Salon, one of the world’s most unbiased news sources, has published an article claiming to expose the contradictions and faulty logic of libertarians with 11 questions. Here are just the questions (with enough context to allow you to understand them), along with my answers.
The Libertarian Hypocrisy Test
1. Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?
What do you think the word “spontaneous” means? Unions and political parties are clearly not spontaneous. They don’t call it “organized labor” for nothing. Grass roots movements within unions and political parties may well be examples of spontaneous order. The same is true of social movements. The hippie movement seemed fairly spontaneous, whereas Marxism seems highly organized.
2. Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?
No. If I pay a contractor to build some part of my product, they have no right to recognition. They were paid for their service, end of story. Similarly, if I use an unpatented process or algorithm, I have no obligation to reward it’s inventor. This is not to say that doing so isn’t a good idea; it’s merely not required.
3. Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?
Not always. A worker bargaining individually is generally using market forces, but in some cases, they may use laws to force a company to give them something that they don’t deserve. For example, one might threaten to sue for wrongful dismissal, even though their employer had good cause for firing, knowing that the company has not thoroughly documented their case.
Unions often prevent companies from hiring outside the union, clearly preventing companies from taking advantage of the market. This is not to say unions are evil. I believe that big companies and big unions deserve each other. If a company wants to avoid having to deal with a hostile, bureaucratic union, it should treat its employees well.
4. Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?
No. I think copyright for the works of a living author is a reasonable protection.
I don’t think companies should be able to hold copyrights. The actions of big companies like Disney, who lobby the government to continuously extend the duration of their copyrights, meaning that many old works go out of print but cannot legally be copied because they haven’t been put into the public domain, are absolutely immoral.
Patents are a huge problem, especially in software. The application process is now unaffordable for individual inventors, and the government patent officers grant patents for inventions that are patently obvious. A US software patent can cost upward of $19000 to prepare. This means patents do not give protection to inventors, only to big companies. At this point, it would be best to scrap patents entirely. They are no longer serving the purpose they were introduced for.
5. Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?
No; at least not a free marketplace. For example, in the US, the “choice” is between corporatist Democrats and corporatist Republicans. The only ones for whom the government is a marketplace are the lobbyists.
6. Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?
Yes. In fact, the idea that individuals, not corporations, should be the only legal entities, is a libertarian principle. Corporations, like government, should be as small as possible.
Extra Credit Questions
7. Do you agree with Ayn Rand that “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent; he is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves,” and historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?
No. I believe everyone has the right to pursue their own happiness.
8. If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?
I don’t believe that libertarianism has been discredited, because it has yet to be implemented. On the other hand, Marxism has, yet there are plenty of Marxists out there who are unwilling to accept the evidence of its total failure.
9. Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?
I believe in some level of regulation. For example, monopolies, price setting cartels, and criminal organizations need to be regulated.
10. Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.
These are unrelated issues. The government needs to be limited in what it is allowed to regulate. This can best be achieved in a democracy where, when a government imposes regulations that are unwanted by the people, they can be voted out. Governments should not be able to regulate what women wear to the beach. Governments should not be able to regulate what recreational drugs we take, assuming we aren’t endangering the safety of others.
11. Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?
No. The wealth I have doesn’t come from government. It comes from the services I offer to the companies that employ me.