1. The Enlightenment is our foundation.
As I have written before, libertarians are often the unknowing and ungrateful inheritors of the Enlightenment. They take for granted that there SHOULD be justice. It’s beautiful, really, but it doesn’t correspond to the real world.
The big reveal which libertarians experienced, the “red pill” moment which we so often try to communicate is that the state is ultimately violent in everything it does. We say this as if it’s both surprising and disturbing. Let’s be grateful that it often is.
But in most of the world, this supposed revelation will likely cause people to look at you like you’re a small, naive child. Of course the government is violent. Of course they are looking out for their interests. Why should it be any other way? Everybody looks out for their own interests first. The world cannot be any other way.
Westerners have no idea how idealistic they are.
2. Equality is the new communism.
Nobody who advocates economic Marxism is taken seriously anymore. The argument is over, and we have won. Mostly. Yes, there is a lot of stupid, self-serving policy, and it fails for the same reasons communism did, but the serious arguments for economic Marxism are over.
Equality is the new communism. The left is advocating near-full scale mobilization toward an impossible goal — and that may very well be the point. After all, what good is a messiah once he’s arrived.
If a heterogeneous polity is to succeed, we need to focus on compatibility (probably by pushing as much as possible into the marketplace of voluntary interaction and celebrating, or at least tolerating, differences). If the left continues creating a religion around equality there will be more conflict and discontent.
3. Status, not wealth.
People who are either very powerful, or very lazy pay a huge opportunity cost by observing property right. Why should they do so?
The typical argument made by libertarians is purely an economic one: Everyone in a society would become materially better off if we all observed private property.
We are underestimating the heady appeal of riding around with a bunch of heavily armed buddies and ruling over everything through a capacity for violence. Think gang-bangers or Genghis Khan.
Many prefer status over long-term wealth. Also, time preference. Right? Our argument for why everyone should see things our way fails. It will continue to fail.
4. We are mostly doing justification.
It’s no coincidence that libertarianism consists largely of capable, industrious people. We are arguing for the world which gives us the most status. By happy coincidence, it provides for the rest of society by creating a competition in the satisfaction of needs.
But so what? That isn’t enough to convert people.
Justification is the same thing single mothers do when they advocate for communal property and communal responsibility, or what a politician does when he describes the moral imperative of welfare for his voters.
5. and 6. American libertarians have a bias, taking for granted the absence of organized external enemies. Historically, survival has been a collective effort, not an individual one.
How can living under the bubble of the most powerful military to have ever existed not create a bias? The bias of American libertarians takes for granted the absence of well organized outside enemies. Most American analysis considers only disorganized bandits and the state itself.
The world looks much different, say, on the edge of the steppe where powerful, organized actors, from the Mongol hordes, to the Bolshevik ones, to the persistent, corrupting pressure and violence of Russian intelligence, have been a far greater threat than the state or lone bandits.
Though many optimistic libertarian prose have lauded asymmetric war and voluntary security, the jury is still out. The people not making the argument about the military superiority of voluntary coalitions are the ones who do the actual fighting.
Besides, if voluntary coalitions were militarily superior, wouldn’t states have ceased to exist long ago? Wouldn’t the German principalities have defeated Napoleon, wouldn’t the Qin dynasty’s unification and bureaucratization of China have failed against the aristocratic, more voluntary coalitions they displaced?
7. Never speak about natural rights again, or if you do, realize it’s just shaming.
Shaming is good. It’s a sort of first line of defense against delinquent behavior, but let’s not pretend that the natural rights argument has come down to us from Mount Sinai or anything like that.
Even if we were to appeal to nature, we’d sooner conclude that strict private property is deeply unnatural. When economists do use nature to demonstrate private property, the examples are so laden with exceptions and qualifications, that these could just as easily serve as the rule.
8. Strict private property is an anomaly created by violence.
You get private property when you’re able to punish those who violate private property. This is the grown up version of libertarianism.
It is hard to punish those who violate private property. The price is very high.
Libertarians who ignore the creation and enforcement of property right (often by hiding behind the natural rights argument), should not be called libertarians. We need another word — “free-ride-a-tarian.”
Liberty happens when people are willing to die achieving it for the sake of their neighbors. We should be asking ourselves what society needs to look like to achieve this condition.
(Side note: I thought the answer to this question would be discussed in the context of Ukraine’s 2014 revolution which I witnessed up close and personally, but then big parts of the libertarian media went all Kremlinesque and drowned out any discussions of lessons which might have been learned. For other important libertarian lessons, look also to Georgia’s amazing libertarian reforms of 2007-2008, which were also proceeded by a Russian military invasion.)
10. The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is insufficient at best, and at worst, a tool for scoundrels.
There are many sorts of delinquent behavior which fall short of physical aggression. For example, fraud. It should not be relegated to a footnote.
The non-aggression principle and the zealotry with which some libertarians advocate it, casts harm as a false binary. It isn’t. There’s a gradient of harm that starts long before physical aggression: making a deal with asymmetric knowledge, a deal that you know is bad for the other party, a deal that causes negative externalities (like selling bullets to a warlord about to slaughter innocents), fraud by omission, outright fraud, not to mention lying, slander, and more.
Perhaps we shouldn’t surrender our capacity for retaliation given the many ways someone can cause harm and still remain on the right side of the non-aggression principle.
It seems libertarianism attracts a small (very small) minority of con-artists and scoundrels who perceive the non-aggression principle as a prohibition on retaliation: “You stand still while I lie, cheat and defraud you.”
We can do better.