Letter from Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Lefties, as a rule, only read other lefties. This seems to be the case with George Monbiot. His attack on libertarianism (This bastardised libertarianism makes ‘freedom’ an instrument of oppression, 19 December) is the usual mix of unwillingness and inability to understand anything outside the intellectual ghettoes of the left. He claims to have asked: “Do you accept that some people’s freedoms intrude upon other people’s freedoms?” – as if that were some knock-down refutation never made before. Of course we do. Our difference with him isn’t that we are against courts and the other modes of dispute resolution. What we deny is that social peace requires an enlarged and omnicompetent state run by his friends.
He claims we “pretend … that only the state intrudes on our liberties. [We] ignore … the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free.” Not quite. We do believe that the state is the foremost violator of our right to life, liberty and property. But we also observe that banks are licensed and regulated creatures of the state, and that big business in general is only big because of state-granted privileges like limited liability, infrastructure subsidies, and tax and regulatory systems that cartellise costs and flatten competition from outside the magic circle. There is a difference between believing in free markets and supporting actually existing capitalism.
You could have published an attack on libertarianism that didn’t border on misrepresentation. Or perhaps not. That would have meant exposing your readers to genuine libertarian positions. And that might, in a few cases, have opened the gates of their intellectual ghetto.
Dr Sean Gabb
Director, Libertarian Alliance