Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Libertarianism is Feudalism?


I was recently forwarded an article on the Next New Deal blog written by Mike Konczal entitled "We Already Tried Libertarianism - It Was Called Feudalism". In addition to his own observation he directs us to two recent articles in Salon by Michael Lind.




I read both articles Lind wrote about libertarianism, the most recent on Salon yesterday (6/11/2013) entitled Libertarians: Still a cult  (I'm a cult member! Always wanted to try that out). I made some hopefully thoughtful remarks in the comment section, which were met by the usual charges of not knowing what I’m talking about, accusing me of ignorance. I know offering my own two cents will get me nowhere in those forums since we are all guilty of finding it difficult to change our belief structure. But it is in our nature to want to persuade others to come around to our own point of view, so I try.

Feudalism was not and never will be libertarianism. It's a poor argument. Yes, there are a lot of problems with a totally free society unfettered by the constrictions of a government that normally would keep the sociopaths in check. Most libertarians would not argue that, nor would they allow the total anarchy that would ensue. As Robert Heinlein noted:

"A rational anarchist believes that concepts, such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame, as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his efforts will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure."

Yes, there are a few in the libertarian circle who are sociopaths who would use a free society to pursue their less than savory aims. Since 1% to 4% of the population is sociopathic/psychopathic, and since they have a tendency to rise to positions of power and authority (power and control over people is what they crave and seek) that's simply unavoidable. We already know that the financial services industry has attracted enough of them to represent possibly 4% (and maybe as much as 10% by some estimates) of the total workforce. I would assume that the same, if not significantly more are in political positions because they mostly seem to behave in similar manners. Lind etal point directly to the machinations of those sociopaths (without labeling them as such) and argue their positions from those extremist's view points.

As with all political parties there are differing opinions and thoughts on how to approach their aims, and libertarians are no different. Addressing the extremist side and then painting with a broad brush that all libertarians feel this way is merely an ad hominen attack. There are many like myself who feel there needs to be that balance between the need for liberty and the need to provide protection for those less able to function in society. I've noted before that my personal views align more closely to the minarchist and Bleeding Heart Libertarian view points. There is room for government, and in fact in order to protect individual and personal property rights, provide for the common defense, promote and protect liberty there must be. The preamble of the US Constitution states the purpose of our current form of government very well in that regard.

...."establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."

Libertarianism does not necessarily mean that government should abandon all attempts to maintain the Rule of Law as seems to be suggested, and in fact the argument is exactly the opposite. Many have directly implied that a society under libertarianism would lead to the rich getting richer, the poor getting poor and oppressed. I would note that the current crop of scoundrels running our government are the ones that have abandoned the Rule of Law, and now use their powers spy on us, to oppress people, and create a feudalist society with the corporations determining the allocation of resources, who is to be rich and comfortable and who is to be poor and suffering. Both Republicans and Democrats alike are involved in this. Konczal argues that under libertarianism that rights can be sold/transferred by a person so that he puts himself into slavery, and that by the libertarian view of rights this would be acceptable, although seemingly contradictory. He states:

" If the recession was so bad that millions of people started selling themselves into slavery, or entering contracts that required lifelong feudal oaths to employers and foregoing basic rights, in order to survive,..."

I have to make an observation here that has been pointed out already by many; The current recession is so bad and the cost of purchasing even basic necessities and educating ourselves and our children has become so high compared to shrinking incomes that millions of people have indeed sold themselves into slavery, entered into lifelong contracts and have foregone basic rights in order to survive. That slavery is called Debt Slavery - credit cards,  mortgages, home equity loans and student loans. And yet we tolerate this, and deride those that break that contractual agreement when they declare bankruptcy (which will not extinguish student loan debts, so that level of slavery always follows a person for life) or walk away from the homes they can no longer afford and are worth less than what they owe.

I will not argue with those that point out that libertarians (in general) tend to be lower on the empathy level than most humans. It's likely quite true, as this study seems to indicate. I've taken the survey at yourmorals.com and found this to be the case for myself, although actually scored somewhat higher than most conservatives and even higher than some liberals in certain areas in the survey (funny that). I guess that's why I tend toward the bleeding heart side.

The question Lind raised in his first article on this subject is that if libertarianism is so great then why hasn't any nation embraced it, why are there no libertarian nations? The libertarian retort by Tom Woods is rephrasing the question with a series of other questions. Also, as Woods noted on a Ron Paul forum, "This was more a funny question than a difficult one, since while Lind really seems to have thought he’d gotten us good, the question is one libertarians themselves address constantly".

I've heard it said regarding changing the current and failed system "But would you replace it with". Thomas Sawell put it this way:

"No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear, 'But what would you replace it with.'

When you put out a fire, what would you replace it with?"

There's a fire; the politicians and corporations are fanning it, and most people in this country (and others) recognize that but have no clue  how to put the fire out (or don't care so long as they're left alone, but unfortunately not getting mad enough to do something about it). One commenter on Lind's second article said "The libertarians are certainly shouty little buggers, aren't they? So small in numbers; so angry. Let's see..." My response to him was "I think that I've earned the right to be angry".

Haven't we all?


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