Following the brilliant ‘straw man’ quote below, I thought I would list a few regular straw man arguments that I come across in the comment threads of this blog as well as in the wider media/public world where the ideas of liberty, defence policy or the free market are mentioned:
Free marketeers do not believe in law and rules of any kind
This is often posited as a fact, when in fact law and liberty are necessary for each other. Without laws defining property rights, for example, much peaceful intercourse is impossible.
If you are against the invasion of Iraq, you are a peacenik
This boils down to a form of argument by intimidation. Even though many opponents of the operation to overthrow Saddam are stupid, evil or possibly both, quite a lot were against it for prudential reasons.
If you are in favour of the invasion of Iraq, you must be a warmongering lunatic
Many people from all parts of the political spectrum thought overthrowing Saddam, who was a bloodthirsty tyrant, invader of neighbouring nations, sponsor of terror, user of WMDs, was a humanitarian and necessary act.
If you are a skeptic about global warming and other alleged environmental terrors, you care nothing for future generations and might also be in the pay of Big Oil
This is not a start of an argument, but an attempt to shout debate down. It betrays the fact that Greenery is becoming a religion with its own notions of heresy. If anyone plays this gambit, refuse to take it up.
Libertarians believe in the idea that humans are born with a mental “blank slate” and hence pay no heed to inherited characteristics of any kind
I often see this argument made by bigots as well as more benign folk. In fact it is possible to believe that many human characteristics are inherited but also changeable. And just because we are influenced by genes, it does not mean were are driven in a deterministic way. Free will still exists. The more knowledge we have about human nature etc, the more power it gives individuals, not less.
For capitalism to work successfully, everybody has to be obsessed with making money all the time
All that is necessary is that human economic interaction is based on voluntary exchange, not force. How much people want to get rich or not is irrelevant.
Libertarians are uninterested in preserving certain old traditions and cultures
In fact, a free society is often much more able to preserve certain traditions, not less so.
Libertarians tend to be loners and discount the importance of community life
This is rubbish: liberals value communities so long as membership is voluntary and further, co-operation is a consequence of liberty, not its opposite. An individualist can enjoy group activities as much as anyone, such as being part of an organisation, club, football team, whatever. The key is that such membership is freely chosen.
I am sure that other commenters can think of a few more…