Work and Libertarianism

Libertarianism implicitly endorses work. The libertarian condemns theft. If one may not steal, how is one to survive? One must work. Everyone cannot survive on the charity of others. Survival demands work from at least some of us.

The endorsement of work by libertarians isn’t the same as saying that they endorse the so-called “work ethic”. The work ethic elevates work into a moral value in which work is said to be “intrinsically virtuous”. This step is not implicit in the libertarian condemnation of theft.

Survival in practice demands work from most of us, or else we do not have enough to go around. Human beings cannot long survive by being so charitable as to work for others for free and to subsidize their indolence. If we do act that foolishly, we undermine ourselves and our society.

In practice, work is encouraged when each of us appropriates the fruits of our labor. That means that property is recognized and protected against theft. We can also multiply our work’s production of goods by saving and producing machines and other capital goods.

Who will make the innumerable decisions associated with work? It turns out that these decisions are made most productively when left to each and every one of us as individuals. This is an empirical fact that’s driven by incentives to which human nature is deeply attuned. It’s driven also by the nature of knowledge and values being dispersed. Each of us knows best what we want and how much we value it. Each of us knows best what our opportunities are and how to pursue them. Other people cannot get inside our heads and hearts.

Lenin, a key founder of Russia’s socialism/communism thought otherwise. He thought that he and his fellow Bolsheviks could remake society and remake the human being so that they’d all or almost all be glad to work in cooperatives that pooled the results of their happy days at work. It might mean killing a few million peasants and others, but what’s a few million lives against the glories of a communist society that shares the wealth that everyone is happy to produce and pool?

Here’s Lenin:

“Strictly speaking, there is ‘only‘ one more thing we have to do, and that is, to make our people so ‘civilized’ as to understand the advantages of having them all take part in the work of the co-operatives, and to organize this participation. ‘Only‘ this. We need no other cunning devices to enable us to pass to Socialism. But, to achieve this ‘only’, a complete revolution is needed; the entire people must go through a whole period of cultural development.”

Lenin endorsed work too, but not chosen freely by each person; and work whose output was not credited to the worker’s individual account but shifted into a social pool to be disbursed according to what “society” determined was a person’s “need”. This system has failed, whenever it has been tried on this Earth in mass societies and even in many smaller groups.

Do we need to note that this is the system being pushed and pushed hard by today’s socialists housed in the Democratic party? But will ordinary human beings work or work as hard when they are slaves to “society”? Will the relatively few who devise new and more productive methods of work behave the same way when “society” is controlling production so as to fulfill what the rulers conceive to be the “needs” of people? Will the rulers not succumb to corruption? Will they not use their great power to become rich themselves, as men and women in Congress already do, and to pass laws in accord with their own narrow views, vain ideas, and hobby-horses?

Who is going to want to work under the conditions of socialism/communism? Will not alcoholism rise as it did in the Soviet Union? Will not drug use and suicide rise as they are doing in America under its partial socialism called democratic socialism?


10:19 am on February 28, 2019