This week in ‘libertarian straw man fallacies’

It’s a goodie. It comes from William Falk, the editor-in-chief of the right-of-center The Week magazine. After castigating Senator Rand Paul and libertarian parents for their responsibility in the measles outbreak in California (with its epicenters in Left-wing Marin county and Left-wing City of Santa Monica; how libertarians came to be blamed for the outbreak I’ll never know), Falk writes:

Libertarians are absolutely right that personal freedom is important — and easily eroded. Left unchecked, government does indeed presume too much control over our decisions, our money, and our privacy. But in a country of 320 million souls, what we do affects each other — sometimes profoundly. In a libertarian paradise, Americans would still be free to smoke in enclosed offices and restaurants, and 50 percent of the population would still be lighting up — sticking society with their health-care costs. No one would be required to wear a seat belt in the car. And yes, vaccinations would be strictly optional, and the nation’s “herd immunity” would disappear. As an old adage points out, your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose. So go ahead, swing your fist — but good luck finding a space that doesn’t have a nose in it.

Ouch! Falk is such a good daddy. He gives libertarians the spanking they deserve: not too hard, not too soft, but juuuust right. Imma break this one down point-by-point.

Libertarians are absolutely right that personal freedom is important — and easily eroded. Left unchecked, government does indeed presume too much control over our decisions, our money, and our privacy.

Notice Falk’s all-too-reasonable lead-in. He gives off the vibe that he is the moderate one here, because he understands the libertarian argument and that, therefore, he is in control.

But

Ah yes. While Falk is in control, libertarians themselves are not in control. They have no idea what they are doing. Falk understands this about libertarianism. Libertarians do not.

in a country of 320 million souls, what we do affects each other — sometimes profoundly.

Again, Falk is kindly explaining a concept to libertarians that they don’t understand. Falk knows libertarians don’t understand this because he understands libertarianism better than libertarians do. Falk, a moderate conservative, or perhaps a moderate Leftist, knows that libertarians cannot possibly grasp this concept. I do wonder though – even with all of Falk’s superior knowledge of how societies work – if he realizes that government actors are just people, and that they are beholden to the same laws and institutions as the rest of us. Or is Falk’s omnipotent point about 320 million souls one that only applies to those he disagrees with?

Does he include support for bad laws in this maxim?

In a libertarian paradise, Americans would still be free to smoke in enclosed offices and restaurants, and 50 percent of the population would still be lighting up

Lol! In a libertarian paradise, the owners of the offices and restaurants would decide who gets to smoke what where. I can’t add much more to the 50 percent claim, except to laugh out loud again.

sticking society with their health-care costs.

Wait. In a libertarian paradise, wouldn’t each and every atomized individual be stuck paying their own bills in a Darwinian fashion? Even Falk’s straw man is knocking down straw men.

No one would be required to wear a seat belt in the car.

True, and not a day too soon, either. Ralph Nader is a mommy’s boy.

And yes, vaccinations would be strictly optional, and the nation’s “herd immunity” would disappear.

Why would people stop getting vaccines? And here, at last, with this question, we come to the root of all fallacies. The implicit assumption in Falk’s entire argument is, of course, that without government coercion people would be too stupid to get vaccines. People would be too stupid to do a lot of things Falk deems necessary for a good life. Therefore Falk is forced to rely on government, on law, and on society to justify his blatant authoritarian impulses, and if these fallacies are challenged, as they have been for the past twenty five years or so, then Falk and other authoritarians turn to more base fallacies.

The Week‘s alexa ranking is 4,024. Notes On Liberty‘s is 811,551. The lower the number, the higher the rank.

This is what we’re up against.

9 thoughts on “This week in ‘libertarian straw man fallacies’

    • THE Thomas Knapp? Well, there are quite a few of us.

      I’m not the late, trick shooter and world quickdraw pistol champion, or the MD in Santa Monica, California, or the assistant director at USC’s Marshall School of Business. I’m just the Tom Knapp who’s a minor figure in the libertarian movement.

      I knew about your site and SHOULD have had it in my RSS feed to monitor for cool stuff, but for some reason I didn’t. This article showed up in a Google alert I have set up to let me know whenever anyone says “libertarian” on the Internet. But you’re in that RSS feed now 😀

    • I realize I’m blowing up the ‘comments’ threads today, so I apologize, but Mr Knapp is a star within the libertarian movement and I can’t help myself!

      Here is his blog, in case you want to troll him, and here is the Center for a Stateless Society website, which he co-founded (I believe). As a big fan of collaborative efforts on the web, I highly recommend adding C4SS to your daily reading list. It’s a left market anarchist project that’s definitely worth your time.

    • Brandon, well, it’s an honor to “meet” you too. I doubt that I’m quite the star you think I am; I’m just enough of a loudmouth that people can’t help having to notice me now and then. Like, I just go to someone’s blog and start commenting. That kind of thing 😉

      I wish I had been one of the founders of C4SS, but actually I didn’t get involved with it until a few years later. My recollection — which may or may not be correct — is that the founders of C4SS were Roderick Long and Brad Spangler. There may have been others.

  1. His assumption that herd immunity would disappear isn’t founded on anything but, as you said, his fear that a lack of government coercion would mean a lack of sensible choices… which is, in the parlance of our day, “problematic” to say the least. What’s more, even if he is correct that some people will stop vaccinating their children, that only means that the “herd” which is immune will be smaller. The others may be culled from the gene pool on account of their stupidity, if they or their children succumb to preventable diseases. Which, in terms of evolutionary fitness, is quite a good thing.

    But then again, arguments for Darwinism aren’t popular these days.

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