Sunday, March 22


I've been thinking a lot about Libertarianism.

In one sense, it's advocating personal responsibility as a solution to society's needs. There's a lot of truth to that, but I'm not seeing it happen on the scale it needs to happen.

I have heard Libertarianism expressed as "Let the market solve it" - the idea being that markets are efficient at solving problems. The problem, though, is that - mathematically speaking - markets probably are not efficient:

I have heard Libertarianism expressed as deregulation. The problem with that, though, is that often the wrong things get deregulated.

Specifically: dollars are a construct of the government. Without the system of government regulations which demand their use for some things and place various restrictions on their use, dollars are just numbers. And if that is what you want, it's not clear why government should need to make any changes - we already have the ability to use numbers.

But we could also think of Libertarianism as a part of a reasonable system of checks and balances. When we think of questions like "who watches the watchers", Libertarianism apparently says: as few people as possible, let's just have police and military and get rid of courts, libraries, food quality regulations, nasa, college, school, etc. etc.


So, ok, there's some validity here. But what this demands is that (a) everyone work incredibly hard at making things right, and (b) that we put up with a lot of nastiness. Of course, to some degree we do that already.

I guess the problem is: taken to its logical extreme, libertarianism would be one of the most repressive forms of government you'd ever heard of.

We get to keep:

* Police (not much)
* Military (not much)
* Crime (um wait...)

So what's the distinction between that and what we've got now? The argument goes that our government is criminal. And, looking at incarceration rates, and various other problems such as civil forfeiture, we do indeed have big problems.

But those sorts of problems don't just go away. Those problems are people problems.

But if Libertarianism is the answer you don't get to the solution by opposing government action. Getting rid of libraries and regulations prohibiting the sale of rotten food is not going to make anything better. You get to the solution by helping people out as much as you can.

Put differently: "big government" is not just votes, but it's also dollars. If you get rid of government you get rid of dollars. But if that's going to work you have to be able to make things work - as much as possible - without dollars. And, to be frank, we need a lot of that kind of activity.

We have some sizable percent of our population apparently "idle" - not working, not employed. Or at least, not in the sense of exchanging their time for dollars. Libertarianism is valid to the degree that it can get work done without using dollars. And there's some significant examples of that, of course.

You could say that working for no pay as the ultimate expression of Capitalism - it's the limit condition of competitiveness. And setting up shelters for people, Feeding people, making sure they have productive uses for their time? That's all good.

But what this really means is that Libertarianism is advocating the idea that we ignore the economy - let the 1% have all the money, it's irrelevant. Riches are nothing to do with dollars, and people should have the right to solve problems without it.

Just don't expect it to be all pleasantness and beauty. It's going to be hard work.

Of course, this kind of thinking has relevance not only in the context of libertarianism but in the context of economics and of government and politics also. None of them are particularly valid or meaningful when taken in pure form. These lines of thought need context and connections before they can be thought of as valid.

It's also going to involve letting lots of people in the rest of the world kill each other. It's asking us to stand by and watch while people kill, maim and torture each other. It means not being afraid while nuclear weapons are developed and deployed. Or maybe it means the opposite. Maybe it means intervening using contractors and ... wait, isn't that what we're currently doing?

(And, I know - read this book... but what do I do about the mistakes in that book?)

Anyways, it's a head scratcher for me.

I agree with a lot of the principles advocated by Libertarianists. But at the same time, I'm not seeing the sorts of action taking place which those principles would suggest need to happen.

Yes, we need solutions to problems which government is not addressing, and which the dollar-based economy is not addressing. But you're not going to get those solutions using government activity nor using the economy, except in some sort of minimal sense. You're going to get those solutions by (a) getting people to cooperate and solve their problems, and (b) showing that you've done so and showing other people how to do it.

And a few people are doing that. But - personally - where I live I don't even know how to find people that need problems solved of the sort where I feel I can usefully contribute.

How about you?