By Mr. Y
Yes, I know. The title is very provocative. Anyway, today I decided to write a post discussing if libertarians hate poor people. This issue comes up because libertarians are against the use of government to transfer money or other forms of wealth from the relatively rich to the relatively poor. Therefore, the question at hand is why libertarians oppose this, and is it because they hate or don’t care about the poor? In my opinion, the answer to this question varies from person to person. For an individual person, the answer may be yes or no, but you cannot place one answer on a group of people.
To answer this question, we must first start with examining what it means to be a libertarian. Libertarianism is a type of political theory. Political theory deals with questions of morality, specifically, the small subset of morality which deals with the use of force. That is, how should force be used, when should it be used, by whom can force be used, etc. This is important to understand, because we must realize that people hold moral beliefs apart from their political beliefs. Morality can be split into many ways. One way into which we can split it is a distinction between moral rules that deal with the use of force or violence, and moral rules which do not deal with the use of force or violence. Political morality is the former, and all other moral rules fall into the latter. Therefore, for a libertarian, moral rules of how to use force and violence are dealt with using libertarian philosophy, and he/she may use some other philosophy or philosophies to deal with all other moral rules. The only thing that unites libertarians is that they all agree (or mostly agree) on how to use force and violence. But they may disagree vehemently on all other moral rules.
So, what is the libertarian philosophy? A libertarian believes in what is called the non-aggression axiom, which is as follows: It is immoral to initiate the use of force or fraud (breaking of contracts) against another’s person or property.
In other words, a person (or persons) may not use force or the threat of force, or break an agreement with another person if that other person has not already done so. So if someone else has not attacked you or stolen some of your property, then you may not do so either. But if the other person has done that, then you are allowed to use force or violence to defend yourself or your property. Most people already believe this, but the difference between libertarians and most other philosophies is that we believe that this principle applies to everyone, including the state. Normally, the state is said to have a different moral framework, in that it is allowed to follow different moral rules. For example, it is allowed to tax people (initiating force against a person’s money), conscript people (initiating force against a person), and so on, while we are not allowed to do these things. Libertarians believe that there is no difference between if we do something, and if the government does something, and so usually oppose most anything the government does, though some do allow for a limited government.
Sorry that was all very long, but I felt that was important in order to understand the question at hand: Do libertarians hate poor people? In order to answer this question, we must look at the motivations for why someone has chosen the libertarian philosophy. Their motivations, or intentions, may be divided up into two groups, for the purpose of this article. The first group of people is those whose motivation for becoming a libertarian is dependent on what answer they give to the question at hand. In other words, a person may say, ‘Yes, I do hate or not care about poor people, and therefore I will become a libertarian’. Or, they may say, ‘No, I don’t hate poor people, in fact I care for them very much, and therefore, I will become a libertarian’. The second group is those people whose motivation to be a libertarian is independent of how they answer the question. So, for example, they may say, ‘No, I don’t hate poor people, but that has nothing to do with why I chose to be a libertarian.’
The first group is those whose decision to be libertarians is dependent on whether or not they hate or don’t care about poor people. Within this group, there are those who believe that the libertarian ideal is the best way to peace, prosperity, and community. They point to the increase in living standards that occurred due to freer markets, and free trade between countries. The industrial revolution increased productivity dramatically, due to the increase in factories, interchangeable parts, mechanized agriculture, and point out that this only occurred due to the freedom to privately invest and take risks to support businesses which were on the leading edge of innovation and productivity. Though the wealthy got more wealthy, it occurred because the poor were able to buy their products, often better and cheaper, and raise their own standard of living as well. Therefore, they say, we are libertarians due to all the great things that the free market has accomplished, including for the poor.
There may be others who are libertarians because they hate or don’t care for the poor. They may believe that the poor don’t deserve any money because they are too lazy or something, and only those who produce something that others deem valuable deserve any money or wealth. Therefore, they believe in libertarianism because they don’t want to give any money to them. There are others who may advocate some kind of darwinian survival of the fittest as well, though these are few in number, as the free market does not promote destruction of one another, but peaceful cooperation and exchange. They are probably found more in totalitarian regimes, as in nazi germany, where they were able to carry out their plans with the force of the government behind them.
The second group is those who decide to be libertarians for reasons that are independent of whether they do or don’t care about poor people. A person may believe that it is simply immoral to use force or violence against another person, if the other person has not used violence either. In that case, they would believe that taxation, for whatever purpose, is immoral. In this case, these people are libertarians simply because they want to avoid initiating force and violence for its own sake, rather than for some other purpose.
A person may be a libertarian for this reason and still care about poor people. A person may be very generous with their own time and money, and help others, but believe that he can only use his own wealth for this purpose, not take from someone else to accomplish this purpose. Another person may be a libertarian for the same reason, but instead of being generous with time and money, not give to anyone, and possibly despise the poor. Both of these people are libertarians for the same reason, a reason which is independent of whether they believing in helping poor people or not. Once again, remember that morality has many parts, and being a libertarian is only one small part. A person may be libertarian, but also believe it would be immoral for him/her not to help the poor. Another person may also be libertarian, but not believe the second part.
In conclusion, this is a complicated question, with no one answer for everybody, and hopefully all this makes some sense. Thanks for reading.