Why I'm not a libertarian

Dear M,
The reason I'm not a libertarian is because I'd like to be free.  The libertarian says he does too, but is living proof that wanting something and getting it are two completely different matters -- and that his theory stands directly in the way of his practice.   

First among his failures is his dislike of government, which he shares many times with other "conservatives."  This means he's the least likely to actually go into it (and who wants to hire a man who doesn't believe in his job?); and the positions he forfeits, all kinds of important bureaucratic and so-called "oppressive" jobs get filled by his enemies.  A quick look at the policies of the FBI, the CIA, the FDA, the CDC, and OSHA proves it.  He says he'd like to downsize or even get rid of them, but he can't, so instead many times he does nothing -- not a fight, but a forfeiture.  

Second is his tendency, also general among the right-wing, to say public schooling and other cultural and state organs can be "neutral:" that you can cater to everybody and nobody at the same time, somehow, and still churn out solid people*, and that we don't have to clean house of obvious heretics -- a job which nobody securely on top ever forfeits, and which most people who love truth usually enjoy.  The leftists don't believe any power can be entirely neutral, and that's why they own the institutions, and will continue to own them even when we win elections.

Disclosure: not a fan of Jo Jorgenson
Third is his belief many times that taxation is "theft," and that a government that taxes (and does) least is the best -- a joke philosophy that if taken seriously would lead to his immediate domination by a foreign power, and leaves him underfunded, impotent, and incapable of being believed in.  But more importantly than this I would add that his love of business, and the "right" of every man to do whatever he wants "with his own property," nearly without exception, leaves international corporations free to sell us out at home and abroad, and to dictate what their employees (and many times even their customers) can and can't say and do.  These days it means bosses can tell employees what to put in their bodies.  The libertarian believes the only kind of slavery is to government, and completely ignores that the rich man who pays you, especially in a world dominated by large and left-wing corporations, to some degree owns you*. 

Even if libertarians held a clear majority there are instances where numbers and a "principled cause" were beaten by better organizers anyway -- for instance when Spain, in 1936, blew up in a civil war between fascists and leftists.  That year revolution was happening in the big cities.  Churches were ransacked by the left-wing, and around 7,000 clergy were murdered in cold blood.  They threw prisons open and the criminals ran amok.  

The factories were taken over by radicals too, and workers' communes were set up to spread the wealth around, and rich men and right-wingers went into hiding so they wouldn't be shot.  Farmers and bakers brought in food by the truckloads in exchange for manufactured goods, and good wine flowed from the cellars of the "liberated" estates.  The mood in leftist Barcelona and Madrid for a while was high, and from the majority's perspective Spain was heading for the New Millennium.    

They weren't, of course, because the fascists wouldn't have it and they staged a counter-revolution; but during all this, the biggest and most hopeful sect of revolutionaries, by far, was the anarchists.  Their flags flew over all the cafes and barber shops and every factory they took over.  Anarchist pamphlets flooded the streets, and they held an overwhelming and energetic majority, and from every vantage point it looked like Spain was going their way.  

But there was something standing in the anarchists' way, and it was their belief in anarchy.  According to Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, the CNT, a federation of anarchist unions, had two million members and only a single officer.  It turns out that anarchists hated bureaucracy.  They ran no candidates for parliament.  They had some sort of a national committee -- but nobody could serve more than a year, and a recall could happen any time by a vote.  They won union strikes but were 100% against union contracts.  All forms of government were disgusting to them, and they believed Soviet Russia was a slaughterhouse not because Stalin was an ass, or because of one-party rule, or because they had no freedom of speech or assembly or religion, but because Russia had a government at all.  These were the people who took over Catalonia and the surrounding regions.    

But the anarchists couldn't hold them.  Their "allies," the vastly outnumbered communists, believed deeply in government, and thus were experts in top-down organization. They were also experts in silencing opposition, in disarming their opponents, and in getting foreign funding.  While the anarchists were honest and trumpeted the revolution, the Communists were practical, and tried to pretend it wasn't happening.  To the communists, the war could only be won by keeping the West neutral -- in other words, with an appeal to foreign investors and the liberal bourgeois.  To the anarchists, there was no point in a war without a revolution.  The commies aimed for less so they could win it.  The anarchists didn't want it if they couldn't have the whole thing.

Little more needs to be said here.  The anarchists were suppressed by the communists**.  The communists were bulldozed by the fascists.  I'm not saying Spain would have done better under anarchists.  In any fight between fascists and communists I always side with the fascists.  I'm saying that even if you have the vast majority of the country on your side, if you won't or don't know how to play politics, if your ideals are too libertarian and cat-like, or too idealistic to be practical, or too stupid, or even just out of step with the times***, you're going to get wrecked.  And if it was because of your pride, you deserve it. 


P.S. Am I saying that I'm totally against libertarianism -- that it has nothing good to offer, that it isn't tailored in any way to reality, and that its adherents are what the critics say -- a bunch of selfish assholes, stoners, autists, and oglers of underage women?  Not at all, and in fact I agree largely with the spirit of Ayn Rand, which believes deeply in inequality through ability and character, that the universe belongs to the strong of mind and heart, that American society was a miracle but that it's become a sewer, that philosophy and worldview are the life-blood of all civilization, that a stance of "neutrality" is a forfeiture of your power, that the universe can largely be understood and to some degree conquered, that alcohol and drugs are a bad fit for a thinking man, that people who value the wrong things will be slaves, that altruism as a political stance is a slippery slope towards slavery and murder, and that we shouldn't be giving rights to countries who don't give their citizens rights -- the manliest philosophy to ever come out of a woman, brilliantly stated, free of all turgidity and ivory tower obfuscation, and lacking mainly in its throwaway attitude towards God and religion, its absolute failure to value compromise and a piecemeal victory, its refusal to take any tyranny other than government seriously, its inability to see that big money plus human nature equals corruption, and its belief that a productive morality is the main thrust of morality.   Read The Virtue of Selfishness, or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, or For the New Intellectual and it's obvious you're getting into the mind of a real giant. 

*I say that corporations to some degree can own you, but who owns the corporations?  Hollywood kowtows to Communist China.  Walmart, where the leftists on Twitter don't shop, caves quickly to Twitter mobs.  The leftist funds as much as he can with government money, and when hospitals, colleges, or businesses disagree with him, he threatens to withdraw it -- and gets what he wants.  The main principle of capitalism may be that you can own and collect capital ad-infinitum.  But you don't collect money in capitalism.  You earn it.  And if you offend too many of the people who pay it, you lose it.  

Thus beware of your boss.  But beyond this, beware of who you cater to as a customer.  In many ways they are the same person.

**Albert Camus wrote 
Men of my generation have had Spain in our hearts. [...] It was there that they learned [...] that one can be right and yet be beaten, that force can vanquish spirit, and that there are times when courage is not rewarded.
***Are the greatest orators masters or servants?  You give one speech, one time, as an expression of yourself, and if others hear the drum and start marching it's power.  But to keep that going, to constantly play the right tune, to keep yourself calibrated to the masses, is something not too unlike slavery.  

In order to be a great orator, the man has to already be in tune with the zeitgeist.  He has to be as much a product of the times as the maker of them.  There may be a man for all seasons, but there's no such thing as an orator for all ages.  So I wouldn't have a problem seeing Cicero laughed off the stage -- but it would break my heart seeing people fall asleep to Edmund Burke.  It wouldn't just mean he was out of step with us.  Much more uncomfortably, it would mean we were out of step with him

Consider this beautiful random quote of his about the rise and fall of nations, and how nobody today -- and I mean nobody, in the public sphere, and even possibly the private, speaks like this:

I am not quite of the mind of those speculators who seem assured that necessarily, and by the constitution of things, all states have the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude that are found in the individuals who compose them. Parallels of this sort rather furnish similitudes to illustrate or to adorn than supply analogies from whence to reason. The objects which are attempted to be forced into an analogy are not found in the same classes of existence. Individuals are physical beings, subject to laws universal and invariable. The immediate cause acting in these laws may be obscure: the general results are subjects of certain calculation. But commonwealths are not physical, but moral essences. They are artificial combinations, and, in their proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of the human mind. We are not yet acquainted with the laws which necessarily influence the stability of that kind of work made by that kind of agent. There is not in the physical order (with which they do not appear to hold any assignable connection) a distinct cause by which any of those fabrics must necessarily grow, flourish, or decay; nor, in my opinion, does the moral world produce anything more determinate on that subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal, indeed, and ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying the operation of such causes: but they are infinitely uncertain, and much more obscure, and much more difficult to trace, than the foreign causes that tend to raise, to depress, and sometimes to overwhelm a community. 

It is often impossible, in these political inquiries, to find any proportion between the apparent force of any moral causes we may assign and their known operation. We are therefore obliged to deliver up that operation to mere chance, or, more piously, (perhaps more rationally,) to the occasional interposition and irresistible hand of the Great Disposer. We have seen states of considerable duration, which for ages have remained nearly as they have begun, and could hardly be said to ebb or flow. Some appear to have spent their vigor at their commencement. Some have blazed out in their glory a little before their extinction. The meridian of some has been the most splendid. Others, and they the greatest number, have fluctuated, and experienced at different periods of their existence a great variety of fortune. At the very moment when some of them seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and disaster, they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course and opened a new reckoning, and even in the depths of their calamity and on the very ruins of their country have laid the foundations of a towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of Nature.

We're a degenerate people.  We have to pull away from the masses to make ourselves what we were.  But if others won't go with us, is there a point?  To this I answer, if we always wait for others, will anything great ever get done?
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