How Libertarianism Refutes Itself

The problem with libertarianism, as an idea, is that it is grounded essentially in economic utilitarianism, which is to say in the presupposition that the free market in and of itself is sufficient structure to guarantee a good and healthy society. On other occasions, I have addressed the false premise supporting this fantasy, which we may call “The Free Market Fallacy,” namely that human motivations are both predictable and static, such that, economic liberty being granted, human society may be expected to continue functioning consistently according to the minimal moral prerequisites of freedom — a presupposition for which we have zero evidence, and plenty of counterevidence.

The following, then, is my outline for a book someone ought to write, the working title of which might be, Libertarianism: The Self-Refutation of Utopian Materialism.

Original idea: Laissez-faire capitalism is the ideal social structure and the essence of political freedom.

Corollary of original idea: Laissez-faire capitalism, as a side effect, necessarily entails deregulation of “illicit” drugs, and legal tolerance of “alternative lifestyles” or moral deviancy.

Practical result: Habitual drug abusers and morally infantile deviants increasingly populate the Libertarian Party, seeking their version of modern democratic politics’ most corruptive promise, “free stuff,” which in this case means social sanction (i.e., moral support) for their previously taboo forms of pleasure-seeking.

Practical evolution of original idea: The party leadership, in search of electoral viability, caters increasingly to its growing faction of partisans who are much less interested in free markets and self-determination per se, than in their hopes of legalizing their personal vices and removing all social stigmas about their unusual behavioral proclivities.

Final outcome: the Libertarian Party convention, presidential nominations, and policy statements, become essentially about liberalized drug use and the “right” to¬† (i.e., normalization of) indiscriminate sexual deviancy, with free markets and the general principles of political liberty reduced to mere incidental features of the party platform, at best.

Note: America’s Founding Fathers, who are sometimes claimed by libertarians as spiritual kin, were adamant that the free republic they were forming would only be possible, let alone durable, among a moral citizenry. For as they understood very well, to divest the State of its traditional paternalistic elements is implicitly to invest the people themselves with that “paternal” role, i.e., to depend on private men and women to live voluntarily with the moderation, self-restraint, forethought, and basic adherence to norms of decency and rationality that made civil society viable in the first place, and make it sustainable in the long run. In other words, the Founders were not rejecting the concept of political community, and they understood that the greatest threat to the kind of political community in which men are, in principle, free to do “whatever they feel like doing,” is that an increasing number of men might actually take this freedom as license to do whatever they feel like doing.

When the human weakness for following one’s pleasure wherever practical liberty allows, ceases to be a rare and socially suppressed impulse, and instead reaches critical mass among a citizenry that has come to confuse ethical individualism with lack of responsibility — the latter being in fact the negation of the former — a free republic is no longer sustainable, either practically or theoretically. If human beings are to live freely, which means in accordance with their nature, then someone must take the “paternal” role, i.e., the responsibility of acting as rational guide. If it is not the people themselves who assume this responsibility, it will inevitably be the State, because the people, sensing they need guidance, will simply accept this; or rather, they will beg for it.

Utopian materialism is a self-refuting folly.

For more on the topic of free market utilitarianism and its errors, see:

The Profit Motive, Greed, and Tyranny
A Nation of Libertarians and Leftists
The Dangerous Idealization of Material Success
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to “The Dangerous Idealization of Material Success”
Economics vs. Political Philosophy
Economics vs. Astrology

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