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Respose to Laura Stein's Criticism of Libertarianism

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Laura asks, in her article, Evolution of Government and Why Libertarianism Doesn't Work,   what type of government libertarians envision. To answer that we must first address the question of what IS government.

To a libertarian, government is any organization that claims the right to use initiatory force against those it governs in order to gain compliance with its policies. It is this non-defensive use of force that distinguishes a government from a voluntary social structure such as the early communal organizations she describes.

What type of organization this will be therefore depends entirely on who controls the use of that force. I'll just call them the good guys or the bad guys for now. Obviously what Laura wants is a world where the good guys control this force. Unfortunately the bad guys are highly unlikely to abandon their quest to control it instead. The bad guys also have a more concentrated interest in seizing power than the general populace has in resisting.  The gains they stand to reap usually outstrip the potential loss to each individual that would be hurt by their exercise of that power. What most people want is just to go about their daily lives perusing those values they hold dear for whatever reason they hold them dear. They tend to worry about Genghis Khan only when he is at their gate.

Lets also not forget that power corrupts. Many people, as they say, go to Washington to do good and end up doing very well. It is easy to fall prey to the belief that what is good for me is good for everyone so I should make sure everyone gets what I believe is good. Libertarians want people to be able to pursue their own vision of good so long as they refrain from using force to prevent others from following a different vision. Libertarianism, as strictly a political philosophy, does not presume to define the good. We believe that when force is removed from the equation that those ideals which bring betterment to the human condition will naturally win out.

Now lets move on to some of her fallacies. She claims that if it weren't for minimum wage laws salaries would be driven to subsistence levels. Why then are so many people, the vast majority of the population in fact, able to command salaries far above the mandated minimum wage? The reason is obviously that there is competition for their services. Laura's scenario presumes that jobs themselves are finite while the labor force is expanding. But when the government does not place obstacles, that is regulations, in their path businesses create new jobs all the time. Human want, as opposed to need, is insatiable and there will always be those who think they can make a buck by satisfying those wants.

What the minimum wage does do is raise the entry level requirements for any job. No employer is going to pay ten dollars an hour for someone they perceive as only being worth eight dollars of productivity. Thus the experienced worker will always be hired at the expense of those seeking a true entry level position. The statistics on this are incontrovertible. Every increase in the minimum wage has correlated with an increase in teenage unemployment.

What about her claims that large organizations will monopolize resources and collude to prevent competition. There is no question that they would like to do this but can they really get away with it? Libertarian (particularly Austrian) economics says they can't. Obviously I can't do a thorough job explaining that here so I'll just state that as long as there are no government mandated barriers placed in the way of market entry there are only two possibilities. If a company is using their overwhelming market share to raise prices way above production costs there will always be others who believe they can take some of that share away by selling for less

Yes, the big guys could then drop their prices below cost to drive a competitor out of business but the consumer will be the winner then. As soon as they try to jack up prices again a new competitor will emerge and the price war will resume. Eventually the big guy will go broke or be forced to sell at a realistic profit level. Even if they start by selling at a reasonable profit margin, the second possibility, they will always have to contend with the entrepreneur who believe he can lower production costs and thus sell more cheaply even with the same profit margin.

The history of South Africa also shows how government uses it coercive power to prevent minority populations from gaining equality. Basically any place that black populations were able to adjust to the cultural changes brought about by white imperialists the government was forced to pass laws which prevented them from competing on an equal basis. These laws, which ultimately became known at apartheid, took various forms such as land confiscation and bans on the purchase of land. Before these "reforms" groups of black farmers were actually doing quite well in some areas competing against their white neighbors.

And here at home it was the Jim Crow laws that institutionalized racism. A rational business person knows that limiting your market is bad for business. Only when all businesses have to follow the same limits can a new supplier be prevented from competing with the bigots.

So in summary all those evils that Laura sees as occurring in a libertarian society, libertarians see as a direct result of government using its power of initiatory force. The goal of libertarianism is thus to limit as much as possible the areas in which that force can be applied. To some that means staying within the literal confines of the Constitution. The more extreme seek the complete removal of that force and therefore support anarchy in it's literal meaning -- the absence of government.

 

I have been an active member of the Libertarian Party for over 35 yeas and have run for several offices in California as a Libertarian.

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Originally this article started as a reply to Laur... by June Genis on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:50:38 AM
Thom Hartmann describes libertarians as conservati... by Rob Kall on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:55:21 AM
-- having voted for Pres. Obama, and now defending... by Don Hall on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 11:06:41 AM
I'm only going to respond briefly here because I'd... by June Genis on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 11:07:16 AM
So if the owner of a gun--a right beloved by most ... by Maxwell on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 4:03:33 PM
You seem to have misssed a very important word in ... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:12:34 AM
and you also have the right to delegate that right... by terrilian on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 4:55:23 PM
In a democratic society, citizens agree to abide b... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 5:29:49 PM
You've already given in to the idea that some peop... by terrilian on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:26:37 PM
Our democratic republic was set up with a constitu... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 5:22:42 AM
If you'll read the commentaries of the constitutio... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 3:56:14 PM
Other than a few quibbles about words (btw, "democ... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 4:44:48 PM
Republic and democracy are used synonymously today... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 2:54:42 PM
click here... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 3:22:50 PM
It's okay, Democrats are also deluded.  ... by Joe Giambrone on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 1:15:44 PM
If someone dumped their trash on your lawn I don't... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:22:00 AM
If you mean literally make trash illegal then that... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 4:41:18 PM
It is true pollution can be defined as initiatory ... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 8:01:14 PM
...that has appeared in civilized society, over th... by JimZ on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 2:16:09 PM
I'm not famiar with Robert Terry so I'm not sure w... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:27:21 AM
libertarians show that they always choose plutocra... by JimZ on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 12:54:29 PM
You're making a lot of charges here without much i... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 1:36:39 PM
responsibility for you.... by JimZ on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 2:17:55 PM
... but only as it is exercised through government... by JimZ on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 2:29:44 PM
June's reasonable question about "corporate chains... by terrilian on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 4:30:37 PM
Are you familiar with company towns?... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 5:21:27 PM
But it doesn't support JimZ's contention. It suppo... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 1:34:13 AM
You've misinterpreted company towns. They weren't ... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 5:06:33 AM
First, I don't think that YOU understand what a co... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 5:47:22 PM
This started with your challenge to JimZ:"explain ... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 6:43:44 PM
of government, soldiers and guns and prisons, to c... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 5:03:25 PM
"Corporations do not have the legal use of force u... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 7:09:34 PM
no, your scenario demonstrates that "When private ... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 8:38:13 PM
I don't know what else to say to you. In your atti... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012 at 12:39:57 AM
Why am I not surprised that the guy spouting 'demo... by terrilian on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012 at 8:16:32 PM
Zinn did not leave out that the government(?s) tea... by Richard Pietrasz on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 12:10:02 PM
I was trying to goad jim into admitting that gover... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 2:59:01 PM
I have to congratulate you for goading me into adm... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 3:19:37 PM
"There is nothing intrinsically anti-libertarian a... by Maxwell on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 4:04:12 PM
and use force to make people join their efforts ar... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 6:47:44 PM
Unions insist that everyone should pay dues if a m... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 7:27:07 PM
that you don't believe that the corporate sector d... by JimZ on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 6:17:14 PM
You however claimed that without government regula... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 1:47:05 AM
... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 1:55:23 AM
Our societies are crumbling, war and globali... by Marika on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 4:45:59 PM
of what it takes in modernity to maintain it. ... by Thomas Brown on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:25:23 PM
I call the Tea Party Half Mad Hatters. They're mad... by Gary Brumback on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:25:37 PM
Libertarians are stongly opposed to corporatism, o... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:36:40 AM
That would be good. Can you point to some actions ... by Rob Kall on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 5:18:41 PM
I'm not sure what you're looking for here Rob, but... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 6:31:39 PM
There's no doubt that Libertarians want a properou... by Laura Stein on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 10:35:52 PM
Libertarianism, unlike communism, makes no claims ... by June Genis on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 12:00:09 PM
I disagree.  It is very helpful to discuss th... by Marika on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 12:35:47 PM
and it doesn't try to.  That's your job, and ... by terrilian on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 5:55:32 PM
Somehow libertarians are unable to distinguish gov... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 1:18:37 PM
So you're saying that the government had/has no ch... by terrilian on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 6:25:46 PM
"So you're saying that the government had/has no c... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:22:12 PM
Come on Jim, you said that it was inevitable that ... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 2:48:48 AM
I didn't say "it was inevitable that government wo... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 5:39:31 AM
"I'm saying regulation is needed to limit the infl... by June Genis on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 4:22:21 PM
Why are you, a libertarian, explaining to me that ... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 5:23:57 PM
(I did say it was "obvious" why all that money was... by June Genis on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 11:46:19 AM
You said (and notice that I'm quoting) ...."that l... by terrilian on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 9:12:35 PM
In trying to understand where we differ, fundament... by Jim Arnold on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 7:33:29 AM
among the people who will be impacted by it.Actual... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 4:58:09 PM
The arbiter was the government. He compelled the m... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 6:37:34 PM
You're right, I assumed the government was the kin... by terrilian on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012 at 7:54:12 PM
You assumed government was the king because that's... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Sep 6, 2012 at 7:43:53 PM
I left you an opening.... I should say: Only those... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Sep 6, 2012 at 8:16:14 PM
All three claims made by Ms. Genis are false.First... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:56:07 PM
I never said that some people don't gain from mini... by June Genis on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 11:47:46 AM
"What about the person who loses a job because an ... by Jim Arnold on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 8:29:11 AM
As it happens I was working as a part time waitres... by June Genis on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 12:03:19 PM
That "nice guy" refused to raise prices a small am... by Richard Pietrasz on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 12:39:13 PM
Nice guy indeed -- to himself and his customers. H... by Jim Arnold on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 2:24:16 PM
Do you and Jim have any idea how smug you both sou... by June Genis on Saturday, Sep 1, 2012 at 1:02:14 PM
You got yourself all worked up by missing a key wo... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, Sep 2, 2012 at 5:04:41 AM
It is a good thing we have you and other nosy nell... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 5:28:21 PM
dominates society by preventing gov't from doing i... by JimZ on Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 at 11:46:40 AM