Recently, I had the displeasure to read an article on the FFF (Future of Freedom Foundation) website from Jacob Hornberger. The perceived more right leaning choice from the ever more irrelevant libertarian party primary for which he represented the Mises Caucus, and certainly, when compared to some of the lunatics who were running, is a saner and more well-read individual. I first heard of Hornberger not long ago, to be perfectly honest, when he was referenced in a Hans-Hermann Hoppe diatribe for his article in which he opposes Hoppe’s net-taxpayer argument, but more on that later.
The article mentioned is entitled: “Anti-Mask Isn’t Libertarian” and odd title choice but not one I totally didn’t expect from the FFF website considering they lean into the classic left libertarian sphere. Yes, I said they lean into the left libertarian sphere yet Hornberger was more of a right leaning candidate compared to the other libertarian party primary candidates. That should say just about everything you need to know about the modern Libertarian party.
A couple of sentences in Hornberger states:
“Some people, including virtually everyone in the government, have argued that masks inhibit the spread of the coronavirus. Others have maintained the contrary, or have maintained that it’s their own business as to whether they wear a mask or not.”
I feel it’s necessary to point out I did my own research on mask efficacy (as everyone should with most everything) and mandating masks certainly isn’t doing much and could in many ways be making things worse. As to the efficacy of masks in general I would direct people toward this study published by the National Institute of Health in 2013, which in part shows that P95 and P100 masks are effective at stopping airborne viral contagions from inhalation when worn and fitted properly. However, it’s extremely important to note that these masks are now reserved almost ENTIRELY for health care workers and government employees by Amazon and other suppliers. In other words, you can’t get them if you’re not a member of the elite class or you’re willing to pay an exorbitant rate on eBay to someone skirting the new sales restrictions.
It’s also important to note that these mandates have little to nothing of substance about them as they don’t determine or define the type of mask that would necessary to have to be effective or prescribe a method of wearing them. Everyone from celebrities wearing almost completely sheer designer masks to people just wearing basic medical masks that don’t meet the aforementioned standards.
Even people just not wearing masks correctly. Now one could say these non-protective masks are acting as a shield for the sick not to cough actual particulates onto you but that’s kind of a silly argument at this point when there has been such a push that masks are protection for you and not others. Even then if someone is coughing and sneezing, it’s getting into the air and the particulates will spread. Odds are these things aren’t doing much at all except for one thing, exude an air of control and security. It’s the airport security of healthcare.
“Throughout the controversy, there have been a number of libertarians who have taken the anti-mask position. Some of them say that that’s the position that is consistent with the freedom principles of the libertarian philosophy.
Such libertarians are in error, however. The libertarian philosophy is neither anti-mask nor pro-mask. Libertarianism does not dictate how people should exercise their freedom. The philosophy simply holds that people should be free to decide this issue for themselves.”
Clever wording but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone of any note actually claim to be “anti-mask” but instead anti-mask mandate, anti-hysteria, and of course anti-lockdown & business shuttering. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s someone out there claiming masks themselves are stupid and wearing a mask itself is anti-libertarian, which in many ways they can be (stupid) as I’ve shown above, but I’ll leave that point right where it is. Regardless libertarians can have opinions outside of what is justified through libertarian principles. People enjoy different religions, cultural traditions, music, people etc. and can certainly have their own opinions on wearing masks, I certainly do. Kind of an odd argument in total. Hornberger continues on to discuss that government edicts aren’t libertarian and I would, of course, agree but then he makes a surprising statement.
“If the federal government, for example, issues a regulation that requires people who enter federal buildings to wear a mask, there is no violation of libertarian principles. As the owner of its buildings, the federal government has the authority to run them in any reasonable way it deems fit.”
An interesting position that the government owns its buildings, not because it’s incorrect, actually Ludwig Von Mises defined ownership as simply the full control of the services that can be derived from a good. Under that definition, which I certainly agree with, Hornberger’s position seems reasonable. However, the difference between being the owner of something and being someone who has a just property right claim is a totally different matter. It has certainly been demonstrated repeatedly by libertarian philosophers that the government has no legitimate claim to said property. Unless Hornberger is saying the government, has a just property rights claim to the buildings and land they own? It certainly seems that way and would certainly fall in line with believing the government can legitimately mandate a mask in a government building.
It’s further puzzling since this same type of argument was previously dismissed by Hornberger, in this article where he attacks Hoppe’s net taxpayer argument in regard to immigration. Hornberger argues without providing who should ultimately administrate (in reality) the border that the net taxpayers argument is “odd for an anarcho-libertarian.” I really don’t see how dealing with reality is “odd” more radically in my opinion it’s a breath of fresh air to see a theorist deal with reality instead of simply criticizing and meandering about a point that’s never made.
How can one both hold the government has no justification to administer a border it seemingly purports to implicitly own and simultaneously argue that it can administer a mandate of mask wearing in one of its buildings? It appears Hornberger lacks consistency in his argument and should maybe revisit his own writing. Further, where does this extend and potentially end? Streets, sidewalks, busses? Your own home? After all, Hornberger does say the government is effectively asserting defacto ownership of your property through taxation.
From the article:
“We don’t know who would own a given street or sidewalk in the absence of government, and therefore we don’t know what the “immigration” policy would be under full private ownership.”
Neither would we know if a private owner would mandate a mask inside the now privately owned government building. The answer of course is only a property owner can decide this but in the real world where we all must live it is best left to the people who pay for its upkeep. Hornberger argues against the idea that net taxpayers have the best just property right claim and is better administrated and left in, what I can only assume is, a state of forced chaos where adjacent property owners and tax payers have no say and no one is administering land that would be otherwise owned. This is neither how the world has worked for centuries nor how it would work in an anarcho-libertarian society but I guess it seems the most “libertarian” to Hornberger but it really just seems like a tragedy of the commons situation to most casual observers. I say assume because while Hornberger seems set on attacking Hoppe’s arguments as less than libertarian he has yet from my perspective to put forward who actually *should* administer and control the property in the real world today even if temporarily and what that policy should be. Clearly from his position on mask mandates, my assumption holds water.
Regardless, Hoppe correctly notices that in the absence of a clear owner one must be defined, even if temporarily, and it’s hard to argue that the people paying the bills aren’t the one’s best suited for the job, it certainly isn’t the government but neither is it the commons.