May 29, 2004

Libertarians and Communists

Very good post by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, commenting a forthcoming article that tries to show libertarianism as some new form of communism:

Lawler’s most significant misrepresentation is his accusation that, like Marxism, libertarianism promises "a life constrained by nothing but personal choice." Ugh! Barf! Arghh! Every libertarian whom I know has as part of his or her bedrock understanding of reality that the world is a constrained and constraining place. It is precisely because reality is no utopia, no empyrean dreamland of superabundance, that people must make careful choices - often very difficult and painful ones. It is not our choices that ultimately constrain us; it is the unavoidable scarcity of desirable things in the world that constrain us and that, in turn, oblige us to choose.

Libertarians (unlike Marxists) understand that even the most ideal economic system will never, ever eliminate scarcity and the consequent and constant necessity for each of us to make choices. Furthermore, libertarians (unlike most non-libertarians) understand that the state is a thoroughly human institution that is often asked to work miracles - which, of course, it has no hope of performing, but in its modern guise nevertheless specializes in pretending to perform such scarcity-eliminating feats. That is, it specializes in masking the need to make some choices. In the process, it actually reduces the range of options over which most people can choose.

Micha Ghertner also made some interesting comments on this issue at