Liberated from Libertarianism: How’s that whole deregulatey depressiony thing working out for ya?

Common Dreams

[…] Where libertarianism breaks down is in assuming that we can all just do what we want and it will work out great. And in assuming that all private actors are essentially well intentioned. Neither of these is true, and a libertarian society would leave each of us at the mercy of these twin fallacies. And that’s an ugly place to be, let me tell you.

Suppose you bought a house and had a fat mortgage outstanding on it. Now the guy who owns the plot next door decides to build an abattoir on his land. You can’t live in your house anymore because of the nauseating, permeating, stink. You also can’t sell it, because no one else wants to live there either. And you’re still stuck paying the mortgage, probably plunging you into bankruptcy since you’re now also paying rent to live somewhere else. Why did all this happen? Because you voted for that libertarian city council, and they threw out all the zoning laws on the books, preferring maximum freedom for use of private property instead. Aren’t you thrilled about how that worked out?

So you pack all your belongings in your car and decide to drive away. But you turn around after going just a couple of miles, because everybody drives on any side of the road they want to, whenever they want to, and it’s scary dangerous out there. Why? Because the libertarian state government you elected – true to its principles – eliminated all such driving laws as the restrictions on personal freedom they truly are.

So maybe you’ll fly instead, eh? Oops. Sorry. That’s just as frightening. The new libertarian federal government eliminated the FAA and all its restrictions on private carriers as an invasion of their corporate liberties. No red tape here anymore! No onerous regulations! Now each carrier can hire whomever it wants, at whatever salary, to do whatever amount of safety inspection it deems appropriate. Or none at all. No reason to worry, though. I’m sure a corporation would never cut corners in order to maximize profits, right?

Well, actually, never mind – the flying off to a better place idea is moot anyhow. You see, there’s no airport in your town. No private actors had either the resources or the motivation to build one. And since government is evil, they never did the job either. Which is also why you’re about to lose you job, as well. With no ports, trains, highways, internet or other mass infrastructure, the US is about to become an economic actor more or less on the scale of Togo. Congratulations on that bright move, my libertarian friend! How does the freedom of chronic unemployment taste? Yummy, eh?

But, really, what do you care, anyhow? Your water is polluted because anyone can dump anything into it they want. Ditto with your filthy air. And global warming is about to take out all the living things on the planet, anyhow. We will be quite free to die, thanks to libertarianism.

Well, all is not lost. At least you can walk down to your local dining establishment and have a nice meal without having to fear the presence of darkies or queers in the same room with you. That pretty much makes it all worth it, no?

We could go on and on from here, but why bother? The point is made. The problem with libertarianism is that it is a child’s candy store fantasy. Lots of sugar, no nutritional value. It’s the Mel Gibson (“Freeeee-dom!!”) of political ideologies. The ugly truth is that we hominids are social animals, not atomistic asteroids, each flying through space in our own little orbit. At the end of the day, the simultaneous great delight and awful curse of our humanness is, ultimately, each other.

That is not to say that individual liberty is not important. It is, and I no more favor libertarianism’s opposite number, totalitarianism, than I do the lunacy of Ayn Rand, who spent her life (vastly over-)reacting to the Stalinism of her youth. I don’t want to live in either of those worlds. It’s just that it’s naive and juvenile to believe that what is required here is anything other than some sort of difficult balance between the needs of the individual and those of society. That’s the only solution that works.

One would think we might have learned this lesson of late. We’ve just come through an era of wholesale foolish deregulation in the name of setting free Americans and their productive capacities. The whole of our ethos of political economy these last three decades could easily be boiled down to a single bumper-sticker: “Government Bad, Industry Good”. So now we might wanna ask ourselves, as Sarah Palin would put it (assuming she had a brain larger than a centipede’s), “How’s that whole deregulatey depressiony thing working out for you?”

Sorry, Mr. Paul. Just when we’ve seen precisely what happens when greedy individuals with all the morality of mafia hit men are allowed to do whatever they want by a government that is completely coopted by them on a good day, and utterly AWOL the rest of the time, you come talking to me about more ‘freedom’ from government intrusion?!?! Are you joking?

Government, as imperfect and downright lethal as it can be when in the hands of those who use it for the wrong purposes, is the instrument and expression of the public will. It is the tool through which society conveys its values and seeks to achieve our mutual goals. And it is meant to be triumphant over private actors because societal needs (which, by the way, can, should and often do include government protecting individual liberties – see, for example, “Rights, Bill of”) are broadly more important than those of the individual.

It would be a mark of our (return to) political maturity if we could acknowledge that.

If that’s too much to ask, though, I wonder if my libertarian friends would at least be willing to take ownership of the real implications of their own ideology.

I mean, if you guys are just going to practice deceit and hypocrisy, why bother taking over the Republican Party?

Those guys are already experts.
Full article here
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