Sunday, May 23, 2010

Critique of Libertarianism

Here is a nice, short, to the point criticism of the libertarian ideology:
The folks who believe in libertarianism are like the folks who believe in Bigfoot. They can point to respected academics who share their delusion. They never let reality get in the way of a good story. And ultimately, libertarianism, like Bigfoot is nothing other than a white guy cavorting around in a cheap gorilla suit, an obvious fake.

I've said just about all I want to say about libertarianism here. Short version: The only good ideas in libertarianism are those that are already part and parcel of liberalism. The rest is poppycock. But someone who suffers fools far better than I has written a useful takedown in case you think there's any there there. The nub:
never, and I mean never, has there been capitalist enterprise that wasn't ultimately underwritten by the state. This is true at an obvious level that even most libertarians would concede (though maybe not some of the Austrian economists whom Rand Paul adores): for the system to work, you need some kind of bare bones apparatus for enforcing contracts and protecting property. But it's also true in a more profound, historical sense. To summarize very briefly a long and complicated process, we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments on the one hand, and bankers and merchants on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution. What libertarians revere as an eternal, holy truth is in fact, in the grand scheme of human history, quite young. And if they'd just stop worshiping for a minute, they'd notice the parents hovering in the background.

Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn't shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn't be any.

This is the belief system of people who have been the unwitting recipients of massive government backing for their entire lives. To borrow a phrase, they were born on third base, and think they hit a triple. We could fill a library with the details of the state underwriting enjoyed by American business -- hell, we could fill a fair chunk of the Internet, if we weren't using it all on Rand Paul already.
One of the problems with taking the trouble to refute bad rightwing nonsense - intelligent design creationism, birtherism, libertarianism - is that it is a complete waste of time. Everyone, including most of the people propagating them, knows these ideas are ludicrous.
I have spent time trying to argue with libertarians. It is very frustrating. It sure feels like a waste of time. You certainly aren't going to change the mind of a diehard, but the debate is not for the benefit of the opponent. It is for the benefit of those new on the scene and are just trying to get oriented and understand what political points of view are available. But once you get your bearings, it should be pretty clear that libertarians of fanatics. They are superficially rational, but they are missing a soul, empathy, groundedness in community. They live in cloud cuckoo land.

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