Rebirth of Reason


"Is Libertarianism Evil?" Revisited
by Scott D. DeSalvo

Joe Rowlands' article "Is Libertarianism Evil?," posted on June 2, 2003, never explicitly answers the question posed in its title. Instead, it is primarily an article which defines and refutes the efficacy of "Rationalism" (defined by Mr. Rowlands as "a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions").

Of course, anyone familiar with Objectivist Epistemology knows that knowledge begins with sense perception. Mr. Rowlands' conclusion that Rationalism is no substitute for rationally-integrated evidence of the senses is absolutely correct.

However, Mr. Rowlands' first error comes when he writes that "only a rationalist would believe that you must have an explicit, rational philosophical base in order to see the benefits of freedom." But this is not an ARI argument. Mr. Rowlands does not cite, nor am I aware of any ARI argument or article, which forwards the proposition that the ARI denounces Libertarianism because Libertarians cannot "see the benefits of freedom." To the contrary, it must be supposed that Libertarians, whether they be Anarchists, Christians, or Objectivists must see SOME subjective or objective benefit to "freedom" in order for them to identify themselves as Libertarians in the first place. The ARI may rightly argue that the vast majority of Libertarians do not have "an explicit, rational philosophical base" but have never argued, to my knowledge, that a Libertarian cannot see the benefits of freedom, which are plain on their face, as Mr. Rowlands points out in his article.

Instead, in every ARI forum and article I have read before discovering SOLO, the proposition has been that, a rational system of thought is required in order to fully understand and agree on the nature of "freedom," and to define and implement it. To this extent, agreement between Objectivists and non-Objectivist Libertarians is not even possible, because an agreement without defined terms is an absurdity. Ask three Libertarians to define applied "freedom," and you will have three widely-varied, and probably-contradictory answers. As a matter of expediency of the moment, is may be heartening as an Objectivist to find a large group of Libertarians purporting to agree with the 'end result' or goal of Objectivism-Individual Freedom. But what is it? Why is it important? Why is it worth fighting for? How do you implement it? Why is it better than collectivism? Why is it any better than any new idea that comes along and might sound good? Without an explicit understanding of these issues, which Objectivism addresses, but many mystical/anarchic Libertarian psuedo-philosophical underpinnings do not, real freedom cannot be defined, much less obtained, and cannot sustain, as the decline of American culture attests.

Mr. Rowlands next states that "[t]he rationalists who argue against libertarians seem to think the only way to understand the concept of rights is to deduce them from the more fundamental branches of philosophy." It is true that blind rationalism is folly. But the fundamental branches of philosophy are essential to understanding the meaning of freedom, how it is implemented, etc. True, any person can witness that the average quality of life in the United States exceeded the average quality of life in the Soviet Union in the 1970's. But this 'evidence' only leads to a vague understanding that 'freedom' is 'good'; a hazy, incomplete understanding that does nothing to help the individual understand "the concept of rights," unless that evidence is guided by the concepts introduced in the maligned "fundamental branches of philosophy." It is precisely the lack of integrated understanding of philosophy and use of the tools of cognition that keeps freedom from being defined, understood, integrated, implemented and defended.

Mr. Rowlands ends the article with the following:

But we must acknowledge that there are many reasons to support freedom and many paths people may take to get there. Some are better than others, but it doesn't necessarily make the others wrong.

There is only one correct solution to a problem in mathematics. There is only one correct explanation for an observed scientific phenomenon. And there is only one true, correct and complete definition of, justification for and proof of individual liberty, and that is contained in Objectivism. Objectivism is correct, and other theories, justifications, and ideas are wrong. Equating all other reasons and justifications for a Libertarian's defense of a vaguely-understood concept of 'freedom' as equally-good and acceptable second place finishers in a problem with only one solution defies the Law of Identity and sanctions misguided, if not evil, ideas. One may praise 2+2=5 as superior to 2+2=8, insofar as it is closer to the correct answer. But it is still incorrect, and takes away from the primary point: that there is one correct answer: 2+2=4. And that does, necessarily, make the others wrong.

And, no, Libertarianism is not necessarily evil, because it is an intellectual subset of Objectivism. Further, it is so contradictorily defined that making that determination is impossible.

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