The Cherry Picking Nature of Libertarianism

After reading David Graeber’s book Debt, I have political economics on the brain.  As such, many critiques of free-market economies and, more specifically, libertarianism have been developing in my thought processes.  Admittedly, I am not an economist and am usually antagonistic toward capitalistic economic theories, but libertarianism seems ultra hypocritical to me. 

I have a few libertarian friends who are always touting the phrase “limited government.”  These friends usually support a political Paul, stress the inefficiency of government, and sacralize a free-market. [Although none of these friends have read Sarah Posner’s wonderful piece connecting Ron Paul & Christian Fundamentalism.] What really upsets me about libertarian theories is the “cherry picking nature” of most libertarians.

First, many of the libertarians that I know are economic libertarians, but not moral/social libertarians.  These people are usually very religious, and therefore, beg the government to regulate moral issues like abortion, civil unions, and religious freedom.  However, they see no role for government as it pertains to welfare, equality issues, or economic regulations. Those following this line of thought are truly some of the most hypocritical in my opinion. 

Secondly, for those who are more truly libertarian, they maintain that the government should remain out of private industry and moral issues (which in some ways is less hypocritical than the first).  However, what I have discovered is that these libertarians only want the government to intervene where their experience (or an experience of a close friend or loved one) has taught them that the government should intervene.  For instance, I have a friend who is a “limited government” champion but had an aunt who had worked her entire life, lacked sufficient means to afford health care, and therefore lost her battle with cancer due to a health services.  Hence, a self-described “moderate libertarian” chooses to accept universal healthcare as a legitimate role for government.  Additionally, another friend maintains a “limited government” stance, but supports the government subsidization of food industries (because a close relative benefits from these subsidies). 

It has been noted that the families of the political Paul’s have benefited from government subsidy (another name for welfare?) especially during their medical practices (see here).  Rand has stated that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act, but why would he? He has never needed the government to step in and secure his voting rights.  The Paul families have benefited from farm subsidy programs in the past, so they have done little to lobby against these forms of governmental assistance (except to propose farm subsidies to extremely wealthy farmers).

To the point: most libertarians are wealthier, white males who have had very little need for the United States government to ensure their freedoms, assist in developing opportunities for individual progress, or provide assistance during difficult economic times.  Hence, they ideologically reduce the need for government…except in instances where they have benefited.


By only accounting for a narrow minded perspective, this view seems self-centered and less than compassionate. Additionally, this perspective is dangerous for anyone not within the network of those that maintain this position.


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