A friend pointed me to this. The original in black, my response in red.
AlterNet / By RJ Eskow Well
Libertarians have a problem. Their political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful. And yet libertarianism retains the qualities that led to its disappearance from the public stage, before its reanimation by people like the Koch brothers: It doesn’t make any sense.
I was not recruited into the Libertarian philosophy by any corporation nor by any billionaires like the Koch brothers, in fact I never heard of the Koches or Reason Magazine until after I was firmly in the Libertarian camp.
They call themselves “realists” but rely on fanciful theories that have never predicted real-world behavior. They claim that selfishness makes things better for everybody, when history shows exactly the opposite is true. They claim that a mythical “free market” is better at everything than the government is, yet when they really need government protection, they’re the first to clamor for it.
Like other political associations Libertarians come with different strips which colors their beliefs. I am a Christian, Constitutionalist, Libertarian so my concept of life is different that the atheist Libertarian. I am not sure what he means by “realists”, for a realist is someone who believes that the universe and the object in it are real, There are two general aspects to realism, illustrated by looking at realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties. First, there is a claim about existence. Tables, rocks, the moon, and so on, all exist, as do the following facts: the table’s being square, the rock’s being made of granite, and the moon’s being spherical and yellow. The second aspect of realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties concerns independence.
Nor do I recall ever clamoring for government protection, I have been screwed over by the government so many times I disdain the thought of asking for what I am not owed.
That’s no reason not to work with them on areas where they’re in agreement with people like me. In fact, the unconventionality of their thought has led libertarians to be among this nation’s most forthright and outspoken advocates for civil liberties and against military interventions.
Merriam-Webster defines “hypocrisy” as “feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not.” We aren’t suggesting every libertarian is a hypocrite. But there’s an easy way to find out.
Hypocrites come in different strips too, and some stink worse than others.
The Other Libertarianism
First, some background. There is a kind of libertarianism that’s nothing more or less than a strain in the American psyche, an emotional tendency toward individualism and personal liberty. That’s fine and even admirable. We’re talking about the other libertarianism, the political philosophy whose avatar is the late writer Ayn Rand. It was once thought that this extreme brand of libertarianism, one that celebrates greed and even brutality, had died in the early 1980s with Rand herself. Many Rand acolytes had already gone underground, repressing or disavowing the more extreme statements of their youth and attempting to blend in with more mainstream schools of thought in respectable occupations.
I have read a lot of Ayn Rand’s books, and found a lot of good concepts in them. What he is referring to as her celebrating “greed” in no more than ‘enlighten self interest’, It is through the collected acts of self interest (greed as he calls it) that Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand works. If you put government in charge of who gets what then another gets to decide for you what is in your true interest.
There was a good reason for that. Randian libertarianism is an illogical, impractical, inhumane, unpopular set of Utopian ravings which lacks internal coherence and has never predicted real-world behavior anywhere. That’s why, reasonably enough, the libertarian movement evaporated in the late 20th century, its followers scattered like the wind. That is when I realized that I was a Libertarian, around 1980.
Pay to Play
But the libertarian movement has seen a strong resurgence in recent years, and there’s a simple reason for that: money, and the personal interests of some people who have a lot of it. Once relegated to drug-fueled college-dorm bull sessions, political libertarianism suddenly had pretensions of legitimacy. This revival is Koch-fueled, not coke-fueled, and exists only because in political debate, as in so many other walks of life, cash is king.
Now all this ranting about the Koche’s is just pure bullshit, if you can damn Libertarianism because Knch supports it then you have to damn all the cause the rich Liberal/Progressive like Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis donated millions of dollars to the ACLU and liberal political cause, and George Soros Giving $2 Million In Political Donations To Progressive Groups, not to mention the Rockafellow Foundation, and the Ford Foundation just to mention a few. How can he know that the Koch’s beliefs are not sincerely held, and at the same time believe that all the Progressives that support causes are as pure as the driven rain?
The Koch brothers are principal funders of the Reason Foundation and Reason magazine. Exxon Mobil and other corporate and billionaire interests are behind the Cato Institute, the other public face of libertarianism. Financiers have also seeded a number of economics schools, think tanks, and other institutions with proponents of their brand of libertarianism. It’s easy to explain why some of these corporate interests do it. It serves the self-interest of the environmental polluters, for example, to promote a political philosophy which argues that regulation is bad and the market will correct itself. And every wealthy individual benefits from tax cuts for the rich. What better way to justify that than with a philosophy that says they’re rich because they’re better—and that those tax cuts help everybody?
The rise of the Silicon Valley economy has also contributed to the libertarian resurgence. A lot of Internet billionaires are nerds who suddenly find themselves rich and powerful, and they’re emotionally and intellectually inclined toward libertarianism’s geeky and unrealistic vision of a free market. In their minds its ideas are “heuristic,” “autologous” and “cybernetic”—all of which has inherent attraction in their culture.
The only problem is: It’s only a dream. At no time or place in human history has there been a working libertarian society which provided its people with the kinds of outcomes libertarians claim it will provide. But libertarianism’s self-created mythos claims that it’s more realistic than other ideologies, which is the opposite of the truth. The slope from that contradiction to the deep well of hypocrisy is slippery, steep—and easy to identify.
The reason that there never been a working libertarian society is the same reason that it took so long to rid ourselves of slavery, people in power using force, to the point of death, to impose their will upon others. The idea if individual liberty is a rather recent development in the history of the world, and in the few hundred years it has been around it has made remarkable progress considering the tens of thousand of years that the world was ruled by ‘might makes right’.
The Libertarian Hypocrisy Test
That’s where the Libertarian Hypocrisy Test comes in. Let’s say we have a libertarian friend, and we want to know whether or not he’s hypocritical about his beliefs. How would we go about conducting such a test? The best way is to use the tenets of his philosophy to draw up a series of questions to explore his belief system.
Before I get into taking the test I would like to say something about the hypocrisy of the people who are part of the Fabiasn Society and their fellow travelers, whom I believe the author of this article to be. They do their work surreptitiously, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, working to impose a one world government with the choices of the elite in charge to rule as they see fit.
The Cato Institute’s overview of key libertarian concepts mixes universally acceptable bromides like the “rule of law” and “individual rights” with principles that are more characteristically libertarian—and therefore more fantastical. Since virtually all people support the rule of law and individual rights, it is the other concepts which are uniquely libertarian and form the basis of our first few questions.
I, as most of the Libertarians I know, support the rule of law in as so long as the law is Constitutional and applies to everyone. No one has an obligation to obey an unconstitutional law, and it is only the fear of government force that compels compliance. Libertarians are not anarchists!
The Institute cites “spontaneous order,” for example, as “the great insight of libertarian social analysis.” Cato defines that principle thusly:
“… (O)rder in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.”
As the author did not cite where he got this quote I could not look it up in its context, nor the point the article was trying to make. This spontaneous order thing seems to me to be more of an anarchist concept that a Libertarian one.
To which the discerning reader might be tempted to ask: Like where, exactly? Libertarians define “spontaneous order” in a very narrow way—one that excludes demonstrations like the Arab Spring, elections which install progressive governments, or union movements, to name three examples. And yet each of these things are undertaken by individuals who “coordinated their actions with those of others” to achieve our purposes.
I have not defined spontaneous order in any such way, nor have I read of any that have. Of course I do not spend my life reading everything written upon the subject, but if I did I would not necessarily accept it as the way I see the world just because someone wrote it. Again he seems to be confusing Libertarians with anarchists.
So our first hypocrisy test question is, Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?
What the author has done is set up a ‘straw man’ argument so he can knock it down. If you believe that the Occupy movement just popped up from nothing you do not understand now the Fabians have taken over the green movement as a vehicle to help impose their will upon the world. This question is framed in the same manner as the “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” type question.
Cato also trumpets what it calls “The Virtue of Production” without ever defining what production is. Economics defines the term, but libertarianism is looser with its terminology. That was easier to get away with in the Industrial Age, when “production” meant a car, or a shovel, or a widget.
Here is the quote in context, “The Virtue of Production. Much of the impetus for libertarianism in the seventeenth century was a reaction against monarchs and aristocrats who lived off the productive labor of other people. Libertarians defended the right of people to keep the fruits of their labor. This effort developed into a respect for the dignity of work and production and especially for the growing middle class, who were looked down upon by aristocrats. Libertarians developed a pre-Marxist class analysis that divided society into two basic classes: those who produced wealth and those who took it by force from others. Thomas Paine, for instance, wrote, “There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes.” Similarly, Jefferson wrote in 1824, “We have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.”
Today nearly 50 percent of corporate profits come from the financial sector—that is, from the manipulation of money. It’s more difficult to define “production,” and even harder to find its “virtue,” when the creation of wealth no longer necessarily leads to the creation of jobs, or economic growth, or anything except the enrichment of a few.
I have little symphony for the Banker and other money people, in fact I believe that they are the main pushers of the one world government movement.
Which seems to be the point. Cato says, “Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.”
Which gets us to our next test question: Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?
Retail stores like Walmart and fast-food corporations like McDonalds cannot produce wealth without employees. Don’t those employees have the right to “coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes”—for example, in unions? You would think that free-market philosophers would encourage workers, as part of a free-market economy, to discover the market value for their services through negotiation.
I believe in freedom of contract, and the right of individuals to offer and enter into contracts. I believe in the right of any group of people to gather together for any reason that they may see fit in as so long it is not to harm another. I also do not believe that the law should force people to join a union in order to be employed. I also believe that the employer has the right to lock the unions out if they cannot come to an agreement.
Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces? Yes. Will this author acknowledge that the employer is doing the same thing?
Yes, supply and demand.
The bankers who collude to deceive their customers, as US bankers did with the MERS mortgage system, were permitted to do so by the unwillingness of government to regulate them. The customers who were the victims of deception were essential to the production of Wall Street wealth. Why don’t libertarians recognize their role in the process, and their right to administer their own affairs?
MERS was created in 1995 by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and big banks like Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase. The economy was booming, and credit was easy to come by. However the old land records system, maintained by county clerks across the country was slowing the ability of these large players to process more mortgages. Throughout the country, recording mortgages was still a manual process, and some county clerks had fallen more than a year behind. I do not know how MERS was used to defraud mortgage holders , nor did the author offer more than an assertion that they had.
That right includes the right to regulate the bankers who sell them mortgages. Libertarians say that the “free market” will help consumers. “Libertarians believe that people will be both freer and more prosperous if government intervention in people’s economic choices is minimized,” says Cato.
The bankers are regulated just as the Democrats wish for them to be regulated.
But victims of illegal foreclosure are neither “freer” nor “more prosperous” after the government deregulation which led to their exploitation. What’s more, deregulation has led to a series of documented banker crimes that include stockholder fraud and investor fraud. That leads us to our next test of libertarian hypocrisy: Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?
I have no love of Bankers, nor money men in general. I believe that the Big Bankers who are behind the Federal Revers System are the main movers behind the One World Government conspiracy. What we have now is a Fascist Government where the government and the Bankers, e.g., The Feds, and certain industries are in cahoots setting the rules and regulations that best suits them and have left the rule of law behind a long time ago. The bail out of the auto industry comes to mind, and the drive to force alternative energy down our throats. To name Solendra just for one.
But few libertarians are as hypocritical as the billionaires who earned their fortunes in the tech world. Government created the Internet. Government financed the basic research that led to computing itself. And yet Internet libertarians are among the most politically extreme of them all.
It is true that the internet began as a typical government program, the ARPANET, designed to share mainframe computing power and to establish a secure military communications network. It is only thanks to market participants that the internet has became something other than a typical government program: inefficient, overcapitalized, and not directed toward socially useful purposes. The internet owes its very existence to the state and to state funding. The story begins with ARPA, created in 1957 in response to the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik and established to research the efficient use of computers for civilian and military applications. Libertarians have never said that there is no role for government.
We must be very careful not to describe the internet as a “private” technology, a spontaneous order, or a shining example of capitalistic ingenuity. It is none of these. Of course, almost all of the internet’s current applications — unforeseen by its original designers — have been developed in the private sector.
Perhaps none is more extreme than Peter Thiel, who made his fortune with PayPal. In one infamous rant, Thiel complained about allowing women and people he describes as “welfare beneficiaries” (which might be reasonably interpreted as “minorities”) to vote. “Since 1920,” Thiel fulminated, “the extension of the franchise to (these two groups) have turned ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” Source
With this remark, Thiel let something slip that extreme libertarians prefer to keep quiet: A lot of them don’t like democracy very much. In their world, democracy is a poor substitute for the iron-fisted rule of wealth, administered by those who hold the most of it. Our next test, therefore, is: Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.
Thiel is not the boss of me, though I also believe that way too many people are either too ignorant and/or too easily persuaded by propagandist to vote, and we would end up with a better government if they did not vote at all. No, I do not advocate taking anyone’s voting rights away.
On this score, at least, Thiel is no hypocrite. He’s willing to freely say what others only think: Democracy should be replaced by the rule of wealthy people like himself. Here the author is attributing me what another thinks, in other words he take the thoughs of one to tar the whole.
But how did Peter Thiel and other Internet billionaires become wealthy? They hired government-educated employees to develop products protected by government copyrights. Those products used government-created computer technology and a government-created communications web to communicate with government-educated customers in order to generate wealth for themselves, which was then stored in government-protected banks—after which they began using that wealth to argue for the elimination of government.
The government has, in large respect, taking over education so where else is one to find people with an education. As far as the copyright thing goes I believe that it has been expanded way beyond what it was originally meant to do.
By that standard, Thiel and his fellow “digital libertarians” are hypocrites of genuinely epic proportion. Which leads us to our next question: Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government.
If a government supplied soapbox is the only soapbox available, then by all means, use it.
Many libertarians will counter by saying that government has only two valid functions: to protect the national security and enforce intellectual property laws. By why only these two? If the mythical free market can solve any problem, including protecting the environment, why can’t it also protect us from foreign invaders and defend the copyrights that make these libertarians wealthy?
Here he is claiming that because some (although I have no idea of who nor many) hold a certain viewpoint that all libertarians do. In fact libertarians hold that the government should be limited to prevent others from using force to gain their way (police power), to prevent and punish fraud, to enforce contracts, and national defense.
For that matter, why should these libertarians be allowed to hold patents at all? If the free market can decide how best to use our national resources, why shouldn’t it also decide how best to use Peter Thiel’s ideas, and whether or not to reward him for them? After all, if Thiel were a true Randian libertarian he’d use his ideas in a more superior fashion than anyone else—and he would be more ruthless in enforcing his rights to them than anyone else. Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?
Libertarians should be allowed to hold patents for the same reason other people are allowed to hold patents and to copyright.
Our democratic process is highly flawed today, but that’s largely the result of corruption from corporate and billionaire money (put in power by big government). And yet, libertarians celebrate the corrupting influence of big money. No wonder, since the same money is keeping their movement afloat and paying many of their salaries. But, aside from the naked self-interest, their position makes no sense. Why isn’t a democratically elected government the ultimate demonstration of “spontaneous order”? Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?
Here he is conflating the marketplace of ideas competing for the adoption by the population, with the form of government that we live under. But we do not live in a democracy in a democracy, ours is a Representative Republic for of government whose powers are delegated by our constitution. Why a democratically elected government the ultimate demonstration of “spontaneous order” is because when pure democracy is the ruling force of a government marinorty rights dissipated as the majority forces its will upon those governed by government force. It can very quickly that on the spontaneous order of a lynch mob.
We’re told that “big government” is bad for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is too large to be responsive. But if big governments are bad, why are big corporations so acceptable? What’s more, these massive institutions have been conducting an assault on the individual and collective freedoms of the American people for decades. Why isn’t it important to avoid the creation of monopolies, duopolies and syndicates that interfere with the free market’s ability to function?
Corporations provide a service which the people are free to use or not as they see fit so long as they are not in cahoots with the government. Government is force, and the use of that force should be limited to what the constitution provides.
Libertarians are right about one thing: Unchecked and undemocratic force is totalitarian. A totalitarian corporation, or a totalitarian government acting in concert with corporations, is at least as effective at suppressing the “spontaneous order” as a non-corporate totalitarian government. Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?
In of themselves no, it is only when they are in collusion with the government that they become a threat. Unless, of course, he is talking about the Mom and Pop’s ability to compete against WalMark. This is an example of comparative advantage at work, while Mom and Pop may lose, the society at large gains. Unchecked and democratic force can be just as totalitarian.
Extra Credit Questions
Most libertarians prefer not to take their philosophy to its logical conclusions. While that may make them better human beings, it also shadows them with the taint of hypocrisy.
Ayn Rand was an adamant opponent of good works, writing that “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.” That raises another test for our libertarian: Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?
There’s no reason not to form alliances with civil libertarians, or to shun them as human beings. Their erroneous thinking often arises from good impulses. But it is worth asking them one final question for our test.
Libertarianism would have died out as a philosophy if it weren’t for the funding that’s been lavished on the movement by billionaires like Thiel and the Kochs and corporations like ExxonMobil. So our final question is: If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?
Again he pretends that there are no rich Liberal/Progressive like Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, the ACLU, George Soros, not to mention the Rockafellow Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, and et a, whose funding for the progressive cause dwarf the amount of money given to promote libertarianism.
“If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?” Is a gratuitous statement and can be just as gratuitously refuted with a loud and resounding BULL SHIT!