Why Right-Wing Libertarians Are Bad for Politics
Update: I added some new information including Superfund sites and edited some of the wording.
A picture just like this hangs in my bathroom wall. It constantly reminds me that when living in a libertarian society, it is probably not safe to drink the water.
an extreme laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens.
There is perhaps nothing more exhausting than travelling through the maze of the different origin stories that is libertarianism. It is even more taxing than deciphering libertarian doublespeak. Libertarianism in the US is a grab-bag of various, sometimes disparate, philosophies and beliefs of different political and economic groups spanning several decades from the post-War boom to the present. A good researcher will find JBS beliefs, Objectivism, Anarchism, and classical liberal, fundamentalist market philosophy all rolled into one semi-cohesive collective that is the libertarian community.
What is perhaps the most annoying and vexing aspect of libertarianism to the point of creating ennui is the fact that its main philosophy is so incredibly vague and hard to pin down. Many disparate philosophies and values are thusly born from the philosophical quagmire. You will find libertarian Republicans, Silicon Valley Democrats/Libertarians, Libertarians from the Libertarian Party, anarcho-capitalists, anarcho-socialists, right-wing libertarians, left-wing libertarians, Libertarian-Socialists, etc. etc. It is enough to drive one mad if you are not aware of these various libertarian groups which all refer to themselves ambiguously as libertarian.
“The John Birch Society (JBS) is, in its own words, a conservative advocacy group supporting anti-communism and limited government. It has been described as a radical right and far-right organization.
The society opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming it violated the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and overstepped individual states’ rights to enact laws regarding civil rights. The society opposes “one world government”, and it has an immigration reduction view on immigration reform. It opposes the United Nations, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and other free trade agreements. They argue the U.S. Constitution has been devalued in favor of political and economic globalization, and that this alleged trend is not accidental. It cited the existence of the former Security and Prosperity Partnership as evidence of a push towards a North American Union.
The Society has been active in supporting the auditing of, and aims to eventually dismantle, the Federal Reserve System. The JBS holds that the United States Constitution gives only Congress the ability to coin money, and does not permit it to delegate this power, or to transform the dollar into a fiat currency not backed by gold or silver.” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Birch_Society
It should be obvious by now that many of the so-called original ideas of American libertarians came straight from the John Birch Society, either directly or indirectly.
To bring this point home, Ron Paul, a libertarian favourite, is frequent speaker for the John Birch Society. Here he is giving a talk to the society on their 50th anniversary. He and his son refer to themselves as “paleolibertarians.” “Paleolibertarian” is a world-view which emerged from the Mises Institute in Alabama. Ron Paul started the think tank’s funding.
Some scholars affiliated with the Mises Institute have combined dark biblical prophecy with apocalyptic warnings that the nation is plunging toward economic collapse and cultural ruin. Others have championed the Confederacy. One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was “not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/us/politics/rand-pauls-mixed-inheritance.html
The whole definition of libertarianism was first twisted and distorted by Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman explained his beliefs as libertarian with a little ‘l’ and Republican with a big ‘R.’ It was his fancy way of saying he was for some vague sense of individual autonomy and fiscal conservatism. In other words, he advocates for doing absolutely nothing except when it concerns himself or business.
In post-war US, Milton Friedman and his colleague George Stigler of Chicago U used their think tanks back in the late ’40s as front organizations for illegal lobbying. In 1950, the Buchanan Committee uncovered an “under-the-table deal with a Washington lobbying executive to pump out covert propaganda for the national real estate lobby in exchange for a hefty payout, the terms of which were never meant to be released to the public. They also discovered that a lobbying outfit which is today credited by libertarians as the movement’s first think-tank — the Foundation for Economic Education — was itself a big business PR project backed by the largest corporations and lobbying fronts in the country.” — http://www.alternet.org/visions/true-history-libertarianism-america-phony-ideology-promote-corporate-agenda
Quite recently, Lawrence Reed, the president of FEE, came out on Facebook posting fascist sentiment concerning Venezuela. Have a hard time believing me? See for yourself. The article is right below.
You'd think the statement in my title should be obvious, but if you were wondering why it's been so easy for so many…bleedingheartlibertarians.com
In my explorations into right-wing libertarian history, I discovered that crypto-fascists have made their home within the libertarian ranks to the shock & awe of the more gullible among the “libertarian movement.” So the fact that the president of FEE, one of the oldest free-market “libertarian” think-tanks, would start spouting fascist nonsense was not very surprising.
Right-wing libertarians claim they are for individual liberty and rights. They are for small government and lower taxes. They might as well be Republican if these are veritably the depths of libertarian thinking. (In fact, a good deal of them voted for Trump.) They even have this nasty habit of attributing almost anything historically significant, including historical figures, to their brand of libertarianism when it suits their purposes. They even proclaim Chile’s long road to recovery, even through the 2008 recession, as their own personal success story. But when the facts of history and reality do not support their narrative, then it is not libertarianism.
Alan Greenspan was a man who had unshakable faith in Rand’s Objectivist philosophy pertaining to free markets. Yet his mismanagement caused successive booms and busts consisting of the dot-com bubble and the mortgage crisis. “Nearly three years after his retirement, Greenspan admitted to being in a ‘state of shocked disbelief’ over the market’s complete inability to self-correct the egregiously damaging mortgage-lending policies that created a financial crisis. It was the first time Greenspan admitted to finding flaw in his formerly ironclad faith in the unrestrained free market.” — http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/06/02/the-libertarian-who-ruined-the-free-market.aspx
Now, you may be quick to remark, “But it was the government guaranteeing loans which caused the recession. The government subsidized those home loans just like they subsidize the student loans.” Well, yes and no. It is one of the big gotchas in privatization schemes. Investors believed since the loans were made by GSEs (GSEs are government sponsored enterprises) they were federally guaranteed. But that was not really the case. Here is what Greenspan had to say about GSEs and the government’s role in them back in 2005.
In the United States, few financial innovations in recent decades have had so widespread an impact as the development of the secondary home-mortgage market and the attendant diversification of funding sources for depository institutions and other mortgage originators. Critical to the success of this innovation has been the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in promoting mortgage securitization — the key to the development of secondary mortgage markets in the United States. Their efforts spawned the vast asset-backed securities market that, along with credit derivatives, has contributed to the transfer of credit risk from highly leveraged originators of credit — especially banks and thrifts — to less-leveraged insurance companies and pension and mutual funds, among other investors. — http://www.bis.org/review/r050523b.pdf
The avarice of investors which drive “free markets” led to the financial crisis, full stop. Free market ideologues and corporate influence in government created this mess. There is no way to get around it. Risks do not have to be lower only perceived risk to fuel market bubbles and crashes.
Even though the government does not guarantee Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s debt, investors view their never-used line of credit at the Treasury as the implicit backing of the government. — http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/06/business/greenspan-urges-mortgage-subsidy-review.html
Now, we get a clearer picture. This was why AIG and other financial institutions had to be saved. This was why the financial crash was so complete, why the federal government felt it needed to bail the banks, and why the FED bought up the bad debt.
And before I catch anymore heat from incensed “free market,” “greed is good” acolytes, one must ask if the tenets of the “free market” are so pure and inviolable which makes countries strong, then why did the markets crash? Why did the markets not help themselves before looking for handouts? All it took was a little tampering from the “bad people” to bring the entire thing crumbling down like a house of cards. Yet the state still stood and helped the market recover. How odd.
In true form, libertarians have been quick to note, as in this blog post by David Bernstein, that it was Greenspan’s incompetence and loose monetary policies which sent “false signals” to the market. The central bank is to blame but even the most reasonable libertarian understands a “true” libertarian solution (eliminating the central bank and a return to the gold standard) is not on the table. In other words, Greenspan’s libertarianism was not the one true libertarianism. The free-market was not free enough. Leave it to the massive libertarian hydra to cut off one of its heads.
The current strain of libertarianism was born out of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley and their celebrity investors and CEOs, as well as right-wing think tanks, are some of the main drivers behind libertarian ideology. They tend to think of government as an investor, rather than a protector and education as method for training people for work and entrepreneurship.
Karl Hess was a political philosopher, speech writer, and libertarian. He was a notable figure in libertarian circles. He suggested to future libertarian “revolutionaries” that instead of learning how to make bombs they should master computer programming, “the better to commit ‘clerical sabotage’ against government ‘bureaucracy’ (think electronic voting machines). One of his disciples, Louis Rossetto Jr., would later start Wired magazine, the original bible of the Internet age.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/us/politics/rand-pauls-mixed-inheritance.html
Murray Rothbard was an economic historian at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He was formely a “hard-right” Republican who “was seeking to break the stranglehold of the two parties, which he argued had perpetuated an oppressive ‘warfare’ and ‘welfare’ state.” He was the libertarian movement’s self-appointed political strategist.
Together, they urged campus conservatives, many of whom opposed the Vietnam draft, to work with the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society. Out of this strange-bedfellows coupling came the Libertarian Party, which fielded its first candidates in 1972, though they drew little notice and few votes.
But when the left-right alliance came unglued over drug use and sexual freedom, Mr. Rothbard and others reoriented the movement back to the right. — http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/us/politics/rand-pauls-mixed-inheritance.html
These beliefs and activities are not even fifty years old. Yet libertarians will claim up and down their belief-system/philosophy founded the United States and its values in ways not to dissimilar from the Religious Right.
Libertarians make preposterous assertions that if you believe in individual freedom and liberty, you too must be just like them. Darryl Perry, another libertarian favourite, radio-host and activist/lobbyist, defines being libertarian as believing in “the principle of non-aggression, personal responsibility, and self-ownership.” They attempt to trick and ensorcell people into their fold by repackaging old right-wing ideas as common humanistic values.
The principle of non-aggression is just fancy talk for the Golden Rule, live and let live mantra, except libertarians advocate for doing absolutely nothing to or for anybody, unless there is some monetary incentive. The idea of private property automatically violates the non-aggression principle. If libertarians start advocating for a commons, where the land belonged to everyone and no one, I might take them a little more seriously. In fact, the modern concept of private property was created when nobles started fencing off the commons and used the state or another form of violence to enforce their claims to the property. Should libertarians abolish the state as well as people’s current rights to ownership in favor of everyone beginning at an equal starting position in life, they violate the non-aggression principle. Should they abolish just the state, the poor will remain poor, and the rich will have no barriers to engaging in any kind of social or economic scheme. Since libertarians proselytize the property owner’s absolute control over his private property, it creates a dilemma where a form of feudalism takes shape and a new rentier class emerges.
A caller on the Sam Seder show elucidated this libertarian dilemma with childlike simplicity. He explained that the queen of England, under libertarian protections, could take her property, Great Britain and the other colonies, and do what she likes. She could, gasp, create a government to manage the property and, double gasp, raise money from taxes. Libertarians try to connect two disparate ideas: libertarian values and a libertarian state. But libertarian values can never ever lead to a libertarian state. It is highly improbable if not impossible for that ever to happen, especially since for the longest time libertarianism by definition stood for a type of anarchy. Once a state is built on libertarian values, it ceases to be libertarian.
There is also another problem. If we are to believe that somehow a property owner will not bequeath his or her property down to the next generation in a line of inheritance, then we assume some other person not affiliated with the previous owner will get the property. That means all the material conditions, encumbrances, and liens will now belong to the next owner. How is this problem redressed if the property is the equivalent of a Superfund site? If the previous owner kept a mine which pollutes the ground water and local streams and rivers, the pernicious effects of this as well as the responsibility for cleanup and management gets passed onto the next owner. But should not the community as a whole get some say? Should there not be some sort of contingency when someone or a group of people foolishly affects the environment in such a way that it affects everyone’s livelihoods? I would wage some libertarians believe this is not possible, or this is just hyperbole.
At about 12:45 on the time scale, a libertarian caller on the Sam Seder show was waffling over whether government aggression is good when it involves a property owner burying toxic waste in the ground. When the libertarian lost his case, he asked Sam to “produce the evidence” that there are actually cases of property owners intentionally polluting property to such an extent that it affects other property owners.
Here is just some of the evidence our dear libertarian friend would have found if he actually tried.
In October 2010, 261 million gallions of aluminum sludge devoured towns in Veszprém County, Hungary.
The spill covered 16 miles of land, with villagers having to flee from a wave of aluminum waste that was six feet tall. At least 16 people were killed.
Six hundred forty-five days later, the toxic spill has left a mark that is hard to be believed. The distinct red color from the aluminum waste has left all of the trees and buildings stained. Even the ground is still colored red. — http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/07/11/toxic-spill-leaves-mark-across-hungary
To put it another way, 16 miles of land in Hungary was turned into Mars. The Guardian gave a more detailed report of what happened and what this sludge contains. Bauxite is the raw material from which aluminum is processed. It contains other minerals, as well as heavy metals. The substance is washed with hot Sodium Hydroxide. So, the sludge that is produced from the process is heavily alkaline and caustic. When the sludge is allowed to flow into the environment, it kills everything it touches and leaves everything stained the colour of blood. It was an eco-disaster which invokes images of End Times prophesies when the rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans ran with blood. Nothing grew. Everything died and filled the air with the stench of death and decay.
Bauxite mining in Jamaica is also taking its toll on the Jamaican people. Many farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to farm their land, and the bauxite dust makes it difficult for people to breath.
Now, a clever libertarian might chime in and tell me that he is against corporations doing this sort of thing. This has no bearing on the individual. An individual human being could never cause this much damage to the environment. Let us just humour this ridiculous assertion with another lesson in recent history. Does anyone remember the Nuclear Boy Scout? No.
David Hahn was fascinated by nuclear energy. He read everything he could get his hands on nuclear and general chemistry. He took his enthusiasm a step further and collected radioactive material in his parents garden shed as a hobby. His goal was to create a nuclear breeding reactor. He succeeded in creating Plutonium, and his radiation alarm went off inside his bedroom! He stole himself from the house with his makeshift reactor in the trunk of his parents’ car. He caught the attention of the authorities, the EPA, and the entire neighborhood for creating a half-baked nuclear reactor and turning his parents backyard into a Superfund site.
Getting back to libertarian values, you should know running for political office and lobbying violates their non-aggression principle, but as you can plainly guess, they have their own political party and lobbying groups (Darryl Perry formed the Liberty Lobby). They are attempting to inveigle the people and bend their will to theirs using the state. This action violates their non-aggression principle, and they plainly iterate ad nauseam on multiple websites and forums how they loath the state. They are supposed to leave people alone to decide for themselves what they want. Oh, the irony!
Almost anyone decent, libertarian or no, believes in personal responsibility.
Self-ownership is a rather limited and market-oriented approach to the idea of the self. In truth, we could never truly own ourselves. After all, it takes a village to raise and keep a child. We would have to ignore this fact to believe some delusional claim we owe society nothing.
Ignore the historical significance that most research is funded by government grants or that the internet was created by ARPA or that the military perfected airplane technology or that Jonas Salk gave away the polio vaccine. Ignore also the abundant anecdotal, historical, and scientific evidence that humans if left to themselves pursue self-interest in the form of collective action and community.
However, libertarians like Milton Friedman claim that all worthwhile human endeavours are the work of individual freedom and self-interest. But their ideas of individual freedom and self-interest mirrors Ayn Rand’s selfish individual more than anything else. Christopher Hitchens in his usual bluntness disrobed Ayn Rand and her libertarian followers’ philosophy as follows: “I have always found it quaint, and rather touching, that there is a movement in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”
Even Ayn Rand herself had no love in her heart for libertarians. Out of spite she elucidated her disgust:
All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. Anarchists are the scum of the intellectual world of the Left, which has given them up. So the Right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the libertarian movement. — http://aynrandlexicon.com/ayn-rand-ideas/ayn-rand-q-on-a-on-libertarianism.html
She absolutely hated libertarians for using her works and misrepresenting her to recruit new members for their cult, mostly because they were stealing potential members away from her Objectivist cult. It smacked of bandwagon appeal and faddism.
There is this pattern of behaviour among libertarians and other fringe right-wing groups where they feel compelled to foist their unsubstantiated opinions onto others and proselytize for new recruits. They initiate the conversation first with zeal and confidence and then shrink back to a more defensive position when they encounter someone who is actually a skeptical, critical-thinker. Some resort to more churlish, puerile behaviour and claim victim-hood in response to such skepticism, even going as far as suggesting merely reacting in disagreement is a form of violence. Others take a more supercilious position and cry, “Show me the evidence!” Many right-wing religious organizations take the exact same view and double-down on their beliefs the more criticism and skepticism they encounter. This is a stance which betrays the cult like nature of their group time and time again.
A group which claims rationality and logic as the cornerstone of its belief system should not demand evidence from its critics or their silence. They should already have their arguments fully prepared well-in-hand before presenting them in anticipation of their skeptics and critics. That is how debate works. That is how science works. The claimant produces evidence through research and experimentation. If the evidence is compelling enough, it passes for knowledge and the people accept it. Alas, libertarians like so many right-wingers before them do not do the latter. Their beliefs are, after all, axiomatic. They are believed to be true and are not falsifiable, no matter the evidence to the contrary. They also automatically assume, based on very common beliefs, that everyone is exactly like them deep down. The ones that claim otherwise are just detractors and liars. They are truly afraid of the “revolution.” The prescription for this, ironically enough, is to seize power and/or gain authority to coerce everyone to be in line with their political beliefs and attitudes.
When discussing actual libertarianism, some words should sound familiar: anarchy, social liberty, anti-authoritarian, egalitarianism, etc. In truth, libertarianism is another way of discussing anarchist ideas which stresses social equality and individual freedom. This means freedom from institutions of all kinds, including today’s markets and money, and freedom to live as one sees fit, so long as that does not impinge on another person’s freedom. Now, the definition shifted to left-libertarianism which shifted yet again to Libertarian-socialism, as free-market types like Rothbard, Mises, and Hess co-opted the definition of libertarianism into some individual worshiping, free-market, secular religion/philosophy.
Libertarians believe they are real rebels, because they’ve politicized the protest of children who scream through tears, “You’re not the boss of me.” The rejection of all rules and regulations, and the belief that everyone should have the ability to do whatever they want, is not rebellion or dissent. It is infantile naïveté.
As much as libertarians boast of having a “political movement” gaining in popularity, “you’re not the boss of me” does not even rise to the most elementary level of politics. Aristotle translated “politics” into meaning “the things concerning the polis,” referring to the city, or in other words, the community. Confucius connected politics with ethics, and his ethics are attached to communal service with a moral system based on empathy. A political program, like that from the right, that eliminates empathy, and denies the collective, is anti-political. — http://www.alternet.org/youre-not-boss-me-why-libertarianism-childish-sham
It is important to reiterate that libertarians will often tout the virtues of the free-market and rational self-interest. How then are we to get there? How are we as a society going to force individuals into competition with one another and create disincentives against collectivization, community, empathy, and cooperation? How do we coerce people into non-pulsed, cynical, hedonistic consumers and entrepreneurs? How do we maximize economic liberty as libertarians so desperately say we need?
Moreover, it is interesting to note that the leading expert of the Chilean “economic miracle” (to use Milton Friedman’s words) did not consider that political liberty could lead to “economic liberty” (i.e. free market capitalism). According to Sergio de Castro, the architect of the economic programme Pinochet imposed, fascism was required to introduce “economic liberty” because:
“it provided a lasting regime; it gave the authorities a degree of efficiency that it was not possible to obtain in a democratic regime; and it made possible the application of a model developed by experts and that did not depend upon the social reactions produced by its implementation.” [quoted by Silvia Bortzutzky, “The Chicago Boys, social security and welfare in Chile”, The Radical Right and the Welfare State, Howard Glennerster and James Midgley (eds.), p. 90] — http://www.spunk.org/texts/otherpol/critique/sp001280.html
Authoritarianism was a necessary device in Chile for the Chicago Boys to effectively run the government and replace politicians with technocrats and politics with their brand of economic science. Forcefully liberating the markets did wonders for the rich, but the poor were still poor and worse off than ever. The nature of authoritarian government did not change when authority was handed over to the technocrats. There was never an abolition of power, as Friedman claimed. The power of government shifted away from individual rights to capital and property rights.
Capital and property rights are of prime to concern to libertarians, especially the ones from Silicon Valley.
What about the Thatcher regime? Libertarians and Republicans alike seem to swoon whenever they hear her name in almost the same way when they hear Reagan’s name.
“Some observers claim to have found something paradoxical in the fact that the Thatcher regime combines liberal individualist rhetoric with authoritarian action. But there is no paradox at all. Even under the most repressive conditions . . . people seek to act collectively in order to improve things for themselves, and it requires an enormous exercise of brutal power to fragment these efforts at organisation and to force people to pursue their interests individually. . . left to themselves, people will inevitably tend to pursue their interests through collective action — in trade unions, tenants’ associations, community organisations and local government. Only the pretty ruthless exercise of central power can defeat these tendencies: hence the common association between individualism and authoritarianism, well exemplified in the fact that the countries held up as models by the free-marketers are, without exception, authoritarian regimes.” [“The Continuing Relevance of Socialism”, in Thatcherism, edited Robert Skidelsky, p. 146] — http://www.spunk.org/texts/otherpol/critique/sp001280.html
Socially liberal, yet fiscally conservative, indeed!
Sometimes the terminology can get rather confusing. Consider that there are two different ways of referring to libertarians: little ‘l’ and big ‘L.’ The big ‘L’ Libertarians are commonly considered members of the Libertarian Party. Just as you would say Democrat for the Democratic Party and Republican for the Republican party, you would say Libertarian for the Libertarian Party. However, there is still some contention over little ‘l’ and big ‘L’ among, would you believe it, other libertarians.
So far, we have covered a lot of ground, which is necessary to get to the next point, the Libertarian Party. The idea of a Libertarian Party should seem rather silly, not to mention ironic. It is a complete contradiction of their own philosophy, unless that philosophy is a rehash of failed Republican policies. They have former Republican and authoritarian governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson as their presidential candidate. People who claim to be anti-authoritarian should not have an authoritarian in their party running for president or any office for that matter. In an interview with Reason, Johnson went off ad nauseam on tangents about burqas and Sharia Law. The first order of business for Johnson as president is to take rights away not give them by banning burqas, possibly habits and traditional Haredi garb. Let us not focus on equal pay or the rights of minorities and disparaged groups. It is, according to libertarians, an excuse to reward poor negotiation skills and violate private ownership. Their whole mantra is “property rights trump personal rights.”
If right-wing libertarians truly believe the state is the ultimate oppressor (They literally say democracy is tyranny, and libertarians like Hayek and Friedman supported Augusto Pinochet. So, there you go), and the people would be much better off in some anarchist/capitalist scenario, then the idea of them running for office in government, their mortal enemy, should set off alarm bells. For once elected, the will undoubtedly transmute their contempt for public institutions into incompetence to make any form of government fail. This will be their proof to the public that government is inefficient, ineffectual, and even pernicious at everything, where privatization is the only cure. All the while, they will deny any personal responsibility, something they claim to value. They will brush their critics aside and marginalize them as “statists.”
Should they not run for political office? If the system was meant to collapse, let it collapse on its own and avoid being stuck with the responsibility and the blame. They should avoid tarnishing their lustrous brand of libertarianism with mainstream politics, since they are both incompatible with each other. Alas, it seems libertarians are content to fall on their own sword. Of course, they have a wonderful coping mechanism. They just simply say these magic words, “That’s not libertarianism. That’s not the free-market. He wasn’t a true libertarian,” and POOF! The problem goes away.
On October 6, 2017, an angry libertarian type decided to focus on one paragraph about Alan Greenspan and the Mortgage Crisis of 2008 to go on a long-winded rant about how everyone is greedy, including me, and how we should not blame private corporations for dubious or pernicious behaviour. Private enterprises cannot help themselves. Corporations are just greedy like everyone else. The government is bad because it perverts their nature and leads to horrible outcomes. Everything is the fault of government and the suckers who trust financial institutions. Etc. etc.
Usually, people who share these right-wing economic ideologies are the kinds of people who have read too much Hayek, Rothbard, and/or Ayn Rand. Somehow their mental development has been stunted because they bought into the common conceit of the “Rational Man.” I do not know about you, but there is nothing I have found in the human collective which could ever be averaged out as “rational.” It just is.
Adam Grant, Ph. D from Psychology Today wrote a lengthy blog post using studies about how studying economics can encourage antisocial behaviours while discouraging pro-social ones. Even though there are people who gravitate to such fields, there has been evidence that certain economic fields of study magnifies selfish behaviours such as graft and deceit. I recommend reading the full post to receive the entire picture and a way to possibly rectify the situation.
There was another study done which seems to show people who study economics display insistently overly selfish behaviour. It was not known whether it was due to the conditioning or just the types of people who study economics, but one commentor cinched this sort of “rational” behaviour quite nicely.
A Carter says:
Looking back, I should have realized I was in the wrong field of study (Business) when I took economics. When assured that all economic decisions were rational, I raised my hand and asked “Then please explain to me half of what is in my closet.” I was told I was being factious, but I wasn’t. Unlike my fellow students and most of my professors, I had actually worked for several years before I went back to school, and had seen with my own eyes that rationality and logic have little to nothing to do with most business decisions, that most of them are based on expediency or who’s trying to get one up on whom. I cheered out loud a few years ago when I saw a study that showed that sex and money light up the exact same parts of the brain, because sex is the only part of human life where I see people making as many consistently stupid decisions as they do with their money. The idea we use the same cells to think about them both is an idea I can believe. This Gospel of The “Rational Man” has made me laugh for years because I’ve seen again and again what an incredible conceit it is. Unfortunately it is a conceit influencing powerful people and government policy that can lead to real human suffering, and that is not funny at all.