Criticisms #3: The Free-For-All Argument
by Luke Henderson
Continuing my articles meant to address the common criticisms of libertarianism, this week I will discuss the misconception of libertarians wanting a no rules, anything goes society.
Most who claim that a libertarian society would be absolute chaos rely on slippery slope fallacies to frame their argument. RJ Eskow said in an Alternet article in response to Rand Paul’s famous statement on the Civil Rights Act “If ‘private ownership’ is a barrier against these governmental prerogatives, where does it end? If you can’t outlaw discrimination on property, what can you outlaw: Fraud? Theft? Murder?”
Eskow displays that he doesn’t understand the Non-Aggression principle, and continues this most slippery of slopes by stating “In Paul Randian libertarianism there is no limit to the deeds a business owner can commit inside the confines of his own business”.
There would absolutely be limitations on businesses in a libertarian society. A business owner who murders an employee would not be protected by property rights as aggressing against some individual causes one to forfeit them. The same would go for stealing or defrauding employees.
The author also claims because libertarians want to cut government welfare programs that we would also be against any form of charity. He states “It never stops: close down the homeless shelters. Shut down the Salvation Army. Make it illegal to throw a starving person a coin or toss a blanket over them as they lay on the sidewalk.”
The fact is that laws against helping homeless people already exist, and any laws dictating behavior and morality strictly go against libertarianism.
As I explained in my first article on libertarian criticisms, this claimed libertarian rejection on donating and volunteering is a confusion between objectivists and libertarians. Although the two are very similar, altruism and charity are where the ideologies split.
Here’s where some may say that a libertarian society would lead to monopolies and corporations harming the working class. Competition would allow evil individuals to trample on the rights of those who are less fortunate.
Lynn Stuart Parramore, also of Alternet (who along with Vox, seem to have issues with libertarians for some reason), says “When forced to deal with inequality, libertarians often talk about cronyism […]. Cronyism, they insist, is all about government favors, forgetting that cronyism is rampant between various market players.”
A look at the Merriam-Webster definition may make Parramore’s head explode; “partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications.” Against Crony Capitalism defines it as “[…] the marriage of the state and private special interests. Some people have called it corporatism, mercantilism, fascism, or even Communism.”
Granted, cronyism could also happen in a private business, it is because of government regulations made to hamper competition for those with the most money to lobby congress. The Federal Reserve is a perfect example of this is action as the Fed has been kept in power to take away risk from the banking industry leading towards the “too big to fail” corporations that Bernie Sanders railed against in the 2016 election. Because they expect the government to bail them out, they take unnecessary risks that lead to bubbles and recessions.
With regards to monopolies, most argue that an uncontrolled market always leads to monopolies through companies using cut-throat techniques to buy out competition or underprice them out of existence. This argument then usually turns to John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company.
In 1899, Standard Oil owned 90% of the market, but not because they ruthlessly eliminated competition. Rockefeller claimed the reason for his huge success was “[…] its consistent policy to make the volume of its business large through the merits and cheapness of its products. It has spared no expense in finding, securing, and utilizing the best and cheapest methods of manufacture. It has sought for the best superintendents and workmen and paid the best wages. It has not hesitated to sacrifice old machinery and old plants for new and better ones.
Standard was immensely successful because Rockefeller would do anything to create the cheapest and best product. Nevertheless, in 1907 the company was punished by the federal government for being too successful (via antitrust laws) even though their market shared had dropped to 67% and there were over 140 competitors in the market that made the price of kerosene drop enormously.
Monopolies cannot last in the long run unless they are enforced by the government. The United States Postal Service is a shining example of this, as they have a 100% market share on delivering letters and postage stamps, so they can charge whatever they want.
Despite libertarianism’s worst critics claiming that the philosophy would lead to chaos and dirty business dealings, a society based on individual and economic liberty has shown to be better as a whole. The slope is not nearly as slippery as Alternet’s writers think and these arguments need to be quickly and thoroughly debunked every time there are mentioned.
Click the links below to read my other articles on Libertarian Criticisms
Criticisms #2: Libertarianism is a Return to Feudalism
Criticisms #1: How to Combat “Libertarians Don’t Care About the Poor”