Yves here. It is all too easy to goad libertarians, since their ideas are internally conflicted and they get prickly when you point out the flaws in their dogma. Theyd like to get rid of the state as much as possible, and pretend that people and businesses can deal with each other fairly based on contracts. But they ignore how numerous factors (such as network effects, economies of scale, and barriers to entry) mean that in many field,s businesses will have far more resources than their customers, employees and suppliers, which enables them abuse their power (there are boatloads of examples on this blog alone). Information asymmetries produce similar power imbalances.
And the reality is that the shrink the state ideology has provided perfect cover for new and improved looting. As Jayati Ghosh stated:
For much of the 20th century, it was easier to talk about an overarching socialist framework, a grand vision within which more specific debates were conducted. While there were many strands of socialism, with fierce and sometimes violent conflicts between them, they shared a common fundamental vision. At the risk of oversimplification, they all saw the working class as the fundamental agent of positive change, capable (once organized) of transforming not only existing economic relations but also the wider society and culture.
More recently, the very idea of a grand vision has been in retreat, battered first by the failings of actually existing socialism in various incarnations, and more lately by the ferocious triumphalism of an unfettered free market capitalism. Indeed, the only grand vision that dominated the late 20th century was that of the market as a self-regulating and supremely efficient mechanism for organizing economic life.
Despite the anti-government rhetoric associated with it, free market or neoliberal capitalism was never really about reducing the role of the state in economic life. Rather, it was about changing the nature of state interventionaway from its ameliorative and regulatory functions (as exemplified, in the global North, by the U.S. New Deal and western European social democracy), and towards an open defense of the interests of large capital. The close partnership of capital and the capitalist state, to quote the great Marxist theorist of the state, Ralph Miliband, was never really all that disguised. With the government responses to the global crises of the last half decade, however, it has become too overwhelming to conceal. The supposed ideology of free markets has been laid bare for all to see as a cover for the ever-greater concentration of capital, and the use of the state to accelerate that process.
By RJ Eskow, who has worked as a consultant in public policy, technology, and finance, specializing in healthcare issues. Cross posted from Alternet
Libertarians have a problem. Their political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful. And yet libertarianism retains the qualities that led to its disappearance from the public stage, before its reanimation by people like the Koch brothers: It doesnt make any sense.
They call themselves realists but rely on fanciful theories that have never predicted real-world behavior. They claim that selfishness makes things better for everybody, when history shows exactly the opposite is true. They claim that a mythical free market is better at everything than the government is, yet when they really need government protection, theyre the first to clamor for it.
Thats no reason not to work with them on areas where theyre in agreement with people like me. In fact, the unconventionality of their thought has led libertarians to be among this nations most forthright and outspoken advocates for civil liberties and against military interventions.
Merriam-Webster defines hypocrisy as feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not. We arent suggesting every libertarian is a hypocrite. But theres an easy way to find out.
RJ Eskow: 11 Questions to Ask Libertarians to See if They Are Hypocrites