When you think about it, it is simply outrageous that in order to live, I must breathe. The injustice of it all! For instance, if I want to stay underwater for an hour, I can’t because I am forced, whether I like it or not, to breathe every once in a while, or I’ll die.
Oh, sure. I could use scuba gear that lets me breathe underwater. But all I gain are lousy tradeoffs and unintended, dangerous consequences. Anyway all that fancy gear doesn’t address the fundamental issue:
I shouldn’t be forced to breathe in the first place! It is an unwarranted limitation on my freedom to live as I want!
Let’s face it: because I am coerced into it, breathing is a very bad thing.
Does obsessing over “being forced to breathe,” seem to you like a pretty useless and silly - in fact, borderline insane - thing to get upset about? If all I really want to do is to stay underwater for an hour, wouldn’t a far more sensible discussion focus entirely on the relative merits of the scuba gear available?
I would think so.
Well, arguing about libertarianism is just as useless as arguing over the “freedom to breathe.” It really is that simple. Yet for some reason, it doesn’t stop perfectly reasonable people, like John Holbo, from taking libertarianism far more seriously than it deserves to be, by critiquing it and reaching out to engage them. So, let me briefly go through how incredibly ...there’s no other word... stupid libertarianism is and why it is not worth John Holbo’s attention, or yours.
(We won’t discuss here the abundant evidence that for many libertarians, a facade of intellectuality serves to cloak virulent bigotry. Digby, among many others, has written this up.)
Living in society - like breathing! - is unavoidable; we can’t escape it for very long. Every society, no matter how small, has rules, ie, a government. Sometimes the less the government regulates people’s lives, the better, but not always and not in every situation.
Always, the real issue is never whether government per se is a good or bad thing. Government is a given. The real issue is whether a particular action a government takes is producing mostly desirable or undesirable results.
Once libertarians accept the humanly unavoidable, as they surely must - that government exists, must exist, and will always exist as long as there are humans - they then are forced to confront the inevitable fact that all government action, and inaction, has social consequences.
Once again: The real issue is whether the consequences of government behavior are mostly desirable or not.Therefore, libertarians are simply engaged in a project of identifying and advocating desirable government actions (and inactions).
Libertarians claim that, unlike liberals, they privilege some basic human reality - the individual - that predates social organizations. This is completely ludicrous. Social structures - government - are as vital to an individual as breathing. We cannot exist without governments and arguments that claim we can simply can’t be considered serious. Their assertion that their “political philosophy” rests on some fundamental truth that liberalism lacks is baseless.
So... If you seriously believe that libertarians have any remotely original, let alone good, ideas up their sleeve, please consider my advice while you’re waiting:
Don’t hold your breath.