Skip to main content

The Libertarian dilemma

Conrad got in an accident yesterday.  A tow truck drove past and sideswiped him, damaging the side mirror.  When he got out of the car, he suggested exchanging insurance information with the other driver.  The other driver just said that he'd pay for the damage out of his own pocket, gave him his number, and drove off.  Since the damage wasn't severe, Conrad drove off as well.  Conrad called a repair shop to get a quote for the cost of the necessary repair and then called the tow truck driver, who agreed to meet to give him the money for it.

This story is what I wish all human interactions could be like.  It is a faith-promoting story for a libertarian.  It's good because it didn't involve the police.  It didn't involve insurance companies.  Two parties resolved an issue that existed between them themselves, without any need for outside help at all.  That's the most efficient way for issues between persons to be resolved.  The problem is that not everyone is that honest.  Not all people would do what this tow truck driver did.  In fact, when Conrad first told me about the accident, it was shortly after it happened, I gave my opinion which was that he would never hear from the guy again and he'd deny ever having hit him.  Fortunately I was wrong.

This is the dilemma with libertarianism.  The libertarian ideology requires people to be honest.  It requires that people will be honorable in admitting their own guilt and doing what is necessary to make restitution.  There is much evidence for the efficacy of such government, and libertarians will often cite this evidence when attempting to justify their political views.  When someone suggests that sometimes an authority figure is necessary to resolve conflict, the assertion is not that there are absolutely no people of integrity, but that there are some people with no integrity.  That's all it takes.  One person ruins it for everyone.

Conrad had no guarantee that the other driver would keep his word.  If the other driver had decided to simply deny that he was ever in a collision with Conrad, he could have very well got away with it.  It would have been Conrad's word against his.  If, on the other hand, he had stayed at the scene of the accident and called the police, then he would have the law on his side.  The other driver drove off, so it would be a hit and run.

When I give a test, I cannot trust that none of my students will cheat.  I must assume that any of my students might cheat--not because all students cheat or even because a majority of students cheat, but only because I know that some students cheat and it's impossible for me to know a priori which students will cheat.  I can trust none of them because at least one of them is dishonest.  That's the way it works.  And when I believe that a student has cheated, I cannot trust the student to be honest about whether ey has or not.  I must go with my own intuition and the evidence on the matter.

So this is why I believe that libertarianism, while it seems very good in theory, is often very wrong in practice.  It requires that all people be honest.  It requires that all people will be honorable in their dealings with other people, which we know from observation is a false assumption.  We require some form of "bully" government to coerce people into admitting their own guilt and being punished for their crimes.  If people would freely admit their own faults and work to fix them we wouldn't need such a government.  But the fact of the matter is that not all people do admit their own faults.  Not all people are fair or honest in their dealings with others.  One person ruins it for everyone.  That's the sad nature of our existence.

Popular posts from this blog

What's a gainer?

If you haven't already done so, I would suggest reading my previous post before reading this one.  It's sort of an introduction and gives the motivation.  Also, by way of disclosure, this post is not sexually explicit but it does touch on the topic of sexuality and how that relates to the subject at hand.

So, what is a gainer?  I'll relate, as best I can, the experiences I have gone through myself to help answer the question.  I remember when I was a young boy--perhaps around 6 or 7--I would have various fantasies.  Not sexual fantasies, just daydreaming about hypothetical situations that I thought were interesting or entertaining.  I had many different fantasies.  Sometimes I would fantasize about becoming very muscular, sometimes about becoming very fat.  
These fantasies varied in degree of magnitude and the subject of the fantasy.  Sometimes I myself would change weight--I would become muscular or fat.  Other times, I would do something to make other people fat or musc…

Karing about others

Mostly because I have been thinking about her lately, I feel compelled to write about someone who was very dear to me.  Many people who have met me in the last several years may not be aware of the fact that I was married to a woman for 3 years. I understand there can be lots of confusion whenever I mention it, and misunderstandings or misconceptions might occur. So I would like to take this opportunity to discuss my feelings about her.

Shortly after I came out, I attended a party for ex-Mormon gay people. Many of them had been married (to someone of the opposite sex), as I had. Most of those marriages had ended in divorce. Sometimes the divorce was very ugly, other times it was rather pleasant and they remained friends throughout the process. I assume it is because of the ugly divorce scenarios that this statement was made to me. Upon revealing that I had previously been married to a woman and that the marriage had ended in her death, a man said to me that it was good that it had end…

The scientific method vs the religious method

I find it interesting when people cite the fact that science keeps changing as a reason to disbelieve it and to believe instead in the "eternal" doctrines taught by some church or other.  Let's examine why science keeps changing.  Here's the scientific method.

Develop a hypothesis (this means "have a belief").Design an experiment to test the hypothesis.Conduct the experiment.Determine whether the hypothesis is believable based on the results of the experiment. This is why science keeps changing--because people notice flaws in it and correct them.  People once thought the solar system was geocentric, but now know that it's heliocentric.  How did this happen?  By using the scientific method.  Scientists are willing to admit that they're wrong.  They're willing to give up a bad idea when they see evidence that it makes no sense.  Contrast this with the religious method (simplified version). Have a belief.Look for evidence to support that belief.Ignor…