An excellent take-down of Libertarians and Libertarianism.
So government doesn’t have a legal monopoly on force because… some rich people keep governments in their pocket, function as private extensions of governments, or outright usurp governmental power - functioning as de facto, if not de jure, governmental entities - where rule of law is not firmly established? That, actually, does not rebut our claims whatsoever. In fact, such corruption is expected the less a government - and a subservient populace - respects the life, liberty, and property of its people.
Why do the left fear a voluntary society of consensual cooperation and mutually beneficial exchange if not because they themselves hope to wield government’s coercive nature to bend society to its redistributive whims?
First, you didn’t read the article very well, because the author gives several examples where private parties (i.e. corporations) employed coercive power without working through a government to do so, so the author’s contention that private parties have coercive power still stands.
Second, libertarianism relies on perfect politicians and perfect corporate executives and perfect citizens being perfectly and fully informed, while in the real world Ford covers up that some of its cars have design flaws that kill people, S&Ls go bust due to de-regulation, the Southwest gets hit by an electric crisis due to de-regulation, and the failure of voluntary regulation in the financial industry leads to the Bush Recession.
The Right hates strong, democratic governments because strong, democratic governments are a check on the coercive power of private parties (i.e. corporations) that want serfs, not employees. Cheap labor is the foundation of right-wing ideology. No matter how you dress it up, libertarianism is a right-wing philosophy seeking to deliver cheap labor.
It’s funny how quickly the “corporations” boogey-man gets thrown toward libertarians. We do not advocate for corporations. We are for a free market, which does not automatically translate to being pro-business.
Yes “corporations” can wield coercive power. So can a lunatic with a bomb strapped to his chest. The key difference is who can get away with it. And I didn’t say the only way a private entity can have this coercive power was through the government (although historically that is by far the most common way) - I also said they could “usurp governmental power - functioning as de facto, if not de jure, governmental entities.” This means that by granting themselves these forceful monopoly powers, they are taking on the character and role of government where there is an absence of rule of law or societal respect for life, liberty, and property.
The same traits inherent in human beings who assemble themselves as corporations exist in the human beings who assemble themselves as government. Except government has an actual, jurisdictional, internationally-recognized, ostensibly-legitimate, enforceable monopoly on force, so they can get away with things that a private entity in a free market could not.
Also, when one understands economics in a way that’s a bit deeper than New York Times buzzwords like “de-regulation,” one realizes that the competition of a free market creates protections against allowing businesses to become dangers to others. We are not the ones who believe in “too big to fail.” Libertarians advocate that every business pay the full price for their mistakes, whether it is your Ford Pinto example or BP’s oil spill. We would let individuals hold them completely liable - even criminally so if their negligence merits it - for any and all damages they were responsible for. There would be no government agencies who could take the blame just as there would be no caps on their liability. It is unthinking Keynesians who are friends to corporations, with their various guaranteed revenue streams and protections from failure. It’s dangerous to experience catastrophes of government intrusions and learn the wrong lessons in order to justify your world view. At some point, reality requires you to acknowledge that government intervention and regulatory capture that led to the BP spill, that perverse government and Fed incentives created the bubble and subsequent financial crisis, the repercussions of which are still being felt.
This line is particularly amusing: “libertarianism relies on perfect politicians and perfect corporate executives and perfect citizens being perfectly and fully informed.”
Do you even follow that logic? We understand that politicians aren’t perfect so we seek to limit their power. We understand that “corporate executives” and businesses aren’t perfect so we seek to have them compete for their profits by pleasing consumers instead of granting them subsidies, bailouts, and other protectionist gifts forcefully coerced from the unwilling. We understand that no man could ever be “perfectly and fully informed” so instead of centralizing economic planning, we seek to have decisions made by as many people as necessary and only those voluntarily willing to make them, in order to allow the price mechanism to best inform decisions and conserve resources.
Who is more utopian: he who acknowledges man’s fallibility but grants a special few great power over many under the name of “government,” or he who recognizes that same fallibility but seeks to limit abuses over others?
[T]he libertarian doctrine is not utopian but eminently realistic, because it is the only theory that is really consistent with the nature of man and the world. The libertarian does not deny the variety and diversity of man, he glories in it and seeks to give that diversity full expression in a world of complete freedom. And in doing so, he also brings about an enormous increase in productivity and in the living standards of everyone, an eminently “practical” result generally scorned by true utopians as evil “materialism.”
The libertarian is also eminently realistic because he alone understands fully the nature of the State and its thrust for power… it is the… man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, ‘Limit yourself;’ it is he who is truly the impractical utopian. …
There is another deep sense in which libertarians scorn the broader utopianism of the left. The left utopians invariably postulate a drastic change in the nature of man; to the left, man has no nature. The individual is supposed to be infinitely malleable by his institutions, and so the communist ideal (or the transitional socialist system) is supposed to bring about the New Communist Man. The libertarian believes that, in the ultimate analysis, every individual has free will and moulds himself; it is therefore folly to put one’s hope in a uniform and drastic change in people brought about by the projected New Order. The libertarian would like to see a moral improvement in everyone, although his moral goals scarcely coincide with those of the socialists. He would, for example, be overjoyed to see all desire for aggression by one man against another disappear from the face of the earth. But he is far too much of a realist to put his trust in this sort of change. Instead, the libertarian system is one that will at once be far more moral and work much better than any other, given any existing human values and attitudes. The more the desire for aggression disappears, of course, the better any social system will work, including the libertarian; the less need will there be, for example, for any resort to police or to the courts. But the libertarian system places no reliance on any such change.
F.A. Hayek pointed out:
"The main merit of individualism [what today we’d consider libertarianism or anti-statism] is that it is a system under which bad men can do least harm. It is a social system which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it, or on all men becoming better than they now are, but which makes use of men in all their given variety and complexity…"
And as far as “the Right” wanting “cheap labor”… it is the Left that wants unemployment. After all, actions speak louder than words and it is the soft central planning of minimum wage laws, along with the tariffs and taxes that make goods and services more expensive, that greatly helps increase unemployment. Which is the left’s goal, really, because they also believe in the welfare system. An unemployed person thusly becomes dependent on the state’s unemployment checks, food stamps, and health services, and quickly becomes a reliable supporter of those who seem to be his caretaker, regardless of the fact they were likely partly the cause of the loss of his self-reliance.
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