A More Honest Name For Libertarianism: Money&Powerism
True Believers design their political religions to benefit people like themselves. Libertarians think they are the smart ones who deserve to win so their system is designed to protect their corporate money and power.
By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
The Libertarian Core Philosophy
The core belief of the libertarian political religion is that it is fundamentally fair, moral and right that every person and every corporation should keep all the wealth and all the power they obtained by any means other than outright theft, violence or fraud, and that no person or corporation should be subject to any non-criminal laws or pay any taxes except to the extent that the tax finances a government service that specifically benefits that taxpayer.
Their theory is that the only moral way that wealth may change hands or that personal or corporate power may morally be limited is through the voluntary consent of the holder. Any law that otherwise imposes a non-criminal obligation on a person or a corporation or that taxes a person or a corporation is “stealing.”
It is a form of anarchism.
For a deeper discussion of the relationship between freedom and the libertarian philosophy see my column:
The Libertarian Philosophy Is Really About Protecting Power, Not Maximizing Freedom — Libertarians believe that the non-violent exercise of power is an absolute right no matter how harmful that exercise of power may be to other people or to the society as a whole.
No Restrictions On Corporations
In order to protect corporate wealth and power, in a libertarian society the government cannot enact any
- anti-trust laws
- anti-discrimination laws
- consumer protection laws
- child labor laws
- wage and hour laws
- eminent domain laws.
- laws prohibiting the sale of your organs
For libertarians, the primary role of the government is to protect corporate and individual wealth and power from any person, any group or any institution that might want to limit them in any way, other than prohibitions against criminal acts.
Political Systems Are Designed To Benefit The Designers
True Believers design their political religions to benefit people like themselves and, for them, no one else matters.
If you’re of royal blood, you design an aristocratic system where the nobility wins and to hell with everyone else. As long as your society is good for the nobility you’re happy.
The communist society was designed to work well only for members of the working class and for those people who support communist values. How successful the communist society was for others was unimportant because those “others” were unimportant to the designers.
The communists didn’t care that their society screwed the talented, the inventive, the creative, the business people, and the entrepreneurs because they weren’t the people the system was supposed to benefit and because the designers saw those groups as evil and as part of the problem.
The promoters of the libertarian political religion are no different.
Libertarians Think They Deserve To Be Society’s Winners
Libertarians think that they and their corporations are the smart, hard-working, creative, and talented ones, that they are the clever people who carefully plan ahead, save their money, make smart decisions based on an intelligent, long-term, cost/benefit analysis, delay gratification, don’t get scammed, and work hard.
Libertarians think that the only members of a society who count are the “smart” individuals and corporations like themselves.
Libertarians think that if they create a society where they and their corporations will be immune from any legal responsibility to anyone else, especially to society’s “losers”, that they will then be able to take AND KEEP their rightful place as society’s winners at the head of the table.
Convinced that they deserve money and power, certain that they and their corporations will be the ones who will get that money and power, they’ve designed a system whose Prime Directive is, you guessed it: Protect money and power.
How well the libertarian society works for human beings who have little or no money and power doesn’t matter to them in the least. To the libertarian, protecting the winners’ money and power, especially corporate winners, is everything.
Providing greater individual, human freedom and creating a society that is prosperous for most of its human members are both unimportant.
The quality of life for the majority of the humans in the libertarian’s society is unimportant because they believe that the losers are not smart, talented, careful, and clever like themselves and therefore they deserve to be losers.
For them, the moral imperative is: Winners deserve to win. Losers deserve to lose.
Yes, they make fantasy claims that their rules will, in fact, create a utopian society, but for reasons discussed later in this column, those claims are, at best, false and, at worst, lies.
Libertarians Care Nothing About The People Whom They Think Are Society’s Losers
As far as the libertarians are concerned,
- If instead of delaying gratification you decide to enjoy life today, you deserve to be poor.
- If you don’t save every penny you can, you deserve to be poor
- If you aren’t smart enough to avoid being scammed, you deserve to be scammed
- If you were born with average or below average intelligence or talent and you don’t make yourself work two full-time jobs, you deserve to be poor
- If you don’t do enough research to discover and avoid crappy or dangerous products then you deserve to be cheated or sickened.
- If you’re born into a family that is unable to educate you for a good job and if you’re not willing or able to work 80-hour weeks for years on end to get educated for a good job, then you deserve to be poor.
In short if you aren’t as smart, talented, careful, thrifty, clever, industrious and lucky as the libertarians think they are, then you deserve to be a destitute loser.
Libertarians think that creating a society where most people who are unlike themselves can have a decent life is irrelevant because libertarians foolishly think that the losers’ poverty and destitution will not have any negative effect on them. After all, they control the police so they think they’re safe.
False Libertarian Claims
In order to get you to sign up for their religion, libertarians will tell you that under the Libertarian System
- The country doesn’t need anti-trust laws because monopolies and cartels will automatically disappear
- The country doesn’t need any anti-discrimination laws because discrimination by businesses, landlords and employers will automatically disappear
- The country doesn’t need any consumer protection laws because all sellers will automatically provide only good and safe products and will automatically treat consumers fairly.
- The country doesn’t need any child labor laws because either child labor will automatically disappear or, if it doesn’t that’s OK because children will be better off from having the opportunity to work in coal mines
- The country doesn’t need any wage and hour laws or worker’s compensation laws because employers will automatically treat workers well and pay them fairly
- The country doesn’t need any eminent domain laws because property owners will automatically act reasonably and will cooperate to build roads and public facilities.
- The country doesn’t need any laws prohibiting the sale of kidneys and other body parts because that sale opportunity will provide needed and useful income to poor citizens
- Massive poverty will automatically disappear
- Everybody will have a fair and equal chance to earn a decent living and be successful
Of course, all of these promises are total lies but the libertarian doesn’t care.
People Lie To Sell You Stuff All The Time
This should not be a surprise. People make promises to us all the time to get us to do things. That’s just human nature.
“Of course, I’ll love you in the morning,” the guy tells the girl.
Well, maybe he will, but making that promise come true is not his primary concern.
“Join the Navy and see the world.”
Maybe you will, but the recruiter doesn’t really care if you do actually become a seasoned world traveler. If you do, fine. If not, well, you joined up and that’s enough for him.
Political religions are no different.
“Join the Communist Party,” the True Believer tells Kim Philby, “and the Communist system will turn England into the envy of the world.”
Of course the recruiter doesn’t care if England’s economy under Communism would actually become the envy of the world. What he really wants is to convert Philby into a believer in the Communist philosophy.
How well or how poorly the True Believer’s philosophy actually works in the real world is not what he really cares about.
Intelligent libertarians with a material level of common sense know that a libertarian society cannot work the way they claim, but, like the guy trying to get the girl to take off her dress, they don’t care.
All that matters is that the libertarian’s gotten another person to join his political religion which, when adopted, he thinks will result in a fair and moral society in the same way that the communist believes that his political religion will create a fair and moral society.
The only difference is that in the libertarian’s fair and moral society, the government’s prime role is to protect corporations’ and rich people’s wealth and power while in the communist’s fair and moral society the government’s prime role is to take away and redistribute rich people’s wealth and power.
Basic Facts About Human Beings
Here are some real-world facts about human behavior:
- Most people are more highly motivated to act by the possibility of gain than they are deterred from acting by the fear of loss.
- A material percentage of the population will act unfairly and dishonestly to get money. A material percentage of that group will go beyond simply acting unfairly or dishonestly and will steal, cheat, and even kill to get money.
- A substantial number of people will inflict a great deal of damage and pain on others for a relatively small reward.
- People are more likely to act badly when someone else will be punished if their bad actions are discovered than they are if they themselves will be punished if their bad actions are discovered.
- Most subordinates will do things that they know will be financially, emotionally or personally harmful to others if their bosses tell them to. The belief that you are exempt from moral responsibility if you were “just doing your job” is as common as the belief that you are exempt from responsibility of you were “just following orders.”
- Most people make decisions by weighing the probability of short-term losses against those of short-term benefits rather than by balancing the chances of long-term losses against those of long-term gains.
- Different people have vastly different levels of the amount of risk they will accept. A material number of people will accept a huge amount of risk for the chance to obtain a relatively small amount of profit.
- A small number of bad actions can cause a hugely disproportionate amount of harm.
Let’s apply these facts about how humans act to the real world.
Libertarians’ Flawed Theories
The Market Will Always Provide Only Good Products Without Any Laws Or Regulations
Libertarian Theory: Consumer protection laws are unnecessary because companies will always act fairly and will only sell good products because executives will follow the following logic train:
- Good products make happy customers
- Happy customers increase the company’s reputation
- A better reputation will result in the company selling more products
- Selling more products will make the company more money.
- Therefore, the executives will cause the company to strive to always sell good products
That’s a pretty long logic chain and it’s only as strong as its weakest link, of which there are many.
>It assumes that executives are all thinking about long-term company gain rather than short term company gain.
>>In fact, because of stock-market and bonus incentives, corporate executives are intensely focused on profits recorded over then next three to twelve months.
>It assumes that the executives motivation is only to do what is good for the company rather than what is profitable for the executive.
>>In fact, being human, many executives’ primary motivation is on their personal short-term profit rather than the company’s short term, leastwise its long term, profit.
>It assumes that what is good for the company in the long term is good for the executive in the short term.
>>In fact, what is good for the company in the long term is often costly for the executive in the short term.
>It assumes that a higher sales volume means more profit.
>>In fact, a company can make much higher profits by selling fewer units at a higher profit per unit. That’s why monopolies are so profitable — they sell fewer units but at vastly higher prices per unit.
In addition to the libertarian’s logic chain’s false assumptions, the theory ignores the fact that companies know that they can often make more money in the short term by bad behavior than by good behavior, and that there is nothing to stop them from eventually closing the company and starting a new one to do the same thing under another name.
A more accurate logic chain is:
- We will make more money this year by cutting quality, polluting, cutting services, reducing worker’s compensation, increasing fees and hiding defects.
- I will get a bonus and a promotion if we make more money this year.
- The company may never get caught.
- If the company does get caught it will happen after I’ve collected my bonus and promotion.
- If the company does get caught the company will greatly suffer but I, personally, will not.
- Heads I win, tails the company loses.
The odds are good that given the opportunity and the right circumstances the executive will pursue that bad behavior. We see this all the time in the real world — Wells Fargo. VW. Enron. BP. GM. The list goes on and on.
And that bad behavior happens today even though there are laws against it. If there were no laws against it, companies’ bad behavior would increase by a factor of a hundred or more.
On top of that, competitively speaking, bad products drive out good products (Gresham’s Law), and that increases the amount of corporate bad behavior and bad products even more.
The libertarians’ claim that without any laws, the mere fear of future lost sales will force banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, airlines, telecoms, etc. to treat their customers well is so ridiculous as to be laughable.
Have you ever dealt with a bank, phone company or insurance company? From your experience, are they going to do what’s fair to you because they’re afraid that if they don’t their reputation will suffer and then they will lose money?
Smart libertarians with a reasonable amount of common sense know that but they don’t care.
The Market Will Automatically Eliminate All Monopolies, Cartels, Discrimination, Sweat Shops & Child Labor
As for the libertarians’ claims that without any laws the market alone will kill monopolies and cartels, kill discrimination, kill sweatshops, kill child labor, kill dangerous working conditions, etc. let’s take a look at the real world.
In the real world, in spite of the so-called market effects, rampant monopolies and cartels led to the passage of the anti-trust laws in the first place, and people are still being prosecuted for trying to operate monopolies and cartels in spite of their being illegal.
The idea that people motivated by money would choose low profit competition over a legal, high-profit cartel is, again, laughably ridiculous.
In the real world, in spite of the so-called market effects, huge amounts of discrimination in housing, public accommodations and retail services led to the passage of the anti-discrimination laws in the first place.
In the real world, in spite of the so-called market effects, worker injuries and deaths, horrible working conditions and practices and child labor led to the passage of the child-labor laws and wage and hour laws in the first place.
Libertarians’ convoluted theories that none of what actually happened on a large scale in the real world would happen if laws against that conduct were abolished are nonsense.
Real-world experience and the basic facts of humans’ pursuit of short-term gain by any means available gives the lie to their theories.
Smart libertarians with a reasonable amount of common sense know that but they don’t care.
- If monopolies and cartels screw the consumers with wildly expensive products, libertarians don’t care because they expect that they will be the ones running those monopolies and cartels.
- If businesses and property owners can discriminate they don’t care because they will be the ones running those businesses and owning those properties.
- If sellers are free to make and sell dangerous, contaminated or shoddy merchandise they don’t care because they will be the ones selling those crappy products.
- If workers are paid starvation wages with no overtime and no worker’s compensation they don’t care because they figure they will be the ones employing those workers not the ones actually doing the work.
- If property owners charge the government extortionate amounts for the land needed for bridges, schools or roads they don’t care because they figure they will be the ones selling that land.
- If the top thirty percent of the society is doing great and the bottom fifty percent is an impoverished underclass they don’t care because they’re sure that they will be the ones who will constitute that successful top thirty percent.
Advantages Concentrate. The Rich-Get-Richer Effect
A system that massively protects wealth and power inevitably causes a concentration of wealth and power.
Consider the NBA as a microcosm of a society.
- Winning teams get more sponsors, more fans and more attendance.
- More sponsors, more fans and more attendance gain teams more money.
- More money gives a team the ability to hire better players.
- Teams with better players win more games.
That’s why professional sports leagues instituted a draft system where the more you win, the less opportunity you get to hire better players. The system is designed to elevate losers and penalize winners so as to increase competition.
That’s why the NFL has a salary cap.
The government, the NBA, makes it illegal for a team to hire whoever it wants. The government, the NFL, makes it illegal for a team to pay a player whatever it wants.
The power of the teams and the players is restricted by these rules in order to keep rich teams from buying the top players and the rich getting even richer.
Drafts and salary caps are all about breaking the Rich-Get-Richer feedback loop.
Actions Needed To Short-Circuit The Rich-Get-Richer Effect Are Forbidden By The Libertarian Philosophy
To even start to break the rich-get-richer feedback loop in a society you need public education. You need all working parents to be paid enough money to be able to pay the costs of extended training and education for their children so that those children have a chance to move up. You need parents and children to have access to health care, decent food and decent living conditions.
All of those things require either minimum-wage laws, workers’ compensation laws, wage and hour laws, tax-provided education or some mixture of all. All of those programs are totally outlawed under libertarian rules.
Instead, a libertarian society is the Rich Get Richer Effect on steroids for all but some of the rare people at the extreme end of the normal curve . Yes, some, but not all, immensely talented individuals might enter the top levels, but those people are rare.
It costs a tremendous amount to develop human talent. The cost for books and tuition for private college is about $150,000 plus about $40,000 for room and board plus at least another $20,000 for transportation, clothing, medical, telephone, etc.
In a libertarian society none of that $200,000 can be paid by the government. Even if the school gave the applicant a full tuition waiver that’s only about $125,000 of the $200,000 cost. The $75,000 shortfall makes extended education impossible for most people on the bottom.
While the rare, outstanding person might escape from the lower class, the over 40,000,000 Americans who qualify for food stamps would have close to a zero realistic chance of getting the training required to even have a shot at a decent-paying job for themselves, leastwise for their children.
And poor children multiply faster than rich children. And then they have even more poor children.
Without using taxes to train people on the bottom to get out of the bottom and without providing healthcare to people on the bottom so that they can work and without laws requiring employers to pay a living wage and provide medical insurance to people on the bottom, almost everyone on the bottom stays there.
You end up with an increasingly plutocratic society.
See my column: A Rich-Get-Richer Society Is The Inevitable Result Of A Country Built On Conservative Principles — Systems Whose Core Mission Is The Protection Of Wealth & Power Inevitably Concentrate Both
“Libertarianism” Is A Misleading Name That Should Be Changed
The libertarian philosophy has nothing to do with promoting human liberty. It isn’t mainly concerned with human freedom at all. It’s principal goal is to protect corporate power and wealth.
It is a system designed solely to use the government as a police force to protect primarily corporate wealth and power and secondarily individual wealth and power.
Because it has absolutely nothing to do with promoting individual, human liberty and instead is primarily directed to protecting corporate power and wealth, this philosophy should not be called “libertarianism.” It should have a more accurate, more honest name.
Maybe we should call it “Corporate-ism”, “Rich-Stay-Rich-ism”, “ProtectWealth-ism” or “Winnerism.”
No, let’s keep it simple. From now on let’s simply call libertarianism by what it’s designed to protect: “Money&Powerism.”
– David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)