The Poor Are Always with Us, (well, some of us anyway): Liberatarians and the Poor

Right wingers (mostly self professed libertarians) argue first that there are two types of poor, a deserving poor (DP) and an undeserving poor (UP). They then argue (1) that one group is far larger than the other and the larger group is always the undeserving poor or (2) simply that the number of undeserving poor is large and never give a proportion just that all they encounter are the undeserving. The next step is to say that these large numbers of UP are large enough to form a justification for state revenues (specifically THEIR tax dollars) not being spent on programs designed to help all the poor, deserving or not. Some of the more tendered hearted of this group will argue that the state should make exception for the DP, and then these generous souls place barriers in the path of poor people seeking help as a way to weed out the UP who may try to cheat the system. This system usually filters out the very people it is set up to filter in while missing the more devious who figure out ways around the barriers. Honest people do not connive; they give up.

This leaves the remainder of the righteous who then point to the system that fails to help the DP and enriches the UP and say, “See, programs don’t work and cost money that is better spent elsewhere.” Therefore, the result is the same no matter where on the right you begin you lend no help for the poor, deserving or undeserving. Neat little trick how that just happens to work out.

Pleas to relieve suffering are answered with words to the effect; the harshness of doing without will kick these people into gear and incentivize them to do for themselves. Poverty is now an ennobling agent that teaches responsibility to the poor and the wonder working power of accountability to the righteous.

Does it work? Not really. Poverty of material things often leads to a poverty of spirit. People left in degradation too often come to believe it is all they deserve and lose hope and the drive to aspire to something higher. Anger and despair replace benevolence and hope leaving people no will to do better.

Why would otherwise reasonable people keep faith in something that doesn’t work?

Because their first principles dictate that it should work.

As explain by Steve Kangas:

A priori knowledge is logic, or knowledge that exists in a person’s mind prior to, and independent of, outer world experience. For example, the statement “two plus two equals four” is true whether or not a person goes out into his garden and verifies this by counting two pairs of tomatoes. What this means is that Austrians reject the attempt to learn economic laws through experiment or real world observation. The only true economic laws are those based on first principles, namely, logic.

Substitute the word libertarian for Austrian, and you begin to see how the libertarian thinks. Friedrich August Hayek, himself sums it all up

[Economic theories can] “never be verified or falsified by reference to facts. All that we can and must verify is the presence of our assumptions in the particular case.”

By that standard, such theories become unfalsifiable for now the only evidence the libertarian needs of his theories’ validity is if he sees them fit a certain situation (notice as well that Hayek speaks of the particular not the universal), kinda like seeing butterflies in an ink blot test.

And what are these first principles?

You will never get libertarians to agree (in public). You will also have a hard time getting them even to admit to what they individually believe. Libertarians prefer someone else express his beliefs and then they will comment on those beliefs, leaving the rest of us to define what libertarianism is by using as clues what it is not.

Luckily, for us, some smart folks have done just that. Thank you Mike Huben

  • Philosophy
    • In the beginning, man dwelt in a state of Nature, until the serpent Government tempted man into Initial Coercion.
    • Government is the Great Satan. All Evil comes from Government, and all Good from the Market, according to the Ayatollah Rand.
    • We must worship the Horatio Alger fantasy that the meritorious few will just happen to have the lucky breaks that make them rich. Libertarians happen to be the meritorious few by ideological correctness. The rest can go hang.
    • Government cannot own things because only individuals can own things. Except for corporations, partnerships, joint ownership, marriage, and anything else we except but government.
    • Parrot these arguments, and you too will be a singular, creative, reasoning individualist.
    • Parents cannot choose a government for their children any more than they can choose language, residence, school, or religion.
    • Taxation is theft because we have a right to squat in the US and benefit from defense, infrastructure, police, courts, etc. without obligation.
    • Magic incantations can overturn society and bring about libertopia. Sovereign citizenry! The 16th Amendment is invalid! States rights!
    • Objectivist/Neo-Tech Advantage #69i : The true measure of fully integrated honesty is whether the sucker has opened his wallet. Thus sayeth the Profit Wallace. Zonpower Rules Nerdspace!
    • The great Zen riddle of libertarianism: minimal government is necessary and unnecessary. The answer is only to be found by individuals.
  • Government
    • Libertarians invented outrage over government waste, bureaucracy, injustice, etc. Nobody else thinks they are bad, knows they exist, or works to stop them.
    • Enlightenment comes only through repetition of the sacred mantra “Government does not work” according to Guru Browne.
    • Only government is force, no matter how many Indians were killed by settlers to acquire their property, no matter how many blacks were enslaved and sold by private companies, no matter how many heads of union members are broken by private police.
    • Money that government touches spontaneously combusts, destroying the economy. Money retained by individuals grows the economy, even if literally burnt.
    • Private education works, public education doesn’t. The publicly educated masses that have grown the modern economies of the past 150 years are an illusion.
    • Market failures, trusts, and oligopolies are lies spread by the evil economists serving the government as described in the “Protocols of the Elders of Statism”.
    • Central planning cannot work. Which is why all businesses internally are run like little markets, with no centralized leadership.
    • Paternalism is the worst thing that can be inflicted upon people, as everyone knows that fathers are the most hated and reviled figures in the world.
    • Government is like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearsome master. Therefore, we should avoid it entirely, as we do all forms of combustion.
  • Regulation
    • The FDA is solely responsible for any death or sickness where it might have prevented treatment by the latest unproven fad.
    • Children, criminals, death cultists, and you all have the same inalienable right to own any weaponry: conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear.
    • All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry.
    • If you don’t have a gun, you are not a libertarian. If you do have a gun, why don’t you have even more powerful armament?
    • Better to abolish all regulations, consider everything as property, and solve all controversy by civil lawsuit over damages. The US doesn’t have enough lawyers, and people who can’t afford to invest many thousands of dollars in lawsuits should shut up.
  • Political Debate Strategy
    • Count only the benefits of libertarianism, count only the costs of government.
    • Five of a factoid beats a full argument.
    • All historical examples are tainted by statism, except when they favor libertarian claims.
    • Spiritually baptize the deceased as libertarians because they cannot protest the anachronism: Locke, Smith, Paine, Jefferson, Spooner, etc.
    • The most heavily armed libertarian has the biggest dick and thus the best argument.
    • The best multi-party democratic republics should be equated to the worst dictatorships for the purposes of denouncing statism. It’s only a matter of degree.
    • Inviolate private property is the only true measure of freedom. Those without property have the freedom to try to acquire it. If they can’t, let them find somebody else’s property to complain on.
    • Private ownership is the cure for all problems, despite the historical record of privately owned states such as Nazi Germany, Czarist and Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China.
    • Require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government: libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.
    • Only libertarian economists’ Nobel Prizes count: the other economists and Nobel Prize Committee are mistaken.
    • Any exceptional case of private production proves that government ought not to be involved.

Of course Huben exaggerates a bit, ok more than a bit, but it’s done for comic effect and it does make a point that libertarians don’t deny. The individual is the singular entity that should dictate all civilized policy. the individual must be free and the payment for freedom (yeah, i know how that sounds) is ultimately personal responsibility. THEREFORE the social phenomenon of poverty is the fault of individual poor people. And only through individuals freely choosing to offer charity (which they may freely choosing to end at anytime), can you honestly and without coercion help them. Otherwise, the poor are on their individual owns, deservedly or not.

One response to “The Poor Are Always with Us, (well, some of us anyway): Liberatarians and the Poor

  1. here’s the thing about libertarianism: if everyone in the society adhered to its tenets, a mother who gave birth to a deformed or imperfect or simply unattractive child, or to one she, for one reason or another didn’t like or want, would feel no obligation to help it survive. There is no room for mother love in the libertarian culture, so its proponents would then have a minimal chance of survival if they even managed to be born.

    no room for mother love in such a world, and without mother love, there are no people.

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