[ExI] Is there a potential libertarianism / democracy tension?

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 27 14:02:06 UTC 2011

On Tuesday, September 27, 2011 8:15 AM Amon Zero amon at doctrinezero.com wrote:
> On 27 September 2011 13:05, Amon Zero <amon at doctrinezero.com> wrote:
>> The main reason I asked in the first place was that I was starting
>> to think that a much narrower set of views were generally considered
>> to "count" as libertarian than I had originally understood, so what I
>> thought of as my own 'moderate', 'atypical', or 'lapsed' Minarchism
>> was in fact nothing of the sort (I very much like the idea of government
>> with very strict jurisdictional boundaries, but personally draw those
>> boundaries in places that put me at odds with most libertarians). I've
>> found this conversation reassuring, to see that there is not a single
>> school of thought on all matters libertarian.
> Actually, Dan, Kelly, any interested others - I do have another question
> for you regarding the above -
> I personally like the idea of Universal Health Care very much, but don't
> worry, I'm not going to argue for that here, I don't expect you to agree
> with me. Such a system requires taxation to exist, for a start (unless it
> is some variant of the Swiss or German systems, in which private health
> insurance is mandatory).

As an aside, and this doesn't directly address the fundamental issue you raise below, government intervention in healthcare in the US is much higher, in terms of dollars than in so called socialized medicine countries and, also, government intervention in healthcare in the US and other countries has tended to created many of the problems involved in this area, including driving up costs. Also, long ago, people outside the state and without the state's help (in other words, without using the state to force someone to get what one wants) were solving the healthcare problem. See 'How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance that Worked - Until Government "Fixed" It' by Roderick Long at:
and the references therein.
> What I'm curious about, is why (or indeed if) it is ok for libertarians
> to advocate taxation to support "Night Watchman" State functions (army,
> police, courts), but other arguably essential functions such as healthcare
> are beyond the pale?

No, it's not okay. It's a blatant contradiction of the core libertarian principle -- that principle being non-initiation of force. One can't initiate force even if one believes an army and courts or hospitals, schools, roads, and museums are good and in the public interest. One must get people to fund and participate in these things voluntarily.
> The two answers I'm familiar with are that (A) no taxation is ok at all,
> army etc should also be private, and (B) army/police/courts are essential
> or can be privatized, whereas (e.g.) healthcare is not or cannot.
See above. Of course, some people who call themselves libertarians do argue for such essential functions, but, IMO, they're simply going against their libertarian core principle here. I believe some are maybe misunderstanding libertarianism, but others are probably afraid of embracing just where this leads: anarchism. (There should be nothing wrong with this, but, sadly, most people conflate anarchism with chaos and social disorder and many who fancy themselves libertarians seem to make the same mistake. George H. Smith recently posted an old paper on his here on this and related issues at http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=8257&view=findpost&p=90331 I hope you'll at least skim it.)
> Since we're highly unlikely to argue one another around to each other's
> point of view I won't be tempted to deconstruct your arguments (assuming
> i could!), but I am genuinely curious what principle draws a line between
> armies and hospitals. I could understand the line being drawn there by
> some libertarians and not others, but I have been given the impression
> that this is tantamount to a definition of libertarianism; that tax for
> armies/police/courts is ok but nothing else is. Would you agree?
I think it's a fundamental distinction and an important question to raise. In my view, anyone who agrees with forcing people to pay for something is already showing himself or herself not to be libertarian.

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