I am often gobsmacked by left-libertarian obtuseness, several examples of which I proffer in “Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism.” As I say in that post,
[a] left-libertarian wants “liberty,” but only if it yields outcomes favorable to certain groups, and to hell with the liberty and property rights of others. Theirs is a dangerous flirtation with political correctness (PCness), which includes unblinking support of open borders, head-in-the-sand opposition to defense spending, “gay rights,” and premature infanticide.
I have, in the past few days, encountered some left-libertarian “reasoning” that compels comment. I begin with an old “favorite,” Bryan Caplan, whose post “The Libertarian Penumbra” at EconLog offers these bits of “wisdom”:
[L]ibertarians have many beliefs in common that have little to do with the consequences of liberty. They’re just part of our vibrant, iconoclastic intellectual subculture. A few examples:
- Most libertarians accept the validity of IQ testing. A perfectly good libertarian could reject IQ tests as “culturally biased,” but few do.
- Libertarians have favorable views of home schooling – even though conventional private schooling is equally consistent with libertarian principles.
- Libertarianism implies opposition to government population control, but it doesn’t imply another view common among libertarians: that population growth has major economic benefits because people are “the ultimate resource.” Notice: A statist who took this idea seriously could easily argue for government intervention to raise the birth rate.
Why should one reject IQ tests as “culturally biased,” and under what conditions? I have no doubt that there is some degree of cultural bias in IQ tests, but so what? As an employer, I may want employees who are not only capable of carrying out certain kinds of mental tasks but who also are attuned to the culture in which I operate my business. If that rules out, say, inner-city blacks who prefer rap to Bach, who wear outré clothing, and who speak a language other than standard English, so be it. Thanks to the kind of PCness that has been foisted upon American business by leftists (libertarian and otherwise), it is difficult for private employers to be selective about whom they hire, and therefore to serve consumers and shareholders as well as they should. There is no hope at all for governments and universities, where the rule of PCness gobbles up tax dollars and inures to the benefit of third-rate minds.
Caplan’s second item — about home-schooling — puzzles me. Is one supposed to have a less-than-favorable view of home-schooling just because “conventional private schooling is equally consistent with libertarian principles”? Perhaps he is unable to fathom the (libertarian) tenet of subjective value. Some persons prefer home-schooling for their own, perfectly legitimate, reasons (e.g., greater control over the content of what their children are taught). If Caplan has a point, it is on the top of his head.
Caplan’s third point — about population control and growth — is a marvelous non sequitur. Libertarians oppose government population control because it is anti-libertarian. The fact that population growth has economic benefits should be of no consequence to a libertarian qua libertarian.
Another “libertarian” economist, Scott Sumner, weighs in with a comment about Caplan’s post. Sumner offers a list of “libertarian tendencies that make [him] cringe.” One of them is “global warming denial.” First, I object to his use of “denial”; “skepticism” is the operative word. A reasonable basis of skepticism — aside from the fact that there is no “settled science” about global warming — is that the proponents of anthropogenic global warming would use it as an excuse to reshape economic activity along lines that they prefer. That is to say, the proponents of AGW have a strong, unconcealed dictatorial agenda. Any libertarian worthy of the name should “cringe” at that, not at skepticism about AGW.
Sumner also “cringes” at “distrust of democracy.” Does he not understand the history of American politics in the twentieth century? It can be summarized, quite accurately, as follows: promise, elect, spend, tax, regulate, promise, elect, spend, tax, regulate, etc., etc., etc.
The rest of Sumner’s list is even worse, so…
I turn to Will Wilkinson’s defense of unions in “Libertarian unionism” at The Economist‘s Democracy in America column. I will not bother to recite and refute all of Wilkinson’s claims with respect to unions, when it will suffice to strike at the heart of his argument:
The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position relative to employers is a straightforward implication of freedom of association, and the sort of voluntary association that results is the beating heart of the classical liberal vision of civil society. I unreservedly endorse what I’ll call the “unionism of free association”.
Freedom of association is all well and good, but a union is not a social club. It is an organization formed for the purpose of collective bargaining, backed by the threat and use of the labor strike. Accordingly, Wilkinson’s glib defense of unionism omits several of its anti-libertarian features:
- Workers who prefer to bargain for themselves are not allowed to do so; that is, they are deprived of their economic liberty. (If you believe that a union would refrain from intimidating “scabs,” you must believe in the tooth fairy.)
- The ability of an employer to hire whom he sees fit to hire is therefore compromised; that is, he is deprived of his economic liberty.
- By the same token, the employer is deprived of the right to use his property as he sees fit, in the lawful pursuit of profit.
These objections hold even where the employer is a corporation. Corporate status is not a “gift” of the state, Wilkinson’s implication to the contrary notwithstanding. The essential features of incorporation — the pooling of assets and limited liability — are available through private, contractual arrangements involving insurance pools. The belief that corporations owe their existence to the beneficence of the state is due to the use of the corporation to advance state interests in the era of mercantilism.
I can only shake my head in amazement at the delusions of left-libertarians. I must come up with a new name for them, inasmuch as they are not libertarians.