Proof that Libertarians Do Not Exist

2 minute read

Krugman's Box, Source:

Man, that is awkward.

In his recent New York Times column, Paul Krugman states that there are no real libertarians in America. The premises of Krugman's argument comes from his theory that all voters base their vote on basically two issues: health insurance and social policies (gay marriage, abortion, etc). That is it.

Using some really strong logic, which for Krugman consists of drawing a small box with horizontal and vertical labels, Krugman has successfully proven how libertarians simply do not exist. I will let him speak for himself:

You might be tempted to say that this is a vast oversimplification, that there’s much more to politics than just these two issues. But the reality is that even in this stripped-down representation, half the boxes are basically empty. There ought in principle, you might think, be people who are pro-gay-marriage and civil rights in general, but opposed to government retirement and health care programs — that is, libertarians — but there are actually very few....

...In any case, bear this in mind whenever you read some pontificating about a libertarian moment, or whatever. There are almost no genuine libertarians in America — and the people who like to use that name for themselves do not, in reality, love liberty.

Honestly speaking, Krugman's argument is both stupid and right. He is right in so far that the average voter largely bases their decision on a narrow set of policy options (funny enough, it was the libertarians of the Chicago school of economics that created most of the public choice theory that goes behind that thinking). When it comes to voting, people simply do  not have the incentive to remain informed on all policy issues, and I agree with that line of thought.

However, Krugman does not really frame his argument around that. Instead, Krugman takes a tangent on how people literally cannot be libertarians because, as humans, our political views often stem from our beliefs in preserving types of social hierarchies. Again, Krugman speaks on some truth here, but only partially. Yes, humans like to preserve institutional norms and behaviours that they either benefit from or are accustomed to.

However, none of that precludes any possibility of individuals embracing the 'policies of libertarians.' The logic is flimsy and the theory is weak. Americans are increasingly identifying with libertarian views, especially when faced with the serial policy failures created by both liberals and conservatives.

Gallup Polls show that Libertarian identifying voters are at an all time high, Source:

Krugman seriously did some mental acrobatics to convince himself that this theory made any sense. A pattern I am noticing, however, is how many liberals and conservatives are bashing libertarianism right as it is becoming a serious political force. I wonder why.