Tag: hans-hermann hoppe

The Case Against Democracy in a Free Society

Jack Parkos | United States

“We must do (X)!” says the politician. “We must do it to save democracy!” To the democratic politician, democracy is like its child; they ignore or rebuke all who critique it. But in reality, democracy deserves much criticism for its failures.

Indeed, many people grow up thinking democracy is the last step in political theory. Democratic republicanism is the only way and it must spread throughout the world, say the many. It may seem we live under a great system where everyone has a say in the government. However, all that this means is that everyone else has a say over your life.

From Republic to Democracy

In the United States, we are a republic. However, it has become more democratic throughout the years. For example, one no longer must own property to vote. As a result, those without property may vote to implement or increase property taxes, involving themselves in a matter that does not affect them. Furthermore, criminals and the uneducated have as much power as you. They can vote your rights away with ease. The democratic politician relies on the lower class to gain power.

Without a doubt, democracy can economically incentivize unsuccessful behavior. Under our democracy, antidiscrimination laws often protect those who do not succeed by virtue of alleged equality. For example, schools may no longer choose how they fund their athletics because of gender “equality”.

A Restriction of Rights

Democracy is simply a violation of private property. It is a way for some to receive free stuff at the expense of others. Universal suffrage allows for the uninformed groups to decide what the informed must do.

If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds … its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos. – Hans-Hermann Hoppe 

Moreover, after democracy came to be, communism and Nazism were able to rise through a democratic process. Democracy can just as easily lead to tyranny as any other form of government.

Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy. – Plato

In a democracy, a tyrant needs only 51% of the people to support him and his tyrannical actions are legitimate. 51% can never truly constitute the will of the people, and neither can any other figure less than 100%. Majority support does not make an action morally right. A popular vote does not decide ethics.

Poor Democratic Leaders

Under a free society, the best leaders would naturally rise and be chosen voluntarily. Under democratic rule, the worst leaders are generally going to be in charge. Deceptive people have an edge over honest people due to the fact that they don’t have to play by the rules; not doing so makes it a lot easier to garner votes.

Democracy is not based on the common good of the community but rather on irrational voter decisions. Plato uses an example of the doctor and a candyman. The doctor offers you the painful truth that ultimately will benefit you. He may do unpleasant procedures on you, but ultimately, you will see the gains. Meanwhile, the candyman offers you a lollipop. This, of course, is a lot more attractive.

Voters are historically unable to look at longterm consequences of actions, and as a result, many may pick the candyman. This is an excellent analogy. In truth, many democratic voters are like children wanting free goodies. “Free” healthcare and welfare are a lot more attractive to some than long-term and sustainable success that doesn’t come from someone else’s paycheck.

Better Alternatives

In a libertarian society, leaders would rise by protecting their people without stealing from others. It would all be voluntary, unlike democracy. A majority of others agreeing on something does not mean that everyone consents. For example, we can take Ben Franklin’s classical analogy of democracy:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

According to the democratic politician’s logic, the lamb consented to be eaten because the majority of the wolves decided it was okay. Does this sound absurd? My neighbor deciding to steal my income is not freedom in any meaningful way.

Short-term Solutions

Unfortunately, a pure libertarian society is not around the corner. In spite of this, what is a good way to better safeguard rights? The best, most pragmatic short term solution is to “undemocratize” our country. The Founders required that one own land to vote, as they feared that those without land would attempt to steal the land of property owners (they were right; this has happened). It is fair that one should own property to vote, at least on issues regarding private property.

It is also worth debating whether prisoners and the uneducated should vote. Perhaps these are good ideas, perhaps not. But like all ideas, they should see a full and proper debate before reaching a verdict. Many may claim that such a notion is entirely unfair, from the start. How else, though, is it feasible to reduce the size and scope of government?

What Can We Do?

It is unlikely these exact policies will exist. However, those who seek to shrink the state should support any policy that makes us less democratic and prevents a tyranny of the majority. There should be requirements to vote that are worth discussing. These policies will make our country less democratic and more republican (in political theory terms, not the parties).

Naturally, nobody has the right to vote about what someone else does with their private property. But the less property the government steals, the better. Democracy is not liberty; it is an illusion of freedom that politicians can use to gain power.

The Founding Fathers warned us many times of what would happen. The pure libertarian society will not come anytime soon, but any action that supports liberty must be pursued. Naturally, less democracy is more freedom: true freedom.


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“Not Real Socialism” Is An Excuse for Bad Economics

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

When looking at the empirical evidence for economic systems, socialism/communism seems to be in dead last. Time and time again, socialist governments have met economic demise. The Soviet Union collapsed after starving massive amounts of people. Communist regimes throughout history have been notorious for massacring enemies of the socialist order. In the present, the Venezuelan state has hyperinflated the currency and is causing widespread economic degradation in their country. North Korea is held as the earth’s boogeyman of unfreedom.

But when confronted with this historical evidence, a proponent of any of the many forms of socialism will claim that it was “not real socialism.” They explain that if one small adjustment had been made to the economic-political order, we would have seen the worker’s utopia by now. Yet we have not. The twentieth century taught us that statism is a failure. Yet we have not heeded this lesson. Hoppe explains:

To this day, socialists claim that “true” socialism has not been refuted by the empirical evidence, and everything would have turned out well and unparalleled prosperity would have resulted, if only Trotsky’s, or Bucharin’s, or better still their very own brand of socialism, rather than Stalin’s, had been implemented.

At this early point, a leftist reader may make the claim that I am not using the terms “socialism” and “communism” correctly. When I use these words, I refer to a system where property is not owned privately. It is either owned by the state, the community, the workers, or any other body that is not private individuals/firms. If you as the reader brand yourself a socialist yet still believe in private property rights, I have no problem with your version of socialism. This is not the case of most socialists, though. They believe property should be owned by one of the aforementioned groups, rather than private individuals.

The Austro-libertarian critique of socialism is not purely based off of empiricism. It is a two-pronged critique, consisting of the Misesian problem of economic calculation and the Hayekian problem of knowledge. Both of these apply to any socialist/communist system that moves away from private property rights. They are not specific to any historical instance of communism or socialism. They merely apply to the economic theories behind such a system.

This puts pressure onto those that posit that socialism “is good and theory and bad in practice.” Its theory is where the Austro-libertarian critique is aimed. A similar empty statement is that “it would be good if it worked.” Well obviously – if socialism brought ultimate economic prosperity it would be good. But one of the conditions for socialism cannot be its success, yet this seems to have been tacked on to the definition. With such a definition, every failed socialistic regime can easily be brushed off as “not real socialism.” But the argument based on this definition is ultimately bankrupt for a socialist engaging in such an argument is merely playing with a bit of rhetorical trickery.

The Misesian side of the Austrian critique of socialism focuses on that issue of calculation. In the market, firms are required to create products that consumers are demanding. They can tell if they are by measuring the relationship between the total earnings and the costs. If costs exceed earnings, there is a loss, and the firm knows that it is not serving consumer demand. If earnings exceed costs, there is profit, and the firm will continue its present profitable action.

When the state is providing a good or service, it does not know if it is serving consumers. Because the state takes taxes and then produces, it does not need to worry about being profitable. Its earnings are secure because of its coercive nature. Thus, any bureaucracy faces an issue of unknown allocation. This includes any socialist agency that the state runs. The more processes of productions that are nationalized, the more resources are misallocated. Hoppe continues:

In distinct contrast, socialism means to have no economy, no economizing, at all, because under these conditions monetary calculation and cost-accounting is impossible by definition. If no private property in the factors of production exists, then no prices for any production factor exist; hence, it is impossible to determine whether or not they are employed economically.

On the Hayekian side sits the problem of knowledge. Hayek detailed that centrally planned economies are bound to fail because the central planner cannot know what to produce. They cannot hold in their head the needs of every individual. They cannot look out for the best interests of everyone all the time. It is only sensible that such a centrally planned economy should be delegated to subsidiary authorities. But when it comes to the workings of individual firms, who knows better for the firm than the individual in charge of the firm.

It does not matter if you define socialism as something different than what the historical instances have been. As long as you advocate for a system based upon the removal of private property rights and favor state/community ownership, there will inevitably be negative results. The state or commune cannot effectively allocate resources and satisfy the needs and wants of everyone. Socialism is ultimately a failure based simply off of its core characteristics.


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How the State Stole the Minds of the Children

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

Everyone knows the old saying ‘the children are the future.’ The statement has made appearances in books, movies, political messages, and online articles. It is so widespread because it is so obviously true. The children are young right now, and when the rest of us have died off they will remain. Every generation will have its time of influence. This means that if you want to control the future, you are going to want to have control over the children.

One institution has gone to further lengths than any other to influence the children. That institution is the state. The state has gone to such great efforts because it realizes that for it to exist in the first place public opinion must be in favor of its existence. After all, the state is an institution that requires mass-exploitation to exist. It steals the wealth of its citizenry to fund all of its projects. If one refuses to be expropriated, they are put in jail under the threat of violence.

If an institution decided to steal a portion of the money of all the local individuals, there would be a revolt and such an institution would be torn apart. What that institution must do is get the public opinion on its side. It has various means of doing such a thing, but one of the best ways is to hire intellectuals to “educate” the population in its favor. As Murray Rothbard explained in Anatomy of the State:

For this essential acceptance, the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other conceivable alternatives. Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the “ intellectuals.” For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear. (p.20)

The masses do not come up with their own ideas because that is not an easy thing to do. People have jobs and families and responsibilities in their lives. They do not have the time to think through every major philosophical and ethical question, so they defer to the intellectual experts within society. The state seizes this opportunity and puts its own intellectuals at the forefront of educational institutions.

These intellectuals agree to such an arrangement because they get much security out of it. On the free and open market of intellectual competition, sloppy reasoning or a deliberate lie could be career ending. But when you have the so-called legitimacy of the state to fall back on, you can secure your position as an intellectual.

Even Marx agreed that such a relationship existed between the ruling political class and the public intellectuals. When Rothbard and Marx come into agreement on a subject, chances are it has some serious weight to it.

Going back to the children, we see that the state has an incentive to take control of the education system. It can influence the current adult generation and take over the minds of the next one all at the same time. As Hoppe explains in his chapter on public support in A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism:

Thus, all states—some more extensively than others, but every state to a considerable degree—have felt the need to take the system of education, for one thing, into their own hands. It either directly operates the educational institutions, or indirectly controls such institutions by making their private operation dependent on the granting of a state license, thus ensuring that they operate within a predefined framework of guidelines provided by the state. Together with a steadily extended period of compulsory schooling, this gives the state a tremendous head start in the competition among different ideologies for the minds of the people. Ideological competition which might pose a serious threat to state rule can thereby be eliminated or its impact considerably reduced, especially if the state as the incorporation of socialism succeeds in monopolizing the job market for intellectuals by making a state license the prerequisite for any sort of systematic teaching activity. (p.183)

In the U.S., the state has provided public schools available to all citizens. It then decided that it should be compulsory for all children to attend a school. If they do not attend a public school, they must instead attend a school that the state accredits. Otherwise, the state will not deem the student to be a graduate of K-12 education. To become a credited educator, one must meet the state’s requirements. As a result, the state has a monopoly on the intellectual foundations of all primary and secondary education. With its newfound monopoly, what will it put into the minds of our children? Murray Rothbard explained that it would create uniformity, obedience, and collectivism:

Furthermore, it is inevitable that the State would impose uniformity on the teaching of charges. Not only is uniformity more congenial to the bureaucratic temper and easier to enforce; this would be almost inevitable where collectivism has supplanted individualism. With collective State ownership of the children replacing individual ownership and rights, it is clear that the collective principle would be enforced in teaching as well. Above all, what would be taught is the doctrine of obedience to the State itself. For tyranny is not really congenial to the spirit of man, who requires freedom for his full development.

Therefore, techniques of inculcating reverence for despotism and other types of “thought control” are bound to emerge. Instead of spontaneity, diversity, and independent men, there would emerge a race of passive, sheep-like followers of the State. Since they would be only incompletely developed, they would be only half-alive.

One may say that Rothbard’s view of the system is ridiculous and does not accurately characterize the modern education system. He is spot on though. Since when has a public school civics class taught that the state is a monopoly on violence? Since when has a public school economics taught that the Federal Reserve spawns the horrendous business cycle? They never do. Since when has a public school history class taught that FDR’s New Deal was a bad thing? Since when has a public school environmental science class taught that there can be free-market solutions to environmental issues?

They do not! And they will not as long as the state has a monopoly over these intellectual underpinnings. The state trains its students so they can pass a standardized test, which only begs that they follow instructions. This is in direct opposition to a culture of individuality and creativity. The mind of a child does not fall victim to the biases and heuristics of the adult mind. It can branch out and think outside the box. But our schools shut that down in favor of itself. Vance and Pettegrew explain the indoctrination:

In 2000 Clinton created the National Education Standards and Improvement Council for teaching American history. None of the 31 standards mentions the U.S. Constitution; the National Standards Advance Placement history exam also politicized American history in a highly progressive manner. Revisionist history books represent the horrors of the American revolutionists and their colonial oppression. No period of American history is being celebrated; instead the historians have apologetically presented our forefathers as war mongers and racists. We foresee the day when the Constitution will be burned in effigy because so many authors were slave owners. Science exists in a sustainability vacuum where climate change is presented as gospel in place of the scientific truths of the elective courses in Physics. States have banned classic literature for its “incendiary” themes including Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye;while age appropriateness is certainly a valid concern, an outright ban is unconstitutional. As a by-product of this censorship, Yale freshmen recently petitioned faculty to remove the “nondiverse” English literature of Shakespeare, Dickens and Bronte from the required curriculum.

We must save children from this education system. As a young student myself, I have been able to save my mind from this indoctrination by reading political, philosophical, and economics literature on my own time. I recommend that all other public school students do the same to bring their minds out of the indoctrination machine.


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The Case for the Physical Removal of Communists

By Daniel Szewc | Poland

There are some cancers that are best left untouched. Communism is not one of them. A free man shall not let another control himself and his honor. In fact, even the thought of compulsory education should cause a proud Westerner to take out his rifle against a tyrant that would propose such coercion. But, what shall we do, when the tyranny is in the hands of many, not the few?

As Konrad Berkowicz said exclusively to 71 Republic, “I’m not an ultras of freedom of speech- if someone was to urge publicly for people to rape women, then I’d lock him up. So if someone was publicly inciting the re-installment of an income tax, I’d have to think about it…” This perfectly illustrates a technical standpoint for looking at communists, as violators of law, order and morality.

Perhaps a better example is a future thief plotting to steal land from everyone in a country. However, the authorities let him off after his saying “But I’m a communist!”. A society cannot survive on freedom of speech that includes such incitements to violence. The very thought makes about as much sense as proposing a peaceful country without an army, or not excusing force in self defense. This is the direct ideological equivalent. If somebody violates or threatens to violate freedom, they cannot expect to keep their own.

Of course, one may pose another argument, that freedom of speech should apply solely to Homo Sapiens. In Latin, “Homo Sapiens” means “wise man”, and as we all know, communists are anything but wise.

There is a proposal, especially prominent in the Polish libertarian movement, supporting the “Day of the Rope”. At this point, libertarians seize power and cleanse the country from communists. As anyone can assume, removing singular supporters of communism that do not spread their ideology wouldn’t make sense. The banishment from a libertarian society would only occur for those actively trying to infringe upon the rights of those who do not consent. Peaceful communists, therefore, it is best to leave alone, as they harm nobody.

Let us quote Polish libertarian, late Stefan Kisielewski. “One black sheep underlines the whiteness of the rest”. Communists will always exist, but integrating peaceful ones into society serves a key purpose. By underlining the failure of their policies, a society may ensure that no such movement becomes mainstream.


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Libertarianism is not Self-Destructive or Unsustainable

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

A recent article by an unknown guest contributor on the Bilan Report suggested that a libertarian society is unsustainable for various reasons. Among these are the ideas that all personal freedom leads to libertinism, individualism is incompatible with the NAP (non-aggression principle), and the supposed libertarian assumption that all governance is bad. The author makes many misconceptions about libertarianism in their article. In response, this piece attempts to set the record straight on libertarian philosophy.

Christianity

The author of this piece starts off the article with an explanation that “there is some level of inherent worth within the individual” from a Biblical perspective. The author then attempts to immediately downplay this importance. They say that a philosophy based entirely on individualism would not work very well.

There is no exact definition of individualism made. From later parts of the article, we can assume the author means that individualism is independence from any organization. The Biblical definition of individualism clearly does not coincide with the latter definition, though. This is because the Bible clearly outlines the importance of being a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and part of the Church community.

Because the Bible also emphasizes the importance of community along with individualism, Biblically deduced individualism as a core of a philosophy would not lead to the disastrous consequences that the author suggests.

Individualism is not the full extent of the Biblical relationship to libertarianism either. In the first part of Bastiat’s The Law, natural rights stemming from life as a gift from God are clearly deduced. I have written on this subject before:

These gifts from God preclude any human legislation and any political leader that has ever existed. This is the core of what exists. These are human rights. Legislation does not define these – nature and nature’s God has. In the garden in Genesis, there was no government. It was anarchy in the truest sense there has ever been, no coercive governing entity. There was only a loving and gift giving God. Clearly there was no legislator dictating how Adam and Eve live their lives through the coercive stroke of a pen. Human legislation cannot ever get underneath this core, but it can restrict it. Restricting it has no benefit though, for any restriction of freedom will stifle economic growth. God set it up this way, to make it the most beneficial for everyone to be free to use their faculties as they wish.

It is foolish to downplay the relationship between the Bible and libertarianism as a few verses alluding to individualism. It goes much deeper and is much stronger. Regardless the author dismisses all discussion on Christian libertarianism by says that “it remains somewhat outside the scope of this discussion of libertarianism as a whole.” This is untrue. Ron Paul is probably the second most convert-gaining libertarian in human history (directly behind Ayn Rand). Bastiat, John Locke, and many of the founding fathers had a faith-based perspective on liberty. But such a statement by the author allows them to get rid of an opposition to their argument. They construct a libertarian strawman that is much easier to attack.

Human Action

The author of this piece also seems to get praxeological insight confused with a moral code as to how man ought to or should act. They mention the action based framework for economics loosely twice in the article:

Taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism holds that there are no wrong choices, but simply the right to make that choice.

Drawing on heavy Kantian influences they view human action as fundamentally rational, or purposeful.

In Human Action Ludwig von Mises describes that man acts. From this action axiom, along with other synthetic apriori truths (irrefutable statements we learn and know simply from being human), we can deduce the entire science of economics as a subset of praxeology. These other apriori ideas are things such as the law of returns, the law of diminishing marginal utility, time preference, the existence of opportunity costs, etc. These come from the epistemology put forth by Kant which the author alludes to.

The culmination of all of this truth gives us a value-free economics that allows us to understand how the world is and how it works. Praxeological reasoning does not tell us how the world ought to be. It is value-free. It does not aim to. Because of this, the propositions that man faces various choices does not mean that any choice a human chooses is good or moral. The author clearly does not understand that praxeological value free truths do not intersect with libertarian ethical standards from a Misesian perspective.

From a Rothbardian/Hoppean perspective, they eventually do, especially when it comes to the Hoppean argumentation ethics. The author does not address these at all, though, and simply takes the proposition that “man makes choices” to mean that “all choices a man makes are good.” Once again, this is a strawman of libertarian philosophy brought about most likely by lack of understanding of the philosophy.

The NAP

The author then attempts to argue that the non-aggression principle, or NAP, is incompatible with libertarianism:

The principle of limiting coercion is a fundamental aspect of libertarianism but taken in context with the other principles of maximal autonomy and the ability for the individual to reason towards moral and ethical principles, it becomes contradictory. If moral principles are something that can be determined through an individual’s own use of reason how can there be an objective universal principle against coercion?

This reasoning is once again based on a false conception of what libertarianism is. Not a single serious libertarian theorist has ever argued that “an individual’s own use of reason” allows them to come up with their own moral principles. I have no idea where the author got this idea. Libertarianism does not make the slightest attempt to justify any moral standard any individual just dreams up.

If libertarianism did justify such a proposition, it would be extremely flawed. A psychopath could reason their way to a moral standard of murder being ok because it makes them feel good. The reason this is not ok is that the non-aggression principle supersedes individual standards of morality. Libertarian theorist Robert Nozick described the non-aggression principle as a “side constraint” on action. This means that we cannot do things that violate this side constraint.

Think of the rules of soccer: there is the side constraint that you cannot pick up the ball. If you could pick up the ball, it would be helpful for you, because you could through the ball into the goal. This is not allowed in soccer though because it breaks the game. The side constraint of the non-aggression principle breaks the game of reality.

Governance

The author of this piece eventually gets to the point of arguing that libertarian individualism means a complete lack of any sort of social structure. They seem to think that lack of government (a territorial monopoly based on the threat of force) means a lack of governance (an authority based on societal norms or culture). They say the following:

Libertarianism taken to its logical conclusions promotes complete autonomy. This moves beyond simply being unconstrained by positive law and a strict use of only negative law, but liberation from associations and relationships. This includes fundamental institutions such as, “the family, church, and schools to the village and neighborhood and the community broadly defined—that exert strong control over behavior largely through informal and habituated expectations and norms.”14  Ironically, the rejection of institutions and concepts that have traditionally reigned in human behavior creates a further need and additional calls for the state to intervene to regulate bad behavior. This contradiction can play out as legislation mandating acceptance of, or at least association with, behaviors that would be rejected by natural law.

While the radical individualism of Objectivists does reject the idea of any sort of cultural governance, most libertarians (often right-libertarians) see it as an important staple as a free society. Families, churches, and cultural communities are important modes of organization that can exist outside of the state. Jeff Deist expertly explains the importance of such social institutions in this video:

A libertarian society does not reject these complex social institutions. Rather, it upholds these institutions, while a society with a growing state tears these down in favor of itself. The author seems to think that liberty leads to lack of organization, causing a need for the state. The situation is constructed in an entirely backward manner, though. The state seeks to grow in power. It would rather the people become reliant on it rather than their families or churches.

The wearing away of a traditional reliance on such institutions and customs, Deneen argues, will lead to a breakdown of functioning society. Instead of creating a society based on non-aggression and free transaction, best fulfilling the desires of its people, libertarianism tends to isolate the individual and break down the institutions that maintain a proper society.

The author of this piece does not understand what being a freely acting individual means. They seem to think it means being a freely acting individual outside of the influence of anyone else. But society does exist. And it is made up of individual people. The only alternative to this radical independent individualism in the eyes of the author is the state. But as we have explained the state is the true cause of the denigration of these important social institutions.

Liberty and Responsibility

Now we will move onto the final question of libertarian libertinism. The author makes the proposition that the non-Christian libertarianism spirals into responsibility free left-libertarian hedonism. Yet at the same time, the author quotes Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard as major representatives of the libertarian philosophy. Neither of these individuals was for hedonism. Both of them were against libertinism.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is based completely around being responsible for yourself. Murray Rothbard and libertarians in the Rothbardian tradition recognize the importance of responsibility on a society. I have written recently on this matter of responsibility and how it is very important to combat libertine libertarianism.

Freedom means we do not have the right to encroach on the actions of someone else. But freedom also means you need to be responsible for your own actions. It means you need to better yourself without the force of the government. Christian libertarianism is not the only political framework that promotes responsibility. And the answer to libertinism sure as hell is not more state power. It is the promotion of a culture of responsibility.

Libertarian theory is not self-destructive. A libertarian social order is not as unsustainable as this author believes. They think that their strawman version of libertarianism would be horrendous. But it is a strawman and not an accurate representation of libertarian belief.