"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Why They Hate Us
A believer in the merits of a political community that holds human freedom as the community's highest value should expect to be ridiculed, ignored, or shouted down by his opposite numbers in the political spectrum. From some adversaries, I expect the reason is because they rely primarily on an emotional framework for making decisions, and reasoned debate with them is a poor use of time under any circumstances. But for the majority of people who like to have a rational basis for at least some of their beliefs, I expect that libertarian ideas introduce dissonance into their world view, creating emotional and even physical discomfort. While 'leftists' and 'rightists' can hold an air of righteousness with one another to provide them their spiritual updraft when in ideological battle, they can't get the same lift in an argument with someone who consistently argues the virtues of freedom. For example, a rightist might be outraged that he is being forced with his tax money to pay the fees of someone he sees as a murderer of unborn innocents, yet be happy that the same authority is extorting money from a lefty to pay for the bombs that necessarily blow apart innocents in a discretionary war. Or a leftist may become indignant to be beaten, gassed or imprisoned when he attempts to exercise peaceful political speech, but be delighted when the same authorities muffle or cage a person who tries to make known his political views with paid advertising.
Facing the irrationality of one's perspective is an uncomfortable place to be. Occasionally, the person will respond with a somewhat reasonable retort. Said retorts most commonly feature the adjectives 'unrealistic,' 'impossible,' 'utopian,' or some combination of the three, as if holding a position that a political system which refuses to fund abortionists and an offensive military, or one that will not abridge anyone's right of political speech is 'impossibly utopian.' Puncturing the same arguments again and again is an unfortunate necessity. It is also cathartic writing. Below are my responses to the counter-arguments I face most often.
1. 1. Libertarians and anarchists believe the world will become Utopia if people just followed their ideas.
No, we do not. Taking the liberty to speak for a majority of us, we believe that voluntary arrangements based on persuasion are morally superior and more effective than arrangements based on force. Examples to demonstrate our case are everywhere. To use one, the volunteer army is more effective than the slave army of conscripts. Also, its owners less readily misuse it because they have to make staying in the army in the volunteer's interest. There was hand wringing about eroded nation-state security when the draft was stopped in this country. Well, surprise ' we developed a more effective military. Also, notice that as the misuse of the nation's military begins in earnest, 'stop-loss' and other forms of force become necessary to hold the organization together, with decreasing morale and effectiveness as the inevitable result.
2. 2. Libertarians and anarchists don't understand human nature. Without the protective hand of a central governing force, libertarians would be quickly subjugated and enslaved by the ruthless and the powerful.
This mistaken notion may singularly be the most confused of all of the counter-arguments I encounter. To the contrary, the most rabid defenders of the principle of self-defense are people who believe in their own rights to be free. I'd hazard to speculate that any random sampling of a group of libertarians will return one of the most heavily armed political sects in our society. They are able and ready to defend themselves. The same is true of an armed community of individuals that cherishes freedom. Hitler didn't leave Switzerland alone as an expression of magnanimity. It is effectively argued he left them alone because they would have bloodied his war machine beyond all worth Switzerland held as a conquest. Compare their fate to that of the citizens of the democratically elected government of Nazi Germany.
3. Freedom advocates are a small well-educated sector of the population. Their political model is fine for them, but people are, generally, too stupid to be left to their own devices.
This point is 'libertarians don't understand human nature, part two.' Here, there is room for debate. To argue rationally, we can look at a few areas where people are left nearly entirely to their own voluntary discretion without regard to IQ. Marriage and reproduction are two. Lots of people make bad choices and experience the consequences of their choices. Others make good choices and their lives are greatly improved. Somehow, these pillars of the civilization have continued with minimal interference by central authorities for thousands of years. Also, what's nice about the marriage example is that it is currently under lefty and righty pressure to centrally manage it. There are growing numbers of people who would like to force you to recognize different kinds of marriage, stay married, take classes on marriage, and all other manner of meddling. I would not be too surprised to live long enough to see the dystopia where marriage and reproduction are completely regulated by a centralized authority. I can imagine the hand wringers of that time who will tear their clothes and gnash their teeth at the government proposal of allowing people to decide whom they want to marry or how many children they want. To them, such freedom will be unimaginable.
4. Libertarians and anarchists are contemptuously mean and obnoxious toward other people's opinions. Their selfish, hedonistic society is a step downward in human relationships.
Let me address these points in two ways. First, a community that values freedom is a political construct, not a religion. Free people can behave in virtuous ways. In fact, virtue cannot be 'forced' out of a person, by definition. And as far as obnoxious libertarians are concerned, ridicule is one of the most effective means of disqualifying a competing political ideologue. From today's political events, evidently, mendacity, theft, sexual scandal and even homicide won't necessarily disenchant a mob with its leader. The cardinal sin is to appear ridiculous. Sit Michael Dukakis in a battle tank or let Dan Quayle misspell potato, and that's all she wrote for them ' boot those clowns into retirement. Consequently, many libertarians use ridicule because they are few in numbers, and it gives the most bang for the buck in taking down opponents. That being said, let me stress again that a community that respects freedom is a political entity. Personally, I wouldn't necessarily want to be stuck on a desert island with someone if the only thing I knew about him was that he was a libertarian. Rather, I'd prefer getting stuck on the island with the person who greets me warmly every day and helped me change a flat tire when he saw me stuck on the side of the road last year. While I understand that a critical mass of these tire-changers on the island might decide that I will not be allowed to drink my fermented coconut milk on Sundays, in person-to-person relations, I expect that we would form cooperative and prosperous relationships.
Bring on the arguments. I drink illogic and eat demagogues. If only I'd known what fun it is, I would have embraced liberty twenty years ago!