Saturday, November 05, 2005

Saturday Morning with Uncle Ben: What Have Libertarians Done for Liberty Lately?

I am off to a rather late start for today's blog entry. I had intended to post much earlier, but we are enjoying a lovely bit of indian summer here in my corner of the world and I decided to be outside as much as I could today.

Alas, I need to report to my dear readers how things went with Uncle Ben and my beer club friends on Friday. The first bit of fun consisted in Ben congratulating a couple of my recent postings. First of all, my "manifesto", if you will, from last Sunday and my entry from Thursday on the purpose of College. When I arrived at our meeting place, Ben said: "you know, those were great posts, you are clearly not the sort of crazy liberal that you say you are." I started to laugh. Of course, Ben's interpretation of his liking of my blog entries is that I am a little conservative. Why not reconsider the rallying cry--liberals are crazy--of much contemporary conservativism? Perhaps, he is a little--gasp--liberal?

We both had a good laugh about this, but it lead me to think about a far more serious matter: libertarians. Yes, I cannot help but find myself continually let down by those who call themselves libertarians. For example, where are they protesting Alito's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey? Why aren't they outraged by yet another conservative's attack on autonomy? After all, isn't the whole point of being a libertarian to reject both of the parties for interfering with the self-evident human right to think for ourselves? I thought the libertarians hated state interference in human decisions.

But, I cannot honestly think of one time that I saw the libertarians stand up for liberty. Let's face it, they love power as much as anyone else and as along as they swallow alot of the crap from the leadership at the moment, they get power.

I remember arguing with a professional libertarian when Bush first announced that he was going to propose a Constitutional amendment banning Same-sex marriage. This was in my naive phase: I loved JS Mill and thought he was the sort of chap who informed their core principles. Well, what a disappointment it was to me to find out that many libertarians were going to embrace Bush's right to propose such a ban since, in their eyes, the "activist" judges performing marriage ceremonies in California were undermining states' rights. So, in this case, the libertarians would let the state regulate who can marry whom. I didn't get it.

The more time I spend around libertarians, the less I think they actually give a shit about liberty or autonomy. In fact, I generally interpret their notion of autonomy as a rather selfish moral egoism, which suggests that one ought to act only in accordance with what is in one's own self-interest. Autonomy, for many libertarians, amounts to: leave me the hell alone and let me do exactly what I want and desire to do.

So, what sort of causes do I see libertarians rally around:

(1) legalization of marijuana: these are the Dead Head libertarians who have started to make a salary. They still want the right to get high whenever they feel like it and don't want the government telling them they cannot. But, they aren't going to pay any damn taxes to the "man," e.g. government who will waste it on poor people.

(2) pro-pornography/prostitution/gambling libertarians: these folks want to fight all restrictions on any form of the sex trade or games of chance. Las Vegas is a mecca to these folks. In fact, many of those in this category dream of buying their own island where they can do whatever the hell they want and no one can do a damn thing about it. What is interesting about this set is you don't really see them advocating sexual education, access to birth control, or STD prevention (hell, all those things would involve paying taxes). Moreover, they aren't likely to protect women's right to an abortion, especially when she may have been impregnanted by a reckless and irresponsible hedonist. Oh, and another popular view among this set is that all women who enter into the sex trade are willingly doing so, no coercion involved whatsoever.

(3) Pro-capitalism, especially the right of CEOS to make BIG DOLLAR libertarians: yep, this set is all about giving as many rights as possible to "corporations," who if they were really people would be socio-paths evidenced by their ruthless selfishness and disregard for the well-being of other humans. So a business CEO wants to remove any possible barrier to their wet dream: the total free market. No regulations; no price controls; no trade barriers, no minimum wage; no regulation of toxic waste, dumping, or other forms of environmental waste. These sorts of libertarians love Wal-mart and think it is the greatest company ever for crushing all competition, and driving prices down low. In the international scene, the best case scenario is finding the most docile, desperate, cheap labor and destroying any government policies that might protect those people from a profit-whoring multi-national corporation.

So, if we review the three main categories of libertarians, it's hard to imagine how their platform has anything to do with respecting autonomy and liberty. Unless, liberty means: the freedom to do exactly what the fuck I want to do and get all the little, weak ass fucks out of the way. Or, the liberty to act like a selfish teenage boy who listens a lot to boy bands like the Who, reads Nietzsche and feels alienated, and doesn't want the man telling him he can't get high.

If that is what liberty means, then no thank you.