Libertarians - Religious Fanatics?

Libertarians are interesting creatures, and many of them are not unlike certain flavors of religious fanatic.

Ron Paul
I've had a long history being around libertarianism, since it's quite in vogue these days with young people, both in Alaska and around the country. After all, most people know that when it comes to Ron Paul, today's quintessential public face for the ideology, the vast majority of his support and publicity consists of 20 and 30-somethings spreading his name around the internet. In fact, during my Christmas break I had lengthy internet conversations with two different people from Ketchikan a few years younger than me.

The first began when I responded on Facebook to a video posted about how highways should be privatized. The second began when I posted an image showing the benefits of higher taxes for the rich, and got a very long response of disagreement that developed into a huge conversation. In both cases, I steered the conversation away from the details of the immediate issues to try to ask deeper questions about the other's ideology. Again in both cases, what I got in response were well-articulated and extremely fervent expressions of faith in laissez-faire economics and the inherent oppressiveness of government. I was generally impressed with my younger peers' writing and enthusiasm for politics, but as to the content of their philosophy, I couldn't be so happy.

So, to return to my first sentence, what makes many libertarians like religious fanatics?

I think there are two main points of similarity: First is blind faith in divine will - not of any god, but rather the divine will of so-called Freedom and the so-called Free Market, which are holy concepts worthy of all worship and adoration. Second is the ability to see the devil in everything, the devil here being "the Government" or "Government" (always singular and monolithic, the incarnation of all evil). For example, you may often hear libertarians say "The Government made me do it!" or "Cast out the Government from your life!" or "Don't you see the beautiful image of the Free Market burned into this toast?!"

Ludwig von Mises
In all seriousness, I think there is little sense in taking in the words of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman and taking them as the unquestionable truth (or any truth at all). It's about the equivalent of taking into your heart all the thoughts of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Anyone can point out failings and weaknesses in government, whether it's bickering among local governments, corruption in state politics, or monstrous debt at the federal level. What these libertarian zealots absolutely refuse to acknowledge, however, is that capitalism and the "free market" have many weaknesses and failures as well (and as much a potential to oppress as does any government). Though we may not think of them as alike, blissful libertarian anarchy really ends up being just as foolish and unachievable a concept as an authoritarian communist paradise.

For bits of time when I was younger, I too used to think of things in terms of radical black and white, though I was much more of a communist than an anarchist. With all I've learned about history, however, perhaps the biggest impression I've taken away is of the beautiful and limitless complexity of societies, cultures, and human interaction. Taking that to heart, no type of clear-cut ideology for how to run our lives could possibly be seen as perfect. Looking to change and improve the world requires an honest understanding of how change has happened in the past, and how it continues today. Wordy pronouncements of political philosophy may look nice in books, or even on the internet, but when it comes to solving today's problems, they are often more expressions of faith than useful contributions to discussion.

Comments

  1. Google: Stocks Of Socialized Countries Have Outperformed U.S. Since Reagan Era

    France with it's high tax, 35 hr week, 6 weeks paid leave,state health care, huge bureuorcracy, has consistantly outperformed the US since Reagan. In fact, many Northern European have. Social democracy is a super capatialism. Europeans work less hours than Americans and are more productive. Germans get 7 weeks paid holiday. We have been conned by conservatives for years because the rich own the media where they put out an enormous amount of propoganda.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/stocks-socialized-us-countries-reagan_n_882270.html

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