Libertarian

What is up with this?  Can anyone imagine that a society with liberty, especially economic liberty as it SOLE value, can survive? Look, the French got one thing right.  A decent society needs liberty, equality and fraternity in roughly equal measures and these in dynamic balance.  Different societies choose different balances, which is one of the things that makes for an interesting world.  But when one of these factors becomes hypertrophied, disaster inevitably ensues. 

 

We recently, for example, saw the end of a monstrous and murderous system that claimed equality and fraternity were the only things that mattered, that liberty was defined as acceding to the will of the Party.  Before that, we had an even more dire regime based on the hypertrophy of fraternity, leading to the notion that fraternity, love of family, country and fellow citizens, could be redefined as constituting a master race.  We are good, we have a fine culture, they said, the finest in the world.  Nothing wrong with that--it's natural to root for the home team.  But without due attention to equality and liberty, that little jump  to "we are great so therefore we are entitled to rule over everyone else, and dispose of those we deem too inferior to live, "is made almost inevitable. Nor did it end in 1945, as Rwanda and Bosnia demonstrated all too well. 

 

And a society absolutely devoted to liberty, void of equality or fraternity, will have the same end.  Because equality is essential to the idea of citizenship.  We are all possessed of an essential human dignity before the state, we are all equal in the eyes of the law.  And if we have unequal abilities, and unequal achievement, or just bad luck, it is up to society to temper the results of this, because if you get enough economic inequality then this ideal of equality before the law becomes a joke.  Then you're a banana republic, you're Egypt, where the elite are treated practically as a different species from the 99 per cent below them. Immune from the law, they dwell in splendid isolation, partaking of the best, while the rest of society suffers and seethes.  

 

Part of this seething goes to destroy fraternity, the sense that, despite our differences, we are all one people united in a common purpose.  But gross inequality gives the lie to this sense of nationhood.  We are not one nation, but two.  And if two, why not four or ten, because once the bond of nationhood is broken, people will seek other bonds--gangs, tribes, faiths, parties. Then come the tribal wars, the confessional wars, all the things we see happening today, and the mercenary armies of the rich sometimes can't protect them, and they must flee to their condos in Paris or New York. And here in America we have well begun this breakdown with our insane partisanship--in the name of liberty!--and the most degraded political discourse since the thirties. 

 

So people like Rand Paul, Alan Greenspan, and all the other slaves of that crazy lady, how can you not understand that untrammeled capitalism is a road to serfdom just as much as Bolshevism is?  Capitalism actually HAD serfs in this country before the federal government acted to re-establish some measure of equality and fraternity.

 

But let's assume that libertarians want a decent society, that they don't desire to live in a banana republic and be one of the elite rulers thereof.  Let's assume that they don't really want to be Baron Harkkonen.   Let's assume further that they really believe that absolutely free capitalism will yield a happy land. Creative destruction will be unleashed, new industries will arise to suck up the displaced workers, a rising tide will lift all boats, and society will be both prosperous and free. This is where it sticks for me--how can anyone actually suppose this?

 

Because this is what actually happens.  Absent government control, capital accumulates in fewer and fewer hands. These hands buy the government.  Law is entirely the property of the rich.  Innovation dries up, because there prevails oligopoly in all goods and services, and any innovators are quickly bought up or suppressed. Do you really imagine that absent federal oversight, IBM would not have swallowed Microsoft in 1983? And Apple and Intel too.  Similar things happened back in our first Gilded Age.  This is because while big business may hate government, what they really hate is competition. And they will suppress it, with the lackey government's aid if necessary. And there go all the proud libertarian small business owners and innovators, up in smoke. And, of course, the oligarchs can pay any wages they choose and fund the police they need to keep the people in line (via sales taxes, of course, rather than taxes on income.) The problem here is the the 99 per cent get poorer and poorer until they can no longer buy enough stuff to keep the economy rolling.  Such systems lead therefore inevitably to a series of greater and greater crashes until fascism or Bolshevism seem the only ways out.  You think it can't happen here?  Think again.