The thing Libertarians get wrong about property rights, or why I’m not a Libertarian.

It takes scarcely any exposure to the purported flyers of Libertarian colours before you hear the “property rights” mantra spewed forth like so many virginal boys squealing “Maxim” when asked their favourite nudie mag. You see, for chiltin, it’s not accuracy that’s important so much as community coherence. Damn the consequences.

Now the context for the “property rights” thing on the Very Long Libertarian Wish List ™ is that of the role and scope of government – every Libertarian’s all-time favourite topic of conversation.i The irony, of course, is that the Libertarian desire to enforce an arbitrarily specifiedii set of “rights” against any and all comers but at the same time grant all individuals perfect liberty to engage in commerce and settle disputes at the smallest possible scale necessitates that the government have a monopoly on force. There is, of course, no other way in which government-distributed “rights” of any description may be enforced. How’s that for logic! The limited governmentarians want to the government to have… all the power. Does no one else notice this ?iii

So it is that Libertarians, imagining that they form the third option in the US two party political system as they do but really don’t, are at least as idealistic and therefore as inherently naïve, optimistic, definitively puerile and neotenic as the Bahamas supporters who thought that affirmative action would change anything for the better, much as Trump supporters mistakenly think he‘ll change anything for the better either.iv Libertarians like to imagine a land of milk and honey – somewhere in the not-too-distant-future preferably – wherein a benevolent government of laws and not of menv objectively and dispassionately resolves matters of dispute between free individuals in a manner both sanitary and judicious, as if such spherical vacuum cows had any sort of historical precedent at any point in recorded history and therefore anymore than a snowball’s chance in hell of materialising anywhere on God’s Green Earth at anywhere in the foreseeable

Libertarians aren’t entirely out to lunch and out of touch, however, they’re sensible enough to support low taxation, limited government, and open borders,vii but their headless horsemanism and insipid idealism shines through most vituperously with the whole “property rights” pantomime. If you can believe it, from the depths of their unwashed minds, they imagine that metastatic centralised bureaucracies can just be made smaller and more friendly just for the asking, and that said same government will of its own volition magnanimously maintain its lightness of touch for all eternity, leaving forevermore personal and community matters to be resolved at the smallest scale possible and no greater. Seriously, pick a Libertarian source of your choice and gawk in utter amazement at the sheer simplicity and raw stupidity of this proposed mechanism. It’s almost as if the Libertarian dream scenario goes thusly :

i) Take power through popular democratic representation.
ii) Give 90% of federal government employees their two-week notices.
iii) ?????????????????????
iv) Profit (and property rights).

When in fact the actual means and methods of enacting the Libertarian ideal of profit (and property rights) is far simpler and far more achievable :

i) Pick up a gun.
ii) Shoot anyone who steps on your land.
iii) Dispose of body, uniformed or otherwise.
iv) Profit (and property).viii

You see, in the real world, in the world outside the bubble-boi’d helter-skelter of USG.POLITICS, there are those who are willing to defend their property with their lives – typically as performed by knightsix on behalf of lords in more technologically developed societiesx and by the father of the house in more agricultural societies – and there are those who aren’t willing to defend their property or anyone else’s in any way, shape or form – as with women and children.xi

Regardless, Libertarianism offers little in terms of either intellectual rigour or practicable theory to the enlightened mover. At least not in the face of less peacenik-y terrorist cults. But to each their own.

___ ___ ___

  1. Including, but not limited to, Libertarians like Russ Roberts.
  2. Human rights, gender rights, employee rights… they’re all equally arbitrary and equally designed to promote laziness and indiscretion.
  3. Ok, so force isn’t the only form of power, but the other forms are readily overwhelmed in the face of it. Force is therefore the primus inter pares, if you will. At least pre-post-geography.
  4. For what it’s worth, the only thing that can heal a nation is war. There is no other balm nor elixir for what ails the lazy soul. And the bloodier the better.
  5. An idealism that neatly reduces to “They’re in heaven and I’m in hell!
  6. In the same way and for the same exact reason, Bitcoin is not to be surpassed by soi-disant “2.0” variants. You can’t invent a better royal flush just for the saying so.

    Still, Libertarians have something of an anti-monarchical bent to them – they’re far too peace-mongering for such heights of civilisation – but this also means that they’re leaderless and ipso facto inept. They will forever be relegated to representative irrelevancy, but it’s this underdogism that holds much of the appeal for their fervent, if mild-mannered, supporters.

    faceless libertarians

  7. To be fair, Libertarians appear to be reasonably divided on the question of border enforcement. Some are in favour of entirely unregulated and uninhibited borders, essentially dismantling any construct relating to boundaries that might impinge upon the movement of peoples, goods, and ideas ; then there are those who completely oppose open immigration, demonstrating only the weakness of their personal social and political rank or at the very least their dearth of confidence in the face of the “free market” competition they pretend to champion in the same breath.
  9. Originally caballarius.
  10. Id est societies with forts, cities, standing armies composed of professional soldiers, trades, crafts, guilds, organised religions, etc.
  11. There’s no age cut-off for male children in this case. It’s entirely a matter of techne and episteme, not magic numbers. 

8 thoughts on “The thing Libertarians get wrong about property rights, or why I’m not a Libertarian.

  1. Saifedean Ammous says:

    What you’re describing is an accurate critique of modern minarchist Beltway libertarianism, comprising any libertarian who’s ever set food in DC, whether through politics or economics or academia–the intellectual children of Nozick and Friedman and Reagan. But if you want to look into libertarianism for grown-ups, you should really check out Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty and his For a New Liberty; as well as Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. Their critique of minimalist government libertarianism is quite similar to yours. They’re anarchists, not minarchists, and understand that government is not what protects private property, it is the prime threat to it.

  2. […] Saif’s recommendation, let’s see if there’s a branch of Libertarianism that can stand on its […]

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