Posts Tagged ‘Libertarianism’

‘A libertarian walks into a bear’

December 13, 2020

How a New Hampshire libertarian utopia was foiled by bears by Sean Illing for Vox.  “Seriously, this happened.  You should read about it.”  (Hat tip to Steve from Texas)

The assumptions and logic of neoliberalism

November 14, 2015

There is no such thing as society.  There are only individuals, and their families.      ==Margaret Thatcher


Neoliberalism is the philosophy that economic freedom is the primary freedom, economic growth is society’s primary goal and the for-profit corporation is the ideal form of organization.

It is the justification for privatization, deregulation and the economic austerity being imposed on governments by lending institutions.

What follows is my attempt to understand the thinking behind neoliberalism.  I welcome comments, especially from those who think I am wrong or unfair.

17149339-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Neoliberalism-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoGovernment is by definition coercive.  All governmental authority is ultimately backed by armed force.  The role of government should be limited to protection of life and property and enforcement of contracts.   

Private enterprise is by definition free choice.  Privatization by definition increases freedom.  All income deriving from the private sector, and not involving force or fraud, is earned income.

Most people are good judges of their individual self-interest and bad judges of the common good.   People generally make good decisions as consumers and poor decisions as voters.  Consumer choice is more meaningful than the right to vote.

Free markets, though the law of supply and demand, coordinate individual choices without the direction of any particular people or group of people.  The free market is more impartial and just than any system of planning or regulation could be.

A capitalist dictatorship that protects property rights is better than a socialist democracy that attacks property rights.

Economic growth is the key to increasing economic well-being.  Growth is produced by capital—that is, by investment in machines, factories and other human-made goods that generate new wealth.  

In a free enterprise economy, capital is invested by private individuals based on the law of supply and demand.  Whatever diminishes the ability of individuals to accumulate wealth or respond to the signals of the free market diminishes capital and retards economic growth.

Money spent on welfare and charity may temporarily alleviate distress, but it will not cure poverty.  Only capital investment and economic growth will do that. 

Capital investment and economic growth should take precedence over public education, public health, the environment and other so-called pubic goods, because they are the means of generating the wealth that pays for the public goods.

Banks, investment firms and financial markets are the key institutions of society.  They must be preserved in order to support investment and economic growth.

Monetary obligations are absolute.  Any person, organization or government that borrows money has an absolute obligation to pay it back, no matter what the sacrifice.  People who don’t repay their debts or fulfill their contracts are parasites on the system.

Inequality is a good thing.  To break up accumulations of wealth that have been acquired by legitimate means is not only unjust because it destroys the just reward for achievement.  It destroys the capital by which new jobs and wealth are created.


Honduras as a right-wing paradise

March 18, 2015

Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras.

via Edwin Lyngar for Alternet.

Libertarians nominate a plausible candidate

May 10, 2012

The Libertarian Party has nominated Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, as its candidate for President in the 2012 election.  Johnson filed for the Republican nomination for President in 2011, but was frozen out of press coverage while the clownish Donald Trump was treated as a serious candidate.  There was no good reason why this should have been.  Somebody pointed out that polls showed that Johnson had a positive favorability rating in his home state, unlike Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.   But he goes against Washington’s bi-partisan consensus, as in advocating decriminalization of marijuana.

Gary Johnson

Barring the unforeseen, I will vote for him in November.  I probably would vote for him even if I lived in a battleground state instead of New York.  Philosophically, I am not a libertarian, but extremism in defense of liberty is preferable to the creeping totalitarianism represented by Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and the other Democratic and Republican leaders.

Click on Gary Johnson 2012 for Johnson’s home page.

Click on Gary Johnson wiki for his Wikipedia biography.

Click on Libertarian Gary Johnson: Spoiler Alert? for thoughts of Gene Healy, a vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute.  Healy said ex-Gov. Johnson is the most plausible and qualified Presidential candidate that the Libertarians have nominated in many years.   He denied that Johnson will not play the role of a spoiler by pulling votes from Mitt Romney and thereby helping Barack Obama.  He saidbeca the election race is “a battle between a President who’s violated most of his campaign promises on civil liberties and a candidate who’s already promised to do worse” and therefore is “pre-spoiled.”

Click on Why I am not a libertarian for my thoughts about libertarian ideology.

The left, the right, libertarians and Ron Paul

January 9, 2012

As I look at this Venn diagram published by Mother Jones magazine, I see myself in the middle of the Left circle, but I don’t see many national political figures on the circle along with me.

I’d put Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and the Democratic congressional leadership in the Right circle than the Left.  President Obama claims the right to commit acts of war without authorization of Congress, and has acted on that claim.  He claims the right to imprison people without trial, to sign and execute death warrants without due process and may well be authorizing torture on as wide a scale at President Bush’s administration.  He supports NAFA-style treaties with Colombia and South Korea.  His administration is deporting unauthorized immigrants in larger numbers than the Bush administration.  He does not support reproductive rights.  He does support repeal of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but as part of a package of economic austerity and cutbacks in the social safety net to taxation of the middle class.

President Obama and the Democratic leadership did enact the Affordable Care Act, which may turn out to be a net positive, and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which I agree with, but not at the price of endless war and suspension of basic Constitutional rights.

All this makes me more open-minded about the Libertarians and Ron Paul than I otherwise would be.   Even though I can’t agree with them on important  matters of policy, they at least support the core values of American freedom and democracy.  I admired the way Al Gore and Howard Dean spoke up against abuses of power during the Bush administration, but they have nothing to say about the equal or worse abuses of power going on now.

The great merit of the Libertarians, and of Ron Paul, is that they have principles that are not held hostage by any political party or powerful vested interest.

Click on The Venn of Ron Paul and Other Mysteries of Libertarianism Explained for the source of this diagram and background on Libertarianism in Mother Jones.

The imaginary political spectrum

November 3, 2011

We talk about political ideas and proposals in terms of an imaginary spectrum.  Politicians are leftist, rightist or centrists.  But what does that mean?  Self-described left-wingers generally see themselves as champions of poor oppressed people against their enemies.  Self-described right-wingers generally see themselves as defenders of traditional moral values against their enemies.

A Tea Party supporter once explained to me that the Right consists of the champions of individual liberty against governmental authority.  By this definition, Hitler was on the Left, and people such as President Obama and myself, although not Nazis, were closer to Hitler on the spectrum than the Tea Party leaders.  But the American Civil Liberties Union champions individual civil liberties against government authority.  Is it then a right-wing organization?

The so-called Nolan Chart addresses this complexity.  Libertarians see self-described liberals on the left as defenders of personal liberty and self-described conservatives on the right as defenders of economic liberty.  But libertarians think that they alone are consistent defenders of liberty in all aspects.

Click on Nolan Chart Survey for a quiz that will show you your place on the Nolan chart.

Click on The Wheel of Politics for another libertarian-centric chart, this one a hexagon showing libertarianism in relation to progressivism and conservatism.  Libertarians go in more for this kind of political taxonomy because, in my opinion, they see politics more as a conflict of ideas while liberals see it more as a conflict of interests and conservatives as a conflict of values.

The SF writer Jerry Pournelle produced a chart placing political ideologies along two axes – statism versus liberty, and rationality vs. irrationality.

This explains how Nazis and Communists can be so alike, yet so opposed to each other.  Rationalism in this case does not refer to what people really are, but how they think of themselves.  Communists thought of Marxism-Leninism as the only scientific philosophy; the Nazis glorified instinct and despised intellectuality.

 Click on The Pournelle Political Axes for Jerry Pournelle’s explanation of his chart.

But this way of looking at things leaves out an important dimension, which is captured on a chart, shown below, created by political scientist Daniel Chirot.

Click to enlarge


Why I am not a libertarian

May 28, 2010

The libertarian philosophy has a strong appeal, especially to intelligent young people, and has had a powerful impact on American life through such public figures as Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan.

There is a lot to be said in favor of philosophy whose supreme value is the right of individual human beings to make choices and live as they wish, provided they do not infringe on the freedom of others.  If you have to have one supreme principle that outweighs all the others, that is not a bad one.

I was much interested in libertarian philosophy during the Reagan era, and I still think that deregulation and cuts in marginal tax rates were a good idea up to a point.

I don’t agree with Libertarians that governmental activity is by definition an infringement on freedom, and private business activity never is.  And I don’t agree that governmental activity is by definition unproductive, and that private business activity never is.  These things are sometimes true, but not always true.