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L. Neil Smith's
Number 789, September 21, 2014

2 to the chest,& 1 to the head,
puts the terrorist down and dead

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Jon Stewart's 19 Tough Questions for Libertarians
by Sean Gangol

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I have wanted to write this article for nearly two years, but I kept getting distracted with other topics, which seemed more pressing then this one. Lately I have enjoyed writing articles in response to the misconceptions that statists have about libertarianism, so I decided to answer Jon Stewart's 19 Toughest Questions for Libertarians. For those of you who don't know who Jon Stewart is, he is a comedian who stars in The Daily Show a comedic news show that takes potshots at politicians (mostly on the right). I can't say that I have ever been overly fond of the show mostly due to the comedy being weak. Jon Stewart is moderately funny on the show, though I prefer his old stand up routines. Putting that aside, I remembered that Jon Stewart had made a list of questions that were supposedly too tough for libertarians to answer.

Stewart had asked these questions to Judge Andrew Napolitano. I didn't see this particular episode, so I can't really comment on how Napolitano answered the questions. After reading these questions, I would have to say that they are tough. This is due to the horrible way that these questions are worded. Some of them aren't even questions. They are more like declarative statements and poorly worded ones at that. Many of them are based on the typical misconceptions and straw man arguments that statists usually have about libertarianism. As difficult as they were to answer I did manage it. I decided not to respond to the more condescending aspects of the questions because I didn't think they were worth dignifying with an answer.

Is government the antithesis of liberty?

No, unfortunately the government just wants to expand, which usually leads to less liberty.

One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom.

Is this a question or a declarative statement? Anyway, yes in a way it is true that having infrastructure does enhance freedom because it allows freedom of movement. Contrary to what people think about libertarians we actually do want to have roads and infrastructure. We just don't think government is the only way to go about creating these things. As for the social safety net enhancing freedom, it's not that we are against having safety nets we just don't think government is the answer. Many of the government safety nets actually encourage generations of dependency. I don't know about you, but that is not my idea of freedom.

What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?

I assume you are referring to individuals and companies that make bad financial mistakes, which leads to them being losers in the free market. If that is the case then there is nothing you can do, but allow these people to learn from their mistakes. I know that in some cases people become "losers" due to unfortunate circumstances, but when they chose to compete in a free market, they knew what the risks were ahead of time. You shouldn't gamble unless you are prepared to lose.

Do we live in a society or don't we? Are we a collective? Everybody's success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn't believe in evolution, it's awfully Darwinian.

There are so many things that are wrong with this statement. Nobody is actually claiming that one's success isn't dependent on others. People work together all the time through voluntary actions, which don't require government force. As for the part about the "losers" being hung out to dry, what would you have us do? Protect everybody from their own failures? If everybody was protected by their own failures, there would be no way anybody could possibly grow as a person. We learn just as much from failure as we do from success. Also, I know that this is a minor point, but the majority of us do believe in evolution (myself included). For some reason you lefties keep getting us confused with fundamentalist Christians. By the way, comparing the free market to Darwin's theory of evolution, fails on so many levels. You may want to read more on the subject.

In a representative democracy, we are the government. We have work to do, and we have a business to run, and we have children to raise. We elect you as our representatives to look after our interests within a democratic system.

In theory this is true. Unfortunately government officials only seem to care about their own interests. They have no reason to be accountable to anybody. Sure, you could try to vote them out in the next election, but what good is that going to do once you elect new officials that are just as bad? Come on, Jon. I have seen you take potshots at politicians on a daily basis. You can't be this naive.

Is government inherently evil?

Well, Thomas Jefferson said it best, as the government naturally grows, individual liberty decreases. Does that make government inherently evil? I don't think government is evil or good. It does give groups and individuals the power to carry out evil things. It's like that old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely. This is true even with those who have good intentions.

Sometimes to protect the greater liberty you have to do things like form an army, or gather a group together to build a wall or levy.

Yes, people are better at accomplishing things when they work together. Again, we see this everyday through the voluntary actions of the people. People also come together during natural disasters, while the government usually makes bad situations worse. As for the part about having a standing army, not all libertarians are in agreement with this issue. My favorite libertarian writer, L. Neil Smith believes that we should still have a professional army that is small and restrained, while giving the bulk of our defense to civilian militias. There are other libertarians who believe in using various forms of private security for defense. What's my answer? Frankly, I don't know, since none of the ideas that I just mentioned have been tried before. Though I do lean more towards Smith's idea.

As soon as you've built an army, you've now said government isn't always inherently evil because we need it to help us sometimes, so now.. it's that old joke: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? How about a dollar?—Who do you think I am?—We already decided who you are, now we're just negotiating.

I am not even going to address the condescending part of this statement, though not because it's condescending. It's because it doesn't really make sense, even from a comical standpoint. As I said before, having a standing army may be a necessary evil or there may be another solution that lies in the private sector. I simply do not know.

You say: government which governs least governments best. But that were the Articles of Confederation. We tried that for 8 years, it didn't work, and went to the Constitution.

Well, the government that we ended up with hasn't fared any better. The government routinely ignores the restraints that were set up for it in the Constitution, while routinely violating the very rights that the Constitution claims it protects. Does that mean that we should have stuck with The Articles of Confederation? I don't know for sure, but I have actually heard libertarians who make the argument that the problem with The Articles of Confederation was that it wasn't limited enough.

You give money to the IRS because you think they're gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water.

Jon, I think you are confused about what the IRS does. The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for collecting federal income tax. Fire departments are usually paid with taxes from the state and local levels. Also, when you use words like "give" it indicates that we are voluntarily handing our money over to the IRS. Believe me there is nothing voluntary about the IRS. Don't believe me? Try refusing to pay them and see what happens. By the way, there is probably a way to establish a fire department without using the force of government to collect revenue.

Why is it that libertarians trust a corporation, in certain matters, more than they trust representatives that are accountable to voters? The idea that I would give up my liberty to an insurance company, as opposed to my representative, seems insane.

What is it with you lefties and corporations? You guys never seem to understand that corporations and government are in league with each other, which is the polar opposite of free markets. As for the part about representatives being accountable to voters, what parallel universe are you living in? I have already said that the officials only care about their own interests. As for the part about giving my liberty up to an insurance company instead of my representative, no offense Jon, but that statement is completely asinine. First of all, who do you think created these insurance cartels in the first place? Insurance companies themselves have no power to force us to buy their policies. Only government has that power, as we have seen recently with the Obamacare fiasco.

Why is it that with competition, we have such difficulty with our health care system? ..and there are choices within the educational system.

You people on the left seemed to have a misconception about our healthcare being a free market system. Even before the recent debacle with Obamacare, there hasn't been a free market healthcare system in nearly two centuries. The medical establishment decided to lobby the government to regulate our healthcare, which led to having fewer doctors and fewer healers. Government interference is how we ended up with healthcare that is more expensive and harder to access

Would you go back to 1890?

No. Why would you ever ask such a question?

If we didn't have government, we'd all be in hovercrafts, and nobody would have cancer, and broccoli would be ice-cream?

I am not even going to dignify this one with an answer.

Unregulated markets have been tried. The 80's and the 90's were the robber baron age. These regulations didn't come out of an interest in restricting liberty. What they did is came out of an interest in helping those that had been victimized by a system that they couldn't fight back against.

I assume that you are talking about the 1880's and 1890's. This is a prime example of how people on the left seem to only know the history that is taught in government schools. If you bothered to do any real reading outside of government school textbooks, then you would know that rather then "victimizing" the common man, they actually made goods more accessible to him. Thanks to a "robber baron" named John T. Rockefeller, the price of kerosene became so cheap that poor people were able to keep their houses illuminated at night. Also, we have a capitalist named Henry Ford, who not only made the automobile more accessible to the common man, but managed to create eight hour work days and forty hour work weeks. Jon, it may do you good to read something else besides government school text books and maybe your impression of that era won't be so cartoon like.

Why do you think workers that worked in the mines unionized?

That was because of the harsh conditions of the time. Wow, a question that I could actually answer with one sentence.

Without the government there are no labor unions, because they would be smashed by Pinkerton agencies or people hired, or even sometimes the government.

Do you realize that this sentence doesn't make much sense? Without government there are no labors unions because they would be smashed by government? Are you not seeing how this sentence is coming off contradictory, Jon? Once again your sense of history is pretty cartoon like. People on the left always have this romantic notion of labor unions representing the will of the entire work force, while the evil capitalists are trying to squash them. I hate to break it to you, but the unions weren't always the good guys. You have the Molly Maguires who sometimes used terrorist tactics against company bosses and then we have modern day union bosses who are at times more corrupt then company bosses. Jimmy Hoffa, ring any bells? Also, your claim that unions wouldn't have existed if weren't for government is flat out wrong. Unions existed almost a century before the government officially sided with them. It's also interesting that we are living in an era of big government, but union memberships are at an all-time low. Why do you think this is, Jon?

Would the free market have desegregated restaurants in the South, or would the free market have done away with miscegenation, if it had been allowed to? Would Marten Luther King have been less effective than the free market? Those laws sprung up out of a majority sense of, in that time, that blacks should not. The free market there would not have supported integrated lunch counters.

Okay, Jon, your sense of history is even worse then what is being taught in government schools. From what I remember about the history that I was taught in these same schools was that in many cases it was the state and local governments that were responsible for lunch counters being segregated in the first place. I also remember that one of the most successful tactics used by Civil Rights warriors were boycotts of establishments that supported segregation. Does the Montgomery Bus Boycott mean anything to you?

Government is necessary but must be held accountable for its decisions.

Once you find a government that will allow it to be held accountable, be sure to let me know. So far I have yet to see one.

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