A foul pestilence creepeth across the land, a plague that threatens society itself. This virulent pathogen is transmissible by word or voice, but primarily through the airwaves. I speak of the malignant cancer that is libertarianism. Much of the dogma is appealing; ending foreign wars, legalization of drugs (it brings in the youth), their seeming outrage at NSA surveillance of innocent citizens. I’m fine with all that, but it’s window dressing. Their mantra, their raison d’etre, is freedom (theirs, not necessarily yours). And to a much greater extent than with most other conservatives, these are the enemies of freedom: government, taxes, unions, and the poor, and pretty much in that order.
The central pillar of libertarianism is absolute selfishness, or as they call it, individual responsibility, which they ingested from their founding demon Goddess, Ayn Rand. They believe that if everyone acts entirely in their own self-interest, some kind of magical free market fairy dust will sort everything out. The main obstacle is government, and its pesky regulation of industry and commerce, which they call coersion. Government should consist merely of the military, police, and the courts. Everything else is better and cheaper in the hands of the private sector, which is to say, big corporations. Who needs the EPA or the FDA? We can trust the safety of our air, water, and food to the tender mercies of the fossil fuel and chemical industries, who are not accountable to you or me and can’t be voted out. We shall encounter this kind of absurdist logic frequently as we move along.
It’s all about individual choices you make, and the consequences. Apparently no one is ever allowed to make a bad decision. So if your job of 27 years is suddenly shipped to China, and you’re over 50 so no one will hire you, well then it’s your own fault. You should have chosen to work for a company that would never offshore. Now go and die like a dog in the gutter.
A local radio station, KIRO 97.3 FM, has a bevy of libertarians, including the aptly named Jason Rantz, just a kid, really. Someone else can show him the difference between his ass and his elbow; we want to hear from a couple of the big dogs, Dori Monson and John Curley. You’ll better understand where they’re coming from if you hear it from their own lips, in shows this past December and January. Dori’s show has good segments, but mostly it’s a series of diatribes against government, which is bad, and can’t do anything right (I guess he’s never been to a national park). The other day he was going on about light bulbs, how the government is coercing us into buying the more energy-efficient compact fluorescents. “I hate those whirly bulbs,” Dori said, then brought up the newer low-flush toilets. “Is there anything government doesn’t ruin? This is what it’s like to grow up in Cuba.” Not quite, Dori. Cuba has universal health care.
Another of his recurring themes: “We are becoming a deadbeat nation.” He’s talking about government handouts of his tax dollars (to people who probably don’t deserve it due to their bad choices) for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and the like. It’s curious that he never mentions the country’s biggest deadbeats, mega corporations like Exxon-Mobil and General Electric, who not only make billions in profits while getting government subsidies, yet pay no federal income taxes. I guess that’s okay, since taxes are evil, anyway. That’s the government taking your money and giving it to other people. Never mind what Oliver Wendell Holmes said about taxes being the price we pay to live in a functioning civil society. It’s coersion! Then Dori made an astonishing statement: “There are 11 million people on disability, and most of them aren’t even disabled!” He neglected to tell us from which orifice he pulled this information.
Last month he inveighed against the City of Seattle for wanting to raise sales tax by 1/10 of a percent, so the Metro bus could retain low ridership routes. “There’s a reason they’re low ridership,” he yelled, “Get rid of them!” Sure, because why should he give a crap if the working poor have no way to get to their low-paying jobs? They chose to be poor. Memo to Dori: you drove to work today on roads paid for by taxes — other people’s money. Doesn’t that make you a deadbeat? No, he probably pays his taxes, if reluctantly. Poor guy. The government coerces him into carrying his driver’s license and proof of insurance whenever he drives. It also infringes on his freedom to drive east in the westbound lanes.
He really hates unions: “I don’t want other people making my life decisions for me.” Last fall the State of Washington bribed Boeing to the tune of $8.7 billion to build their new 777-X here, and not move it to another state (libertarians are okay with government handouts, as long as the recipients are big corporations, and not the needy). Then Boeing turned to the machinists union and told them they were dumping their pensions for a 401K plan. It was a really bad deal, and the union turned down the contract by 67% to 33%. Dori groused at the selfishness of that 67% for putting the jobs of the 33% in jeopardy. This is what democracy looks like, Dori. Under pressure from the national union (and who knows who else) the union was forced to take another vote, which miraculously passed with 51%. It seems coersion isn’t a problem for libertarians either, at least when it’s applied to unions.
He denounced the City of Seattle again for considering a $15 an hour minimum wage. “They want to be paid more for doing the same work?” he wailed. Yet last year, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney received a total compensation of $27.5 million, an increase of 20% over his 2012 earnings. What — for doing the same work? What a deadbeat!
Oh, and then there was the little girl! Dori loved this story about an 11-year-old girl in Portland, OR. She needed braces, and she was helping her family pay for them by selling mistletoe at one of the local (free?) markets last December. You know, the old bootstraps theory, as if everyone had the very same opportunites. Oh, but then the mean old government shut her down for not having a permit. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? Oh, but then some guy who owns a Christmas tree farm heard about the girl’s plight, and donated $1000 to her cause. Well oh, Dori was just about tickled to death, but wait a minute. Didn’t this little girl accept a handout without doing anything to earn it? Why, that little deadbeat.
He often has guests with whom he disagrees, and he’s always respectful to them. The rest of the time, though, he refers to those with opposing views — especially liberals — as “brain dead morons.” Let me add that his calling undocumented workers “illegals” is just plain offensive, and shows the lack of humanity found all too often in libertarian thinking. I used to listen to Dori’s show 20 years ago, and don’t remember him being like this. He often mentions his difficulty sleeping, and I think I can guess why. There’s a good guy inside trying to get out.
John Curley’s show, “Tom and Curley,” is much less political, and a lot more fun. Co-host Tom Tangney is an obvious progressive, and the two work well together. Curley is really a pretty funny guy, if a lot of his humor is passive aggressive. His views are sprinkled in from time to time: “No one owes anything to anyone,” “Science has shown that if you pay people not to work, they tend not to work,” “Obamacare is a kind of communal property,” “The minimum wage should be zero.” I just love irony, don’t you? Curley does a dynamite James Stewart, and the KIRO staff put on a radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It was very good, and Curley nailed the George Bailey part. So I wonder if he caught what Clarence the angel said at the end: “Strange, isn’t it, how every man’s life touches so many other lives.” It completely, to use Sarah Palin’s term, refudiates that whole libertarian me- myself-and-I mentality. I suppose Curley would just say, “That was just a play.”
We see delusional thinking throughout libertarian philosophy. Take social programs, for example. They believe government has no business helping the poor, that’s a job for charities. But the total amount contributed by charities in 2013 was about $ 5 billion (IRS figures), and the food stamp program alone runs over $80 billion. It’s utopianism, or a form of magical thinking, when you believe things because you want them to be true. All complete kaka, blather, industrial strength bat guano. Ayn Rand said she didn’t believe in the existence of society, it’s just a collection of individuals. That’s as crazy as my saying I don’t believe in the human body; it’s just a collection of cells. But you know, every one of those cells must work with the others to keep the body strong and healthy. If just one cell reads Atlas Shrugged and decides to go off and do its own thing, we call that cancer. From Ayn Rand to Rand Paul to Paul Ryan; we can see how the disease replicates itself. Fortunately, there is an antidote for this infection — a fully functioning cerebral cortex, and with it the ability for critical thought.
Here’s the kind of libertarian thinking that has infected the populace, and it concerns Obamacare. I’ve heard elderly men call in on radio shows and complain that their health care plan forces them to have maternity coverage, and they’re never going to have a baby. Or a woman calls in, asking why she should have to carry prostate coverage. They just don’t get it. The bigger the pool of the insured, the lower the costs to all of us. But they are unable to think in the context of a greater societal good. I’ve searched diligently, and the only instance I can find of a workable libertarian society is Robinson Crusoe, and then only before Friday came along. From that point forward it was a society.
I’ve been wondering, too, who was the first libertarian? You could make a case for Ebenezer Scrooge. When asked about the poor, his answer was “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” But I really think the first may have been Cain. “And the LORD said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?” So there you have it — libertarianism as the metaphorical mark of Cain. If I seem overly harsh in my condemnation of these vermin, it’s because I find their ideology reprehensible. Right now most Americans are under incredible pressure, and it’s understandable for the survival instinct to push people towards selfishness. The very last thing we need is some gospel of infantile self-gratification. It’s hypocritical, anti-social, and profoundly un-American. This worldview is especially attractive to the sociopathic personality, as acting entirely in one’s own self interest is simplified by the lack of conscience or empathy for others. Something else just occurred to me, too. I don’t remember ever meeting a poor libertarian. They all seem to have reached a fair amount of success. From such a high perch, it’s so easy to look down on the less fortunate.
Alright, I say if libertarians don’t want to pay their taxes, they don’t have to. Give them a special IRS exemption. In return, though, they cannot use any public service, from libraries to bus service. They’ll have to lay in their own plumbing, electricity and phone lines, as well as hiring private police and fire. No driving on our roads, either. If these people want to be an island, maybe they should move to a damned island. Better yet, they can go to the closest thing to a libertarian paradise, Somalia. They won’t have to worry about burdensome government regulations stifling their entrepreneurial spirit there. The rest of us have a society to rebuild. That’s us as in we, as in We the People. Please note that both ‘we’ and ‘people’ are plural, not singular.