Don’t Like: Libertarianism

Here we go. Politics. Yikes.

Well let me start off by saying this argument is not with libertarians but with the philosophy itself and to my Libertarian friends you’re still swell folks and I love ya. Really I have no beef. Just with the philosophy itself.

Anycrap, onto the issue…

Libertarianism has somehow become the most subtle form of extremism you’ll ever see in the popular American voter base. In theory, it is really nothing more than a lofty philosophical theory about individual interactions. In practice, a Libertarian government would be so unfathomably disastrous for this country. The aforementioned “subtle” aspect stems from the fact that Libertarianism is rooted in a very simple and integral part of country’s origin: the rights of individual liberty. The phrase echoes a lot of important sentiment that I fundamentally believe in: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. That core value of individual liberty affords the party a lot of leeway in its member’s initial leanings and why should it not? Come on, there’s a kind of inherent patriotism there that’s alluring.

But from that core belief, Libertarianism extrapolates a lot of dangerously outdated/wholly impractical models of thinking that would cripple our country; and what is intended as a vote for liberty becomes an inadvertent vote for anarchy.

More often then not, modern Libertarianism is rooted in issues with taxation. And come on, everybody hates taxes. I hate paying taxes. Everyone I know hates paying taxes. Anyone who doesn’t like watching their money go away hates taxes. But taxes help fund the critical institutions of our society. I like having police officers, and fire stations, and schools, and so on. It’s not like libertarians are AGAINST these institutions. They often recognize the importance and like them as well. But what they don’t recognize is the perpetual budget crisis of these institutions face. They don’t recognize how it is often a simple 1 to 1 between amount of taxes dollars and functionality of the system. It really is that simple.

Yet, many Libertarians think that government funding of these institutions is a waste of their money on a bloated purpose. At least both Republicans and Democrats alike recognize this and the public need for it; even though they might have differing ideas on how they should be run but both understand they do NEED to be run in the first place. Many Libertarians think that all of these institutions should be handled on the state or the local level but that’s impossible. Most of a school’s revenue is local anyway and poor communities have a hell of a time funding schools. Urban school systems are on the verge of collapse. Localization would just add to the dangerous stratification and hurt many, many American Citizens. Like I said, both Democrats and Republicans recognize this and while the disagree on how to fix it, they both recognize the inherent problem of poor-functioning educational, law enforcement, or safety institutions.

The other solution Libertarians offer for not paying taxes is the wholesale privatization of these service institutions. This would be even more disastrous than localizing them. History has proven you can communize private business and economy. It’s fundamentally wrong and just plain doesn’t work. Any communist just needs to take a look at what’s happened in global history to see that it doesn’t work. And just like that we’ve learned you can’t privatize the basic service institutions of any nation. It simply doesn’t work and fails the community. We inherently need a strong central government to run these institutions on the larger non-local level. No matter how often I try to convince Libertarians of this they just don’t believe me.

This brings us to Libertarians as individuals. Analysis shows that most Libertarians are single men, logic-based intelligent, who don’t live in cities (but will sometimes work in them). The more extreme ends of libertarians tend to live in rural areas (and often pro-militia) and are very far away from the systems their taxes pay for. In that regard I can completely understand why they don’t want to pay taxes because it is something that is not a part of their lives. But like I said this is an argument with the philosophy, not the people. While the philosophy might work for these individuals it does not work for the system as a whole. Not by a long shot. Institutions fail miserably under this kind of direction and unchecked privatization is disastrous for the average American (it’s not like the health care industry is a bloated mess… oh wait, it is!). Yet libertarianism argues it is the EXACT OPPOSITE and that their system is better for the whole. And that is my real problem here. Worst of all, the only justification Libertarianism really uses is to inaccurately cite the philosophical rhetoric of personal freedoms our country was founded on.

There’s a philosophy that’s tied up with the taxation issue, and that is the idea of “limited government.” Way back at our inception, the United States was formed on certain ideals that were made to protect from the kind of British authoritarianism they found objectionable (being a colonial enterprise and all). They rejected that kind of dominating central power and in the post-revolution era, our government defined the nation by the “Articles of Confederation.” The articles were really nothing more than a lose affiliation of states rights… and a complete, unmitigated disaster. We were a large country (even then) and therefore had a lot of different regional needs, but a central system is so incredibly necessary. Since we floundered economically, socially, and politically under the articles we reformed the government with a stronger central base under “The Constitution”. It was a significant milestone and inherently responsible for our rise to prominence and eventual realization as an economic power.

Yes, the world today is much different place, but the need for a stable central government is even more critical in our age of Globalization (I’m not talking about military isolationism or “world policing” because that’s a separate issue that deals more with ethics or personal ideals). Libertarianism believes that an unregulated “free” economy is best for the system. BUT SO MANY companies operate on the national and global level that a centralized U.S. government is actually necessary for them to run both effectively and ethically. Haven’t we proven unchecked private business runs contrary to the effectiveness of the system? The entire last century has taught us that corporations cannot be trusted to do what is in the best interest of the collective. Their priority is making money and that’s more than fair. They should be allowed to make plenty of money, ungodly amounts of money even and I believe 100% in a free market economy. But a free market economy doesn’t mean “no rules”. I mean even with our current “regulated economy” corporations can pretty much afford to dump toxic chemicals and stall out the lawsuits for years so it is more cost effective. This is wrong right? I’m not a crazy person but isn’t Libertarianism woefully ignorant of this systemic reality? We need a responsible central government (no matter if it’s liberal or conservative) to enforce the national and international laws already in place. The problem is that enforcing these laws creates red tape. And yes, red tape sucks. Just like taxes suck. NO ONE likes going through red tape, especially small business that are more highly affected in time management. But it is there to help keep in check Big Business? There’s a level of hypocrisy to this too, in that Libertarianism desperately wants a free un-regulated economy, but there is nothing more detrimental to the economic freedoms of the individual than a huge, unwieldy corporation?

Imagine if we operated under local, de-centralized government what laws apply to global corporation like MacDonald’s who have restaurants in every single state? They already take advantage of different local tax laws, but their profits are funneled into a federal designation. Libertarianism argues that most taxes should be de-federalized, and thus depending on where McDonald’s put their “headquarters” they could pay entirely different taxes according to said state. And would all the tax money from that global corporation go just to the said local arena? Of course not. Most Libertarians even say that. But they also don’t offer the solution to that because Libertarianism has no answer for that… at all. Global corporations already take advantage of these kinds of international loopholes, but wildly varying tax codes among states would be disastrous and throw much of it into turmoil.

Yet, libertarians believe our government is a bloated, meaningless, and controlling mess. By “interfering” with American lives they’re ruining the country as it was intended. It’s like Libertarianism is trying to use the patriotic (and purposefully vague) language of The Constitution as a justification for bringing us back to the non-functional level of the Articles of Confederation. It’s insane.

My friend made a perfect point just the other night about the problem with Libertarianism. He stated that many libertarians seem to believe that the world exists only on a simple 1 to 1 interaction level where logic and ethics are completely discernible. It’s a view that’s completely ignorant of history, culture, and systemic reality. It looks only at the “personal freedoms” of an individual and whether the micro-decision is allowable under broad personal freedom. It pays absolutely no attention to the end result, nor any attention to the fact that most things operate outside of the 1:1. A small decision by a man running a company inadvertently affects thousands. It may be within the “right of the individual” but it completely runs detriment to livelihood of thousands of “individuals”. That’s the real crux of this whole thing. Sometimes you really do have to see the system itself as a complete culture.

There is really the key word in all of this: individual. No matter how Libertarianism argues it, it comes down to the advantages of individuals and those individuals are often single men, who don’t like paying taxes, and have absolutely no stake in public institutions, and don’t seem to care about whether or not firefighters get paid/or remain ignorant of it. Libertarians have told me they don’t want to give “half their paycheck to Uncle Sam.” I just smile and nod. They just don’t want to pay taxes and for some reason the removal of these federal institutions will mean that everything will be in a benevolent state of nature and it will just all work out… Right. This isn’t a lefty, knee-jerk reaction on behalf of my party, this is basic analysis of a fatally flawed political philosophy. And the biggest problem with it is that I don’t think Libertarians see the completely dysfunctional side of the equation. They don’t see the inevitable results, just what is in front of them.

Thus, all of this has a purpose. Right now, I’m really asking for a kind of honesty of Libertarianism: that it is really just Objectivism (with an ending result in muted Anarchy). I want Libertarians to admit that they’re voting just for what’s best for them and not spin me some yarn about the rights of individual, the foundations of this country, and how it’s in the best interest of the people. It’s not. It’s your best interests.

And guess what? That’s fine. Really, that’s more than fine. Just be honest about it. There’s a reason we all get a vote and they all count the same. Your vote counts just as much as mine and I’m proud of country for that… But just realize there’s also a reason Libertarians only get 4% of conservative vote at most. Most people in this country are Democrats and Republicans because we use institutions or we recognize their value.

I’m amazed how many young people are becoming attracted to Libertarianism and in particular Ron Paul. He pushed his lower-tax platform and had the allure of being a conservative against the war (when really he just has a history of being a whack-job and sees nothing wrong with bringing guns on airplanes). Or maybe young people liked the idea of lower taxes and not getting hassled by the man for having weed. Maybe they just wanted an alternative, and Libertarianism isn’t that super-hippy liberal stuff and it’s not uptight square-ism and military bent like the Republicans. Those observations may be true folks… but so is this one: Libertarianism is a political disaster, and any government that has ever behaved as such has failed miserably. I would love to show people the kind of anarchy our country would be in with all Libertarian government.

I am a Liberal. I acknowledge the inherent bloat of a Democratic system. I acknowledge the hypocrisy of many democrats being “of the people” when most politicians are rich and self-serving, or “elitist”. I acknowledge the contribution of the democrats to the annoying “thought police state” and their awful infighting is crippling their party.

But I also acknowledge the final results of the system. And that’s what matters… because whether we like it or not, we are the new British empire.


9 Responses to Don’t Like: Libertarianism

  1. Rich Paul says:

    You might want to study economics. Freedom is important, and slavery is unpleasant. By educating yourself, you can learn these things from books, rather than pushing policies which will one day cause them to be demonstrated on your flesh.

  2. mgss says:

    Your comment makes absolutely no sense… please explain

  3. mgss says:

    Also. please give me one concrete historical or relevant example of how libertarianism has worked in society. Not in theoretical make-believe world.

  4. Master K says:

    By educating yourself, you can learn these things from books, rather than pushing policies which will one day cause them to be demonstrated on your flesh.

    Why in the name of Jesus H. Fuck do libertarians on the web always seem to assume that, if you’re not a fan of libertarianism, you’re an uneducated simpleton? How is it that these logical Digg-reading programmer types spend so much time singing the praises of simple logic, but then when it comes time to actually defend the bullshit me-first-and-fuck-everyone-else political system they embrace, they devolve into name-calling?

    It’s emblematic of the movement as a whole: A bunch of socially retarded IT guys who attempt to borrow intellectual equity from their vocation. Creating good policy requires more than just being good at math, and just because you’re good at math doesn’t mean you’re smart.

  5. Dempsey says:

    You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts! I suggest you read the works of of Robert Hicks, Ludwig von Mises, or Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, to understand libertarianism.

    Of course, empirical evidence may impede your juvenile world view. I say juvenile, because your take on taxes resembles someone who had not paid much into income taxes, social security tax, property tax, etc. or simply has not figured how much one really does pay into hidden taxes.

    Taxes, plain and simple is coercion! Try not paying them. You will find men with guns at your door to haul your butt away. Of course this is just one of many reasons libertarians value freedom so much.

    Give us an update when you have a mortgage, business and kids who aren’t as smart as their grandparents were at same age, due to YOUR taxes which supports teachers unions, instead of teaching your children basics, such as critical thinking. Tell us your story when you realize that the money you earned, could have been put to better use than government programs that never worked, never will work and only breeds bureaucracy.

  6. Blog Author says:

    Actually I have read the works of Robert Hicks, but not the others you speak of. I assure you I have an understanding of what Libertarianism is and what it stands for.

    As for your suggestion that I have not paid much into taxes I find that awfully odd, considering that a) I have been paying them for years and years and I beg to differ with you on the existence of my mortgage b) your suggestion implies that anyone who has paid taxes for a long period of time would adopt your same exact view. Such is not the case as you’ll find many Americans recognize the value of paying taxes (they’re called republicans and democrats and they’re most of the country). Of course there’s bloat in the federal government, but you are grossly, grossly overestimating it. How would privatizing these interests to companies who only care about the bottom line help society, seriously?

    AND WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WITH THE TEACHERS UNIONS? MY TAXES support teachers unions? Of course they do! Cause teachers are the ones who teach school! Schools teach critical thinking! That’s exactly what they do and they always have! My entire family are teachers as were my grandparents. They get paid soooo little compared to other jobs in the public service sector (police and firefighters) and nothing compared to jobs in the private sector.

    Where did you go to school? Did you have an awful time there? Where all your teachers dumbasses who didn’t know anything?

    Look, you’ve obviously an intelligent person. But as an intelligent person you’re cursing out an entire system that works pretty well for the majority of americans just because you were inherently smart and didn’t see any value in the system. Schools have given me an incredible eduction as have my teachers union parents.

    Have you ever head the expression No Man Is An Island?

  7. […] you toward Objectivism much better than I can. I tend to lump it in with my feelings of disdain for libertariansm, but this is kind of it’s own special brand of dumb.  In short, it’s a philosophy that […]

  8. I am glad you do not like Libertarianism. Please consider me for President in 2012.

  9. […] detailed my dislike of Libertarianism, Ayn Rand*, and even Slate before, but here is Johann Hari’s excellent and scathing […]

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