I posted something yesterday about some progressives using dehumanizing language about libertarians, and sadly the comments appearing at the bottom provided tangible examples of what I was talking about in vague terms. Just as I’m sure such comments have not changed the mind of any libertarian, they have not changed my mind either, but quite the opposite.
I want to take my opportunity to explain my own position better.
My own problem with libertarianism is this: it’s too optimistic about human nature. It’s all rooted in the ideas of primitivists like Rousseau, who thought if you only let children free they will automatically grow to be good people. Libertarians feel that if you let the society free, it will do good on its own, private charities will take care of the poor, that the process of (or the evolution of) competing forces is filter enough to make sure the society goes on. Make that a bit more optimistic and you will have a specific form of anarchism, that all people as free agents will be able to create security and prosperity for themselves if you only leave them be.
So I completely agree with the phrase that commenter Ed used for this ideology – it’s a naive utopia. It’s naive because it’s based on a simplistic view of human nature, it’s utopia because it seeks to found a perfect society based on few principles.
There are many things to respect in that point of view at the same time. I think the strong opposition to power is something very apparent in libertarian mindset and something to be respected an encouraged. However, I disagree with reducing power into government. All social institutions can be powerful, and if you leave any of them unchecked, they will grow to be too powerful. If the government is too weak, the market will become a dictator (signs of which are the fact that some banks are too big to fail and can’t be prosecuted, etc).
I understand that libertarians are going to say “But Kaveh, we don’t support big corporations as well. We want a small government AND a competitive market and big corporations are an anathema to that”.
Again, I find that view too simplistic. You need big government to rein in corporations or they will grow big. And the duality between market and government is wrong, there are many other institutions that can grow and become autocratic when the government is weakened – gangs, the mafia, religious bodies, tribal leaders, etc.
And of course, the government itself can easily grow too big as well. We have that in Iran. The economy is shared by the military, the institutions attached to the office of Supreme Leader, and the executive branch. People can get rich only by taking part in some limited forms of service industries, or mostly by buying and selling stuff again. This has not worked well for us. Plus, Iran’s economy is based on oil, and the government owns the oil, and the government is the biggest employer and the biggest spender and it’s in debt up to its throat and it’s massively corrupt.
So, it’s not like free market and small government are issues that we can just toss out of the window. A good human society is the one which has moderate libertarians who are a part of the big debate. Iran needs to move towards a more libertarian vision. The United States needs to move towards a more socialist one, and that is completely true in both cases. If there are too big to fail banks and the corporations and the big business have too much power in the western world, they’re nonexistent here.
This is part of the problem. Libertarianism is a philosophy. It has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist forever. It has taken too many forms and it will continue to take many forms. And it spans around the entire globe. Not only British libertarians are much more rational and play a major good role, Iranian libertarians could be considered socialists by your standards. A majority of them do support socialized healthcare and multiple welfare programs. And don’t say they’re not real libertarians, they are, because they have the same basic principles and values, but have different policy decisions.
Even if libertarianism is as uniformly terrible and radicalized in the United States as you claim it is you cannot reduce that topic into a specific movement, because it is historical and global by nature.
The same goes for Marxism. Marxism is a very valuable ideology, with all of its flaws (being authoritarian one of them), and we can’t brush away the importance of great thinkers like Marx himself or Gramsci or Althusser because of their flaws or the radicalism of those like Stalin and Pol Pot.
But most importantly, the majority of those who supported Marxism were great people, people concerned with equality and justice, intellectuals with a desire for change.
Simplistic and insulting treatment of libertarians is false and wrong. Let me quote some of those comments that were simply too hateful.
Libertarians who knowingly embrace the economic policies of libertarianism are vile, disgusting, miserable excuses for human beings. So, the choices are some combination of staggeringly ignorant, self absorbed and sheltered, or evil.
To me, “Libertarian” is now very much an insult. When I say someone is a “Big-L” libertarian I mean they are at the least a crank and, given the ideas and the most noted Big-Ls, likely to be a racist and Randian – and always a complete and total hypocrite (far, far more so than the average human, like myself, so definitely is.)
Haha sorry but libertarians are basically the worst kinds of people, and deserve the least sympathy for their lack of regard for their fellow man. It’s not my fault they willingly follow an anti-humanist ideology!
Their ideology is based on selfishness and ignorance. They would supplant democracy with an oligarchic corporate feudalism… I have known only a few evil people, perhaps eight or ten. Of these people, over half were libertarians.
Libertarians, generally speaking, are naive, selfish and close minded. On line Libertarians display characteristics of kind yiou would expect to see from members of a cult. And their famous catchcry “taxation is theft”…only a selfish moron would utter these words and believe them true.
Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re people with strong values who are not selfish, who don’t want to destroy the poor, who are very much concerned with the idea of democracy, but they disagree with you. When I said “claim a monopoly” on being good, I meant that.
Plus, since I have libertarians posting on my blog, comments like these directly violates this rule of my commenting policy:
You may never attack other commenters personally. You can criticize their ideas, as vehemently as you want, you can use humor if you like, but, their personality is off-limits. Don’t make assumptions about what people know, on people’s intelligence, on their morals, or their personality. You don’t know them. Even if you did know them, this is not the place to use that knowledge.
Saying “What you say is wrong and irrational” is OK, saying “You are stupid” is not.
Saying “This position of yours is morally reprehensible” is OK, saying “You’re an asshole douchebag for having this position”, is not.
You can address what other people say, not who they are.
If you do this, first I will ask you to refrain, then I will delete your comment, then I will ban you.
So, all of you can consider yourself forewarned. This is your first warning. If you’re interested in commenting here, you cannot use such abusive and hateful language about hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
Basically, the position that “everyone who holds this position is evil” is false. It’s lazy and easy, because you can dismiss the person without addressing the position, because you can easily exile these people and make sure their voice is not heard. It means that there are simply no good reasons to hold a specific position, it means that it is OK to stop listening to specific people and shield them from the public discourse, because no decent person would ever say that. It’s a way to end the discussion rather than beginning one.
What would you do if you lived in Iran? If your political opponents were supportive of a strict execution of sharia law and the continuation of a theocratic state?
Even they are not evil. There are many purely evil people inside the regime, and many evil people supporting them, but I would still never allow myself to generalize. Some of these people are really decent kind and god-fearing (in all the positive sense of this wretched word and concept) folks. Many of them really and genuinely think that the regime is the representative of Allah and the very definition of good.
And I’ve always benefited from talking to these people, to make them open up.
In the same thread, many commenters stuck to the criticism of ideas rather than people, who opened a dialogue rather than closing it. Among these people the strongest language was used by Sally Strange, and sometimes her conclusions were too harsh (in my opinion), but she did criticize positions and philosophies rather than resorting into character assassination, and this is all I ask. I’m using her as an example to make it clear that I’m not necessarily asking for “polite” arguments, but substantive, non-ad hominem ones.
I’ll consider that previous thread dead and forgotten. But if you use my platform to insult your ideological opponents again, using abusive language, (that includes conservatives, Tea Party advocates, Muslims, Christians, progressives, etc) I will ban you, because you are not welcome here.
As I’ve said in my comment policy: “The ultimate aim of this blog is to create for the readers an opportunity to contrast my views with yours, and to decide for him/herself what is the truth.”
Thank you very much for your understanding. Goodbye.