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Friday, September 13, 2013

Commentary on Alternet/Salon article "11 questions to see if libertarians are hypocrites"

Salon.com released an article called "11 questions to see if libertarians are hypocrites" - after reading 1/8 of it, I realized I was talking to myself because I had a lot to say for about almost every sentence. So now I'm starting again from the very beginning, a very good place to start (thank goodness I realized my blabber brain was sounding off before getting too far into it), and will be making comments where I think it necessary.

"Libertarians have a problem. Their political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful."

How so? Hopefully you will offer some sources or mention it more in detail later...I also find it funny how it's the billionaires and corporations that help the Republicans and Democrats raise money for their campaigns, while the Libertarian Party struggles to make even $1,000,000.

"And yet libertarianism retains the qualities that led to its disappearance from the public stage, before its reanimation by people like the Koch brothers..."

The Koch brothers say they are libertarian. However, a lot of libertarians don't like them because of their track record and the fact that they label themselves as libertarians, but donate money to red organizations.

Geez, that much to say on just one small paragraph...

"They call themselves “realists” but rely on fanciful theories that have never predicted real-world behavior."

An example?

"They claim that selfishness makes things better for everybody, when history shows exactly the opposite is true."

While I'm not really into the "selfishness" theory (although I do believe there is some truth to it), I really want to know what historical events show otherwise. You are trying to make me accept premises that have very little to no evidence to back them up at this point. If you want me to question the libertarian ideology (more than I do already), please provide legitimate background information for what you are claiming.

"They claim that a mythical “free market” is better at everything than the government is..."

How many libertarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

None, they rely on the free market to take care of everything.


Well, okay, but seriously...

Just because a few libertarians claim that the free market is a cure-all doesn't mean that all of us think that way.

"...Yet when they really need government protection, they’re the first to clamor for it."

Oh, really? How so?

May I make the conjecture that you're basing this on the fact that maybe a few hypocritical and/or corrupt high-standing libertarians have done this?

"That’s no reason not to work with them on areas where they’re in agreement with people like me. In fact, the unconventionality of their thought has led libertarians to be among this nation’s most forthright and outspoken advocates for civil liberties and against military interventions."

Now all the libertarians reading this love you.

"We aren’t suggesting every libertarian is a hypocrite."

I would hope that you are not suggesting this, but so far, you're really digging into stereotypes. 

"But there’s an easy way to find out."

Maybe if you just tell us instead of saying that there is an easy way to find out, we can judge for ourselves whether or not it is indeed as simple as you claim it to be. I can just see it...

Friend: I found an easy to find out whether or not a libertarian is a hyprocite!

Me: Oh, from that Salon article?

Friend: Yeah.

Me: Well, for me, reading it didn't give me an "easy way to find out" - I have just always used common sense and applied it to what I see and hear. That article didn't have much to contribute.

Friend: Well, the author even said that "there's an easy way to find out," and he practically implied that it would be found in his article.

Me: Don't assume that just because someone says something that it's going to be true...idiot.

Hopefully, reading the rest of this will turn out better than what I'm expecting, and that any conversations I might have later about this will not escalate quickly over that one sentence.

"We’re talking about the other libertarianism, the political philosophy whose avatar is the late writer Ayn Rand. It was once thought that this extreme brand of libertarianism, one that celebrates greed and even brutality, had died in the early 1980s with Rand herself. Many Rand acolytes had already gone underground, repressing or disavowing the more extreme statements of their youth and attempting to blend in with more mainstream schools of thought in respectable occupations.

There was a good reason for that. Randian libertarianism is an illogical, impractical, inhumane, unpopular set of Utopian ravings which lacks internal coherence and has never predicted real-world behavior anywhere. That’s why, reasonably enough, the libertarian movement evaporated in the late 20th century, its followers scattered like the wind."

"Scattered like the wind"...how about Scattered like the Wind? An epic novel that follows the life of a young, slutty libertarian girl who worships Ayn Rand. When Rand dies, the movement collapses and she is struggling to adapt to the post-Rand era. Her early lifestyle is gone forever, her friends and fellow Rand-lovers are no longer the same, and the ideas that Ayn Rand has shared with the world are now...scattered like the wind.

Ayn Rand Explained
Ayn Rand Explained
Fifty-five years after Atlas Shrugged , Ayn Rand is more in the news than ever. Ayn Rand Explained is an accurate and riveting account of Rand's life, work, and influence, with the emphasis on her ideas. The book covers Rand's career, from youth in Soviet Russia to Hollywood screenwriter and then to ideological guru; her novels and other fiction writings; her work in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics; her influence on?and personal animosity toward?both conservatism and libertarianism. Rand's Objectivism encompasses the ethics of rational egoism (?The Virtue of Selfishness'); dedication to rational thinking and acting; rejection of faith in the supernatural, personal freedom from political interference, and a moral defense of limited government and laissez-faire. Objectivism was first promoted through the Nathaniel Branden Institute, headed by Rand's young protg and designated heir. The Institute's phenomenally rapid growth was abruptly cut short when Rand expelled Branden and his followers in 1968. Today Objectivism is represented by different factions, notably the Ayn Rand Institute and the Atlas Society. This is a revised, updated edition of The Ideas of Ayn Rand (1991), including new information on Rand's rocketing influence, new stories about her personal relationships, and new analysis of her life and ideas.

If this idea is bought by a book publishing company, or at least an agent is interested in trying to sell it to one, then I will most whole-heartedly give you credit.

Anyways, practically all libertarians I know accept some ideas that have come from Ayn Rand. Some. I can't say much about her because I have never read any of her books. I have seen a couple of YouTube clips, and she seems very opinionated. Friends tell me what she has to say on some things, such as collectivism, charities, relgion, etc., and I'm like, "aw hellz nah can i completely agree with dis woMAN."

In the second paragraph, it would be nice if you could give us a couple of examples.
"Once relegated to drug-fueled college-dorm bull sessions, political libertarianism suddenly had pretensions of legitimacy."

Who says that those sessions aren't over?

"The Koch brothers are principal funders of the Reason Foundation and Reason magazine. Exxon Mobil and other corporate and billionaire interests are behind the Cato Institute, the other public face of libertarianism."

Just because they fund something doesn't mean they are huge influences on what the material says, I mean, they could be, but you can't make that assumption. When I was doing a research paper on chewing gum, I discovered that a lot of studies were funded by gum companies. Does that mean any positive results should automatically be thrown out? No, not at all. Read it with a grain of salt (just as you would do with anything...hopefully), and hope some researchers take on the study with no biased funders. 

Maybe you remember those commercials where these moms tell you that high fructose corn syrup has the same effect on your body as sugar. The website was something like cornsugar.com. I'm pretty sure that was it, but they got a lot of backlash for it, and it doesn't seem to be up anymore. When I visited it the first time, of course I found that it was backed by the corn manufacturing industry. (For anyone interested, they also tried to pay mommy bloggers to subtly advertise, but they were met with hostility for the most part.) The studies they cited were true, and not always backed from that industry. Sure, I can try to find you those studies, but since this post is not about high fructose corn syrup, just find them yourselves. High fructose corn syrup does have the same effect on your body as sugar does. Yet, sugar is not that great for you either.

It goes to show that the material you cite may be true, but even if it is true, how you try to use it and what you're trying to convey to the public may be different stories.

"It serves the self-interest of the environmental polluters, for example, to promote a political philosophy which argues that regulation is bad and the market will correct itself. And every wealthy individual benefits from tax cuts for the rich. What better way to justify that than with a philosophy that says they’re rich because they’re better—and that those tax cuts help everybody?"

Pretty much all of the libertarians I have met identify as environmentalists - may or may not be related to the fact that I'm living in the Pacific Northwest right now. Some of them are all free market for when it comes to the environment, but others, like myself, don't agree with that way of thinking. As I have mentioned earlier, it seems that you are targeting "libertarian" individuals who are hypocritical and/or corrupt than actually the actual libertarian ideology all in itself, which I admit would be quite a feat seeing as how many different kinds there are...but I'm sure you get my point.

"At no time or place in human history has there been a working libertarian society which provided its people with the kinds of outcomes libertarians claim it will provide."

While you can never compare a libertarian country to a libertarian society (because as you mention, there has been none), there are certain aspects of states (not necessarily talking about the ones within America) that are libertarian - maybe you can try picking and choosing from different countries and TA-DA! you have a libertarian society. 

I'm not sure if a libertarian country is ever going to exist. Unlike what other libertarians may say, I don't believe that early America was libertarian. There are many people who want world peace, a secular world, etc. In no way have these ever existed (and, in my mind, ever will). However, one can try to approach that ideal, and who knows, it may go a long way (without ever reaching it, but it's still progress).

Stephen Peterson said it nicely for when this article was posted on the Western Libertarians Facebook page: "But really, that can be said of most political philosophies, so what the point (e.g. Liberals are never satisfied with things as they are, conservatives hearken back to a time that never really existed)." 

"But libertarianism’s self-created mythos claims that it’s more realistic than other ideologies, which is the opposite of the truth. The slope from that contradiction to the deep well of hypocrisy is slippery, steep—and easy to identify."

PLEASE PLEASE let me see that you mention how exactly it's "the opposite of the truth" later in this article! *too.much.suspense.*

It looks like you have a bit of an obsession with easy libertarians.

"That’s where the Libertarian Hypocrisy Test comes in."

Okay! It looks like this might be going somewhere...

"The Cato Institute’s overview of key libertarian concepts mixes universally acceptable bromides like the “rule of law” and “individual rights” with principles that are more characteristically libertarian—and therefore more fantastical. "

Libertarian = fantastical. Good to know.

"The Institute cites “spontaneous order,”  for example, as “the great insight of libertarian social analysis.” Cato defines that principle thusly:

“… (O)rder in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.”

To which the discerning reader might be tempted to ask: Like where, exactly? Libertarians define “spontaneous order” in a very narrow way—one that excludes demonstrations like the Arab Spring, elections which install progressive governments, or union movements, to name three examples. And yet each of these things are undertaken by individuals who “coordinated their actions with those of others” to achieve our purposes.

So our first hypocrisy test question is, Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?"

I'm not sure if this is hypocrisy or not...I'm too tired to think clearly, so maybe it does have to do with hypocrisy. It more seems like it has to do with defining terms. Of course, it's not like every libertarian is given the Cato Bible when they are initiated into the welcoming ritual of the libertarian cult.
"Retail stores like Walmart and fast-food corporations like McDonalds cannot produce wealth without employees. Don’t those employees have the right to “coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes”—for example, in unions? "

You are acting like libertarians are against unions. I have not met a libertarian who is against the idea of a union, or at least talked about it. Again, it could be because of the small sample of libertarians I'm exposed to. In my experience, it's conservatives who act more like that.

"The bankers who collude to deceive their customers, as US bankers did with the MERS mortgage system, were permitted to do so by the unwillingness of government to regulate them. The customers who were the victims of deception were essential to the production of Wall Street wealth. Why don’t libertarians recognize their role in the process, and their right to administer their own affairs?"

Don't know anything about this - I don't like commenting on unfamiliar territory. All that I know is that government tries to regulate, it seems, every aspect of banking. Of what little I have read on government and the banks in the US compared to other industries, banking seems to be most controlled by the government. Then again, like I just said, I don't know that much to say anything of worth.

"But victims of illegal foreclosure are neither “freer” nor “more prosperous” after the government deregulation which led to their exploitation. What’s more, deregulation has led to a series of documented banker crimes that include stockholder fraud and investor fraud. That leads us to our next test of libertarian hypocrisy: Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?" 

It would be nice if someone would be able to explain to me what is going on here. What made the foreclosures illegal? What kind of fraud was going on?

"...Thiel let something slip that extreme libertarians prefer to keep quiet: A lot of them don’t like democracy very much. In their world, democracy is a poor substitute for the iron-fisted rule of wealth, administered by those who hold the most of it. Our next test, therefore, is: Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate."

From the libertarians I have met - no, we do not like democracy very much. Of course we're not for dictators or anything. I remember seeing a lot of articles a few months back on a study or something that shows that democracy is not humanly possible...never read it, but I probably need to. Oh yeah, by the way, that second sentence kind of sounds like a false dilemma fallacy.

"On this score, at least, Thiel is no hypocrite. He’s willing to freely say what others only think: Democracy should be replaced by the rule of wealthy people like himself."

Talk about putting words into someone's mouth. From Thiel's quote mentioned in the article, I am not too sure what exactly the meaning of it was, but you jumped to quite a hasty conclusion methinks.

"But how did Peter Thiel and other Internet billionaires become wealthy? They hired government-educated employees to develop products protected by government copyrights. Those products used government-created computer technology and a government-created communications web to communicate with government-educated customers in order to generate wealth for themselves, which was then stored in government-protected banks—after which they began using that wealth to argue for the elimination of government."

Ask a group of libertarians whether they think he/she should collect food stamps because he/she lost his/her job and needs to feed the family...boy will you get a lot of responses of various reasonings. Actually one Facebook libertarian page asked something like this (forgot which page it was though), and some people said, "No, that will be hypocritical. It's exactly what that program was made for," others replied, "If the service is available, I don't see anything wrong if you use it, especially if you're in that great of need." My point is that some libertarians think it's okay to be helped by the government. Other don't agree if you can help it.

By the way, where can you find computers and communications web not created by the government to communicate with privately-educated customers in order to store your wealth in banks that are not protected by the government, and therefore illegal?

Sometimes you just have to deal with it. 

I can't help that my parents had me go to a public elementary, middle, and high school. I could have gone to a much cheaper private college (cheaper because of scholarships, not education quality), but I just liked the atmosphere of the public university I am going to now.

I still can't get over the stupidity of that paragraph. In my debate class last winter quarter, I had to argue for why Greece should stay in the Eurozone. Most dumb thing ever. While doing my research, I found that the other side absolutely dominated, and the side I was supposed to argue just kept repeating the same things over and over again. I couldn't find counter-arguments. During the debate, I had to resort to emotional appeal (uggh). However, if I refused to do the debate because I didn't agree with what I had to argue, then I would have probably failed the class. At times, people just have to do things they don't like in order to achieve what they want. It just depends on what they are doing - murdering someone is probably worse than accepting a donation from a corporation for when it comes to being elected in public office.

Corporatism: The Secret Government of the New World Order
Corporatism: The Secret Government of the New World Order
Monopolistic mega-corporations control all basic resources and items that world citizens depend on for their daily survival-not just food, resource-goods, or medicine, but also things like water, information, transportation, education, and even consciousness. Each of these corporations is controlled by tiny numbers of unelected, militaristic, fascistic labor-lords-called corporatists-who are outside of media attention and who exercise their power to such an extent that they will do anything-including obliterate and destroy the spirit and consciousness of citizens worldwide (including children). This book is an existential, empirical, economic, and psychological study of how corporations dominate the globe to the point that humanity worldwide is reduced to little more than a crushed, defeated mob of uneducated, brainwashed, and tormented beings - who are often tricked into believing they are free, as is the case with middle and upper class Americans. The corporatists secretly control the governments and major control agencies of the world: the UN, the CIA the WTO, the WHO, the FDA, medical schools and universities, the Federal Reserve, the world's militaries, farming, mass media, and religions-and that is just a partial list. Corporatism: The Secret Government of the New World Order shows that corporatism is the real underlying issue from which literally all major human problems now and in the past derive from; and the other issues that people usually imagine are the real underlying causes of humanity's problems (the politicians, war, human nature, greed, religion, problems with parenting and the education system, etc.), are just symptoms of the real problem, which is corporatism. Inthis book, Professor Grupp proves that the United States is a corporatist nation no different in fact from the communist horror-states described in books such as Orwell's 1984. Corporatism shows that in the near future America will be a full-fledged prison nation that will ultimately merge into the corporatist global "prison planet" that Hitler was initially attempting to set up, and which is now called the New World Order.

"Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?"

I will admit, this can be a good question. Nevertheless, are you saying that the "wealth that wouldn't exist" is the stuff you mentioned in that paragraph with all the government-related stuff? If you take this question out of context, you would probably have a good debate with someone whether if wealth can exist without the government. Within the context of this article, this is just stupid. If your business accepts subsidies from the government, then the question would make more sense. If anyone hasn't noticed, the author is trying to put his poorly-constructed inquiries into your head and answer them with   things that only make sense within his own limited thinking capacity. It's a very narrow road, my friend.

"Many libertarians will counter by saying that government has only two valid functions: to protect the national security and enforce intellectual property laws."

Ummmm, actually I hear that the government's two valid functions are national security and property rights, which is a much more general term than "intellectual property laws." I have never heard or read any libertarian say that what you said are the two valid functions of government. I think this article is now becoming more like propaganda. You should blame the Mexicans for the Great Recession because   collectively they came up with the idea to screw around with America's economy. Don't believe me? Well, don't do any research. I'm the authority figure here: what I say goes.

Intellectual property rights: it's an issue many libertarians debate about - almost as controversial as libertarians on abortion.

"After all, if Thiel were a true Randian libertarian he’d use his ideas in a more superior fashion than anyone else—and he would be more ruthless in enforcing his rights to them than anyone else."

So is Thiel actually a Randian libertarian? Are you just assuming he is? If he's not (and you know it), what is the point of this sentence?

"Our democratic process is highly flawed today, but that’s largely the result of corruption from corporate and billionaire money. And yet, libertarians celebrate the corrupting influence of big money."

How do we do we celebrate it...?

(And most importantly, why would we?)

Capitalism and Freedom
Capitalism and Freedom
In this remarkable, expansive text, Peter Nolan explores the impact of the domineering economic phenomenon on our personal and social liberties.

"Why isn’t a democratically elected government the ultimate demonstration of “spontaneous order”? Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?"

You have an interesting point in there. What I have to say is that a democratically-elected government is still a government - it rules over all of its land and reigns supreme. I doubt the people of the land of which is currently called "The United States of America" would want to be single-handedly ruled by Walmart, the KK, the Catholic Church, the Sierra Club, etc. You may try to argue my point that those are special-interest groups, versus the government is for everyone. You think the government would be able to be run truly-democratically with no corruption? There are different political parties for a reason - barely anyone can agree on the same issues. If we have a Democrat president, or a Republican-led House, doesn't that sound like special-interest to you?

"But if big governments are bad, why are big corporations so acceptable?"

Let's say a big corporation is selling its product and not using any government subsidies, etc. It's the idea. libertarian corporation. The reason why I don't have a problem with it is because the corporation probably is not trying to control the entire country and tax, arrest, etc. its citizens.

"Why isn’t it important to avoid the creation of monopolies, duopolies and syndicates that interfere with the free market’s ability to function?"

It is important. Maybe you have heard of "crony capitalism." If not, look it up. One thing I really agree with socialists on is that if businesses are trying to survive and earn as most they can, then a free market would cease to exist because it's only  natural that the businesses will go to the government and try to get or plain manipulate them (and the public) into helping their business/industry. I'm not sure if I trust a completely free market. Even with just a mostly free market, I believe that over time, cronyism will poke out its ugly head.

"Ayn Rand was an adamant opponent of good works, writing that “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.” That raises another test for our libertarian: Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?"

Why do you keep assuming that libertarians worship Ayn Rand? Of the libertarians I have met, the majority of them don't agree with her on a lot of things. I think most, like myself, agree with her on some points. If I'm getting her quote correctly, then that's just one of those weird-ass ideas she seemed to have.

"Libertarianism would have died out as a philosophy if it weren’t for the funding that’s been lavished on the movement by billionaires like Thiel and the Kochs and corporations like ExxonMobil. So our final question is: If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?"

That first sentence is actually one I would like to have a discussion about. Is it really because of hypocritical and corrupt billionaires that libertarianism exists like it does today?

I don't get the last question, it doesn't make sense. At least to me.

Overall, this was poorly-written. Not to mention highly fallacious. 

I should be paid to read these horrendous articles...Why not help me with that?

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  1. I think there is some blatant hypocrisy in the Libertarian philosophy of free markets as I understand them. A core idea of Libertarians is that individuals are free and therefore owe no part of what they own or produce to the government. Until the beginning of the last century people were free to own land, not rent it from the government, people were not denied the right to work because they did not have a government issued number, and no one owed any portion of what they produced to the government.
    Amazingly enough state and federal governments operated just fine and had all of the money that was needed on a system based on the taxing of imports. Fair markets not free markets should be the cry of the libertarian. The taxing of local production by means of the income tax and the licensing of things anyone should be able to do are incredibly counter productive to freedom, liberty and a vibrant economy. The lowering or elimination of import duties further drives the flow of wealth away from local individuals and toward investors in both shipping and overseas production.
    I believe that our country was founded by people that believed more strongly in libertarian ideals than most Libertarians of today. Between the revolution and the civil war this country was as libertarian than any country I am aware of through history. Liberty actually survived in the Western part of the country until prohibition.
    The taking of the election of senators from the state governments and having them directly elected by “the People” (with the most money and the best advertising campaign) has lead to the empowerment of the federal government over the state government. This leads to both the state and federal government working together against the people. Our founders set up a system where the Federal Government had very little power, the state had somewhat more, the local officials had even more, and the individuals in the population had the most. The local officials were there to make sure local life was harmonious. The state made sure the local governments played fairly amongst it own citizens and those passing through. The only two purposes our founders gave the federal government was to provide for a common defense (with out actually having an army) and to make sure the tariffs between states were consistent. The only thing I am aware of they were empowered to spend money on was to build infrastructure that could be used to mobilize the military. The federal government could not even print money. That localized benefits of these infrastructure improvements going to places far away from where the import duties were being imposed is my understand of what started the War of Northern Aggression. This was the same thing the revolutionary war had been fought over, taxation without representation on where the money would be spent. That the winners of the Civil War claim to have brought freedom to the slaves, but they started the enslavement of the entire population.
    One of us is confused as to the purpose of the two party system in this country. You seem to think it is to give people choice. I believe it is to give to give people the appearance or illusion of choice. People that have little to no money do not donate to either side in a campaign. Most Americans that are living the American dream contribute little to no money to either party directly. Often they donate to one side or both through donations to organizations like unions and the Sierra Club, but this does not muy them influence. On the other hand people that do not actually produce goods or services, but with an agenda to take money for those that do, regularly contribute to both sides in partisan election campaigns. It does not matter who wins they have influence and get their agenda moved through.
    I agree this article was both poorly written, highly fallacious and did not provide any kind of hypocrite test for a libertarian.
    To me the one question a person needs to ask to see if they are truly a libertarian or a hypocrite is should there be free markets or fair markets?

    1. Thank you for the lengthy reply. You have way more insight in just one sentence than that author did in an entire article. I really like your explanation on the two party system. One could also argue that two main political parties is better than three or more - Candidate C may act as a spoiler for B, but they both have more followers than Candidate A, who would get elected because the votes were split between B and C (of course, you can further argue that this may be fixed with the run-off voting system). Most people in the US don't seem to realize that there is more to politics than red and blue. A lot of Republicans I know (who are more libertarian) vote for staunchly-conservative Republicans because he/she seems like the "better choice" than any Democrat. If only they realized that they could look into independents and third parties, but of course from there, they would have to be convinced that voting for a person like that (who most likely will not win) would actually matter.

      It would be interesting to have a libertarian debate on a free market versus a fair market. I feel like both terms would have to be clearly defined before setting out on that venture.