Libertarianism vs. the Totalizing State…

…is Bambi vs. Godzilla, according to the redoubtable Mike Flynn, who offers a fine little essay on the long-term prospects of the State really achieving the goal of micro-managing your toilet and dominating your light bulb choices and coping with flash mobs, Al quaida-like goons, and the rise of the Lilliputians.

The future looks…. challenging.

  • Paulus Magnus

    I will never understand the faux-conservative whining about energy and other resource efficiency regulations.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    So anything beneficial must be made mandatory by the omnicompetent state? What ever happened to the liberalism of the old days, that it has turned into apologia for absolute monarchy?

    • Paulus Magnus

      What’s wrong with absolute monarchy? The Papacy and the Papal States before are one after all.

      That aside: Does the sovereign have the duty, and with it the right to legislate as needed, to preserve the natural resources of his nation, such as water aquifers, for the benefit of the commonwealth? The answer is undoubtedly yes.

      Whether anything beneficial must be made mandatory is simply a red herring: That is not what has been proposed. What has been enacted is a simple commercial regulation, well within the historical rights and duties of sovereigns, that restricts or prevents the sale of products not meeting certain efficiency regulations, so as to protect and aid that which is already in the sovereign care for the commonwealth (such as water reserves and the electrical grid).

      • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

        What’s wrong with hereditary dictatorship? The monarch’s dull children.

        • Paulus Magnus

          So go elective. The papacy, for instance, is an absolute elective monarchy.

        • Martial Artist

          Or worse, the monarch’s spoiled tyrannical children.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Except the sovereign’s care for the resources of the commonwealth always seem to translate into special privileges for the nobility. The lord’s hunting preserve kept out poachers because the poachers were the poor common folk.

        • Paulus Magnus

          Sin and injustice, in *my* reality? Perish the thought!

      • str

        The Vatican City State is indeed an absolute monarchy, but the Church is emphatically not. For starters, it is not a monarchy but an oligarchy. And given that the top man in charge is not free to do whatever he pleases or even simply to change anything he likes, the papacy is the most non-absolutist institution around.

  • http://mondayevening.wordpress.com/ Marcel

    No, it’s not what has been proposed. It’s what has been done, incrementally, over the last hundred years as well-meaning people have given the government more and more power. Hope you like the result better than I do.

    • Martial Artist

      You are hoping for the wrong end. ‘Twould be better to hope that others liked the result even less than do you. (Yes, yes, I know, you were being facetious.)

  • Lisa

    Mark,

    I appreciate this, but you are sort of missing the boat here.

    What we really need is a vigorous, honest debate about how Catholic Social Teaching impacts and is involved in all of this. There is a huge wing of the Catholic church- including some bishops – who seem to believe that the expanding state is the best application of CST. This is the argument of the liberals at America and Commonweal, for example. And Vox Nova, of course. Why don’t you engage them in a substantive way?

  • Matt Talbot

    Libertarianism is great, and good common sense…for a different world than the one we actually inhabit.
    We live in a world where one corporation (ExxonMobile) made more in *profits* last year than the most populous state (California) took in in total revenue.
    “Big government” per se isn’t the goal of New Deal types like myself: it is a recognition that, in a world where giant corporations wield enormous power, there needs to be some counter-balancing power, accountable to the citizens, to restrain the worst tendencies of these corporations.
    In a world where the majority of the population lives in villages or on farms, where every need of the population (and every complain *by* the population) can be addressed by people personally known (and accountable) to the population, then sure, having a big government would be an intrusive absurdity. In the world into which all of us were born, it is the only institution capable of ensuring justice.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      It is hardly ExxonMobile’s fault that the lords of California have been so profligate while at the same time driving job-producers out of state.

      • Matt Talbot

        Maybe, maybe not: that doesn’t really get at the point of my comment though, does it?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You complained that one corporation (ExxonMobile) made more money than another (California). That may have more to do with frugality and prudence than with Secret Masters of the Universe.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            I don’t think he complained. I know he asserted. What bias might cause such confusion?

            I think he’s pointing out we ought to be afraid of both, and that we ought to be pitting them one against the other, rather than them uniting against us all.

            • Matt Talbot

              Pretty much, yeah.
              Don’t want big government? Fine. Remove the need for it.

              • Ted Seeber

                Exactly my thought. My suggestion- rescind Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution, and make interstate trade the responsibility of the individual states, not Congress. Then protect your borders by banning out-of-state ownership of real estate.

                THEN, when we’ve broken up big business into manageable chunks, the States can start suing for their 10th Amendment rights again.

                • Hezekiah Garrett

                  Ted Seeber,

                  I’d vote for you, so get old enough to run, man! I bet the first Asperger* president would rock!

                  But in truth I just like your policy recommendations!!!

                  *I don’t know how to spell it, its never interfered with Pt treatment so I’ve never needed to document it, and frankly, I pronounce it ‘ass burgers’ just because its easier.

                  • Hezekiah Garrett

                    Also, Ascites, the distended abdomen which follows cirrhosis of the liver, I remember as “ass kites”, lest you think ‘ass burgers’ is just a slur. Its a mnemonic, kind of. I’m weird. If anyone might understand, I bet its you.

              • http://twitter.com/FriarRJohn Robert Lennon

                I’m not sure if a government of a certain “size” (that is, direct influence on the daily lives and actions of citizens) necessarily means a check on large/powerful/moneyed businesses. At the end of the day, the lobbyist and the politician go to the same parties, know the same people, sometimes *are* the same people, all in a little world outside the experiences of most citizens. And so we get a large regulatory program, but directed in such a way to enhance the opportunities of established powers, and squash the creation of any competitors.

              • Martial Artist

                I agree absolutely. That is what those who are somewhat misleadingly called, or even self-describe as, anarcholibertarians, advocate. I am not sure they are entirely in error.

                Keith Töpfer

      • Paulus Magnus

        If we’re busy driving out job producers, why is it that half of all American venture capital investment is in the state of California?

      • Dan C

        This is an odd comment, considering that a libertarian would think that California is too big anyway and that there seems no need to regulate such a benificent entity as Exxon. Libertarians genuflect in front of corporations as their gods, as the ultimate “person” whose rights need protecting.

        I fear big corporations. Conservatives and libertarians elevate them to the level of demi-gods above communities, and as a witness to neighboring Pennsylvania’s enthrallment to its new religion of “fracking” and gas extraction, I am watching the good ol’ boys just sell out any community for these corporations. Conservatives have no shame to the corporate masters to whom they are beholden and libertarians are pretending to be blond and deaf to the presence of the disgrace these titans create.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Blonde and deaf?

          • Dan C

            Oh my. That is quite the error. And entertaining.

        • Martial Artist

          @Dan C,

          You sir, display a level of ignorance of how broad the field of libertarianism is that is breathtakingly comprehensive. I can only suspect that you are confusing the Objectivist libertarians, with those of us who are Christian, and particularly those of us who are Catholic Christians. With a misunderstanding of that scale you might as well cast belief systems in terms of left and right. Your categorization borders on name-calling.

          Pax et bonum,
          Keith Töpfer

    • Michael

      Corporations are a creature of the state. They are powerful because the state, their patron and protector, is powerful. They would not have it any other way.

      • Ted Seeber

        In America, Corporations are a Creature of Article I Sections 8 & 10, and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, and are far more powerful than any mere State.

    • Martial Artist

      @Matt Talbot
      You write ““Big government” per se isn’t the goal of New Deal types like myself: it is a recognition that, in a world where giant corporations wield enormous power, there needs to be some counter-balancing power, accountable to the citizens, to restrain the worst tendencies of these corporations,” and ““…it is the only institution capable of ensuring justice.”

      The problems with your argument are (at least three), namely:

      In the first instance, government as it exists in modern democracies such as the U.S., doesn’t restrain or counterbalance corporate power, it caters to them, often in the name of “strengthening the economy” or “creating jobs.” It subsidizes some and simultaneously penalizes others, with the waste of resources that Austrian-school economics predicts.

      In the second instance, this nation has been gradually, but steadily, departing from the strict enforcement of the Rule of Law and of property rights. Again, with readily expectable results.

      In the third instance, it has been increasingly the case during the 60+ years of my life that government has, gradually but steadily, become less capable of ensuring justice, and become more and more the source of instantiating new injustices. I will not bother with a laundry list of examples of this transformation, but can cite numerous instances if you doubt the assertion.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

      • Matt Talbot

        Martial Artist – the thing is, if the government too much serves the interests of the powerful, then in a democratic system the onus is on the people to insist on reform. If you shrink the government down to something that would have Grover Norquist declaring victory, then there would be no institution with even the potential power to challenge the power of institutional greed in the country.
        What you seem to be eliding is this: Capitalism, absent some restraints, always concentrates power and wealth in a smaller and smaller slice of the top of the economic ladder. Economic rightists of the Norquist ilk oppose any and all measures that stand any chance of restraining said power: Unions, the ability of citizens to file the kind of lawsuits that will get the attention of corporations, any government regulation or interference beyond things like contract enforcement and, well, keeping the starving rioters away from the plutocrats’ estates.

  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    Anyone who doesn’t see that Western Civilization is in decline isn’t paying attention. The times, they are a changin.

    That being said, I rarely take the prognosticators too seriously. They miss the mark more often than not. The reality of the future will probably seem both entirely familiar and stranger than anyone could have predicted.

  • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

    PYTHON

    The snake began to squeeze our chests so long ago
    That history had just begun, the state to grow,
    Uruk of the pyramid, Memphis the White Wall
    Sparta, Athens, Macedon, Rome before the fall

    Mongolia and China, Imperial Japan
    A python more than ten feet long is stronger than a man,
    The serpent squeezes harder, the lungs begin to fail
    The larger is imperium, the python grows in scale

    Germany and Russia, Stalin in his prime
    Around the ribs of nations the snake begins to climb,
    But now it is so powerful there is no place to hide
    For such a great constrictor can squeeze from the inside

    Pavel
    April 7, 2012

  • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

    To post on Flynn’s site you need some kind of social media I.D., a commentary on the subject.

  • Mark Windsor
  • Ted Seeber

    Why must the only answer to atheist statism be atheist libertarianism? Are monarchies with theocratic oversight really so bad (well, King Henry VIII thought so, and that’s why he did away with the theocratic oversight, but one would hardly place King Henry VIII in a position of virtue).

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      While A.D.Lindsay wrote in The Modern Democratic State
      “It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state.”
      in the final analysis, the kings had all the guns. Despite the appearance of power — and the Modern Ages have been the Ages of Naked Power par excellance — the Church power crumbled when it became a matter of arms. The same will be true of business corporations. In the end, they field no armies. Armies are a wasting asset; hence, not an attractive investment for a company invested in assembling medical devices or automobiles or in producing package tours to attractive sites. When the government sends the Men With Guns, the corporation folds. Heck, they often fold in the face of otherwise toothless street theater. Greed. It’s cheaper to settle than to fight. When the German National Socialists seized control of business, only a handful of CEOs fled the country. The others tugged the forelock and settled.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Um, Mr Peabody, among others, proved himself perfectly willing to invest in armies.

        You didn’t neglect recent history when delving into the past, did you, Mr Flynn?

      • Dan C

        Your precious corporations will not “fold.” They will more brazenly own the armies. The US military acts as a security force for corporate interests, in Central America in one decade, and in the Middle East in another decade. That Africa has oil should come as no surprise to anyone watching troop relocation to that continent. The US has discharged its military based on corporate interests for centuries now.

        You remain in the thrall of private wealth and private property as libertarians invaribly are, suggesting it comes from a “love of freedom.” Your desperate desire to protect the materialist corporate entities which exist and function for greed is not supportive of an ethical system in line with Christianity. Libertarianism and the love of private property and that seemingly perfect chimeric mix of private property and legal entity termed the corporation remains in thrall to a sense of freedom rejecting community, sacrifice, and commitment. As a philosophy, libertarianism is committed to freedom signified by materialist determinations no less than Marxism. The only difference is arguing over who gets control of the goodies.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          When has the US discharged its military in pursuit of corporate interest prior to 1813?

          I’m not arguing, just curious.

          • Dan C

            Many of the original revolutionaries in the War were smugglers and privateers acting for their own corporate good. Arnold definitely, and others.

            The military was definitely involved in annexation of Native territory for private interest from the days of the gloriously small government Articles of the Confederation.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              No, they were acting on their private good. I don’t dispute any of your examples, nor that they were horrendous, even especially the last.

              But I must insist we distinguish between and individual and a corporation. They may be equally bad things to launch military might over, but they are not the same.

              • Dan C

                These “individual intersts” were not small entities, with boats and crew and shipping enterprises and investors.

                • Hezekiah Garrett

                  This is where we differ. I do not oppose corporations because they are large and powerful, but because they are not men.

                  At one time in your nation’s history, the 2 wealthiest men on this continent were private citizens of my nation. Neither held any power in our nation, and outside their own farms, they were each just another Cherokee man.

                  Of course, one of the 2 went on to treat, illegally, with your government, leading to our final western march (so far! You’ll find another reason to covet half of Oklahoma with time.) So apparently in your nation, he was powerful because he was wealthy. But in ours, he was just The Ridge. Until he became The Traitor.

                  Then he just became dead.

                  • str

                    Others might profit from your explanation if it were not worded in so incomprehensible a manner! Who and when?

                    • Hezekiah Garrett

                      The 1820′s and 1830′s. John Vann and Major Ridge, Cherokee men, were both possessed of wealth in excess of The 1st 4 presidents of the US combined, if memory serves. They both acted in noble service to their nation as young men in executing our Principal Chief, Doublehead, for alienating the land (one of only two capital crimes at the time, alienating the land involved selling it for personal profit, and without the consent of the whole nation.)

                      Ironically, a couple of decades later, Ridge led the party of private citizens of the Cherokee Nation who presented themselves to delegates of the US as legitimate representatives of the Nation, even as our President, John Ross, demonstrated amply that they possessed no authority to treat on our behalf. They signed a treaty previously rejected by the Nation (it would have been accepted, had Jackson not struck out the one nonnegotiable provision, that any Cherokee wishing to stay as an American citizen would be given 160 acres of our land as personal property.) This treaty, the one at New Echota, led to the court cases and intrigue and eventually the Trail of Tears.

                      Ridge left within 6 months to claim his new land in Oklahoma, travelling by steam ship and wagon to build a finer mansion than the Cheiftains, the home he left behind.

                      It took the nation a couple of years and a lot of walking at gunpoint to catch up to him. As soon as they did, he and a few others who led the Ridge party, were executed, again for alienating the land.

                      We didn’t take his stuff, we didn’t redistribute his wealth. We carried out justice under our laws and left it at that.

                • Hezekiah Garrett

                  Shorter answer: a community can censure, even ostracize, an avaricious man. What social correction can effectively be administered to a corporation?

        • Noah D

          Dan, you may want to read more of Mr. Flynn’s writing.

        • Mark Shea

          I think you’ve misread YOS if you take him for a libertarian. I’d familiarize myself with more of his work if I were you, Dan.

      • str

        “When the German National Socialists seized control of business, only a handful of CEOs fled the country. ”

        Why should they have fled. Given that the Nazis did not seize control of business (and Hitler had promised some business chiefs that), they had no reason to flee. Unless they were Jewish, of course, but few were!

        Get yourself some knowledge before putting out stuff like that!

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          One can seize control of business, without taking ownership of any of them.

          You might wish to broaden your own knowledge, buddy.

    • Martial Artist

      Ted Seeber,

      Your comment seems to assume that there is no variety of libertarianism which is other than atheist. This is a breathtakingly stunning assertion. Much of what people refer to as libertarianism is fully compatible with Catholic Christianity. That which is not is rejected by not only myself, but by all of the Catholic libertarians with whom I am acquainted.

      Perhaps it would be better if we avoided the use of labels and spoke rather of the principles which we apply to specific issues, inasmuch as there are a plethora of labels which we commonly apply to others based on their ideas, many of which labels create more confusion than understanding.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • Dan C

    But more than one century, even if fractionally, is plural.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Good point. I could list any number of examples before 1911.

  • j. blum

    Corporations don’t find armies profitable? Blackwater-Xe? What about air forces and bavies? Boeing, Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics…

  • str

    It’s hard to take a piece seriously which starts out with nonsense like “medieval times … preferred its kings weak and nominal”. And the “divine right of kings” (a term used only in early-modern England) was the development a medieval idea.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Divine Right theory, being first proposed by Bodin, could not possibly have been medieval in origin, as he was born in the latter days of the Reformation. And do you really think coronets and barons wanted strong bosses? Do you, really? I wouldn’t.

      Perhaps Mr Flynn could write another essay putting Divine Right in its proper place among earlier theories, demonstrating his claims?