Friday, June 13, 2008

Some Recurring Fallacies in Political Libertarianism

I recently took a look at this semi-interesting but severely (and characteristically) simplistic perspective and had a few thoughts.

First it must be understood that by "paternalism" this article means something like "any law interfering with what a man may do to his own body (or what consenting adults may do to each others'), such as abuse drugs and gratuitously economize sexuality, but also including things like ride a motorcycle without a helmet. To say nothing of my own position on the particulars of various laws or potential laws this article may deem "paternal" (or anything of any overarching political paradigm I may or may not be inclined toward), I am going to briefly speak to a few themes present in it.
Another reason to reject paternalism is that it sets a nefarious precedent. Up to what point does the government get to play nanny? Where does it end? [...] Furthermore, the justification of "it’s for their own good" is bound to be abused. It will be used to justify all manner of special-interest plunder, such as excessive licensing laws.
The Slippery Slope light on your logical fallacy dashboard should be going off. Mine does almost every time I read a Libertarian argument.
Passing blanket restrictions on behavior rides roughshod on individuality.
Compare and contrast:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to... promote the general Welfare... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Rather than leaving the individual free to learn from experience and example, paternalism deprives him of these moral opportunities. By pre-empting choice, it weakens the moral faculty of choosing one’s own course.
Aside from the bizarre and upside-down phenomenon that some of my dearest friends who happen to be philosophical Compatibilists somehow also manage to profer arguments like the above as support for their political Libertarianism, this constitutes a textbook example of a False Dichotomy by wantonly ignoring the spectrum of various nuanced positions in lieu of the extremes of anarchy (under the guise of liberty), and the fascist socialism that somehow manages to pre-empt choice itself and utterly deprive all citizens of any moral opportunities (their label for any position but their own, starting somewhere around a moderate perspective and continuing on beyond Zebra).

You can lead a Zebra to water, but you can't make him drink.

You can lead a Libertarian to a clear explanation of his logical fallacies, but you can't make him drink.