Monday, August 29, 2016

Libertarianism’s effectiveness is demonstrated by the INeffectiveness of policy

In an online discussion, someone asked me to describe what it meant to be a libertarian in a sentence.  I responded as follows:

“Libertarian means respecting individual liberty as an important value in and of itself, and recognizing the tremendous boons in prosperity, safety and human happiness that can be attained through respecting everyone's personal autonomy and right to choose how to live their own life with as few restrictions as possible.”

They then asked, “How have these principles been demonstrated effectively through policy?”.

It’d be more accurate to say they’ve been demonstrated through the ineffectiveness of policy.  “Policy,” in the context of governance, is just another word for law, which is enforced by law enforcement at implied or literal gunpoint.  Therefore, libertarians see “policy” as nothing more than systematic coercion and violence, whereas we see liberty as the absence thereof.  Asking libertarians to prove liberty works “through policy” is like asking a pacifist to prove how their ideas have ever helped anyone win a war.  In both cases, it hasn’t, but only because our ideas involve quitting the whole business of making war and policy altogether!

In practice, “respecting everyone’s personal autonomy and right to choose how to live their own life” usually means abolishing policies which DON’T respect those things.  That includes things like the war on drugs, alcohol prohibition, laws against sex work, laws against selling your organs, abortion restrictions, all forms of censorship, sin-taxes (and really taxes in general), etc. 

The evidence that libertarianism generally produces better outcomes than authoritarianism lies in the demonstrable ineffectiveness of those policies.  I would be happy to demonstrate how each of these policies have proven horribly counterproductive if you like.

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