Blue vs. White: Libertarianism is savagery, not a solution
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 01:10
Libertarianism has risen to prominence in popular discourse as a potential solution to the ills of an increasingly ineffectual government and anemic economy. The philosophy of libertarianism heavily focuses on the maintenance of a small civil services oriented government combined with an absolute protection for private property rights, which libertarians opine as an inalienable right. The unfortunate reality of the contemporary libertarian movement is that much of the economic philosophy that constitutes its foundation is in actual opposition to libertarian policies, and it more closely resembles the barbaric feudalistic past than some utopian solution for the future.
For libertarians, and most economists, Adam Smith is commonly viewed as the patron saint of modern capitalism, and his most famous work, “The Wealth of Nations,” is widely considered the bible of free-market laissez-faire economies. Much is said about his famous “invisible hand” and the dire need to keep government regulations out of the market processes, which libertarians contest is perfectly capable of sorting itself out. The reality is that Adam Smith believed the only thing that would keep captains of industry from leaving their homelands for cheaper markets to invest in was an innate bias towards feeling more secure at home; this is the only mention of the invisible hand in “The Wealth of Nations,” and it has nothing to do with government regulation. Libertarians also argue against wasteful spending, such as minimum wage, social security and other public safety nets, instead preferring government to be friendlier towards big job-creating businesses. This stands directly against Smith’s belief that, “When regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.” The masters, by the way, are the directors of large financial and industrial institutions whom Smith believed should face stringent regulation so as to prevent fraud, like sub-prime loans, which would irreparably destroy public trust and therefore the economy itself.
Libertarianism prioritizes property rights above all others, which stands in stark contrast to the principles of the liberal society we’ve started to attain. As Samuel Freeman points out, if property rights become enshrined as an inalienable right in a laissez-faire economy, then someone could justifiably sell themselves into perpetual subordination to a private entity, effectively a form of slavery, which is the kind of contract no liberal government could possibly allow. In the event of a catastrophic economic meltdown like that of 2008, the working class would likely turn to feudal oaths of perennial servitude for some form of even the most miniscule financial security, much akin to the serfs of Imperial Russia. A government constrained to just the military and public infrastructural maintenance would be wholly unable to enforce, let alone ratify, any legislation capable of financially saving the destitute masses. How can anyone support an economic philosophy that essentially encourages unskilled laborers to voluntarily submit themselves to the same horrific working conditions as Chinese citizens at corporations like Foxconn; yet one of many companies espousing a culture of employment so deplorable it is often likened to labor camps complete with suicide-nets to prevent employees from escaping their horrific conditions in the most drastic of ways.
I honestly don’t think I could make a better argument against libertarianism than some of its most notable champions. Ayn Rand, whose novel “Atlas Shrugged” rivals even “Wealth of Nations’” admiration among libertarians, famously denounced the movement as “irresponsible, and in today’s context immoral.” Tea-Party darling Rand Paul once followed in his father’s footsteps by demonizing the Civil Rights act of 1964 as a grotesque violation of private property rights, and continued on to say, “I abhor racism. I think it’s bad business to exclude anybody from your restaurant – but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.” How can anyone prioritize property rights over the equitable treatment of other human beings, and in what way is that a truly free and functioning society?
Libertarianism is nothing more than an archaic economic philosophy repackaged under the shroud of intellectuals who outright opposed its feudalistic origins. Aside from being inherently inhumane, libertarianism places absolute trust in private institutions and market forces, both of which are purely driven by the singular need to maximize profits. Does anyone honestly think the way to avoid another economic meltdown is through a combination of increasing the freedom of private tyrannies and the virtual elimination of social safety nets? Libertarianism has no place in our humanitarian conscious contemporary society.