Libertarians don’t understand the ‘game of thrones’

May 26, 2013

One of my Facebook friends posted the following image on their wall:


This prompted a commenter to call libertarianism “pure selfishness,” and well, you’ve been on the internet. You know where these things go. Both parties found common ground and readers were witness to a pleasant rational and academic discourse on topic of governance.

Just kidding.

That didn’t happen. No. Instead, the original poster replied: “how is it selfish to want people to be free?” This led to the objector calling libertarianism “selfishness distilled,” which in turn led to the libertarian declaring ” its about choice over force,” which I can only conclude must be true because it rhymes. And as we all know, all slogans that rhyme… are true all of the time.

Well since it seems like forever that I’ve ranted about some of the many ways I think Libertarianism is bullshit, and since it’s been forever since I’ve even written anything here (and my sincere apologies to my readers for that), without further ado, here’s yet another attempt by me to distill some of my thoughts on this nauseating topic…

All these utopian pipe dreams are just a shell game. You can say getting government out of our lives is freedom but historically, it’s never worked out that way for the vast majority of the populous Ultimately, you can’t have a functioning society without establishing certain ground rules, aka compromises on one’s freedom. Otherwise, what you have fails to even be a society in any meaningful sense. That means someone or ones are going to have to step up to take some form of leadership role to make up those rules. And then those rules are meaningless unless someone enforces them. These are the basic building blocks of any social contract.

Government at its absolute idealized best serves to ensure fairness between parties under its governance. Government at its absolute worst is fascism. Now what you get when you have government at its most inept is functionally identical to a hard Libertarian state, where the vast majority–and certainly anyone with the great misfortune to be born into a marginalized outgroup–are at the complete mercy of whoever wields the most might, be it through wealth, arms, influence, whatever. And so, while this utopian vision with its grand pronouncements of “freedom” sounds lovely, in actual practice, they’re no less naive as the utopian promises of hard Communists who also built an ideology around getting powerful forces off their backs. I always find it funny that the very tyrants Communists found too oppressive are seen as liberators by Libertarians, and vice versa.

Ultimately, neither utopian fantasy solves the fundamental problem of power dynamics. In arguably every social interaction, one party has more power than another party. On a macro-scale we just call that government. And whether that government is made up of elected officials, military conquerors, robber barons, or just charismatic people with social influence, it all, by any other name, still functions in the role of government.

Interaction with others simply necessitates rules and compromises…compromises on one’s freedom. But hey, you can always break away from society and go it alone. Then you’ll really be free, right? Nope. Nothing interferes with one’s wants more than the constant demands on one’s time that is securing, maintaining, and protecting their necessities and resources.

Sorry, but there simply is no end to the game of thrones. I for one would prefer a society that functioned more like John Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” where the rules are designed in such a way that one would deem them fair prior to any knowledge of what one’s own social position in said society would be. Of course that’s just a thought experiment, but it still sounds like a far more rational way of at least approaching these issues of governance than the extreme polar ideologies of Communism and Libertarianism, who think the solution is trading one form of oppressor with another.

Rand Paul thinking only about his own ass

March 11, 2011

Yeah, and why do we have to have laws forbidding rape and murder? Can’t we just rely on our ability to persaude people into voluntarily choosing not to commit these acts without The Man imposing his anti-rape and murder ideology on us?

Mr. Paul, there’s no easy way to say this but you are a fuckin’ dimwit.

I’m sorry you care less about maintaining energy efficiency than your own commitment to remaining un-potty trained but you are a disgrace to humanity. And everyone is now dumber for having listened to you.

And yes, if those of you who have seen the film Thank You For Smoking found this argument familiar, yeah, he’s shamelessly using the Ice Cream Choice gambit:

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Bill Gates schools Michael Shermer on economics

February 22, 2010

Jared Cohen, Dave Morin, John Cusack, Dean Kamen, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Michael Shermer. Photo by John Brockman

Lately, it seems like I can’t get away from wacky libertarian politics. Hell, I don’t think I realized until now just how wacky the hard-core libertarians are and now am considering putting them up there with creationists.

Which is not to say that all libertarians are crazy. I have some libertarian friends who are active in the skeptical community and though we disagree on this one issue, they seem fairly rational most of the time.

Not like this guy who seemed so rational back when when he was making videos debunking moon landing deniers:

Then of course there’s Michael Shermer, a skeptic I respect a great deal but whom I think is very irrational when it comes to his libertarian position. That’s why I really enjoyed reading about his dinner discussion with Bill Gates, where Gates explains the importance of government intervention in the marketplace:

I asked Gates “Isn’t it a myth that some companies are ‘too big to fail’? What would have happened if the government just let AIG and the others collapse.” Gates’ answer: “Apocalypse.” He then expanded on that, explaining that after talking to his “good friend Warren” (Buffet), he came to the conclusion that the consequences down the line of not bailing out these giant banks would have left the entire world economy in tatters.

. . .

This led me to ask Gates this: “If the market is so good at determining jobs and wages and prices, why not let the market determine the price of money? Why do we need the Fed?” Gates responded: “You sound like Ron Paul! We need the Fed to steer the economy away from extremes of inflation and deflation.” He then schooled us with a mini-lecture on the history of economics (again, probably gleaned from Timothy Taylor’s marvelous course for the Teaching Company on the economy history of the United States) to demonstrate what happens when fluctuations in the price of money (interest rates, etc) swing too wildly. I believe that was the last question I asked Gates for the evening! What do I know? I run a tiny nonprofit science education organization with six employees. I’m just hoping to be able to cover my daughter’s college tuition next year. Gates is the world’s richest man who founded a giant multi-national corporation and heads a powerful nonprofit organization that is trying to save the third world. He surely understands economics and business and finance better than I do, right? I sure hope so!

Yes Michael, it’s safe to say that Bill Gates and his friend Warren Buffet DO understand economics and finance better than you do. Their expertise in these fields is even demonstrable. Just compare bank accounts.

I love Shermer but the moment economics comes up he suddenly turns into a nonsensical crank. It’s good to hear that even the richest men in the world understand the importance of government involvement in market affairs. I hope this has a big impact on Shermer’s economic views…but does it make me a cynical person that I doubt it?

News From Around The Blogosphere 9.30.09

September 30, 2009

psychic-crystal-ball_1114702cHappy Blasphemy Day, everybody!!

1. “Psychic” arrested for lying – Self-proclaimed “psychic” Janet Lee claimed she was attacked by a herd of wild psychics. No, I’m serious:

However, the self-proclaimed “foremost psychic in New England” was arrested by Greenwich police over the weekend after detectives said she lied about being attacked in town by rival psychics over the summer.

I think the lesson here is that having the ability to see the future would manage to keep you out of danger by always keeping you one step ahead of your enemies. But magical powers in the world can prevent imaginary attacks.

2. Cheerleaders banned from promoting religion to audiences

Community members are rallying around Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleaders after they were banned from displaying signs with Bible verses urging fans and players to “commit to the Lord” and “take courage and do it.”

. . .

“The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone’s throat,” said local youth minister Brad Scott, who was LFO High’s class president in 2004. “The cheerleaders are just using Scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans.”

Yeah, I’m sure next week they were planning on using passages in the Koran to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans. The week after than, they had a whole section of the Bhagavad Gita lined up. Ugh!

3. Chicago Tribune Columnist Julia Keller attacked for supporting Banned Book Week – And what kind of fascist monsters would be against Banned Book Week? None other than our old friends at bigoted Illinois Family Institute. I wrote about them before, particularly the head of their coven, Laurie Higgins as part of my “Laurie Higgins is a crazy bitch” series here, here, and here. I guess I can dub this “Laurie Higgins is a crazy bitch 4.” The details of this particular case can be found in the link above.

4. Massimo Pigliucci takes on LibertarianismLast week, I linked to Massimo’s balanced criticisms of Penn & Teller. Part of that touched on their Libertarianism. Now Massimo has done a superb job of explaining the problems of Libertarianism. Definitely worth the read.

5. Atheist billboard hitting Morgantown, West Virginia – It’s the traditional “Don’t Believe In God? You Are Not Alone” slogan. Still among my favorites.

News From Around The Blogosphere 9.24.09

September 25, 2009

1. Film about Darwin’s life FINALLY gets a U.S. distributor! –  The film Creation, starring real life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Darwin and his wife has struggled to find a U.S. distributor, but finally the Indie company Newmarket has acquired it. Suck it, creationists!

2. Now Francis Collins does accept Evolution. Of course he also believes in a mystical garden with a talking snake and a magic tree with magic fruit, etc. making him a rather odd bird. But even though I’m not Mr. Collins’ biggest fan, I hate him now more than ever because he got to rock out with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry at the Capitol building today in an “unplugged” performance of Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” You can listen to it here. Damn, I’m jealous!

3. NYC’s own Prof. Massimo Pigliucci rips into Penn & Teller’s global climate change denial and libertarianism – Some of my more libertarian-leaning skeptical friends drew my attention to this one even though I’m a fairly regular reader of  Massimo’s blog. And though I’m a big fan of P&T’s work, particularly on their show Bullshit! and their other involvement in the skeptical community, I have to say I pretty much agree with Massimo here. He balances his review, applauding the better aspects of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, while still giving a fair amount of criticism to where P&T go wrong. I certainly think Massimo does a better job here than when I hear him criticize Richard Dawkins, whose position I feel Massimo describes inaccuately.

“Burn the books!”

April 20, 2009

You know, I could have sworn I’d included this video in a previous blog but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Somehow I managed to never get around to it. But oh man is it worth watching, particularly beginning at the 4:42 mark, where you can actually see the moment conspiracy rants  transform into mass hysteria 1 step away from a mob of angry villagers with pitch forks: