Re: we few, we stupid few libertarians

Anton Sherwood (
Tue, 11 Mar 1997 09:24:19 -0800

A lurker wrote to me --
I'm afraid I'm new on this list and not aware of the history of
this thread. can you briefly explain to me how libertarianism is
diametrically oposed to socialism? That is the message I'm getting
out of your recent posts and I'd like to understand better what it
is you're trying to say and the theory supporting it.

The question seems to me important enough to reply in public.

Socialism is the principle that the means of production ought to be
owned and controlled by the People as a whole - which in practice means
the politicians control everything. Libertarianism holds that the people
are better off if ownership of the means of production is widely
distributed among individuals (or voluntary groups) under the discipline
of a free market.

Socialists hold that free markets lead to monopolies. Libertarians
say that's clearly not true, but even if it were, it's no reason
to create One Big Monopoly.

Socialists tend to treat the People as a single mass - it's not a defining
feature of socialism, but they tend to talk that way. Libertarians (at
least the philosophical ones, not necessary the pragmatic-economic kind)
insist on methodological individualism - we don't *deny* that there is
or can be a collective Will of the People, but we say that *if* it exists
it will manifest itself through the voluntary actions of individuals --
and that any use of force to impose the Will of the People is evidence
that it is bogus.

In one sense, libertarianism is *not* opposed to socialism at all, though
socialism *is* opposed to libertarianism. (What?!) A libertarian world
tolerates voluntary socialist enclaves (say, the utopian colonies of
the American Midwest in the XIX century) because there's no ethical rule
against them. A socialist world does not tolerate libertarian enclaves:
if you tell the taxman that transactions within your Capitalist Club are
not subject to his rules, he'll laugh at you.

I hope I've answered the question.

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*