Despite the libertarian rhetoric of individualism, we are all intricately connected, and have been given the opportunity to craft our communities and government together. [Emphasis added by this article's author.] But we will only be able to do so effectively, judiciously, and peacefully if we listen to marginalized individuals, and consider their unique perspectives. Black communities, and other communities of color, have long traditions of struggling for freedom. Those traditions, when acknowledged by and combined with libertarianism, could create an empowering and radical message.
A true, ideological, libertarian renaissance can, and will only, happen if we learn to listen to those who have lived under government occupation: those who live in poverty, are isolated, and lack access to resources; those who don't have health insurance; those who have suffered in solitary confinement; those who have undergone the destruction of their families, identity, and culture; those of different sexual identities; those who are victims of the drug war, political prisoners, sex workers, domestic workers, or undocumented persons. Libertarians need to talk, and listen to, the survivors, the "others," the voiceless and the ignored."
A System of Selfish Indifference to One's Neighbor
George Moibrot's wrote an article for the December 19, 2011 issue of Great Britain's The Guardian/UK newspaper, "This Bastardized Libertarianism Makes Freedom an Instrument of Oppression," that expresses my point concisely. Mr. Moibrot states the real purpose of the modern Libertarian movement--funded by reactionaries like David Koch, who was the Libertarian Party's candidate for Vice-President in 1976--in a very short and concise manner, "Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint. It pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It ignores the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free. It denies the need for the state to curb them in order to protect the freedoms of weaker people. This bastardized, one-eyed philosophy is a con trick, whose promoters attempt to wrongfoot justice by pitching it against liberty. By this means they have turned 'freedom' into an instrument of oppression."
When you think about it, it should not surprise us that the reactionaries of the Tea Party have embraced capitalist libertarianism, and it's even more hideous sister, Ayn Rand's Objectivism, with so much fervor. To quote from Moibrot again (with my own amplification in brackets), " They speak " as if the same freedom affects everybody in the same way. They assert their freedom to pollute, exploit, even--among the gun nuts--to kill, as if these were fundamental human rights [comparable to Jefferson's "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness]. They characterize any attempt to restrain them as tyranny. They refuse to see that there is a clash between the freedom of the pike and the freedom of the minnow. "
"The freedom of the pike and the freedom of the minnow." In other words, the difference in the degree of protection of the liberty and rights under the law enjoyed by the "big fish," and the "little fish;" those who are wealthy, and those who are not. They are very different, and have been since our Constitution was adopted in 1789. and even a conservative Chief Justice like John Marshall wrote of this problem peripherally in Marbury v. Madison . (See my February 1, 2011 OpEdNews article " Crime and Punishment ," for more on Chief Justice Marshall and our two-tier justice system.) But only Chief Justice Earl Warren's Supreme Court has ever taken substantial judicial action against this iniquity driven system, with decisions including Brown v. The Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Miranda v. Arizona .
Not a Collection of Individuals, or Individuals Who Are Collected
In his 1994 book, Jihad Vs. McWorld: Terrorism's Challenge to Democracy, Benjamin R. Barber wrote of what he viewed as the great conflict that faced the World in the Twenty-first Century. Jihad--by which Barber meant far more than just its Islamic definition: any system with an insular, nationalistic or even tribal mind-set, attempting to preserve what its proponents perceive as the foundations of a rich cultural past, including it's fundamentalist religious beliefs; against McWorld--an expansionist, homogenous, transnational cultural system with no depth of character, pushed hither and yon solely by the promise of dollars that can be made in its exploitation. Jihad's attempt to preserve the past is running head-on into an ever-changing world around it. What is most interesting to me is that it is Jihad which speaks most clearly to the need of collective values to protect the individual members of society, while publicly McWorld exalts the individual at the expense of the collective, and the society required to maintain McWorld's very existence, as a whole.
A closer examination of the two systems show that both are simply cover for the creation of profound tyrannies. Jihad exalts the collective (in one form or another), and then makes monuments of their individual leaders: living, like Osama bin Laden, and Kim Jong Udon; or dead, like Jesus of Nazareth or Mohammed. This reduces the collective to a subservient appendage of that leader, or his representative, and that individual's "vision." Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin occupied such exalted positions in the then Soviet Union, and together with Mao and Stalin, provided a template for future dictators.
McWorld superficially exalts the individual, and then creates a system where most individuals are crushed beneath the weight of the hierarchical bureaucracy of the corporation and its governmental lackeys. Only if you are fortunate enough to find the right mentor to protect you as you rise through the ranks, do you become anything other than a faceless cog being ground down by the corporate machine. The template for this system was provided by the England of Charles Dickens, the France of Emil Zola, and Gilded Age America.
A nation that is a collective of undifferentiated individuals, or individuals in an undifferentiated collection, are not our only choices. The world of Jihad, which permits children to wear suicide bomb vests, devalues half of our world's population as a matter of course, and kills abortion providers in their place of worship; or McWorld, which has no underlying foundation for its kaleidoscope of values, fills our heads with images rather than knowledge, and measures the worth of any human being solely by their wealth; are not our sole alternatives. There is I believe a third way, a middle way, that celebrates our past while preparing for our future; which understands the value of the individual while strengthening society as a whole.
Mikhail Bakunin wrote in God and the State (1871), "I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation." How can you have freedom without some concomitant degree of equality, especially equality of opportunity? If I am left without choice, if my only option is mere survival: with no realistic chance for growth as a human being in any realistic mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional sense; if I lack any real opportunity to live my life and pursue happiness as I see fit; then why should I allow such an oppressive system to continue to dominate my life?
Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, made an observation that is similar to Bakunin's, "What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals." (The Complete Writings of Thomas Jefferson; Memorial Edition, Volume 7, page 455; 1904.)
Avarice as Addiction and Killer of Morality
I asked in my September 2, 2009 OpEdNews article "How Much is Enough," who the World belongs to? Eighty-five years ago Bertrand Russell gave the answer that the right-wing libertarians and laissez-faire corporate plutocrats are certain to give. Professor Russell, in his essay "Freedom in Society" (Sceptical Essays, 1928) stated the following, "Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate." In other words, the world is theirs, they have the bills of sale to prove it, and the armed might to back it up, so be glad we do not call you the serfs that you are, you f*cking peasants. We will continue to grow our businesses, because that is the way that we have always done it, and always will do it.
But, unlimited, continuous growth is the moral philosophy of a cancer, as radio talk show host and author Thom Hartmann has pointed out over and over again. Your freedom to do as you will ends at my nose, or any other distance that might realistically affect me in an adverse way in my life. This includes expanding or otherwise running your business. Profit alone cannot be the final arbiter of a business's policies. You must balance your desire for profit with the needs of not only our community, but the rest of humanity, in both the short and the long term. This is what Kenneth Lux was pointing out in his book, Adam Smith's Mistake: How a Moral Philosopher Invented Economics and Ended Morality. And as Bertrand Russell pointed out above, restraining their desire for riches is the last thing that the wealthy and powerful, as a class, wish to do.