"The object of the classical liberals was to bring about individual liberty in all of its interrelated aspects." (Murray Rothbard)
Grimey and the libertarians
This blog on the site of the British newspaper The Guardian fis one of the most silly ones I have read for a long time. It's written by a certain David Robert Grimes, a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. He tries show that libertarians are the natural enemies of science. I will discuss his examples later but let's start by saying that he does not seem to understand the difference between ideology and science.
For ALL ideologies are in fact "enemies" of science. That's why they are ideologies, which becomes even more clear when you list some of it's synonyms: credo, doctrine, dogma, gospel, creed. Ideology is about values and conformism, science is about facts and dissent. For instance, I believe in individual rights. That's an important part of my credo. One of those individual rights is the right to property, including weapons. In my value-system it's not a crime to possess a weapon, it's not even a crime to use it in self-defence. But suppose that science demonstrates that countries with no restrictions on guns have more violence. Should I change my values according to these facts? Or suppose that science demonstrates that man-made global warming is a fact, should we give up our believe that free markets can solve this problem? Should we all become believers in state planning? Of course not.The FACT that global warming exists says nothing about posssible solutions. However, David Robert Grimes seems to think that the existence of man-made global warming in itself proves the failure of economic liberalism.
Neither does he understand how science really works. If you want to show that libertarians are the enemies of science you need at least to come up with some scientific polls showing that people with libertarian leanings have unscientific views on a number of issues. And even this doesn't prove much. What he does instead is to cherry pick three examples where SOME "libertarians" do not agree with the scientific majority and deduces from this fact that libertarianISM is the NATURAL enemy of science. Those issues are global warming, health care and gun control.
Global warming first. Are most libertarians in the camp of the denialists? I don't have a clue, but neither does Grimes. He does quote Sarah Palin, but she's a (neo)conservative and not a libertarian. And yes he does quote Ron Paul saying that climate change is a hoax. But the same Ron Paul, in an interview with Bill Maher, also gave a very good example of a libertarian solution for global warming: stop fighting wars over cheap oil. Man-made global warming does not preclude free market solutions or economic liberalism to solve the problem. This is not cognitive dissonance and neither does it mean that libertarian axiom is fundamentally flawed.
Concerning health care Grimes again does not have any idea what libertarians really think about the issue. To mask his lack of knowledge of the libertarians position he starts of with quoting Paul Krugman, a leftwing opinion maker and a natural enemy of
economic science libertarians. Krugman writes that disciples of Milton Friedman are opposed to the US Federal Drug Administration, which is true. However, apart from libertarian ideology they have another good reason to be opposed to the FDA. They have science on their side. In fact, it's Krugman who is the ideologue here.
Then Grimes argues that libertarians trust private companies too much. Here he makes the classic mistake of confusing private corporations with the free market. In fact, libertarians do not trust private companies at all: that's why they favor completely free markets, so that "bad" companies are weeded out. Consumers are sovereign, not companies. Again, his arguments shows that he does not have fucking clue about what libertarians really believe. I'd bet Grimey never has read libertarians like Arnold Kling or John Goodman on health care. Certainly you could disagree with them, but saying that they are anti-science is ridiculous.
Finally gun control. Here I come back to my starting point. Libertarians consider private property to be sacrosanct. Libertarians also believe that we have the right to defend ourselves. So we have the right to own and use weapons. Whatever science shows, these are fundamental human rights, and government does not have the right to abrigde them. So it's perfectly possible to accept scientific facts concerning guns and violence and at the same time reject the conclusion that we need more gun control. There is nogcognitive dissonance here. And neither does science show that the libertarian axiom is flawed.
And what about issues he doesn't mention? Free trade for instance on which 99% of all economists agree with 100% of all libertarians. Does this one example in fact prove that libertarianism is the FRIEND of science? Of course not, only that it's disingenous to cherry pick your examples. So beware Grimey, that your unscientific bashing of those stupid libertarians does not lead to this: