why i’m no longer a libertarian
These type of posts are so fun, right? It seems everyone these days writes with an attitude that says, “I’m important. Read what I have to say, not because it’s that informative, clever, or artistic, but simply because I said it. Me.”
Someday I too hope to avoid this attitude. But this is my blog and you clicked on it. And please, don’t leave.
What follows is a brief synopsis of my fundamental problems with Libertarianism. More can and should be written, I am sure. But since this is my lunch break… let’s go!
–Why I Am No Longer a Libertarian–
I became a libertarian in college (doesn’t everyone?). Like most people who were raised conservative, I had a basis of principles which came from my religion, the area I grew up in, and my natural pride in my country and heritage. Mix in a little education (especially in basic economics) at a conservative school, a little independence, and a little dissatisfaction with the useless candidates and idiotic governance produced by the Democrat-Republican paradigm and voila, we have a little libertarian hell-raiser.
I voted for the candidates; read all the favorites: Rothbard, Von Mises, Ayn Rand, Cormac McCarthy, and Reason Magazine (to name a few); rocked the “Don’t Tread on Me” stickers; and told anyone who listened that we don’t need the government to build roads, run schools, provide healthcare, look after the poor, or even provide for the common defense.* Simple solution. Let the people’s self-interest collectively lead us to the optimal outcome. Do you even First Fundamental Welfare Theorem bro?
However, the more experience I gained, the less convinced I became that Libertarianism can lead to optimal outcomes, or that its proponents even account for what we see in the real–rather than the theoretical–world. It’s not that I became some believer in the government–far from it. In fact, I still hold with libertarians on many things such as government regulations on businesses, land use, taxation, schooling, and foreign policy. But a holistic philosophy for governing it is not. It cannot produce what it claims: a free and functioning society.
After a few years of philosophical wandering and brooding annoyance with the Libertarian Party, I realized a blind spot in modern Libertarianism–that libertarians’ dogmatic adherence to the “free market” and the non-aggression principle needed a healthy dose of pragmatism. This starts by noticing a few key things:
- Unrestricted trade has been a disaster for the first-world working class.
- Open borders are decimating the civil societies and the overall social cohesion of countries that neighbor each other. And no, this is not just a “third world into the first world” problem. It’s an “everywhere” problem.
- Free elections among our supposedly freedom-loving people have done little to preserve individual liberty. As a group, our people have not the industry nor the morality to do so.
Taken together, these points reveal the Achilles heel of Libertarianism. That is, in the libertarian canon there is no accounting for the increasingly obvious conclusion that egalitarianism is a myth, a thing that works in theory but not in practice. The current incantation of Libertarianism came from ivory-tower academics who, while they had the wisdom to reject Marxism, created a philosophy that still only gains adherents from among wealthy, insulated, and homogeneous people. Not coincidentally, these people comprise the only populations for which Libertarianism may actually work.
For such populations, however, I’m not convinced democratic socialism wouldn’t work just as effectively. Sweden seemed to be doing fine (economic growth rates notwithstanding**) until they dispensed with the whole “nation” thing and invited the world.
Perhaps now my Twitter bio makes a little more sense. “Governing philosophy: pragmatism. High faith in individuals, low faith in groups.” Individuals are fine when it comes to living in a proper society, but put them in a group and have them make decisions about governing said society… and not so much. If it sounds like I’m down on democracy, perhaps I am. But (remember, pragmatism) it’s what we have and it’s where the potential to clean up our nations lies.
There’s a reason Ann Coulter called libertarians pussies. Too idealistic, too scholarly, too adverse to taking a cold hard look at the world. Pragmatism is what they need. As Joe Abercrombie once wrote, “You have to be realistic about things.”
* And for many of those things I still don’t believe we need the government.
** Of course, libertarians don’t trust the stats based on funny money, right?