Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ideology of Libertarianism

Rand Paul, the tea party Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky, Is a libertarian. He is not a racist. Libertarianism isn't explicitly racist, but this ideology got him into trouble recently because he explained to Rachel Maddow, that he was against certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act, namely those that forbid businesses from discriminating.

It's been pointed out now, many times, that if it wasn't for the Civil Rights Act, southern businesses on their own would not have stopped discriminating against blacks because they would have been penalized by white patrons if they had.

Both Ayn Rand and Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act not because they were racist but because they saw it as unwarranted restrictions on individual property rights.

Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 election to Lyndon Johnson, but after Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act, Republican strategists realized that they could take votes away from Democrats in the South. After Johnson decided not to run for a second term, Republicans such as Nixon, Reagan, and Bush kept winning the Southern vote by emphasizing “states rights” and “small government”. In fact, both these policies were little more than code for keeping blacks in their place.

Now, if you have less government involvement in the economy, then in Southern whites' eyes you have less social services for black people. You have less regulation of Southern businesses and less desegregation of school systems.

In the late forties President Truman tried to enact a universal medicare system but was defeated by Southern Democrats, who rejected the idea of equal access for blacks and whites to medical services. That's why the United States is alone among other industrial countries in not having universal medicare.

This is where libertarianism comes in. Libertarians are for a much reduced role of the state in the economy. They believe that a legal system that prioritizes protection of property rights replaces the need for government regulation. These ideas dovetail nicely with the Southern Segregationists who don't want the “big government” ie., the federal government and the Civil Rights Act, telling them what to do.

It's true that Libertarians aren't usually racists. A while back, about thirty years ago, I was a libertarian. And I and the libertarian friends of mine, and the authors I read, were not racist.

But no libertarian I know of considers inequality a problem. Inequality isn't a problem because the market reflects reality and rewards hard work and excellence. The poor are poor because they're losers who don't try hard enough. Government programs that “help” the poor should be abolished because they only encourage people to be idle and lazy.

Southern whites were privileged. They benefited from underpaying and discriminating against blacks,  just as they benefited from slavery before the Civil War.   Only government intervention changed the situation and gave blacks a chance.

Another thing that Libertarians never seem concerned about is the rising power of corporations and their perversion of the legal and political systems to serve their interests. You may note that all the think tanks that support libertarian views like: the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, Freedom Works, the Fraser Institute, etc., are heavily funded by big corporations, especially, but not only oil companies. You will never hear these Institutes calling for government to balance or compensate for the disproportionate power of corporations.

Lastly, I've never met or heard of a libertarian who doesn't dismiss global warming as a fraud. These three problems” inequality, disproportionate corporate power, and global warming are all denied or ignored as problems by libertarians. When they deny that these are problems they are letting their ideology blind them against seeing the evidence.

I know they are problems. Inequality leads to social breakdown, political corruption, poverty, and exploitation. Corporate power leads to more political corruption, and the stealing of and destruction of common resources. Global warming will lead to more extreme weather events and the breakdown of ecosystems that support human life as well as other kinds of life.

. The huge amounts of money earned by corporations, and CEO's perverts and corrupts our political system. Our governments are turning away from the public interest and doing the bidding of giant corporations. In fact the global economic system is fixed to favour corporations against the common people in many ways.

Government can be changed to become more responsive to the people and protect the public interest. Libertarians don't recognize a public interest. It' s ultimately a narrow self-interested perspective of the economy. "I want what works to get me rich and the hell with everybody else." Ayn Rand called it “the virtue of selfishness”. We need to go in the opposite direction.

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