There Are No Rational Libertarians

Gary Johnson and William Weld - 2016 Libertarian party candidates
Gary Johnson and William Weld – 2016 Libertarian candidates for president and vice-president (Wikipedia)

Many American voters are dissatisfied with the 2016 presidential candidates of the two major parties – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Some of these disaffected voters are saying they will refuse to vote for either one. But others are saying they might vote for a third party candidate.

The third and fourth largest political parties in the U.S., respectively, are the the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. The 2016 Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate Gary Johnson is gaining support from some unhappy Republicans because he formerly served as a Republican Governor of New Mexico.

Furthermore, many of the Libertarian Party’s policies are similar to Republican policies. The Libertarian Party platform, for example, opposes gun control, proposes phasing out Social Security, and demands an end to federal deficit spending. But it also supports LGBT rights, the decriminalization of marijuana, and a women’s right to choose an abortion.

The party’s focus on expanding personal liberty has created an odd array of political positions. But the biggest problem with Libertarian Party policies is their belief that free, unregulated markets are a panacea. Their economic liberty platform states, “A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner.” Any question about what they mean by free markets is answered with a subsequent explanation that, “The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected.”

History has repeatedly shown that this isn’t true. A study of the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, and the recent Great Recession provides plenty of evidence that markets must be regulated for the common good. The elimination of government regulations, for instance, would make it easier for companies to use unfair practices to eliminate competitors, emit pollution, or exploit natural resources in ways that damage the environment – to name just a few of the bad things that could happen.

So what’s the real reason that Libertarians, and many right-wing Republicans, are promoting this false narrative about free markets? One clue is that David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s 1980 vice-presidential candidate. David, along with his brother Charles, are the billionaire brothers that have been bankrolling Libertarian and similar thinking Republican local and national political candidates across the U.S. Their corporation, Koch Industries, is involved in the fossil fuels industry and other enterprises that are affected by government environmental regulations.

The conservative think tanks financially supported by the Kochs are also distributing talking points that go beyond complaints about regulations. Their imaginary utopia of a free market economy would also be free from government intervention in the form of planning. History has shown this is a ridiculous goal too. Programs initiated by the government have virtually eliminated several contagious diseases, smoking has been reduced, astronauts have gone to the moon and back, and the Internet has improved our lives. And, again, these are just to name a few.

“Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.” – John B. Finch

The Libertarian condemnation of all government involvement in the economy becomes more irrational every day, as the U.S. population rose by 2.4 million during the last year and now exceeds 322 million. On top of that, the speed of technological innovation continues to increase. In other words, there are complicated new challenges constantly arising that cannot be solved with a laissez-faire market strategy.

Libertarians like to say they are against “big government.” They usually mean they don’t like taxes, but they also complain that government is inefficient. Big government, however, is a different thing than wasteful government, and a lot of government inefficiency these days is caused by the purposeful underfunding of government agencies by conservatives. It’s called “starving the beast” wherein they appropriate less money than an agency needs to properly function, and then point to the disfunction they created as justification for eliminating programs they don’t like. A good example of this the way Republicans have been starving public lands management agencies to try and justify the privatization of public lands.

Another contradiction in libertarian thinking is the assumption that a reduction in the size of the government will create more personal freedom. But neutering the government would mean that large corporations would, in effect, become our de facto rulers. Corporations aren’t democratic organizations, and are primarily concerned with generating profits – not promoting the common good.

The Libertarian Party’s myopic focus on personal liberty discounts the reality that people must work together in a civilized society and compromise in order to solve problems. Tackling the potentially catastrophic issue of manmade climate change, for example, cannot be accomplished by simply relying on the free market. The Libertarian Party will never be more than an obscure historical footnote unless they temper their ideological goals with some reality.

White Noise

It reminds you of the sound of distant, rolling thunder when it first becomes audible. But as it quickly moves toward you, it gets louder, and sounds more like the roar of a jet airplane taking off. Then, as it passes by, you feel the floor rumble like a minor earthquake. And after that, it’s quickly gone.

But only, of course, until another subway train passes beneath the New York City street where you’re apartment is located. The trains traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of the street aren’t as loud. And during the nights and weekends the frequency of the trains decreases. But you don’t notice or care, because it’s just another source of the near-constant stream of white noise that’s part of your life.

Cherry Picking the Bible

Mike Pence
Mike Pence (Wikipedia)

The Bible has been in the news this Holy Week because social conservatives are promoting state laws to protect “religious freedom.”

Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence recently signed a bill, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said would have allowed businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.  The criticism was so intense that this week the Republican-controlled Indiana legislature quickly passed and Pence immediately signed a revised version of the law that he claimed would prevent discrimination.

Arkansas’s  Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign a bill this week, also called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in response to intense criticism that it would also allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.  He then signed the bill after it was revised to be less controversial.

Florida’s Republican legislators are promoting HB 7111, called the Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies, that would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to help same-sex couples to adopt based upon religious grounds.

These laws aren’t the first of their kind. Last year Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature passed HB 1062, which critics said would have allowed businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. The criticism was so intense that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it.

These new “religious freedom” laws result from the realization by social conservatives that the legalization of same-sex marriage across the entire U.S. is very likely, and probably inevitable. They believe homosexuality is a sin because it says so in the Bible, so people should be allowed to treat homosexuals differently – as unrepentant sinners. (They conveniently ignore, however, that the Bible also approves of a lot of things that are considered immoral today.)

These religious zealots are often the same type of people that find no problem with listening to a charismatic preacher or a slick TV evangelist focus on a single sentence, phrase, or word from the Bible to interpret its “true” meaning – even though they say they believe the Bible is the literal word of God.

This cherry picking from the Bible is so popular that I decided to try it too, but without any interpretations. The excerpts I’ve listed below are from the small portions of the Bible that pertain directly to Jesus:

  • “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
  • “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

On June 7, 2018, an Arizona appeals court upheld a Phoenix anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples because they believe that homosexuality is a sin. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which was identified as an anti-gay hate group in 2017 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it will appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.

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