The obligatory “this ain’t libertarianism” post
My dad used to refuse to watch Hollywood’s version of war or life in the Army. He said it was more of a cartoon than reality. Of course Hollywood is famous for that, and nothing much has changed over the years. My dad enjoyed documentaries about the military (I remember well, “Victory at Sea”) but he preferred real cartoons to Hollywood’s version.
I’m sort of that way with articles about libertarianism. As you know, both sides of the establishment political spectrum are scared to death of real libertarianism. And so they attempt to demonize it and make it “unpalatable” for the mass of the citizenry. The usual procedure is to decide what they want to claim, define their version of “libertarianism” to support their claim and then using their false premise, attempt to logically prove their point.
The latest attempt is an article in Bloomberg entitled “Libertarians are the new Communists“. Now as ridiculous as that sounds, the point of the article isn’t to say libertarians are the same as communists, i.e. pretty much share the same belief systems. But that libertarianism suffers from fatal flaws that ignore human nature just as communism does. And that’s where they try to establish their false premise, i.e.:
Like communism, this philosophy is defective in its misreading of human nature, misunderstanding of how societies work and utter failure to adapt to changing circumstances. Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution. It assumes that societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers, when, in fact, they are fragile ecosystems prone to collapse and easily overwhelmed by free-riders. And it is fanatically rigid in its insistence on a single solution to every problem: Roll back the state!
Wow, where to start. Let’s start with “selfishness”. Among non-libertarians this is the most misunderstood concept of them all. What they try to do is make a simple and absolute part of human nature into something else again. Libertarians do not believe that “humans are wired only to be selfish”. What libertarians do believe is that we act in our own enlightened self-interest. That’s a no-brainer. Anyone who argues otherwise doesn’t know human nature. We all act in our own rational self-interest when we do things. And guess what? Sometimes it is in our own rational self-interest to cooperate with others! Oh my goodness. You mean libertarians believe in cooperation. Yes! As long as it is voluntary cooperation, not coerced.
Now, does that sound so horrible or something that is against human nature? Of course not. But to listen to the Hollywood version, well we’re all selfish SOBs.
Number two … no libertarian that I know actually believes that we shouldn’t cooperate to ensure that others rights aren’t violated or people aren’t coerced into doing things they don’t wish to do. How that translates into a system with no rules or enforcers is beyond me. The very fact that libertarians believe in individual rights (rules), are against coercion (rule) and would like to ensure those rights aren’t violated (rules/laws/enforcement) makes a dog’s breakfast out of that claim. It’s nonsense.
By the way, before you get too far into this, let me point out that although in the title, the authors use the term “libertarians”, throughout the piece they pretend they’re talking about “radical libertarians”. Their examples?
Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.” Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government. Some resemble the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has made a career out of trying to drown, stifle or strangle government.
Can you say “establishment hit piece”?
And that’s all this is.
Anyway to wrap it up, look at their final claim – Single solution to every problem is “roll back the state”. Single solution? Have these two bothered to look at the state of the state these days? Are they insisting that rolling back the state is always a bad thing (see I can make unsupported assumptions about them too)? Any prudent student of today’s state knows it has grown out of all proportion to its original design. And, they also know it has become oppressive, intrusive and frankly arrogant in its power. Anyone who isn’t screaming “roll back the state”, whatever their ideological affiliation, is a statist and no friend of liberty.
And that’s how I classify these two authors. They’re establishment statists deathly afraid of the liberty those they try to demonize represent and willing to misrepresent libertarianism as anarcho-capitalism. I’m sorry, but that’s not libertarianism, extreme or otherwise, and ask any self-respecting an-cap and they’ll be the first to agree.
So in essence, what we have in this article is an attempt at political demonization, by misrepresenting libertarianism and giving it the Hollywood war picture treatment.