WTF is wrong with libertarians?

Paul Fiolkowski
4 min readJul 31, 2023

As a liberal-leaning person, my issues with libertarians (at least those in the US) are:

  • So much distrust of “big government” or even government in general. I feel that the US has this “rebellious streak” in its culture where skepticism of governments and being in opposition to what the government is doing is a “cool” thing. The thing is, governments work better when the citizens also work alongside it, not against it. Besides, in a true democracy, you — the people — elected the government. Don’t like it? Well, that’s your fault for voting them in.
  • Disdain for regulations. It seems that resisting new legislation is a bit of a hobby for libertarians. Sometimes, this is something I can get behind; too much red tape makes inefficient government. But sometimes, some of these libertarians go so far as to try to remove protective regulations. As someone with an engineering background, I’m too well-aware that some rules are there to protect people because someone got hurt. Removing those rules will only let others in the future to repeat the same mistakes.
  • “Cult of the self”; be it Ayn Rand or just those “rugged individualist”, some ideas from the libertarian camp comes as really selfish and… asshole-ish. I’ve come across arguments like “we don’t want universal medical insurance because I’m not paying for someone else when they get sick”. It’s so… insensitive. This “someone else” could be a struggling single mother from a broken home who had known nothing but hard, menial work at your favorite fast food restaurant for years and just so happen to fall seriously ill and can’t afford the healthcare she needs. This “someone else” could be a kind man who just lost all his money being cheated by a trusted partner and then got into an accident. I mean, whatever happened to Love thy neighbor, charity, compassion, and all? Taxes and government programs are meant to organize this systematically. Yes, they can and have been abused, but that’s a poor reason to reject it entirely.
  • Dogmatic rejection of socialism. In the US, many people would say, “socialism = bad”. That is not an exaggeration. The problem is that this has been repeated over and over again to the point it’s like a religious doctrine. And today it’s being used to simply shoot down any potentially useful idea just because it smacks “socialism”. Not very intellectually honest now, is it?
  • Sometimes they’re either being dishonest or just ignorant, especially when they’re talking about stuff outside the US.

Let's look at a few real-world examples of libertarian results.

This is what New York’s sky looked like before government regulation of power lines. It wasn’t just aesthetically unappealing, it was dangerous, People died when these lines rubbed together and lost insulation or fell.

Upton Sinclair spent six weeks in a Chicago meat packing planet as preparation for writing “The Jungle” a polemic novel intended to convince people to turn to socialism. It didn’t work, but his vivid description of the filth and disease in the meat-packing industry did convince people to back government safety regulations in the food and drug industries.

It was government regulation and mandated schooling which pulled children out of being used as factory labour with no regard for worker safety. They were being killed and crippled doing these kinds of jobs.

When the Irish potato blight hit on the other hand, the British government decided not to get involved. “Let the free market deal with the problem,” they said. The free market did not in fact deal with the problem. It was still more profitable to raise cash crops on Irish land than to feed the starving population.

In the hot summer of 1858 the effluent being dumped into the river Thames by London reached critical mass and the resulting smell became known as the “Great Stink”. London had been experiencing regular cholera epidemics due to contaminated wells. Significant contact with Thames water was certain death.

It was government that intervened by building a massive sewer system that ended the cholera outbreaks.

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Paul Fiolkowski

I am just another American expat, who found that yes indeed, the grass can be greener elsewhere.