The Libertarian Menace

Is it me, or have there been an inordinate number of anti-libertarian diatribes in the media these days (sorry, no links)?  I realize that Ron Paul’s running for president again, but judging by all the soiled liberal drawers lying around you might think a horde of libertarians were marching on Washington as we speak.

Here’s another one, which posits that libertarianism is incompatible with democracy and is therefore a natural ally of right-wing autocracies because a few leading 20th-Century libertarians had good things to say about Mussolini and Pinochet, because libertarians tend to have elitist disdain for democracy, and because voters in modern democratic states overwhelming reject libertarian policies.  Okay.  Without getting into whether libertarianism is really right-wing, or whether Hayek and Milton Friedman are its most suitable representatives, or whether the voting results from Coke v. Pepsi democratic elections tell us much of anything about anything, I’d just say that finding an ideological hack or two willing to toss their supposed principles aside for a little taste of power isn’t exactly an argument against an entire political philosophy.  And if it is, then modern liberalism, which this piece implicitly defends, is in even worse shape than libertarianism.  And no, not because some liberals in the 1930s were apologists for Stalin, but because a lot of liberals in 2011 are apologists for Obama’s expansion of Bush’s “illegal wars,” his consolidation and expansion of Bush’s executive power grabs, his selling out to Bush’s Wall St. and Bush’s insurance companies and…so on.  Jonah Goldberg isn’t wrong about liberals.  He just forgot to mention that conservatives are fascists, too.

Then there’s this nugget:

But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion — issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.

Really?  Who aside from Glenn Greenwald is writing about civil liberties issues from the left?  As for their “right-wing brethren,” what about Radley Balko, or Will Grigg, who writes regularly about police abuse for, which in a lot of ways comes pretty close to the right-wing caricature on parade here?  Just because they tend not to dress these issues up in the garb of identity politics doesn’t mean they’re not concerned with “civil rights.”  And libertarians are easily as good on anti-militarism as “the left.”

But this is the best:

Unfortunately for libertarians who, like Hayek, prefer libertarian dictatorships to welfare-state democracies, even modern authoritarians reject the small-government creed. The most successful authoritarian capitalist regimes, such as today’s China and South Korea and Taiwan before their recent transitions to democracy, have been highly interventionist in economics, promoting economic growth by means of state-controlled banking, state-owned enterprises, government promotion of cartels, suppression of wages and consumption, tariffs and nontariff barriers to imports, toleration of intellectual piracy, massive infrastructure projects to help industry, and subsidies to manufacturers in the form of artificially cheap raw materials, energy and land.

A liberal invoking China’s authoritarian state-capitalism as an argument for welfare-state democracy, and, even better, at the end of an article that attempts to discredit libertarianism in part by citing some of its adherents’ support for authoritarian regimes.  (Hey, I hear Kim Jong Il is no fan of libertarianism either.  You see?)  I wonder if it’s ever occurred to Lind that things like “government promotion of cartels,” “suppression of wages,” and “subsidies to manufacturers in the form of artificially cheap raw materials, energy and land” are what’s causing the problems that the welfare-state is designed to ameliorate.  The only question that remains to be settled is why anyone should pay attention to liberals.

12 thoughts on “The Libertarian Menace

  1. As more people depart the mainstream Donkey and Elephant parties, those parties’ partisan hack writers, pundits, opinioneers begin chasing whatever goblin they can imagine to blame for their party’s loss. Anything to avoid thinking about, wanting to, or needing to change. Anything!

    I think anyone who has paid attention to public socio-economic-political discussion on the Toobz over the past 3 years realizes a lot of people are jumping ship or thinking about jumping ship from their old heart-tattoo party. I notice it, so I think others must notice it too. If some of those others are partisan shills, they start looking for scapegoats.

    It’s a similar pull/theme compared to the election where people said Nader “ruined it” for the Donkeys… as if the Donkeys were entitled to the votes given Nader, as if the only reason someone would support Nader over Kerry, Gore, Lieberman, Clinton… anyone… is to be a “spoiler”. The arrogance is astounding!

    On the Elephant side there’s less BOO! SCARY! rhetoric describing Paul or what’s attributable to him, but there’s still going to be Elephants who hate Paul for speaking up on the issues that embarrass the Elephant party.

    I wonder what kinds of dynamics would arise among voters if Ron Paul went Independent. I wouldn’t expect it to change the POTUS race, from a “who’s going to win?” perspective, but it could show some interesting changes in the populace, where their attitudes are now.

    Most people are going to wait until changes are forced on them, so I don’t have any fantasies about things changing overnight with Paul defecting to an Indy gig, but it would be interesting to see how many people really would leave their old partisan alliance, get that tattoo removed from their heart.

    Meanwhile, the Donkey shills will continue their same old game from the post-Vietnam era… LOOK! SCARY, EVIL RETHUGLICANS! OVER THERE! …in order to deflect attention away from the performance — which is completely unlike what many Donkle thought they were voting for with Obama and the Donkey Congresscritters.

    And some of that scaremongering will be directed at Ron Paul — more, if it seems more people are defecting or considering it. Nov 2012 is a long way off and that’s a long time to watch the rhetoric ramp up, the distractions grow more panicked, the desperate pleas more absurd.

  2. Who aside from Glenn Greenwald is writing about civil liberties issues from the left?

    Nobody regularly who gives the same “here’s your research condensed for you” take on it.

    Lots who talk about the effects though. Lots. The effects are all that matters, that’s why I think a lot aren’t bothered to do what Greenwald does.

    I see Greenwald’s writings as being a lot of exhaustive reporting on 2+2=4, a proposition that requires no proof for me. Saying that the fed govt is lying to us about homeland security, domestic terrorism, etc… why should that need documenting? It’s obvious! It’s obvious like 2+2=4 obvious.

    At least it is to me. I guess there must be a huge contingent of people who cannot see it, won’t believe it, whatever. I guess.

    It would explain why so many continue to think things are fine, and get all worked up over abortion rights, gay marriage, and SCOTUS appointments… the first two of which are tiny minority (pop % wise) of affected among total population; the third is a non-issue and irrelevant to most every single human because they’re not informed on jurisprudence. Most think it’s as simple as GOP appoints people like Scalia while Donkle appoints people like Brennan (RIP). The great opinions by the SCOTUS giving what would classically be “left” – ish jurisprudence a leg up were written by people appointed by Repub Presidents… enviro, real civil rights (i.e. Constitutional law Qs, not Qs on Civ Rts Acts of the 60s) affecting all Americans, etc. Roe v Wade is not the most incredible piece of jurisprudence ever written, and to devolve SCOTUS appts to that issue, that case… it’s absurd. The SCOTUS does way more harm outside the Q of abortion than it ever could do by overturning Roe v Wade. Holyfuck!

    • No doubt there are plenty on the left that I’m not aware of. The first people I came across who wrote about civil liberties issues were libertarians, though, and they’ve been my go-to sources on that topic ever since. Still, I don’t think it’s as prevelant as Lind makes it seem (I’m assuming he wasn’t just talking about fringe lefties). Seems to me that left-liberal types are way more likely to write about the things you mention in your last paragraph than, say, police abuse.

      Greenwald doesn’t really do it for me, either, but if he’s bringing a little skepticism to people who are otherwise inclined to trust the government, I’d say that’s a good thing.

      • Lefties don’t care about police abuse. They identify with the po-po and see the po-po as the buffer against the scary rednecks or other “criminals” who aren’t as refined, sophisticated, mannerly, or …dare I say it?… phony as the typical, average “leftist” who thinks life devolves to an intellectual “struggle” and who is terrified of anyone who doesn’t live life that way. If you’ve been following me talking about “PowerNoggins,” they’re the ones who love the po-po because they can’t imagine taking care of themselves in a physical fracas. They’re armchair warriors, keyboard soldiers, typewriter generals. Paper tigers. Fakes.

        You’d think they’d have learned their lessons from all the events in history where “intellectuals” were purged.

        (that last sentence was sarcasm)

        Nearly all “leftists” I’ve encountered identify with the state. They are frightened by the minarchist view, and completely, shit-their-pants terrified of the anarchist view. A small or non-existent Big Daddy/Loving Mama government is their fantasy, and anyone who threatens that fantasy makes them pee their shorts.

        Because, as I said, they don’t want to have to fend for themselves.

  3. Who aside from Glenn Greenwald is writing about civil liberties issues from the left?

    Chris Floyd comes to mind, unless your point was who in terms of people who’s profiles are sufficiently high that bookers on talk shows have actually heard of them.

    • I’m aware of Floyd, though I see Floyd’s writing as more about anti-militarism than civil liberties per se. And yeah, I was also thinking more high profile. I guess I figured that if civil libertarian activists are so prevalent on the left, as Lind says they are, then how come Greenwald’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head?

      • Maybe it’s because you and Lind define “left” differently? I’m just guessing here, Joe.

        Still I don’t think anyone besides Greenwald gives a pseudo-scholarly tracking of civil rights stuff… though I’d agree with Jonathan that Floyd does it, I’d say Floyd does it from the effects side of things and not the pseudo-scholarly side. Different audiences. Floyd’s audience knows already that the shit is rigged. Greenwald himself continues to wrestle with that notion, and his audience are largely idealist goo-goo people who think it can be repurposed “from within” — typical naive, impractical, pie-in-the-sky leftists.

        What some would say is that these “leftists” we’re discussing in this thread are not leftists at all, but centrists who imagine themselves leftists because in America the supposed “center” is pretty far to the right.

        I guess that might be true. I prefer to focus on what is happening, and not the tribes or the -isms/-ists and the nomenclature. Focusing on the labels is an easy way to get misled. Obama is our best example of that right now.

      • I’m guessing, too, but I think you’re right–what Lind is calling a “leftist” is what you and I would call a centrist. Which is why I mentioned Greenwald and not somebody like Floyd. But regardless, my main point wasn’t that there aren’t leftists (however you want to define them) who are concerned with civil libs, just that the suggestion that libertarians don’t care about civil liberties is obviously false–and possibly disingenuous.

  4. Aw shit. Typo above.

    “A small or non-existent Big Daddy/Loving Mama government is their fantasy….”

    is wrong.

    The phrase “small or non-existent” doesn’t belong there. Obviously.

  5. …the suggestion that libertarians don’t care about civil liberties is obviously false–and possibly disingenuous.

    Yep. Didn’t mean to take your thought off-rails up there. I agree with this!

  6. Pingback: The Libertarian: The Liberal Mindset

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