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The Problem with Libertarianism

The Problem with Libertarianism

I stumbled across a presentation from Dr. Greg Johnson about libertarianism earlier today, which I think merits a listen, especially from the sorts of people who read Reason magazine and think that instituting a “real” free market would solve all of our problems.

The argument begins by conceding that libertarianism actually is a remarkably efficient and powerful economic system for generating wealth and prosperity for the society that adopts it. But most libertarians pride themselves on being blind to groups, and care only about “merit.” This blindness leaves libertarians open to cheaters.

If everyone in a society thinks of themselves and others as individuals, and treats each other accordingly, then things go pretty well. But once you get a sub-population within that society that favors its own members, you essentially wind up in a rigged game, where collectivists enjoy benefits similar to the house in a casino. In any particular instance, things may feel fair, but small advantages based on in-group preferences, played out over millions of iterations, mean that in the end, the collectivist will always win over the individualist. Just like the house.

This works even if the collectivists are a small minority.

To make matters even worse, the libertarian refusal to see groups not only prevents them from winning against collectivists, but prevents them from even being able to identify a collectivist strategy in action. They may get a fishy sense that “something isn’t right,” but usually won’t be able to figure out what’s wrong. Even if they do, their ideological conviction and loyalty often overrides common sense and reciprocity, and they may choose to double-down on their individualism in hopes that their competitors, inspired by their ferocious Randian spirit, will abandon their own winning strategy and adopt the strategy of the libertarian loser.

For the same reason they can have difficulty spotting a collectivist strategy, libertarians will often have a hard time identifying and keeping out collectivist groups and preventing these sorts of inter-group competitions in the first place. They may reject most of the collectivist tribe, but will let in a few (the best and brightest, of course!), perhaps merely as a demonstration of their even-handedness. From there, all it takes is for those few to find each other, and convince the host nation to remain libertarian, and they will be able to swiftly gain economic, cultural, and political dominance. In this case, merit-based immigration actually makes matters worse, not better; if a collectivist is trying to cheat you and your society, he is more dangerous if he is talented.

In short, Hans-Herman Hoppe was right: you cannot maintain a libertarian order without physically removing those who threaten the values of your society.

The whole video is worth watching:

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