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Sunday, July 30, 2017

No longer a libertarian

For a long time, libertarianism seemed to me the political outlook which most closely matched a live-and-let-live view of the world.

I've never liked having others tell me how to behave. So why give that power to a government? Reasonable people ought to be allowed to do what they want, as long as they don't hurt others.

If you want to smoke marijuana, and you're not hurting anyone else, why not?

Why should the government tell you whom you have to hire? You may not be helping all races and genders equally, but you're not hurting anyone, either. (Anyone who doesn't like it is free to start their own company.)

If you want to have consensual sex with another adult, that ought not to be a concern of the government. (It's hard to imagine now, but there were sodomy laws on the books fairly recently.)

If you want to live in a neighborhood with your own kind, how does that hurt people who don't live there? It shouldn't be the government's job to enforce either segregation or integration. People naturally gravitate to those they are comfortable with, which is why there are such entities as Little Italy. Or Chinatown. Or East St. Louis.

And why should the government be involved in head counting at all? Different ethnicities and genders have different abilities at different things, and to assume that any disparate impact is the same as willful discrimination is simply silly.

Among the more extreme libertarian positions is the legalization of prostitution. Neither conservative bluenoses nor feminists even consider the possibility, but the issue does at least merit debate.

So, if anyone asked, I called myself a libertarian. The philosophy encompassed both liberty, and libertinism, with minimal government interference. Which sounded good to me.

In an ideal society, I could still be a libertarian.

But the official Libertarian Party in this country now advocates, among other things, open borders, and anyone with the foggiest sense of human biodiversity can see how that harms the country.

More importantly, libertarianism only works well when everyone else is libertarian as well. When various groups advocate vociferously on their own behalf, the remaining group will end up being a punching bag and scapegoat. And that group can't just sit back and say, well, we're above that sort of thing.

When a country lacks the will to defend its own borders, and when the elites can't wait to replace the existing population, remaining above the fray doesn't seem the right answer.

When academia no longer teaches students to think rigorously and present factually-based arguments, but instead brainwashes and "sensitizes" them, you can't just say, well, they'll learn eventually.

When the mainstream media present only stories they think will buttress their preferred narrative, you have to counteract their fictions with facts, however harsh those may be.

When so many highly-mobilized interest groups claim to be fighting racism or sexism or religious discrimination, while practicing exactly those things themselves, it's time to point out their hypocrisy.

And when the government itself -- in many cases the deep state -- is itself often the instrument of these changes, it's not enough to sit back and subscribe to the somewhat passive philosophy of libertarianism.

Not sure what all that makes me now, but it's not a libertarian.


Mark Caplan said...

Under a strict libertarian system all the following would be eliminated:

Public schools
State universities
Public libraries
City parks
National parks
Free roads
Social Security
A minimum wage
Worker safety regulations
Child labor laws
Mandatory vaccinations
Laws against bigamy and polygamy
Net neutrality
Anti-trust laws
Progressive income tax rates

It would be quite a radical break from the world we're used to.

John Craig said...

Mark --
That -- or at least ALL those things -- are extreme libertarianism. I used to constantly tell people, libertarianism is not the same as anarchy, it doesn't mean getting rid of the government. I certainly wouldn't have been in favor of getting rid of most of those things, in fact, looking at the list, the only things I might be in favor of would be the laws against polygamy (or polyandry, for that matter). I'm a live and let live type. That said, I should point out, I'm not even a particular fan of the institution of marriage.

Ron Paul, back in 2012, was said to be a libertarian. He would have been my choice that year and he didn't favor eliminating any of the things you mention as far as I recall. (Or was he one of the flat taxers? I don't remember.)

Mark Caplan said...

Anarchy doesn't enter into it. The government is still there to maintain order. There are police, and courts, and judges in a strict libertarian system. Their main function is to protect persons and property.

All self-respecting libertarians, of which Ron Paul is one, want to abolish Social Security. Eliminating the minimum wage is another pet project of nearly all libertarians.

My main objection to libertarianism is it will obviously (to me) result in a society of a few colossally wealthy oligarchs with everyone else reduced to peonage. In every generation is born a handful of people with an absolute genius for making money. Ordinary people don't stand a chance against these Einsteins of avarice.

A judiciously balanced mixed public-private economy seems the best way to pursue a happy, or at least least miserable, society.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Ron Paul wants to get rid of Social Security? Yikes, I hadn't realized that. Call me uninformed, I guess.

When you look up Libertarianism on Wikipedia, it lists all sort of varieties and flavors, including not only the laissez-faire capitalism of the type you describe, but also libertarian socialism:

I"d consider myself a Ron Paul libertarian for the *most part* (I don't think it's feasible to go back to the gold standard, and I'm unsure what the effect would be if we got rid of the Federal Reserve Bank). But his basic thrust -- not getting involved in foreign wars, balancing the budget, not inviting the world to immigrate -- appealed to me.

"Libertarian" seems to encompass a host of opinions all united by one thing, a preference for a smaller, less intrusive government.

Mark Caplan said...

Nothing was more important than halting the Third-World invasion and abolishing birthright citizenship for illegals. Ron Paul is good on those issues but is against deporting large numbers of illegals already here, while also against amnesty. I gather he looks favorably on companies importing workers legally and through an orderly process.

John Craig said...

Mark --
You have a better memory than I do.

Anonymous said...

Along similar lines.... My father has been a staunch life-long Republican, until recently. He now likes to say 'Call me anything you want, but don't call me a Republican'. This is largely rooted in the Republican party's failure to support Trump, their continual empty campaign promises (ex. 'we will curtail illegal immigration'; followed by 'We can't do anything about illegal immigration, the press is beating us up!'), and their new absolute inability to get any major legislation accomplished.

If we were to assume that Trump could be a two term president - the next most important phase would be to vote out nearly every sitting Republican congressman and senator that comes for election, and replace him/her with a Trump-ist. If the US party system were more flexible, Trump really should be heading a new party.

Though eight years of Trump might be unlikely... Pat Buchanan sees a lot of parallels between the 'establishment' efforts to bring Nixon down, and what's currently going on with Trump. Buchanan believes Mueller will not relent until he has Trump's scalp. Given that a Special Council can be appointed to investigate the president on the basis of a completely fictional accusation (colluding with Russia to successfully throw the election), and that the Special Council can then veer off into completely unrelated areas to attempt to bring the President down (Trump's finances) - maybe this should either be: forbidden; or made standard practice - so that every president must withstand this onslaught.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
I agree with your father (and you); the Republicans have lost a lot of credibility by their empty promises and, at the very least, lack of support for Trump (some are actively trying to hurt him). Trump (not personally, but in terms of his political platform) is what the Republicans would be if they were more commonsensical, and less cucked.

I"ve never understood how a Special Counsel can just veer off in any direction he chooses either.

Mark Caplan said...

I wasn't going by memory. I looked up Ron Paul's positions on the internet. I've never been one his followers. As soon as I heard he wanted to revert to the gold standard and abolish the Fed (as well as the welfare system), I wrote him off as a kook and a crackpot.

Mark Caplan said...

Anthony "not trying to suck my own cock" Scaramucci was not a credit to the Italian-American community.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Metaphorically speaking, that's pretty much all Scaramucci does, indirectly. I talked with my brother about him this past weekend, we both agreed that he's the type of guy you meet a lot of on Wall Street, a hustler with an IQ of 125 who's spent his life kissing ass and back-stabbing, whenever each suits his goals. And you can almost tell what kind of guy he is just by looking at him.

Of course, literally speaking, if he were able to do that, he would be a credit to them.

Mark Caplan said...

Sorry, I thought I was on a different blog with my Anthony Scaramucci comment.

John Craig said...

Mark --
No problem, I was wondering what the comment was apropos of, but I figured since it was you, there must have been some connection.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

John, Most people these days are walking around with their umbilical cords in their hand looking for a philosophy/political party to plug it into. Ultimately that will not work for a semi intelligent person. That is the main reason I left the (upper case) Libertarian party. I still, however consider myself a (lower case) libertarian.

John Craig said...

Mr. Greek Letters --
I agree with you completely. To subscribe to a political system wholeheartedly is to surrender one's ability to think independently. The only thing any intelligent person can do is just judge each issue on its own merits. The only reason I ever said I was a libertarian was to have an answer at hand if anyone asked what my affiliation was, and even then, I hedged it by saying, "That's what comes closest, anyway."

Douglas Carkuff said...

It is important to always go back to first principles. A lot of people have a perception about what libertarianism is, but there is a very simple concept at the center of it and everything spring from that. It is the concept of self ownership. You either believe in it or you don't.

Anonymous said...

I've always been an Independent, leaning more towards the Republican side of things. I have come to realize that both parties, Republicans and Democrats, are lame, never accomplishing anything of value for this country. They're all talk, no action.

- birdie

Ambrose Kane said...

Good post John! I had flirted with Libertarianism for some time, but I ended up rejecting it for the very same reasons you provided. The biggest one was their open borders policy or sympathies which I consider absolutely insane and nationally suicidal.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
Thank you, and good to hear from you. Yeah, the official Libertarian Party is downright daft, that open borders policy was pretty much the last straw for me.

Steven said...

Charles Murray impresses me as a very smart man and of good character and he presents a version of the philosophy which seems well balanced and judicious, though maybe not strict.

Here is the first chapter of his book 'what it means to be a libertarian' where he explains some of his basic principles.

He would not abolish public roads, for example.

Murray also advocates universal basic income, which is an interesting one. Mixed feelings but there may be no alternative when AI and robotics do away with a substantial proportion of employment, drivers and so forth. At least UBI does away with the bureaucracy of the welfare state while preventing people from starving or becoming destitute. Having no safety net type of thing whatsoever just isn't humane or practical. Too many people would become destitute and the inequality would destabilise society.

It seems, John, that you could (and did) make a libertarian argument against some of the things you listed like affirmative action. So that shouldn't stop you from being a libertarian. There must be libertarians who feel as you do about immigration, which makes me wonder if something like 'libertarian nationalism' or 'national libertarianism' exists- internal libertarianism but pro borders.

John Craig said...

Steven --
You just described what may be the most basic problem with libertarianism, which is that there are so many variations of it that the term has almost become meaningless. If you look it up on Wikipedia you'll find descriptions of conservative free market libertarianism as well as "socialist libertarianism" whose adherents believe that the state should own everything. How that squares with less government interference I don't know.

And, of course, the current official Libertarian Party is so pathetic they couldn't come up with a better candidate than Gary Johnson.

Originally, what unified libertarians was a basic belief that the government had gotten too big and was regulating too much and sticking its nose in places where it didn't belong, like your bedroom. But now....who knows.

UBI and a strong social safety net work best in places like Denmark and Sweden (which have traditionally had them) before those countries were inundated by immigrants. Once you turn into a multicultural society it breeds resentment and encourages freeloaders to immigrate, and it will end up bankrupting a country.

Steven said...

I tihnk you may have the socialist libertarian bit wrong. Wikipedia:

'Libertarian socialism (or socialist libertarianism) is a group of anti-authoritarian political philosophies inside the socialist movement that rejects socialism as centralized state ownership and control of the economy, as well as the state itself. It is close to and overlaps with left-libertarianism. It criticizes wage labour relationships within the workplace, instead emphasizing workers' self-management of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization.'

Seems something like small or minimal government plus worker cooperatives, rather than laissez faire capitalism.


I don't understand the economics behind it but couldn't there be a time when robotics do most work and people don't have to work? In which case, does it matter if there are a lot of people who don't want to work? Besides, there are freeloaders but most immigrants work, don't they? Is it enough to bankrupt a country?

John Craig said...

Steven --
From the first part of the Wikipedia summary of libertarianism:

"Some libertarians advocate laissez-faire capitalism and strong private property rights, such as in land, infrastructure, and natural resources. Others, notably libertarian socialists, seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production in favor of their common or cooperative ownership and management, viewing private property as a barrier to freedom and liberty."

That sounds pretty much like standard socialism to me.

As far as immigrants bankrupting a country, a limited number won't do that, even if they push it in that direction. But if you allow unfettered immigration, more and more people will come into a country that has a generous safety net until the point where the country can no longer afford that net.

Steven said...

"That sounds pretty much like standard socialism to me".

Yeah that does. I wonder how they can claim to be against the state then. Perhaps you could have collective ownership but decentralised- without a central government or something.

"more and more people will come into a country that has a generous safety net until the point where the country can no longer afford that net."

Yeah that's possible. When robotics can do most productive work though, I'm not sure that its the same. You almost need a lot of people who don't mind not working. Its the high IQ jobs that wont be abolished as easily.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I don't know the answer to that question, to me "libertarian socialism" is an oxymoron.

I also don't know what will happen when robots/computers take over a larger percentage of jobs currently done by people.

John Engelman said...

Libertarians like to think that what they advocate is new and cutting edge. Actually they have not said anything that was not said better in the nineteenth century by social Darwinists like William Graham Sumner, and Herbert Spencer.

The economic status quo these social Darwinists defended was one in which millions of men, women, and sometimes even children worked twelve hours a day, six days a week in dangerous factories and mines for subsistence wages. Their employers lived like European royalty.

There was no environmental protection. In cities rivers and the air were badly polluted. Useless and often dangerous patent medicine was widely sold. Food frequently had dangerous bacteria and chemicals in it.

Throughout the twentieth century, beginning with the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, which began in 1902, the American voters have voted against this.

Libertarianism only makes sense for someone who has reason to be confident in his ability to earn a good income with no help from the government. In an increasingly competitive but stagnant economy this is only true of a shrinking percentage of the American people.

John Craig said...

John Engelman --
There's no question that life in the 21st century is much better than in the 19th, especially for the poor. Some of this is due to regulations, some to advances in science. But I don't know of any libertarians who advocate a return the conditions Charles Dickens described. (Isn't this the straw man fallacy you described earlier?)

Most modern day libertarians are more concerned with issues like the ones I've described in this post: excessive government intrusion into the bedroom, into issues like disparate impact, into enforced integration, and excessive red tape which strangles business. There of course should be laws against harmful pollution and snake oil salesmen.

Anonymous said...

I was a Libertarian until recently..but I was opposed to open borders until we eliminated the welfare state, Medicaid, food stamps, free public education and State supported Universities. The reason I no longer identify as a Libertarian due to learning about HBD and having children. I would not have embraced HBD if I had remained childless, which opened my eyes to it, especially seeing my children's classmates the children of my friends.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You're absolutely right, the influence of genetics is inescapable, and they can emerge in all sorts of unexpected ways. With your own children and your friends' children, obviously upbringing played a role in your childrens' personalities too, but a quick look at the separated twin studies is an education.

Anonymous said...

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”--Alexander Hamilton

It's a nice idea to live in a society where people were angels, then libertarianism or anarchism could work.

Humans tend to not be angels, I believe we can move closer to it, and we the world are doing our damndest best, we can never achieve perfection but I hope we can look to be nearer to it.


John Craig said...

Ga --
Gotta disagree with you here, I don't think human instincts will change until such time as genetic engineering changes it.

Nice quote from Hamilton though.