Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Huben's Hubris

I’ve said many times that libertarianism’s greatest obstacle is the rhetoric war. Classical-liberalism holds a lot of great cards—overwhelming evidence, a consistent philosophy, an overarching respect for freedom and humanity—but we don’t have the one that outweighs them all: the rhetoric. Understanding how to take back the rhetoric requires us to learn the challenges to libertarianism.

I found this site by Mike Huben, a FAQ about classical-liberalism done by a critic of the philosophy. Some of it is interesting, some entertaining and some completely wrong. Most of it occurs in some combination of the three.

For example,

Many libertarian arguments are like fundamentalist arguments: they depend upon restricting your attention to a very narrow field so that you will not notice that they fail outside of that field. For example, fundamentalists like to restrict the argument to the bible. Libertarians like to restrict the argument to their notions of economics, justice, history, and rights and their misrepresentations of government and contracts.

Yes we all know that economics, justice, history, government, contracts and rights all sum up to a narrow scope. It totally leaves out pizza parties, backgammon and one-inch pieces of string.

Huben then proceeds to offer questions that are good ones to ask as a response to libertarian arguments so as to coax our “questionable assumptions…into view.” These are the order in which he presented them.

-Why should I accept that "right" as a given?
-Is that a fact around the world, not just in the US?
-Are there counter examples for that idea?
-Are libertarians serving their own class interest only?
-Is that economic argument complete, or are there other critical factors or strategies which have been omitted?
-When they make a historical argument, can we find current real-world counterexamples?
-If we adopt this libertarian policy, there will be benefits: but what will the disadvantages be?
-Are libertarians reinventing what we already have, only without safeguards?

These are good questions and exactly the kind that statists need to answer, not just ask. Over the next few days (or weeks, depending on how inspired I am) I’ll answer these questions for Mr. Huben, and I hope our tens of readers will help out, too.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Mike is very much open to constructive debate, and I would recommend that you engage him while you undertake this exercise.