While the political philosophy of libertarianism remains popular, especially among a specific demographic - mainly young 'up and coming' professionals and a segment of high I.Q. societies - such as Intertel and Mensa- the fact remains it is a bankrupt engine for real political change. There are sundry reasons for this which I'd like to examine more closely in this blog post, which will show why the 'Libbies' can never win any national election.
For a fairly generic idea of the core libertarian principles we can consider Charles Murray's statement in What it means to be a Libertarian (p. 6):
“It is wrong for me to use force against you, because it violates your right to control of your person....I may have the purest motive in the world. I may even have the best idea in the world. But even these give me no right to make you do something just because I think it's a good idea. This truth translates into the first libertarian principle of governance: In a free society individuals may not initiate the use of force against any other individual or group”
Of course, this is also undoubtedly where the pet libertarian canard that “taxes = theft’ comes from. But look at it objectively (not to be confused with ‘Objectivism’) this is arrant twaddle and illogical to boot. Further, it takes no note of actual political and social reality which may make these perceptions even more egregious.
I mean “libertarian principle of governance”? This is an oxymoron! Governance presumes and demands the non-passive act of governing, which means the projection of force for enforcement of laws. Someone is invariably and actively setting standards of expected action, and also providing the means to uphold the standards. In other words, force inevitably backs up governance. Why do you think cities maintain police forces, and the nation a large volunteer standing army - along with assorted weapons to control crowds? It is to sustain coherent and FORCE-ful governance. The libertarians, then, espouse a philosophy which cannot possibly work in the real world - because that world implicitly recognizes and declares government the primary agent of force, i.e. to enforce laws. Look around for a "force-less" government, i.e. which retains adherence and respect for its laws with no use of force. I defy you to name one!
If governments aren't enabled to enforce their laws , what’s the point? It’s all an exercise in mental masturbation. People can do whatever the hell they want! Set up sex store emporiums or pot shops next to schools, or sell cocaine and semi-automatic weapons in open stalls on the sidewalks of major cities! Freedom thereby becomes perverted into a veritable "free for ALL". In other words, unless governance declares limits to actions - and someone (coercively) enforces governance, a functional society becomes impossible. Now, maybe there IS a docile libertarian principle of “governing suggestion”- but this in no way is the same as “governance”! I also warrant such "suggestion" will always remain that and never be adopted.
One of the examples assorted libertarians invoke is that public tradespeople ought to be free to decide with whom they trade. Thus, the druggist, the restaurateur, the hobby store, the home renovation store --- whoever- ought to be free to decide themselves with whom they trade. Of course, this is a prescription for absolute chaos. If every person, corporation, etc. could decide with whom they trade we'd have market bedlam. Economics would be in an even worse predictive position than it is presently.
One libertarian actually wrote in a blog comment several months ago:
"If it is morally wrong to force someone to work for you against their will, how is it any less wrong to force someone else to trade with another against their will? I'm sure you will disagree on this point, but it is really about extending the same freedom to everyone, even if they choose to use that freedom in ways that you do not approve of."
The error the Libbie commits is conflating slavery ("making someone work for you") with making someone trade with you. But this is mixing chalk and cheese. Free trade is regulated by licensing from the local community, county, state or nation (commerce clause). The restaurateur or trader is afforded certain privileges (via licensing) that a slave is not. These include the ability to manufacture goods and create services that can be publicly offered for sale in the market realm. The trader's so called "freedom" is thereby limited to do whatever the trader wants - and hence he can't include refusal of service unless there are extenuating circumstances, i.e. the customers enter drunk and disorderly. The trader doesn't have the latitude or "freedom" to refuse service on basis of ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation. It does not matter what personal likes or dislikes the trader has, or his preferences. If he is to trade in the licensed public domain he is obliged to put these aside. If he can't handle that, then his only resort is to create a "black market" where he can choose as he sees fit. Or he can barter on the individual level and decide with whom he'll trade to his heart's content.
But to do otherwise in the PUBLIC regulated domain flouts Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1960s which again is an example of government force to assert and promote citizens' rights. The impetus of any trader to willingly impose racial or ethnic bias to delimit with whom he does business is thus rightfully outlawed. Meanwhile, the government's right to forcibly shut down any trader - say selling knockoffs of trademarked products, or selling harmful products or marijuana (in a non-legalized state) or illicit sexual services, is preserved.
Again, traders are delimited and can't do whatever the hell they want. Their freedom is naturally circumscribed by the state. Any state!
Let's bear in mind that anti-statism is a central tenet of libertarianism, but it rests on no foundations, other than the so-called libertarian principles babbled by Murray and others. For example, Frank Chodorov, quoted by David Boaz of CATO Inst. in ‘Libertarianism: A Primer’, goes so far as to write:
“Society is a collective concept and nothing else; it is a convenience for designating a number of people... The concept of Society as a metaphysical concept falls flat when we observe that Society disappears when the component parts disperse”
Boaz himself joins in on what the “individual” means:
“For libertarians, the basic unit of social analysis is the individual.... Individuals are, in all cases, the source and foundation of creativity, activity, and society. Only individuals can think, love, pursue projects, act. Groups don’t have plans or intentions”
But, as Prof. Ernest Partridge puts it in his 2012 article, ‘Liberals and Libertarians’:
“Now consider the implications of this denial of the "independent existence" of "the public" and "society." If there is no "public," then there are no "public goods" and there is no "public interest." If there is no "society," then there is no "social harm," or "social injustice" or "social (and public) responsibility." It then follows that government has no role in mitigating "social injustice" or promoting "the public interest," since these terms are fundamentally meaningless. Poverty and racial discrimination, for example, are individual problems requiring individual solutions”.
I can assure the Libbies here that if Boaz’ concept held sway and government force was not used in Alabama in Sept. 1963 (JFK nationalizing the Alabama National Guard to enforce school integration) and the later passage of the Civil Rights Act we would still be a segregated nation, with blacks sitting in the back of the bus, ‘colored’ water coolers and restrooms, and the rest. Only someone totally divorced from reality would claim individual African-Americans could have obtained their civil rights with mere individual effort and no government input.
Meanwhile, The Libertarian Party Principles state:
“We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”
Again, more inherently contradictory twaddle and piffle: Interference with the lives of others is permitted, so long as it’s not “forcible interference”? This is incredible! So, if a neighbor has a "rape room" where teen girls are regularly taken - so he can "live in whatever manner he chooses", we are obliged to not forcibly interfere? And what if it comes to attention that he's making bombs of assorted types, we're still not permitted to forcibly interfere - or notify law enforcement to do so?
Their definition also excludes much that others would see as coercion. For example, to me, the TABOR law in Colorado is coercion, because it continuously and aggressively scales back tax support for the public domain (based on the past year’s population and growth) under a rigorous "formula" that is never subject to alteration - whether in good economic times or bad. Thousands of disabled people across the state may stand to lose their services thanks to TABOR and controls like it. all with the best intentions of course. The perverse basis of this law is that we not “take by force” those hard-earned gains of the filthy rich bastards ensconced in one of several of their 45.000 square foot mansions in Aspen!
As one critic has put it (to do with libertarians’ convoluted principles):
“Libertarians make exceptions for defense of property and prosecution of fraud, and call them ‘retaliatory force’ But retaliation can be the initiation of force: I don't need force to commit theft or fraud. This is a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand that libbies like to play so that they can pretend they are different from government”.
Libertarianism clearly posits initiation of force for what it identifies as its cosseted minions' interests and calls it righteous retaliation, and uses the big lie technique to define everything else as “evil initiation of force". (As they would certainly call JFK’s nationalization of the AL guard in ’63 to force school integration) They support the initial force that has already taken place in the formation of the system of property (e.g. the seizure of Native American lands and violation of umpteen treaties), and wish to continue to use force to perpetuate it and make it more rigid. It is this inchoate ethics that translates into the system’s weakness and exposes libertarians as true hypocrites.
I warrant libertarianism and its fanciful world of minimal force might work, in a fantasy parallel universe where all citizens are equally educated and have equal access to facts and information, and equal opportunities to advance their social-economic station. But that is emphatically not the world we inhabit, whether the Libbie concedes it or not. This is why libertarianism will remain the province of the very few, though it is disturbing to behold all the inroads it’s made into the high I.Q. societies like Mensa and Intertel. To read some of the letters or articles is almost like witnessing a collective mind-virus unleashed, and by people whose “bible” is ‘Atlas Shrugged’.
More sobering, it is virtually impossible to reason with these individuals. They have so bought into the airy fairy ideations of Libertarianism they won't deign to remotely entertain the notion that it simply can't work in the real world. For this reason too, since it is so useless to debate, I no longer accept comments from libertarians on this site, even say in response to this post. They will have to set up their own blogs and make their rejoinders there!
Of course, for all these reasons libertarianism will never garner more than the 2 percent or so it barely manages in national elections. Even in local elections one seldom sees libertarian candidates running on their own (not aligned to either party) barely reaching the 5 percent level. The reason is clear: most voters see that the Libertarian principles can't work in the real world humans inhabit. The presumptions libertarians hold are simply untenable, unworkable and non-existent in the real world.
Thankfully, there are still many of us- certainly in Mensa and Intertel - who don't buy the resident Libbie bunkum, no matter who tries to peddle it. Call us proud “statists” (or "liberals") if you will, but we will continue to advocate expanding government so that it serves all citizens – not merely the corporations, the rich, and not so rich, or any who can afford the luxury of Libertarian codswallop. And luxury it is, because I guarantee you that if you poll the homeless in Denver, Baltimore or San Francisco you won't find any libertarians there. You won't because it is a creation for and by the cosseted and privileged few, including pampered academics of the Walter Block mold, who never have to worry about THEIR precious properties or rights taken away - unless in some pseudo-political realm fabricated within their own paranoid brains.
Finally, to anyone out there whose mind hasn’t been infected by the libertarian mind virus, I commend Paul Kurtz’s excellent Editorial ‘Overcoming the Global Economic Tsunami’ in the ‘Free Inquiry’ magazine, e.g.
Kurtz has it exactly right in his proposals, especially when he avers:
“Effective regulation must be reintroduced to protect the public interest”.
This is antithetical to libertarianism because it recognizes no public interest, since it recognizes no "public". As Ernest Partridge put it: If there is no "public," then there are no "public goods" and there is no "public interest." If there is no "society," then there is no "social harm," or "social injustice" or "social (and public) responsibility.
We have to thank the libertarians for creating a reflection of a fantasy world which will never come to pass, other than in their own deluded craniums. Hence, for exposing "principles" that the true rationalist can never accept - because it would mean he has detached himself from any grounding in reality. This is a service because one can then concentrate on making other, existing political systems more workable.
Have they "over thought" political ideals or extended a concept of "freedom" beyond any reasonable bounds? Very likely! This is why I commend to all Libbies the excellent book by David M. Potter, Freedom and its Limitations in American Life, (Stanford University Press, 1976)
"Anarchism was libertarianism fully realized. Political libertarianism was a deformation of the ideology, only attractive to those who valued the sentiments of libertarianism but weren’t principled enough to carry it to its logical (and moral) conclusions."