Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Campaign of Two Half-Libertarians

Here is even stronger confirmation that Paul Ryan, per my previous article, is only a half-Libertarian. As Chris Hayes explains,
"Long before he became one of the right’s most vocal critics of the idea that government spending could help boost the flagging economy, Rep. Paul Ryan offered a forceful, full-throated defense of stimulus spending — when then-President George W. Bush wanted it in 2002."
Libertarians: I was once one of you, though I'm not anymore. And you've just got to face the fact that current Republicans (outside of the Paul family) are just dabbling in Libertarian rhetoric when it suits them - i.e. when it stands to further enrich their corporate and military/industrial patrons, and when it appeases the Tea Party which terrified them in the midterm elections. The Tea Party movement itself may have launched with a few foggy Libertarian impulses, but it's now been co-opted as a subsidiary of Fox News/Limbaugh/Karl Rove. Staunchly hawkish and meddlesomely socially conservative. The same old stuff. That's not Libertarianism, it's just another sort of Big Government. And my point is that, for most Libertarians, the current Republican agenda represents the worse of two "big government" evils.

If you're not going to get a seriously Libertarian administration (and believe me, you're not; it's as unlikely, post-McGovern, as a truly liberal one), then you must choose between half Libertarians.

I'd suggest choosing the half that won't attack Iran unless absolutely necessary, that will defend women and gay civil rights, maintain balance in the Supreme Court, and retain (and hopefully try to reform) our inefficient, fiscally non-viable safety net at least until there's a viable alternative aside from "I've got mine, Jack." Paul Ryan and his half-Libertarian brethren have shown opportunistic fervor for slashing poverty programs, but what about the massive private philanthropy that's supposed to arise to replace the safety net? Do you see those guys talking much about that? I don't. Aside from eagerness to nuke the poor's vital (for now) programs, all I see from them is low-income voter disenfranchisement and increasing agitation for actually charging them income tax.

Or you can choose the half Libertarians who will swell (and use) our military even more, deliberately disenfranchise student, minority, and poor voters, and who believe defaulting on our debt is a good idea (the Republican move which pushed them beyond my pale) and who show no devotion whatsoever to personal or social liberty...all while cynically mouthing Libertarian platitudes.

Both will inflate government. Ronald Reagan greatly inflated government. The "small government"/"government is not the answer" credo from Republicans is a banner they drape themselves in while cutting off poor people, who don't vote for them anyway, while directing the same public spigots to Halliburton, The Pentagon, and other favored factions and institutions (generously subsidizing, for example, all those rabidly anti-government western ranchers).

I don't believe in Libertarianism. But I recognize that true Libertarians aren't hard-hearted jerks who want to see the poor starve and for the 1% to absorb virtually all wealth. They have theories about how it all will go down more equitably and viably than that. But, for god's sake, don't vote for people who want to swap corporate welfare for poverty programs, to slash Medicare to inflate the military, to cut taxes for the superrich and increase them for the poor, and generally pull some of the greediest Libertarian moves without the slightest nod toward the principled civic-mindedness and commitment to freedom which make Libertarianism a political philosophy rather than a cynical ticket to baldfaced piracy.

If you're a staunch Republican, and believe the jazz about Job Creators and trickling down, well, god bless you. I don't think you're jerks, either! But the above wasn't for you.


joshi said...

the problem is, american politics is boring.

it is also bemusing: just two political parties?! really? "here take a card - any card" and the magician forces you to take the one he wants. no wonder americans don't vote, or pay much attention to the political process - when the game is blatantly rigged, why bother?

look at the opportunity barack obama had at the start of his presidency: a super majority in the senate, a majority in congress and a mandate for real change.

reforming the banks would have been easy then. so would putting into place a genuine safety net, rather than the safety string americans currently enjoy. even conventional main stream economists like krugman, stiglitz etc recognised that.

instead we got four years of appeasing the republicans. and a health plan that put even more money into the insurance company coffers.

there doesn't seem to be much difference between republicans and democrats. sure, they may disagree about womens rights, taxes for the poor etc. but that seems to be a pepsi/coke excercise on product differentiation. on the truly important stuff, they march the corporate line lock step.

Jim Leff said...

As someone swayed by a similar-sounding argument to vote for Nader in 1994 (which I greatly regret), I don't buy that at all.

There is symmetry (with regard to Libertarianism, which was the thrust of the article, though unrelated to your comment) but certainly not of equality.

It's not Coke/Pepsi. Not by a long shot. Failure of the left to completely accomplish all reasonable things doesn't balance the right's hawkishness, its voter disenfranchisement, its debt default brinksmanship, its blatant disregard for individual liberty, its effort to completely dismantle social safety net while slashing taxes for the top 1%, and its bald-faced attempts to derail the economy in order to soften up the admin's reelection prospects. Beyond the pale, all, IMO. And that's just the big stuff.

Plus two words: Supreme Court.

joshi said...

lets take voter disenfranchisement, for example. american voter participation in presidential elections is averaging - iirc - somewhere in the low to mid 50's.

but that 45% or so of the eligible population doesn't even vote is far more telling of disenfranchisement than some silly id laws, no?

as for individual liberty - a democratic president with a super majority in the senate and a majority in the house agreed to continue the suspension of habeas corpus, the most fundamental of our laws.

if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck ...

anyway, apologies if this isn't the right post to be commenting on.

James Leff said...

"but that 45% or so of the eligible population doesn't even vote is far more telling of disenfranchisement than some silly id laws, no?"

That's completely absurd.

joshi said...


people laid their lives down to get the power of the vote, only have to have about half the population care less.

i once saw a figure that said around 3/4's of the us population have no idea who their representative in the house is (i cant find the poll online, so i can't swear to the number).

isn't that the real disenfranchisement? slightly less than half the populations attaches no value to their vote, sees no ability to improve their lives through the process?

the voter id laws are easy to repeal the next time the majority changes, or can be worked around with some money and organization. but the fact remains that these id laws are going to affect only a small number of voters who bother to show up when compared to the 45% sitting on their hands.

Jim Leff said...

Joshi, I agree that it'd be better if more people voted.

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