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Where Right-Libertarianism Goes Wrong

Andrew Kerr | August 21st, 2013
Center for a Stateless Society

Libertarianism is, in theory, no defender of the rich and powerful who must always be subject to market competition. As a libertarian who has engaged in countless classroom and online debates, I’ve often asked myself why other people cannot see that. However, I’ve come to understand the reasoning behind the intuitive criticism from the Left that libertarianism is about maintaining current power structures. Libertarianism should not be an apologia for the rich and the status quo – but, on reflection, I have to concede that it is. The issue is not with the theory and ideology of a free market, but problems arise when we deem current economic structures to be reflective of a genuine free-market (and therefore legitimate) when in reality our market economy is rigged by the state on many levels. This is what Roderick Long refers to as ‘conflationism.’ Libertarianism is based upon solid intellectual and theoretical foundations of how a free-market society should operate, but when these free-market arguments are applied to defend the corrupt, cronyist, corporate state rigged market capitalism we have at present, the effect is not to support a free market, it is merely to excuse rent-seeking corporations that are beholden to state power.

Amazon (for example) has been accused, here in the UK, of (legal) tax avoidance to a chorus of libertarian approval; “Hurrah! Starve the beast!” we jubilantly cry. Yet the costs that Amazon places upon the tax-payer are scarcely mentioned – in addition to taxpayer subsidised warehouses, Amazon deliveries are sent on roads paid for by taxation, its staff attended government schools and the NHS will treat their workers when they are sick. This is not an argument in favour of taxing Amazon to pay for these things, merely a suggestion that we dial-down the triumphalism over their tax avoidance and instead focus attention on the costs their rent-seeking imposes on others.

Many libertarians (myself included) have fallen victim to the false dichotomy that whatever is not ‘the state’ is the free-market.


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The United States is an Oligarchy. The criticism occurs because of the denial by "libertarians" of the harmful power to exploit things and control things by private wealth and private power.

While a free market economy sounds wonderful, it is not without imperfections that come from those with "big money" (Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, Warburgs, Chase, Golsman Sachs, etc.) seeking to hurt or deceive or ripoff the people -- in order to enrich themselves further (and build their own private Empires).

Big money and big business (by nature) wants to form cartels and Monopolies in order to dominate and drive out all the competition from the marketplace (the very thing that would provide balance). So there must be some regulating force to stop private cartels and Monopolies from forming in the first place before they do (Comcast), and warping the whole Marketplace .. and taking the "free" out of the free market.

In fact, every bad government policy has private sponsors (think tanks) and private profiteers that either created the idea, profit from the idea, or both. This tells you where the real power lies in our Country.

So one of the big areas of dispute here is on "government regulation". There must be some regulation to stop Wall Street theft, and to ensure a climate for fair competition in the marketplace, and to enforce the Law equally for rich people as well as poor.

Similarly, there must be some regulation that assures fair elections, and equal access with our elections. The fact that our Elections are today determined just by massive wealth (hundreds of millions of dollars), and not by ideas shows just how private power can totally wipe out a once effective democratic republic.

If government has already been corrupted, and does not do a good job at this, that still does not alter the fact that proper regulation still needs to exist here, and it is the role of "government by the people" to try to provide that.

For example Glass-Steagall was a good government regulation. We are all worse off without it. If we also had regulation to stop Banks from granting loans on (phony) non-existent money .. this would also be good regulation. So when you hear libertarians say that all we need is less regulation then this is a big problem.

What we need is a new regulatory system that makes corruption, bribery, and individual wealth powerless over that way that we all live -- and ensures a level playing field in business, and in school, and overall in our lives.

You cannot have freedom or liberty in an environment totally poisoned by the rich 1%, and also with two separate systems of "justice".

Libertarians need to acknowledge that the awesome power (and greed) of private wealth is a corrupting influence. It was private wealth and private power that completely took over our Country (Rothschilds private-profiteering Central Bank system) and it is these Oligarchs that sit at the top of the pyramid.

Something has to now regulate this power out of our existence anymore, and also create a regulatory structure by which "free" competitive markets (not Monopolies), and elections based on ideas (and not private wealth) can finally exist.

It's not going to happen by "getting out of the way" of Wall Street, or Monsanto now is it?

Our liberty is not safe if people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.

"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

--Franklin D Roosevelt

FDR, a communist? why would

FDR, a communist? why would any one who love Liberty quote FDR?

FDR did do some good things

FDR did do some good things to protect this Country against the Oligarchs.

Passing Glass-Steagall, for example, and other Bank reforms was a good thing. And we've all seen what happens without that, when those protections are taken away (2008 corruption and Economic meltdown).

And had FDR lived, we would not have dropped Nuclear Bombs on Japan (that was Truman's thing), or created the whole Cold War hysteria. FDR and his first Vice President, Henry Wallace, were very committed to diplomatic relations with Russia.

What happened after FDR .... [ Nuclear Bombs, Cold War, CIA creation and CIA crimes, "National Security State", Korean War, McCarthyism, social repression, Vietnam War, etc.] was clearly a total undoing of the Country that we once had .. when America was still great.

Seriously, quoting FDR?

Far and away the most evil beast that ever occupied the White House.

Sounds like somebody has things a bit backward. When the "evil" private rich people use force, it is through the arm of government.

Totally wrong.

Watch Oliver Stone's "Untold American History" and you will learn the real history.

As I posted above in "FDR did do some good things", by stripping away the FDR reforms we all suffered much more.

And it was Woodrow Wilson (Federal Reserve), and Harry Truman (Nuclear Bombs, CIA, Korean War), and Dwight Eisenhower (CIA coup and assassination culture) that did far, far, worse things to our Country then FDR ever did.

And regardless of your personal opinion, ..... his quote is the truth! It is The "over privileged", that FDR talked about, that run this Country, not the elected government.

It is the lack of will to Stand Up to this power -- that is the reason for our corrupted government, our $$$ corrupted Institutions, and our corrupted Media that we have today.

So-called "Libertarians" who choose to be blind to these Oligarchs and their theft, and wish to let them run loose, cannot possibly care about liberty.

Remember Pearl Harbor

FDR manuvered the Japanese into 'making the first overt move' in order to get us into the War. 2000 sailors and soldiers died at Pearl Harbor because FDR used them as bait.

Read "Day of Infamy."

Not like other examples...

Unlike other incidences such as: Sept 11, "The Gulf of Tonkin" incident, the sinking of the USS Maine, "Operation Northwoods" (which Kennedy fortunately blocked), Iraq's invisible "WMDs", and other "false flag" operations, the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was an actual, genuine Foreign attack on our soil.

FDR did engage in hostile relations and manuevers with Japan, but he did not fire the first shot (at anyone). This was still a case here of somebody else starting Warfare and Bombing (and against us). Put in perspective, it is not in the same category as all the 'false flag' operations that we've had -- where in those cases we faked or perpetrated bloodshed directly.

And given what Hitler was doing, its hard to imagine any President keeping us totally out of WWII.

Here is an alternate view of WWII history:

Roosevelt was shooting at the Germans in the summer of 1941...before Pearl Harbor. He was embargoing Japan, which is an act of war. Japan was pushed, purposely, into a position of either capitulating in China due to lack of resources or striking out to capture resources that were being embargoed.

They chose the latter. The Japanese expansion throughout the South Pacific was intended to take the supplies of materials that had been embargoed. Had Roosevelt NOT meddled with Japan concerning China, there might have been no war in the South Pacific.

Throughout 1941 we were already combatants with Germany. Lend Lease, spotting German subs for the British, and according to some reports, actually shooting at German subs, took away our neutrality. The attack on Pearl Harbor, and our declaration of war against Japan, triggered an agreement that made Germany declare war on the U.S. That was Roosevelt's goal all along.

None of the above is to excuse Germany or Japan in the slightest, but it is to suggest that WWII was far from what some have called the "Good War." Roosevelt was responsible for the deaths and maiming of hundreds of thousands of Americans through his successful political manipulations to get a reluctant country involved in another European war.

There are paralells with 9/11: a government purposely blind to an impending attack so as to claim the role of innocent victim in order to rile the People and justify a war that had been desired for and planned for many months, possibly years, in advance.

Surprised the writer could

Surprised the writer could spell Libertarian

Did you have to look it up?

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good things is my religion. Thomas Paine, Godfather of the American Revolution

I don't think

I've ever heard a libertarian say that our current economic system is the true free market. That's a ridiculously absurd false premise to start your article off with.

then to say

Yet the costs that Amazon places upon the tax-payer are scarcely mentioned

Amazon doesn't place cost on anyone, that's the damn government.

I have serious doubts as to this guy actually being a libertarian at all. He sounds more like a progressive.

edit: Front page? For real?

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

Click Here To See The Candidates On The Record

PC-Libertarianism vs libertarianism

To my way of thinking, its PC-Libertarianism vs libertarianism. Who am I talking about when I say, PC-Libertarians? Most of the people over at CATO, REASON, and the Libertarian Party.

So what is the difference then between a PC-Libertarianism vs libertarianism? PC-Libertarians will not defend the racist, the bigot, the sexist, the chauvinist, the KKK marcher, or the radicalize Muslim. But they will defend the abortionist, the abortion seeker, and will NEVER EVER try to justify their pro-choice (or pro-death) position base upon libertarian principles: ie. the natural right to life, liberty, property, to self defense, individual autonomy and personal responsibility for one's free actions. For to do so would mean that adults must take full responsibility for their sexual natures, their sexual actions and most of all, their sexual consequences. To do so would mean that abortion could be practiced by those forced upon by rape and incest. Such an answer would truly be a libertarian answer on abortion, neither fully Pro-Life, but neither is it 100% pro-"choice" either.

In much the same way, the PC-Libertarian will not define her terms, just like liberals who are fully immersed into the PC mindset, 'they know it when they feel it'. Thus, when the "racist newsletters" of Ron Paul came out, not ONE PC-Libertarian bothered to look, read, place back into context, and ask, "does this fit the definition of racism?". Not one PC-Libertarian would question TNR's 33 out of context quotes from the Ron Paul newsletter, and Reason happily glowingly relayed the smears.

PC-libertarianism broke away from libertarianism around the late 1980's. Its present path has taken it to this point that "Left Market Anarchist", ie PC libertarians are having a really difficult time squaring their PC feel goods with the wide open anarchy of libertarianism. Besides failing to define their PC terms, and besides accepting the feminist notion that we live inside a "patriarchal state" (despite having the polygamous Middle East to observe no less!) and not a monogamous matriarchal one, these PC libertarians have COMPLETELY forgotten or dropped the libertarian sociological/ecological understanding of 3 real major sectors in society: ie (A) the Government/Legal/Welfare/Military Sector, (B) the Economic Trade/Invention Sector, and (C) the Voluntary/Donation/Community Help Sector.

While Real liberalism & conservatism is all about expanding (A), real libertarianism is all about expanding (C), the Voluntary/Donation/Help Sector. Real libertarianism recognizes that (A) is encroaching and growing AT THE EXPENSE OF both the economic and volunteering sectors. Today we have "Gov-Companies", ie private companies who have government as its sole or majority "customer", whatever that means, its implications are horrific. Today we have Gov-Charities, ie private charities that have government as its majority charitable 'donor', whatever that means, its implications are horrific. These encroachments have created bastard gov-company/charities. Yuck.

It was bad enough having "regulatory agency Capture", but now we have created a beast. This is what libertarian sociology explains. What PC libertarianism tries to do is say "tisk, tisk" to the bigot, racist, anti Semitic, sexist, homophobic -- which is all well and good EXCEPT for the FACT that these terms are vague, remain undefined, and are smeared all over the place.

How bad is it? Well PC Libertarians "won't touch" Charles Murray, libertarian author who wrote The Bell Curve and "won't go there" to defend Ron Paul's newsletters. Hell, they won't even analyze them, they just "are". So what is so bad about such laziness? By accepting in the vague feel good-feels right PC ghost from the Liberal Left, now all of libertarianism is under full assault. Shots have been fired from thee mag The New Republic Mag (TNR) and The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). To "be" a libertarian is simply to "be" a racist, sexist, homophobic, bigot, anti-Semite, as well as a selfish narcissist and 'greedy capitalist'.

Remember, it is these leftists that made the PC vague definition ideological warfare. They set the terms and boundaries of the PC "debate". (what debate?). By accepting the PC virus inside libertarianism, one or the other must die. Take the 'Amazon avoids taxes', lets CHEER? or NOT CHEER? decision. If your eye is on the 3 sectors, you CHEER (Bad for Government in Sector A). If your eye of concern is for the bastard child gov-charities, you BOO. So what is it going to be? Cheer or Boo? I for one will Cheer. It turns Left-Libertarians are trying to concern themselves with what people lose when gov-charities don't get tax money is ODD, replace with charities. The most important vital thing about charity is the reciprocal link created between the private giver and the private receiver. Great sense of community comes from it and the reciprocal ethic of giving continues. With gov-charities, no community reciprocating sense is there at all, its all impersonal and 'take a number'. And I will cheer when Gov-Nuke Insurance goes away. I will cheer when Gov-Abortion goes away.

And I will cheer when Billionaires buy "Nature Preserves" and "whole ecosystems", why? WHY? You should know why! Because of THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS. Clearly PC Libertarians DON'T care about the extinction of wildlife, for if they did, the socialist government ownership policies, the disenfranchisement of local people to own and profit from local wildlife, WOULD be their top message and concern. But no, they are worried that other libertarians are perhaps defending bigots right to be a bigot or a sexist or a homophobic or anti-Semitic.

Even worse these PC libertarians fret day and night that some libertarians "don't care" and are actually ARE sexist, bigots, homophobic, and anti Semitic! Oh the horror. Oh the shame of it all. Get over it. People are going to be people, with all their flaws, blemishes and imperfections. Libertarianism defends everyone, equally. Now go sell that to your PC liberal friends. Even better, open up the subject of Libertarianism 3.0: an evolutionary understanding of human nature and human liberty & morality. That'll blow their minds.

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

collectivize much?

You seem to be lumping a large group of people into one giant bag with a whole lot of adjectives written on it.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

I find your use of the word

I find your use of the word "people" offensive. Collectivize much?

On what grounds do you use this group designation? Clearly you don't know about individuals. There is no such thing as "people," only individuals.


big squirt of weak sauce

There is a very clear definition of who belongs to the class of "people." There is no ambiguity with the use of that word. With a word like PC-libertarian, this is triply not the case. First, it is unclear who belongs to this class and who does not. Second, it is unclear what set of views each member of this class supposedly holds. Third, it is unclear if all members of this class hold the same set of views.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

I don't know

what words like class, people, members mean. I only see individuals, and frankly these words offend me.

scawarren's picture

How can there be a left or

How can there be a left or right in the libertarian philosophy? The moment I see those two words linked to libertarian it discredits their argument and leads me to believe they are trying to hi-jack yet another term in our language.

It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. – Mark Twain

define "our" language.

Some people do in fact come into libertarianism from different angles and thus hold on to these sensitivities as their understanding of libertanism grows. I was introduced to libertarianism at the dawn of my political awareness though went through a distraction via 14 years of military service and flirting with neoconism.

The alliance of the libertarian left is a prolific producer of stimulating information to expand an individuals grasp and undistancing of the libertarian philosophy. Keep the mind open for the open mind is paramount for the libertarian.

scawarren's picture

How many times have you heard

How many times have you heard someone call the US a democracy? How many actual "liberals" are there in the Democratic party (none)? This is the kind of hi-jacking of terms I'm referring to. Also, why does it matter if you come from the left or right when an understanding of the nonaggression principle places you above both? What sensitivities could they have that were legit?

It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. – Mark Twain

I agree NAP is at the heart

I agree NAP is at the heart of libertarianism. But feel their are other elements that will be necessary to see liberty universally applied. Like NVC and some semblance of UPB (non-violent communication and Universally Preferable Behavior).

One who comes from the right may tend to be soft on big business and the current model that would tend toward a concentration of wealth and thus power. Not that wealth is bad at all.

Someone who comes from the left may be sensitive to labor. A legitamate concern. Not to the extent of collective bargaining, but more along the lines of society organizing hierarchically may not be the best model.

Libertarianism has been

Libertarianism has been subject to the same divisions over philosophy that any belief system engenders, because people interpret the world through their own self-interested prism (and I use the term "self-interested" in a non-derogatory sense). Nothing new here.

no, this is actually kinda new

For a long time, libertarian philosophy was pretty straight forward. Then Ron Paul came along and attracted a lot of people from the right, and these people were never quite able to shed their conservatism. Then, people at Reason and similar outfits started to be populated by people from the left who didn't shed all of their progressivism.

Is this good or bad? Is it good that the movement is growing, or is it bad that the philosophy is getting diluted and splintered? It's neither, it's just evolution. It just is.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Michael Nystrom's picture

I said this elsewhere, but I'll repeat it

because this is a big place.

When an egg is fertilized, what does it do? It divides. That's just what it does. It is what is is. That is what happens when growth takes place.

In the end, whatever it becomes won't retain the 'purity' of the unfertilized egg. It will be something completely different.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.


The lynchpin of libertarianism is the NAP and property rights via the homesteading principle.

Anything other than this is b.s.

Left libertarians are severely confused

From the article:

Amazon has been accused of tax avoidance to a chorus of libertarian approval; “Hurrah! Starve the beast!” we jubilantly cry. Yet the costs that Amazon places upon the tax-payer are scarcely mentioned... Amazon deliveries are sent on roads paid for by taxation, its staff attended government schools and the NHS will treat their workers when they are sick.

"Yet the costs that Amazon places upon the taxpayer..."

The people who collect taxes (the thieves) are creating the burden, not the people who don't collect taxes.

Avoiding theft is always good.

Leftists don't understand that the blame doesn't fall on those who avoid theft, it falls on the thief.

Elizabeth Warren, the socialist senator, said this. I wonder if the author of the article got his idea from her.

There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

the author wasn't

Arguing that amazon should pay taxes... I concur that taxes/theft should be avoided at all costs.

As to Elizabeth Warren's comments their is a thread of truth in it. To the extent that it is far easier for a daughter of Romney to climb the the pentacle of business that it would be for you or I much less the son of an inner city convict.

Their is merit for libertarians to work in areas of social justice as long as we aren't petitioning for state intervention.

This is where the "left" libertarians shine. They are not state pro tax cheerleaders.

libertarianism should not be left nor right

The author said "Amazon places costs upon the taxpayer".

The leftists get upset when corporations avoid theft, and they also don't like it when corporations are the recipient of benefits and special treatment.

They should not be blaming the corporations, they should be blaming the people who are engaged in the distribution of property.

If the left complains when corporations receive handouts, then they should be consistent and complain when people receive welfare. But they don't because they are socialists at heart -- they envy the wealthy.

The only consistent and correct libertarian position is the non-aggression principle and property rights via the homesteading principle.

They should be complaining that the business has been granted

the state privilege of being incorporated in the first place.

leftists are not left libertarians

And visa versa.

Without the state, the logical conclusion of libertarianism carried consistently to its final destination; their would not be any agency to grant limited liability and thus corporate welfare would be a non issue. They are consistent and all welfare is repugnant.


until we eliminate limited liability it's wrong for companies or anyone for that matter to avoid being stolen from?

If that's what you are saying, do you even hear yourself?

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

Click Here To See The Candidates On The Record

Uh, no. All welfare is

Uh, no. All welfare is repugnant. Taxation is theft. I'm clear on that.