You have to bear with me on this one. It will be a long introduction to a very short point. I promise it will all come together in the end.
It all started with
….. me clicking on a Facebook link to this video response of Stefan Molyneux to this article of Michael Lind in Slate magazine titled “The question libertarians just can’t answer”
……and the question was:
“If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?”
I wasn’t too happy with Stefan’s answer. He did not say anything I wouldn’t, but as usual, his response was a little verbose and all over the place. (To his credit I must mention that he clearly stated at the beginning that he will not offer a serious analysis).
My first reaction was to write my own answer and post it with the title “The question the statists just can’t ask”.
I quickly gave up on the idea of addressing the points of the article one by one the way Stefan did because it would have required a document at least four times the size of the 1200 words article.
I could have, of course, taken apart the sleaze and the stupidity of the article starting with the question itself.
I could have provided the answers he ignored and the answer of my own. I could have pointed out how he missed the point of the economic freedom indexes;
but what interests me the most is the source of the limitation that seems to prevent people like Mr. Lind to grasp the libertarian idea. I have some theories but that is also a bigger subject that can fit into this post.
In the end, the answers to his question are simple:
There is no libertarian country because liberty requires a very widely shared consensus and the world is full of ideology and self-interest driven statists who are using whatever freedom we still have to subvert and eventually destroy that freedom.
There is no libertarian country because libertarians are not violent revolutionaries and they are at a distinct disadvantage against their violent opponents. Educating and convincing a large enough number of people to listen to the voice of reason is far more difficult than riling them into revolutionary fervor with propaganda.
There is no libertarian country because in any society there is always an army of condescending ideologues who would arrogate themselves the right to dispossess some people for the benefit of others and there always seems to be a herd of swine around ready to gorge from the public trough.
There is no libertarian country around because contrary to popular belief, there is far more money behind the statists of various colours than there is behind the advocates of liberty.
There is no libertarian country because the road to liberty is a process just like the road to serfdom is, but unlike the later, it is not a straight one. We tend to swing from one direction to another with the swings toward tyranny being always a little stronger than the swings in the other direction.
There is no libertarian country because the gains of freedom are quickly squandered by its opponents. How and why, could be best illustrated by the example of Ireland which I aim to do at some point.
My second reaction
…… was that this article and the storm it raised is actually good news. I recalled the saying of Mahatma Gandhi:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
The very existence of this attack on liberty and its vehement stupidity illustrates clearly that we are somewhere between the phases of ridicule and attack. Libertarians cannot be ignored any more. The article resulted in many reactions, most of them defending liberty.
It is worth looking at this post on the Economist blog and the comments to it. They are surprisingly measured.
The conversation should be welcome even if it comes with ludicrous comments such as this lead up from Mr. Lind:
“Writing in The Economist, a libertarian-leaning magazine, Will Wilkinson tries to answer my question….” (emphasis mine)
But then here comes the interesting part
In one of his follow-up articles Lind says:
“ ……. libertarian responses to my article tend to reinforce me in my view that, if they were not paid so well to churn out anti-government propaganda by plutocrats like the Koch brothers and various self-interested corporations, libertarians would play no greater role in public debate than do the followers of Lyndon LaRouche or L. Ron Hubbard.”
This picked my interest. Who is Michael Lind? Where does he get his money? Not particularly difficult to find out.
Michael Lind is one of the four founders of The New America Foundation. They have a hundred employees and an impressive list of donors. Michael Lind is indeed a well-paid puppet of plutocrats like George Soros and Bill Gates to name only two.
On June 10th 2013, Mr. Lind published a policy paper for the institute called The Next Social Contract: An American Agenda for Reform.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to call it a blueprint to end democracy in America.
The policy paper advocates for a vast and radical expansion of the welfare state, the size and scope of the government.
It advocates – in the name of efficiency – for the elimination of democratic decision making at lower levels of government; turning all state and local governments into bureaucracies executing the programs, implementing the policies, delivering the services of the federal government. That is a good thing the paper says because they will no longer have to worry about confusing complexities they are burdened with today.
“Freed from any burdensome role in providing social insurance, state and local governments, with the help of federal funds via revenue sharing, would specialize in the direct public provision of merit goods such as public education at all levels”
“……direct government action is more efficient than indirect subsidies of the private sector “
“……. we need to explore ways to expand public and public-generated employment to make up for shortfalls in private sector job creation”
The cost of this centralization of power and expansion of programs should be paid for by an equally vast expansion of taxation the most notable of which would be a federal value added tax.
Any wonder that he has an issue with libertarians?
If any of my Canadian Libertarian friends find all this somewhat unsettling, I have to reassure them. We are paying for it too. One of the donors of the New America Foundation is the Government of Canada.
This new manifesto of the general will is just as ludicrous as the original Social Contract of Rousseau and only proves that bad ideas are even harder to kill than good ones.
After all of this I was left with a bunch of questions:
What is the point in arguing with the likes of Michael Lind? Can the minds of his ilk ever be changed? But if not, where do we engage and how? What can be done with blatant dishonesty, ill-informed arrogance and plain old stupidity?
This 3 minutes learnliberty.org video illustrates my question well. If we wish to advocate liberty, who should we aim for and what strategy should we use?
What advances the cause of freedom more, pragmatic or ideological libertarianism? Should we aim for the centre, or stay on the edge as Stephan does?
Engaging Michael Lind probably does not make much sense, but clarifying our position on a pragmatic level about the issues he is raising probably does. Not because we can hope to change his mind, but because we may get through to those who are alarmed by such rabid statism.
In the end
… however, I have one last question:
Since I am so diligently ‘churning out anti-government propaganda,’ where do I apply for the Koch brothers’ money?