Continuing my series on libertarian criticisms, I will address the argument that libertarians want no groups or anyone to ever do anything in groups.
This argument first appeared to me when I was browsing articles and essays searching for the most common criticisms of libertarianism. An author for Ethical Spectacle, wrote an essay entitled Why I Am Not A Libertarian that among the many criticisms of libertarians states that “An apparent paradox of libertarianism is that humans can be trusted individually but not in groups.”
The United States having a democratic voting system as an example of how society does things collectively is then employed and the author notes that “[…] the reason we are collectively incompetent is that we are individually incompetent as well.”
Since this essay was written in 1997, I would have hoped that this argument had evolved to some point, but Huffington Post proved me wrong with a 2015 article where Druce Vertes claims “Communists made the unfortunate claim that the individual doesn’t matter, everything is the collective. Individual property is illegitimate, every speech or action is good or bad according to its impact on the collective. It was a terrible corruption of an ideal of equality to say individuals don’t matter, only the group matters. Libertarians make the opposite claim, that individual rights and liberty are all that matters. This reaction to a profound error leads to another profound error.”
So, this argument seems to revolve around libertarian’s large influence from Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who both vehemently fought against socialism and fascism in their writings. Since libertarianism is the polar opposite of communism, libertarians must abhor groups or group-think of any kind. And this is emphasized more because every libertarian is a Ayn Rand worshipper, right?
Empowering the individual does not equate to never participating in groups or working together to overcome problems. Libertarians believe that we should work together, but this should be based voluntary interactions and mutual agreements. The fact that the philosophy has a political party should be an immediate signal of libertarians use of groups.
For example, when I joined my fraternity, I made promises to represent the group with a certain character, pay dues to the chapter and maintain a certain degree of attendance to chapter meetings. Force was not used to make me adopt these behaviors, I voluntary accepted them, and the consequences of not following them, of my own accord because I wanted to be a part of the group.
This belief is the antithesis of the United States current welfare system, where it is the duty of the citizen to give up a large portion of their income to help those less fortunate, whether they agree or disagree. There is no way to exit this “social contract”, as I could have chosen to not be a member of my fraternity, and refusal to pay taxes are met with fines or jail time, of which once have been paid or time served, citizens are still expected to contribute.
Forcing one into a group through taxes, racism, sexism, and homophobia goes against individual liberty. Liberty lovers opposed slavery in the 19th century, and Jim Crow laws, while supporting women’s right to vote and desegregation in the 20th century. When government tries to treat everyone as the same or dictate morality, that’s when a libertarian would be in opposition to the group.
Click the links below to read my other articles on Libertarian Criticisms