Is libertarianism rationally debatable?

Is libertarianism a series of deductions from generally accepted propositions which can be evaluated according to its internal consistency?

Is it a value system that can be shown rationally to be in agreement or conflict with other, generally accepted, values?

Is it a political philosophy, which can rationally be shown to provide (or not) a mechanism for the full expression of the potential of mankind?

Is it a religion, a set of propositions that are accepted on faith, from which any implication is acceptable?

Is libertarianism a series of deductions from generally accepted propositions which can be evaluated according to its internal consistency?

No. (The principles from which it is derived are not generally accepted, even though Libertarians like to present their case as if they are)

Is it a value system that can be shown rationally to be in agreement or conflict with other, generally accepted, values?

Yes. (Whether or not you can convince a Libertarian of any conflict is a different question)

Is it a political philosophy, which can rationally be shown to provide (or not) a mechanism for the full expression of the potential of mankind?

I don’t understand the question. I will guess “yes”, since no particular “potential” is explicitly forbidden.

Is it a religion, a set of propositions that are accepted on faith, from which any implication is acceptable?

No. (Libertarians will let you draw some implications, but not others)


Here’s what I ask of you:

What do you think Libertarianism is? What is it that you understand about it?

That’s what I would like to know…


To be absolutely honest, I sincerely wish to know. I seem to disagree with many libertarians; however, I’m not at all confident as to the underlying basis of the disagreement.

To the questions I asked in the OP, I am absolutely willing to accept the consensus of self-described libertarians, and debate points that arise from libertarian philosophy on that basis.

He’s the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armor, shouting ‘All Gods are Bastards!’

Erratum: It seems from your other posts that you do not yourself hold to libertarian philosophy. Am I correct?

It would be useful to me when someone replies to this post whether or not they are an adherent of libertarian philosophy.

I think it’s only fair that its adherents be allowed to define the underlying basis of their own philosophy.

what I posted in the other thread

I’m happy to briefly peruse their literature. However, I’m not going to draw any conclusions and post them here. Since I’m not an adherent of that philosophy, it would be inappropriate of me to draw conclusions about its fundamental nature. Any such conclusions I draw might differ significantly from those of its adherents.

Specifically, I don’t want to argue the point as to whether, for instance, libertarianism constitutes a belief system. I’m absolutely willing to accept the consensus of libertarians here and then debate specific points according to that basis.

SingleDad: “Erratum: It seems from your other posts that you do not yourself hold to libertarian philosophy. Am I correct?

Yes. (Libertarians take note: this does not mean I’m a Communist, or even left-wing).

I think it’s only fair that its adherents be allowed to define the underlying basis of their own philosophy.

It would be incredibly convenient, as well. I hope you have more luck than I’ve had in getting them to explain it. From my experience, their philosophy is absolute property rights, and that property rights trump everything. They generally try to frame it in a more philosophically contorted way, but it all seems to reduce to property rights as far as I can tell.

Sorry, DavidB. I’m bumping this thread to give the libertarians there another chance to define the terms of debate regarding libertarian principles. I hope you will indulge me this once.

Libertarians: If you can’t even assert that your premises are rationally debatable, then you risk having your position defined by your opponents as religious and therefore impossible and inappropriate to include in an argument under rational debate.

Against stupidity the very gods / Themselves contend in vain.

SingleDad, my full disclosure is that I was a libertarian - when I was 14. I blame my parents. Since then I’ve grown up, made the following observations, and currently adhere to the following conclusions:

There are political libertarians and philosophical libertarians, with of course much overlap. Members of one (but not the other) group may be confused or horrified by the beliefs and actions of the members of that other group, while individuals who are members of both groups think that such is the natural, logical state.

What I call philosophical libertarians seem to be in the the majority, and do hold views akin to what has been expressed in this thread. From another thread I paraphrase: “All human rights derive from property rights,” “property rights are based on the ability to document legitimate title,” and, a little later, “ownership (as in: title) is a natural right that was discovered by one of the first cavemen.”

Of course, this sort of historically, socially, and psychologically ignorant hogwash leads some inquirers to ask, for example, whether societies without the concept of real property - or without documentation - are “not human” or are without “rights,” as well as a slew of other questions about the logical implications or perceived departures from reality of the philosophy. But in my experience, this sort of libertarian holds the ‘conclusions’ of the philosophy as a matter of faith and CANNOT answer logical-but-troublesome questions that are not posited precisely within the strictures of the worldview. These individuals just ignore any question that does not accept their philosophical ‘first premises,’ thereby guaranteeing that their faith goes unquestioned. Trying to compare their philosophyical precepts to reality (that is, trying to establish the rationality of the philosophy) is impossible in such an environment, and my advice is: save your breath and your blood pressure. Arguing with a log is useless.

(One observation: in fact, these libertarians have done it backwards. It is not their so-called ‘first principles’ (like the supremacy of ownership rights) that ‘lead’ to freedom; it is that they have teleologically derived these “principles” in order to justify the values they want to hold. Further, they CANNOT accept questions framed outside this logical structure for fear it might cause the structure to crumble. So don’t bother introducing real-world observation, such as historical fact or animal behavior, to a discussion with them.)

Then there are the political libertarians, the ones who (at least usually) see the Libertarian Party as the best hope for establishing a civil society with maximum rights for all and a premium placed on self-reliance, but who treasure the idea of individual rights for the logical and moral implications thereof. (Some of these people certainly inhabit this board, though they might not identify themselves as libertarian.) Since, in my experience, these people try to fit their values to the real world (a rational task that stands in sharp contrast with the “philosophical” antics of those who do the opposite) in order to try to help the arrival of a best-case future, they can be quite interesting to engage in conversation. (They seem, however, to be much harder to find than the other kind.)

So I guess my point is: your questions can’t really be answered in the general case. Only discussion will reveal whether a person is rational and flexible, a politically faith-bound Constitution-thumper, or an AynRandite - and even then, recognize that those categories are not mutually exclusive.

{:-Df Thanks for your observations. I must say that mine concur in large measure.

I am surprised that the libertarians here are allowing those who do not adhere to their philosophy to define them without so much as a protest.

Against stupidity the very gods / Themselves contend in vain.


Did you ever once look through the links I provided?

I think most of my fellow Libertarians are feeling somewhat beaten by the constant focus on Libertarianism as opposed to the problems that our government is currently experiencing. How ridiculously governed we are, our freedoms are being taken away every day. And I hear this from many, many republicans too.

I have seen a dramatic decrease in those I know to be Libertarians, including myself, in responding to Libertarian issues on the boards. Why? Not because we aren’t strong in our beliefs but are usually given a one in six billion chance of a scenario happening and expected to respond to that.

If the situation happens once in 50 years, then how does this affect the rest of society?

In the case of this thread, I can’t explain it except that you propose to answer something that you apparently haven’t taken the time to understand on your own. If you have an honest debate then you should have some basis by which to propose it, otherwise it’s an open ended question with little or nothing to gain by it.

Also, Libertarianism isn’t a religion or a political issue, it’s a means by which honest, responsible people live their lives under the context of not everyone will live their life that way so there is provisions made for this problem. In the reality of it, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are the best known documents to look into to get closer to why Libertarians believe as we do.

One of my open-ended questions to you was, what are you geting at? What I was getting at is asking you if you feel so passionately at debating the Libertarian view then what is it that you understand?

Again, without any core understanding or at least reading the material provided it’s a point you should never bring up…

It’s akin to asking a non-Christian to debate the Christian view without any sense of having been or experienced the Christian view personally…if he/she hasn’t had any experience with it then why debate it?

No the focus comes on libertarianism because you often seem to ignore the problems that our government or society are experiencing, and whine that a trigger lock and an income tax form the greatest threat to our liberty since the abolition of slavery.

You also go on and on about non-coercion, as if it were a holy injunction, then can’t wait to compete on who can be the most brutal to prisoners.

Oh my! An open ended question on Great Debates? What was I thinking? :rolleyes:

I have studied libertarianism for twenty years. It’s been an appealing philosophy with a few unacceptable particulars. I’ve never adhered to the theory.

I’ve often debated in the spirit of rationality with libertarians on this board, including a fascinating examination, underway even now, of the theory of ownership. But the debate has often “crossed levels” to my confusion. I often seem to be arguing the quality of a deduction, when my worthy opponent seems to be defending a premise.

What I want to do is investigate the underlying basis of this fascinating and curious set of beliefs, from the perspective of its adherents, and without contamination from my potentially faulty understanding.

In this quote you seem to be arguing that libertarianims is indeed a political philosophy, but since you explicitly deny that interpretation, I’m still left in the dark.

I will argue different points using different techniques according to the basis from which the philosophy I’m debating depends.

Is libertarianism a series of deductions from generally accepted propositions which can be evaluated according to its internal consistency?

If so, then I can debate whether its propositions are generally accepted, and whether its deductions are accurate.

Is it a value system that can be shown rationally to be in agreement or conflict with other, generally accepted, values?

If so, I can debate whether or not its values are in contradiction with other values, and examine the relative qualities of any that might conflict.

Is it a political philosophy, which can rationally be shown to provide (or not) a mechanism for the full expression of the potential of mankind?

If so, I can debate its utilitarian efficiency vs. other political systems.

Is it a religion, a set of propositions that are accepted on faith, from which any implication is acceptable?

If so, I cannot debate libertarianism at all. You are free to hold to your religion. Any conflict will have to be written off to religious differences and taken out of the realm of rational debate, at least with its adherents.

Against stupidity the very gods / Themselves contend in vain.

Are you implying that Libertarians consider the abolition of slavery a threat to liberty?

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that says that the proper role of government is to keep us safe from foreign countries, protect all of us and our property from murder, assault, theft, fraud, etc. by our fellow citizens, enforce contracts, and provide a justice system. The main thing that makes Libertarians different from adherents of other political philosophies is that we think that anything else is not the government’s responsibility. Keeping kids safe from handguns is a good thing, but it is not the government’s job.

Maybe the discussions on this board are somewhat limited, but I assure you that Libertarians have opinions (often very strong opinions) on a wide variety of issues. When you say that Libertarians are ignoring problems our society is facing, it’s because Libertarians often do not see the need to argue that keeping government out of it is the solution to yet another problem. For your benefit, I’ll list what I consider to be the Libertarian opinion on a number of issues facing us:
Microsoft Anti-Trust Case: none of the government’s business
Homosexual Marriage: none of the government’s business
School Prayer: none of the government’s business, with the caveat that public schools shouldn’t exist to begin with
Kosovo: none of the government’s business
Flag-Burners: none of the government’s business
Smoking: none of the government’s business
Campaign Finance: none of the government’s business
Pornography on the Internet: none of the government’s business

Need I go on?

I don’t know about the other Libertarians on this MB, but I don’t have any particular obsession with being brutal to prisoners. I’ve noticed that you seem advocate more leniency than just about anyone else here, Libertarian or not.

Personally, I don’t ignore the problems society has. In fact most Libertarians are quick to point out that many of the problems our society has are directly related to the government and it’s interferance, not only on a tax level but in a social level as well.
I have never known anyone, including Libertarians that advocate slavery, in fact it goes against the philosphy it encompasses.

Income tax isn’t the only thing that Libertarians have a problem with, it’s the nature of Big Government in its entirety and the erosion of personal liberty on every level of our lives. Since money is the biggest issue that most people will listen to it is a great source with which to start a debate.

I 'spose that I am misunderstanding this as you wrote, but I hear you saying that as a Libertarian I am for being brutal to prisoners. On the contrary, I do believe that first and foremost, non-violent criminals should not be subjected to enprisonment. Those that have committed violent crimes however should not be left to watch cable TV and work out all day, this does nothing for the individual.
I have never seen or heard any fellow Libertarians advocate cruel and unusual punishment.

Let me rephrase my statement.

It is hard to debate something that has no real means by which to debate, your questions to me have little value but will try my best to work with what I have.

Well this is good to know because you have evaded this question of mine a couple of times.

In my thinking, it is more than a political issue, it’s about a life and responsibility issue. Since the government isn’t involved, according to the views of Libertarianism, it now becomes a responsibility upon one’s self to act according to what you believe in provided your acts don’t infringe on rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

It is not a religion because under Libertarianism you are allowed to worship in any manner you chose, again provided that your worship does not infringe upon the rights of others.

I don’t know how else to explain this.

Now that you say you have “studied” Libertarianism then okay, I can accept this. But this was not clear to me until this post. However, you have eluded in the past that you aren’t really “up” (my quote) on what the Libertarian philosophy, I will look for that quote if you’d like.

I don’t think so, if I am understanding your question correctly. Libertarianism works on a principle of everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don’t infringe upon the equal freedom of others. It begins with this and ends with this.

I don’t believe that it is. Honestly, I have gone over and over this question and can’t truly explain this. A value, as I understand it in this context, presumes that everyone has a set of beliefs that coincide with one another. But this presumption is wrong because what may be right for one may not be right for another, even within a common group of people such as a church which have a group that works together for a common goal.

Now if you are talking common ideas like issues that deal with violent crime, then yes, there is a value system in place but commonly speaking it is not acceptable to kill. This is why you have provisioning for this scenario. As for those that choose to use drugs, then so be it, but the government under this situation should not impart that judgement on the individual. If a girl becomes pregnant and desires an abortion, again, the government is not the sole entity with which she makes that decision.

A value has now become the responsibility of the individual, not the government.

Not really, although most Libertarians agree that the basis of The Constitution is where we should be. It is an overall thinking that one should be free to do as one pleases, but accepts a certain framework of responsibility within the confines of the individual to not coerce or subject force on another. Libertarians are generally against any form of coercion and believe that one should not exert force unless you are defending yourself against force.

What this does is takes the government out of the decision making process when it comes to most life issues, thereby once this is achieved, no longer becomes a political issue.

On the contrary, under libertarianism you are free to worship whatever you choose. You can worship the one-eyed monster as your “God” if you so choose.

Libertarianism is a philosophy based on individual freedoms. Often, many of our fore fathers gave Libertarians birth without ever knowning it.

As with any philosophy or common thinking, there will those that have a difference of opinion, this is the way of life. I have heard many state that Libertarians argue and have infighting with reg

Due to formatting, using Word Pad, parts of quotes were left out…damnit. But you get most of what I was replying to, I hope :slight_smile:


No, I consider slavery a threat to liberty. Since it’s been abolished, we can turn our attention to other matters.

I understand the positions you’ve noted in your post. I also know the underlying reasoning. What I don’t know is the basis of the underlying reasoning.

Only if you consider life imprisonment for any serious violent crime “lenient.”


I threw in all those qualifiers because it was an vague generalization. There are of course significant exceptions, you most especially. I was responding to your vague assertion that libertarians were being unfairly picked on with a vague generalization indicating a “sense” that I and others appear to have developed about libertarians. Let’s get past the vagueness and get into a rational debate.

The questions that I asked in the OP seem very simple and straightforward. I don’t think they’re vague at all. If you disagree, you can certainly ask for clarification.

And, yes, I’ve evaded your question, not because I don’t want to answer it, but because it’s off-topic. What I think about libertarianism is a matter for other topics and other posts.

Just because you don’t specify priests or a church doesn’t mean that you hold religious values. Any statement accepted purely on faith, in the complete absence of or in contradiction to empirical evidence, is a religious belief.

For instance, I’m specifically curious about the conception of “property” here. Is the concept that all liberty derives from property a religious belief, or a value statement? The difference is subtle, but meaningful. A religious belief cannot be debated. You either accept it or you don’t. A value statement is still very difficult to debate, but it puts itself on an equal footing with commonly accepted values, such as compassion, ordinary liberty, presumed equality, etc.

I will admit this. I’m not “up” on libertarian philosophy in the same way I’m not “up” on Quantum Mechanics. I have a serious interest in the subject, but I don’t have a thorough professional understanding. I’m in that state where “a little knowlege is a dangerous thing.” Another reason why I don’t want to contaminate this particular discussion with my preconceptions.

As I mentioned before, there are certain values that have more or less common adherence, and there are others that are less common. You can’t really argue the merit of a value in a vacuum. However, you can rationally determine that two values are incompatible.

For instance, Robert Anton Wilson says, “I would be a libertarian but I don’t hate poor people.” Obviously he is being flip and hyperbolic, but he does assert there is a values conflict between libertarian absolute property rights and our compassionate responsibility to less fortunate people. I’m not arguing the correctness of his statement (yet) just using it as an example of a values conflict.

I’ve never believed that true libertarianism followed the philosophy and explicit provisions of the Constitution. The most obvious is that, as I noted in the other thread, the Constitution provides that the Congress may levy taxes for the general welfare, a position, in my understanding, absolutely in conflict with libertarianism.

This is the “crux of the bisquit.” What does “as free as possible” mean? For instance, do I have more or less freedom because I’m compelled to pay taxes to build freeways. I have less money, but I have a network of roads that makes intercontinental travel trivial. I maintain that this trade-off debatable on its own merits.

Whereas my understanding of libertarian philosophy is that the imposition on my freedom of the taxes is, in and of itself, an unacceptable imposition on my freedom, regardless of the utilitarian consequences.

This is where we conflict. A libertarian will flatly assert “The government has no business doing this.” I’m arguing (as I mentioned before) a deduction from what I consider a generally accepted premise (taxes are justified for the general welfare), and the libertarian hasn’t accepted my premise.

Now, if you’re going to defend a premise in the arena of rationality, you have to argue whether that premise is deduced from other generally accepted premises, is based on a value system, has a positive utilitarian effect, or just has been accepted on faith.

That’s the question I’m trying to answer.

And I always make allowances for typos in a post that exhibits excellent grammar, spelling, and overall clarity. I certainly have made my own share! :cool:

Against stupidity the very gods / Themselves contend in vain.

I think having an understanding of what you know is very pertainent to why I would ask you what you think or you know about libertarianism.

If one chooses to debate or ask questions about a topic, it is very important to know what the subject is at hand, thereby being able to debate, rather than this being a GQ topic. I think this is fair.

Under the context I live, property is just that, property. It is yours until you sell it, pawn it, mortage it for a second time or die and leave it to your kids. You OWN it, it is yours. You may think this a religious belief, but it’s not in my eyes. Religion is under the context of a spiritual understanding with the God or Gods you believe in. I can’t see where “religion” comes into this at all. I am not Christian, my parents are, they leave me with millions of dollars of property, this is posession based on what they wanted for their children, not on some religiously based understanding. If they so choose they can leave their properties for the Humane Society.

Value? I 'spose you need to clarify this for me. As I stated before I am not sure what you mean by this. You start with freedom, you end with freedom, that’s not a value, that a right.

Okay then why did you claim you studied up on it for 20 years? This makes me want to believe that you are BSing me into what you know about the philosophy as a whole. Come on Singledad, this is bordering on BS at this point.

I quote you

I can’t find the exact quote you said, but again it eluded to the fact you didn’t understand it. *If * you spent 20 years studying up on something, then you must have some core understanding rather than throwing it out there like a wet rag like you have. I am sorry SingleDad, but you propose to have all the questions but after “20 years of studying” then you must have some fundemental understanding.

No one in their right mind spends that amount of time “studying” something or even fiddling around without a serious understanding of what it’s about. If in fact you have, then you know what it’s about, maybe not inside and out, but you have a very strong understanding. It took me 8 months to figure this out. I went through all the possible research I could find, in 8 months, and I came to this conclusion. You can’t tell me that even dabbling with it over 20 years you don’t have some sense of what it is all about. You also have to understand, I have felt this way all my life and damn if I didn’t find a philosophy that makes sense for me.

This is where I am going to stop with this because I am seriously questioning your motive in this “debate”. You claim to have studied it, but what is your motive? You claim to know it but you refute that in your own words. You say you want to know but I see someone that would get into a debate for debate’s sake rather than for the meaning behind it. You have contradicted yourself, and I will find the freakin quote…

I am sorry, but I have lost all confidence in you unless you can otherwise prove that your intent is for the knowledge that you so claim. You have not proven that to me or any other Libertarian (I am sure) on this board. Your claims and your evidence don’t hold up.

In addition, I happen to notice that ALL your posts are GD posts, don’t you venture out at all?

PS the last comment was to let you know that there is more to the SD than the…get out there and get involved in MPSIMS or GQ…

You seem a little stuck on the debating and having no fun, sheesh.

sorry, the search fooled me, you kinda get out there…please disregard my stupidity in regards to where you have posted…