Lifestyle Libertarianism

It looks like Kennedy has joined her old MTV colleague Kurt Loder among the ranks of the Reason libertarians.  Here she is taking potshots at something called “attachment parenting.”  I’m not entirely sure what attachment parenting is, even after reading the article, except that it’s apparently something practiced by “commies,” which is apparently a term for “killjoys” who don’t like the idea of ingesting petrochemicals and high fructose corn syrup.  I can’t say I have much truck with people who make a religion out of their dietary preferences (religion in the sense of a pedestal upon which to look down on the unwashed unbelievers), but it’s hard to take someone seriously whose idea of rational skepticism is pooh-poohing the legitimate concerns of earnest lefty types just because they’re earnest and lefty.  Kennedy comes off as yet another “libertarian” whose schtick seems designed to validate the liberal caricature of libertarianism.  And her goofy polemic fails even on its own terms.  She mocks vegans for their knee-jerk animus towards Monsanto, while, a few paragraphs later, extolling the virtues of “autonomy” and “success through competition.”  Because nothing embodies such supposed libertarian values quite like Big Agra, with the massive subsidies they soak up and the ever-revolving door between the FDA and their corporate board rooms.  I know I probably shouldn’t expect much from an obnoxious former “VJ,” but she makes it too easy.  It’s like making fun of vegans.

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.

The Beauty of Ron Paul

Let me get the caveats out of the way first.  First, I don’t think Ron Paul has a chance in hell of ever being a presidential nominee, much less of actually ever getting elected president.  Second, even if he did manage, by some freak accident, to get elected, I don’t think a Paul presidency would be the panacea that some of his more rabid supporters seem to believe it would be (same goes for Nader, by the way).  In other words, I don’t think Ron Paul is a savior or a saint, although I do think that the cries of “reactionary” by certain leftish types are a bit overstated and based largely on ignorance of what his actual positions are and the ridiculous assumption that the government we’re currently saddled with is the result of some kind of inevitable “progress” and that any talk of rolling it back is just a barely concealed yearning to return to the dark ages, or some such nonsense.

But anyway, on to the point.  The great thing about Ron Paul is that he has this effect on the so-called conservatives in our midst:

Libertarians and Conservatives are as different as Libertarians and Liberals. The truth is libertarians are the worst form of political affiliation in the nation. Combining the desire of economic greed, with the amoral desire to promote any behavior regardless of its cost to our culture is a stark departure from the intent of the Founding Fathers.

And given the fact that the Ron Paul-toting, uber-disrespectful and, in many ways, disruptive ballot stuffing has wrecked the straw poll results, pinging completely unelectable candidates in two of the top three slots, perhaps more significance should be paid to the straw poll to be conducted by the conference that happens in the fall called the “Values Voters Conference.”

You might think Ron Paul had showed up at the church dance with 20 friends, all of them stumbling-down-drunk, and wagged his dick at the ladies before peeing on the Rice Krispie treats and passing out.  And while I’m at it, let me just point out the absolutely ham-fisted construction of that second paragraph, not to mention the clunky compound adjectives and bizarre word choices: “Ron Paul-toting”?  “uber-disrespectful”? “pinging”?

The argument is even more bizarre, though pretty much standard fare as far as conservative critiques of libertarianism go.  Libertarians don’t “desire economic greed,” they desire economic self-determination, even if some of them confuse this idea with apologetics for corporatism.  As for the idea that they desire to “promote any behavior regardless of its cost to our culture”: 1) there’s a difference between promoting a behavior and opposition to throwing people in jail for engaging in said behavior; and 2) I’d say the desire to repress certain behaviors is more of a threat to “our culture”—a culture supposedly built on respect for individual liberty—than a few people smoking weed or “gay marriage.”

Those who don’t understand the first point are idiots.  Those who do yet still advocate punishing people for engaging in behavior they disapprove of are asshole authoritarians who don’t deserve any respect.  As for the second point, I’ll just add that it’s a bit ironic seeing self-described conservatives breaking out such collectivist chestnuts to justify pushing people around.

Libertarian elements, because of their strange combination of policies that add up to anarchy without moral limits, don’t mix with conservative ideals.

That’s right.  Let’s get rid of the conservative ideals then and bring on the anarchy.

(Also, I have to say, I really love that part of the outrage directed at the Paulistas is because one of them called Dick Cheney a war criminal.  This is described as “slandering a public servant.”  I’m not sure which is funnier: the idea that Dick Cheney is not a war criminal, or that his career in government could somehow be described as public service.)

Individualism vs. Collectivism

Here’s an excellent piece by Crispin Sartwell on the false dichotomy of individualism versus collectivism.  To summarize: The former does not preclude the latter; not only that, but you can’t really have the latter—a genuine version, at least—unless you have the former.

But that doesn’t stop certain leftist types from portraying opponents of any and all government programs or regulations as selfish children who don’t want to share their toys with the other kids, or as willful adolescents who refuse to accept the fact that they can’t live without other people.  As I mentioned in the comments section at Sartwell’s blog, I’ve actually seen libertarians, or others of an individualist persuasion, dismissed outright by such people as “children” and “adolescents.”  Ironic, considering that what individualists are objecting to (in part, at least) are laws that treat people like children.

Of course, the real division, as Sartwell notes, is not between individualism and collectivism, it’s between individualism and authoritarianism.