Libertarian Socialism Is An Oxymoron and a Complete Failure

Libertarian Socialism was recently brought to my attention. I had heard the term before but never really researched it or understood more about it. In doing my research I quickly discovered that while Libertarian Socialism may sound good on paper, in practice it has to be full socialism for it to ever address the problems it proposes to solve.

by Quinton Figueroa on August 1st, 2015

One of the big things of Libertarian Socialism (LibSoc) is how people are born unequal and how that is a big problem. Here is a good explanation of it:

A libertarian socialist would argue that a society based on such huge disparities of wealth is unfree. If you wish to enter into employment, you choose first and take orders later (as with liberal democracy). Libertarian socialists believe in voluntary association and economic democracy. This will allow the individual to reach his/her full potential.

So basically LibSocs are not a fan of the property system of Capitalism where somebody can own a piece of land and claim ownership over those resources. Because those resources are scarce, LibSocs will argue that it shouldn't be owned and controlled by one owner but rather some type of democratic ownership where it can be managed more "fair" or "equal", whatever that means.

I can haz logic?

Let's first look at those terms, fair and equal. LibSocs are big fans of equality. They will quickly point how different people are born differently. Some people are born into monetarily rich families while others are born into monetarily poor families. And they decide to take the side that it is better to not be monetarily poor so therefore anybody born into a monetarily rich situation has an unfair advantage. This doesn't make logical sense.

If it's not a poor person's fault that they are born poor then it's not a rich person's fault they are born rich. If you don't hold a poor person being born poor against them then you can't rationally hold a rich person being born rich against them. You can't pick and choose which people should be treated what way. So that's the first big problem.

But let's go further with it.

Who determines what is poor and what is rich? Where do you draw the line? $20,000? $20,000.01 ? $20,001.00? $30,000? What makes this right? Is it always this amount? Oh let me guess, a democratic council will determine the right amount and they will get it right because they are smarter than you. And once they determine the right amount they will force you to comply with this. But this isn't Socialism, oh wait.

They will say something like, yeah but all these rich people have an advantage in being able to more easily buy land, take over resources and live an easier life than people born poor. Once again, it's not their fault. You can't hold how somebody was born against them.

Then it will come to something like, yeah sure, it's not their fault but society as a whole would be better if they didn't have the ability to buy up all the resources and have this advantage. It's exploitative to poor people. Everybody should have an equal shot at property they will say. Yeah they should... so rich people and poor people should both be treated with the same rules for conditions they have no bearing over.

But who really cares about this? Where LibSoc really takes a turn for the worse is when you look into how this will actually happen. So how do LibSocs solve this problem?

The Practicality of LibSoc

The real question is this: how do you make society, land or property equal for everyone? Through central planning of course! But LibSocs don't call it central planning or government. They call it "economic democracy" or "usage rights" or some other word that means central control.

Okay, so in order to have property done "fairly" they magically create democratic processes wherein the members collectively decide the best way to manage resources. Do you already see where this is going? That's what we already do with government. But at least with government we still do allow some private control for people to take private ownership and have their own vested self-interest to make something the best it can be.

No, no, the LibSocs will say. This isn't government or socialism. This is an equalization of resources between different regions who... blah blah blah. These are all words saying the same thing. They think they can make life more fair for everyone as a whole by finding ways to equalize the lives of everyone. So if somebody is born poor you take a little bit from a rich person and make the poor person less poor. I really don't even have a need to explain this any further, problems everywhere on this.

No, no, this is about equalizing property they say. If one property has more of something you give that to another place that has less of that something. All these places with their unique resources will all combine and create a great society. But isn't that what markets do already? Oh no, no they say, markets are exploitative because not everyone has an equal chance at owning property.

The inevitable outcome

But let me stop beating around the bush and make my main point, from a practicality standpoint, because I really get tired of all the hypothetical BS.

For LibSoc to happen one of the following has to occur:

1. Everyone owns an equal percentage of all land in existence.
2. There is going to be inequality in society because there are going to be groups who own more or less amounts or values of land simply by chance.

The first problem is an obvious failure which requires no further clarification: Socialism.

The second problem leaves the Libsocs at exactly the core problem which they are trying to solve. Unless you really make everything equal, then there is going to be inequality under Libsoc. Based off of where people are born they may or may not be part of a better democratic group making better use of their land. Rather than calling it individually held, they call it group held and they face the exact same inequality aspects at the group level rather than the individual level. Calling something a democratic group instead of an individual makes no difference in ownership or production discussion. Rather than facing inequality with individuals, they now face it with democratic groups.

But here's another problem. What if I want to opt out? What if I know how to use land better than the economic democracy that is currently using it like a bunch of hacks? Then what? I'm back to our current state system. I just have to go along to get along or try to have my say in what to do with the land while the whole democratic system doesn't give a crap about what I have to say. I have to go through a bureaucratic hack system to "have my say" and blah blah blah. It just doesn't work. I'd rather go raise money, do my innovation privately, make the lives of lots of people better and make a lot of money for myself and the investors who believed in me along the way.

There are other economically nonviable, irrational beliefs of LibSocs too, like how profit is exploitative of employees. LibSoc is so bad it's not even fun to write against online, so I'm done. It's socialism phrased as something else. Same crap, different name.

 Filed under: Politics / Government, Libertarian Socialism, Anarcho-Capitalism

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Quinton Figueroa

Quinton Figueroa

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Los Angeles, CA

I am an entrepreneur at heart. Throughout my whole life I have enjoyed building real businesses by solving real problems. Business is life itself. My goal with businesses is to help move the human ...

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8 Comments

Terran117: Wow Fail

You used urban dictionary as a source. I think that says a lot about your abymal analysis.

Also, you fail to recognize the central tenant of libertarian socialism which is the worker control of the means of production.

Also, you believe libertarian socialists support central planning which you believe is a synonym for their actual position of "economic democracy'. Hmmm, I wonder, why Libsocs and MLs really do not get along. Could it be because they do not agree on this fundemntal point and the nature of the state after a revolution?

A quick read on Lenin's "State And Revolution" or a Chomsky book will prove that libsocs and MLs are not interchangeable.

"But here's another problem. What if I want to opt out? What if I know how to use land better than the economic democracy that is currently using it like a bunch of hacks? Then what? I'm back to our current state system. I just have to go along to get along or try to have my say in what to do with the land while the whole democratic system doesn't give a crap about what I have to say. I have to go through a bureaucratic hack system to "have my say" and blah blah blah. It just doesn't work. I'd rather go raise money, do my innovation privately, make the lives of lots of people better and make a lot of money for myself and the investors who believed in me along the way."

Amazingly, this is how Communists feel about capitalists and their attempts to overthrow the creation of socialist societies. :^)

Hint, the state is here to help YOU capitalists maintain the status quo, not create communism or else otherwise America would be leading world revolution.

Quinton Figueroa: Thanks for the reply.
@Terran117 (view comment)

Thanks for the reply.

So are you saying the central tenant of libertarian socialism is the worker control of the means of production?

If so, I'll look into this.

Terran117: Exactly

MLs and LibSocs do not agree certainly because they do not have the same opinion on the state. Hence things like Kronsdat and the Spanish Civil War.

Quinton Figueroa: Okay, I've looked more into
@Terran117 (view comment)

Okay, I've looked more into means of production as a central tenant of LibSoc and of course it changes nothing in my original post.

First of all, why are you so upset me using Urban Dictionary? That definition is a pretty good definition. Of course I could use Wikipedia or whatever else. They all say essentially the same thing. Rather that complain about the source I'd rather you address my points. Here let's use Wikipedia:

Libertarian socialism (sometimes called social anarchism,[1][2] left-libertarianism[3][4] and socialist libertarianism[5]) is a group of political philosophies within the socialist movement that reject the view of socialism as state ownership of the means of production[6] within a more general criticism of the state form itself[7][8] as well as of wage labour relationships within the workplace.[9] Instead it emphasizes workers' self-management of the workplace[10] and decentralized structures of political organization[11] asserting that a society based on freedom and equality can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite.[12] A decentralized means of direct democracy and federal or confederal associations are used to politically organize[13] such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, and workers' councils.[14][15] All of this is generally done within a general call for libertarian[16] and voluntary human relationships[17] through the identification, criticism, and practical dismantling of illegitimate authority in all aspects of human life.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

So let me ask you: How do you propose to decentralize and manage society and means of production? How do you plan to better distribute and manage resources than the free market? I'd love to hear a rational, logical argument.

Also, Capitalists don't want to overthrow Communists. We don't have Capitalism in the world right now so that's not possible. America isn't Capitalistic. America is Socialistic and Fascist and working towards Communism. It's pretty obvious really. So what you're really upset about are Socialist/Fascist states attempting to overthrow other states. Socialism, Communism, Fascism, it's all the same thing really. Any State is a monopoly on force and Capitalism isn't that. Capitalism is an economic system championing free markets so we don't have Capitalism and America isn't Capitalistic.

Anonymous: You create a straw man when

You create a straw man when you say "If it isn't the fault of poor to be poor, why should we blame the rich for being rich?" I'd say that the distribution of finite resources is the question raised. Should the poor leave the rich alone, who deprive them of resources, and make them suffer so? No, that is unrealistic. There is no "blame" but rather a defense against a system of harm.

Arbitrary hereditary distribution (parents passing resources down to their children) is questionable since it elevates humans born of a blank slate to great privilege and status. But that contradicts the capitalist idea that you gain wealth by providing something. It is expected for resource-deprived people to promote their survival and claim previously-claimed resources. Private property harms those deprived of it. The harm reduction approach would be to normalize resource claims by mean property owned to reduce said injustices. In that way you don't have a privileged elite perpetually providing greatness, getting rewarded greatly, and having the poor no choice but to suffer in their lower station.

People are born as blank slates and have no contractual agreements on previously-made resource claims. Thus they are immune from them and can make overlapping claims. But here lies the problem - capitalists refuse to share - and this is a cause of tension and warfare. So it is inherent in a world where resources are the heritage of all (a commons), one would operate on a sharing strategy else face the consequences of absolutism, namely harm, which we would try to avoid.

LibSoc is most tolerable since it does less harm from absolute private property and the deprivations thereof and the absolutist de-privatization of authoritarian socialist states. This is due to the concept of John Stuart Mill's bureaucratic rationalism where power is centralized versus Tocqueville's pluralism where power is decentralized. Who gets to decide what is the mean ownership of resources? A simple non-human statistical standard deviation. Who gets to politically decide, enact, rule over this decision? In authoritarian regimes it would be a centralized government, state, etc. In a localized society by autonomous municipalities, it would be your neighbors. In a harm reduction analysis, you have to face a less powerful, less organized, more tolerant resource distributor in the localist tradition of LibSoc than you do of authoritarian states.

What if you want to do things privately? Beg for forgiveness, don't ask for permission. But when you do get in trouble, it is because you have over-utilized, and would be pressured into a dialectic with others. This implies that: A) you are declaration war as a result of depriving others of resources, and B) expect people harmed by you to fight against you.

Now to provide even more assurance to your self, let us look at the Anarcho-Syndicalist implementation of LibSoc in Spanish Civil war Spain: "Generally the holdings of small property owners were respected, always on the condition that only they or their families would work the land, without employing wage labour." (http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionI8)

Although not supporting LibSoc, I referred to Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom, (https://reason.com/archives/2015/09/23/two-liberalisms).

For reference, read "Property is Theft" by Pierre-Joseph Proudhoun. To summarize, it is not an absolutist boolean decision between private property and socialism that we should choose, but rather a balance between extremas.

Quinton Figueroa: "I'd say that the
@Anonymous (view comment)

"I'd say that the distribution of finite resources is the question raised. Should the poor leave the rich alone, who deprive them of resources, and make them suffer so? No, that is unrealistic. There is no "blame" but rather a defense against a system of harm."

How are rich people by being born rich (which they didn't choose) guilty of something that they didn't do? How are rich people harming people by being born rich? They are no more guilty than a poor person being born poor. There is no choice on the rich person's part. They are born into guilt?

Arbitrary hereditary distribution (parents passing resources down to their children) is questionable since it elevates humans born of a blank slate to great privilege and status. But that contradicts the capitalist idea that you gain wealth by providing something.

How is it arbitrary? People who gained resources through innovation and work are choosing to pass this property title on. Just as I can give my house to a friend I can also give my house to a child. It is a transfer of property title and it's not arbitrary. It doesn't contradict anything, in Capitalism you can transfer property title. What does contradict Capitalism is forcing people to transfer the resources they own to who somebody else chooses.

"Private property harms those deprived of it. The harm reduction approach would be to normalize resource claims by mean property owned to reduce said injustices. In that way you don't have a privileged elite perpetually providing greatness, getting rewarded greatly, and having the poor no choice but to suffer in their lower station."

How? How does private property harm those deprived of it? Be specific. Because under Capitalism anybody can become a property owner and anybody can choose to stop supporting a property owner they don't like.

"People are born as blank slates and have no contractual agreements on previously-made resource claims. Thus they are immune from them and can make overlapping claims."

How do you know people are born blank slates? What evidence do you have to support this claim?

"But here lies the problem - capitalists refuse to share - and this is a cause of tension and warfare."

Sharing isn't the best system for moving mankind forward. The people who want others to share are usually the greediest people. This is why most liberals, who are big on sharing, are less likely than conservatives to donate to charity and share their wealth. Sharing is a terrible idea economically speaking and is also a non-specific term used as an emotional argument. Be specific. How do Capitalists refuse to share? Because they spend their time working for something and now they need to share what they worked for? Why? How is that moral? How do you justify that?

"So it is inherent in a world where resources are the heritage of all (a commons), one would operate on a sharing strategy else face the consequences of absolutism, namely harm, which we would try to avoid."

How are resources currently not the heritage of all? How are you not able to right now go and start digging up oil and refining it, the same way others have before you?

"LibSoc is most tolerable since it does less harm from absolute private property and the deprivations thereof and the absolutist de-privatization of authoritarian socialist states."

How does LibSoc do less harm than absolute private property?

"This is due to the concept of John Stuart Mill's bureaucratic rationalism where power is centralized versus Tocqueville's pluralism where power is decentralized. Who gets to decide what is the mean ownership of resources? A simple non-human statistical standard deviation. Who gets to politically decide, enact, rule over this decision? In authoritarian regimes it would be a centralized government, state, etc. In a localized society by autonomous municipalities, it would be your neighbors. In a harm reduction analysis, you have to face a less powerful, less organized, more tolerant resource distributor in the localist tradition of LibSoc than you do of authoritarian states."

If decentralized power is good then the most decentralized form of power is private property. This strips down power to the individual. LibSoc is more centralized than Capitalist private property.

"What if you want to do things privately? Beg for forgiveness, don't ask for permission. But when you do get in trouble, it is because you have over-utilized, and would be pressured into a dialectic with others. This implies that: A) you are declaration war as a result of depriving others of resources, and B) expect people harmed by you to fight against you."

Not sure what you're saying here.

"To summarize, it is not an absolutist boolean decision between private property and socialism that we should choose, but rather a balance between extremas."

This is a boolean decision. Some decisions are. If I had to choose between cancer and no cancer I would choose no cancer. I wouldn't choose a balance of cancer. If I had to choose between rape or no rape I would choose no rape. I wouldn't choose a balance of rape. If I had to choose between socialism and private property I would not choose some socialism and some private property. I would choose no socialism and 100% private property.

Crazy Bill Surrey: It is not as bad as the

It is not as bad as the monstrosity that they call ''Libertarianism'' in the USA which is usually just arch-capitalism. ''Libertarianism'' was created by the anarchist (anarcho-communist) Joseph Déjacque someone you would describe as a ''Libertarian Socialist''. If you are not left-wing and communal, you are not really a Libertarian.

The idea that you can be anything other than left-wing and a ''Libertarian'' is just another US idiocy.

Robert: How Libertarian Socialists Are "Created"
@Crazy Bill Surrey (view comment)

I disagree with your premise, that Libertarianism can only be possible through left-wing ideology. I consider myself a Libertarian Socialist, and yet I'm also conservative.

How can this be?

Well, because the problem with people, is that we all have a tendency to categorize things for convenience. The irony here is that though to come to the rationalization of libertarian socialism, we are humans first, and conveniently forget this bias.

How can I be conservative, yet a libertarian socialist? Isn't that an oxymoron? No. Because the claim that the term is self-contradictory rests on the assumption that socialism requires the state in order to exist and that socialism is incompatible with liberty, as well as the fallacious claim that capitalism too, is libertarian and does not need the state for its existence. Then again, the results of ideaology into the categorization of Libertarian Socialism favors economic conditions moreso than say business ethics, morality, religious secularity and the military industrial complex.

I find that many "political compass" analysis methods -- and academia alike, which is well-beyond the capacity of the general public -- skew categorical data heavily based on the options provided and lend no gratuity to subtlety, afford no output in regards to highly complex issues that usually bifurcate into various directions.

This is an opinion, however, I'd like to say this is intellectual laziness as it is much easier to generalize someone's position merely for the sake of sanctimony through intellectual dishonesty. Thus the aforementioned becomes justified in the users' discretion to discriminate and further castigate an opposing viewpoint that doesn't sit squarely in the round hole, provided.

As for the rest of this conversation, I very much enjoyed reading your responses to the article. I perhaps agree with the bulk of it. I don't have time to critique it completely, for now, but I just wanted to "voice" my disagreement on where or how libertarian socialists are "created".

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