Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent vs. Outcome

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By Bret Bittner 

We may look the same. We may use the same language. We put our pants on one leg at a time. Most of us, anyway. 

We certainly have a unique way of thinking though. 

Brett BittnerOf course, our first instinct is not to suggest that “there ought to be a law.” That is the beginning of how we differ from non-libertarians. 

The basis of not defaulting to government intervention lies a bit deeper than instinct. We want a lot of the same results: a well-educated society, an end to homelessness, peace with our neighbors, and the freedom to live our lives.

We also like to point out unintended consequences of policy decisions. Inevitably, every government policy idea devised sought to solve a problem, but not everyone follows where that policy idea takes us beyond the policymaker’s intent. 

Libertarians recognize intent for what it is. We recognize that someone, somewhere intended their idea to fix an existing problem, prevent a future problem, or make lives better. We also see past intent to look at what happens when this intended solution gets implemented. We see whether it, or something similar, worked in the past. We also examine what we describe as unintended consequences that are likely to occur if the policymakers enact the proposed solution.

We focus on outcome. 

We look at policies beyond intent, by focusing looking deeper than the surface, talking points, and smooth sales pitches. We look at people individually, rather than as statistics and metrics that can be manipulated. We examine individual decisions on their own, rather than as part of the aggregate. Put simply, we are looking out for the smallest minority there is… The individual. 

Central planners will never be able to do so, because people are just data points. To them, they believe that they can predict what most of us will do when faced with a specific decision. The rest do not matter. Those individuals are statistically insignificant. 

Are you insignificant? 

Libertarians do not believe that you are, and we look at the unintended consequences, incentives, and individual decision-making to fully examine the outcome of a proposed policy or idea, rather than sweeping you, the individual, aside because you do not fit the model they prepared. 

Today, ideas are judged by their intent, rather than their outcome. All too often, that means that the “solution” makes a larger or different problem. 

To whom is that insignificant? 

Bittner serves as the Executive Director of the Advocates for Self-Government.


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