Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 August 2019 September 2019 October 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The "No True Libertarianism" fallacy

by David Atkins

A bunch of libertarians have taken great offense at my earlier post on libertarianism in Somalia. The key part of that post was:

This, by the way, is why racism, theocracy and libertarianism go hand in hand, when from a philosophical point of view they should have little to do with one another. The negative effects of the lack of a central government are so obvious in developing countries that wherever the social order fails as in Somalia, it must have been due to bad religion, or the defect of having been born to an inferior race.

Ron Paul fans must reassure themselves that such things would never happen to white, Christian folk. They're immune from the Somali problem by virtue being of different stock and different values, you see.

The "Somalia" argument is a sore spot for libertarians. They either fall back on the old line of race and religious prejudice I outlined, or they claim that it isn't true Libertarianism, you see: it's anarchy. True Libertarians believe in just enough government to protect private property and personal safety; without those protections, they argue, anarchy ensues.

The only problem for libertarians is that they cannot point to even a single current or historical example of a government that functions as they imagine it should. They have no concrete, real world examples, so they ply their arguments in a theoretical construct.

Each and every example of places with little centralized government is dismissed by libertarians as an anarchistic situation, not a "true" Libertarianism. It's the "no true Scotman" fallacy, Ron Paul edition. The hellish situation in Afghanistan is blamed on 30 years of war and tribal anarchy, rather than the lack of a central government. The case of Somalia is blamed again on war, on American intervention, and again on tribal anarchy. Historical examples of feudalism arising in the absence of a centralized state, or the repeated Dark Ages that arise after civilization collapses, are dismissed as either irrelevant to the modern world or invalid because of war and anarchy. The fact that corruption and the Mafia are more prevalent in southern Italy where tax collection and central government are weaker than in the North, is again dismissed as a cultural or anarchistic issue. It's always the same argument.

Libertarianism, in other words, is infallible. Wherever it fails, it does so because the people weren't ready for it, or there was too much violence to allow it to work, or because the government wasn't powerful enough to protect people from harm.

Libertarians fail to realize that there has never been--and never will be--a government that functions according to their principles because it runs entirely contrary to human nature.

As any libertarian understands when it comes to statist authoritarians, power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you decentralize and remove the modern welfare state, leaving only essentially a glorified police force in charge to protect private property and personal safety, one of two things happens:

1) The central police force turns into a right-wing military dictatorship invested in stamping out all leftist thinking, then appropriating the country's wealth for themselves and their friends (e.g., Chile under Pinochet);


2) All central authority and protection break down completely as power localizes into the hands of local criminals and feudal/tribal warlords with little compunction about abusing and terrorizing the local population (e.g., feudal France, Afghanistan, Somalia, western Pakistan, etc.) As I said before:
Feudalism is the inevitable historical consequence of the decline of a centralized cosmopolitan state. That's because the exercise of power by those in a position to wield it does not end with the elimination of federal authority: rather, it simply shifts to those of a more localized, more tyrannical, and less democratically accountable bent.

Urban street gangs in under-policed neighborhoods, mafias in under-taxed countries, and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon invariably step in to fill the void where government fails. When the Japanese government wasn't able to adequately help the population after the earthquake and tsunami, the yakuza helpfully stepped in to do it for them. The devolution of local authority and taxation into the hands of criminal groups willing to provide a safety net in exchange for their cut of the action is the invariable pre-feudal result of the breakdown of the government-backed safety net. It happens every single time. The people will want a safety net where utter chaos doesn't prevent it: they'll either get it from an accountable governmental authority, or from a non-governmental authority of shadowy legality. Both kinds of authority will levy their own form of taxation, be it legal and official, or part of an illegal protection scheme.

In its own way, the "No True Libertarianism" argument is very similar to the "No True Communism" of those on the far left, who argue that the fault of Communism lies not with the idea, but with the practice--despite the fact that no successful large-scale Communism has ever been implemented in the world. Neither ideology can fail its adherents. They can only be failed by imperfect practitioners.

Both ideologies run counter to human nature for the same reason: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The people with the money and guns will always abuse the people who don't have the money and guns, unless there are multiple levels of checks, balances, and legal and economic protections to ensure the existence of a middle-class tax base with a stake in maintaining a stable society. The modern welfare state didn't arise by accident or conspiracy: it evolved as a means of avoiding the failures of other models.

Libertarianism is a philosophical game played by those without either enough real-world experience of localized, non-state-actor tyranny, or enough awareness of history to understand the immaturity of their political worldview. Unfortunately, the harm they do to the social safety net and to governmental checks and balances is all too real, and all too damaging.