Are Libertarians No Different Than Statists?

There are some seriously mistaken individuals who seem to think so. Take a quote like this:

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard against him becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society [and destroying] a civilization which no brain designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.
— F.A. Hayek

They say that Hayek’s insight also applies to libertarians and, for example, our attempts to “force” free trade and unregulated labor markets on “society.”

Guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade also grew from the free efforts of millions of individuals, did they not? Well, no, actually they didn’t — at least not insofar as they attempted to use the state to impose the preferences of some on others by force!

Libertarians, of course, have no quarrel with voluntary associations and such voluntary actions as charity and boycotting. But… guilds and labor unions have  tended to employ the state to impose their preferences on others; poor laws were historically and are by definition instruments of state policy; and limits on trade have historically been imposed on us by the state. There is nothing free or voluntary about them.

Let us not confuse the political lobbying of governments and its results with free effort. It matters not how many were involved in the lobbying — be it one person, or a handful, or thousands or millions or billions, though special interest groups always have leaders — or how much the overall configuration of the state was designed by any number of them. The particular controls each group seeks to impose on society are designed by them.

So no, Hayek’s insight does not apply to libertarians. We do not seek to impose centralized controls on “society” but rather to remove them! We do not seek to impose our preferences on “society” by force but rather to prevent certain members of society from imposing theirs on us by force!

The state is an institution and organization that exists for the purpose of imposing centralized controls on society, and we — at least we market anarchists — want to eliminate it. The great flaw of classical liberalism, to which all its other flaws (and the destructive tendencies it shares with its progeny, socialism) can be traced — a flaw still retained by some libertarians, to be sure — was its conservative embrace of the state. I discuss this in more detail in chapters six and seven of my dissertation.

2 comments… add one

  • Hayek’s insight does not apply to Marxists. We do not seek to impose centralized controls on “society” but rather to remove them! We do not seek to impose our preferences on “society” by force but rather to prevent certain members of society from imposing theirs on us by force! Only under Marxism will each individual achieve true and total freedom!

    Reply
    • Comrade, you have forgotten that whole Dictatorship of the Proletariat phase that in practice never ends but in oppression, misery, and violence.

      Reply

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