An article claiming that libertarians support autocracy has made ripples online. In this article, Sam Bowman rebuts that article and argues that its author fundamentally misunderstands – and misrepresents – his topic.
Michael Lind has a long post on Salon.com on “Why Libertarians Apologise for Autocracy”. The piece is rather long, and has been getting some attention online. In my view it is a rather bad piece. In this post I want to reply to some of the most important claims that it makes. His post is a little incoherent, so forgive me if my reply doesn’t work well as a standalone piece. I encourage readers to take a look at Lind's piece before reading this.
Lind’s thesis is that libertarian objectives are incompatible with the democratic system of governance that most people value. This is a valid argument, and indeed one that has been made by some libertarians. Where Lind gets it wrong is in his seemingly-wilful misreading of key libertarian thinkers (like Mises and Hayek) and his shallow understanding of the libertarian movement in general.
Lind opens by quoting Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism. This book, written in 1929, contains a discussion of fascism in which Mises appears to praise this system. Lind quotes Mises:
It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aimed at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has for the moment saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.
It's a pity that Lind’s article links to the Amazon page for Liberalism, rather than the free download from Mises.org. If he had linked to the full version, the meaning of this strange statement would have become clear. Cato at Liberty have the full quote: [Continue reading...]