated free market. Don’t get me wrong – I like capitalism. I like to own stuff.

With any absolute economic doctrine (absolute socialism or absolute capitalism), there are inherent flaws. With capitalism, people best able to exploit others succeed the most. Needless to say, exploitation is a bad thing. With socialism, motivation is lacking. There are also issues with resources, but we’ll pretend we actually have enough for now. Soviet Russia, notably, overcame this lack of inherent motivation through widespread use of the AK 47.

Ideal economies aside, absolute capitalism (a fundamental tenet of libertarian thought) tends to lead to heavily unbalanced distributions of wealth. It’s common for libertarians to argue that the “free market will stabilize the economy”. This is a blatant falsehood. There is no magical free market fairy to swish her wand and take back all the money from the naughty corporations, and tiny imbalances in the economy would refill their pockets in short order.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever find a perfect economic system, but we can certainly come close. Libertarianism seems to be shooting for the moon, because it’s way out there.

Check back tomorrow for part two of the series, or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Go to Part:



    1. […] in General Ignunce at 9:50 pm by rdthrawn Yesterday, in Part I of 5 Libertarian Arguments Debunked, I debunked the utilitarian argument. Today, I will address the natural rights argument. The […]

    2. […] (the economic side of libertarianism) is not necessarily the best option for society, either. Part I of this series goes into this in more depth. To reiterate, it’s not what’s the best, it’s what reproduces the […]

    3. […] 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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