Due to the emergence of the the Internet, rising dissatisfaction with government policies, and the Presidential campaign of Ron Paul, libertarianism has gained more adherents than ever before, and even more spectators. The cause of liberty has become the subject of national discussion. Unfortunately, it is also the subject of miscellaneous fallacies and errors which seem to be quoted repeatedly like a broken record. To correct these myths, we at mises.org introduced this entry to address them.
Libertarians are merely shills for unscrupulous corporations and corporate power.
Answer: Corporate power is mainly the result of monetary
inflation and artificially-low interest rates caused by--you guessed
it--the government's central banks. All the extra dollars drive up
prices for goods and services, but also drive up share prices at the
same time (see chart).
This one-two-punch increases corporate power drastically. Add that to
the fact that artificially low interest rates encourage consumption and
discourage saving. Corporate power would be greatly reduced under a
gold standard. Under a gold standard, corporations and other
businesses could make a profit only by creating value. Imagine that.
Of course there are other ways the government increases corporate
power (through intellectual property, eminent domain, military
contracts, direct bailouts, liability reform, blocking competition, etc.).
A free market such as libertarians advocate would cause an enormously disproportionate distribution of wealth. Government is needed to fix it.
Answer: Under a free market, wealth would not be shared equally, but there would not be a hugely disproportionate distribution of wealth. Without hundreds of taxes, monetary inflation, eminent domain, and restrictive regulations, most citizens would be able to own property and be relatively independent. As it is, total debt in this country is nearly four times the GDP. That could not happen without the money supply being controlled from the top. With a bottom up monetary standard income would reflect actual productivity.
Libertarians are paranoid lunatics whose political ideologies are motivated by a bizarre and unfounded fear of government.
Answer: While it may be true that many paranoid conspiracy theorists (9/11-truthers, UFO fanatics) are libertarians, it is not true that all libertarians are paranoid conspiracy theorists. After all, somebody does not have to be crazy to dislike politicians!
Libertarians don't care about human rights; they only care about economic rights.
Answer: Libertarians value personal and economic liberties, and realize they cannot have one without the other. They recognize that one must have economic freedom to defend their personal values, and vice versa.
An economic right, is in fact, a special instance of human rights. That is, the producers and consumers should be free to conduct business any way they both see fit without government mandate or intervention to facilitate the transactions. If the government is itself the producer (say, health care provider) or the consumer (through tax collection) and stamps out competition by edict, there is no incentive to ensure the other side of the transaction receives fair economic rights and therefore does not receive fair personal rights.
Take the Iraq War for example. In America, you have a right to write letters to the editor, yell at talking heads on the television, wave signs, post bumper stickers, etc., ad infinitum. Why? Because of the First Amendment. You have a right to make a complete ass of yourself, but--here's the kicker--the bombs will still keep falling.
Now, imagine if all the people who oppose the war were allowed to stop paying taxes. The war would grind to a halt, instantly. Only then would you have any real say-so concerning the war.
Libertarians believe that anybody who opposes the war shouldn't have to pay taxes to fund the war. Libertarians believe that anybody who opposes evolution taught in public schools not have to fund the schools. Libertarians believe that people who support the legalization of marijuana have no obligation to fund the DEA, the agency that threatens to tear down their front door (or, in many cases, tear down their neighbors' front door by mistake) because somebody, somewhere might be getting high in his or her bathroom. And why do they have that right? Because it is their money, the fruit of their labor, and they have no obligation to give it to somebody who will use it against them.
A totally free market would hurt the poor, ignorant, the unprivileged, and the disabled; they cannot compete for jobs, goods and services, and would not be able to rely on social safety nets.
Answer: The existence of poor, ignorant, unprivileged, and disabled persons in a society creates market opportunities for any entrepreneur who wishes to cater to them. The beauty of free-market capitalism is that it is capable of producing products affordable to the poor and still make a handsome profit.
Also, given that free markets always bring gradually higher standards of living over time, that prosperity would gradually trickle down to the poor and the destitute. Think about it: when do contributions to churches, charities, and non-profits increase? They increase in the prosperous times, when the middle class is living it up. When do contribution to churches, charities, and non-profits go down? They go down when the middle class suffers. We can then theorize that, if only the free market were allowed to do its work and prosper the economy, charitable contributions would increase substantially.
An unrestrained free-market environment would wreck havoc on the natural environment.
Answer: Technological progress. Efficient use of resources. Accountability to public opinion. These are characteristics of private enterprises in a competitive market environment. Why? Because any business that does not have these characteristics will lose customers to businesses that do. By contrast, a centralized command economy has none of those characteristics. The environmental impacts has been tragic (take, for example, the Soviet Union, in which pollution from industry rendered large swaths of the countryside uninhabitable to humans).
Also, free markets allow the consumers to voice their environmental concerns through their transactions. Purchasing organic foods and hybrid cars is not an option in centralized command economies (or in underdeveloped economies, for that matter). Those luxuries are only affordable in prosperous market economies.
A completely unregulated market allows businesses to sell low-quality and sometimes even dangerous products to hapless consumers.
Answer: Government regulation and monetary policies tend to have the two-fold effect of decreasing the consumer's purchasing power, and decreasing competition between businesses. Those two problems would not exist in a free market environment; consequently, consumer goods would be available at sufficient quality and quantity. The absence of government regulation would create a market opportunity for private regulators (who are accountable directly to their customers) to ensure safe products.