Why I Am Not A Libertarian

Is Libertarianism best kept in Sixth Form Common Room? One social conservative gives us his views.

You cannot be socially liberal and fiscally conservative because the consequences of unfettered social liberalism will have significant fiscal consequences. Unfettered social liberalism will also create so much chaos, that only the authoritarian measures libertarians hate will remedy it.

That, in two sentences, is why I am not a libertarian. Libertarians hold positions I cannot support.

Let’s take drug liberalisation, a favourite crusade of the libertarians. If drugs are legalised, two things will happen. Firstly, they will be easier to get hold of. They may be comparatively easy to get hold of now. However there is a difference between knowing-someone-who-knows-someone, and picking them up when you do the weekly shop. Secondly, market forces would mean not only are drugs easier to get hold of, they will also be cheaper. If you don’t believe me, compare the prices of alcohol in prohibitionist America before and after prohibition to see how legalisation/liberalisation of alcohol led to prices tumbling. The consequences of drug addiction are devastating. The cost of treating addicts is high. Cheaper, more easily available drugs will mean more addicts, which means higher costs. The children of the increased number of addicts will have to be taken in to care, with obvious spiralling costs.

The response of the libertarian to this? They shrug their shoulders. They seem to think a society could stand by as drug addiction soars without spending a penny to put out the social fires their policy will have caused. Can you really be fiscally conservative in the face of collapsing social structures, soaring crime, health crises and the abandoned children of addicts needing care? Can you really say the government should not spend a penny above its fiscally tight budget to address this? At least socially liberal-fiscally liberal people are consistent. At least they would be prepared to pay for the damage their social liberalism would wreak, however economically ruinous the bill for it would be.

Libertarians are also deeply wrong about prostitution. They believe legalising prostitution will ‘protect the girls’. This faux concern for women’s safety is a smokescreen for the real, more sinister reason many want prostitution legalised. And it doesn’t keep them safe. In Amsterdam, every brothel has a panic button, and according to Prostitution Research and Education, 40% of prostitutes have been physically or sexually assaulted by a customer at least once. New Zealand similarly experimented with legalised prostitution. The result was a sharp spike in women and girls being trafficked for sex in these perfectly legal brothels. In the words of Georgina Beyer, Mayoress of Carterton, “We were naive liberalising prostitution”. She is not a stiff collared member of the religious right; Georgina Beyer led the push to decriminalise prostitution ten years ago, and is the world’s first transgender mayor.

Libertarians, like leftists, misjudge human nature.  Libertarians believe humans are essentially good and can be left to behave as they like. But this is only true if people have an intrinsic sense of goodness. As John Adams said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. In short, limited government only works when people’s behaviour is moral and upright, and thus doesn’t need any interference. Adams was writing as the French Revolution was raging in Europe, where moral ambiguity was the order of the day. Robespierre wrote that “…it is sufficient that the people love themselves”.

It is fascinating that the French and American revolutions both had libertarian leanings. Yet the American Revolution did so with this Adams’ inspired emphasis on personal virtue, whilst the French Revolution leaned on the “whatever-turns-you-on” permissiveness many libertarians advocate. The result? Post-revolutionary America became a symbol of liberty and responsible limited government. Post-revolutionary France degenerated into hyper-authoritarian mass murder as the regime realised the only way to keep control of a libertine society was heavy duty authoritarianism. People cannot be forced to be good. And if they cannot be forced to be good, the only option left is for them to be forced to behave.

Thus libertarianism is like a snake that ends up eating its own tail. It advocates social liberalism as an antidote to authoritarians; but the only way to deal with the consequences of that runaway social liberalism are authoritarian counter measures.


Michael McManus is a researcher and policy advisor at the European Parliament. He tweets as @mcmanusukip


  1. I debunked this garbage on facebook, thought I would share it on here.

    “You cannot be socially liberal and fiscally conservative because the consequences of unfettered social liberalism will have significant fiscal consequences. Unfettered social liberalism will also create so much chaos, that only the authoritarian measures libertarians hate will remedy it.”

    So we open with a strong statement loaded with falsehoods, misrepresentations, and personal bias. Let us start with the misrepresentative language. In the first line the author says, that it is impossible to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, defining libertarians as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. The ideal put forth here is that libertarians are somehow half Republican, and half Democrat, because those are the only two legitimate schools of thought. Libertarians are for gay marriage, for drug decriminalization, and therefore for drug use. This is a classic misrepresentation, by defining libertarians falsely, the author now has a strawman to argue against. Libertarians are against using force to stop people from doing things that aren’t harming others or their property. It’s called the non-aggression principal, and unlike the Democratic and Republican schools of thought, it is based on philosophy and a moral position that is not a moving target. The author is trying to make the argument that by not being for a law banning gay marriages, somehow all libertarians are for gay marriages. This a logical fallacy and intellectually dishonest statement. Clearly not being for a great evil to stop a minor evil is not the same as being for the minor evil. Social liberals would by in large define themselves as being for the use of force to “legalize” gay marriage, libertarians would also naturally be against this, as it would violate the non-aggression principal. So, at a very deep level, the opening statement is false.

    The second part of the opening statement that is stated as principal this is false, is the conclusions drawn about the “costs” of “unfettered social liberalism”. This is a common theme I have seen from many authors, who claim enormous fiscal costs of things like “marijuana addiction”, while never bothering to actually prove that there are enormous costs associated with these things. The lack of citation should be the first indicator that this article is nothing more than another piece of self-confirming bias not fit for public consumption. I will list my sources in the comments section, but it turns out that marijuana has no addictive properties. People can become adicted to marijuana, but only in the way people can become addicted to chocolate or potato chips. The idea that gay marriage or marijuana legalization would somehow lead to skyrocketing costs and the crumbling of institutions is so laughably ridiculous that just by stating it as fact the author has in fact lost all credibility to all but the smallest audiences of people who happen to believe as he does. Science is not a matter of bias. Logic should be as rigorously investigated as science. Just because the author claims that costs will skyrocket does not make it a fact. And there you have it, in just the opening statement the author has already knowingly misrepresented all of the key arguments in his article, or even worse has shown his ignorance of the issue of which he writes as an expert. Either way, we now know the author to be a liar, or at the very least a fool.

    So, even though I have already refuted much of the content here, let’s look at the paragraph about “drug liberalisation”. You will notice there is no use of any studies or sources here, just a diatribe of fouled logic, in which we find out that drugs will become cheaper and that will lead to more addicts. Also, I might point out that liberalization was misspelled and misused in the first sentence, clearly the work of a professional. Beyond the embarrassing errors in a published article, the content is equally as embarrassing. To start with, the author has lumped all drugs into one category, which is and of itself problematic. While I don’t believe most libertarians would mind if Wal-Mart started selling marijuana, I think it is pretty evident that meth and heroine will not be sold next to the candy bars by the magazines in the checkout stands. By lumping all illegal substances together, the author can ignore the regulation of the substances that does not happen with black market sales. Marijuana would be an age restricted drug, just like alcohol, one would need to show I.D. to purchase it. More children have tried marijuana in this country than alcohol, even though by volume there is far more alcohol produced and sold. The problem with drug dealers is that they don’t I.D., in fact they will target children to create addicts. Liquor stores do not go into schools and sell their products. While there is no way to completely stop young people who are the most likely to turn into addicts from getting their hands on anything, strict regulation is a much better way of going about it than trying to deny it by battling a black market.

    The author also fails to see that free markets bring product innovations. Nicotine has seen a recent development in which it now can be delivered in a vaporizer, negating the cancer causing effects of cigarette smoke. Much of the cost associated with smoking have been eliminated by the market. Of course the author doesn’t want to look into all the effects of the market, just the ones that fit his narrative. State governments should be allowed to regulate narcotics just as they are allowed to regulate alcohol. The idea that drug addiction would soar with the legalization and regulation of narcotics is absurd. It’s the lack of sophistication by the author and those like him that keeps the debate at such a topical, vapid level. “What about the children who will need care because of the new addicts?” Well, if getting to use the narcotics meant having to stay at a resort, sign medical waivers, be okayed by insurance companies, etc. etc. etc., I don’t know that it would really be that much of a problem.

    So on we go, now to prostitution. Not only does the author assume that Libertarians want prostitution, he is nice enough to provide the reason, all while not quoting a single Libertarian. It’s so much easier to argue with people when you are allowed to make their arguments for them. I will say kudos for at least using a source on this topic, unfortunately that source is group who’s stated goal is to end prostitution and provide real alternatives. Rather than use the NGO statistics, the author cherry picks his stats from sites that are biased, not using science. Hmm, I wonder if I could find some statistics cherry picked to make my argument from a site that agrees with me? Rather than get sucked into a argument about statistics and sources, I will simply point to two real world examples of legal prostitution, Nevada and Germany. While the NGO statistics account for all prostitutes, it fails to differentiate between first world and second and third world prostitutes. Of course third world prostitutes are more likely to be victims of crime, EVERYONE in a third world country is more likely to be a victim of crime than their first world counterparts. But again, this point is moot, as Libertarians don’t necessarily want prostitution, they are just against using force to stop it. Prostitution is a popular subject for many Libertarians as it is the prostitute’s body to do what he or she wants to do with it, and it is the ultimate form of control for the state to tell someone that if they wish to trade sex for money or goods they will be locked up at gunpoint and thrown in a cage, for “their own good”. However, that does not make it a Libertarian position. The only Libertarian position is that is more unethical to use force to control people than the things those people are doing.

    Finally we get to the crux of the argument our author has, and of course it comes back to his own prejudices. He states “Libertarians, like leftists, misjudge human nature. Libertarians believe humans are essentially good and can be left to behave as they like. But this is only true if people have an intrinsic sense of goodness.” Of course I can’t speak for all Libertarians, but that is not how I as a Libertarian judge human nature. Goodness and evil are in the eyes of the beholder, and even the world’s major religions only agree on a few principals. My only judgement of human nature is that humans will do what is beneficial for them, unless they suffer from mental illness. This can be good or bad, depending on your views. People will give to charity to raise up the tide, making the world a better place for everyone else, but also for themselves. Objectivists might find this evil, many others would find this good, but a true student of human nature would recognize that the giver is simply fertilizing the field that he or she wishes to plant in. Cooperation is in everyone’s best interest as humans. It’s not the state that makes people cooperate, it is their own best interest. After the author gives a completely uninformed and untrue history of post-revolutionary France that simply made me laugh, he finishes up by stating that Libertarianism is a snake that eats it’s own tail. Classic.

    Now it’s my turn to make a couple points. First off, let us start with the cost of the state. Currently the state that exists as the United States of America costs all of it’s citizens nearly 1/3 of everything they produce. And, if you are unlikely enough to be a producer, it costs you 1/2 of everything you earn. But despite that fact that you pay more for your government than you do your house, car, retirement, or any other single thing in your life, it still isn’t enough. The current government is in debt by 10’s of trillions of dollars, and has unfunded liabilities that make that number closer to 100’s of trillions. But, according to the author, we cannot afford not to have this? What would we do if we didn’t spend a 100 billion a year on a drug war? Have to pay a few billion in treatment for new addicts and child care? RIDICULOUS. If we could have the wasted resources used to control people back, we could easily pay for any negative costs caused by greater dependency on drugs by addicts, or the prosecution of those who harm prostitutes. The idea that these things cost too much when they are a miniscule percentage of what we pay to keep these things illegal is so confounding to the author and his audience that their heads would likely explode if someone took the time to explain it to them. Which is why they will continue to ignore the facts, the science, and the logic, and cling to their biases and fairytales. The one positive is that people who see the world like the author sees it are quickly dying out, as people begin to see it for the bullshit it is.

  2. Just as bad, perhaps, as those social-conservatives who demand we throw money down the drain on winning an unwinnable war on drugs etc, no?

    Or who use public money to enforce their own morality?

    Oh, the hypocrisy… as well as the inaccuracy.

  3. This article goes a long way towards explaining why the quality of debate, policy and laws in our governments are so lamentable—because the researchers are immature little boys, with no real world experience, who would prefer to deploy long-disproved Fifth Form logic rather than to actually do any research.

    Lee Jenkins has already pointed to the incredible success of Portugal’s drugs decriminalisation—especially on the health outcomes that drove the policy in the first place. Portugal has seen a reduction in drug-taking: and, as a past user of many drugs, I can tell you that most people actually grow out of them.

    Where the most harm occurs is when drugs are “cut” with other substances: for instance, one of the lesser known side-effects of heroin use is limb amputations; these occur because the heroin is often cut with brick dust—which blocks capillaries and causes gangrene.

    By legalising drugs, you remove their supply from criminal gangs which reduces crime (something, unfortunately, that decriminalisation does not do). And by putting a Pigou Tax on them, you provide money to deal with that tiny minority of users who become addicted.

    James Strong has already pointed out that sex slavery (or any slavery) is illegal—and, to a libertarian mindset, deeply immoral. As for “trafficking”… Well, despite the best efforts of NGOs and other associated organisations (e.g. Eaves Poppy Project) over a number of years, there has been vanishingly small numbers of incidents of forced “sex trafficking” discovered in the UK. Or anywhere else.

    There are plenty of people coming to the UK and voluntarily entering prostitution—but there are almost no incidents of sex slavery. And with prostitution being legal, there would be less incentive to force and, in any case, more oversight. If you want a small example to study relative levels of violence in legal and illegal circumstances, I suggest researching Edinburgh’s Tolerance Zone.

    The law is a blunt instrument, with the capacity to cause misery to millions. That it is being overseen by people who possess neither the knowledge nor the critical faculties to gain it is, given the legal stances taken by our idiot governments, hardly surprising—but it is disheartening.


  4. In absence of a full cost-benefit analysis, the author has merely provided what they believe the costs of drug legalisation and prostitution are, and ignores the other side of the balance sheet.

    It is argued that, due to legalisation, drugs will be cheaper and more available. However, the number of addicts would only increase if significantly more people began taking drugs. People have a strong aversion to these drugs, and mere legality or illegality (particularly when people judge how likely it is they will be caught) is not a huge factor. Legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, are regulated, and their use is starting to fall.
    The other side of the balance is that regulated drug sales will be taxable, which can then be used in the assistance of addicts. Also, cheaper drugs would mean those who wish to take them would less likely to turn to violent crime and theft to obtain the money for their purchases. They may also be safer to use, resulting in less deaths. It is not enough to merely say something has a “high” cost – it must be quantified.

    The author cites that in Amsterdam “every brothel has a panic button”, and notes how dangerous prostitution is. The author fails to realise that illegal prostitution is also dangerous, and fails to provide a comparison between how many women are attacked when prostitution is illegal and the Amsterdam case. Whilst it is claimed that there was a strong spike in women being directed towards these legal brothels, it is a compositional fallacy to suggest that these women would not have been trafficked at all had prostitution attained universal illegality.

    The author dramatically mischaracterises libertarianism. It is not about ‘permissiveness’, but about reject making people criminals for doing things that do not harm and coerce others. Libertarianism is about the reduction of coercion and violence in a society. In the case of drug legalisation, how does a guy smoking cannabis with his friends in his own home on a Friday night harm others? Adults, from their own mental capacities, should be free to decide whether they wish to take drugs or engage in prostitution, and not be forced out of these activities by others. This is not to say that one person cannot persuade another person from drug-taking or prostitution, but the use of force is not valid.

    The accusation is made that libertarians misunderstand human nature, seeing humans as “fundamentally good”. This is incorrect: most libertarians accept that premise that humans are flawed. If we assume that humans are often selfish and often horrible, then this is a very good reason to not concentrate the monopoly of coercive force. The flawed humans will also be in government, and in the police, and will make shocking mistakes that ruin lives.

    Lastly, the article is littered with insinuations: “This faux concern for women’s safety is a smokescreen for the real, more sinister reason many want prostitution legalised”. What is the author suggesting? If a sex-positive feminist believes that a woman should be free to engage in a voluntary exchange of sex and money, should we should immediately distrust their motives as sinister?
    Despite many misstatements about libertarianism in the article, the author feels ready to judge our souls.

  5. By refusing to legalise drugs, or if you went, as some people do, to the halfway position of legalising possession but not dealing, you are forcing people who pursue an activity which has no victims to deal with criminals.
    There are costs associated with drug use; but these costs are less than the costs of the crime associated with it.
    Legalise drugs, remove the crime.
    Do drug dealers want legalisation?
    No, they don’t. Ask yourself why not. Thjey’d lose and ordinary people would gain.
    Prostitution: there is no sinister reason why libertarians want prostitution legalised. It’s a transaction freely engaged in, and libertarians are in favour of such transdactions. And it’s victimless, so why should it be a crime?
    The assaults and people-trafficking referred to in the article are crimes now, and would continue to be crimes in a libertarian society. The sale and purchase of sex for money would not be.
    Pursue criminals who have victims, abandon the concept of victimless crimes.
    And keep morals out of it.

    • I believe the author has no idea what a Libertarian really is, and is relying on vague descriptions bandied about by socialist commentators!

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