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Climate-Denying Libertarianism

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Headlined to H2 7/2/13

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Source: Consortium News


The image of the Earth rising over the surface of the moon, a photograph taken by the first U.S. astronauts to orbit the moon.

An inconvenient truth for "libertarians" is that their ideology of a minimalist U.S. government grew out of the South's institution of human bondage, i.e., the contractual right of a white person to own a black person, and from the desire of slaveholders to keep the federal government small so it could never abolish slavery.

That is why many "libertarian" icons -- the likes of Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and the later incarnation of James Madison -- were slave owners who understood the link between the emergence of a strong national government and the threat to slavery.

More recently, "libertarian" political favorites, such as Ron and Rand Paul, have either opposed or criticized civil rights laws that, in their view, infringe on the rights of white businessmen to discriminate against blacks. And libertarian-oriented Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court and in  legislatures  across the country are gutting voting rights for black and brown Americans.

But an even bigger crisis facing "libertarianism" now -- and why the ideology is particularly dangerous -- is the existential threat from global warming and the urgent need for collective government action on a worldwide scale to reduce human output of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping chemicals.

The "libertarian" response to the overwhelming scientific consensus on this life-threatening reality has been either to deny the facts or to propose implausible "free market" solutions that would barely dent the crisis. Some dismiss the threat in mocking tones as some kind of "statist" conspiracy. Typical were sarcastic comments by the Independent Institute's Mary Theroux, writing: "The climate crisis is real, it's here, and it's time for absolute power for Obama!"

There's also lots of sophistry and quibbling about the science. The preferred "libertarian" position adopts the pretense that the release of carbon dioxide by human activity contributes little or nothing to climate change.

Other "libertarians" accept the science but still can't bring themselves to recognize that a coordinated government response is needed. Anti-government ideology trumps even the possible destruction of life on the planet, a very real possibility given the likelihood of mass dislocations of populations and the availability of nuclear weapons.

The "libertarians" are further hampered in their thinking about global warming by the fact that many of their principal funders are major energy extractors -- and it's nearly impossible to get people to think rationally about a problem when their paychecks depend on them not doing so.

Most notably the billionaire Koch Brothers who own Koch Industries, a giant oil and natural gas company, have lavished millions upon millions of dollars on "think tanks," academic centers and Tea-Party-style activist groups to raise doubts about climate-change science and to deflect public demands for action.

Pluses and Minuses

Clearly, "libertarianism" does have its valid points -- especially regarding the absurdity of U.S. drug laws, the destructive wastefulness of the American Empire and the excessive surveillance that followed 9/11 -- but there are many other crazy elements to the ideology and its resistance to reason.

Its principal tenet of unregulated "free markets" has been discredited again and again, through market crashes, economic depressions and the foisting of dangerous products on customers. There is also the grander lie that "free markets" somehow can or will address broader societal needs when capitalism is really about how to maximize short-term profits regardless of the danger inflicted on the environment or individuals.

There also are legitimate societal concerns that "libertarianism" would essentially ignore, such as how to care for the elderly, how to educate the population for today's economic challenges, how to ameliorate the suffering of the poor, how to maintain an effective infrastructure, etc.

That doesn't mean that government has all the answers. But there is a significant difference between adopting a position favoring a government only doing what it needs to do and the "libertarian" insistence on the smallest government conceivable. The former accepts that capitalism can handle many undertakings with minimal government regulation, while recognizing that the failure of "free markets" in other settings requires greater government intervention to "promote the general welfare" as the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states.

For instance, the private sector can't do transportation infrastructure very well. Thus, governments have to step in with spending for roads, rail, airports, etc. Capitalism also has little need for aging, worn-out or sick workers. So, the government is needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

On a current topic, the Affordable Care Act represented the government's recognition that the profit motive behind private health insurance had failed millions of Americans, forcing them to overburden hospital emergency rooms and requiring some government intervention. Yet, "libertarians" still cry tears for the insurance industry.

Of course, even among those holding a pragmatic view toward the need for government, there can be legitimate differences over policy prescriptions, whether a certain rail project makes sense or how best to care for the sick. But "libertarianism" and its ideological hatred of "guv-mint" has an irrationality to it, which only makes sense if you reflect on the origins of the philosophy, born in the intensity of the South's resentment toward the federal government's intervention to end slavery and later to stop racial segregation.

Slavery's Interests

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at more...)
 
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Libertarianism certainly has its uses. God knows t... by Adam Smith on Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013 at 9:41:24 PM
Another hit piece that totally misrepresents liber... by June Genis on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 11:03:42 AM
No rebuttal though? Saying he's wrong is fine and ... by Adam Smith on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 11:18:58 AM
has already covered the most relevant points with ... by June Genis on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 8:46:39 PM
Never mind that slavery came about long before lib... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 12:45:59 PM
This libertarian says the Earth has warmed recentl... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:06:34 PM
It is our only home.  Am quite sure there is ... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:34:46 PM
Enforcing property rights is how we propose solvin... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 3:14:55 PM
Corporations, Unions or People will do no harm to ... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 3:37:32 PM
Corporations, unions and "the people" are made up ... by terrilian on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 2:35:11 PM
I know many libertarians who would get into the he... by June Genis on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 8:53:39 PM
Dumping CO2 into the air in my house?... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 10:05:54 PM
In libertarian theory there is no such thing as le... by terrilian on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 3:05:21 PM
Libertarians would like us to eat turds until some... by BFalcon on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 7:44:24 PM
Where do statists come up with this nonsense? Libe... by Darren Wolfe on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 8:23:05 PM
Like with God presiding, angel lawyers and nobody ... by BFalcon on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 10:50:01 PM
That one day non-libertarians will actually deal w... by Darren Wolfe on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 3:28:53 AM
 And your libertarian society seems to share ... by BFalcon on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 8:17:30 PM
is a fantasy & always will be. Have been tryin... by Darren Wolfe on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 9:21:33 PM
a work in progress. Every government will get bet... by BFalcon on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 10:48:01 PM
Lots of people would like us to be able to grow he... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:36:06 AM
No doubt you guys will find our civil disobedience... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 7:26:14 AM
So you're saying since slavery came before the pol... by Adam Smith on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:44:35 PM
That you feel this need to put false words in my m... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 3:09:58 PM
Why would there be no corporations in a free-marke... by Adam Smith on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 6:34:09 PM
are a creation of govt, as were the robber barons.... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 7:16:42 PM
I like the concept but it just seems impossibly im... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 12:05:07 AM
If you don't agree with me that fine but offer a v... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 5:46:29 AM
It seems that corruption is basically inevitable i... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 12:05:49 PM
As for the limited fed powers, environmental probl... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 12:06:50 PM
Actually, you're having a discussion with an anarc... by Darren Wolfe on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 8:27:55 PM
I regard Jefferson as one of the two greatest Foun... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:08:46 PM
Public television had a documentary about the effe... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:24:58 PM
Here are some graphs which put the temperature var... by Bob Armstrong on Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 at 10:46:45 PM
..is the non-aggression principle. (Oddly not ment... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 3:18:00 PM
"When shall it be said in any country of the wo... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 5:22:09 PM
The fact that the govt builds & owns the roads... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 7:28:03 PM
We didn't get in this mess overnight, and its goin... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 5:30:01 AM
I like cars and roads to drive on, even if they do... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:30:54 AM
That's my beef with the present system, we are for... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:52:40 PM
Too me North Dakota's State Bank offers a couple k... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 8:43:30 AM
I am astounded that Democrats, Republicans, Libert... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 8:14:25 PM
that electing Libertarians will solve all our prob... by June Genis on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 9:05:54 PM
You contend that "Libertarians can prove that it i... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 9:59:00 PM
No religious discussion is warranted.  IF, Go... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 9:45:29 PM
Most of the Founders of America were not religious... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 10:02:41 PM
Gilded Age beginning in 1980 with Ronnie Raygun is... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013 at 9:41:36 PM
You pay for my health care, you pay for my kids ed... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 5:13:21 AM
I see 300 million+ people going a few million diff... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 5:44:30 AM
You use the term "leftist greed," but that is an o... by E. J. N. on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 1:42:27 PM
Reagan reformed SS so it could continue working, h... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:18:04 PM
To try to balance his budget.  You have a lot... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:01:59 PM
How about the fact that SS costs us 5% GDP growth ... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:48:30 PM
You want out of the Fed.  Wish you would focu... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 9:00:36 AM
Collectivism is dead!  Jesus was a collectivi... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 11:40:44 AM
An inconvenient truth for the author and other adv... by Jeff Daiell on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 7:59:00 AM
that the so called leaders in BOTH the US and Isra... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 6:57:20 AM
Libertarians are selfish fools.... by Lester Shepherd on Saturday, Jul 6, 2013 at 10:27:00 PM
So arrogant that they invoke the guns and prisons ... by Bob Armstrong on Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 at 11:09:59 PM