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What America Would Look Like If Libertarians Got Their Way

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What if you cut all benefits? What if all of public life were a giant competition? What libertarianism would look like in real life.

 
These four libertarian/conservative dystopias are offered, as Rod Serling used to say in "The Twilight Zone" -- "for your consideration."

The "Libertarian/Conservative"

I've qualified my previous writings on libertarianism with disclaimers explaining that I'm addressing a specific, popular subset of libertarian thought. But I've still run afoul of dozens of people who say, "I'm a libertarian and I don't think those things." I've still received comments like those from David Brin, who correctly notes that I'm not addressing libertarians like Friedrich Hayek in my criticism.

True. But Hayek ain't in the saddle these days. Ayn Rand is leading the posse, to the extent any intellectual figure is. But I'll put my disclaimer upfront this time: I acknowledge that, as libertarian-friendly writer John Danaher puts it, "'libertarianism' has come to denote a broad, often fractious, group of political theories."

I suppose it's only fitting that a philosophy celebrating competing markets would, to a certain extent, be a set of competing markets itself.  

But it seems even clearer that a "libertarian" in today's political environment is almost always someone who ascribes to certain core philosophies: He abhors government, hates taxation, and is hostile to collective action on behalf of the less fortunate. Name any prominent modern libertarian -- Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Peter Thiel, Rand Paul -- and they are likely to fit this description.

These figures represent a singular and increasingly dominant libertarian vision. To avoid future confusion, I'll give their brand of thought an admittedly imperfect name: "libertarian/conservative." It is that vision, and their future, which I address here -- and it's a frightening future.

1. What if you cut all benefits?

You've heard it from Sen. Rand Paul and other conservatives this winter: unemployment benefits increase unemployment. It's an enormously destructive idea, though absurd on its face. It's like the argument that hospitals create sick people; after all, there are so many of them there.

We usually consider such thinking "primitive" in modern societies.

Yet that's exactly what libertarian/conservatives are arguing when they say that unemployment benefits increase or extend unemployment. There is no credible evidence to suggest that this is true. There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that unemployment is caused by other factors, including poor consumer demand and lack of business confidence.

Right now there are nearly three job seekers for every job opening. That means there are no jobs available for two out of the three. They will not "go out and find work" once their unemployment benefits stop. They will simply plunge into deeper economic misery. They will become like accident victims who are denied hospital care because it would "foster an attitude of dependency."

But, as absurd and unkind as this thinking is, there's something even more frightening about it: This kind of thinking never ends. If you believe that unemployment benefits cause unemployment, you'll cut those benefits off. That could throw millions of people onto the welfare rolls. But if you believe that welfare causes dependency, you'll cut those benefits off, too. That will leave people utterly dependent on programs like heating oil subsidies, food assistance, and even homeless shelters.

But if you believe that those programs create dependency, too....

It never stops: Close down the homeless shelters. Shut down the Salvation Army. Make it illegal to throw a starving person a coin or toss a blanket over them as they lay on the sidewalk. This logic only ends one way: in a hellish dystopia where the underclass is starving, homeless and dying in droves.

If that seems melodramatic, ask a libertarian/conservative this question: When will you know that your theory is wrong?

2. Nothing but competition.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/the-dumbest-bipartisa

Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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"Libertarian Conservative" is an oxymoron. One ... by Paul Repstock on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 10:56:26 AM
Anyone who can write a sentence like this: If you ... by June Genis on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 11:21:30 AM
Does Libertarianism reject the power of "Intellect... by Paul Repstock on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 11:38:41 AM
The "Sears Experiment" proved that when collective... by Wendy Burnett on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 12:36:43 PM
The Progressives shut down the government, not the... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 1:33:13 PM
I've tried for some time to understand libertarian... by Charles-Eva Manning on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 12:46:03 PM
"Libertarians do not seek to impose anything on an... by BFalcon on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 7:43:13 PM
So not serving someone in business or trade is lik... by Michael Daly, artist on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 9:47:41 PM
"...abhors government, hates taxation, and is host... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 1:20:48 PM
>>"erroneous policy, which gluttonously eats... by Paul Repstock on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 3:33:40 PM
I was wrong: it is 65% Social redistribution. ... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 4:02:40 PM
I am not poor.I put money into the Social Security... by BFalcon on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 7:30:36 PM
When you pay into SS now, your money goes to other... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:10:07 PM
So what, in any pension system some of the contrib... by BFalcon on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 9:55:13 PM
I clarified what I mean by social redistribution: ... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:13:49 AM
Taxing is always coercive but necessary.... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 9:29:03 PM
Your list totals to 100%, yet there seem to be a l... by Paul Repstock on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:07:55 PM
Did you look at the linked article? It shows the d... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:15:52 PM
Again, how wrong.Veterans benefits and services ar... by BFalcon on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:47:31 PM
Please check the link I supplied. Payouts for soci... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:02:37 AM
I just did the math on Vet Benefits...it amounted ... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:19:39 AM
I always appreciate the correction.... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 6:55:22 AM
Please get more info: http://www.ssa.gov/hist... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 7:00:17 AM
I know what a pension fund is. SS is not a pension... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:12:53 PM
Repeating the wrong thing will not save you.Again,... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 1:41:06 PM
"Pension Fund" is an honerable capitalist form of ... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 5:21:40 PM
I don't know where you get the "honorable capitali... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 9:23:03 PM
Stop telling me to learn more. You are the pers... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 11:20:00 PM
I don't want to offend you but your lack of knowle... by BFalcon on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 10:21:47 AM
More insults and more importantly: evasion.I will ... by John Donohue on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:37:39 PM
Obviously, I erred labeling the in/out. It should ... by John Donohue on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:59:06 PM
This is your least important error.... by BFalcon on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 4:49:11 PM
Another little correction:"19% for Defense"We do s... by BFalcon on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 10:37:01 AM
Which is evidence that our spending on Defense is ... by John Donohue on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:42:52 PM
Oh yeah, Canada and Mexico are itching to invade U... by BFalcon on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 4:47:47 PM
You left out purple faeries and trolls-- while you... by Rob Kall on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 6:12:55 PM
no clue to what this refers or what this means.... by John Donohue on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 6:45:42 PM
How do you libertarians resolve the issue when som... by BFalcon on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 7:41:06 PM
I can't speak for libertarians; I am not one. I am... by John Donohue on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:00:57 PM
Silvio Gesell is in fact the Patriarch of what I s... by Ethan Hollow on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 10:21:58 PM
America needs 3 things: democratization, democrati... by Ethan Hollow on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 10:52:50 PM
Stop struggling with the title, who the icon of th... by Michael Daly, artist on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 10:59:40 PM
Mr Daly: Fox News used words n.zi and fcst so ofte... by Ethan Hollow on Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 at 11:27:44 PM
Thanks Ethan H. One thing, nobody has any right to... by Michael Daly, artist on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 1:23:17 AM
The groups and individuals making up the subject o... by Michael Daly, artist on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 2:10:20 AM
1. Social programs do create dependency, this is p... by Mohsin Ali on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 5:33:17 AM
Dear friend,What do you know about zakat?... by BFalcon on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 9:26:57 PM
Also, salvation armies, homeless shelters are priv... by Mohsin Ali on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 5:46:04 AM
You've oicked out situations of what you call "fre... by Mohsin Ali on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 5:50:13 AM
Let's look at true ownership rights. Do you really... by Mohsin Ali on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 5:59:04 AM
Hospitals do create sick people. It was recently e... by Nicolas Martin on Friday, Dec 27, 2013 at 10:19:04 AM