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The Practicality of Libertarianism


People sometimes accuse libertarians of being impractical. That befuddles me because libertarianism is the only practical philosophy there is. Why is that? Because libertarianism works. The only philosophies don’t.

Consider immigration. People say: “You libertarians are so impractical with your call for open borders.”

Yet, what could be more practical than a policy that brings about peace, prosperity, and harmony?

Look at what statism has done in the area of immigration. We have endless cycle of crises and reforms, accompanied by paroxysms of anger, frustration, and exasperation. With the possible exception of the drug war, foreign policy, public schooling, and healthcare, you couldn’t find a more dysfunctional program than immigration controls.

Let’s also not forget the police-state environment along the border, including the Berlin Fence and those Soviet-style domestic checkpoints where Stasi-like guards demand to see your papers and get horribly angry when you refuse to answer their questions.

That’s an aberrant system. How can anyone say otherwise?

The results of immigration controls shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, immigration controls are nothing more than a variation of socialist central planning. Wouldn’t we expect the consequences of socialism here to be just as perverse as they are in the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and China?

Consider the libertarian idea of open borders. No more immigration crises, deaths, human smuggling, and police state along the border. Just a normal flow of people back and forth across the border.

What’s more practical than a philosophy that works? What’s more impractical than a philosophy that doesn’t?

Look at the drug war. A perverse and dysfunctional system if there ever was one. Decades of violence, death, destruction, and corruption, without any noticeable effect on the supply of or demand for drugs. And notice something important: the more they crack down, the worse the problem gets.

Statists remain deeply wedded to the drug war, notwithstanding its decades of manifest failure and destructiveness. How practical is that? Can you think of anything more impractical than doubling down on a failed and destructive policy, especially in the hope of achieving a different result?

Consider the libertarian position: End the drug war by repealing all laws that criminalize the use, possession, distribution, or sale of drugs — all drugs, not just marijuana. What would that do? It would bring an immediate end to the drug gangs, drug lords, gang wars, and governmental corruption along with all the police-state practices and violations of liberty and privacy that have accompanied the drug war.

Pray tell: What could be more practical than that? Again, what could be more practical than a philosophy that works, especially compared to one that doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and will never work?

Consider healthcare. Conservative statists spend their time exclaiming against Obamacare, while liberal statists spend their time defending it. What could be more impractical than those two positions? What good would it do to repeal Obamacare? Wasn’t there a huge healthcare crisis that Obamacare was intended to address? What good will it do to maintain Obamacare? Isn’t it just another socialist reform measure that is certain to provide more healthcare crises down the road?

In other words, both conservatives and liberals are just wasting their time, money, and energy. Their respective hopes and dreams regarding healthcare will continue to provide nothing but crises.

The libertarian position? Repeal Medicare, Medicaid, occupational licensure, and healthcare and insurance regulation. A total separation of healthcare and the state. What could be more practical than that, especially given we would once again be relying on the free market to deliver healthcare. Everyone knows — or should know — that the free market delivers the best of everything, especially compared to socialistic plans like Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare.

Just think: Under libertarianism, no more healthcare crises, and everyone receiving reasonably priced, high-quality healthcare from doctors and others who, once again, love what they do in life. What could be more practical than that?

Foreign interventionism? Nothing but violence, death destruction, horrific consequences, and foreign anger and hatred toward the United States under the statist philosophy.

World War I didn’t make the world safe for democracy or end all wars. It led to World War II, the war that delivered Eastern Europe and East Germany to the Soviet communists, which were then made the target of a 45-year Cold War along with the establishment of the national-security state, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Persian Gulf War, and then came the war on terrorism, the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, militarism, and the ever-growing assaults on the civil liberties and privacy of the American people.

What could be more dysfunctional and impractical than all that? Compare that to libertarianism, which would dismantle the warfare state, including the empire of foreign and domestic military bases, the Cold War national-security state apparatus, the CIA, the NSA, and the entire military-industrial complex—and abolish the taxes that fund them.

What would that accomplish? Only a peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious society, that’s all. What could be more practical than that?

Public schooling? By the time kids reach 18 years of age, they have had the love of learning smashed out of them through a rigid system of regimentation, conformity, deference to authority, and obedience. Of course, this is where people receive their indoctrination — mental training from the state to ensure that people remain faithful, loyal, and obedient drones of the system and lack the mental capability of challenging it at a fundamental level.

Everyone, even the most stalwart defenders of public schooling, acknowledge what a fiasco the system has been. Why, even the president of the United States refuses to send his children into the public schooling system. That’s because he loves his children and, therefore, refuses to hand them over to the state’s “educational” system.

What could be more impractical than a system that destroys or damages people’s minds in their formative years?

Libertarians? We say: Separate school and state. Get rid of all state involvement in education. Rely totally on the free market for education. What could be more practical than a free-market educational system, one in which people love to learn?

The good news is that more and more people, especially young people, are figuring all this out and self-describing as libertarians. That includes people from both the left and the right. You see this playing out especially in the drug war, where countless people are popping up everywhere calling for an end to the drug war.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone would embrace a philosophy and policies that are failed and have no chance of success. That sure seems impractical to me.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t embrace libertarianism, especially given the fact that it works. Embracing a philosophy that works seems to me to be infinitely practical.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.