Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How To Argue With A Libertarian

I found this post to be so accurate that it's creepy. No doubt others have encountered similar situations. Here are a few gems:

1. Attack libertarians for their motives. Advertise your own in the process.

Example: "You just recite propaganda against high taxes and social programs because of greed! I support such things out of a concern for those in need." This particular example is most effective if "need," "greed" and "propaganda" are left undefined.

4. Criticize capitalism by its worst cases. But do not (ever!) compare these to the worst cases of statism.

Example: "The Enron scandal was the product of unfettered profit seeking under capitalism." If a libertarian replies that Stalin's brutality was the product of a statist program, change the subject or claim that your brand of statism precludes such abuses. Better still, try to argue that Stalinism was actually a kind of capitalism.

5. Always interpret any criticism of government programs as a demand for perfection and attack such a demand as unrealistic.

Example: A libertarian might argue that the benefits of the FDA keeping some drugs off the market are outweighed by the costs of keeping other drugs off the market. Engaging this argument directly can be a real quagmire. Instead, accuse the libertarian of using perfection as the standard for evaluating government activities.

8. Criticize libertarians for whatever interaction or noninteraction they have had with the state.

Example: "Yet another libertarian that went to a state school. What a hypocrite!" Alternately: "Yet another libertarian that went to a private university. Of course the super rich can afford to be libertarian." Since the government is involved in just about every aspect of our lives, it should be easy enough to find a similar charge to make against any libertarian. Whatever the personal activities of a libertarian may be, be sure to find fault.

9. No policy should ever be tried until it has already been tried.

Example: "Let libertarians point to a successful example of their policies being implemented before we consider implementing them." Be sure to use this argument like a taxicab, however, as it implies that no government program should ever have been implemented in the first place.

11. The complexity of the world is always and everywhere an argument in favor of government intervention.

Example: A libertarian might argue that price ceilings will lead to shortages. Do not waste time discusing the interplay of supply and demand. Istead, try an argument like "Society is too complex for simplistic supply and demand arguments to be taken seriously. So the government should implement price ceilings." Characterizing libertarian arguments as simplistic is helpful too, as it makes statists seem to be the more sophisticated group.

14. Disregard the possibility that libertarians make tradeoffs in their own lives.

Example: "You claim to oppose taxation but you live in a place with taxes." The libertarian in question will argue that he opposes taxation but remains in his present place of residence to avoid other things that are worse than taxes, such as even higher taxes or the costs of leaving the country. Disregard any such protest. Call the libertarian a hypocrite.

16. Call policies by names that presuppose their effectiveness.

Example: "I can't believe that libertarians oppose Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). How could they be against programs that aid these people?" The same approach is suitable for "anti-discrimination" laws, "foreign aid," "affirmative" action, price "controls," "guaranteed access" to health care, "fair lending" laws and so on.

Via Freeway to Serfdom