Dismissing Criticisms You Can’t Counter

A couple of weeks ago Michael Lind, an writer for Salon, thought he had the ultimate trump card against libertarianism. He asked why no libertarian countries exist. As I, and many other libertarians explained, libertarianism is a philosophy built upon the idea of non-aggression, which is ultimately incompatible with statism. Mr. Lind, looking to generate more page hits from outraged libertarians, decided he would attempt to rebut that argument:

An unscientific survey of the blogosphere turns up a number of libertarians claiming in response to my essay that, because libertarianism is anti-statist, to ask for an example of a real-world libertarian state shows a failure to understand libertarianism. But if the libertarian ideal is a stateless society, then libertarianism is merely a different name for utopian anarchism and deserves to be similarly ignored.

The caricature created by Mr. Lind is that everybody who advocates anti-statism is a utopian anarchist and therefore can be dismissed without argument. It’s a classic straw man fallacy. Apparently Mr. Lind is not able to argue against the claim so he has created a much easier caricature to argue against.

Most anarchists, myself included, are not utopian. We don’t claim that a stateless society will be perfect. There will always been some amount of theft, rape, murder, and other acts of violence. Likewise, fraud and other nonviolent transgressions will almost certainly be ever present in human society.

What we do argue is that statism, being a system based on violence, is worse than a system based on mutual cooperation. In my previous post I provided several examples of societies that succeeded without a state, one of which still exists today. The fact that such societies have existed and continue to exist today demonstrates that statelessness isn’t an impossible reality that can be dismissed without argument. If Mr. Lind doesn’t believe anarchism can succeed he needs to provide some argumentation to backup his claim. Simply labeling anarchists as utopians doesn’t count since most of us aren’t utopians.

Seeing Mr. Lind’s dismissal of anarchism also raises a question, why does he think statism is the best foundation to base a society on? Why is a society that has one group of individuals ruling over everybody else better than a society where nobody rules of anybody else better? I could never find a satisfactory answer to those questions, which is why I eventually became an anarchist.