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So, I had a bad day at work today, which makes me rather grumpy–but all the better to take on Michael’s posted article.

Let me start off by saying that, as a liberatarian by temperament and–well, I’d call it long hard thinking, except that this article assures me that I’m incapable of thinking, because if I was, I wouldn’t be a libertarian.

But then, this article defines “libertarian” in a way that no libertarian I know of would accept as a definition. 

But let’s start from the beginning, and I’ll get in everything I can before I have to take the kid to the doctor’s.

First–if you want to speak to me and have me listen to you, you have to STOP doing three things.

a) the first is quoting Jimmy Carter as if he’s a modern day saint.  The main is a morally repugnant scumbag.  His only virtues are smugness, self righteousness and hypocrisy.  He has neither honor nor honest.  I didn’t like him when he was president–and I voted for him, twice, on the assumption that anything had to be better than a Republican.  After that Nobel Prize speech, though, I’m done.  If you’re going to quote somebody, quote somebody I can respect.

b) the second thing is that I am finished with that old canard about “the most prosperous period of our history–the 30 years after WWII–were New Deal liberal years!”

Yep, they were, but they weren’t the most prosperous because we had a New Deal liberal government.  They were the most prosoperous because we had just emerged from a world war as the only nation on earth with a fully functioning industrial plant.  We could have been making laws by reading chicken entrails and have had squirrels for Presidents, and we would still have been having the most prosperous era in our history.

The conditions that prevailed then do not prevail now.  We now have competition, and my guess is that as long as there is actually competition in the world, we’re NOT going to have times that good again. 

Bringing this up as an argument in favor of New Deal liberalism is bogus.

c) and third–stop, already, with the “libertarianism is what I say it is, and anything you say is just wrong.”

Sorry, the man defined libertarianism in a way that has nothing to do with libertarianism.

Then he proclaimed the ONLY really relevant thing about libertarianism as “not relevant.” 

In fact, he spends a lot of this article heading off any possible criticism of his argument by claiming that any criticism would be wrong–because he says so.

So, for a first shot, let’s go here:

1) The “social stuff” is not irrelevant.  It is the ENTIRE point.  I am a libertarian because I believe that individual citizens should have the right to make their own decisions about their own lives and the lives of their families.

And because I believe that in order to make that possible, there are some areas of human life from which governments AND other bureaucracies should be strictly prohibited from regulating.

When you hear “regulation,” you think of something to do with the banks, maybe, or health regulations for food production.

When I hear regulation, I think of–your children are too fat! your school can’t have a bake sale, it promotes obesity! your home office has to conform to the safety rules we made last week, and we get to march into your home WITHOUT a warrant or probable cause and make sure you’re toeing the line!  no smoking in your office!  Your kid needs Ritalin, and if you don’t let us give it to him, we’re going to take the kid away from you without so much as a trial to determine you’re guilty of something!

And on and on and on.

My libertarian touchstones are not Rothbard and Rand–they’re John Locke and John Stuart Mill.

In my experience, liberals who want to tell me how awful libertarianism is never want to talk about this stuff. 

The reason, I think, is that for all the nattering they do about sticking up for my constitutional rights, they are more than willing to throw those rights out the window when the government is supposed to be “helping.” 

So let me say it again.

THOSE are the most important issues for me–the intrusion of government into more and more of my private decisions, the valorizing of ‘expert opinion” as if “a consensus of experts” trumps any right the Constitution gives me not to listen to them. 

Government–not private industry–has been at the forefront of that intrusion, and it takes government power to enforce it. 

Slavery, for instance, is supposed to be abolished, but employers more and more insist that they can regulate my behave in my private time away from the job.

Why isn’t there a huge outcry about the big, bad corporations taking away our rights?

Because, by and large, it isn’t the corporations that are doing it.  It’s the municipal governments, insisting that their police officers, firefighters and teachers can be fired for smoking cigarettes AT HOME, OFF DUTY.

And they courts have been backing them up.

Neither liberals nor conservatives want to put an end to that kind of thing. 

2) I’d be more sympathetic to the whole “if we don’t regulate corporations, they’ll engage in racial discrimination” thing if it wasn’t for the fact that the US government is now the enforcer of a vast system of legally established racial discrimination–including an effort to make sure that anybody who dares to dissent from it is branded a “racist.”

“Racist” means “treating people differently, and some people pejoratively, on the basis of their race.” 

But that is, of course, exactly what affirmative action does, and it is also what EEOC does when it swoops down into an industry and declares that racial discrimination must be happening because there aren’t the right percentages of each race working at the enterprise.

Never mind that the “right percentages” are once again a matter of bureaucratic fiat, determined not by acts of Congress but by the discretion of agencies. 

3) Then there’s the constant–well, it was a close enough libertarian government!  We’re going to count it!

Any economically libertarian government would require, first and foremost, not a lack of regulation, but a lack of the ability of government to pick favorites.

It would mean no bank was too big to fail.  We let them go down and crash.  We’d leave them open to shareholder lawsuits. 

It would mean that those robber barons would have had to buy up land on their own, in competition with their fellows–the government would not have been able to take over such land by eminent domain to give it to them, and the government would not be able to take “public” land and give it to them, either. 

If you’ve got an example in which those conditions apply, show it to me, but stop it already with taking one of the most crony-capitalist periods in our history and calling it “close enough to libertarian economics.”

4) No, I am not an “economic conservative.”  I’m not a conservative of any kind. 

You can figure that out by the fact that I’m in favor of gay marriage, abortion on demand in all nine months, and a pretty much absolutist definition of free speech.

And those are, in fact, the REAL issues between liberal, conservative and libertarian. 

Or, as I sometimes think of it, “liberal/conservative” and “libertarian.”

Both the liberals and the conservatives these days seem to think they have the right to run my life.

5) Robert is right–the BIG issue in laws (and regulations, which are laws we don’t pass democratically) is transparency and objectivity.

The endless proliferation of subjective standards for everything has got to stop.

Did sexual harrassment happen in the workplace?

If the employee “feels” it did, it did.  If she or he “feels” that a remark was objectionable or created a “hostile environment,” it did.

You know what this is?

It’s a government of men and not of laws.

It means that, on at least some issues, nobody can ever know if they’re in compliance with the law or not.

Law is not something written down that I can learn, learn to understand, and then follow.

It’s whatever somebody says on Tuesday.  Which could change on Wednesday.  And then change again on Thursday.

You want to hear a libertarian principle?

Libertarianism says that kind of thing should stop, period.  Laws should be clear, non-contradictory, passed by elected legislatures, and and capable of being understood (and followed) by the citizens whose lives they’re supposed to govern.

The above is only the beginning of a long list of issues that define “libertarianism” for me.

And it’s my private opinion that liberals like to run around screaming “income inequality! evil corporations!” while the conservatives scream “the free market!” because both of them are desperately attempting NOT to deal with those issues.

Written by janeh

December 30th, 2011 at 11:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses to 'Libertarian'

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  1. Jane, you know I’m with you on all of that. But that’s not what most people I encounter who call themselves libertarian talk about. So I say I’m a social libertarian or a civil libertarian instead.

    Economically, what kinds of checks and balances are necessary to keep capitalism from becoming crony capitalism? And how can you structure a safety net to maximize the benefit (helping those who can’t help themselves) and minimize the harm (inducing helplessness in those who could help themselves)? Those are the political questions that interest me.

    Cathy F


    30 Dec 11 at 12:39 pm

  2. CA, one hedge: you need “checks and balances” to avoid crony capitalism the way you need them to avoid censorship. When a government has the power to restrict entry into a market, to operate businesses or to subsidise one worker or company and not another, it works pretty much like giving it the power to suppress “hate speech” or “error.” All you have to do is wait for it to start favoring either (a) people they find congenial–same college, maybe, or relatives–or (b) people who will pay lots of money to get the government to see things their way. Generally, you don’t have to wait very long. I wouldn’t pack a lunch.

    Not to say that, say, licensing is not sometimes necessary–but on a clear standard, and open to anyone who meets that standard, NOT “Joe is allowed to drive a cab in New York, but Sam isn’t because too many cabbies would lower the rates.” I hear liberals talk about FDR through Eisenhower as some sort of golden age of regulation, but when FDR needed tanks for WWII, the War Department showed a blueprint of an M-4 (the Sherman) to every interested manufacturer, and said, “if you produce a vehicle to match this plan, we’ll pay you X dollars per unit.” It didn’t matter that FDR didn’t like Ford, and did like Kaiser. If Ford made ten times the tanks, it got ten times the money. The government’s responsibility began with drawing up a good plan, and ended with making sure the tanks they paid for were according to spec.

    I don’t know how you’d measure these things scientifically, but you could make a pretty good case for the America of the New Deal–ICC monopolies and all–having been less regulated on balance than the modern “Great Society” America. Certainly the critics of “unregulated” modernity aren’t pining for the return of the telephone monopolies–with appropriate rates–one airline per city, and having to pay off the ICC to haul goods from one state to another.

    In fact, you don’t generally even see them pining for the return of Glass-Steagal, which was clear, had no exceptions and 44 pages long. There is SO much more prospect for rewarding friends and enemies both in the 1,000+ pages of Dodd-Frank.

    But that’s where I came in.

    I skipped the safety net. Jane’s already done that.


    30 Dec 11 at 4:33 pm

  3. Says all I wish I’d said. The only points I’d disagree with, and then only mildly, are on gay marriage and late term abortion. I don’t understand how anyone can be “in favour” of either. I’m in favour of gays being able to register their unions and being entitled to all the privileges that the state grants married couples, But I would never be in favour of “gay marriage” if it means that others, eg churches or church ministers can be required, or coerced, into going against their consciences by performing what is for them the sacrament of marriage.

    Similarly, I’ll never be “in favour” of abortion at any stage any more than I’ll ever be “in favour” of euthanasia at any stage for any reason. But I accept that it is a woman’s right to choose, and that choice must be supported to the extent that proper, qualified and ethical medical personnel and facilities must be available for that choice to be realised, again without forcing or coercing others to go against their consciences in providing such procedures. But, and for me this is the big but, abortion must not deliberately cause the death of an otherwise viable foetus, which rules out partial birth procedures and the like. (I spent Christmas Day playing with 6 month old twin boys in the extended family who had been delivered by emergency C-section at about 25 weeks. They are not identical twins, and one is significantly bigger than the other, but in every respect they are perfectly healthy and thriving kids.) While I accept that abortion on demand is an essential feature of modern society, and the least worst option for many women, my fear is that, just as with “euthanasia”, it will become a mere convenience unless tightly regulated. (The whole idea of what seems to be a burgeoning trend towards designer babies where people abort supposedly less than perfect foetuses to be replaced, hopefully, by a more perfect one, simply revolts me from a societal, rather than religious, viewpoint.

    As for Cathy’s last paragraph above, human nature is pretty much immutable in my experience. This militates against any easy solutions to those problems. There will inevitably be debate about where to draw the necessary lines, but that’s life.


    30 Dec 11 at 5:27 pm

  4. Sorry, but the word “libertarian” doesn’t mean what you want it to mean anymore. It’s been hijacked by the Randroids, Anarchocapitalists, and Teabaggers. If you want to describe a political philosophy that promotes liberty as a genuine principle, you’ll have to make up your own name for it, because it’s too foreign to modern America for anyone to talk about it or even know about it.


    30 Dec 11 at 6:46 pm

  5. Gee, ab, it still means the same as it ever did down here in Oz. Something else that hasn’t changed is the tendency for people to believe that their own political druthers are the one true way, and that everyone else deserves to be mocked.


    30 Dec 11 at 8:05 pm

  6. Well, Mique, in a lot of the US, the so-called libertarians are supporting Ron Paul. He combines economic and political libertarianism with a regressive and intrusive view on social issues. It’s not uncommon in my circles, at least.

    Cathy F


    30 Dec 11 at 11:39 pm

  7. I wouldn’t know Ron Paul from a hole in the wall and have no idea what he or any other potential Rep candidate allegedly believes. If your party internal selection processes anything like ours, potential candidates will say anything at all they think might give them an advantage in any given audience. In my experience, nothing they say at that stage will bind them for the future. A printed list of deliberate and blatant lies told by political candidates in the campaigning stages would strip the last trees from the face of the earth.

    I’ll start to follow the presidential campaign (and the campaigners) when it comes down to the Dems v Reps. I really couldn’t care less who either party selects in its own primaries, and wouldn’t believe a word any of them say.


    31 Dec 11 at 1:56 am

  8. AB? We’ve got an etiquette thing here. That’s a new word to you, I know. It has to do with treating other people with respect. What it means in this instance is that you, not being a libertarian, don’t get to tell a libertarian what her beliefs are. You may legitimately point out that other people calling themselves libertarians have different points of emphasis, but that only works when you cite specific examples. You could also point out that the policies proposed won’t lead to the results promised–but she’s making a moral stand, and not promising outcomes.

    Also, it’s not generally a game progressives like.

    For myself, I’d say she doesn’t always value how much our other freedoms depend on our economic ones. If the government gets to ration paper, it doesn’t need a board of censors. But in our present situation, that “laws should be clear, non-contradictory, passed by elected legislatures, and and capable of being understood (and followed) by the citizens whose lives they’re supposed to govern” is a critical matter, and your usual song and dance about the evils of unregulated lives doesn’t begin to address it.


    31 Dec 11 at 2:12 pm

  9. >But in our present situation, that “laws should be >clear, non-contradictory, passed by elected >legislatures, and and capable of being understood (and >followed) by the citizens whose lives they’re supposed >to govern” is a critical matter,

    ^ This, yes.

    I, and the Occupy folks that I know, have called for reinstating Glass-Steagal.

    I have gone on record as saying that government should get completely out of the business of marriage. It should only register and regulate civil unions. Churches can have the word marriage.

    I only bring up Ron Paul because he’s the highest profile “non-libertarian being called a libertarian” that I could name, simply as evidence that the term is losing its proper meaning.

    Cathy F


    31 Dec 11 at 5:58 pm

  10. “…evidence that the term (libertarian) is losing its proper meaning.”

    Humpty Dumpty rules in the modern media. Neither Liberals nor Conservatives are what they used to be either.


    31 Dec 11 at 6:22 pm

  11. Mique, I don’t think Liberal or Conservative are useful words these days.


    1 Jan 12 at 6:42 pm

  12. I agree, John. Nor are left and right, there no longer appearing to be any objective means if determining political “top dead centre” (if there ever was).


    2 Jan 12 at 12:06 am

  13. I’d disagree to a point. Liberals–American-style that is: British liberalism is idfferent–are still pretty well what they were when LBJ HHH and Bobby Kennedy were lying to me. To wit:
    –Centralization is always better.
    –If the government spends more money on something, the condition will improve.
    –People making their own decisions will make inappropriate ones. It is the government’s responsibility to enlighten them.
    –Fairness is measured by results and not opportunities.
    –Whatever military spending is, it should be less, and however taxes are structured, they should be more progressive.
    –“World public opinion” has more divisions than the Pope.
    –No change in the rewards for work and idleness will actually affect behavior, and
    –if you have to fight a war, it would be vulgar to actually win.
    There’s even a substantial continuity of personnel. I can still pick through editorials for Bob Shrum and George McGovern, and the policies they advocate differ from Obama’s no more than you’d expect than a sideline advocate second-guessing a practicing politician.
    It is true they often call themselves “progressives” these days. But no one else calls them that.

    The conservative case is trickier. For one, a conservative playing offense is a reactionary, and it’s a tricky border. How long need a policy be in place before it is reactionary to get rid of it instead of conservative? And conservative principles can conflict. Conservatism isn’t the smooth concensus-driven organization American liberalism is. Is the Defense of Marriage Act conservative, maintaining millenia of family structure, or radical in intruding on two centuries of state-level definitions of marriage? Either answer is defensible. Same thing with the Schaivo case. Almost any conservative would tell you the state can’t declare a person dead and cut off food and water, but given that a state has done so, was it a violation of conservative principles for the national legislature to intervene?
    The more liberal the national political structure, the more the conservative has to make hard choices.

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Republican Party contains both conservatives and libertarians. Even many individuals have elements of both, while the Dems are pretty much liberals clear through. (Jane insists that there is a libertarian element on the left, but I simply can’t find evidence in terms of policies advocated or pursued. There is, if you will, no Democratic Ron Paul or Rand Paul.)
    So the Dems can sometimes rightly point out that a particular Republican initiative isn’t conservative, but that doesn’t mean conservatism has no meaning: just that the libertarians won a round.
    I’ll grant you that Obama regularly conflates libertarianism, conservatism and even DLC liberalism in his speeches, but a lot of politicians lump all their enemies together rhetorically. He knows better when he’s not giving speeches.

    I think.


    2 Jan 12 at 9:34 am

  14. I’m busy doing computer stuff, but this is applicable to the problems at hand:


    I’ll try and add some discussion later if I solve my computer issues.


    2 Jan 12 at 2:19 pm

  15. Interesting article, that. Thanks for posting it. I’ve passed it along to No 1 son whose stock in trade at Deloittes is executive remuneration schemes.

    Seems to me that once upon a time in the good old days long gone, when shareholders had individual faces and, in many cases, were personally known to company management, the interests of company and shareholders were pretty much identical and treated accordingly. These days, where the big investment funds control the major stock markets and can shift huge sums of money at the blink of an eye and on a fractional movement in company forecasts, things are very different.

    How to fix it? Gawdonlynose.


    2 Jan 12 at 6:04 pm

  16. The second dumbest idea ever is the idea that reform can save capitalism.


    2 Jan 12 at 10:37 pm

  17. In a word, rubbish.


    3 Jan 12 at 12:51 am

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