Libertarianism: Founded on Falsehood

Damon Linker has a good piece on how unconstrained choice makes us unhappy.

I happened upon this piece as I was contemplating the central lie upon which libertarianism is founded: that we are autonomous individuals. This central principle of libertarianism is false historically, in evolutionary terms, and most of all, metaphysically. Rather than autonomous we are, as Alasdair MacIntyre put it, "dependent rational animals."

Being founded on a lie, libertarianism is destructive of human life, and it leads to other lies, such as the idea that our choices, just so long as we are not physically assaulting or robbing anyone else, are nobody's business but our own. And beginning one's reasoning with a lie cripples all of it, leaving libertarians flummoxed as to what could possibly be wrong with allowing a free market in human children.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Gene,
    Could you expound on the metaphysical aspect that we are not just individuals. I understand and agree about the historical aspect, i.e., we are born into families, societies, etc., but I’m not quite sure I understand this from a metaphysical side. Or is this the metaphysical side?

    Also wouldn’t libertarians agree with your statement but just stress that all such cases are just collections of individuals? To an extent I understand this point; maybe my previous question covers this, so I would appreciate more thoughts. Maybe another blog post. Thanks!

    Sorry if this is a duplicate, not sure if it was sent.

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  2. If you're right about how freedom is leading us to be unhappy saps, then we should expect cultures with the highest social rigidity to have the happier people.

    Japan and South Korea are very socially rigid countries, yet their suicide rates are much higher than the US or Australia. Sure it's very rare that a person commits suicide out of bliss.

    "Being founded on a lie, libertarianism is destructive of human life"

    If libertarianism's lie is destructive to human life, why is it that countries that are more socially libertarian have on average higher life expectancy rates than less socially libertarian countries?

    Why is it that countries that are more economically libertarian on average have healthier and longer living populations than non-economically libertarian countries?

    "the idea that our choices, just so long as we are not physically assaulting or robbing anyone else, are nobody's business but our own."

    Do you honestly think that Rothbard, Hoppe, Block, Murphy, Zwolinsky, Roderick Long, David or Milton Friedman, Leonard Read, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, Pete Boettke, Steve Horwitz, or Lew Rockwell believe this?

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  3. Some versions of libertarianism are founded on the notion that "we are autonomous individuals."

    Others aren't.

    And libertarianism, aka the non-aggression principle, still works just fine for "dependent rational animals."

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  4. Well I for one refuse to cede to Bob Murphy, Murray Rothbard, and Ron Paul the good word "libertarian". I favour individual rights and think markets our best social technology. This is a matter of favoured social policy. Neither of those depends on a belief that we don't owe nuttin' to nobody no-how. "Left libertarians" generally reject that premise.

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  5. I think you're confusing metaphysical claims with political claims. And I see no reason for thinking this leads to libertarianism's rather repulsive conclusions.

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  6. "…such as the idea that our choices, just so long as we are not physically assaulting or robbing anyone else, are nobody's business but our own."

    I want comment on this, but I'm not sure how to express my thoughts on this. I'll try anyway: I do not see that as "the idea" at all. That is way too vague to imply libertarianism and most non-libertarians in America would say something like this. There are also more issues that this principle is indeterminate on than there are that it is determinate on.

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