Three Criticisms of Libertarianism, Answered

I’ve been thinking about things.   Your efforts have moved me to take a more favorable view of Libertarianism.   I’ve even decided to vote Libertarian in state and local elections from now on (Republican in national elections.)  That’s partly because the Democrats have lost their minds and turned totalitarian, but it’s partly because you make a decent case for your party.

<<< The libertarian party is only a small part of the libertarian movement. I’m trying to convert you to the libertarian philosophy, not (only) to supporting the LP vis a vis the other two.

But the problem with Libertarianism, from my point of view, is that it consistently comes up with the “wrong” answer.

Criticism 1:  A ten year girl old survives a shipwreck and is floating around in the ocean surrounded by sharks.   A Libertarian comes along in a sailboat.  The ten year old climbs onto the sailboat to save herself and the Libertarian picks her up and throws her back into the water, shouting, “How dare you trespass on my boat!”   She drowns.

Perfectly legal under the Libertarian world view.

Response 1: More 10 year old girls will survive under libertarianism than under ANY other system. This is a highly unlikely situation. 10 year old girls die like flies under socialism. The great the adherence to private property rights, the safer are 10 year old girls, and everyone else for that matter

Readings on this:

Gwartney, James, Robert W. Lawson and Walter E. Block. 1996. Economic Freedom of the World, 1975-1995; Vancouver, B.C. Canada: the Fraser Institute (308 pages);;; isbn: 0-88975-157-9;;

[email protected][email protected]

Block, Walter E. 2/17/03. “The Non Aggression Axiom of Libertarianism,”;

Criticism 2.  A desperate eighteen year old sells herself into slavery in order to get money for surgery to save her brother’s life.   She signs a “voluntary slavery” contract which includes some protections for her: She must follow her owner’s orders at all times and do any work he directs her to do but, under the “voluntary slavery” contract, her owner is permitted to administer a whipping of ten lashes once a week if she is disobedient but other than that, no physical abuse, and her owner cannot force her to engage in sexual relations.

Unfortunately, her owner turns out to be a sadistic jerk who violates the contract on a regular basis.

In theory, she can hire a lawyer, sue him, and get the contract terminated.    But in practice, she has no remedy.  She’s a “voluntary slave”, so she has no money and no transportation.  She can’t even legally leave her owner’s house without the owner’s permission, if she tries to leave the house, he drags her back in – which is perfectly legal, of course, and the neighbors are aware of this and don’t interfere.

There’s no point having rights under a contract if there’s no way to enforce the contract.   This is the situation she finds herself in.   The Libertarians don’t worry about this problem because Libertarians are really great at theory, not so hot at practical things.

Response 2: Private police will haul into jail this contract violator. It is not at all “perfectly legal” for this contract violator to do any such thing. An economist was once asked, “How is your wife?” Came the answer: “Compared to what?” Will full libertarianism be perfect? No? Will there still be murders, rapes, thefts, in a full libertarian society? Yes, of course, given the human condition. But, all of this is irrelevant. The question, the ONLY question, is, will libertarianism improve matters? Will a libertarian society be BETTER than the one we have at present? Right now, public police spend an awful lot of time stopping victimless crimes. They won’t under a regime of freedom. They will be BETTER able to stop the sort of rights violation you mention.


Gregory, 2011; Guillory, & Tinsley. 2009; Hoppe, 2011; Huebert, 2010; Murphy, 2005; Rothbard, 1973, 1975, 1998 [1982];  Stringham, 2007;  Tannehills[1970] 1984; Tinsley, 1998-1999; Wiśniewski, 2014; Wollstein, 1969; Woolridge, 1970.

Gregory, Anthony. 2011. “Abolish the Police.” May 26;

Guillory, Gil & Patrick Tinsley. 2009. “The Role of Subscription-Based Patrol and Restitution in the Future of Liberty,” Libertarian Papers 1, 12;

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2011. “State or Private Law Society.” April 10;

Huebert, Jacob. 2010. Libertarianism Today. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger

Murphy, Robert P. 2005.  “But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?” July 7;;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1975. “Society Without a State.” The Libertarian Forum, volume 7.1, January;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.

Stringham, Edward, ed. 2007. Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Tannehill, Morris and Linda Tannehill. [1970] 1984. The Market for Liberty, New York: Laissez Faire Books;

Tinsley, Patrick. 1998-1999. “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Case for Private Police,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter, pp. 95-100;

Wiśniewski, Jakub Bożydar. 2014. “Defense as a private good in a competitive order” Review of Social and Economic Issues, Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer, pp. 2-35;

Wollstein, Jarret B. 1969. Society Without Coercion. In Society Without Government. New York: Arno Press

Woolridge, William C. 1970. Uncle Sam the Monopoly Man, New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House

Criticism 3.  Mrs. Jones decides she’s really tired of taking care of her autistic four year old, so she takes the kid to the park on a nice day, gives him a basket of sandwiches and soda pop, tells him to sit right here by the swingset and puts up a sign that says, “Autistic four year old, free to a good home” and walks away.

The Libertarian view:   She’s perfectly within her rights.  She left the kid in a safe place where many other adults can see his plight.    If someone wants him, they’ll take him home and if no one wants him, oh, well, in a week or so he’ll die and stop bothering people.

Response 3: Jones can’t leave him in the park. She’s gotta go to an orphanage, hospital, church, where people will very much more likely take care of the kid.   Remember, under libertarianism, ALL property, land and water, will be privately owned. The parks, too. Don’t you think the park owner would object to this sort of thing?


Block, Walter E. 2016. “Forestalling, positive obligations and the Lockean and Blockian provisos: Rejoinder to Stephan Kinsella.” Ekonomia Wroclaw Economic Review.

Block, Walter E. 2008. “Homesteading, ad coelum, owning views and forestalling.” The Social Sciences. Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 96-103;


3:06 pm on May 31, 2019