Getting the anti-libertarian arguments right.

Let’s not be taken in by the notion that libertarians who make use of public services are hypocrites. I take it that their objection is not to the existence of the public service, but to the coercive recruitment of themselves and (if we are to be charitable) their fellow citizens to its collective provision. But once they’ve already been coerced into paying their share for some public service to which they object, it seems just mean-spirited to then criticize them for using that service too. It would be (rather exactly) like criticizing an opponent of mandatory auto insurance for filing a claim with his (involuntarily acquired) insurer after getting into a wreck. (The Nozick story is less clear, but I’m not sure that Nozick is obliged to be against rent control — that’s a whole ‘nother argument though.)

Libertarian ideology is often pernicious, but there’s no need to throw around the hypocrite label too.

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4 Responses to “Getting the anti-libertarian arguments right.”

  1. Michael Drake Says:

    Hear, hear. Though of course there are ways a libertarian can hypocritically make use of public services.

  2. UserGoogol Says:

    Yeah, Ayn Rand explicitly made the argument that taking advantage of social services was wrong, (wrong even from her “virtue of selfishness” perspective) even after the “looting” had already been committed. Broadly speaking, the idea was that well-being requires independence.

    Most libertarians aren’t Objectivists, though.

  3. Dan in Euroland Says:

    Hypocrisy isn’t a refutation of the validity of an argument. Emphasizing hypocrisy helps foster an anti-rationalist environment, and should be rejected for that reason alone.

  4. Paul Gowder Says:

    Actual hypocrisy can be informative — if someone who is committed to a moral position can’t comply with it, that’s some evidence that it’s unreasonably demanding, for example.

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