A common argument against libertarians is that they are merely selfish individuals uninterested in anyone else.
It’s actually an effective rebuttal – though not because it is logical or rational. What it does is put the libertarian on the defensive, as it is inferred that it is true unless the libertarian can prove otherwise.
What makes it effective is that is hits a person on an emotional level. It is a direct, personal attack on one’s character, integrity, and moral convictions. It makes a grand assumption so horrible that to let the insult pass is to imply it is truth.
It is a variation of the Big Lie: If you’re going to insult your opponent, make the insult a big one.
This way, they spend the rest of the discussion proving how they are not selfish, which continually leaves them open to further attacks and prodding by their opponent.
The insult is also meant to provoke outrage and distract someone. Rather than think rationally, and calmly, they become angry and react emotionally, which causes them to stumble in their thinking. The odds are greater they will make a logical error that their opponent will pounce on and use to “prove” libertarianism is wrong.
As effective as this ex cathedra-style declaration is, it is also easily refutable.
Often, when someone makes the “selfish” argument, it is most likely they are promoting a government action in which they will personally benefit – at your expense.
Just remember: Anyone who demands you do something “selfless” that benefits them are they themselves selfish.
There are a few response below that will suffice in putting them back on the defensive.
Just remember, people who call you “selfish” have made the decision not to be polite in the discussion. You do not owe them any benefit of doubt as to their intentions.
How more selfish can you get by claiming that you have the right to someone else’s property, body or wealth and can take it without their consent?
I do not believe I have the right to use violence or coercion to take your property or force you to do things against your will, because I care about your rights and respect them. You obviously do not care about mine, because you are more interested in what benefits you than whether or not you are violating them in order to get what you want.
If by “selfish” you mean I believe I do not have the right to steal other people’s property, as you apparently do, then yes I am selfish. But if that is your definition of selfish then it is incorrect.
You seem to be implying by your remark that selfishness is something that be quantified and ultimately regulated and/or outlawed. If so, why don’t you start by banning selfishness in politicians?
How is it selfish for me to keep what I own but selfless for you to steal it from me?
Or, you could be sarcastic and ask for his wallet, and when he refuses accuse him of being selfish for not wanting to give his things to you.
If he’s somewhat bright, he’ll get the point.