I came across a written piece by the New York Times, here, that I wanted to respond to. I will write this post in a way as if I am responding to the author, even though I doubt he will ever see this response.
First, it would be helpful if I say what I believe in to make it clear where I am coming from. I am a political nihilist, you can read more about this here. I do not believe that any kind of system will ever work. So what I favor is no system. I think that instead people should be able to opt in or out of a system that they support. People can endorse any legal system that they wish to identify with, including crazy ones, even legal systems that legalize murder. Not that I believe that there will ever be such a legal system, but I am just saying that people can decide to live in such a manner such that the law legalizes murder. Hence, what I advocate is a lack of a system, in a way. And I guess you will say that what I support is a system itself, a meta-system if you will, but that is just word games, not really relevant at this point; it is like saying atheists do believe, they believe in no God, it is just a word game. The reason why therefore I identify with libertarianism (or anarchism) is because this is a political philosophy that closest matches nihilism, it is not so much of a system itself but a lack thereof where the people can choose what they want to try.
The other thing that I wanted to mention about libertarianism is that it is a reaction to large government, both from the left and right. There is no philosophical movement towards libertarianism. Rather libertarianism is used as a tool, a means, to fight against large government. Consider the tea parties for example. When they complain about health care reform they use libertarian language and philosophy. But most of the people in the tea party do support Medicare and Social Security, and they are quite evenly divided about the war. Sarah Palin might talk fiscal conservatism and sound like a real libertarian, but when you look at her policies and what she supports she is a standard neo-conservative Republican.
Whenever people are unhappy with how their country is going it is not unlikely for them to turn to radical philosophies to use as a tool to make change. I would not be surprised if there was a lot of communist language going on in 1900. So most of the people that you will come across that call themselves "libertarian" mostly just want to get the government out of social issues and cut back on economic issues, that is it. That is not exactly a libertarian. Most of these people think you are crazy if you suggest getting rid of taxation. They would agree with you if you say to cut taxes or to reform taxes but the moment you suggest to move into a direction of no taxation then they will look at you as a bunch of crazies.
I remember I seen a program from about thirty years ago. It was a conservative program that invited a libertarian guest to speak on. You should have seen the reaction of the audience. It was really funny. A lot of surprises and boos and anger for what the person was suggesting. He was of course called crazy. But today conservatives try to come off as libertarian sounding. Because it is cool now to be libertarian, contrary to the past, so people try to use its rhetoric to gain votes and support. I wrote about this situation several months ago back here - that most so-called libertarians are just more committed Republicans.
So there is no libertarian movement, just libertarian rhetoric, the libertarian movement remains just as small as it was, maybe just a few more members, but overall it is just rhetoric that is used to cut back government. I was just a little baby during Ronald Reagan's presidency so I cannot possibly remember anything that he said. But I have seen some old videos about him. And he also tries to make himself seem libertarian. Reagan was not Mr. Libertarian, he did not cut back the government and he did not expand social freedoms, he rather used libertarian ideas to influence people and cut back taxes for the rich. He does know how to talk well, but like nearly all politicians he was a slimy slithery snake with a serpents tongue.
Therefore, I see this rise in libertarianism simply as a reaction to government growing. People need to turn to radical philosophies to spout this message, so they choose libertarianism. That is why Ayn Rand is very popular to read right now. I seriously doubt that most people agree with her considering that she was a hardcore atheist and most people who read her today are your typical Christians.
I think one of two things will probably happen with the growing movements now. Either the Democrats will remain stronger than the tea party and so the tea party's reaction will slowly die out and nothing will be changed in policy. Or else the tea parties will have enough of an influence to start to win elections. In that case they will elect a "libertarian" president or representatives that will just cut back a few programs. So you would probably see a cut in taxes, and a few other cuts somewhere along the lines. Probably no social progress at all. Just like with Reagan.
Now you mention Rand Paul in your piece. Here is the thing about Rand Paul, I do not know of a single libertarian that I interact with online who actually likes this guy. Ron Paul yes, lots of libertarians that I interact with do like him. But Rand Paul is someone who sticks to mostly libertarian economics and rather typical conservative social policies. And he is someone who is too much of a pussy to say what he believes, because he rather play the crowd than be honest. It is for this reason that I do not like him and most libertarians that I interact with do not like him at all. Ron Paul is committed. And he is willing to say things that will not make people happy. Rand Paul was against the Mosque being build, even Pat Buchanan supported it as a legal right (though he thought it is a bad idea) for Science's sake, because he needs to attract his tea party crowd. Ron Paul has been mostly lonely for 30 years, or however many, as a politician; I have seen a vote in the House were 434 said yes and 1 said no, the no being Ron Paul. He is only slightly popular today because of a reactionary movement against government growth. But he is by far nowhere on the list of popular candidates supported by the tea parties. They like Sarah Palin more.
The last thing that I would like to mention before I respond to you, keep in mind that all I am saying now is just a prelude, is your term "Libertopia". I guess what you mean by that is that libertarians are utopian for the ideas that they support. Well if you read my political nihilism entry that I linked to above you will realize just how far away I am from this criticism. In fact, I argue that you are way more utopian than I am. You are a statist and as a statist you believe you can use the state as a tool for social progress. That is way more utopian than I will ever be. But I will use your term, "Libertopia", simply to refer to a libertarian nation.
Now I will start addressing the points that you bring up.
Point 1: I find the title really funny, "the trouble with liberty". Most people who object to libertarianism never so openly condemn liberty. They say something to the effect of, "I support liberty also, I just have different ideas". It is hard to convince a statist that his ideas are anti-freedom, but it seems that you already acknowledge this with such an opening title.
Point 2: You begin by asking the question, "do we really want to live in their world?". Yes, you do. Because it is not our world, it is the world for everyone, and we do not have a universally mandated system for everybody. You get to choose to decide how to live your life and what values you care about and where to send your money. Remember what I said about having a lack of a system? Well it means that if you support universal healthcare and you think it is a great idea then support it. I will not stop you. If you and many other people care to have this system then you can have it. You can pool your resources together and create a universal healthcare system for the people that joined this system. I myself do not think that universal healthcare is a good idea so I do not support it. But I will not stop you if you wish to support it. We can even have a competition between our systems. The system that I support, a market based medical system, and the system that you support, a collectively operated welfare medical system. If you are really correct in that this is the better system then people will see that it is more efficient and you will finally silence the greedy capitalists like myself who say otherwise. I do not have a vision for how the world needs to be, I am not a central planner. I am open to various interactions that people form between themselves. I am a libertarian not because I see it as a final goal, but rather because I have no final goal.
Point 3: Your sub-title says that "libertarians have never been close to power since 1776". You seem to think that in 1776 you have the American Revolution which was inspired by libertarianism, and whose key founders (Jefferson, Washington, Paine) were libertarians, was the time when libertarianism was practiced, then you have a big long gap of adandoned libertarian principles over 200 years which suddenly appear again in 2010. This is not true. Ron Paul has been the most conservative (as in libertarian) politician in record for over 90 years. But there were politicians before him that were more conservative than he was, and it was a lot more common back then. And there were libertarian presidents also. Not just Jefferson and Washington. How about Grover Cleveland? He was a libertarian president. The Civil War itself can be said to have been a libertarian war. The years following the Civil War still remain very largely libertarian. American policy begins to change with the Progressive age of the 1910's and 1920's or so. But for all the past history from 1776 there was a strong libertarian tradition in America. What you say is completely false. It is true that after 1920's libertarianism slowly begins to die out from politics. But it also had an important tradition in American history considering that the Constitution and the revolution were libertarian responses to tyranny. Why do you think America is a gun culture, why you think Americans get angry when a ban on assault rifles is proposed? Because guns are the ultimate symbol of freedom as a libertarian. So it is untrue about what you say, libertarianism has always been part of America, it has lost its way, but it always been part of American history. The year of 2010 is not some magical year when libertarianism suddenly resurrects from the grave and becomes popular again, rather as I explained above, libertarianism today is mostly a reactionary movement to government growth. David Boaz, from the CATO Institute, had a good video on libertarianism here that argues that libertarianism has always been alive in the soul of every American, both on the right and left. I disagree with you. Libertarianism was not silent from 1776. It always was present, and 2011 is no exception.
Point 4: You write, "For all the talk about casting off government shackles, libertarianism is still considered the crazy uncle of American politics: loud and cocky and occasionally profound but always a bit unhinged." And I agree with you here. As I said libertarian movements that are popular now are just reactionary statements to government growth, not a serious devotion to the philosophy that is represents. The Libertarian Party is just another failed political party. This is why I do not support it, as I do not support parties or vote for anything. I do not play the politics games. I care about ideas and philosophy. I do not think that voting of having political parties will ever do anything towards this philosophy. The only way I see how libertarianism can be achieved is by influencing people with ideas, not by taking seats in congress. So I agree. The Libertarian Party is just as much of a joke as the Democrat and the Republican parties that hardly ever get anything done. All the talk about getting the government off your back is just that, talk, nothing more.
Point 5: You write, "Libertarianism is a long, clunky word for a simple, elegant idea: that government should do as little as possible." This is a rather terrible description of libertarianism. Here is a better one, "Libertarianism is a long word, for a crazy, insane, radical, extremist, political philosophy that people do not own other people and that violence is not a way to solve social problems". As a corollary if you apply this philosophy you will arrive at that the government should be little, in certain instances some people, anarchists, would seek total abolishment of government entirely. My description of libertarianism describes it much better than just "government should be little".
Point 6: Then on page two you mention some statistics on various polls about how many people identify themselves as libertarians. The numbers range from 10% to 59% and anywhere in between. I often say that statistics does not usually persuade me in discussions and this is another good example of this. These polls asked loaded questions. The questions that are determined by the pollers does not necessarily make them libertarians. Indeed, if I made a poll which asked just one question "do you think that violence is a way to solve social problems" then maybe 90% of people would say "no", that does not make them libertarians. Just because someone leans social liberal and fiscal conservative makes him far from being a libertarian. I know plenty of people who fit this scio-economic description of a libertarian but I have way too many disagreements with them. I would say, just from my experience alone, that about 1% of Americans agree with libertarianism, at least the minarchism level. Far fewer on the anarchism level. So the figures show the contrary position, the number of followers of these ideas are extremely small, and libertarianism, as a philosophy, not as an extreme reaction to government, is about just as small as it always been for a while.
Point 7: You say that, "Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom has been the anti-regulatory Ur-text. Hayek wrote the book in response to the spread of socialism—including National Socialism— which at the time was a genuine existential threat to Western society. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, though, socialism isn’t the menace it used to be. Hitler is long gone. Yet libertarians still cite Hayek and Rand with the same urgency." Freidrich Hayek's argument in the Road to Serfdom was that the path to serfdom takes a while to develop, it does not happen overnight, and it happens because of various policies and ideas (such as central planning) which eventually turn a country into a tyrannical country. There are many things to fear today that I believe might lead the United States towards serfdom, and in Europe as well. Suspension of habeos-corpus, suspension of the fourth amendment, empire building, counterfeiting money and so forth. There is a constant fear of political correctness silencing fear speech, Europe seems to be falling to this problem. There are things to fear. And if people do not fear these issues then there will be serfdom. It takes time to develop. And when serfdom comes it does not always comes the way you expect it. It can come from mothers who want to regulate the internet so that their children do not watch porn - that in a way is also a road to serfdom. This is what George Carlin meant when he said that, "When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts". You may be correct that libertarians often over-exaggerate the danger of potential tyranny, but they do have a point when they say that you need to be fearful of the road to serfdom.
Point 8: You wrote, " The irony is that Hayek believed in a role for the state." Why is this an irony? If Freidrich Hayek was an anarchist and he said that then you can say that is ironic. But he never was an anarchist and he clearly expressed his views. He was a minarchist. A very committed and strong libertarian. He believed that the only role of the government, at all, was to protect people with laws. This is classical libertarianism. The anarchist movements in libertarianism are much more modern. So there is nothing contradictory or ironic in what he said. Is it ironic to say that Ron Paul is a politician? Not really.
Point 9: You wrote, "He (Hayek) favored government intervention in the markets, for example, and supported environmental regulation." Oh my Science, he did?! How dare he! He is no longer a libertarian! Seriously now, the free market is not about people doing whatever they desire to do within the market. This is a misunderstanding of what the free market is about. A free society does not mean a society in which people do to one another as they so desired, but rather a society in which people are free from rule of others. The free market is based on the same idea. The free market is a corollary of a free society. If you have a free society of individuals then these individuals can interact with one another in a manner that they agree, and the state cannot infringe upon their interactions. That is all. Thus, not all "regulations" are opposed to by libertarians. Contract enforcement is a regulation. If I enter into a contract with you and I never do my part of the contract then you would have the right to sue me in a court of law and the court will have the right to enforce the contract on me. If I burn down your house as an arsonist then you can take me to court and I will be liable to recover all the costs of your damages. That is also a "regulation". Libertarians are not opposed to regulations in and of themselves, they are opposed to regulations that inhibit the operation of the free market. Thus, libertarians oppose 99% of regulations that are in place but not all of them. Enviromental regulation is something supported by a lot of libertarians, myself included. There is even a movement in enviromentalism that is known as "free market enviromentalism". The approach to enviromental protection here is to use private property to defend from pollution. In other words, pollution is an intrusion into someone else's property, therefore just as I cannot dump garbage on your property I cannot run a factory that will emit harmful gases to your property. This approach is entirely consistent with libertarianism. Even Murray Rothbard, who was an anarchist, had no problem sticking to this approach.
Point 10: You wrote, "In 1972, Nevada real-estate developer Michael Oliver built an island in the southwest Pacific by dredging sand near an an existing reef, which he called the Republic of Minerva. The nearby Kingdom of Tonga quickly conquered it." I do not know anything about this story but the seemingly irrelevant information that Tonga conquered it suggests a hidden message you are trying to say here. Why would you decide to suddenly say that the project failed because of conquest? I suspect that you intention was to show that freedom cannot be sustainable because it will not be able to protect itself against invasion. But finding a specific example of how a free project was conquered by a state is just as bad as saying that states cannot exist for long because they will eventually be conquered by other states. What if I used the argument and said that "democracy cannot last long because a democratic country was counqured by the Soviet Union?". You would say it is a terrible argument because it just focuses on specific examples, and you would be correct. Thus, I say the same thing about your hidden argument here, just because there are cases of states conquering free socities does not mean the free societies cannot form defense. It just means in that particular case they failed. Just like certain armies fall to other armies.
Point 11: You wrote, "Jillette might choose his words differently today. Everyone knows going through airport security sucks, even without porno- scanners. But few dispute the need for some line of defense. More-efficient, less-intrusive security would be great. But none at all? Jillette’s tract is a good example of how libertarianism ventures down some fascinating paths but usually ends up deep in the wilderness." Where does Penn Jillette (a libertarian) say there should be no safety standard on airplanes? There is no libertarian that I know of who says "no safety". Why would you even have to ask "but none at all?". Can you name anyone who actually says that? Libertarians have different idea about airline safety. Here is one really radical method. How about let the airlines decide themselves how much safety is necessary? Airlines certainly have it in their interests to promote safety. But they also have it in their interest to promote effectiveness. It would make a lot more sense to let the airlines set their own safety standards.
Point 12: You wrote, "Same story on issue after issue. Taxation isn’t just a poor allocation of resources; it’s an act of violence." Well I am waiting, can you explain why taxation is not an act of violence? I know that it is common for liberals and conservatives also to make fun of libertarians by saying that libertarians equate taxation as an act of violence and theft. And to you it probably sounds crazy how they can propose that. But I hardly hear any argument on people on your side to why it is not. You just say, "these libertards are stupid, they actually think taxation is theft". But did you ever consider their well thought out arguments? Did you come up with a rebuttal to that argument? You do not address it in your paper, you just say it as if it is a given that taxation is not theft and that anyone who proposes otherwise is being crazy and stupid.
Point 13: You wrote, "Libertarian minarchy is an elegant idea in the abstract. But the moment you get specific, the foundation starts to crumble." Of course it is hard for you to understand this. You are a central planner after all. Statism is all about central planning and directing society from the top-down. That is precisely why you cannot wrap your mind around libertarianism. Because libertarianism, as I said, in a way, is a lack of a system, and whatever society is, emerges from the bottom-up. No one is able to calculate it, and no one is able to predict it. For someone like yourself who is a statist this is a hard issue to get around. I have heard a slightly well-known anarchist make a good point. He said, "if we can say exactly how everything needs to be done in the free market, and in a libertarian society, then that would be a pretty good argument for a dictatorship". Try looking at this problem from the bottom-up, it takes some imagination, but try.
Point 14: You wrote, "In Libertopia, I can sell them in exchange for money. Where does the money come from? Easy, a private bank. Who prints the money? Well, for that we’d need a central bank—otherwise you’d have a thousand banks with a thousand different types of currency. (Some libertarians advocate this.)" Where does the money come? Well do you even know what money is? I wrote a post explaining the origin and function of money back here. There is nothing crazy or controversial about saying that money originates out of the free market to improve the efficiency of trade. Then you write that there will be thousands of banks with different types of currency, and in paranthesis you mention that some libertarian support this. I support this. You know what else I support? I support having a free exchange between languages also. Money is extremely important in an economy but what is even more important is language and communication. So how about we set up a government agency that will create a single language that everyone will speak? Because otherwise, oh no, people will not be able to communicate with one another! I would not be surprised, actually, that if such an agency did exist and I proposed to cut it I will be viewed as some sort of insane nut-case. There are hundreds of languages in the US. If you go to NYC you will find that there are instances when the Subway trains are entirely covered in ads in Spanish, I have seen this myself. Spanish is a competing language with English. But somehow the people manage to find a way around this problem. There are hundreds of languages but some are more dominant. In a competing currency system, that I strongly support, with no central bank at all, the same phenomenon will take place. Some currencies will be the dominant ones.
Point 15: You wrote, "But there’s another problem: Some people don’t have jobs. So we create charities to feed and clothe them. What if there isn’t enough charity money to help them? Well, we don’t want them to start stealing, so we’d better create a welfare system to cover their basic necessities." I admit that for a moment when I was reading this I thought you were going to say "people do not have jobs so the government needs to create them jobs". At least you did not say that. Now to discuss the poor people who cannot survive on their own. I do want to congratulate you for at least admitting that charities will exist to help these people. A lot of statists are so foolish as to think that without a government no charity will ever be given to these people. You at least acknowledge that charities will spring up to help the poor, as they have in past history, but you ask what will happen if it is not enough. Let me answer your question with another question. What if the current society is so poor that it just does not have the funds to sustain a poor class of people? For the non-poor to have the funds to be able to sustain the poor requires that the non-poor to have enough money to make this kind of contribution. It is possible that the society on the whole is not even that rich itself to be able to gather enough funds to contribute to the poor. In such a situation what happens? Nothing. That is the point. Even a welfare system that you so strongly support will entirely fail. You mention that "we do not want to steal", well how do you collect welfare? At a point of a gun. It is theft, it is just not called theft. So the welfare system is ultimately based upon theft that you claimed you do not want to support. One last point about welfare. Welfare is a topic we can discuss for a long time and I do not want to get into it. But I support abolishing welfare because I do believe that charities will do a better job. It is abysmal to compare government efficiency rates in welfare to the efficiency rates in charity to some of the less efficient charities. If there was a charity in the market that functioned as poorly and inefficiently as welfare I assure you a lot of people will call for laws to put an end to it because they will suspect it is taking too much money for itself. The more welfare you have the less charity there is. I think that a charity based system will prove itself to be superior to a welfare system. At this point you will ask the obvious question. You will ask, "if it is true that charity is superior then why did a welfare system get created?". That is a good question to ask. To answer it here is something you need to understand about human action. Humans act in a way that they think makes them better off. This does not mean that it does make them better off, it just means that they do think it makes them better off. Therefore, the existence of welfare is not proof of the necessity of welfare. Welfare was most likely put into place (sorry I do not know the history of welfare) because people assumed it will be better and it will provide more for the poor. This does not mean it is better and it does not mean it provided better for the poor. All it means is that there was this misconception that it will.
Point 16: You wrote, "We’d need education, of course, so a few entrepreneurs would start private schools. Some would be excellent. Others would be mediocre. The poorest students would receive vouchers that allowed them to attend school. Where would those vouchers come from? Charity. Again, what if that doesn’t suffice? Perhaps the government would have to set up a school or two after all." This is the same story as with welfare. Education in the United States used to be provided entirely through the market. It was affordable to most of the people. The literacy rates in the US were higher than in many places in the developing world with a complete lack of public education. There never was an education crisis in the United States. I know that supporters of public education repeat this myth that public education was introduced because private education was failing, but this is just not historically true. Rather public education was introduced because of the misconception that it will make education even better. Here is an interesting double standard. Suppose we lived in a world where there were only private schools. And these private schools were of the same quality as the public schools today. What do you think the public response would be? I am sure you would agree they will scream, "private schools are failing we need government run schools!". But strangely not that many people are angered over the terrible state of public schools.
Point 17: You wrote, "And so on. There are reasons our current society evolved out of a libertarian document like the Constitution." Let me repeat this again. The existence of something does not prove its necessity. There are anti-drug laws. Supporters of these laws argue that they came into place because they are necessary to prevent crime. I am sure you would disagree, at least with marijuana. But these laws are still in place. Does the necessity of these laws prove their necessity? No, of course not. The same with the prohibition movement. Did the existence of the laws of the prohibition movement prove themselves to be necessary? No. What about anti-sodomy laws? Does the existence of anti-sodomy laws imply that they were necessary to prevent impending doom upon civilization? Again, just because there are a lot of government programs today does not alone prove that they were necessary. What is more likely happened is that people assumed that they would be beneficial and make the United States better.
Point 18: You wrote, "The Federal Reserve was created after the panic of 1907 to help the government reduce economic uncertainty." The existence of something does not prove its necessity. Let us say that it was truly put into place with good intentions to improve the economy? Did it do as it was supposed to? No. I would argue that it lead to a lot of economic disasters since its establishment. And it is killing the value of the dollar. Just because the intentions are good does not make the policies good themselves.
Point 19: You wrote, "The Civil Rights Act was necessary because 'states rights' had become a cover for unconstitutional practices." Statists seem to think that the Civil Rights Act was a victory of statism over libertarianism. But the exact opposite is true. The oppression that the blacks faced and the segregation that they had to go through resulted from states persecuting them. It was the state that was anti-black. I have written a lot more about the Civil Rights Act back here if you are willing to read it. Libertarianism had nothing to do with the segregation in the South. Segregation was not the result of too little government but too much of it.
Point 20: You wrote, "Challenges to the libertopian vision yield two responses: One is that an economy free from regulation will grow so quickly that it will lift everyone out of poverty." I do not say that the free market will make everyone rich. I say that the free market will make everyone richer. And it certainly has. Look at the standard of living that resulted in the past century. It was enormous. I do not make the argument, let me repeat this again, I do not make the arugment that everyone will be rich in a free market system. I rather say that a free market system will be the most efficient system that will lead to the best rise in the standards of living. But it takes time. It is not magical in that suddently everyone becomes wealthy, it takes time to develop. I think that economic history vindicates my position here.
Point 21: You wrote, "The second is that if somehow a poor person is still poor, charity will take care of them. If there is not enough charity, their families will take care of them. If they have no families to take care of them—well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there." There is no way to prevent some poor people from recieving charity. And this is still true under statism. You keep on asking "what if's", well I can do the same thing and keep asking you "what if's" and you will realize that statism will also have problems. What if the poor person does not know that there is welfare available? What if the poor person does not know how to apply for welfare? What if the poor person needs a place to live before applying to welfare and he does not have a residence? What if the poor person does not even know how to fill out a welfare application? What if the poor person suffers from a mental disability that limits him from communicating with other people who can sign him up for social security disability but that never happens and he ends up living homeless in the streets? What if? Do you see that there will always be cases of poor people who go sadly unnoticed. There is no way to prevent this happening. Sure in a charity based society it is possible certain people will never recieve any help. But having a welfare system does not prevent this from happening either.
Point 22: You wrote, "Of course, we’ll never get there. And that’s the point. Libertarians can espouse minarchy all they want, since they’ll never have to prove it works." This is the question that is always brought up in libertarian discussions. There are three things I would like to say here. First, is that you pose challenges to libertarians in the form of questions that are found through out your paper. You have already asked several of them. And you ask them in such a manner as if to say that they refute libertarianism and makes it unworkable. Let me ask you a question. Do you really think that I have never thought about these questions before? I thought about these questions way more than you have and I have seen every single one of the questions that you have brought up in your paper too many times in my life. These questions do not pose any challenges. Second, is that libertarians have an economic theory to how the country will function without the government interfering with the economy. You can read texts on free market capitalism if you are interested to know more about this. Third, I am guessing you will ask for historical examples that used free market economics. There are not that many countries in the world becaues the world is not very supportive of capitalism, but here are some examples. Let us begin with the US after the Civil War to before progressive period, say before 1920. This was an extremely laissez-faire market based economy. The standard of living in this period rose by a lot. The growth of the nation grew at the highest rates. There was a lot of vast innovation and development being done in this time period. The governments were highly decentralized and the federal government did not have much to do. You can also consider Honk Kong. At one point in time the country of Honk Kong was incredibly poor, there was hardly anything that was going on in there. When Honk Kong adopted a free market system in several decades it has exploded into a powerful economic country. There is an index of economic freedom in the world (Honk Kong was #1 last time I checked). The countries that have been moved to the top of that list have all been developing well. What economic history has shown, hopefully you would agree with me, is that the free market generates a lot of wealth. I do agree that none of these examples are exactly the kind of society libertarians have in mind but they are steps in the right direction. I think that libertarianism is for the future. There have been many important ideas in history that took time to develop and become accepted, including your liberal democracy ideas, I think that libertarianism mostly falls into that category. Just because it is not part a major system (or lack thereof) in the world does not mean it now has to be rejected. The economics of libertarianism has been shown to have enormously successful compared to all other economic approaches that history has taken. So in that aspect the libertarians are correct. But to reach a libertarian society in the way we support it will take a lot of education. So it is vision for the future that I am very confident we will reach.
Point 23: You wrote, "There are all sorts of situations the private market isn’t good at managing, such as asymmetrical information (I know my doctor is qualified to treat me because he has a government license)." Licensing is no issue at all in the free market. I have written a post about non-government licensing to doctors in the free market here. This will only seem radical and crazy to you because it is not a world you are used to.
Point 24: You wrote, "And public goods (it makes sense for the government to cover vaccines, which benefit everyone, not just the consumer)." I am not all hard-on for total private property. I am perfectly fine with public property. But it is possible to have public ownership without having a government. If you pool your resources with other people who wish to have a collectively operated property then I have no problem with that. Remember, I said that libertarianism is pretty much a lack of a system. So if you wish to create public ownership of various products of services that you think will be beneficial for the people in general then you can pool your resources with other people. The free market is not opposed to collectives. Let us pick a specific example. Say roads. How will they be build? Well, first I would like to mention that the roads were being build on the free market in early history, so the statement that some roads will come from the market is not an outrageous statement to make. Secondly, if you are not happy with such an operation of roads you can form agencies which collectively operate the roads for the people. The people who use these roads pay a fee into these agencies and the agencies take it as their responsibility to manage and mantain the roads. I am all fine with collectives if you want them.
Point 25: You wrote, "There’s also a consistency problem: Why should the government be responsible for a public good like national defense but not air-quality protection?" Because in libertarian philosophy the government is an organized force. That is all the government is. If you use the government then you use forceful actions. Thus, minarchists assert that the only role of government is defense, because force is a reasonable action to use as a means of defense. However, government should not be used for anything else. All other problems that people have, be they arguments, conflicts, or whatever, these are not for the government to settle but for the people to manage themselves voluntarily. Because all what the government will end up doing is using force in such instances which is uncalled for. There is no consistency problem here at all if you view the government as an organized system of power and force. Then it makes sense why minarchists only want it to stick to defense and nothing else.
Point 26: You wrote, "Or, say, a stable world financial system?" I find this question very funny. The past many decades of instability of the economy have resulted in heavy government intervention. The government has a terrible tract record of economic stability. I am not an economist but I actually believe that there will always be instability under every system. In a free market capitalist system there will be instability also. Perhaps, there was an economic miscalculation, or a natural disaster, or some major people did decietful actions, whatever it happens to be, the instability can result from this. But at the same time I consider it to be very foolish to propose that the government can manage this problem. Who says the government will not preform a miscalculation problem itself? Who says the government will not undergo a natural disaster that will offset the markets? Who says that there will be no bad people in government that will make the markets go crumbling down? Nothing says that. The instability problem is not solved with a government. If you look at the economics of much of the problems that have resulted in the markets it were backed up by bad government policies. I do not believe for a moment that it is possible to create economic stability. I think there will be time were problems happen. But to think otherwise and to imagine a government that can address this problem is the utopian vision of statism that I do not share in.
Point 27: You wrote, "The financial crisis was not an indictment of their worldview, libertarians argue, but a vindication of it. Letting the banks fail would have been painful. But the pain would have been less than it will be now that the government is propping up the housing, banking, and automobile industries." The financial crisis was not caused by the free market, but an abandoment of it. The boom that was created in the housing market grew because of low-interest rates put in place by the Federal Reserve. This expansion of credit that inevitably led to a bust would not have taken place if the interest rates were able to adjust to market rates. Libertarians cannot be blamed anywhere in here at all. And yes the only solution to this crisis was to do: nothing. I know it sounds hard, but there is nothing you can do. Politically that is a terrible answer because people want to be comforted. But this is another sign of that you are way more utopian than I am. I am able to recognize the impossibility of a solution and say that everything needs to fail, while for you it is hard to accept this view and you insist on doing something about it. A person who keeps borrowing more and more money, and pays of his debts with more borrowed money will eventually hit rock bottom. A heroin addict who keeps on using heroin will also eventually hit rock bottom. Before these people go under they have the illusion that something is being done. The same with this crisis. If you insist on doing something about it all you are doing is prolonging in an illusion that will not last. Sooner or later you will have to face this problem all over again.
Point 28: You wrote, "Letting banks fail would also avoid moral hazard, say libertarians, since investors wouldn’t take such risky bets the next time around." And why is this wrong to say? Nowhere in your paper do you address this view. The argument is a very simple argument. If the banks know they are going to be bailed out and they know that risky investments produce high profits then what is to prevent them from taking such actions? It is a win-win situation for them if they make risky choices.
Point 29: You wrote, "It’s a compelling story. But like many libertarian narratives, it’s oversimplified. If the biggest banks had failed, bankers wouldn’t have been the only ones punished." There are three problems with what you have said. The first problem is that libertarians are not responsible for the bank failures here at all. You treat libertarians as if they are responsible for this problem but they had nothing to do with it. The second problem is that you seem to think there was a lack of regulation. No, do not worry, there was a lot of regulation. The banking system in the US is by far the most regulated system and you still have problems regardless. The third problem is that you think that bail outs were a way to solve the problem. Libertarians do not just object to bail outs because of the moral hazard that you cited but also because they consider it to be a bad economic solution. Let me give an analogy. If you are in debt the way you do not get out of debt is by borrowing more money to pay off your debt. It may create a temporary illusion that you paid off your debt but the debt problem has simply been pushed off to the future. So what you propose is no solution just a temporary feel good moment.
Point 30: You wrote, "We want less government regulation, but not when it means firms can hire cheap child labor." If you get rid of child labor you will either end up killing these children from starvation of make them even more miserably poor. The reason why children worked was because their families were so poor that this was the only option they had. Why would you ever take away from them this only means of making themselves better off? I wrote about child labor back here if you want to read about it more.
Point 31: You wrote, "We want a free market, but not so bankers can deceive investors." Again, as I said above, the free market does not mean do as you wish. Just like a free society does not mean do as you wish. Free society means people are free form rule of others. Free market means people interact with one another in the way they agree. What does banks deceiving investors have anything to do with the free market then? So I guess you will say that if you have unregulated banks then there is a danger that the bankers will decieve the investors. Can this happen? Sure it can. But what do you propose? Having the government decide these actions? Well let me ask you a question. What will prevent the government from doing the exact same problem? What is to prevent the government from being bribed by the banks to create these deceptions? Nothing. Your view does not address this problem. At least in a free market you can sue the banks for fraud, you cannot sue the government for fraud because they decide the law after all.
Point 32: You wrote, "Libertarianism, in promoting freedom above all else, pretends the tension doesn’t exist." I am not sure what you mean by 'tension' here. I will interpret this as 'social conflict'. If libertarians did not believe in problems that arise within the world then why would they support a military? Why would they support police? Why would they support court systems? What you say lacks all consistency with what they view the proper role of government ought to be.
Point 33: You wrote, "A house in Obion County, Tennessee, burned to the ground in September because the owner had not paid the annual $75 fee for opt-in fire protection." Why is this even a problematic case? I fail to see what the problem is? Do you believe that people have the right to commit suicide? If so then it follows, al fortiorti, that you certainly believe that people have the right to burn down their own house if they so desired. And if you believe that people have the right to burn down their own house then it follows, al fortiorti, that you certainly believe that people have the right not to buy fire protection. What is the big deal? I fail to understand. Statists love to use the fire protection scenario as if it is some trouble spot of libertarianism but I cannot for the life of me see what the problem is? I guess you would respond to me by saying that if I fail to buy fire protection and my house gets on fire then I am creating a hazardous enviroment for my neighbors. In such an instance the fire department would respond to my neighbors call to protect them. Since it was my house it was my responsibility. I have inflicted a cost on other people and so I would be required to pay for the bill that was a cost on the fire department. Again, where exactly is the difficulty?
Point 34: You wrote, "It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers." I am willing to bet that most atheists discover atheism as teenagers too. I have read a statistic that said that 1 out of 5 people in the young generation (teenagers and young adults) are atheists. I think this is the highest precentage of atheist in an age demographic. Thus, I reason that it is not an exaggeration to say that atheism is mostly discovered by teenagers also. The implication of the statement that libertarianism often correlates with being a teenager is that teenagers want to be rebellious and ignore authority. This might or might not be true. But in the same manner I can say that the correlation between being a teenager and atheism results for the same reason. That the teenagers want to be rebellious and ignore God's law. Is this a good argument about atheism? No. And even if it was true does this discredit atheism? No. In the same manner comparing libertarianism to a teenager and concluding that it is all about rebellion is a ridiculous argument to make. It does not discredit the philosophy. I happen to think that there is some of the teenager rebellion in both atheism and libertarianism. But I would guess something else is more important that makes this correlation. Simply, teenagers have not had their brains corrupted by the bullshit that you learn from the world. Adults bite into a big giant sandwich of bullshit everyday for 30 years. No wonder they have such ridiculous world views. Teenagers are the freest of thinkers of all people in the world. This is why I love teenagers. Teenagers are awesome, not just to fuck, but for discovering individuality.
Point 35: You wrote, "At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else." Libertarianism is not a moral system and it is not a way to live your life. Do not make this mistake. Libertarianism does not say ignore the poor and think about yourself. There are plenty of extremely charitable and friendly libertarians out there. There are also plenty of extremely greedy and mean libertarians out there. Morality and a system of values have nothing to do with libertarianism. In fact, I am willing to bet a lot of money that conservatives and libertarians in general contribute more money to charity than liberals do. Can somebody find such a statistic? I would be interested to see.
Point 36: You wrote, "The message: Never compromise. If you don’t get your way, blow things up. And there’s the problem. If everyone refused to compromise his vision, there would be no cooperation. There would be no collective responsibility." The libertarian message is to never compromise? And the libertarians believe in blowing things up? What exactly have you been reading about libertarianism that makes you conclude this view of them? The ones blowing things up and killing people in history were the statists. Libertarians and anarchists are by far the less violent political group in the world. Count the number of deaths by governments in the 20th century and compare to the number of people killed by libertarians and anarchists. There is no comparison. So from these figures it would be more reasonable to conclude that statists blow things up and never compromise. But I do not make such an argument, because I am smart enough to realize how ridiculous this argument is. Then you talk about how libertarians are anti-cooperation. This is just false. Libertarians support a free market system. Free market capitalism is all about cooperation. I do something for you and you do something for you. I give you a hand job and you give me a blow job. That is cooperation. And it is the free market that leads to world peace because it is a cooperative economic system. There are two ways to get money. By economic means and by political means. The economic means is trade, this is by its nature a cooperative system to human organization. The political means is by plundering other people by taxation and fines. It is coervice manner, it is anti-cooperative. Libertarianism is the most cooperative system that there is.
Point 37: You wrote, "It would be a port town in Somalia." Somalia, again? How many times will statists continue to use this ridiculous argument against libertarianism. You can read my answer to question #11 here.
Point 38: You wrote, "In a world of scarce resources, everyone pursuing their own self-interest would yield not Atlas Shrugged but Lord of the Flies." What you wrote is nothing but an economic fallacy. The world consists of scare resources. But the way people deal with scarcity is through the market system. There is no market for air because air is pretty much not a scarce resource. Well, 100% oxygen is a scare resource. So there is a market for 100% oxygen tanks. But ordinary air that we both breath has no market because it is not scarce. Everything else that is in the world usually falls under the category of being scarce. The way we deal with scarcity is through the market based economy. The free market will set the appropriate prices that will reflect the supply and the demand correctly. It is the market system that humans learn to deal with scarcity. I might want some meat, but I only have trees with me. So I find another person who has plenty of meat and is willing to use my trees for something. Thus, we meet in the market and interchange with one another. Both of us pursue our self-interests yet we both manage to benefit each other. I think you should read a little bit of Adam Smith to understand the basics of capitalism. The Lord of the Flies that you describe is rather statism. States fight with one another constantly over resources. Not by cooperation but through conquest. Conquest for more resources for yourself is to blame on statism, not libertarianism. Freidrich Bastiat said that, "if trade does not get past through borders then armies will". Well, this is a criticism against states not against the market system.
Point 39: You wrote, "And even if you did somehow achieve Libertopia, you’d be surrounded by assholes." This point that you said beautifully demonstrates my thesis that statism is what is utopian, not libertarianism. Because I never, ever, ever, make the claim that the world does not consist of assholes. I never for once assert that there will be no assholes in a libertarian world. I am an asshole myself, and proud of it. But you on the other hand actually imply that in a state run society that it is possible to get rid of the assholes? Do you seriously believe that if you have a state managing the lives of people that you can elimiate the assholes? You do not say it. But you seem to imply it. Why else would you make such a criticism about libertarians? What does it have to do with libertarianism? Unless you imply that in your state run world there will be no assholes because under a state somehow the assholes will disappear. Your implied propostion is an unbelievable statement of pure utopian fantasy. There are assholes everywhere, how do they vanish under statism?
Point 40: You wrote, "Yet Rand Paul has already made some concessions." For Science's sake, you are going after Rand Paul again? I told you libertarians hardly like this guy. He mostly interests the tea party who seem to like him and certain Republicans too. Libertarians have very little with him. Using Rand Paul as a main representative for libertarianism is almost as bad as using Adolf Hitler as a representative for socialism. There are thousands of libertarians you can use. Stop using Rand Paul, I do not like him, most other libertarians do not like him. Get over it.
Point 41: You wrote, "And he won. The lesson: If a libertarian wants to get elected, he’s going to have to bend a few principles, deal with reality as it exists." The lesson and the 'reality' (statists sure love talking about how 'realistic' they are) was that when it comes to politics (not political philosophy), and votes are at stake, you cannot be principled and stick to a philosophy. Rather you must say stuff that the people want to hear. That is all what the lesson was about. Ron Paul does not play this game. That is why he will never be voted in for anything. And he is fine with that.
Review: I will give this article a 4 out of 5 stars review. It has a lot of good information about libertarianism. It mentions important philosophers and economists that inspired it. This is a good article written by a non-libertarian. If I had to write an article on liberalism I would mess it up royally. This is a well-researched artcile. It is also pleasant to read. This author has a talent to write well. Not like me who is a semi-slobbering retard who has difficulty getting his point across. Not 5 stars because this is not the best source to learn about libertarianism. There are some problems in how the author explains what libertarianism is about. As far as the questions and criticisms of libertarianism go I do not include them into the ratings. Because the author is honest in his questions and challenges that he poses. He is not delibritately trying to misunderstand the libertarian philsophy. So I cannot use his skeptical thoughts against his review. I would recommend to read this to libertarians.