If you spend any time reading the blogs authored by college-aged libertarian students, you are bound to read articles addressing their love for promiscuity, drug usage, and obscene alternative lifestyles for the sake of being alternative. The common argument these libertarians make is that their choices fall under the category of being “subjective values”; therefore, it is wrong to make any moral judgments condemning their actions.
It seems as if these libertarians, who claim to be adherents to the Austrian School, have never, in fact, read any works of the Austrian economists. Because of this, these libertarians are entirely ignorant of the ideology they claim to espouse. This ignorance manifests itself in to statements such as, “Subjective values mean you cannot judge people for their choices” and “It is anti-liberty to judge people for their choices.” Individuals who claim to be scholars of libertarian thought should at least be well-read on the elementary basics of their own beliefs.
There is a fundamental difference between subjective values and moral relativism. Libertarians have decided to conflate subjective values, in the economic sense, with moral relativism. This confusion stems from a lack of knowledge of the definition of subjective values. In economics, subjective value refers to a theory of value in which an object attains its value through the wants and desires of individuals. When economists claim that, “Everyone has different subjective values”, it is a reference how individuals have different wants, needs, and tastes in respect to goods and services. Moral relativism, on the other hand, is a philosophy which decrees that there is no truth: right and wrong do not exist. Therefore, to a moral relativist, you cannot judge people for their actions, as it is all subjective.
To individuals who have never studied Austrian economic theory, the terms may seem confusing at first. However, for people who liken themselves to be leaders of the liberty movement, with a depth of knowledge about Austrian economics, there is absolutely no excuse to confuse subjective values in economics to moral relativism. There is no reason, therefore, for libertarians to make insane proclamations such as, “You cannot be a libertarian and judge people for their choices” and “Judging an action as right or wrong goes against libertarianism.”
These college-aged libertarians truly believe that telling someone that doing heroin is a bad decision infringes on libertarianism. As well, daring to criticize the polyamorous lifestyle as being morally repugnant prods a response of, “Who are you to judge?” which would make Ayn Rand weep. Time and time again, the college-aged libertarians become outraged when an individual has the audacity to proclaim that there is an objective right and an objective wrong. According to these moral relativists, there is no right or wrong unless you criticize something that they believe is right, thus leading to your beliefs being labeled as “wrong”.
As well as conflating subjective values with moral relativism, the college-aged libertarians confuse being a libertarian with being a libertine. In their world, one must be have an unconditional acceptance of the drug-addled polyamorous lifestyle, with zero moral apprehension. Anything other than the unilateral advocacy of any and all alternative lifestyles is seen as an affront to freedom. To argue that a certain lifestyle is wrong is apparently akin to wanting the government to ban the lifestyle. To have any moral reservations, to believe in right and wrong objectively, and to proudly defend what is good against what is evil, is seen as enough to render an individual “not a libertarian”.
As a demonstration of the ridiculousness of the, “You cannot be a libertarian if you believe in judging people for their ‘different subjective values'” logic, it is important to note that Rothbard, the foremost anarcho-capitalist and Austrian School adherent, produced scathing remarks against the libertine lifestyle that these college-aged libertarians wholeheartedly promote. Under the new mantra of non-judgment being a prerequisite to libertarianism, Rothbard could not be considered a libertarian. Apparently, his beliefs were entirely “anti-liberty” as they involved a level of critical thinking beyond the childishness of, “We all value different things. Every choice is equal. No judgment.” How horrifically ironic.