Sunday, February 6, 2011

The flavor of the month

Libertarian: It's a word I'm encountering more and more often lately, which is why I'm about to write my second blog post on the subject in as many weeks. That's because it seems to be the flavor of the month among college students asked to identify themselves politically. I cringe every time I see it. I know those who apply it to themselves don't believe this, but libertarianism is a cynical abandonment of responsibility dressed up in a fancy, trendy term.

A society as big as ours cannot run by itself. If a large number of citizens insist on denying government its legitimacy, others will step in to do the job: people who have no interest in your welfare, or in improving anybody's lot in life but their own. That is what is happening now, and I greatly fear for the future of our democracy.

Just yesterday, a member of my private Facebook discussion group sent me two links to stories from The Guardian, a left-leaning but perfectly mainstream British paper, that show exactly what is happening. They appear at the bottom of this post. I can't seem to make them into hyperlinks, so you'll have to paste them in your URL line to read them.

Here's the Reader's Digest version: Very rich people are paying huge amounts of money to have their employees post aggressive, negative comments on any internet discussion they can find dealing with climate change, health care reform, or other topics that threaten the bottom line of the huge corporations they run. If you've ever wondered why every on-line discussion of these issues quickly degenerates into "Obama is a socialist/Muslim/terrorist," now you know. The billionaires also pay people to spend countless hours giving low ratings to politically progressive books and movies on sites like Amazon and Netflix, so people won't read or watch them.

They also created—that's right, created—the Tea Party movement. Although the members of that movement don't know it, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams because billions of dollars of corporate money are being spent to allow them to "mobilize for freedom, unaware that the freedom they demand is freedom for corporations to trample them into the dirt." The Tea Party libertarians may believe they are defending our democracy, but they are actually enabling its destruction.

I don't make these charges lightly. I believe in the free expression of ideas, and I don't want to silence anybody else; I just want those who consider themselves libertarians to understand what they are supporting. The big corporations have found an ingenious ploy to get citizens out of politics so they can run everything their way. They have done so by appealing to a legitimate sense of grievance among the very people who are the most hurt by their actions. They have convinced those people that it is "liberals" who threaten them. In the process, they have managed to neuter two large groups of their natural opponents by getting them to turn on each other. I have seen just how vicious this can get, which is why I consider my posts here "Not Ready for Facebook."

Certainly one of the prime villains in this story is Ayn Rand, whose books continue to outsell just about anything else that is considered "serious" fiction. Since I'm pulling no punches in this post, let me say that Rand's ideas are surely the most destructively evil ever to be put forward by a major writer. Her vision of a godless, community-less world makes a certain grim kind of sense if everybody is strong and self-sufficient. In a world with children, elderly and disabled people, and intractable environmental issues that free enterprise has no reason to address, her backward morality is quickly exposed for the vicious farce that it is.

So here's my challenge to any libertarians who might be reading this: Wake up. It's not working. The longer it takes for you to figure this out, the worse it's going to get, and the richer the Koch brothers will become. There is no reason for anybody who is not a billionaire to want this to happen. As I pleaded in my last post, it is our very world that is at stake.


  1. I agree that a society as big as the ours cannot run by itself. It sounds nice, but it just isn't possible.

  2. Thanks for that Robin. Yes, the Libertarian movement is "I got mine, so screw the rest of you". In addition to the issues above that you say free enterprise does not address, some others are infrastructure and long term planning and innovation.

  3. OK, let's have a show of hands. How many folks reading this blog would identify themselves as libertarian?

  4. Well, that was a conversation-stopper, Joel. Over 30 people have looked at this since I posted it. Who knows what they're thinking? But please feel free to share this with anyone who needs to see it.

  5. No thanks, Robin. I've read more than enough libertarian bafflegab. My question was inspired by your line: "So here's my challenge to any libertarians who might be reading this:"

    If a challenge is posted on the intertubes and no libertarians are there to read it, does it make a sound?

  6. I don't know, but I know what happens when a tree falls in a forest with nobody to hear. Timbre...

  7. they don't call them Kochsuckers for nothing ...

    also, Rand was a psychopath and a bad writer.

  8. Dr. Wallace,
    I'm going to change the subject here because I'm interested in your thoughts. What do you think about the proposed cuts to Education from the Texas State Legislature

  9. Oh my; where to start? I think it's pretty obvious that Rick Perry lied all the way through his campaign about the state of the budget. He was able to get away with it because the Texas legislature only sets a budget every two years. Thus, Perry was able to claim that Texas, unlike states like California and New Jersey, was doing just fine. Now that he's safely re-elected, he's safe to reveal that we have a huge budget deficit, and he's free to dump on the most vulnerable people in the state by closing community colleges and other programs that might help them get training for a better job.

    In other words, it's the same pattern that we see across the country. People vote for Republicans because they believe they're going to help them. When the Republicans are elected, the people who voted for them get the shaft. And they never seem to catch on.

    I know some Baylor students, for example, who voted for Perry and other Republicans because they thought the Democrats were trying to take away their financial aid and loans, and that the Republicans would set things right. What really disturbs me is that I doubt that even now those people understand their mistake. They've simply learned that Democrats=evil/elitist/don't share my values, while Republicans=honest/hard-working/ care about people like me. No amount of evidence seems to affect this perception, and as an educator, I find that the most disturbing thing of all.