Although Libertarianism as a political ideology have more serious challenges than this one, the following exchange of comments perfectly illustrates the one I consider the most wide-spread, something that I would call “the complacency of righteousness.”
In a previous post I made an attempt to offer an alternative approach to look at class. I did it to start a conversation, a way to start us, libertarians, moving from high ideals to the land of political realities. The conversation didn’t happen. What I had was this exchange:
The Political, Distributor, Ideological, Productive, Collaborator, Entitlement, Subsidized and the Dependent classes according to this theory. Well, I think that I fit in every class.
..but the question is:
Do you disagree with the classification? If so do you have a better one? Are you happier with the statistical or the sociological approaches? Do you NOT agree that we need a better approach?
I only have 3 simple classes as I see people. Prosumers, Looters & Moochers. You Sir, are a Prosumer. You are Producing and consuming your own wealth. Looters & Moochers don’t produce but only consume.
Translated to simple English this means: we are the good guys, they are the bad guys. The road to individual and collective salvations is if the bad guys stop being bad guys and finally recognize that we, the good guys, were right all along.
Shaded, nuanced approach and understanding is not necessary. Who cares why the bad guys are bad? Isn’t it enough to know that they are? We can’t change them, they have to change themselves. If they come to us, we can explain to them how bad and how wrong they are.
This may be the most typical Libertarian attitude. It is a lazy attitude. The moment we make our position clear, we can stop thinking. We can stop trying to understand what motivates people, how to work on convincing them. Repeating the mantra over beer in a pub surrounded by the likeminded is easier than facing the questions of our apparent failures.
This also represents a fundamentally defeatist attitude. Libertarians know very well how little a chance they have in the political arena. Dismissing everybody who disagrees with us by simply concluding that they are wrong and we are right is a comfy emotional cushion.
I could also say that in a way it is a Marxist like attitude. In this world view we just have a different but equally easy to identify set of bad guys taking the money and our freedoms away from us, and oppressing us in all sort of evil ways.
Unlike the Marxists, however, we are good and we are not going to plot bloody revolutions, we just wait until the system rots to its core and collapses and then we are going to tell those who didn’t listen to us: we told you so! Now let’s do it right!
Let me state this very clearly:
Libertarians are right! Liberty produces more wealth, morality and happiness than any other social organization. I know that, you know that, we know that. We have logic, morality, common sense, evidence on our side. EVERYTHING, except the mind of the masses.
Shouldn’t we try to understand why?
The question we have to start thinking about is not how right we are but about how to get our message across, how to get ourselves heard, how to get the rest of the world see the light.
We have to stop the righteous masturbation and start figuring out how we could make the world of freedom we envision happen. The first step on that road is trying to understand why it is not happening on its own. Why are there so few people who can see the logic, understand the morality and examine the evidence?
Why is Marxism more appealing today than libertarianism? Simply demonizing the Marxists, no matter how much they deserve it, will NOT answer the question. Now replace the word Marxists with socialists, statists, conservatives, progressives or Democrats and you get the same: no answer.
I believe that only a very few people are inherently bad (socio- and psychopaths).
I believe that even the unscrupulously selfish represent only a small percentage of the population and even most of those are just responding to the perverse incentives of the systems they are operating in.
I believe that people in general are not bad. We all are a little selfish, a little opportunistic, a little lazy to think, susceptible to superstition, blind faith and propaganda, have an enormous capacity for self-deception and self-justification and we are all prone to respond to incentives good and bad.
BUT: I also believe that the majority of the people, those who think about policy, honestly believe that the policies, causes and parties they support will make the world a better place. Most are wrong, but not evil.
The “moochers and the looters” are not the enemy. The system that creates them is. Our enemy is the system of bad incentives and the human weaknesses responding to it. The “moochers and the looters” are what they are, do what they do for a simple reason: because they can.
In order to create sensible policies – as opposed to just waiting for the world to collapse so that we can start anew – we need to understand how the incentives work, what are the interests of the people who created them and how we can demonstrate their bad effects not only to those who pay for it, but even to those who are benefiting from it.
Giving a new definition to political classes through looking at their interests and motivations is a start.
Dismissing the effort is puzzling.