The Incoherence Of ‘Consequentialist’ Libertarianism

For the “consequentialist,” the political ends justify the political means. In promoting the greatest good, ethical rules are inconvenient obstacles to sacrifice to a higher goal, as the Bureaucrash Crasher-in-Chief has conceded. “Look, you cannot support the Free Market and ignore the concept of trade-offs.”

That thinking has led him to make such statements as (I confirmed many of the quotes, with slight typographical editing, given here on another blog.):

“You should accept that might makes right, and that is why we have a government.”

“Since America has the most powerful military, we are in control.”

“I’m willing to have America as the most powerful Nation.”

“The world exists as such that the strong win, and it might as well be us.”

“Did I like McCain? No. Did I vote for him over Obama? Yes.”

“The fact that limited government expanded ignored what life was like before government if you didn’t have a strong government. That is how you became a REAL slave.”

At other times, he has supported or condoned torture, the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians in wartime, military expansionism and occupation of foreign nations, immigration restrictions, governmental limitations of the marriage of consenting adults, regulation of the right to keep and bear arms, the suspension of habeas corpus for people suspected of certain crimes, the death penalty, and the abduction and killing of tax resistors. To his credit, he acknowledges the inherent violence of his beliefs, but insists that there should be procedures to keep from going to those extremes whenever possible.

BCS members have experienced firsthand the consequences of the CiC’s Machiavellian behavior. A member was banned and then reinstated under the lame excuse that the CiC thought he had renounced his citizenship and was posting a manifesto about it, while the renunciation actually happened only last year and the manifesto — completely unrelated to citizenship — was published in 1973. Forum posts and member content have been deleted without warning. These actions mirror the accusations leveled against him at his YouTube channel when other users challenged his authority or honesty.

These behaviors seem to flow from the ideas of a misguided individual, the inevitable consequence of an incoherent belief that he calls consequentialism. This dismisses the stance that human beings have rights as a basis in nature that are required for their very survival and prosperity.

There are, as I see it, some important objections to this utilitarian mindset that make it unworkable and contrary to libertarian objectives. The basic objection is that there is no rational means of objectively measuring the net impact to society for any peaceful action. (We can conclude that coercion is a net drain on utility since coercion by its nature is destructive.)

The first is the time preference concern. If we were to measure the aggregate sum of goodness, we will find that some people have more patience that others. In the political realm, politicians have a very high time preference because they want to see action as soon as possible, while they are in office, so they can further their agenda. Those outside the system or a little younger may have a longer time horizon to gauge political successes and setbacks.

Next is the scale of values. In a similar way to time preference, individuals are going to place higher and lower values on achieving political goals. A conservative Christian may have a different policy agenda than that of a member of the liberal NOW. Even members of NOW may have competing agendas on the table.

Third, one cannot aggregate utility. Utility is an ordinal (or ranked) measure of a person’s desires. So even if every person in the country had the same time preference and the same values, it would still be impossible to know how much of the national treasury should be devoted to accomplishing some goal. Only individuals, working freely with a legitimate market motive, can coordinate that effort with others.

Finally, at its heart, consequentialism relies on what Bastiat called the seen and the unseen, the truth and the half-truth. Human beings act in unpredictable ways because they have different (and sometimes secret) motivations and desires. At any time, there are at least two options (to act or not to act). Even if everyone had the same time preference, the same values and a hive-mind to sum the collective good, we would still be ignoring the possiblity of the unseen consequences of what could have been had a different action taken place. We could not weigh the consequences of an action against another when we don’t know what the other consequences would even be.

Thus, consequentialism is missing two important aspects of an ethical code, falsifiability and universality. It locks its believers into the hopeless death spiral of collectivism, leaving liberty-lovers to chip away at their chains as the total state continues its restless expansion, while liberals and conservatives are left fighting over how much freedom is necessary by using this utilitarian belief to do away with our inherent rights as individuals.

Consequentialism has limited benefits when acting with peaceful, consenting adults in predicting the results of one’s actions, but a measure of happiness is not the measure of right and wrong when that gain comes at the expense of someone else.

This consequentialism will violate the principles of Bureaucrash — and that means sacrificing you. If this is the type of belief CEI wants to govern such a great organization, I will not sit quietly.