No Imagination

You’ve got no imagination. You couldn’t even decide what to do with all that money, so you had to buy what everybody else wanted. – Charlie Croker, The Italian Job

Update: A reader with an imagination writes: Would we even needs cars?

Critiques of libertarianism are often marked by a profound lack of imagination on the part of the critic. To have an entity other than the state perform basic services is simply inconceivable for them (or perhaps simply not preferred or desired?)

Private businesses create innovative and cutting-edge technology on a continual basis, and have throughout history, yet one of the most cliché throwaway snarks among libertarian critics is “Who will build the roads?” It’s as if the idea of pouring concrete and asphalt with painted lines on the ground is beyond the capacities of industries that build skyscrapers and modern office buildings.

But a part of that rejoinder implicitly stated is “how will people pay for roads?”


Again, we need only look at the private sector to see how it is actually done. A vivid imagination is not required. Shopping centers are privately-owned, yet no one pays for admission, and rarely for parking, the way they do for an amusement park.

You can enter a Cabelas and spend all day there with your kids enjoying the free entertaining diversions they make available, but no one demands that you buy anything.

And, of course, we have social media that is totally free – because the user is the product, not the customer.

This isn’t to say that healthy skepticism of libertarian claims is not warranted.  Indeed, it is only through intense ridicule and attacks that libertarians refine and hone their arguments, develop better theories, and create more realistic scenarios of how society would operate in the absence of the state.

I’ll note that many libertarian solutions are practical and workable, but frankly not realistic due to constraints caused by people’s lack of imagination.

A profound lack of imagination, and not the actual proposal itself, is what makes much of libertarianism theoretically sound but untenable.

It would seem, then, that the biggest challenge libertarians face is reawakening people’s ability and desire to dream of what is possible beyond the state.

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4 Responses to No Imagination

  1. Gunner Q says:

    “It would seem, then, that the biggest challenge libertarians face is reawakening people’s ability and desire to dream of what is possible beyond the state.”

    It’s a very pervasive attitude. I attribute it to a more feminine outlook in men, a preference for safety over risk. What would people do if the gov’t didn’t make them play nice? How will you retire if you don’t build a 401k with matching contributions like everybody else? Who will take care of you in old age if you don’t have kids? We must act NOW because North Korea might become able to nuke us in the near future!

    In my case, I gave them answers and it turned out they didn’t want answers. They wanted guarantees. Sigh, these people trade freedom for safety.


  2. Pingback: Muh Roads and Mileage Taxes | Pigs and Sheep A Libertarian Blog

  3. David Weiner says:

    I am not sure it is so much a lack of imagination as it is a tendency to imagine the worst when contemplating the removal of the state from the equation. All of us can conjure up scary scenarios, if we are so inclined.


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