But it is also the fear that they--the privileged few--might actually be
forced to once again become responsible citizens within the greater reality of
our nation, and the commonwealth that every citizen should enjoy. As Edmund
Burke stated in his A Vindication of Natural Society (1756), "The
whole business of the poor is to administer to the idleness of the rich." Mr.
Burke saw no middle class: only exploiter and exploited." In my experience, they
who speak most loudly of personal responsibility are those who go furthest out
of their way to avoid responsibility to their community and for their fellow
man. I believe that the reason so many Libertarians want little or no government
is that they believe their best chance of achieving their idea of success--great
wealth--is most easily attained if there are no rules to hinder them. They do not
realize that most of those rules have been placed at the behest of the very
individuals they are attempting to emulate, just to prevent such an
Avoiding Responsibility for One's Government
Libertarianism is also an excuse for the selfish and lazy to not participate in their government, something that is every citizen's duty in the constitutionally limited, democratically elected, representative republic--or representative democracy--that we are supposed to have in the United States of America. Many of the problems this nation faces today could have been fixed easily thirty years ago, without the in-fighting that has caused Congress to grind to a halt today. Too many libertarians, in my experience, want a minimalist government that operates on its own, without any work by them, so they can concentrate on living their lives without the duties owed to his fellow citizens. They think that leaving the government starved for cash is all that is required to prevent it from becoming dangerous.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In many third world countries, a starving the bureaucracy of money has been used over the years to keep government weak and ineffectual. This leads to rampant corruption, and bribery and extortion replace even any pretense of good government. As John Jay Chapman wrote in 1898 (Practical Agitation, chapter 2), "Good government is the outcome of private virtue." Without a reward for virtue, corruption will replace any pretense of good government.
The Middle-class Answer
What I see as the ultimate fault of the Libertarian philosophy, and why it can never work as a political/economic system is this: it would require Madison's angels (The Federalist Papers, No. 51) to function at all, and angels incapable of being tempted and falling from heaven when presented with the opportunity to gain power or position over their fellow angels, or become jealous of God or humanity, in order to function at all. In other words, it requires what has, and never can exist. Avarice, whether it is a desire for power or a desire for money, is a hunger which once whetted, can never be satisfied.
system, in any form, would require a dominant and well educated middle-class to have
any hope of working at all. As I have been saying since my February 15, 2011
OpEdNews article " The Ghost of Ancient
Hellas ," I believe--like
Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt--that a
constitutionally limited government, dominated by a strong and informed
middle-class, is still the best and most secure form of government available to
The wealthy dislike the middle-class, because that class can say "no' to them if it is large enough, strong enough, and aware of what is going on. They also dislike the middle-class because the middle-class, if it is aware at all of world history, knows instinctively that if it is going to remain strong and vibrant, wealth requires a more even distribution among a nation's population. When the top one percent is receiving only 8-13 percent of the national income, and not the nearly 24 percent that it is "earning" today, our representative democracy is safe from the outrageous, predatory acts of an oligarchic elite. An informed middle-class knows that a concentration of power, whether economic, social, political, or some combination of the three, is the greatest danger that any republic faces, not an external enemy, no matter how powerful or cunning. (Read the original February 7, 2011 Mother Jones article, " It's the Inequality, Stupid ," or watch the YouTube video , for more on how extreme income inequality has become in the United States, as CEO's and corporate officers have ridden the ever increasing productivity of their workers to unimaginable amounts of wealth, while refusing to include their workers in any of the resulting prosperity.)
Libertarians would also do well to learn to not dismiss Karl Marx out of hand. While his solution to the inherent ills of capitalism were generally wrong, his observations on the grievous faults of capitalism, especially regarding the exploitation of workers under an unregulated capitalist system, are more often right than they are wrong. Marx's description of the great fault of the capitalist, as the capitalist falls prey to dehumanizing those who work for them--looking at human beings as replaceable cogs in his money-making machine, rather than individuals who have value in their own right--was succinctly stated in Volume 3 of Das Kapital (p. 58), "Yet the capitalist views economy of his constant capital as a condition wholly independent of, and entirely alien to, his labourers."
To almost all of the truly wealthy today (just as one hundred-years ago) -- that one-tenth of one percent of the population whose riches are measured not in millions, but in tens of millions of dollars or more--you and I are nothing more than a means to an end, and are unworthy of being included in the capitalist's prosperity that we are responsible for. As I have stated before: it is this moment when the wealthy turn those who work for them from human beings into things, that the first great step towards the evils of dehumanization and exploitation of our fellow human beings begins.
To quote Jefferson, " How soon the labor of men would make a paradise of the whole earth, were it not for misgovernment, and a diversion of all his energies from their proper object--the happiness of man--to the selfish interest of kings, nobles, and priests. " (Letter to Ellen W. Coolidge, 1825; The Complete Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition; volume 18, page 341; 1904.) I am tired of being exploited by a tiny minority who place wealth and property above liberty and humankind.
Let us not dwell upon our political differences, but rather concentrate on those areas where we are in agreement. And that begins with the belief that our nation is worth our time and effort to save.
Together, we can make the difference.