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Libertarians Want to Make World Better for Everyone

September 17, 2013 in Economics

By Aaron Ross Powell

Aaron Ross Powell

If you believe Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, libertarians are nuts. In a recent commentary, they gave a litany of reasons for “Why libertarian society is doomed to fail” (Sept. 11 Kansas.com). The trouble is, they’ve managed not only to misunderstand libertarianism, but also to ignore the very problems libertarians see in the authors’ own preferred big government solutions.

Hanauer and Liu attack “radical libertarianism,” which they define as “the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values.” Yet this isn’t quite right, whether we’re talking about moderate or radical libertarianism. Liberty isn’t the ultimate value. But it is the ultimate political value. It holds this status not because we shouldn’t care about other values, but because a state that aims at liberty will enable us to realize much more of what we value than one that aims at something else. Whether the goal is wealth, happiness, health, culture or any other value we hold dear, political liberty will bring us more of it than officious government.

Defenders of the status quo are always quick to label as unreasonable those who advocate for a different and better world.”

The authors then call out libertarians for our “defective” theory of human nature. They tell us libertarians believe “humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.” But libertarians embrace free markets and voluntary association, which both require and encourage cooperation. What libertarians are skeptical of is not cooperation, but the use of, and threat of, force to coerce people into taking part in schemes they don’t approve of, or that harm them, or that aren’t as efficient or effective as other means. Is it “cooperation” when the state forces poor, minority children into failing schools? Is it “cooperation” when politically connected businesses get regulators and legislators to craft rules in their favor? Is it “cooperation” when politicians send young men and women to die in unnecessary wars? Cooperation, far from being anathema to libertarianism, is in fact a core libertarian value.

Hanauer and Liu tell us that libertarians believe “societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers.” Yet no libertarian thinks society can function without codes of conduct and methods for enforcing them. Libertarians believe strongly in the rule of law — much more so, in fact, than many on the left and right who would …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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