The Bikecast Episode #16: Rand Paul and Libertarianism
This is a short podcast. I recap the last one and then talk briefly about the confusion (at least my confusion) around the label “libertarian”.
In the course of the ritual abuse of Rand Paul, leftists-authoritarians, smelling blood and a two-for-one bargain, have expanded their attack to libertarians in general. This gives me one of those momentary starts that I get when my carefully constructed illusory pre-utopia is intruded upon by ugly reality.
In my world, libertarians are anarchists: Chomsky, Ward Colin, Samuel Konkin, and all the wonderful people in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. There are no libertarian politicians because the core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle and politics is founded on aggression.
The United States is sort of out of the world on this topic. Britain is to a limited extent, but the United States is like on Mars. So here, the term “libertarian” means the opposite of what it always meant in history. Libertarian throughout modern European history meant socialist anarchist. It meant the anti-state element of the Workers Movement and the Socialist Movement . . . the anti-statist branch, which included Marxists, Left Marxists — Rosa Luxemburg and others — kind of merged, more or less, into an amalgam with a big strain of anarchism into what was called “libertarian socialism.” So libertarian in Europe always meant socialist. . . . [in Europe] it meant, and always meant to me, socialist and anti-state, an anti-state branch of socialism, which meant a highly organized society, completely organized and nothing to do with chaos, but based on democracy all the way through. That means democratic control of communities, of workplaces, of federal structures, built on systems of voluntary association, spreading internationally. That’s traditional anarchism. You know, anybody can have the word if they like, but that’s the mainstream of traditional anarchism.
Political libertarians, or “republicans” as they’re sometimes known, always sound incoherent because they are trying to use the violence of the state to end state violence. They end up sounding like racist assholes because they want to allow private business to use the police powers of the state to enforce private racism while also refraining from using the police powers of the state to regulate property. Free property and regulated humans is about as incoherent and obviously flawed as a doctrine can be.
I think that case is pretty open-and-shut. Going forward, when I use the term libertarian, I mean someone who subscribes to the non-aggression principle. Rand Paul, Ron Paul, the tea party, and anyone else who believes that state violence is required to resolve disputes between individuals, I will refer to as democrats, republicans, authoritarians or statists.
An related Salon article popped up on my facebook radar which kind of blew my mind. It exemplifies some true ninja-like mental acrobatics which can simultaneously defend and attack state capitalism. After reading it a couple times, I’m still not sure I can grapple with it, so well have the reasoning centers of my brain been blinded and pummeled. The conclusion is that libertarians are stupid. I assume the author is referring to non neo-conservative republicans.
And I think, ultimately this is the point of attacking the vestigial “small government” politician.
The position of the modern statist, left and right, is that everyone needs to be on board with the authoritarian agenda. It’s cute and all to imagine that people can work together to solve problems, their argument goes. In reality, the only reason every interaction between two people doesn’t end in a homicide is because of the security infrastructure that the state provides.
The only way that we are protected from the violent swarms of the underclasses is that the state feeds and houses them enough to keep them from seizing the reigns of power.
According to the statist argument, well presented by the Salon article: “The government didn’t just help make the ‘free market’ in the first place — although it did do that. It’s also constantly busy trimming around the edges, maintaining the thing, keeping it healthy.”
This is an excellent narrative, a network of “big lies,” if you will. The “free market,” if that’s what we’re calling our economic system, isn’t healthy at all. It is sick and diseased and on the verge of collapse. It relies on massive and increasing degrees of coercion and violence, endless warfare, global hegemony and empire. Every time it’s rotten structure is propped up by the state, the altitude from which the final plummet will begin increases.
Homes and lives aren’t protected from the poor and desperate by the state. The state impoverishes, cripples, criminalizes and imprisons by the millions and then attempts to create social fear for the legion of mostly harmless, helpless people it has created.
And that’s why the best rap on libertarians isn’t that they’re racist, or selfish. (Though some of them are those things, and their beliefs encourage both bad behaviors, even if accidentally.) It’s that they’re thoroughly out of touch with reality. It’s a worldview that prospers only so long as nobody tries it, and is too unreflective and self-absorbed to realize this. In other words, it’s bratty. And that’s bad enough.
I’m not defending political libertarianism, but any attack on it should pertain also to the orders-of-magnitude greater impact of authoritarianism in actual practice. Political libertarianism may “prosper so long as nobody tries it.” But state capitalism and authoritarianism is a fucking global bloodbath with an adjacent network of gulags and an environmental disaster of spectacular proportion to boot.
The belief that this sick system is ever going to take it’s boot heel off the neck of the under-privileged is out of touch with reality. The belief that it already has is truly delusional.
Of all the unreflective, self-absorbed blindness in all of history, that of the modern western statist, left and right, is unparalleled. They are in complete possession of the facts–all the knowledge of all human history is at their disposal. Alternate points of view are staring them in the face every day and these points of view are continually gaining traction as the tottering giant of western civilization continues it’s bloody collapse. Still, given all this, they cling to the state and beg it to deliver them from the injustices and problems caused by the state.
It truly boggles the mind.
I’m actually sorry that Paul caved on the question of the Civil Rights Act, because if he’d stuck to his guns, we could have had a debate about the correct remedies, past, present and future, for the enduring legacy of legal discrimination against black people.
I’m sorry too. I get a psychologically-unhealthy pleasure from watching statists attempt to get the state to legislate against oppressive aspects of the state while ignoring the fact that ditching the whole oppressive apparatus would alleviate the need to try to fix it. Or, put another way, taken from the sidebar (not sure if there’s a permalink to this sort of thing) of already-multiply-linked-to IOZ:
I can see how some of this might be confusing for some of ya’ll. . .because I mean, the laws were there and they were bad to begin with. . .and we must never have such bad laws. . .therefore we must have better, more equitable, less racist laws? WHY DON’T YOU STOP ENFORCING STUPID FUCKING SHIT? how about that? why is that not the simplest and best argument? ENFORCE NOTHING. JUST FUCKING STOP. it actually is that breathtakingly simple.