So I said I was going to do a writeup on what I view as the moral bankruptcy of modern american libertarianism.
Libertarianism, in essence, is the idea that there should be as little government intrusion into people’s lives. Either socially through legislated morality, such as drug/alcohol prohibition or prohibiting harmful actions, like treating human beings like property and forcing them for perform services agaist their will (slavery/indentured servitude). They also believe in a minimal amount of economic intrusion, through the abolition of income taxes and import tariffs.
The tenet of these beliefs are built on a pair of deeply flawed assumptions.
- The free market is the ideal arbiter of economic and social issues.
- All persons and corporations have equal power and societal influence.
Libertarians and the libertarian subgroup of Anarcho-Capitalists view the free market at the ultimate arbiter for societal and economic issues.
The problem is the free market as defined by Economists and Libertarians does not exist, has never existed, and is incapable of existing.
A market where one company has a monopoly position and chokes out all competition? Not a truely free market. Monopolies are a temporary abberation and not representative of a true free market.
A market where a small group of sellers controls the market and sets prices artificially high? Not a free market. In a true free market, one seller would be able to undercut the cartel and make more money and the FREE MARKET would dissolve that oligarchy.
By creating an unattainable standard, libertarians have created a situation where any successes are attributed to the half-steps taken towards this ideal, and failures are because they didn’t go far enough.
Libertarian philosophy says that the free market would work to improve society by the collective economic actions of the majority.
The very real concept of “tyranny of the majority” is ignored or handwaved away with the idea that ‘the market would find a niche.’
Free market economics does not account for group theory, it does not consider the fact that by allowing the market, and thus the majority, to decide what is right, it enforces conformity to the in-group’s standard and would punish those who broke from the mold.
Allowing the free market to dictate moral and social issues is ‘might makes right’ it its most literal sense.
The other flawed tenet of libertarianism is the idea that every person and company has the same opportunities to succeed, and that any attempt to change this is equivocal to theft or slavery.
Every one of us was born into differing economic and social situations through circumstances beyond our control. Some people grew up in a safe suburb and never had to worry about when their next meal would come from. Some people grew up with very little and didn’t know if their parent would be able to bring them home supper.
Libertarians believe that a persons success or failure is hinged upon their inherent skills and talents as a person, and that outside factors like their upbringing and access to education plays no part in this. Privilege does not exist in this mindset.
The fact is, there is very little social mobility in the US. Somebody who is born into an uneducated working class family is very likely to end up as uneducated and working class. Somebody who grows up in a wealthy family will be more likely to grow up to be wealthy themselves. Not because of inhereted wealth, but because of expanded opportunities through their upbring. Like attending a private school, being a legacy admission to an ivy league university, parents supporting them for a year while a person does an unpaid internship, and plain old nepotism.
The social and economic advantages of privilege cannot be overlooked, and libertarians often do. In this manner by approaching issues like affirmative action from the mindset of everybody is inherently equal and nobody comes from an inherently advantaged or disadvantaged background, they can come to a conclusion that trying to correct existing social injustoce is wrong, because of a flawed starting premise.
But more distressing is the ignorance of the power dynamics between a person and a corporation. The libertarian assumption is that a person and a corporation are equal and that the vast difference in size has no effect of how a company and its customers interact or how the company and their employees/contractors/’permanent freelance contractors’ interact.
Because of a corporations increased economic power, this allows them to influence the market in their favor and at a net loss in terms of social cost. A large grocery store chain can drive wages lower for everybody and not feel any consequences, but an individual bagger cannot ask to raise his wage without risking his job.
Libertairians ignore this power dynamic and simply assume the free market will fix it.
These two flawed premises are the cornerstone of libertarian belief and and both fundamentally flawed. Making any conclusion drawn from these lines of reasoning to be incredibly suspect.