"Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them -- and then, the opportunity to choose." ~ C. Wright Mills
My last article, The Free Market Case Against Abortion, has caused quite a stir at STR. People's reaction after reading that article ranged from vehemently for it to vehemently against it, with the usual group of who cares thrown in. Whether people agreed or disagreed, I don't think they really understood the basis of the article. The point of the article, in generic terms, is that libertarians in particular, and people in general, should only accept valid uses of freedom, and only endorse acts that are consistent with the principles of libertarianism and the free market; libertarians in particular, and people in general, should reject invalid uses of freedom, and never support acts that are inconsistent with or violate the principles of libertarianism and the free market.
As I became enmeshed with discussing the issue of abortion, it became clear to me that libertarianism is a seriously flawed philosophy as it currently exists. It is apparent to me that the people who have developed modern libertarian thought, people like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, have repeated the same blunder as the Founding Fathers of America. Just as the Founding Fathers contradicted their principles by allowing slavery, libertarianism as currently defined and practiced allows contradiction of the principles of libertarianism.
One would think it would be fairly obvious that one can't be anti-state and pro-state, anti-war and pro-war, anti-abortion and pro-abortion, anti-slavery and pro-slavery, and anti-freedom and pro-freedom, or hold two diametrically opposite positions on any one issue. Yet we see people, who by their actions and words, hold contradictory positions all the time. George Orwell coined a term for this: doublethink. Libertarianism encourages this logical fallacy, and leads to what I call loony libertarianism. To illustrate this point, I have written a short satirical essay called The Tale of Loony Libertarianism.
The Tale of Loony Libertarianism
This is the tale of Loony Libertarianism. Loony Libertarianism was the husband of a loving wife, April, and father to two children. One of Looney's children was a three year old son, Kurt, the other a one week old baby girl, Melissa. Loony prided himself on being a champion of freedom and the free markets. This is the story of an evening in the life of Loony Libertarianism.
Loony is sitting at the dinner table with his wife and children. Loony says to Kurt, 'Hey boy, you got any money to pay for your food?' Kurt looks at his dad perplexed, wondering what he is talking about. As his dad keeps glaring at him, Kurt stammers out 'Nnnno.' Loony then blasts out at Kurt, 'You little free loading scumbag weasel, you ain't getting any food, and you can sleep outside tonight. Now get out.' Kurt has no idea what he has done wrong, but believes it must be his fault for his father to be so upset with him, and flees from the room, bawling his eyes out. April can't believe what she has just heard. Melissa starts wailing because of the contention and strife being generated by her father. Loony then lashes out at April: 'Can't you get that damn brat to shut its pipes. It has no respect for other people's rights. We ought to find a way to stuff it back in you and kill it.' The continuing conflict only makes Melissa cry louder. April then shouts at Loony, 'Why did you do that to Kurt? He only just turned three, how can you expect him to support himself?' Loony shouts back, 'Don't give me any of that socialist crap of how he has a claim on me to support him. He's got to learn about freedom and the free market. He can sell himself to old man Petersen and probably make good money. As for you, if you want to eat, we can work out a food for sex agreement. I figure you can throw in a good blow job, too.' April can't take it any more, she starts crying hysterically, and as she runs away screams at Loony, 'I'd rather cut your property off than ever have it in me again.' Loony hollers back, 'You stupid slut, you just don't understand freedom and free markets!'
As Loony is sitting alone at the table, congratulating himself for taking a stand for freedom and the free market, there is a knock at the door. Loony goes to the door to find Miss Martsen, an elderly spinster woman, who is taking up donations to help one of their neighbors pay for an expensive medical treatment for the neighbor's son. As she is explaining this to Loony, Loony is shocked and can't believe his ears. Loony blurts out, 'What the hell kind of socialist crap is this? You are invading my home to steal my money. I'm going to get my gun and blow your socialist scum head off.' As Loony goes to get his gun, Miss Martsen makes a hasty, panicky retreat, not knowing why she is being threatened, but deciding to try to make it to safety before Loony can carry out his threat. Loony comes back with his gun, sees that Miss Martsen is almost off his property, and fires a warning shot into the air and yells, 'Keep your socialist scum ass off of my property!' Miss Martsen, not knowing that Loony has only fired into the air, thinks Loony is firing at her. The exertion from trying to make a hasty retreat, plus the fear generated by thinking she is under attack, is too much for her frail heart. She experiences massive cardiac arrest just as she steps off Loony's property, and collapses in the street. Loony sees this and starts laughing uncontrollably. He yells out, 'That will teach your socialist ass to meddle in my affairs. And don't think I'm going to call 911 for you, you have no claim on me, you meddling bitch.'
Loony wonders how he should celebrate his latest victory for freedom and the free market. He decides that he will exercise his right to ingest whatever substance he wants into his body. He mainlines a whole can of Draino.
There is another knock at the door. When Loony answers the door, it is his one and only friend, Bubba. Bubba, like most people, doesn't like how Loony acts, but remains hopeful that he can persuade Loony that his acts are self-defeating. As Loony ushers Bubba into the living room, Loony notices a pregnant woman on the TV. Seeing the pregnant woman upsets Loony greatly, and he comments to Bubba, 'Do you see that damn hostile baby threatening that woman? Why doesn't she just off the baby, instead of putting up with that aggression? If she was here, I'd kick her in the stomach and let that invading parasite have it good.' Bubba tries to explain to Loony that the woman is only pregnant, that it is part of nature's plan for woman to carry babies and be pregnant, and that the unborn baby isn't hostile or aggressive. As Bubba tries to reason with Looney, Looney just becomes more agitated. Loony then pulls out his gun, shoots Bubba in the head, blowing his brains out. As Loony holsters his gun, he yells at the corpse of Bubba, 'You're just like that damn hostile baby. That will teach you to invade my house and try to force your aggression on me, you damn parasite.'
The effects of the Draino Loony mainlined are starting to tell now. Loony staggers out onto his front porch and sits on the steps, contemplating his latest victory for freedom and the free market. As Loony is sitting down, a neighborhood girl, Suzie, comes up Loony's sidewalk to sell him some Girl Scout cookies. As Loony spies Suzie, he says, 'Time for a lesson in freedom and the free market, kid.' Suzie replies by saying, 'Hi, my name is Suzie and . . .' Loony pulls out his gun, aims it at her and says, 'Look you little cunt, I don't give a damn what your name is. You're on my property and you're going to do as I tell you. I want all your cookies and all your money, now!' Suzie drops all her money and cookies, and flees in terror. As all the autonomous systems in his body fail, the last thoughts of Loony Libertarianism are 'Why can't everyone be like me, embracing non-aggression, freedom, and the free market? Why can't people just accept that no person has a right to force a claim on me for the benefit of others, and that I am absolute master of my life and property?'
And so Loony Libertarianism died. No one was sad that Loony Libertarianism died; in fact, everyone was happy with the death of Loony Libertarianism. People said that though Looney Libertarianism talked about freedom and free markets, it was just an excuse to act irresponsibly, that ultimately it was a sham to deny others freedom and that it was a horrible way for people to live. Everyone agreed that Loony Libertarianism denied personal responsibility, and that no person may avoid responsibility for their actions, or the consequences of those actions. All acknowledged that Loony Libertarianism only applied his principles when they suited him, and found excuses to violate them when they didn't.
Many people wonder why others don't more readily accept libertarianism. Many think that it is because libertarianism has a bad image, and people have a misconception of what libertarianism stands for. The truth is that libertarianism is a badly flawed philosophy that has only been defined in term of adults, and can only be seen as a possible workable system to conduct adult interaction; even in its current form for adults, it can be shown to be completely unworkable. Why? It is completely arbitrary. It promotes picking any principle you want to apply, and then thinking how it could be applied irrespective of other principles and facts. Want to support the War on Terror, or war in Afghanistan , or war in Iraq , or any war ' just pick the principle of self-defense, and think that people in those countries are aggressive scumbags who need to die, while proclaiming you believe in non-aggression, freedom, and the free market. Want to support killing unborn children ' just pick some principle, like self-defense, and then think of unborn babies as hostile aggressors, while proclaiming you believe in non-aggression, freedom, and the free market. Libertarianism as promoted by many is based on doublethink, and is about as far as you can get from a rule of law.
While the protection of adults can be shown to be dubious, children fare even worse under libertarianism. Unborn children are viewed as sub-human or property or humans without any legal rights; libertarianism endorses killing them before they are born. After children are born, libertarianism views children as independent beings responsible for their own welfare, with no claims on their parents; libertarianism effectively endorses starving them after they are born. What kind of system supports such a seriously flawed attitude toward children? What kind of system supports such irresponsibility by parents? Libertarians need to acknowledge that each person is responsible for their actions, and the consequences of their actions. For parents that includes acknowledging that children are the consequences of their actions, and that their children are their responsibility until the child can assume responsibility for their self or the responsibility is voluntarily transferred, as in adoption.
Many of the ideas espoused by capitalist libertarians seem to only confirm what Marx said about capitalists and families. Marx said capitalists only exploit families and others for their own ends, and view families as tools of production only for the capitalist's benefit and to maintain power. Are capitalists really just exploiters of others? Is libertarianism just a method to find loopholes to deny individual responsibility?
Consider if you were involved in a car accident that was your fault. Obviously it was an unintended consequence of your actions, but it is still your responsibility to make restitution. You wouldn't argue before a judge that you bore no responsibility, and that he had no right to recognize another's claim on you, would you? Or that someone else should pay for your negligence? Or worse yet, that you should kill the one you injured to remove their claim on you? People need to accept responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their actions. Too many people have a victim mentality that they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions, and that someone else should be responsible for them, or made to pay for their acts ' and that is the true socialist mentality that liberty lovers should be crying out against.
Individual responsibility should not be a foreign concept to libertarianism. The concept of each person being responsible for their actions and the consequences of their actions would go a long way to overcome the glaring contradiction currently being supported. That and a consistent application of all the principles of libertarianism; not the pick one principle and then fantasize it being true advocated by so many. If people do that, libertarianism will become a philosophy worth adopting, and can be the basis for a rule of law.