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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/31/13

Libertarianism in Its Destructive Phase: Or Why Responsibility for Yourself Just Isn't Enough, Part 1

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"The spirit of our American radicalism is destructive and aimless; it is not loving; it has no ulterior and divine ends; but is destructive only out of hatred and selfishness." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays, "Politics" (Second Series, 1844).

It is an untested and utopian system, which historian Michael Lind has described as a "cult," having no real world example upon which its proponents may base their lofty claims of moral, economic, and political superiority . Robert Locke, in his article in the March 14, 2005 issue of The American Conservative , described it as the "Marxism of the Right ." I am writing of course, about Libertarianism, in particular as practiced by those on the Right.

Modern right-wing Libertarianism has led the conservative movement in its headlong plunge into a form of right-wing anarchy. They have taken the creed of Libertarianism so far to an imagined minarchist or anarchist utopian ideal that HBO talk show host and comedian Bill Maher has disavowed his previous self-identification with Libertarianism, saying that it has become too selfish and self-righteous .

Whether it is Robert Nozick's minarchist ideal from Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), or Ayn Rand's Objectivism, libertarianism is the ultimate exaltation of the individual over group, in terms of rights, needs, power, and authority. I believe that libertarianism's growing popularity is the result both a carefully orchestrated plot, as well as a cunningly fashioned trap, created by the plutocrats who wish to make this nation an oligarchy both de facto and de jure.

Believing in the Utopian Self-deception of Libertarianism

As I pointed out one-and-a-half years ago in my December 29, 2011 OpEdNews article, "Let's Sit This One Out:" "The great lie we have been spoon fed by the One Percent over the last thirty-some years is the one publicly expressed by Margaret Thatcher ( Woman's Own ; London, October 31, 1987 ), ' There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.' This lie justifies the selfishness and ego which has so nearly destroyed the [political systems of the] Western Democracies--together with their economies and any semblance of the rule of law--in the last decade-and-a-half." [Words in brackets are amplifications added for clarity--RJG.]

Libertarians cannot see this as a lie or a trap. It fits in so perfectly with their narcissism, their carefully cultivated view of being in control of their lives and the world around them, that it blinds them to what I believe is the reality of minarchist Libertarianism taken reductio ad absurdum to its final conclusion: a state where might makes right, and those with economic power dominate and ultimately control the rest of us, while our few surviving Constitutional boundaries are ground into the dirt by the overweening power of enormous wealth. The reduction in the regulation of corporations since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, has permitted the growth in the size and the power, both economically and politically, of large corporations in America, giving us a preview of the final form of a minarchist or anarchist libertarian state without any of its supposed benefits: libertarianism in its destructive phase.

Just as the utopian vision of Marxism was overly dependent on the willing cooperation and moral rectitude of individual humans operating as a selfless collective, so too is Libertarianism overly dependent on the moral force of enlightened self-interest and the moral rectitude of individual humans interacting with one another as selfish individuals. The libertarians are depending on human beings to act like James Madison's angels (The Federalist Papers No. 51), which is something that has never been, nor can ever be.

Magical Thinking in a Modern World

Libertarians speak constantly of "self-reliance" and "responsibility" in much the same way a Christian speaks of Faith and a state of Grace, but they never explain how the majority of humanity is to attain this utopian state. Viewed from the micro level, modern life is far too complex for any individual actually being able to do it all--even to the extent that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were able to more than two centuries ago--and still live anything other than a hermit's life, limited to the most basic human necessities.

Viewed at a macro level, libertarianism is found to be just as wanting. Michael Lind pointed out in his June 14, 2013 article on, "The Question Libertarians Just Can't Answer," " If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines? " The dogma behind Margaret Thatcher's above statement, which so limits the scope of human relationships, and does not consider the recognized anthropological realities such as the clan or the tribe, let alone the nation-state, is accepted by many right-wing libertarians as dogmatic fact, even if they have never actually heard Thatcher's statement.

Libertarians, in a poorly considered attempt to sidestep this incongruity, have created a bizarre, hypothetical system of contracts between themselves and those they must deal with for the goods and services that are required to survive in modern society. At the same time, they deny the very existence or necessity of a Social Contract--the system of custom, civil and criminal laws and bureaucratic regulations; under the unifying authority of the U.S. Constitution--by which their system of actual and implied individual contracts for goods and services might become feasible.

The Baby in the Bath Water

Libertarians need to understand, I do not stand unalterably opposed to every aspect of their creed. Fox radio commentator Alan Colmes calls himself a "liberaltarian," which is a description that is probably close to my own Weltanschauung. I believe that very careful deliberation should be given before the government inflicts laws and regulations on its citizens. At the same time, I consider the objections raised over the violations of the so-called "rights" of corporations to be nothing more than a smoke screen designed to hide the fact that many of the wealthiest Americans receive an additional degree of legal protection from their own illegal and immoral actions through corporations. I agree with the Libertarians that we could probably use fewer laws and regulations. I would also note that too many of the laws passed by Congress--as well as our state legislatures--over the last forty years have had as their primary purpose to provide a benefit to the members of the oligarchic plutocracy, and not the average American. One of the results of these laws is the shifting of the nation's tax burden to the lowest 90% of our population in terms of income, which was according to the Census Bureau, approximately $144,000 in 2012.

It should also be noted that government--at the Federal, state, and local level--has passed environmental and safety regulations that--as written--are most easily complied with by the largest and wealthiest transnational corporations. These gigantic, inhuman conglomerates propose and often help write these laws and regulations as a means to protect themselves from civil or criminal liability. Smaller firms, who have far fewer available liquid assets and credit to use to ensure compliance, struggle to meet what are generally the most costly and stringent requirements, drafted by the large corporations' friends (and often times future employees) in the government.

I, like everyone else, would like the government to stay out of my private life, and that of my friends and neighbors, as much as possible. I agree with George Bernard Shaw's observation, in a speech made in New York City on April 11, 1933, "The ordinary man is an anarchist. He wants to do as he likes. He may want his neighbour to be governed, but he himself doesn't want to be governed. He is mortally afraid of government officials and policemen." Laws and regulations are often the result of some individual or special interest group putting their idea of what is good and just ahead of what their neighbors believe is actually required. This can be done through either the vehicle of unthinking indifference, or the calculated action of those promulgating the law. This invariably starts when the individual or group at the heart of these actions turn the people affected into "the other," making them "things" within the hearts and minds of those who initiate these new rules, and thus unworthy of the same rights and protections that the initiator enjoys. Prohibition and the "Jim Crow laws in the United States were examples of these types of laws and that way of thinking. Thinking of people as "things," as I first stated in my August 5, 2009 OpEdNews article, The Hope for Audacity , is where--in my humble opinion--human evil truly begins.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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