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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Libertarian Bashing Continues Apace

I mentioned yesterday that the Motley Fool ran a hit piece on libertarians (pivoting on the 26th anniversary of  of the ascent of Alan Greenspan, of all dates).

Tuesday is Salon's turn, I suppose.

To spare you the details, the article basically asks why libertarianism hasn't even been tried since we keep claiming it's such a good idea. Well, the answer to this has many parts.

1. The U.S. at it's founding was probably the most libertarian country that existed at the time. I mean this in comparison to the rest of the world, not as compared to an ideal libertarian state.

Slavery is obviously in violation of the core libertarian policy of individual liberty, and there were many forms of government interference that would not exist in a libertarian utopia. However, the country was founded on many individual rights and economic freedoms that form the core principles of modern libertarianism.

Sure, we've drifted away from some of these concepts and fixed some rather un-libertarian policies over the years, but if they want at least a partial example of libertarianism in practice, the USA is a great place to start.

2. Libertarianism, by definition, is in conflict with centralized power. Most of those who enter politics desire power, because politics is the business of gaining power. Teachers get into teaching to teach, politicians get in to politics to exercise power.

Libertarians generally oppose exercising power over others, which sounds nice to voters, but not as nice as the other guys (see the left and the right) who promise to exercise their power for the voters' aims. The impulse to "do something" overrides the impulse to "live and let live" almost every time.

And that libertarian "live and let live" may win philosophical arguments but doesn't garner popularity when it comes time to vote. People want their guy exercising power their way rather than some guy exercising no power.

It may not be correct, but it is the way it is. The general election of 2004 is a case study in the fact that something being popular doesn't make it right.

3. Hey Michael Lind, have you ever spoken to a libertarian before? We're willing and much more able to answer your questions than the strawmen you've hastily stitched together.

I think it's awfully arrogant to claim you've asked an unanswerable question. And I really don't understand the comparison of libertarianism to Soviet Communism, since the latter was tried and did fail miserably in both the spheres of economic and civil rights.

4. Lind throws around a big number like "193 sovereign states" in order to say things like "193 countries and not one is libertarian? WTF?!?"

But he fails to mention that included in that 193 figure are some real shitholes like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, North Korea, Haiti, and the Sudan. It would be intellectually dishonest to say libertarians can't do better than some of these places, not matter how much you disagree with us.

If you look at those 193, nine have real-life ruling monarchs, another six run by monarchs with absolute power, eight that simply outlawed political dissent, a fucking theocracy, and two whose governments came to power via military coup.

And these are just the ones who are openly flaunting their lack of a free society. Many more of the countries on that list are democratic in name but dictatorial in practice. For a movement that aims to limit government power, you can see why libertarianism has far fewer paths to relevance before it than the 193 figure Lind cites.

5. Lind's "proof" is to cherry pick an island off the coast of Africa, use a Republican freedom metric (the Heritage Foundation is Republican, not libertarian) and then claim that less government equals more dead babies.

This ridiculous line of reasoning does not merit a response, sorry. It's like trying to explain to Ken Hamm how carbon dating works.

This is just another mindless attack on the growing libertarian movement that threatens modern liberalism's grasp on power.

After all, not trying something simply because it's never been tried before (which is what Lind's article implies) is a rather conservative stance for a supposedly progressive publication to take.

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