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Fortinbras Armstrong

(4,473 posts)
Mon Jan 13, 2014, 03:07 PM Jan 2014


I posted this in another thread, and a couple of people said it should be an OP

I have maintained for years that libertarians can only maintain their ideology through ignorance of history, economics, politics and the real world. Real world problems needing practical solutions. In the US, that was the reason for such things as the EPA, the FDA, the SEC, Social Security and so on -- all set up to deal with real problems. Are they perfect? Of course not, this is the real world, after all.

Libertarianism is superficially appealing, but it does not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. Here are some quotations from the platform of the New Jersey Libertarian Party:

Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must learn to rely on supportive family, religious institution, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.

Whoever wrote this does not know why government got into social welfare. It was because in too many cases, "family, religious institution, community, or private charity" was unable to do what was necessary.

We support repeal of minimum wage laws, mandatory state unemployment insurance and disability insurance, so-called “protective labor” legislation for women and children, and governmental restrictions on the operation of private day-care centers. We should eliminate the government’s role in the social-welfare system, including AFDC, DYFS, Food Stamps, and subsidized housing.

In other words, go back to the bad old days of the 12-hour work day, child labor, and Dotheboys Hall. The person who wrote this obviously does not give a damn about others, nor does he know why the laws he rails against were passed. For example, when then-President Theodore Roosevelt read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, he sent a couple of men to Chicago to see if Sinclair was exaggerating about conditions in the meat packing industry. They reported that, if anything, Sinclair understated things. The Pure Food and Drug Act followed shortly afterwards.

Rather than making taxpayers pay for toxic waste cleanups, the polluters should be held liable for material damage done by them. This includes, but is not limited to, any adverse health consequences as well as cleanup and remediation.

Sounds good in theory, but let me give a specific example. In the 1920s, on the boundary between Geneva and St Charles, Illinois, there was a factory which produced watches with radium dials. The company went out of business in the 1930s, and the factory was demolished. About 25 years ago, it was discovered that the soil around the old factory was polluted with radioactive compounds, which were leeching into the groundwater. Now, who is to clean up this pollution? The company which caused it no longer exists. The people who currently live near there simply can't afford it.

We oppose government control of resource use through eminent domain, zoning laws, building codes, rent control, regional planning, urban renewal, or purchase of development rights with tax money. Such regulations and programs violate property rights, discriminate against minorities, create housing shortages, and tend to cause higher rents.

So if I decide to put a hog farm on my suburban property -- currently forbidden by zoning laws -- there is no way to stop me. Once more, the person who wrote this is unable to think through what his idiotic declaration actually means.

We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and the transfer of their legitimate functions to competitive private firms.

So the street passing in front of my house should become a toll road?

We call for an end to all forms of government intrusion into family life.

So if I beat my wife and children, the government cannot stop me. The next paragraph says "We call for the repeal of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991"

We call for the abolition of the juvenile court system. Juveniles should be held fully responsible for their crimes but they should not be prosecuted for offenses that are only offenses by virtue of their youth.

So ten-year-olds should be treated as adults. Bring back the days of hanging children as pickpockets.

We advocate the complete separation of education and the state, and believe that government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools should be ended.

A great example of libertarian ignorance of history. Public schools were started so that everyone could get an education. Apparently, the libertarian who wrote this thinks that having an educated populace is A Bad Thing.

We oppose government attempts to regulate private discrimination, including discrimination in employment, housing, and privately-owned so-called public accommodation. The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever.

So if a privately owned hospital wants to deny you treatment because you're gay, that's fine with them. "No dogs or Jews allowed." "No n*ggers will be served." Libertarians claim they believe racism is bad, but also believe that having the government do something about it is worse. In other words, they actually support racism.

Libertarians claim that the sort of discrimination would disappear when the people practicing the discrimination understood that it was not profitable, it would disappear. The appropriate term for this is "wishful thinking".

We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.

Before passage of the Clean Water Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio used to catch on fire because of pollution. It wasn't corporations or the free market that cleaned up the Cuyahoga, it was the government. So their pretense that government "has a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection" is a lie. Libertarians saying that corporations would act to clean up their own pollution is simply more evidence that libertarians prefer fantasy over reality.

Here is one of my favorite bits:

The individual's right to privacy, property, and right to speak or not to speak should not be infringed by the government. The government should not use electronic or other means of covert surveillance of an individual's actions or private property without the consent of the owner or occupant. Correspondence, bank and other financial transactions and records, doctors' and lawyers' communications, employment records, and the like should not be open to review by government without the consent of all parties involved in those actions.

If they really mean what this seems to say, then seeking documentary evidence of criminal acts would be impossible, since a suspect would have absolute veto power over any searches. Libertarians claim to oppose fraud, but the person who wrote that -- and the members of the party who passed that platform -- clearly do not mean it when they say it.

The late Iain Banks defined libertarianism as "A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard."
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Egalitarian Thug

(12,448 posts)
8. Sociopaths own and run this society, and while I would like that to be otherwise, I don't
Tue Jan 14, 2014, 08:43 AM
Jan 2014

see how it can be changed without tens of millions of Americans suddenly learning to think and to empathize with others.


(2,518 posts)
3. I remember when I first encountered Libertarians.
Mon Jan 13, 2014, 03:40 PM
Jan 2014

It was in San Francisco in the late 80's, early 90's.

I thought they were fascinating. And I thought (and still do) that many of the points they made were valid. The ones that I knew at the time, and this was before Libertarianism became fashionable, were all sort of uber-nerds. I got the sense that their Libertarianism was based on the fact that they were always the smart kids in the class who got held back by the fact that they were smarter than their teachers, and they resented that. And so it was time for their revenge. Revenge of the Nerds, as it were.

(as a quick aside, I have a friend who was an actor who played one of the main characters in the movie of that same name. And he's a Libertarian. He voted for Romney. Whaddya gonna do? You can't agree with all of your friends about everything.)

I'm VERY libertarian in my personal dealings, and VERY socialist in my view of government. On the whole, I would say that I'm a "Balance-atarian." Too much government is a bad thing, (central planning, as an example) just like too much corporate power is a bad thing.

Like the people I mentioned above, since then, most Libertarians I've talked to don't seem to understand how the real world actually works. They don't seem to understand that forces need to be balanced, and if you give the individual or the corporation all the power they want, things will get out of balance.

The problem we find ourselves in today is that Corporatia has bought and paid for Government. There is no balance. And the genius of it is that Corporatia, through its propaganda networks, has convinced way too many people that it is government that is causing the imbalance. I don't know exactly how we fix things, but Libertarianism sure ain't the answer.


(50,352 posts)
4. Libertarians are asymmetric
Mon Jan 13, 2014, 03:45 PM
Jan 2014

They want the right to do anything they please but no one should have the right to do anything that impacts them.

A couple years ago there was a big libertarian-riling deal here in North Idaho: we've got areas up here where there are rows of hobby farms. Some guy who lived in one of those areas had a pack of large dogs on his land. The dogs were acting like...well, a pack of dogs...and disturbing his neighbors' horses with their constant barking. Eventually it got bad enough that the neighbors got a judge to order the dog owner to either control or reduce the pack so as to keep from stressing out the horses.

A few weeks after this happened came the North Idaho Fair and Goat Roping Contest. The Democratic Party has a fair booth that I work every year. I was in the booth registering voters just as fast as I could, and one of our libertarians came up to complain about how it's so terrible that The Government should have been allowed to tell this guy to get rid of his dogs. You should be able to do anything you want on your property. No one should be able to tell anyone how to use his land.

At this point I was just disgusted with the guy, so I asked him: you know that guy who owns the portable asphalt plant and can't find anywhere in the county that will let him set it up? If he bought the land next to yours and started making asphalt, would that be okay with you? All of a sudden the situation was different: no one should be allowed to do that by his land.

"Then what makes your nose more important than their horses?"

Fortinbras Armstrong

(4,473 posts)
9. That is one of the paradoxes at the heart of libertarianism
Tue Jan 14, 2014, 10:51 AM
Jan 2014

If my selfish acts bother you, that's acceptable. If your selfish acts bother me, that's not acceptable. The name for this is Special Pleading.

Libertarianism is built on the basic assumption that it is wrong to give an damn about anyone except yourself. The High Priestess of libertarianism, Ayn Rand, wrote a book, The Virtue of Selfishness, that argues that point. I started reading it. On the first or second page, she has a "definition" of altruism that no actual altruist would accept -- acts which benefit others are good, acts which benefit the altruist are bad. The first part of this definition is so simplistic as to be laughable -- if my good would harm others, then it is not good. The second is also simplistic, since any altruist would say that an act which benefits the altruist and does not harm others is at worst morally neutral and is probably good.

Since she began her argument with the Straw Man fallacy, I saw no reason to continue.

Her novel, The Fountainhead, says that personal pique is an acceptable reason to destroy other people's property. Of course, her fans refuse to admit this, but self-deception lies at the heart of her ideology.

Adam Smith wrote, "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind". Substitute the world "libertarians" for "the masters of mankind" and you have the libertarian ethos in a nutshell. Or, to put that in other words, the libertarian ethos is "I've got mine, screw you."


(82,383 posts)
5. Good post
Mon Jan 13, 2014, 04:11 PM
Jan 2014

Their views on the environmental are clearly delusional. Everyone does not act in their own best interests, or understand their own best interests. That is the idealism behind their fantasy world.

Fortinbras Armstrong

(4,473 posts)
12. Yesterday, I discovered something called "Chesterton's fence" that libertarians should know
Wed Jun 4, 2014, 05:47 AM
Jun 2014

Simply put, it's the principle that you should never take a fence down until you know why it was put up.

From G. K. Chesterton's 1929 book, The Thing:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

If you don't know why a law was passed or governmental agency was established, then you should not call for its destruction. It probably was put in place for a good reason, which may still exist and need to be dealt with.
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