Continuing my articles addressing criticisms of libertarian Philosophy, this week I’ll be tackling the argument that Libertarian ideology would not be good for minorities, the LGBTQIA+ community and women.
At this point in this series of articles, I’ve covered the broader reasons that libertarian ideas are criticized and will begin focusing on more detailed ones within the broader arguments. Thus, this article will expand upon much of what was discussed in all the articles.
Because of the depth that I could go into for each marginalized group, this particular Criticisms article will be broken up into three parts. The first being on libertarianism being harmful towards women.
To recap a little from previous articles. There’s a perception among those against libertarianism that our ideas would lead to an every man for himself society where an elite, most likely rich class of capitalists, would oppress the poor and those they deemed lesser because their would be no government oversight to prevent them from buying every resource.
In addition, without regulations on who businesses may serve, these people would discriminate left and right against minorities, non-sexual conforming, non-gender conforming and women returning the country to a pre-Civil Rights era.
Much of this perceptions is thanks to news sites like Salon, and Alternet who like to write articles on why a libertarian society could not work for one reason or another, while simultaneously displaying a lack of understanding of the ideology’s principles to make claims such as what I explained above.
A particular article from Salon claiming that “[…] While looking at the larger conservative movement, it becomes a bit more clear that the hostility towards government and collective movements in general tends to attract white males who want to preserve their dominance in a society where they are quickly becoming minorities,” because of a Pew Research Poll showing that libertarians are largely white men, has been shown to me as an argument against my ideology more times than I can count to discredit my ideas because libertarians aren’t “diverse.”
These sites conclude that libertarianism is mostly for privileged, white males and is largely where the perception of our ideas harming marginalized groups stems from (even though the demographics of libertarians are actually proportional with the country’s demographics).
In order to avoid repeating myself too much, below are some ideas that I have discussed in previous articles that would apply to all of these articles on marginalized groups:
- Not wanting a government supported social safety net does not equate to not allowing any welfare in any sense. Libertarians believed voluntary, private charities do better jobs at helping the disadvantaged than government programs who use coercive means to obtain their funds.
- Being against hate speech laws also does not mean that libertarians condone hateful speech. Freedom of speech is absolute in the eyes of a libertarian, but one is not free from the consequences of their speech.
- Private property rights also do not mean that we condone a business’s discriminatory practices, but rather that if a business owner should want to make the foolish mistake of discriminating against a group of people, they should be free to fail of their own accord.
So, I’ll start from largest to smallest group whom these sites claim libertarianism will harm.
“Why aren’t more women libertarians” tends to be a common question among critics. The movement started based on women political philosophers and has been for marriage equality since the party’s founding, so why don’t more women want to be libertarians.
Forbes writer Bryce Covert believes the reason is because the libertarian principle of rugged individualism goes against natural motherly instincts of women explaining “[…] libertarianism runs up hard against children and childrearing.”
The author argues that women are more likely to choose to support policies that help the good of the general public because many women are reliant on welfare programs. Because of this, women are more likely to be aware “that a lot of life is determined not by what you’re able to do, but where you start out. By assuming the mythical even playing field at the beginning, libertarianism ignores the disadvantages some have to climb out of or the advantages others enjoy to get those raw materials in the first place.”
Basically, libertarians deny that people are born with privileges while others are not and that women tend to fall into the category of people with less privileges.
Pamela J. Hobart reinforces this when claiming “Some women really do endorse the idea of a robust social “safety net” implemented via coercive taxation and the government, full well realizing that this may create dependence at the margins,” as a comment on the perception that libertarians think most women are brainwashed by feminism.
Libertarian desires and the desires of women do not necessarily overlap and the author believes that the ideas of women should not be dismissed merely because they are left-leaning or feminist in nature. This could be a potential point where libertarianism does not appeal to women because it does come across as dominated by mainly male ideas.
In response to Hobart’s essay, Sharon Presley comments on how libertarianism can be just as sexist as other ideologies and the fact that a lot of libertarians are anti-feminist, turns away women. “[…] it is based on a misunderstanding of feminism and on ignorance of what feminism actually stands for, as well as how libertarian feminists differ from the mainstream,” states Presley.
So, perhaps libertarian ideas simply don’t appeal to women or there’s a deeper issue within the party that turns women away, but the philosophy definitely is not harmful to women.
Since I am a man, I’ll allow some women to explain why liberty is the best solution to women’s issues. Anna Dooley explains in her article Libertarianism is for Women how those views would help with the prosecution rate of rapists, sexism, and the views of either sex being superior to the other.
“Libertarianism will let you prove yourself, treat you like an equal, and won’t say that you need help from society in order to be just as good as men. And therefore won’t create any special programs for small minded bigots to use to hate you more,” explains Dooley.
She continues to explain how the libertarian belief of equal opportunity for all would be able to tackle most of women’s concerns about gender equality. Due to the emphasis on the individual, one’s gender would not be a factor when applying for jobs.
This same individualism would allow women to choose to either be business women or stay-at-home mom’s without either decision reflecting on societal expectations. Women would have the ability to make the choices that they feel are best for their life and goals.
Libertarianism also is very supportive of sex-positive feminism. A large example of this is libertarian views on prostitution. If a woman enjoys sex and wants to make a living off of that joy, they should be free to do so. “They see prostitution as a form of self expression and something that the government and even established religion cannot and should not touch,” states A Free Intellectual Progressive Archive.
Government would not be allowed to restrict access to birth control or to make arbitrary laws attempting to make access more difficult. The state would also not be allowed to make laws banning women from displaying their chests in public while men can (this is inherently unequal) or laws against women breastfeeding in public.
Overall, libertarianism allows a woman to be whatever kind she wants and express their sexuality, gender, and life in any way that she pleases. While the ideology and party may have a bit of a communication issue when it comes to expressing these ideas, ultimately, women would be better off in a libertarian society because of the empowerment that comes from choice.
To read the rest of the series on Criticisms of Libertarianism click the links below: