Friday, September 2, 2011


I recently read this article, and appreciated it because I've heard people attack libertarians with a 'hypocrisy' label or the 'love it or leave it' argument. For example, hearing: "If you are a libertarian then why don't you stop using the freeways/emergency services/library/post office/public transit/schools/etc?", or "Why don't you move to Somalia, they have no government?". I've replied with clumsy metaphors, such as "If someone stole your food and money, then threw a free buffet... would you be a hypocrite to eat?" However, I thought the article addressed the question more elegantly:

   "Suppose Z steals an apple from Y and then X comes along and takes this fruit away from Z. Did X do anything wrong? [...] Of course not [...] Z is the absolutely least deserving of this foodstuff."

and their conclusion...

"the more money you take from the coffers of the state the better libertarian you are"

A dictionary defines "hypocrisy" as "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not". Libertarians believe in individualism and property rights. So if someone steals from you, you are more than justified to steal it back... whether the thief wears a hood, badge, or uniform. However, after 30% of your income is taxed/stolen/redistributed to countless programs and government monopolies, it's hard to calculate precisely how much you are owed back after driving your kids on public freeways to public schools. So, it's a messy game - but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be nearly impossible for any productive, employed individual to get their money back from the system. So give it your best shot!

To net profit from a collectivist system (as difficult as it may be) would be immoral, but to deny that it is "mooching" must be either 1) ignorance, or 2) hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy is worse of the two because it's dishonest, rather than just lazy or dumb. I would shake my head at a welfare bum who said  "Hell man, it's crazy... but they just give me free money". However, advocating the system based upon some altruistic motives smells of lying or faking it. If a socialist can't outline to me why they don't altruistically share their relatively comfortable american lifestyle with starving african kids, then they're going to have to chew the "hypocrite "label.

There is nothing hypocritical about openly supporting a set of prioritized values, then pragmatically acting to serve those values. Suppose a self-proclaimed "pacifist" must kill a murderer to save their child. Calling the pacificist a hypocrite for saving their child is nonsense, and it would be a tragic sacrifice to allow the murder. Similarly, libertarians accept that limited government is a pragmatic solution which will better serve individualism than would anarchy (which would evolve into tyranny). It's not hypocritical for a libertarian to vote for a Republican or Democrat, the "lesser of two evils". See Duverger's Law (Actually, pragmatically there's nothing wrong with voting third-party, or abstaining... a bumper sticker probably has more impact than a vote.). I'll quote the article again for the real point here:  "it's not necessary for us to become martyrs". You can believe something firmly without throwing yourself in front of a tank for it. You must play the game that's being played... while at the same time trying to improve the rules of the game. So, if anyone ever calls you an "extremist" or a "radical"... take it as a complement. "Compromise" is a dirty word, unless it helps you get more of what you value for it. There is nothing to be proud of in calling oneself a "centrist" or a "moderate". That just means you are unsure and wavering in your values. In my book, that's only slightly better than being a hypocrite.

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