Monday, May 18, 2015

Is There Hope for the Bleeding Hearts?

Be still my beating heart…

Matt Zwolinski has authored “Three Problems for Libertarian Supporters of a Basic Income.”  Finally, is some sense coming to the perpetual bleeders (can you get blood from a turnip?)?  Of course, I can only think of one problem, but what the heck – if it takes Matt three problems to see the light, I won’t argue.  Let’s find out together, shall we?

I’ve written a few pieces defending a BIG from both a pragmatic and a more principled perspective. But it’s never been an issue about which I’ve felt absolutely settled.

Hooray Matt!  Turn to the light!  Don’t be frightened of the shadows it creates (borrowed liberally from John Petrucci).  We welcome all who do not advocate for or otherwise support the initiation of aggression.  (I have previously addressed his pragmatic perspective here, and his more principled perspective, such as it is, here.)

Here, then, are what I take to be three of the more pressing problems facing libertarian supporters of a BIG:

Yes, Matt, you already told us this in your title – get on with it, will you?  I can’t wait to welcome another member to the “we won’t steal from you” libertarians – you know, the ones who actually believe that initiating aggression is wrong.  In other words – libertarian.

Cost – There’s good reason to worry that the size of the grant provided by a BIG is either going to be too small to meet people’s basic needs, or to [SIC] large to be affordable.

Wait a minute; this is starting to go downhill.

What Programs to Replace? It’s easy to talk in the abstract about the BIG serving as a replacement for the existing welfare state. But exactly which programs is a BIG supposed to replace?

Whoa there, cowboy.  I thought you were about to replace all programs and BIG.  What gives?

Increased Xenophobia – In my the very first thing I ever wrote about the BIG, I worried that implementing would lead to increased hostility toward immigration, and therefore to worsening the situation of the poor outside the United States.

I won’t even bother with this one.

Now, the force of these problems depends to some degree on what one’s rationale is for supporting a BIG.

Where is Matt headed?  Oh dear, this isn’t going the way I was hoping.

Libertarians who take a pragmatic approach to defending a BIG, for instance, are going to find all three of these points especially troubling.

I don’t know of a single libertarian, pragmatic or otherwise, that supports big – so how can an empty set find anything “especially troubling” about any of these points?

On the other hand, most libertarians don’t believe that people have a right to get all of their needs met by others as a matter of justice.

All libertarians don’t believe this…full stop. 

Matt, I am really feeling cheated by your title.

If, then, the point of a BIG isn’t to meet people’s needs, but rather to compensate for past injustice, or to redistribute the undeserved economic rent held by owners of natural resources….

That’s it, Matt.  The wedding’s off.

There is only one problem for libertarian supporters of a basic income: there are no libertarian supporters of a basic income because it isn’t libertarian. 


  1. Gotta love these leftists who masquerade as libertarians.

  2. "I'm a left-libertarian."
    "Really? When did you leave?"

  3. Solidarity is not solidarity if it is not voluntary.

    Voluntarism is the key.

    1. Easily done. Get the government out and leave it to crowdfunding.


  4. "Libertarians who take a pragmatic approach to defending a BIG, for instance, are going to find all three of these points especially troubling."

    Libertarians who take any approach at defending a BIG are going to run aground of an inherently arbitrary application of force thus causing a distortive price-fix in the marketplace. Unforeseen consequences will ensue. New applications of arbitrary force will be required to "fix" the problem arrived at by a flawed premise: namely, that any one or a hundred people can and should direct the forces of production, thus creating a one of a number of utopias on Earth.

    This guy is an object lesson in arriving at Marx via laissez-faire through intellectual gymnastics. The time this guy spends distorting the meaning of words seems pointlessly indirect: just admit to being a pro-force, socialist warrior and advocate any stupid idea you want.

  5. Christians that don't believe in Christ find his logic sound... what's your problem?! :)

    1. Now that you mention it, there are plenty of those as well.