Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Argue With a Libertarian

I'm going to assume if you're reading this, you spend some time on the internet and have likely come across someone who self-identifies as libertarian. This is the little understood philosophy - particularly by its own proponents - of limited government and unregulated business as the special alchemical formula for perfect freedom and happiness. Like all utopian beliefs, it falls apart when introduced to reality but since people who spend their lives on the internet are so actively avoiding reality, this particular wrong-thought bacteria has ample time to grow.

Normally this would just be another harmless little cult of losers - like Otherkin - but libertarianism has become the flavor of the month among Republicans desperate to protect their phony baloney jobs. You hear politicians, even with #OWS approaching critical mass, calling for deregulation and spending cuts as a way to save the country. Never mind that austerity is a proven economy killer time and time again - these arguments are crafted to woo the simpleton libertarian with what are insisted to be "fiscally responsible" and "common sense" solutions.

They're not, of course. The GOP mission statement over the past thirty years has been anything but responsible. A systematic redistribution of wealth from those who have little to those who have much, an inverted socialism that is really mass robbery on behalf of a new self-styled aristocracy.

This is why libertarians, the unwitting fifth column in this generational con, must be convinced they are wrong at every opportunity. It's an uphill battle to be sure - half the appeal of this nonsense is its reinforcement of self-serving delusions - but it can be done. Below, I've compiled some basic methods developed through personal encounters with these sad dupes:

Don't Get Mad, Get Rational
Libertarian arguments come in two flavors - insulting and crazy. While it is tempting to dismiss them out of hand - and they deserve dismissal - you are just going to leave the poor silly libertarian to fester in their wrongness, doing such self-destructive things as reading Atlas Shrugged and voting for Ron Paul. Better to calmly and logically deconstruct every absurdity to come out of their mouths. Here are three examples of their arguments you will hear:

1) "It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness." ~ Penn Jillette

This is a mixing of two big libertarian talking points - the eevil "men with guns" who will steal your shit and how anything government does is immoral, even when the outcome is universally beneficial.

Mike Huben has a fantastic takedown of the "men with guns" meme, pointing out that they're merely enforcing a standing contract - something libertarians support in all other cases. But since it's government enforcing a contract, and government is bad, it is by definition bad.

This is an absurd tautology but don't focus on that. Then it just devolves into one of those, "NO U" exchanges. Try this - at least it works. A welfare system funded through taxes may not be as "moral" as feeding and clothing people yourself, but as the entire post-WWII world shows it works alot better. And the past thirty years of dismantling welfare in America just confirms these findings as poverty and unemployed have boomed with the reduction of the social safety net. Who needs moralizing when you have good ol' math on your side?

2) "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship." ~ Ronald Reagan

Here we have a future US president decrying democracy itself. Setting aside the rank hypocrisy of holding such a view while pursuing the highest office in the land (assuming he even said this in the first place but you'll soon learn libertarians can't be bothered to confirm their sources) and it's clear fudging of history, let's examine the mathematics of such a statement -

It's wrong. Retardedly wrong. For Ronnie's assessment to hold any water, you have to assume the "largesse" - tax revenue - is a finite and static resource. It can not be added to and is only diminished by the greedy peasantry. Also, inflation doesn't exist.

The Treasury is not a safety deposit box but rather a highway of funds. Taxes garnished from wages, payroll, sales, or however go in where they are then redistributed into government projects from roads to bunker busters. Those on the receiving end then spend said funds, adding further to the great tax and spend cycle that is the bedrock of all functioning societies.

Yes, it does sound familiar. You learned this crap in grade school. Don't hesitate to tell them that.

3) "If there were no government, my money would be worth more!" ~ some libertarian whackadoo I spoke with in a bar.

This is just so shockingly stupid you'll at first think they're joking. And as tempting as it is to just start laughing, try asking them to explain how a government-issued currency would increase in value without said government existing or - if they're a gold bug - ask for some intrinsic values of precious metals and how they would be safe from price fluctuations, a basic fact of all market economies.

Whatever they throw at you, question it. Make them explain their dopey logic because, like all fundamentalists, they have no solid empirical facts to back them up. Only emotion.

Turn Their Principles Against Them
This'll be hard for the committed lefties, but try presenting government regulation and publicly funded safety nets as being an across the board boon to business. This may feel a little weird at first, almost like crossdressing, but here's a few points to help you get the hang of it:

"Thanks to welfare, rich people have every right to be selfish with what they have rather than feel obligated to perform acts of charity. If the society provides for the neediest, those who have much are free to give or not as their own conscience dictates."

"Universal healthcare - or at the very least a public option - would take the burden off employers to provide benefits, boosting their profits."

"Government regulation stimulates innovation and adaptation in the market. A business that thrives in such an environment is clearly doing something right while one that fails was based on a flawed model to begin with (and thus would've failed anyway, regardless of government action)."

"Welfare for the unemployed or unemployable ensures a solid consumer base for the economy at large, as do minimum wage laws and other compensation standards."

There's really no end to the free market arguments supporting welfare and regulation. The best part though is the sick thrill at beating these dolts on their own misunderstood terms.

Challenge Them To Do Better
Libertarians sure do bitch alot. Why don't they ever do anything about it?

Libertarian: "I don't want my taxes going to [insert outrage-of-the-week]!"

You: "Then vote."

Libertarian: "There aren't any sufficiently libertarian candidates!"

You: "Then run yourself."

Libertarian: "[lame protestations against becoming personally involved in politics]!"

You: "Then quite being such a big goddamn baby about everything!"

There's a reason all the utopian, "common sense" solutions espoused by libertarians never go into practice - they are and have always been a slapstick fringe movement. Not even the GOP toes every libertarian line - legalized prostitution and heroin use for example - because such broad ideological absolutism is electoral suicide. Even if they could make it into office, a libertarian would then face a whole host of career pols of varying beliefs. Reforming a system is a difficult and thankless task - well beyond the capability of a crowd who consider the height of political involvement to be posting pithy ad hominems on the internet.

If All Else Fails, Hit 'Em Where It Hurts
So they ignored reason, argued against their own beliefs, and are just generally being recalcitrant jackasses? Fine, time to call them out for what they really are - spiteful losers.

"That's libertarians for you - anarchists who want police protection from their slaves." ~ Kim Stanley Robinson

"Saying you're a 'radical for capitalism' is as meaningless and oxymoronic as calling yourself 'Dangerously Non-Threatening' or 'Radicals For Groveling.'" ~ Mark Ames

"Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society." ~ Robert Locke

As libertarians can't do analytical thought on their own and rely on quote mining, this is a particularly satisfying tactic as you have famous, successful people calling them the chumps they really are. At this point, your best hope is that they'll run away to the Reason Magazine or Freeper forums and BAWWW to all the other solipsistic twerps. A pyrrhic victory at best but sometimes the most you can hope for is making it sting.

No comments:

Post a Comment