By. Joshua D. Glawson
We hear it all of the time. “You, Libertarians, benefit from the State!” “Ayn Rand received social security checks.” “You use public roads, public schools, and benefit from the rest of society.” “Well, that’s the price you pay to live in a civilized society.” The erroneous attacks continue one after the other.
The common logical fallacy here is called a ‘tu quoque’ argument, also known as an ‘appeal to hypocrisy.’ According to Webster’s Dictionary, this means “a retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he criticizes in others.” In other words, if someone criticizes something, and the other person responds, “Well, you do it, too,” this is a logical fallacy. It simply does not address the concern or topic at hand. Instead, when a person uses this appeal to hypocrisy, they are attempting to negate the argument by attacking the person rather than the issue. It is very similar to an ‘ad hominem’ logical fallacy.
The contention Libertarians hold is that government should not do many of the things it now does. This assertion does not disagree that people benefit from statism, it simply addresses the issues of varying topics. For example, many Libertarians attend public schools. When they argue that taxes should not pay for schools, this does not mean that schools should not exist. Libertarianism proposes that education should be privately funded by families, charities, religious institutions, companies, etc. When Libertarians attend public schools now, it is because they are taking advantage of the system that they were coerced into and forced to pay taxes to. Why should questioning a system necessarily mean one is no longer allowed to be a part of it?
The benefits of statism are comparable to that of thieves that feed their families and pay other businesses. It is a system that advocates positive liberty. This means that everyone must support it, and it will allegedly thus benefit everyone, too. Libertarianism repudiates this concept, and instead proposes negative liberty. Negative liberty means that it costs others nothing and one is free to go about their life, as the ideology condemns coercion.
It is very common that critics of Libertarianism conflate the terms “society” and “state.” They see these as interchangeable, or one in the same. As a correction, “society” is the free association of peoples out of spontaneous order. On the other hand, the “state” is the coercive power over the people.
It is out of human nature that people wish to freely associate and trade with others. People benefit and progress by having societies. They advance mankind’s ability to freely speak, trade, and live with fewer worries than they would without others. When people begin to impede on the lives, liberties, or properties of others, there is a shift from free association to dogmatic statism. The existence of a state should be only to protect the lives, Liberty, and property of its citizens, and nothing more.
When these naysayers of Libertarianism suggest that Libertarians want to benefit from society and not pay into it, they misconstrue the basic principles of Libertarianism while concurrently mixing “state” with “society”. There is no price to live in a civilized society. In fact, the wording itself indicates that people live “civilized,” meaning the respect for other individuals, and within “society,” meaning a voluntary association of people. So, suggesting there is a price to act civilized and to voluntarily associate is a contradiction.
The Libertarian position is that individuals are to be free as in the philosophy of negative liberty. They are to freely associate and trade, and through this, prosperity and peace will emerge. People benefit from society, but can live freely without association with others if they so choose. Positive liberty and statism harm society by crushing individual Liberty, justice, and society itself.
To make it very clear, Libertarians cherish society. Society implies freedom of association and holds individual liberty fundamental to human existence. Furthermore, Libertarians advocate for the most crucial characteristic of a just system, personal responsibility.
“With great Liberty, comes great responsibility.”