Wars, propaganda, surveillance, taxes, draconian laws...the ways the governments are exploiting the people are numerous and the situation is only getting worse. This has increased the popularity of an ideology that aims to answer these problems - talking about Libertarianism here, of course. However - while the intentions of many of its proponents are surely good - it has mostly missed the mark and is in fact helping the elites accomplish their malicious plans. Though some of its tenets are valuable - as a whole, Libertarianism - similar to Freetardism - pretends to support our freedom but chains us instead. However, this one is way more important, because it concerns the actual, physical world.
As we did in the freetardism report - let's start with the definition of libertarianism. Historically libertarianism has meant a lot of things, but we will consider the one currently used by its proponents, since that is the ideology I want to tackle. From https://www.theadvocates.org/libertarianism-101/ (archive):
Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians strive for the best of all worlds – a free, peaceful, abundant world where each individual has the maximum opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and to realize his full potential.
Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They're called libertarians.
So, libertarians think freedom is really important and essential for human fulfillment. But what does "freedom" actually mean to them? How do they intend to attain this freedom?
As Freetardism has its
Four Freedoms, Libertarianism also subcribes to certain (as I will show - misguided) assumptions about freedom and society. The libertarians pride themselves on relying on hard "principles" or "axioms" which are allegedly logically derived from each other. However, even though they usually agree on the actual statements, the interpretations differ very heavily, infighting ensues, and the "cold, hard logic" of libertarianism evaporates. This is unlike Freetardism, which unvaweringly sticks to its tenets. Anyway, let's analyze the most common libertarian beliefs:
From Murray Rothbard's (prominent libertarian) book
For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto:
The right to self-ownership asserts the absolute right of Property and Exchange each man, by virtue of his (or her) being a human being, to “own” his or her own body; that is, to control that body free of coercive interference.
Though it might seem logical at first glance, there are many issues with this principle. The main one is the fact that, while we do have a certain amount of free will, the choices we make are heavily impacted by the environment - the things we see and hear, the people around us, our previous experiences, or even biological stuff like hormone levels, etc. The idea of fully independent agents is mostly illusory - and you only need to meet an addicted person to prove this. Unless you have complete control over every particle of your body, you can't really say that you own yourself. Even if you managed to accomplish that feat (congratulations!) - there is still the long-standing philosophical issue of what the
you actually is (and it's beyond the scope of this article). The other problem - when does the self-ownership start? This is a common issue dividing libertarians. Some believe that it begins at conception, others - at birth (fetus is a parasite (archive)); and the most extreme ones say that you don't own yourself until you can support yourself (archive). You don't have inborn freedom then - you have to either earn it or it has to be graciously granted by your parents. How is that different from freedom being granted by governments - a situation which libertarians hate? Already we can see that the alleged logic of libertarianism is based on shaky ground.
Allegedly deriving from the above, the NAP states that (archive)
individuals have the right to make their own choices in life so long as those choices do not involve the initiation of force or fraud against others. Simple and clear, right? Well, it is anything but. Even if no one
initiates force against you, that doesn't really mean you are free, since there are a thousand ways to constrain someone without force. Just being born poor heavily limits your choices (and you can bet certain people had a hand in you being poor). How about advertising - no force used, yet it does control us very effectively (archive) - otherwise corporations wouldn't spend so much money (archive) on it. What about
force? Let's say you are physically attacked, and you manage to defend yourself without being hurt - in this case, how much has your freedom really been impacted? Not at all - in fact, you might have even gained confidence from the encounter. The meaning of
force isn't agreed upon by all libertarians, of course - some of them consider excessive noise to be included, for example. And since there are ways of harming someone without it (the aforementioned advertising, or even spreading lies about a person) - why is it
force that is the focus, instead of actual harm? You can ruin someone's freedom by indirect means even more than by
force in some cases - if you spread a rumor that someone is a rapist, people might not want to associate with him anymore - which would be way worse than being beaten up once (How False Rape Allegations Destroyed My Family (archive)). Under libertarian ethics, the woman who hurt him did nothing wrong - it was just words, after all. And thus, he could not have retaliated at all, or he'd be violating the NAP. Then comes the abortion issue again - what prevails, the self-ownership of the woman or the non-aggression against the fetus? Like Freetards, Libertarians claim to have solved freedom (just obey the principles!) but instead keep digging more holes for themselves. Moving along:
Firmly grounded in natural law, property rights begins with self-ownership and extends to all justly acquired property. Self-ownership simply means that you own the exclusive rights to your own body. Property can be justly acquired in two ways: original appropriation via the homesteading principle or through voluntary exchange.
So, libertarians consider property an extension of the body - so if you own your body, and it can't be aggressed against - then the same applies to your property. There are many problems with this, starting with fact that nature provides land, water, food, air, etc. for free. How much, and under what conditions, can I actually claim as mine? This is actually hotly debated among libertarians and there are many contradictory theories (archive). The most extreme ones are completely fine with private ownership of the seas or forests - and since property rights are ultimate, their pollution would be a right of the businesses that own them. Of course, it's not possible to limit the pollution to exactly the space that you own - it will spread (best seen with GMOs) elsewhere, causing "aggression" against other people and their properties. Even if the polluter would then be punished, the damage has already been done - there might be a GMO growing on your property now, and you will not be able to get rid of it, EVER. And even if a property owner was somehow able to keep the pollution contained, it doesn't really matter. 500 years later, after the owner is gone and the business goes down, the next generations that would want to use that sea, or forest, or whatever - will still be affected by the poisons that were put in there, harming their freedom. So, the libertarian solution to pollution is completely useless, as we can see.
The most extreme kinds of libertarians claim that you can kill someone entering your property. Well, since it is his, and you violated it - off you go. But what harm has he caused you by entering it? None whatsoever (unless he destroyed something), therefore - property rights do not follow from the NAP. This is even easier to see in case of something like using, say, a flashlight someone left lying around. As long as you return it, no harm has been done - in fact, the owner might not even notice. We live in a world where businesses charge for just the usage of stuff (the chief one being land - just daring to exist somewhere is a violation, even though no one is hurt) and that is completely contrary to freedom - but it's the world libertarians want. How free is a person born into a landlord's property? Remember, in libertarianism - property rights are absolute -
Essentially, libertarians view private property owners as the sovereign rulers over their property. Thus, if Doolittle were the property owner and developer of a vast swath of land (acquired via homesteading or voluntary/contractual transfer) then he could implement whatever form of government he desired over it (source (archive)). How different is that from what the governments are doing? And yet libertarians claim to hate that, even though the only difference is the scale (but actually, there is no limit to the amount of land you can own in libertarianism - as long as it has been
justly acquired according to them). The libertarian position on property rights is contradictory and not conductive to real freedom. Okay, these are the 3 foundational beliefs of libertarianism (that I've now exposed as vague, contradictory, and anti-freedom) from which other, more specific ones get derived. Let's tackle those now:
Free market” is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents. These two individuals (or agents) exchange two economic goods, either tangible commodities or nontangible services. Thus, when I buy a newspaper from a newsdealer for fifty cents, the newsdealer and I exchange two commodities: I give up fifty cents, and the newsdealer gives up the newspaper. Or if I work for a corporation, I exchange my labor services, in a mutually agreed way, for a monetary salary; here the corporation is represented by a manager (an agent) with the authority to hire.
I've already talked about the "choice" thing - it does not work the way libertarians think it does - people are affected by their environment, have different strenghts and weaknesses, stronger or weaker willpowers, subject to different emotions, etc. and this makes the choice process different for everyone. It certainly cannot all be encompassed by the term
voluntary agreement. This is just another way of stating the common libertarian claim that consumers
vote with their dollar, which has been beautifully and thoroughly refuted here. Briefly, the
voting is as real as elections - the candidates are carefully picked and presented in a certain way by the rulers (or the capitalists in this case), hiding certain valuable information which would make the choices different. But it's even worse since a rich person gets more
votes than the poor person; there is way more issues with this claim so just read the linked article - I assure you it's worth your time. Also, nice false equivalence of comparing buying a newspaper to selling your labor to a big corpo, which is exactly the kind of exploitation a freedom-based ideology should try to prevent. But we will talk about this later.
Both parties undertake the exchange because each expects to gain from it. Also, each will repeat the exchange next time (or refuse to) because his expectation has proved correct (or incorrect) in the recent past. Trade, or exchange, is engaged in precisely because both parties benefit; if they did not expect to gain, they would not agree to the exchange.
Even if both parties benefit from an exchange, it doesn't mean that it was based on freedom - for example, someone might have a gun to his head and give up his child. Of course libertarians wouldn't like that, but are fine with the thousands of other ways an exchange could be dishonest - false advertising, price manipulation, or having a monopoly - just to give a few examples. Actually, all work is inherently exploitative - the means of production are arbitrarily owned by corporations and - since money is required for life - the worker has no choice but to "agree" to whatever terms the corpo gives. The threat of poverty, homelessness or death is the gun in this case - and the corpo is massively advantageous in the exchange (for most jobs, there's a thousand other workers lined up).
This simple reasoning refutes the argument against free trade typical of the “mercantilist” period of sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Europe and classically expounded by the famed sixteenth-century French essayist Montaigne. The mercantilists argued that in any trade, one party can benefit only at the expense of the other—that in every transaction there is a winner and a loser, an “exploiter” and an “exploited.” We can immediately see the fallacy in this still-popular viewpoint: the willingness and even eagerness to trade means that both parties benefit. In modern game-theory jargon, trade is a win-win situation, a “positive-sum” rather than a “zero-sum” or “negative-sum” game.
This is way closer to the truth than the libertarian take. Of course honest exchanges can exist - but in the current world, they're pretty rare.
How can both parties benefit from an exchange? Each one values the two goods or services differently, and these differences set the scene for an exchange. I, for example, am walking along with money in my pocket but no newspaper; the newsdealer, on the other hand, has plenty of newspapers but is anxious to acquire money. And so, finding each other, we strike a deal.
How basic - as if all exchanges were like that. Anyway, the newsdealer probably doesn't even take the money for himself, but a corpo will pay him later - so it's not even a direct exchange (which would be more freedom supporting).
Two factors determine the terms of any agreement: how much each participant values each good in question, and each participant’s bargaining skills. How many cents will exchange for one newspaper, or how many Mickey Mantle baseball cards will swap for a Babe Ruth, depends on all the participants in the newspaper market or the baseball card market—on how much each one values the cards as compared with the other goods he could buy. These terms of exchange, called “prices” (of newspapers in terms of money, or of Babe Ruth cards in terms of Mickey Mantles), are ultimately determined by how many newspapers, or baseball cards, are available on the market in relation to how favorably buyers evaluate these goods—in shorthand, by the interaction of their supply with the demand for them.
Seriously, who the fuck cares about baseball cards - this world has way bigger problems, and fucking baseball cards are not why libertarianism is criticized. The real issues concern the land, housing, water, air and food - the life essentials. This is where the window of exploitation is wide open. The fact that a capitalist can withhold those is a great tragedy that libertarianism sees no issue with. The truth is, corpos owning the means of production is not at all justified (and especially not the ones required for life) - so we should talk about that before skipping to the exchanges. Supply and demand are both controlled by the capitalist, by the way - supply is obvious since the capitalist decides how much to produce, while demand can be affected by things such as advertising or planned obsolescence. If libertarians keep trivializing all exchanges as trading fucking baseball cards, they should expect mockery, not a serious reply.
Given the supply of a good, an increase in its value in the minds of the buyers will raise the demand for the good, more money will be bid for it, and its price will rise. The reverse occurs if the value, and therefore the demand, for the good falls. On the other hand, given the buyers’ evaluation, or demand, for a good, if the supply increases, each unit of supply—each baseball card or loaf of bread—will fall in value, and therefore the price of the good will fall. The reverse occurs if the supply of the good decreases.
Price is set up arbitrarily by the capitalist - anything else is just smoke and mirrors. And still talking about the fucking baseball cards. By the way, the
loaf of bread will always be valuable as long as the capitalists keep hoarding them - after all, the need to eat is a constant. This is easy to show if you imagine the capitalists refusing to sell them or increasing price 100 times - people would still have to buy it, so would accept any price (or just steal it, which is a great retaliation against capitalist exploitation). This would never happen for baseball cards where they could just say "fuck it, I don't need those toys after all".
The market, then, is not simply an array; it is a highly complex, interacting latticework of exchanges. In primitive societies, exchanges are all barter or direct exchange. Two people trade two directly useful goods, such as horses for cows or Mickey Mantles for Babe Ruths. But as a society develops, a step-by-step process of mutual benefit creates a situation in which one or two broadly useful and valuable commodities are chosen on the market as a medium of indirect exchange. This money-commodity, generally but not always gold or silver, is then demanded not only for its own sake, but even more to facilitate a reexchange for another desired commodity. It is much easier to pay steelworkers not in steel bars but in money, with which the workers can then buy whatever they desire. They are willing to accept money because they know from experience and insight that everyone else in the society will also accept that money in payment.
Money is a tool of exploitation, too, and should probably be eliminated. It has no inherent value -
When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.
The modern, almost infinite latticework of exchanges, the market, is made possible by the use of money. Each person engages in specialization, or a division of labor, producing what he or she is best at. Production begins with natural resources, and then various forms of machines and capital goods, until finally, goods are sold to the consumer. At each stage of production from natural resource to consumer good, money is voluntarily exchanged for capital goods, labor services, and land resources. At each step of the way, terms of exchanges, or prices, are determined by the voluntary interactions of suppliers and demanders. This market is “free” because choices, at each step, are made freely and voluntarily.
A pile of bullshit and I'm being charitable here. First of all, in the current world - most people are not
producing what they are best at, but hold onto any shitty job they managed to get (if lucky). Nature gives its resources for free and does not require
selling them to the consumer, since everyone can just take them. In fact, for most of our existence we've lived as hunter-gatherers - about as far removed from the libertarian ideal as it can be. And despite that, they were happier, healthier, had more freedom, worked less, and shared their possesions instead of hoarding them (which was heavily discouraged). For 90% of our existence on this planet, we knew no crapitalism and thrived. You can read more about hunter-gatherers here (archive), if you want to disprove libertarian ideas about human nature and optimal organization of society. And again, the
free and voluntary nonsense rears its ugly head. What would be an "unfree" market? The one where all exchanges are made with a gun to your head?
The free market and the free price system make goods from around the world available to consumers. The free market also gives the largest possible scope to entrepreneurs, who risk capital to allocate resources so as to satisfy the future desires of the mass of consumers as efficiently as possible. Saving and investment can then develop capital goods and increase the productivity and wages of workers, thereby increasing their standard of living. The free competitive market also rewards and stimulates technological innovation that allows the innovator to get a head start in satisfying consumer wants in new and creative ways.
Not only is investment encouraged, but perhaps more important, the price system, and the profit-and-loss incentives of the market, guide capital investment and production into the proper paths. The intricate latticework can mesh and “clear” all markets so that there are no sudden, unforeseen, and inexplicable shortages and surpluses anywhere in the production system.
I can't even come up with a proper reply here. It's a bunch of vague, meaningless, un-evidenced trash.
But exchanges are not necessarily free. Many are coerced. If a robber threatens you with, “Your money or your life,” your payment to him is coerced and not voluntary, and he benefits at your expense. It is robbery, not free markets, that actually follows the mercantilist model: the robber benefits at the expense of the coerced. Exploitation occurs not in the free market, but where the coercer exploits his victim. In the long run, coercion is a negative-sum game that leads to reduced production, saving, and investment; a depleted stock of capital; and reduced productivity and living standards for all, perhaps even for the coercers themselves.
Thanks for admitting exploitation is harmful - because the so called free market is full of it. As said before, the capitalists are massively advantageous in any exchange, especially when it concerns work and the life's essentials (housing is the big one).
Government, in every society, is the only lawful system of coercion. Taxation is a coerced exchange, and the heavier the burden of taxation on production, the more likely it is that economic growth will falter and decline. Other forms of government coercion (e.g., price controls or restrictions that prevent new competitors from entering a market) hamper and cripple market exchanges, while others (prohibitions on deceptive practices, enforcement of contracts) can facilitate voluntary exchanges.
I will tackle taxation in another section, but what do we have here? An admission that we actually do need the government meddling into the sacred free market? Why can't the buyer detect deceptive practices on his own? He didn't have a gun to his head during this allegedly deceptive exchange, so what was wrong with it, anyway? It was voluntary and free, so both parties benefitted! Here we have the free market supporter seeing cracks in his own ideology. Of course preventing deceptive practices is great - but it does not follow from libertarian principles at all. And about preventing
new competitors from entering a market - you know corpos have lots of tactics to kick out competitors and don't need the government to do it. The claim that businesses with bad products / practices will be outcompeted by the good ones is a complete illusion. Even if that happened, people would still have to wait until the bad business actually goes bankrupt and its competitors start to gain traction.
The ultimate in government coercion is socialism. Under socialist central planning the socialist planning board lacks a price system for land or capital goods. As even socialists like Robert Heilbroner now admit (see socialism), the socialist planning board therefore has no way to calculate prices or costs or to invest capital so that the latticework of production meshes and clears. The experience of the former Soviet Union, where a bumper wheat harvest somehow could not find its way to retail stores, is an instructive example of the impossibility of operating a complex, modern economy in the absence of a free market. There was neither incentive nor means of calculating prices and costs for hopper cars to get to the wheat, for the flour mills to receive and process it, and so on down through the large number of stages needed to reach the ultimate consumer in Moscow or Sverdlovsk. The investment in wheat was almost totally wasted.
All of this is besides the point - we should be buying local or even better, growing our own. Actually, food should be community-grown and free.
Market socialism is, in fact, a contradiction in terms. The fashionable discussion of market socialism often overlooks one crucial aspect of the market: When two goods are exchanged, what is really exchanged is the property titles in those goods. When I buy a newspaper for fifty cents, the seller and I are exchanging property titles: I yield the ownership of the fifty cents and grant it to the newsdealer, and he yields the ownership of the newspaper to me. The exact same process occurs as in buying a house, except that in the case of the newspaper, matters are much more informal and we can avoid the intricate process of deeds, notarized contracts, agents, attorneys, mortgage brokers, and so on. But the economic nature of the two transactions remains the same.
We don't need
notarized contracts, agents, attorneys, mortgage brokers and other nonsense - all of those are a relic of capitalist society.
This means that the key to the existence and flourishing of the free market is a society in which the rights and titles of private property are respected, defended, and kept secure. The key to socialism, on the other hand, is government ownership of the means of production, land, and capital goods. Under socialism, therefore, there can be no market in land or capital goods worthy of the name.
Crapitalism and socialism are not the only two options. And I thought you've admitted we need the government to protect people's property and to
prevent deceptive practices?
Some critics of the free market argue that property rights are in conflict with “human” rights. But the critics fail to realize that in a free-market system, every person has a property right over his own person and his own labor and can make free contracts for those services. Slavery violates the basic property right of the slave over his own body and person, a right that is the groundwork for any person’s property rights over nonhuman material objects. What is more, all rights are human rights, whether it is everyone’s right to free speech or one individual’s property rights in his own home.
I already explained how self-ownership is mostly illusory. How much self-ownership does an addicted person have? Or a person living constantly in fear (perhaps because capitalists keep exploiting him and he's under pressure of losing his home / job all the time)? Also, many libertarians would disagree with the claim of slavery being against it - https://libertynow.fandom.com/wiki/Can_you_sell_yourself_into_slavery (archive)-
Ownership is the authority to do what you wish with your property. That includes alienating it from your ownership by voluntarily transferring it to another. Why should we be allowed to do that with the rest of our property, but not with our own bodies?
A common charge against the free-market society is that it institutes “the law of the jungle,” of “dog eat dog,” that it spurns human cooperation for competition and exalts material success as opposed to spiritual values, philosophy, or leisure activities. On the contrary, the jungle is precisely a society of coercion, theft, and parasitism, a society that demolishes lives and living standards. The peaceful market competition of producers and suppliers is a profoundly cooperative process in which everyone benefits and where everyone’s living standard flourishes (compared with what it would be in an unfree society). And the undoubted material success of free societies provides the general affluence that permits us to enjoy an enormous amount of leisure as compared with other societies, and to pursue matters of the spirit. It is the coercive countries with little or no market activity—the notable examples in the last half of the twentieth century were the communist countries—where the grind of daily existence not only impoverishes people materially but also deadens their spirit.
society of coercion, theft, and parasitism, a society that demolishes lives and living standards is a great description of libertarianism, actually. Ironically, people living in an actual jungle organize their society about as far from the libertarian ideal as possible - https://libcom.org/history/hunter-gatherers-mythology-market-john-gowdy (archive). And contrary to the above claims, they enjoy greater health, happiness, freedom, and work less (but for them, work has a completely different meaning than the corporate grind). The so-called
peaceul market competition is peaceful only for the capitalists who have all the aces up their sleeves; there is no
material success of free societies. From https://www.compassion.com/poverty/poverty.htm (archive)
World Bank projections suggest that global poverty may have reached 700 million, or 9.6 percent of global population
Poverty is a ruthless and relentless enemy with an arsenal of weapons: infant mortality, hunger, disease, illiteracy and child labor, among other things.
How much self-ownership do you think a person affected by the above has? How free is he when making a decision to submit themselves to the capitalist for peanuts? But libertarianism is fine with all this, claiming that
both parties benefit from the exchange! How despicably fraudulent. Now, I've explained before how capitalism ruins physical health of workers. What happens when a person suffers a disease due to the conditions on the job (that he cannot just give up) ? Since healthcare is not a right (archive) in libertarian society, the result is something like this:
Now that person is under even more pressure and might have to take a dishonest loan just to be able to live. As we can see, unregulated capitalism just creates a chain of exploitation (need to pay rent > need a job > bad conditions > bad health > massive hospital costs > debt > loans, bankruptcy, perhaps homelessness) that only gets worse. On the other hand, an unfree socialist / communist society with the right to healthcare would have prevented this. Of course, those are not the only options - I will talk about this later. That's it for the essay - it has dragged on long enough, but the issue required a thorough refutation (I hope I did a good enough job). This does not cover all of what constitutes free market ideology, of course - whole books have been written about it - but there's other sections to write, so let's move on:
When the government “taxes” citizens, what this means is that the government demands money from each citizen, under a threat of force: if you do not pay, armed agents hired by the government will take you away and lock you in a cage. This looks like about as clear a case as any of taking people’s property without consent. So the government is a thief.
It is crystal clear that "taxation" is "theft." The "prima facie" case is inescapable. The logic is air-tight. But there are all kinds of evasions and high-sounding rationalizations.
Lots of other libertarian sites make this claim (though some disagree (archive). But is the logic really air-tight? (spoiler: no. In fact, this is the argument where libertarians shoot themselves in the foot the most!). How so?
The simplest way to disprove this one is to consider the government as a property owner. Remember, property rights are absolute under libertarianism, so its owner can apply whatever laws he wants there. If that includes charging 100% of your money just for being able to live there - well, it's my fucking property. Get out if you don't like it! See? The exact same logic used by libertarians to claim that the government is a thief can be applied to any other property owner. Instead of being air-tight as proudly claimed by libertarians, the
taxation is theft claim is revealed to be logically bankrupt.
This turns into the bigger issue of property rights and self-ownership being in contradiction. Imagine I am born onto someone's property (not my choice). Do I still have a right to my earned money? Can the owner take away my stuff? Can he rape me? After all it's his property, and my body occupies it. So, despite the libertarians claiming that these two principles support each other - they, actually, cannot co-exist. Either my bodily control prevails - which means I cannot be raped; or the owner's property does - which means that I, too, am his property.
Of course, this is all philosophical only. The reality is that I would still have control over my body in that situation and could perhaps fend off the rapist if capable enough. This is another big problem with libertarianism - they place too much weight on imaginary, abstract, philosophical musings - the real, physical world be damned. To resolve the contradiction between property and self-ownership, libertarianism has to submit to reality and temporarily restrict property rights (which ruins their whole narrative of being perfectly logically derived) to let the violator (the person who doesn't want to pay 100% tax) leave. This brings us to another issue:
What happens if the all the properties around have a law like that? In that case, unless you're a part of the priviledged class that owns property - you're doomed to a life of slavery, where all your stuff belongs to the capitalist. This argument is related to an old idea known as
Property is Theft, popularized by anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Quoting from his book, "What is Property?":
The proprietor, producing neither by his own labor nor by his implement, and receiving products in exchange for nothing, is either a parasite or a thief.
AXIOM. —Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the Proprietor over any thing which he has stamped as his own.
The idea is actually older though, appearing in a 1797 novel:
Tracing the right of property back to its source, one infallibly arrives at usurpation. However, theft is only punished because it violates the right of property; but this right is itself nothing in origin but theft"
So, the libertarians have got it partially right with the
taxation is theft idea - but they didn't go far enough. The power to tax comes from owning property (land), making THAT the real theft. A common criticism of this idea is that it can't be theft, because there was no one to steal it from. But this is just wordplay, so common to cornered ideologues. The point is, anyone claiming a piece of land as his own can now decide what you can or can't do there, including to take your stuff. But by what right did he take the land in the first place? The Earth certainly did not assign it to him. Why should we respect them, then? The claimant would now be preventing other people's usage of the property, reducing their freedom. And that is the spirit of the claim that
Property is Theft - but maybe a better word would be usurpation.
This is also the basis of (the criticism of) the whole work system of a libertarian society. The capitalist arbitrarily controls the means of production, and you cannot take the results even if you did the labor. Instead, the capitalist will sell the products for profit while paying you a chunk of it (even though he himself had no part in the making of the product aside from owning the property). That is another meaning to
Property is Theft, greatly summarized in Proudhon's two quotes above. Of course, libertarians would consider this situation
voluntary, since you decided to sign up for the job. I've refuted this claim more thoroughly in the earlier sections, but briefly: since money is required for life (in the current society at least), and most people cannot hope to earn it in any other way than the corpo grind, it is no more voluntary than gun to head. You could say that taxation is voluntary by the same kind of logic, since the libertarians have decided to live in a certain country, agreeing to the tax laws. Of course both of those are unjustified, and both can only exist if we accept absolute property rights.
In a free market, firms would be smaller and less hierarchical, more local and more numerous (and many would probably be employee-owned); prices would be lower and wages higher; and corporate power would be in shambles
It is true that big business loves some types of regulations - this is easily seen with GDPR, for example:
According to PwC, 68 percent of US-based companies expect to spend $1 million to $10 million to meet GDPR requirements. Another 9 percent expect to spend more than $10 million.
There are also fines of
up to €20 million for not complying with it, which big business easily affords but might be a problem for the small business. However, it is not at all true that all regulations help the corporations - otherwise, Monsanto and DuPont would not have spent millions opposing GMO labeling laws. And libertarians make it clear that they want to remove all regulations:
When a legislature interferes with voluntary employment contracts, it infringes people’s freedom to bargain with their own labor and possessions
And there’s no principled way to draw a sharp line here: Once it’s okay for a legislature to interfere with bargaining in this way, there’s no stopping politicians from setting wages and prices, or requiring or prohibiting the hiring of particular people.
And this is actually the only consistent libertarian position - since according to them, all employment is voluntary, any regulation would decrease the freedom of the parties involved. Of course, this does not concern work regulations only - but all of them. Therefore, for example, environmental regulations would not exist in libertarianism unless they follow from private property:
We advocate repeal of the laws that prevent full ownership of the air and water above and below land, thus denying individuals protection under the law against polluters. Private property rights must replace public property.
Under libertarianism, all the air and water in the world is owned by someone, and if that someone wants to pollute it - so be it. The implications are staggering - unless you yourself own property, you have no guarantee that your next breath won't kill you. Since a business could pollute
their air on purpose, and then force people living there to give up all their money in exchange for clean air - or even just not provide the option, and let them die. Some libertarians realize the problem and try to argue for environmental regulations - but that is going outside the libertarian principles, which cannot prohibit using
your property the way you want it.
Coming back to employment, there can be no worker protection laws in libertarianism - after all, if someone wants to work in a place without safety requirements, who's to prevent him? Child labor is also all clear:
As for child labor, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea, so long as it is not abusive or recklessly dangerous. Why should it be fine for a 16 year old to work a few hours after school, but employing a 15 year old will result in stiff fines or prison. Shouldn't this be a decision left to the teen and his parents? We already have laws that take care of abusive parents, right?
But you can hear the doubt in the libertarians' words even above - right as they are justifying child labor. And libertarianism could not have laws against abusive parents, since children are their parents' property - they can abuse them just as they would a teddy bear. Some libertarians disagree with this due to the implications, but it is consistent with their logic. By the way, we do have proof that child labor would be very dangerous and exploitative under libertarianism, since that is what has happened historically until the dreaded government got involved:
Another reason that businesses liked to hire children workers was because they worked for little pay. In many cases, children weren't paid at all, but worked for their room and board. When they did earn wages, children often earned 10 to 20 percent of what an adult would earn for the same job.
What a surprise, a business likes their cheap labor, ethics be damned.
In some cases, the businesses treated the children no better than slaves. They kept them locked up and forced them to work long hours. In other cases, the businesses felt they were helping the children out by feeding them and keeping them from starving.
Ha! I was wondering when this was going to come up. This is the standard capitalist / libertarian mindset: I am the almighty property owner - working for me and getting a share of MY profits is a great privilege! You'd have to suffer from a pretty serious case of Stockholm Syndrome to believe in this stuff.
Children often had to work under very dangerous conditions. They lost limbs or fingers working on high powered machinery with little training. They worked in mines with bad ventilation and developed lung diseases.
If you give full autonomy to businesses, this is what inevitably happens - since profit is the ultimate goal, why develop safety measures? Unfortunately, this is still happening today to the extent that it is allowed - but the libertarians want a return to a world where the situation is ten times worse.
In the United States, a real effort to regulate and put an end to child labor began in the early 1900s. Many businesses were against it because they liked the cheap labor. Some families also needed the money their kids brought home. However, eventually laws were passed. In 1938, the Fair labor Standards Act was passed that placed some limitations on child labor, set a minimum wage, and put limits on how many hours an employee should work.
Despite some resistance, we've got the protections and only the businesses ended up losing out. In the end, the money that the parents allegedly needed from their children was simply replaced by the minimum wage. It will take some time but hopefully we soon realize that we don't need the capitalists at all as well - but this topic will be explored in a later section.
The justification for the lack of worker protection is that
private rating services would develop - to which businesses would have to submit if they want to compete. However, what reason is there to believe that this would actually happen? In the failed libertarian city, the
the volunteer fire department collapsed for lack of funds. There was no sewage system, no animal control and no police - even though we've long been promised by the libertarians that private businesses could easily take care of those. If they couldn't, what makes you believe they could provide proper
ratings services? TripAdvisor is mentioned as an example of a successful rating service and yet it has a lot of problems:
And in September 2018, a high-profile investigation by The Times of London found that one in three (33%) of TripAdvisor reviews are fake. TripAdvisor has denied the results of the independent investigation. However, from our experience, this seems pretty accurate.
We’ve stayed at a number of hotels where we are absolutely bombarded by the hotel management to leave positive reviews for them. We had a restaurant offer to complete the TripAdvisor review for us. On our recent trip to California, a restaurant offered us a complimentary glass of wine for completing a TripAdvisor review.
ratings services can easily be gamed, and of course the big business is the one that benefits (they can afford to reward customers for positive reviews more easily). If a ratings service gained a monopoly, they could also accept bribes and then it would become totally unreliable (benefiting big business) - making you wait for another one to appear that would compete with it, where the same thing would inevitably happen. The so-called free market has no viable answer to this problem. This goes deeper than traveling though - let's check the libertarian logic in supporting no government enforced standards in anything:
Look at how we deal with choices in areas where the government does not mandate standards, say how food tastes in restaurants. Does this lack of regulations mean that restaurants can do whatever they want and get away with it? Does it mean they can sacrifice taste in favor of maximizing profit. No, of course not. Instead we have restaurant reviews in newspapers. We have word of mouth. We have Yelp and Zagat and other rating services. If a restaurant starts serving poor tasting food, the world will know about it nearly instantly, certainly faster than the government could respond.
This could be gamed the same way as TripAdvisor - but that isn't the biggest issue. If a food tasted bad, you could just simply deal with it - it's not the end of the world. But what if that food was poisoned instead? Would
private ratings services help then? No, since you'd already be dead. There is nothing preventing a business from injecting cyanide into all their donuts without consequence - after all, you chose to eat there. Bet you like some regulations now, huh? Of course I'm not saying that people would necessarily do this unless they get off from killing others, but it is a possibility in libertarianism. Maybe we wouldn't have a world full of poisoned donuts, but something like unlabeled GMOs, sure. Libertarianism has no requirement for businesses to tell consumers what's exactly inside their products (and again, big business hates labeling laws) - it's a responsibility of the buyers or the failed
private ratings services. And that is a big issue even if it doesn't end with mass murder (hey, exaggeration helps to prove a point sometimes).
With the increasing automation, and no employment regulation of any kind, the workers would simply be ruthlessly exploited. Libertarians, again, admit all regulations are unwelcome, including
minimum wage law, comparable worth rules, working condition laws, compulsory union membership, employment protection, employment taxes, payroll taxes, government unemployment insurance, welfare, regulations, licensing, anti-peddling laws, child-labor laws. Most workers have very little bargaining power over the workplaces; if someone doesn't want to work for the pay set up by the business, or dislikes the working conditions - there is a thousand others to replace him (unless he has some rare skills). This creates a situation where the business has free reign to exploit its workers however it wants to - with the only defense being the dreaded government regulations such as minimum wage. And yet, this is portrayed as a positive by the libertarians:
Consider a young, uneducated, unskilled person, whose productivity is $2.50 an hour in the marketplace. What if the legislature passes a law requiring that he be paid $5 per hour? The employer hiring him would lose $2.50 an hour.
Oh no, the business would lose some money (that was never actually theirs). How terrible compared to the poverty of the working class. By the way, in a decade the
young, uneducated, unskilled person will have trouble finding a job at all due to the aforementioned automation. And since there is also no welfare under libertarianism, those millions of people would have a real problem:
Unemployment Insurance. Government unemployment insurance and welfare cause unemployment by subsidizing idleness. When a certain behavior is subsidized—in this case not working—we get more of it.
Unemployment is not necessarily bad anyway - if a job doesn't need to be done, why do it? In the libertarian world, however, everyone would need a job to pay for "rent" (in other words, daring to exist) and food - unless they own some property, again proving that libertarianism provides freedom only if you do so (even better if you own a business). Though the current system is not even close to optimal - at least the unemployed have some kind of safety net instead of being forced to find work immediately or die. There is some pressure put on the businesses that way, which would not exist in pure libertarianism. And that's something libertarians hate, as admitted in the above quote, because they are really authoritarians, or social darwinists, in disguise. What could a seriously ill person do under libertarianism? Let's check out some answers from the libertarians:
No, it is not the 'states' role to committ a wrong against other humans in order to try to rectify a fact of nature. We humans need our rights protected, not abused, by the state - that is the purpose.
I do not see why people should be obliged in helping others especially when they had nothing to do with the state of the person in need. A system based on the possible occurance of calamities will turn into a calamity itself.
Charity and the good will of people will cater to the needs of the disabled.
Or check out this gem:
In a truly Libertarian society, the disabled are either taken care of by their family, or they are considered weak and simply die. If they cannot make it on their own and their family will not or cannot take care of them, then they die and the resources they would be taken up will eventually be split amongst those who are not as weak. Something along the lines of natural selection and evolution, and how they are supposed to work.
How insane is it that we're giving up human life just to protect the toxic ideology of absolute property rights? Under libertarianism, the disabled will either have to rely on charities or die. And we saw how well have
voluntary services worked in the failed libertarian city. Though the current government system is not even close to optimal, at least it provides some safety net for the disabled. Of course, I'm not saying that a charity-based system absolutely couldn't work - but under libertarianism, the businesses have an astronomical advantage over the workers, which creates an "everyone out for himself" kind of world. Having to compete in the so-called "free job market" would give the person enough pressure that volunteering inside charities would be the last thing on his mind (but still, did you know that the poor give more to charity than the rich?). Realistically, it would require a change in the system for there to be a change of people's mindset (since these days, we're learning the dog-eat-dog mindset right from the smallest age through school, parental conflicts, siblings etc); and that isn't likely to happen until we get a revolution. For now, even if the government tips the scale just a little towards regular people (through, say, welfare, disabilty, worker safety or child labor laws) that is an advantage over the pure free market (if that can even exist). The so-called
universal basic income would relieve the workers from the pressure even more effectively - but it would still be a bandage on the capitalist / libertarian wound; we will explore even better systems (which, I believe, would fix all the problems mentioned in this section) later.