Tag Archives: libertarianism

David Brooks on Edward Snowden…

David Brooks impresses me with his piece in The New York Times on Edward Snowden. I don’t agree with a lot of his conclusions, but I like that Brooks doesn’t leap at the chance to use Snowden as a blunt instrument against President Obama, as some conservatives are doing.

More importantly, I think, is that Brooks takes aim at modern libertarianism, which has often been a strange bedfellow with today’s Republican party.

If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme. You’re more likely to donate to the Ron Paul for president campaign, as Snowden did.

Brooks does not overtly condemn the Tea Party but I can’t help but think he has them in mind when he writes the following:

But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good.



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Libertarianism’s finite definition of “liberty”…

Ron Paul’s presidential campaign has put his libertarianism philosophy in the spotlight and led to some healthy debate regarding its actual effectiveness as policy. By definition, it claims to hold individual liberty as the “basic moral principle in society” but yet Paul has expressed his repudiation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of preserving rights of property owners, which is arguably a version of the same reasoning that led to the Civil War

OK, Paul is pro-life, so presumably he’d oppose slavery because of the act of aggression against a living being.

Or not:

Sure, Paul is opposed to slavery but is cavalier — in the libertarian style — regarding ending it. He bemoans the loss of 600,000 Americans during the war. According to the 1860 census, there were 3,950,528 slaves. Slavery is a living death — in the sense that you work for free until you die and with minimum coffee breaks.

The proposal of the U.S. “buying out” slaves from the South would violate Paul’s respect for property ownership by compelling slaveowners to sell their property. That would be a terrible precedent unless it’s based in the logic that slaves aren’t property. If that’s the case, then why are you paying slaveowners for them? The slaves would still receive nothing for their years of free labor, but their owners would essentially get ransom money. Lincoln could have dropped off the briefcase containing the unmarked bills in a deserted alley in Montgomery, Alabama.

Paul seems to forget that the entire Southern economy was based on slave labor. If I paid you $1 million for your entire labor force, which worked for free, you would still need to replace them and with people who’d expect wages. It wouldn’t take long for you to go bankrupt. The South would never agree to this. Though maybe they would be forward thinking and accept the terms, as the freed slaves would have nowhere to go and would conceivably wind up working for them for ridiculously low pay. The plantation owners might even be so kind as to rent them their old quarters back at ridiculously high rates. So, essentially, slaves in all but name. Everyone’s happy!

Come on, Paul, your philosophy can’t be this awful.

Let’s go back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Segregation and racial discrimination in this country made life almost unbearable for blacks. Surely, Paul recognized this and believed the government needed to resolve it to protect individual rights?

Or not:

Chris Matthews and Ron Paul together are hard to understand but here’s what I gather: Paul believes it’s fine for private businesses to racially discriminate — even though such behavior is an expression of collectivism, which he claims to reject. He seems to live in an alternate reality where the racial discrimination Matthews describes (“whites only” at a laundromat and at a local bar) wasn’t effective. The “free market” would not have ended segregation and racial discrimination in the U.S.

For good or for ill, people are greatly influenced by social and legal convention. If racial discrimination is unlawful, then only a few fanatics would risk their own liberty by violating the law. The illegality of racial discrimination then makes it socially unacceptable, which results in significant alteration of behavior among the mainstream.

It’s one thing if we were talking about how to maintain individual rights in a country without racist, sexist, homophobic baggage. It’s quite another if we’re talking about the United States, which has so much of this baggage, even the largest plane would have trouble taking off with it all. It’s not enough to stop beating someone with a tire iron. You can’t just shake hands, suggest a game of touch football, and then expect a fair result.

I’ve only been to 1955 briefly after an incident in which I was escaping Libyans but Paul lived through it. He is either fooling himself or us if he does not acknowledge that not only was segregation the law of the land, it was a social norm. Businesses in the south that did not serve blacks would not have “gone out of business,” as he speculated. Quite the reverse: It would have been the businesses that dared serve blacks that would have faced financial repercussions.

Oh well, my father might have been sober and dirty in Paul’s libertarian utopia of the 1960s, but at least the rights of property owners are upheld. Those with power (“property”) can wield it however they choose over those without power (“property”). In essence, there are no individual rights because you only have the freedom that comes from the property you own.

When Dr. Paul prescribes the “free market” as a cure, he is promoting collectivism, which he claims to reject. If a restaurant won’t serve blacks, then they should have the right to do so and the individual has the right to go someplace else. Your “right” to eat in a restaurant or rent a hotel room regardless of your race is now based on the “free market” and whether the collective agrees. The individual is now Blanche Dubois dependent on the kindness of strangers who are willing to sacrifice their own meals or accomodations on her behalf.

Let’s see how Paul does with women’s rights. If he’s for individual rights, he certainly would oppose businesses treating women in a less than professsional manner based solely on their gender.

Or not:

Paul’s statements on sexual harassment are more of the same: Women are free to choose to leave an “environment” they don’t like. He doesn’t recognize that this is a burden that would fall on women more often than men, which would limit their careers greatly. No, he seems to think a woman not wanting to work in some “Mad Men” office where her male colleagues make offensive comments is about as frivolous a decision as her not wanting to work someplace that didn’t have Flavia coffee machines. He is at least against the workplace turning into the bar from “The Accused,” which is generous of him, I suppose.

Racial discrimination and sexual harassment are both crimes of collectivism — treating a person as an extension of a group rather than an individual. If Paul supports “individual rights,” then he would support laws that prevent this type of collectivist behavior. However, he always supports “property” rights — the rights of the powerful — first. If the government does not exist to protect individual rights, then it serves no viable function. The powerful don’t need help unless the actual goal is to make it easier for them to score a touchdown after beating you with a tire iron.


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