Been going back and forth with a self-identified libertarian ever since posting this entry to the blog. Going back and forth enough that I think I could write a novel on the subject of misguided libertarianism alone.
If you want to follow the thread, go here: www.privacyfinance.com/forum
I just can’t wrap my head around why, as a libertarian, you would want to claim kinship to proposals that have failed so miserably. And yet, this particular libertarian does so, repeatedly.
So, I’ll run through the argument again, see if I can make a dent.
None of the proposals were made by Libertarians. All of them were proposed by average politicians, most of whom had an agenda at odds with the notions of ‘freedom’. Ergo, libertarian only in name, and that name applied by a man intent on wielding a hatchet.
In order for the proposals that are being referred to as ‘libertarian’, to actually be libertarian, they would have had to produce some net gain of liberty and freedom. Let’s look at the failed programs in question. Assess the amount of libertarian thought that goes into them.
Gov’t retained control of Bush’s ‘privatized’ social security accounts. So you could ‘invest’ a part of your portion of the Ponzi scheme however you wanted, but you still had to go through the same bureaucrats to gain access to it, and I dare say that your benefits would not have been changed just because your portion of the fund did better than the next guys.
Calling it ‘privatization’ was a complete misnomer anyway. No control of current payroll deductions was offered in the plan. The proposal amounted to no more than a gov’t controlled 401K plan. All funds for these 401K’s would come from additional voluntary deductions from the employee’s paycheck (check the facts) additional funds that would go into gov’t coffers, be subjected to bureaucratic control at outlay, and yeild not one iota of freedom or liberty over the long haul.
That isn’t privatizing social security; it’s a meaningless little shell game with no net benefit to the individual. What would have been most likely to occur was the further takeover of the stock markets, inflating already overpriced stocks, yielding a net windfall in taxes for the gov’t to fund further adventures in empire building by the sitting president.
Other than the label, no obvious libertarian content.
Reagan used the bubble created by the Savings and Loan shell game to pay for his increased military budget, and to stave off the recession that eventually did occur during Bush the first. None of his talk about reducing gov’t ever amounted to action. Gov’t increased in size during his term in office, just as it has for every other president in the modern era. No net gain for the individual, no real libertarian content, in spite of the fact that the administration at that time gave credit to CATO’s plan to deregulate Savings and Loans.
But what about voucher systems. Surely vouchers and their defeat is a blow to the libertarian cause? The problem here is, the record doesn’t actually show that vouchers have been defeated in all cases. While the privatization of schools (complete laugh there. Tax funded schooling, even when those funds are handed to the parents of students, isn’t privatization) was fought at the local and state political level; the teachers unions and other groups that rely on gov’t school money are national organizations, with vast resources at their disposal. The wonder is that even with the brute force of the NEA opposed to every change in the gov’t school system, the public school facade has crumbled a bit in the last 10 years. There are charter schools that are excused from most of the controls applied to gov’t schools, and in some places real voucher systems working. There are more and more private school options, and home schooling is in vogue.
Some of the voucher programs deserved to go down to defeat. The structure of these systems contained no benefit to the average person in terms of liberty and freedom, either because of restrictions placed upon use of the tax money, or because of the use of tax money in and of itself. I spoke to several owners of private schools in past years about this subject. Most of them would not have taken vouchers even if they had been offered. The cost of taking them would have far exceeded the benefit of access to a larger student body.
A similar fate lay in wait for medical savings accounts. The insurance lobby dealt with the threat to their profits quite handily. They did this by making themselves the arbiters of what is or isn’t a tax deductible medical savings account, and structuring those programs that offer them in such a way that there is no cost benefit to the individual to participate in one. Hardly a libertarian defeat.
But surely foreign policy is…? Don’t even get me started on that subject. I’ve had a message from a friend concerning this issue sitting in my inbox for over a year now. I’m still working up the rant on the subject. I think it will be a novel when I’m done. Calling the gov’ts continued infatuation with armies and things that go ‘boom’ a failure of libertarianism is about the lamest excuse for journalism I’ve seen in a long time. Libertarians are far from being “of one mind” on the subject; we are neither isolationist nor pacifist. To make these assumptions is to purposefully mislead the reader into thinking libertarians cannot cope with the challenges facing us today.
The conquest of the Middle East that Bush has embarked on has only just begun. How that’s going to turn out is anyone’s guess. Libertarians were warning people for years that something like 9/11 was bound to occur if we kept meddling in the affairs of other countries. Now that it has occurred, we have every right to eliminate the threat to us. I don’t know when (or if) the gov’t will ever get around to that.
The big picture, like the forest lost in the trees, looks very different from the portrait being offered. Some idiot with a hatchet and penchant for word play writes a book and an article and talks about how libertarian politics has failed; don’t just shrug and go along with it.
It was nearly a hundred years from Marx and his manifesto to popular support for socialism; and that being based on the juxtaposition of altruist principles in agreement with socialist principles. Objectivism and Libertarianism emerged, what, 50 years ago? Throwing in the towel already, are we? I’m not willing to call the game ‘over’. It continues as long as I draw breath.
If your response to all this is still “Uh huh, what you’re saying is: it is not libertarian enough for you to call it libertarian.” Then I’d like to suggest the following; “put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers”. Leave the thinking to those of us more suited to the task.
Mea culpa review 2019. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. This entire post was a trip to the No True Scotsman fallacy theme park. Every single objection I listed proves that libertarianism fails at solving the world’s problems. Now that I am no longer hitched to that label as anything other than a delusion I still cling to, it all seems so clear to me. Motivated numeracy on parade.
Put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers. I remember when I thought that line was clever. Waited breathlessly for a chance to use it. It’s just another clever line that was never clever, looking at it now.