Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looking Through Lovely Libertarian Glasses

When I was a kid the big complain was the bizarro world painted by "socialist realism". The hyped and deeply false world view sold by the commies.

Today the world is pervaded by its bizarro world version of reality, the kool-aid of Ayn Rand, that worships the individual and ignores any gummy social cohesion or social obligation. It is every man for himself in the wonder world of the political right. No mushy leftist "it takes a village to raise a child" in the libertarian worldview.

Here is a bit from a NY Times op-ed by Paul Krugman that shows the application of this libertarian "individualist realism" to politics in the US:
Mr. Daniels first berated the president for his “constant disparagement of people in business,” which happens to be a complete fabrication. Mr. Obama has never done anything of the sort. He went on: “The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew.”


A big report in The Times last Sunday laid out the facts. Although Apple is now America’s biggest U.S. corporation as measured by market value, it employs only 43,000 people in the United States, a tenth as many as General Motors employed when it was the largest American firm.

Apple does, however, indirectly employ around 700,000 people in its various suppliers. Unfortunately, almost none of those people are in America.


Germany remains a highly successful exporter even with workers who cost, on average, $44 an hour — much more than the average cost of American workers. And this success has a lot to do with the support its small and medium-sized companies — the famed Mittelstand — provide to each other via shared suppliers and the maintenance of a skilled work force.

The point is that successful companies — or, at any rate, companies that make a large contribution to a nation’s economy — don’t exist in isolation. Prosperity depends on the synergy between companies, on the cluster, not the individual entrepreneur.

But the current Republican worldview has no room for such considerations. From the G.O.P.’s perspective, it’s all about the heroic entrepreneur, the John Galt, I mean Steve Jobs-type “job creator” who showers benefits on the rest of us and who must, of course, be rewarded with tax rates lower than those paid by many middle-class workers.


So we should be grateful to Mr. Daniels for his remarks Tuesday. He got his facts wrong, but he did, unintentionally, manage to highlight an important philosophical difference between the parties. One side believes that economies succeed solely thanks to heroic entrepreneurs; the other has nothing against entrepreneurs, but believes that entrepreneurs need a supportive environment, and that sometimes government has to help create or sustain that supportive environment.

And the view that it takes more than business heroes is the one that fits the facts.
For some reason most people want a cartoon cut-out version of reality. They want a simplified story that consoles them with a happy ending. The real world, just like Nature, is totally indifferent to humans, their aspirations, their needs, or their ideological fantasies. The real world is "red in tooth and claw" because it is so different from the normal human social world of cooperation and empathy. Humans have the ability to create a safe harbour from the cruelties of the world. Sadly, right wing nuts want to destroy the paradise and replace it with a fantasy of "the big man" who creates and destroys for his own pleasure with indifference to others. That is a cruel reality that is offered up by the libertarians as a "better future". Nuts!

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