Full disclosure: this wasn’t an actual quote, I’m paraphrasing…a closer approximation would be “I would be okay with libertarians, but they just don’t care about human rights.”
At a recent Veterans For Peace conference, I had the pleasure of meeting many great people opposed to war (which I completely agree with), who also fall somewhere on the socialist scale (which I am fundamentally opposed to unless it’s voluntary). The good news is that many people at the conference had heard of libertarianism and more libertarian vets are joining these peace organizations; the bad news is that libertarianism is big enough to start being distorted and misunderstood. In any case, Maggie has been on my mind ever since she remarked that libertarians “just don’t care about human rights”.
It’s not that we don’t want to take care of people, it’s that we believe government is ill-equipped, ill-informed, and unable to make appropriate choices. Governance is most effective at the local level. Who knows your community better than your friends, family, and yourself? Why should anyone 2000 miles away have any authority over what is taught in your schools, what can be bought or sold, or who can get married? One-size-fits-all approaches rarely work; Common Core is a modern day example.
It’s not that people shouldn’t have healthcare, it’s that the government is exceptionally bad at providing healthcare. Ask any vet who has worked with the Veteran’s Administration. The problem is with central planning, people!
It’s not that people shouldn’t be fed, clothed, or sheltered, but that stealing from some to give to others is immoral. True charity is a beautiful thing. To give of yourself and your property to help others is good and noble. Penn Jillette has a great quote about it here. But the government is a mechanism by which people vote whose social justice is better than someone else’s social justice, and then enforce it at gunpoint. You may think that’s an extreme example, but try not paying your taxes (or your speeding tickets) and see what happens. Lysander Spooner put it exceptionally well: “If taxation without consent is not robbery, than any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized.”
It’s not that we favor discrimination, it’s that we uphold equally everyone’s freedom to associate and disassociate. Libertarianism is consistent throughout, which is something other political philosophies don’t share. If you insist that a Christian baker has to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, then you also have to insist that a black barber cut a KKK member’s hair…the end result is that some people are arbitrarily protected or disadvantaged, and that everyone is grouped rather than regarded as individuals.
It’s not that we don’t care about human rights, it’s that economic freedom, self-sovereignty, and sound money are the best mechanisms by which to secure human rights for all. Currently, we have relatively little economic freedom, relatively little self-sovereignty, and absolutely no sound money. This creates a cycle in which the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer. Try as you might, there is no such thing as free healthcare, free food, free wages, free housing, or free anything. This is a world of scarcity, and we all get to live in it. Libertarianism offers a just system of property rights that would enhance, rather than hinder, human rights.