Being Libertarian Perspectives will serve as a weekly, multi-perspective opinion and analysis piece by members of Being Libertarian’s writing team. Every week the panel, comprised of randomly selected writers, will answer a question based on current events or libertarian philosophy. Assistant Editor Dillon Eliassen will moderate and facilitate the discussion.
On May 24, RawStory.com published “Here are 11 questions you can ask Libertarians to see if they are hypocrites.” Designed as a series of gotcha questions, what these questions and their premises highlight is that the author is completely unfamiliar with the tenets that comprise libertarian philosophy. Nevertheless, we here at Being Libertarian decided to take Richard Eskow, and by extension RawStory.com, seriously and answer his questions. We know much if not all of the answers to these questions will seem obvious to Being Libertarian’s audience…that’s why we have decided to submit this rebuttal to rawstory.com, and encourage our readers to tweet it at RawStory, and to share on your Facebook pages to help sway your friends and associates who look down upon, or remain on the fence about joining the liberty movement. Below is part 3 of 3.
- Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?
Michael D Vellian: Corporations do not have a monopoly on legal aggression that government has, and so can not threaten freedom and liberty like government can. Corporations would solely rely on voluntary interactions to create revenue if they could not lobby government for favorable treatment. Thanks to government lending its monopolistic powers to its “clients,” corporations are far more powerful than they would otherwise be. With real competition, the giant corporations that scare anti-capitalists so much would be far smaller. The free market allows people to boycott corporations that engage in practices they disagree with, something impossible to do against government. The free market provides much better checks and balances to corporations than what exists now with government. Not only would corporations be smaller in a libertarian system they would be less of a threat to our freedom.
What is frustrating about answering this question is that leftists/statists begin from the premise that government is a benevolent parent making sure children don’t fight, while simultaneously providing for them. And while corporations are not perfect angels, they at least produce a service or commodity that raises the standard of living of their consumers and provides employment opportunities. While corporations could have some unfair and nefarious business practices it doesn’t mean they all do, and they certainly can not compete with government when it comes to denying citizens their rights; corporations did not secede from the Union to protect slavery, nor enact or enforce Jim Crow laws, nor inter Japanese-Americans, and though some corporations may pollute the environment with seeming impunity, they are not responsible for drone strikes that kill terrorists and innocent bystanders alike, nor genocides, nor the firebombing of Dresden.
- Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?
Neil McGettigan: Though they have a respect for Ayn Rand, not all libertarians follow her philosophy and do not share her fundamental objections to altruism. However, as someone who considers himself a follower of her philosophy, I feel the need to defend her ideas. There is Ayn Rand the philosopher, and there is Ayn Rand the Bogeyman who Salon writers check under their beds for every night. Ayn Rand the philosopher said that man is an end in himself, and thus his own happiness is the highest and noble goal. Rand praised productive efforts as heroic worthy of worship; the men and women who create and build deserve reverence, especially when they do it for their own pleasure. Most of the greatest artists, entrepreneurs, writers, inventors etc. pursue their activities not with mankind’s best interests in mind but out of a desire to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The “parasites” in Ayn Rand’s novels are those who do not act to raise their own self-esteem, but live to be held in esteem by others, like the hack artist who has no passion for his/her work and only creates for public accolades, like a writer who doesn’t write about subjects that he cares about, but endeavors to write only so he can brag to others and win their admiration. Ayn Rand’s problem with altruism is that its motivating factor is to define a person’s worth based on the assessments of others, not of their own fulfillment of selfish happiness. Here, “selfish” does not mean “greedy.” Rand was critical of those who allow their goals and life to be directed by and for others. This creates a society of inauthentic people, because they are faced with the constant guilt that they aren’t doing enough for others, that every time they pursue their own ends they have to shout that they aren’t doing it for themselves. Altruism doesn’t make people better; it creates a class of people who must surrender their will to those who declare themselves leaders of the people, and so dictate what is moral and acceptable behavior.
Ayn Rand wrote “those who fight for the future live in it today.” Rand wasn’t against activism, she participated in it from time to time throughout her life. Many people inspired by her write blogs and engage in public policy to make a better world for themselves, and so, by extension, the people they love and care about. Dr. King is an American icon that nearly every political movement has claimed fellowship with. He marched for a better world and wanted a society where he and his children could be treated as equal citizens. Yes, it is selfish to want to live in a better world, and it is rational to pursue it.
I have no problem with going against the grain by criticizing Gandhi. There are many libertarians that claim fellowship with Gandhi because of his praises for peace yet ignore that his vision for India wasn’t a Western liberal one, but one with a Hindu caste system. While King tried destroying the caste system of the American South, Gandhi fought the British Colonials so that India could once again be ruled by a religious aristocracy. His legacy is seen today by the political Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India through most its independence. That dynasty is one that has pocketed billions of dollars for itself, and includes the tyrant Indira Gandhi who silenced and arrested dissidents and forced the sterilization of millions of Indians for the “greater good.” Gandhi’s vision of India was one that was kept purposely poor and technologically backwards in order to be authentic, where people made their own clothes, grew food only for their own substance and shunned Western technology. Only now, seventy years later, is India starting to catch up with modernity. China, which suffered under Maoism, is ahead of them because it didn’t have a ruling class of luddites. When you see pictures of starving children in Calcutta it’s not because of your MacBook overcharging or that $10 t-shirt you bought; it’s because to high ranking Indian politicians and intellectuals (and their apologists in the west) wanted feudalism and a nation free of meddling merchants and their western luxuries that would spoil a pristine society of toiling peasants ruled by idle priests, who, of course, cared about the greater good and lived for others.
- If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?
Neil McGettigan: Libertarianism should be dead because the “Market of Ideas” said so? Didn’t the market once say vinyl is dead, long live the CD and MP3? Unlike government programs, the market of ideas evolves and changes, and some intellectual trends like fashion are repackaged and rebranded and become popular again decades or so after their supposed extinction. Just add “Neo” in front of any -ism and it’s brand new! I don’t think an “Argument From Consensus,” which is basically a democratic form of the “Argument From Authority,” is a good way to determine the truth. If a majority of Americans vote for Trump this November it does not mean his ideas are true; they are just popular. If anything, “Argument From Consensus” undermines the case for socialism. While obsessing over the homogenous populations of social democratic Scandinavia, which barely has a quarter of the population of the United States, progressives ignore that a billion people in Asia have risen out of abject poverty in the last quarter century thanks to market oriented reforms. While not true capitalism, these improvements in standards of living didn’t occur when most of the continent was embracing ideological extreme versions of Marxism, or even more moderate strains of socialism in India. It is a sign of nervousness that progressives have to cite the post-war statist consensus. After all, I thought the world had been conquered by Neo-Liberal Consensus; shouldn’t we ask “Why do you still hold any faith in socialist programs when they are collapsing all over the globe?”