[ExI] Call To Libertarians
rpwl at lightlink.com
Sat Feb 19 16:51:48 UTC 2011
Darren Greer wrote:
>>Only different to those who cannot understand the inevitable end-point
> of libertarianism.<
> Just as the end-point of democracy is a stagnant bureaucratic state? The
> end-point of capitalism is fascism and plutocracy? The end-point of
> socialism is military dictatorship?
> The end-point of any system is a situation of extremes and therefore not
> desirable. When I asked the question I made the assumption that was
> understood. I was looking for a bit of a nuanced interpretation, much
> like the one Fred gave. I understand that political discourse tends to
> evoke passionate responses, but I should have made myself clearer: I was
> looking for an intellectual response, not a politicized, emotive one. My
I think you mistake the seriousness behind my reply (and Olga's).
Systems settle down into a balance of exchanges -- a state in which all
the players locally are trying to get what they want in various ways, so
that a situation emerges in which those players more or less accept a
set of exchanges that satisfy them.
Looking at the list of political systems you give above -- democracy,
captialism, socialism etc. -- we can OBJECTIVELY ask questions about how
those kinds of systems will settle down, given enough time. We cannot
find perfectly good answers to our questions (or we would all be Hari
Seldons), but we can do some "sanity checks" on the basic ideas in those
One sanity check (according to people like myself and, perhaps Olga
(though I make no pretence to speak for her)) yields one glaring,
massive difference between the fundamental philosophy held by most
libertarians and the philosophies held by those who cheer for the other
political philosophies that you list.
Libertarianism contains a glaring contradiction within it, which makes
it clear that it could never actually work in practice, but would
instead lead to Somalia-like anarchy and chaos. In what follows I will
try to explain what I mean by this.
Libertarianism cherishes the idea that "government" should be reduced to
the smallest possible size, and that individuals should take full
responsibility for paying for -- or cheating others out of -- the things
they need. But at the same time Libertarians also want the advantages
of civilization. The problem is, that the things that they want to cut
or drastically reduce are the "commons" aspects of modern civilisation
.... all those aspects that have to do with people coming together and
realizing that it is in everyone's best interest if the community is
forced to pool their resources to pay for things like roads and theaters
and bridges and schools and police forces.
The core of the contradiction is that what the Libertarian wants to do
is LOCALLY sensible, but globally crazy. From the point of view of the
individual libertarian, nothing but good can come from getting the
government out of their wallet. Every libertarian on the planet would
see an immediate increase in their well-being if that happened. But
that increase in their well being is predicated on the assumption that
nothing else changes in the society around them: that all the balances
and exchanges now established continue to operate as before. If society
continues to operate as normal, the local well-being of every
libertarian is immensely increased, withiout a shadow of a doubt, but
that is only true if everthing else continues to run as it always has done.
The mistake -- the glaring contradiction -- is this assumption that
everthing else will stay just as it is while all the libertarians are
counting the new money in their pocket, and setting up their own private
arrangements to pay for healthcare, to pay road tolls on every street,
to hire private police forces to look after them, to pay for their kids
to go to school, to pay for a snow plow to come visit their street in
the winter, and so on. Why is this assumption wrong? Because the
entire edifice of modern civilisation is built on that assumption about
taxation and pooling of resources for the common good. Taxation and
government and redistribution of wealth are what separate us from the
dark ages. The concept of taxation + government + redistribution of
wealth was the INCREDIBLE INVENTION that allowed human societies in at
least one corner of this planet to emerge from feudal societies where
everyone looked after themselves and the devil took the hindmost.
This fact about libertarianism is so easy to model, that the conclusion
about "SOMALIA == the Libertarian Paradise" is almost a no-brainer.
What I mean by "easy to model" is that when we try to understand the end
point of other political philosophies it really is pretty hard to see
exactly where they will go. But in the case of libertarianism, it only
takes a few questions to start revealing that terrifying, inevitable
slide toward feudalism. The questions we would ask are questions about
what exactly would happen when all the libertarians set up accounts to
pay for their toll-roads, healthcare, schools, snow plows etc. etc., but
the vast underbelly of modern society cannot do the same because they do
not have the resources. Questions about what directions the private
police forces would go when they have a client base that they must make
happy, rather than a hierarchy that goes up to the nation-state level.
And so on. We can model those local changes quite easily because we
have plenty of examples of what happens when those circumstances are set up.
So in the case of libertarianism, the answers to those questions are
really REALLY easy to come up with, and they all point toward anarchy
and feudalism. There are simply no good answers to those questions
(i.e. no answers that clearly demonstrate that there is a way to push
the system toward a stable state).
This is the reason why the world has had, over the years, plenty of
"democracies", "stagnant bureaucratic states", "capitalist states",
"fascist states", "plutocracies", "socialist states" and "military
dictatorships" ...... but not one "libertarian state".
Or rather, according to the analysis of those who have thought about it
in an objective way, the world HAS had many libertarian states: they
were all the rage in the dark ages, and they are now springing up like
wild mushrooms in a bog, in places like Somalia.
So, those were really not just shallow comments that I made, and that
Olga made, for all that they were delivered with a wry smile. There is
a difference between the searches for an end-point of all the various
political philosophies: libertarianism is a glaringly obvious
"locally-smart + globally dumb" philosophy, whereas the others are all
much much harder to call.
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