A very limp attack on libertarianism

Why do we need a perfect libertarian society to make judgements about libertarianism, any more than we need pure socialism or communism to draw conclusions about those statist societies?

by Daniel J. Mitchell on 13 June 2013 08:07

Even though Barack Obama unintentionally is doing a good job of recruiting more people to the libertarian philosophy, that doesn’t mean I’m optimistic that we will achieve libertarian Nirvana in my lifetime.

I’m even willing to admit that part of the problem is that libertarians (like me!) tend to be a strange breed and we occasionally rub people the wrong way. Needless to say, this sometimes makes it difficult to gain new converts.

So when people say libertarianism is unrealistic, that may be an accurate political prediction. I can respond by pointing out reasons why I think it’s possible to reduce the burden of government and make people more free, but there’s no doubt that it’s difficult to make substantial progress against the combined forces of bureaucrats, politicians, lobbyists, interest groups, and dependents.

That being said, there are some arguments against libertarianism that are very weak. Consider what Michael Lind just wrote for Salon.

Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines? …If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world.

Lind actually answers his own challenge by noting that libertarians point to the superior performance of nations that are more free than others.

I’ve done that myself by comparing the United States with the European Union. Or Chile with Argentina and Venezuela. Or South Korea and North Korea. OrSingapore and Hong Kong with the United States.

Anyhow, you get the point.

But Lind would like readers to think it’s somehow illegitimate to judge libertarianism by comparing libertarian-leaning nations with statist-leaning nations.

But he doesn’t offer any legitimate rationale for this restriction. Why do we need a perfect libertarian society to make judgements about libertarianism, any more than we need pure socialism or communism to draw conclusions about those statist societies?

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus