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If Attacks on Libertarianism Get Problem Wrong, Can the Solution Be Correct?
April 28, 2012
Editorial By Anthony Wile
The alternative media shop Truthout has posted an article intended to "stimulate a healthy dialogue about whether there is a conservative political tradition that can actually work with progressives."
The article focuses on today's American conservatism, which the article claims "has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology. It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite."
This is a "volume up" attack, focusing on what the article damns as the "infection" of libertarianism ...
"It has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand."
But this is just the first of many clever statements in the article that could be construed as creating the proverbial "straw horse."
In other words, it is presenting an argument that is easy to knock down by people who actually have bothered to study free-market thinking because it is not entirely true.
The presentation is par for the course these days, however. Attacking free markets as libertarian – and libertarianism itself as an extreme ideology – has, not surprisingly, become a fashionable sport amongst the progressive media of late.
In fact, the sniping has come from other corners as well so that a strange band of ideological brethren has united against it. Conservatives themselves, anti-usury types, monetarists and now progressives are coming together to oppose libertarianism as a movement.
From my point of view, this is a kind of dominant social theme, a fear-based promotion that is genuine but also has power-elite roots. The idea is to frighten people into giving up power and wealth to globalist institutions. Free-market thinking interferes with this push.
Those who want world government are provided with a vast panoply of anti-government arguments that have built up over the past half-century as Austrian economics has exploded in power and influence thanks to the Internet.
There is a great yearning in the human spirit to be free of legal coercion and the military might that inevitably accompanies it.
Few people as youngsters aspire to pay taxes, be intimidated by the warfare/welfare state or wish to hand over their livelihood and future to the ministrations of those who run monopoly fiat central banks and constantly print money from nothing.
In the 21st century, the libertarian resurgence (a variant of classical liberalism) has been spearheaded by a form of free-market Austrian economics that has given rise to so-called anarcho-libertarians. There are variants of this anarcho-libertarian strain, of course. Some libertarians are purer in their anti-government sentiments and some less so.
It was apparently the success of US Congressman Ron Paul's ongoing takeover of the current mainstream GOP that has substantively raised the level of rhetoric, in my view. When action raises money, the concern seems to rise exponentially. Here's an excerpt on this phenomenon from a post at the free-market oriented Business Insider ...
Actually, Ron Paul Is Secretly Winning A Lot More Delegates Than You Think ... Mitt Romney may have all but locked up the Republican nomination with his victories in the East Coast primaries this week, but Ron Paul and his army of acolytes aren't ready to give up the fight just yet.
As the rest of the political world's attention shifts to the general election, Paul is still quietly amassing delegates at district and county conventions, and is now poised to take a real bite — or at least a big nibble — out of Romney's delegate total.
In just the last week, Paul locked up 49 delegates, including five in Pennsylvania and four in Rhode Island, two states thought to be firmly on Romney's turf. In Minnesota, Paul won 20 of the 24 delegates awarded at last weekend's district caucuses, an impressive sweep that guarantees that Paul will control a majority of the state's delegation at the Republican National Convention.
The forces trying to create global governance have now seemingly identified libertarian-conservative Ron Paul as an increasingly formidable obstacle. These forces, funded by the central banks they control, dominate mainstream media – and much progressive media as well.
Their media resources have created a false right/left paradigm. The elite conservative publications argue for a statist military-industrial complex while "liberal" publications argue for the welfare state. Both demand massive government interference.
But this is a false paradigm, a dialectic tool. The real argumentation is between LESS government and more government, not between different kinds of government options.
The attacks being launched against libertarianism inevitably focus on "some" government as a corrective antidote to the horrors of Randian individualism.
But Ayn Rand does NOT represent a substantial portion of top-level free-market thinking. The subtle minds that developed anarcho-capitalism were and are well aware that human beings are tribal and clan-oriented.
The argument of these free-market thinkers is not that people need to be organized by government – which is pure force – but that people thrive in environments where the organizational glue is conditional rather coercive.
Governments do not necessarily negotiate; they demand. But free-market communities such as those that developed in America prior to the revolution were organized around spirituality and religion.
In such cases, those who did not correspond to public mores were often shamed and shunned. This is far preferable to being imprisoned for 20 years for relatively trivial offenses.
These sorts of points are never mentioned in the attacks on libertarianism, which is a rich soil cultivating various free-market beliefs. From my point of view, this is problematic because once the problem has been defined improperly the solution is not apt to be presented correctly, either.
The Truthout article seems to me somewhat typical of this sort of rhetoric. But it is representative of this larger effort to portray free-market proponents as rigid ideologues. It certainly makes for good copy:
Rand's disciples claim to champion liberty and freedom, but really care only about license - the notion that actions have no consequences and individuals have no broader responsibilities to anything or anyone but themselves. As George Monbiot has correctly noted, this brand of libertarianism, although often "dressed up as freedom," is in reality:
"a formula for oppression and bondage. It does nothing to address inequality, hardship or social exclusion. A transparently self-serving vision, it seeks to justify the greedy and selfish behaviour of those with wealth and power."
This is simply untrue. The most convincing kinds of libertarianism accept that people form groups and within those groups are subject to the social molding of certain kinds of morality and cultural congruence.
There is actually a panoply of action-oriented solutions that have been proposed over recent years as a result of what we call the Internet Reformation.
It is this kind of actionable consequence that the elites fear and are mobilizing against. But the movement to redefine the subtleties of free-market thinking and its evolution is an ongoing one. It is rooted in the waning of the elites' information monopoly and the rise of socio-economic alternatives spread by the 'Net.
In the future, as the ongoing evolution of The Daily Bell demands it, we'll be examining more of these solutions. The alternatives provide a rich and hopeful series of solutions to the problems posed by current militaristic, authoritarian and monopoly central banking alternatives.
It is these solutions the powers-that-be hope to restrain by framing the argumentation in a certain either/or manner, using Ayn Rand's didactical approach as the touchstone. But I would argue this is a sterile formulation that partakes more of a promotional meme than reality.
Besides, it is probably too late. The Internet is a process not an episode.