Whether the facts presented by the statist are right or wrong is not the point. What the statist is trying to do is reduce the debate to nitpicking, case after case from both sides. By doing this he has swiftly nullified the advantage you had in the systematic knowledge of libertarianism.

Picking on cases to disprove general facts and theories is a fallacy of method. To understand it, we must use the language of science. I will use the example of gravity to explain what these three simple terms mean :

FACT – A fact designates an ontological fact of reality.
The fact of gravity is that objects fall toward sources of gravity at a constant acceleration.

LAW – A law is the codification of a fact in scientific language.
If an object A has a mass Ma and an object B has a mass Mb, then the force F on object A is directed toward object B and has a magnitude of F = G*Ma*Mb / r2 (note that this is a Newtonian approximation, but good enough for most purposes).

THEORY – A “theory”, in common language, designates a scientific hypothesis. In science, a theory is an systemic explanation of a fact.
The theory of gravity resides in Einstein’s notion of a curved spacetime. It can be described simply as : “freely falling objects follow the shortest paths in curved spacetime”.

The goal of science is to discover the nature of the systems regulating the universe, generally speaking. Laws and theories are the codification of this knowledge. A law describes, and a theory explains a law on the basis of a more fundamental level.

To continue on our scientific analogy, we already have various laws and theories, including the law of gravity and the theory of gravity. These laws and theories are, in many cases, based on centuries of experiments and deductions. The law of gravity has been tested against the observed movements of the stars, the motion of falling objects on Earth, and so on, for a long time.

I will now give an example to explain the “argument” I highlight in this article. Suppose that, with the aid of telescopes, someone makes the observation that the orbit of a certain planet does not follow F = G*Ma*Mb / r2. Instead it describes a completely different kind of orbit. After observing this, the observer claims that his hypothesis explains this phenomenon. He calls it “frictional gravity”, and it says that objects are attracted to Earth because of the friction caused by continental drift.

Is this logical ? Should we conclude that the law of gravity has been defeated by that single observation ? Examine the three possibilities :

P1 – The observation was wrong or misinterpreted.
P2 – The observation is correct, and the law of gravity has exceptions (perhaps to account for some new form of matter).
P3 – The observation is correct, and the law of gravity is invalid – instead, “frictional gravity” is true.

All knowledge is comparative. When we claim to know something, what this implies is that we have chosen one position amongst the great number of possibilities there are, because that position has been proven true by the evidence. The objective evidence (more specifically in this case, the scientific evidence) is our guide.

To become a scientific law, a proposition is proven by numerous experiments and attempts at falsification. Furthermore, in the case of universal laws such as gravity, it has been observed in a great number of contexts. To claim that gravity is invalid, is the functional equivalent of claiming that all these observations and experiments were incorrect. This is a bold claim.

Yes, paradigm shifts do happen. An established truth can be overturned by new discoveries. It has happened before and will happen again. However, this is most likely to happen when the mass of knowledge already available is low – when a discipline is at its beginnings. The bigger the mass of knowledge and observations we have, the less likely it is that a law will be overturned.

Think of it as a building. The higher you try to reach with the least foundations, the more likely the building will topple. But if the foundations are solid, then higher and higher buildings can be built.

What of our propositions ? P1, P2 and P3 are all possible. However, P3 is improbable, for the reasons I have just discussed. To overturn the law of gravity would require overwhelming evidence. P1 is a possibility, if precautions are not taken against perceptual or interpretative errors. And finally, P2 is the most probable option – it is how science itself works. It is by falsifying laws and theories and finding out how they went wrong that we perfect our understanding of reality.

The general principle at work here is the principle of Reason : knowledge exists where objective evidence is present. Because of this, the more evidence we have for a proposition, the more likely it is to be true.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this talk about science and gravity. I am merely illustrating the principle that applies in the case of the statist arguments I have described before. This principle is : a specific case is not sufficient evidence against a law.

It is an established fact that there are a number of correlations in politics. These correlations are proven by a mass of observations and deductions. To invoke specific cases against them, specific countries where these correlations are not true, is not a proof that the correlation is wrong.

For example, one could argue that libertarianism is not conductive to peace because the United States is a country constantly at war. This is a true observation.

However, it does not falsify the correlation between freedom and peace which has been observed in history and in present time. Such a reasoning commits the fallacy of Complex Cause, that is, attributing an effect to one single cause, when there are other possible causes. For example, one should point to the United States’ high homicide rate and crime rates as an indicator of a cultural problem.

Also, check reliable sources on the countries being discussed. Often a statist will claim that this or that country is libertarian, when it imposes a number of restrictions on commerce, or political freedom, or has a failing judiciary, or restricts free speech. Checking a statist’s data is always a good idea.