Note: I feel the need to clarify what should be an obvious point. Obviously I’m not saying that everyone who does not believe in libertarianism is a sociopath. The article explains the particular reason why sociopaths hate it and how to identify them by the arguments they make.
For anyone who has had discussions (read: arguments) online with others, bringing up or defending libertarianism always conjures up certain individuals from the bowels of the Internet whose reactions reveal their reason for their outrage at a belief that people have natural rights that must be respected.
To start off, skepticism of libertarian anarchy is natural. It is a counter intuitive system that on the surface goes against what seems natural. It is also contrary to everything people have been raised to believe since they were a child about government. I myself used to be highly suspicious, and it is not without a sense of irony I find myself debating those who made the same arguments as I did five or six years ago. For that reason, I try to be civil and courteous.
I find nothing wrong with people asking questions or appearing incredulous of the idea when they first hear it. How they respond when I offer to explain it to them, however, tells you something about where their heart lies. Some will listen and even if they don’t agree they will at least acknowledge your intention is to promote freedom and liberty.
There is a certain group who react to a civil and polite comment with the distinct rage of a wild beast, undirected, non sequitar in content, and dismissive of questions they cannot answer. They refuse to show the slightest ounce of cordiality to libertarians who, unlike others, acknowledge and respect their rights. They will not concede that you truly desire that which you claim and accuse you of being disingenuous about your intentions.
Being described as despicable, greedy, anti-social, and a horrible person is inevitable. Their outrage is actually logical. They just won’t admit why. It is because you want to be free, which they translate to mean you’re trying to force your beliefs on them.
When you encounter someone making a statement along these lines, it’s time to stop the discussion and let it go. Chances are, you’ve encountered a sociopath, or a person who has embraced the values of a sociopath. There is nothing productive in debating them. You are not arguing with a person.
You see, it is possible to have discussions with people of different political stripes and use the same terminology with the same definitions.
For example, a constitutionalist believes that the government is a necessary evil in order to protect individual rights from others who do not respect them. While they may concede that taxation, as properly defined, constitutes a form of theft, they argue that this imperfect method is the most practical way of maintaining liberties and the alternative to government is the loss of all freedoms. They believe a written constitution can be used to restrain a government by limiting the powers granted to them. Like I do, they cherish freedom and liberty as understood, but believe that some liberties must be given up to an authority in order to preserve the others and that there is ultimately no perfect way to do so because humans are flawed. A constitutionalist also believes that a government derives its powers from those they govern.
Although I disagree with this political philosophy for various reasons, I can have a discussion with someone who believes this because they acknowledge that my intentions and my beliefs are sincere. I use the word “rights” and “freedom” in the same manner with which they do. They operate from the same default position as I do; a person is created with natural rights that do not come from a government. He does not have a right to violate mine, nor I his. Unlike me, he believes exceptions need to be made to protect these liberties but acknowledges them as exceptions, not the rule.
To a sociopath, however, there is an entirely separate definition to all these words. Their default position is that they have the power to do whatever they want and you have no right to resist them. To them, the concept of property rights doesn’t exist as one thinks of property. From their perspective, no one has any right to property. Except themselves. What’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs, too.
In case you’re wondering, the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath generally rests on whether or not they directly violate other people’s rights. For example, a sociopath will not directly kill or steal. But they have no qualms electing another sociopath into a political office and supporting psychopaths who ready to do the killing and stealing for them. Psychopaths make little to no pretense about who they are. A sociopath, however, will hide underneath a veneer to fit in with the crowd.
This is critical to understanding the vitriol aimed at libertarianism by a certain subsection of people. Beneath their false claims to empathy and concern for their fellow man is an underlying, insatiable desire to control everything.
This is how they can arrive at the conclusion that anyone who resists being told what to do is “imposing their morality on them,” which is akin to a man trying to kidnap a child, only to be shot by the father, and as he dies tells the police the father was trying to impose his morality on him.
I encounter this type of argument all the time when discussing libertarian ideas with those who claim libertarianism is a moral philosophy and thus imposes moral views on other people who do not believe it. Ironically, they never bother to ask the same questions about their own beliefs or hold themselves to the same standard.
Really, it doesn’t come down to imposing morality. It comes down to property rights. On my property, I have a right to impose my morality. Outside of it, however, I do not. It’s that simple. Sociopath see themselves as having the right to anything they desire, but nobody has the right to take anything from them.
Again, what’s theirs is theirs and yours is theirs, as well.
I continually ask these people why they have a qualm with those like myself who believe, despite our many differences with them, that I do not have the right to initiate violence or coercion against them or their property. To this day, I have never received a straightforward reply.
The reason is they don’t have a problem with that aspect of libertarianism. They hate that the door swings both ways. It prohibits them from violating my rights. Libertarianism does not simply restrain those who adhere to it. It empowers them and gives them a foundation on which they defend their property rights against those who would trespass against it.
Nothing enrages a sociopath more than a person who denies them the consent to do something against them. Usually, a sociopath will use rhetoric or emotion to trick someone into granting consent. So when someone explicitly denies it to them, they are unable to hide behind the pretense, and it drives them crazy, as sociopaths think of themselves on an entirely separate level than everyone else. Because they have no empathy or compassion, albeit they fake both well, they consider it a sign of their superiority that they get to do whatever they want.
Hence, why they will never answer the question directly about what they hate about libertarianism, because it would necessitate them admitting their belief comes down to “rights for me, but not for thee.” A critical aspect of being a sociopath is that you never admit your sense of superiority.
Doug Casey compiled what must be the best list of sociopathic traits I’ve ever encountered. The rest of the article is a good read, too.
Incidentally, while I was writing this, I encountered a video online that demonstrates my point perfectly.
In the video a girl is bullying a boy on a school bus while others record it and cheer. The boy repeatedly asks to be left alone so he can go home as she slaps and kicks him. Once he finally decides to defend himself and proves that girls shouldn’t pick on boys, everyone else around him, including the girl’s brother, scream in outrage.
How dare you defend yourself against a harasser! You don’t have the right to impose “your morality” on us! We can do whatever we want when we want because we are superior!
Another example occurred in February of this year, when a child was handing out Valentine cards to his classmates. The cards contained the history of St. Valentine, who was, shock, a saint. Not surprisingly, the teacher and school officials confiscated the cards and threw them in the garbage. When the parents tried to get answers, they were ignored. So they filed a lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the school district attorney told them the following:
The Constitution prohibits a person from imposing their religious beliefs on someone else; therefore, the school district can restrict a student from distributing religious materials.
Let’s ignore how inane this argument is about the Constitution, which requires an imbecile’s interpretation of the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause. The key word used in the attorney’s statement is “imposing.”
Let the logic sink in for a moment: A child exercising their right to speak and interact voluntarily with other children, who are free to not interact with him or take the cards being offered, is ‘imposing’ his religious beliefs on them, but the teacher confiscating his private property and destroying it somehow does not constitute theft and destruction of private property. This is not to even mention that the child is there to begin with because of people imposing their morality on the parents by forcing the child to attend and then extorting money from them based on their property’s value to fund the school district.
Remember: Rights for me, but not for thee.
It is vital to understand this twisted way of thinking, as it runs completely counter to basic logic we take for granted. To a sociopath, forcing someone to do something against their will is being social and selfless and displays empathy, while respecting other people’s rights and freedoms is a sign of anti-social behavior.
This is also why you will hear them make comments about how you are “imposing your morality on them” or how libertarianism is a moral philosophy and thus requires them to accept it.
Having written on libertarianism as a political philosophy repeatedly here and here, I will make one concession on this point. Libertarian rests on a moral belief that people have natural rights that do not come from other people, but are an innate part of their existence. Our rights do not come from governments or any human entity. If someone believes differently, it is sensible to assume that the burden of proof rests on them. They must prove that they have legitimate authority to tell others what to do.
But even then, what’s their point? I fail to appreciate the argument they are making. Libertarianism allows us to impose our morality on others when its within our property rights, which is why we have a right to impose our moral belief on a would-be murderer. Isn’t the belief that it is wrong to impose your morality on others in fact a moral belief? Does that not require “imposing” it on others?
The idea that a society can exist where no one’s ‘morality’ is imposed on other, as understood by their remark, is an inane one. The idea of a society in which peoples’ rights and property are protected and respected, however, is not impossible.
In the same way, libertarian rests on the moral principle that it is wrong to use coercion and violence against an innocent person or their property and they have a right to use violence and coercion to defend themselves against aggression. The only person who would complain about such a morality being imposed on them is someone who believes they have a moral right to do things to other people and their property without their consent. Call me ignorant, but isn’t that ‘imposing’ their morals on them? The difference is the former does not violate anyone’s rights. The latter does.
For example, murder, theft, rape, and kidnapping are all crimes. They are considered immoral and prohibited. Because we have murderers, thieves, rapists, and kidnappers in the world, this means there are those who do not believe it is wrong, therefore they have different morals.
Are these same people going to complain that someone is “imposing their morality” on them by banning these crimes? Only someone who wants to murder, steal, rape, and kidnap.
For a logical person, this makes sense.
Keep in mind that to a sociopath, it’s all about double-standards and contradictions. You have no rights unless you prove you do and until you do, they and those who think as they do have the natural authority or power to give you orders and use direct or indirect violence to enforce their commands. The opposite is not true, however. The natural state of things, to them, is that they have the authority to tell others what to do and when someone refuses they are “imposing their morality.” They do not have to prove anything.
Not surprisingly, they seem to not grasp the depth of their own hypocrisy when they rail against people who think differently but possess the same delusion that they have a right to tell others to behave as they do. They favor taxation – as long as the taxes are used to pay for what they want.
This type of deranged thinking in politics is what gives rise to extremists on both sides and the totalitarian attitude that government should be used to suppress certain beliefs because such beliefs are a threat to the freedom of others. The sad truth is that they are not incorrect in their conclusion about their opponents. This is one of the reasons I remained politically conservative for so long. Progressives and liberals who disagreed with me on issues were unwilling to concede that I even had a right to live my life as I pleased if I was willing to respect their right to do so as well. It backed me into a corner. Given either the choice of having their views imposed on me or my views imposed on them, it was reasonable that I chose the latter until I encountered a philosophy that demonstrated how I could defend my rights without infringing on theirs.
The attitude of the sociopath is that you do not have a right to do what you wish. You do not have the right to even think you do. You can’t think differently. You must think as they do, and if you don’t you better keep it to yourself or they have the authority to use violence and coercion against you. In our 1984 world, having an attitude this is referred to as being “tolerant.”
If there is a better explanation for why people lash out so hatefully at libertarians, the group who grant them the most rights of any out there, I haven’t found it yet.