To assist those who do not want to get down into the dangerous weeds, here is The Omnivore's: How To Debate A Libertarian.
It's A Pretty Simple Decision Tree
Roughly speaking there are two basic kinds of libertarians:
- People with emotional issues around being super smart, pretty racist, and liking weed.
- People who want to make the world better and honestly believe that the free-market and so on will do that.
In general it's about 98% to 2%. And not in the good way.
The Two Big Libertarian Problems: "Let Him Die" and "Communism Has Never Been Tried!"
In practice, when debating (coming into verbal contact with) a Type 1 Libertarian you should quickly zero in on one of two problems. The first is exemplified by the 2012 Republican Debate where Ron Paul was asked what to do with a sick guy who can't pay:
Wolf Blitzer put a terrific question to Rep. Ron Paul at last night's CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate in Tampa, Fla. What should happen, the moderator asked hypothetically, if a healthy 30-year-old man who can afford insurance chooses not to buy it—and then becomes catastrophically ill and needs intensive care for six months? When Dr. Paul ducked, fondly recalling the good old days before Medicare and saying that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, Blitzer pressed the point. "But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?" At that point, the rabble erupted in cheers and whoops of "Yeah!"This is, of course the hard-core reductionist libertarian decision on humanity and it's unpalatable to almost everyone with a drop of empathy (the working answer is that "somehow it'll work itself out [for white people I care about and fuck everyone else]')--but, if you don't accept wild handwaving, you get the crowd applauding this guy's death.
That, generally, ends the debate. They either sell out libertarianism or humanity.
The second mortal wound for philosophical libertarianism is the dancing-naked guy: when you put a critical mass of libertarians together in a room and try to build a party (out of the smartest, most objectivists uber-men that humanity has available, of course) one of them will take off their clothes and dance naked on stage trying to become the party nominee.
As a rule it will not be the most attractive libertarian in the room--or even the second most. No, you get the bottom of the barrel.
The point here is not the naked guy per-se, but the libertarians in general: When Ron Paul realized that the receptive audience for his message of glorious free-market-teering was white supremacists, he allowed his newsletters to sing the song of his people.
Today we can go back and read about the race war and shit. Although disavowed, Ron Paul's account keeps "making the same mistake" of tweeting racist shit to this day.
It, you know, doesn't seem like a mistake most people just keep making. No--the problem with any organized libertarian party isn't the philosophy, per se--it's the libertarians. When you realize this, you realize that Libertarians are, humiliatingly, in the same spaces as communists: they have to argue that "true libertarianism has never been tried!"
We don't buy that for commies. Why believe that some form of "true libertarianism" won't be hijacked by naked hairy lunatics or, erm, racists? Show The Omnivore that evidence first and then we can talk about Hegel.
It is worth making a point about women libertarians. They exist. If you run into one, ask if the libertarian movement as a whole is sexist: if you get an honest answer, skip the debate and just spend the rest of the time talking about that. You may learn something.
A Final Note: Some Good Ideas
The tag for this post is 'humor'--but of course it's a pretty pointed joke. The fact is that libertarianism does have some good ideas and markets are superior at some things. Dismissing all libertarian thought because of the usual standard bearers would be a mistake. If someone isn't committed to trying to push a utopian libertarian revolution, you might as well listen. There are plenty of good ideas out there and no one is immune to tribalism or some degree of partisanship.
But if they start talking Hegelian Postmodernism philosophy, make sure you ask if they have any pot: the chances are high they have a supply of the good stuff!