Libertarians vs. Objectivists: Why Objective Law is Necessary

The Libertarian Party accepts two political ideologies: anarcho-capitalists and capitalists.

The Libertarian Party accepts any person who supports the non-aggression principle which is, "someone may not initiate the use of force," which is the support for private property rights.  

The difference between anarcho-capitalists and capitalists is in how they think private property should be protected. Anarcho-capitalists believe the individual should defend his own property. Capitalists believe a government, consisting of a police force, military, and court system, should protect private property. The Libertarian Party, confining itself to the non-aggression principle, accepts both.  

A question must then be asked, "Is a government necessary and why?"  

The anarcho-capitalist's answer to this question, of course, is "No."  

Anarcho-capitalists reject a government-run police, military, or courts. Anarcho-capitalists believe everyone should be able to do everything "voluntarily," including voluntarily deciding, in essence, what would be their own personal government.  

Their argument is that no one should dictate to you what police you should use, what military you fund, or what courts will handle your justice. All of these things should be “your decision.”  

Anarcho-capitalists advocate that you be able to hire your own police force. In a neighborhood of 100 people, there could be 100 different police forces protecting individuals.

Anarcho-capitalists advocate the military be privatized, if they advocate its existence at all. One anarchist, who envisions an anarcho-capitalist world without a military, told me that to stop Hitler or Osama bin Laden, he would, “hand me a gun." Another anarchist, advocating a larger “defense agency,” imagined the military operating much like a not-for-profit club or organization. She says, "People concerned with armed invasion could encourage the build-up of community defense forces. Military Olympics could stimulate proficiency in defensive skills among those who were inclined both toward athletics and the civic pride associated with being part of a community militia" (Ruwart Ch. 20).

Under anarcho-capitalism, the interpretation of law would be in each involved party's hands. All justice, anarcho-capitalists claim, would be handled by private courts. "Civil disputes" would be handled by two parties "mutually agreeing" to go to a private arbiter.  

The name they usually give their philosophy is "voluntaryism." They have an obsession with doing everything voluntarily. They claim a "compulsory" government, even if a freedom-loving one, forces itself, its police, its courts, and its military unto people, hence is wrong.  

One thing that amuses me about anarchists is they always give very detailed descriptions of how things will work under anarchism. Why, under anarcho-capitalism, people will voluntarily get together to raise an army and people will mutually agree to a court to settle their dispute. They lay out their vision of how the society will operate, with all the details to make a planned community organizer proud, all without a government to boot.

Here’s the thing about anarchism: you don’t get to say how things will work. Anarchism is the absence of government. You remove government and the cards are going to fall where they fall. Whatever happens, happens. And when it happens, you’re on your own.

Let's cut through all the utopian images and ideological rationalizations put forth by anarcho-capitalists of how they think anarchism will work and think about what will actually happen.  

Imagine living in an anarchist society where the protection of your belongings constantly had to be in your hands. Imagine the fear that would run through you when you had no higher authority to go (e.g., a court with a judge) to settle—not differences of opinion—but thugs trying to kill you or destroy your property.  

Under anarchy, where one is in constant fear of what one’s neighbor will do, people will cut themselves off from society and protect themselves, their house, and their belongings. They will build strong protective barriers around their house. They will employ attack dogs. They will be ready to take justice into their own hands.  

Let’s look at places without government for reference of what will happen. For an idea of what justice would be like, imagine a specific place where there is no government enforcing justice: on the highway. A person on the highway who feels he has been unjustly hurt by someone will sometimes take justice into their own hands. If someone "cuts off" another person, the person "cut off" will often do anything to punish the other person up to and including killing the other person (as has been done before).  

One only has to visit an inner city gang to understand how anarchy would work. Urban streets, in which police officials are too timid to go in and police effectively, are without the protection of a government. The law of the land is determined by whichever thug is best able to brutalize and bully his enemies. This is what would happen under anarcho-capitalism, despite anarcho-capitalists tenacious attempts to rationalize that it wouldn't. Who would determine the law when there are 275 million people allowed to decide 275 million different sets of laws? Indeed, the answer is obvious.  

No matter how an anarchist rationalizes his idea of what anarchism might be like, what anarchism would be like is one set of thugs (what they would call "protection agencies") versus another set of thugs. Who would determine what is right and wrong? Whoever had the biggest guns—and a willingness to use them. Anarcho-capitalism, boiled down, would operate much in the same way that the black market operates today, where men do hire their own "protection agencies" (their own thugs) and do indeed take justice into their own hands.  

The reason to reject this philosophy is this: this is not how man should live.  

The case for why a government is necessary is simple. It is so man can live as a man.  

Man lives by means of his mind. His survival is not done by using claws to kill things or fast legs to chase things. Man survives by using his mind to build tools, make houses, design cars, discover cures, etc. Man qua man lives solely by means of production. It is morally imperative that a proper political-economic system is in line with man's method of survival.

It is thus that a government should exist, whose sole purpose is to protect the private property of men. It is imperative that a government exist, ensuring man that he can live in freedom: free to produce, build, and achieve, without any fear of what his neighbors might to do those things that he has produced, built, and achieved. An individual should not have to worry about defending his property—not as his primary concern anyway.  

The problem with an anarchist society is it shifts man's primary goal away from production and forces his primary goal to become protection. Instead of being free to produce to the fullest extent of his ability, under anarchy, man must now factor in how he will protect his belongings. Indeed, this may be the most important thing for his survival just as the most successful thug on the street is not the one with the most marketable goods, but with the biggest guns.

Under both anarcho-capitalism and capitalism, the "strong" survive, but the "strong" under anarcho-capitalism are the likes of Jimmy Hoffa and John Gotti while under capitalism they are the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Welch. Capitalism, i.e., the honest free-market, not the black market, must be adhered to so the men of the mind (i.e., the ones who improve life) can flourish and prosper. 

The reason why anarchists believe what they do rests on their metaphysical premises. Like all political ideologies, anarcho-capitalists and capitalists have a system of metaphysics and ethics upholding their beliefs.  

The anchoring root upholding the anarcho-capitalist belief is subjectivism.  

Subjectivism, which is a school of thought in the field of metaphysics, upholds the belief that the standard of truth is human consciousness. The subjectivist holds that human consciousness is the ultimate arbiter of truth. The subjectivist believes that truth, ultimately, is whatever a human declares it to be.  

Based upon the subjectivist metaphysics, the anarcho-capitalist ethics is ethical subjectivism.  

The ethical subjectivist claims that whatever a person decides to do for himself is morally right. It doesn't matter what—the person could decide to be a drunken bum, slut, or suicidal maniac—so as long as that person made the decision for themselves, it is correct. The standard of moral judgment is individual conscience. Men are considered omnipotent. Thus whatever decision they make is unequivocally correct.  

The logical conclusion of these premises is anarcho-capitalism. Individual consciousness is supreme, thus man must always be allowed to make his "own decisions" in life. This thus includes voluntarily choosing one’s own government. An ethical subjectivist must necessarily support free-market anarchism, in which an individual can choose their own government in the same way that one chooses their own clothes or their own car.  

I will give anarcho-capitalists credit for one thing: anarcho-capitalism is the consistent and logical conclusion of ethical subjectivism. An ethical subjectivist who is able to see his philosophy in full naked form will envision a place where every single person can be their own government. Instead of having "Sovereign Nations," sovereignty would be taken straight down to the individual level with Person A being his own government as opposed to America or Canada being their own government. They call this "Sovereignty of the Individual.” No other person would be allowed to “dictate” to Person A what government he can live under, as his individual choice is supreme.  

The dominant philosophy in the Libertarian Party is indeed ethical subjectivism. Although not all ethical subjectivists take their philosophy to its logical conclusion, the logical conclusion is anarcho-capitalism. It is of no surprise that the leadership of the LP today consists primarily of anarcho-capitalists.  

The anchoring philosophical root for capitalists, on the other hand, is objectivism.  

Objectivism (small "o") upholds the belief that the standard of truth is reality. The objectivist holds that human consciousness is the means to decide truth, but the ultimate arbiter is reality. The objectivist holds that truth is a principle in reality, like the laws of physics, math or chemistry.  

The Objectivist (notice the 'O', this one is the philosophy of Ayn Rand), which obviously is rooted in objectivism declares to find an objective code of justice, one must start by studying the nature of man.  

Based upon this metaphysical premise, in which one studies the nature of man, the Objectivist ethics is rational self-interest. For further explanation see "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. Rational self-interest upholds that the proper standard of moral judgment is man's life.  

Based on this moral basis and based on the fact that man qua man must survive in a specific way, by producing, it becomes imperative that he be allowed to live a certain way: in complete and absolute freedom. Man must be left free from his neighbors so he can be left to build, produce, and make decisions on his own, without the fear of his neighbors looting him or suppressing his own individual judgment. 

This is what Ayn Rand meant when she said Libertarian hippies steal Objectivist politics but ignore the metaphysics and ethics that hold it up. 

The difference in anarcho-capitalism versus capitalism can seem subtle to the naked eye, but the difference between the two is extreme. First, the logical conclusion of ethical subjectivism is anarchism. And the anarchist stance is hardly a “minor difference” between Libertarians and Objectivists.

Also, the subjective or objectivist base will affect the conclusions over very real, practical political problems. Most Libertarians have learned, appropriately, to hide their anarchist streak. But one can still see their ideologies seeping through on some of their political stances. One issue in which you can see the anarcho-capitalist ideology play out is in regards to foreign policy. Anarcho-capitalists, and indeed most in the Libertarian party, are extreme non-interventionists. “I don’t hit you; you don’t hit me.” Be assured that no history, examination, analysis, or military expertise went into deciding this philosophy. It is based entirely in ideology. The Objectivist stance on the other hand is to design a foreign policy with American self-interest in mind. Take for instance the issue of a terrorist regime building nukes to destroy America. The Libertarian stance would be to wait until the nuke is dropped, and already killed thousands of people, until one is allowed to take action. The Objectivist believes, with proper intelligence, it is morally mandatory to take out the nuke before it kills millions.  

I dismissed the Libertarian Party after 9/11. Their true colors came shining through. After terrorists killed 3000 of our own, the stock Libertarian response was that “were it not for our involvement in Saudi Arabia, we wouldn’t have been attacked,” i.e., they blamed the victim.  

A proper political party which advocates a capitalistic system cannot stand without a proper philosophical base. The ethical subjectivist streak in the Libertarian Party (which is rampant) is not just a minor philosophical difference between traditional Libertarians and Objectivists. It is a major philosophical difference and it is because it affects the political conclusions that one will have. An ethical subjectivist, viewing "individual choice" as supreme will necessarily become an anarcho-capitalist.  

Anarcho-capitalism is heavily embraced by the Libertarian Party's leadership. All visible outspoken leaders of the Libertarian Party are self-avowed anarchists. Anarcho-capitalism and ethical subjectivism are not just a "wing" in the Libertarian Party; they are integral to it. Given the Libertarian Party's embracing of anarcho-capitalism and the philosophies that make anarcho-capitalism possible, all rational capitalists and Objectivists should unequivocally reject the Libertarian Party.

Amber Pawlik

Original: January 16, 2002

Revised: January 21, 2011


Works Cited

Ruwart, Mary J. Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle. Kalamazoo: SunStar Press, 1993. Web. 21 Jan 2011.

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