Marxism vs. Libertarianism: Part 2

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. For the first part see: https://redmillennial.com/2013/07/23/marxism-vs-libertarianism-part-1/

The Libertarian and his response to Marxism

Libertarian advocates do not believe that Marxism is an ideal ideology at all. They view Utopian thinkers like Marx as “impractical dreamers.”  Libertarian critics of Marxism find that any attempt of the government to redistribute wealth and possessions is impractical at best and tyrannical at worst. Frédéric Bastiat, a major proprietor of Libertarian ideas, viewed government redistribution as a perversion of the law.  To him, redistribution of wealth was simply legal plunder. His rationale was that “if the law takes from some person what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong,” it is to be considered as legal plunder. Bastiat saw that that which belonged to somebody could not be taken from them without their consent. Therefore, any person or organization, whether it is legal or not, which takes any part of someone’s wealth or possessions without their consent is stealing from them, and is not benefiting the society.

Furthermore, according to Bastiat, not only is the Marxist idea of redistribution legalized plunder, it is also is a false philanthropy which destroys liberty. Bastiat takes care in delineating the difference between a community and a collectivist society. Marxism prides itself on a system designed for the furtherance of its communal good. It considers itself as a community, but Bastiat states that there is no way a community “can be legally enforced without liberty being legally destroyed, and thus justice being legally trampled underfoot.”  In a community, a person has the option whether or not to associate themselves with that community. In a collectivist society a person is forced to be in that society and subjugate themselves to that society’s laws whether they like it or not. Therefore, because it restricts one’s ability to choose, Marxism’s idea of communal redistribution hinders a person’s personal liberty.

In lieu of these objections, Libertarianism presents a competing theory on the distribution of wealth that is entirely opposite of Marxism’s perspective on wealth distribution. While Marxism believes that the government should equally distribute wealth among the civilians, Libertarianism holds that the power of distributing wealth should rest in the hands of the individual owner of said wealth and should be distributed only upon a mutual agreement of the parties exchanging the wealth. Libertarianism holds in high regard the individual, and his right to liberty. This liberty includes liberty of owning personal wealth and, more importantly, the liberty of owning property.  To the Libertarian, owning personal property and liberty are related. They believe that if one is to have liberty, it is imperative that they have the liberty of owning private property. Abraham Lincoln stated that “property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world.”  Lincoln described the Libertarian belief that private property in the hands of the citizens is of paramount importance. This is important to the distribution of wealth in a society because ownership of private property gives the individual the power to distribute his money whenever and wherever he wills and not the government.

The purpose of the government in Libertarian thought is highly limited. If there is to be any distribution of wealth, it is to be done on the free market, and not distributed by the government. Libertarianism regards the free market as the solution for economic growth, for in a free market, there is room to move up, and consequently down, different social statuses. Mark Levin summed it up by stating, “In the free market, a man born into wealth or who has otherwise acquired great riches can lose his fortune depending on how he chooses to behave. Conversely, a man born into poverty or who has lost wealth once obtained can acquire a fortune, depending, again, on how he chooses to behave.”  The benefit of a free market is that when a person chooses to distribute his wealth the way he sees fit, he himself has the ability to grow or decline depending on his choices.

Even with the appeal of individual liberty, the theory of distribution of wealth through the free market bears its own objections, the biggest objection being that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Free market critics state that the free market unevenly distributes the wealth among the rich and practically ignores the poor. There is a lot of truth to this, and this is the inherent weakness of the free market. With that being said, the weakness of the free market which Libertarianism supports still outweighs the strengths of Marxism. Sir Winston Churchill stated that “the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”  Churchill understood that in a capitalist system there would be unequal wealth distribution and the poor would suffer, for that is the nature of the free market. Nevertheless, the economy and society in general would grow, and the poor, although poor, would be better off than before. However, in a Marxist economy, all people would stay equal, and consequently would not grow due to the desire to consistently maintain equality.

In conclusion, both Libertarianism and Marxism have appealing arguments and significant flaws. Marxism desires to maintain true equality through government redistribution of wealth, but in doing so diminishes human value by plundering individual liberty. Libertarianism, on the other hand, gives its citizens the freedom to distribute their own wealth the way they see fit, but at the cost of causing inequality between the citizens. Even though Libertarianism and the free market are not perfect, even in its weaknesses they still are a more effective way to distribute wealth than Marxism, and therefore Libertarianism a better political ideology, especially concerning the redistribution of wealth.

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Follow Caleb Casto on Twitter @Caleb_Casto.

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