Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why Libertarians Are Wrong

I have elaborated on science, and now I would like to elaborate a bit on the state. It got a nice pummeling from me a couple of posts ago, when I claimed it was essentially a tool of violence wielded by capitalist interests. Does this put me along side "small government" libertarians?

Maybe in some respects. But here are all the areas where I think libertarians are flat out wrong:

1. Libertarians do not view the state as a servant of the capitalist class; they believe it is in an independent source of power (by which capitalists may actually be oppressed);
2. Libertarians completely misunderstand the nature of capitalism. They believe it is primarily characterized by free markets and private enterprise, when it is actually characterized by wage labor and monopolization of production and, in fact, both limits the the freedom of the market and subsidizes enterprise (through use of the state, of course). Libertarians tend to see these things as "corruption" rather than the inherent nature of the system.
3. It follows that libertarians believe if the extent of the state were limited, free markets would flourish and the market would more rationally and efficiently organize society than the state. They do not realize the beast we are dealing with, and that eliminating government agencies would be akin to simply cutting off one of its limb (with the possibility of regeneration).
4. Libertarians accept without question all aspects of liberal/neoliberal ideology: the sacredness of the individual, the rationale of the social contract, the principle of "liberty" embedded in "democratic societies" (whatever liberty and democracy mean in actual practice...), and the ability of all people to be successful if they just try hard enough.
5. Regarding that last point, libertarians are totally blind to the inequalities that are built into the system. They seem to think the playing field is level, and that everyone could be a millionare if they just worked sufficiently hard (maybe they even take it for granted that there will always be people naturally "lazy" enough to take all the undesirable, low-paying jobs).

In essense, libertarians buy into all the myths and ideologies of the modern social order, probably more than anyone else, and simply try to make reality conform to those myths. What they really need to do is think more critically about what is actually going on.

There is one more significant way in which I diverge from libertarians, the explanation of which will entail that I contradict my two-posts-ago comments somewhat... which I think is totally healthy behavior. Yes, I believe that the state exists at the behest of the capitalist class and that it always ultimately serves capitalist interests. That is vitally important to remember because pinning one's hopes on the state is a risky business (as many of the Russian revolutionaries discovered). BUT, under very narrow and circumscribed circumstances, eliminating any longer-term perspective, it has its benefits.

Generally, once again if one is only thinking in the short-term and within the bounds of the current system, state management of social services is more beneficial than complete privatization. This holds true for education, health care, transportation, and would likely also hold for financial services if such a thing were ever attempted (it won't be). This is the case because the people who are actually involved in the administration of these programs and services cannot profit in the same way as those who are more indirectly involved. It ensures standards, quality controls, and more or less universal accessibility (often more towards the "less" end though...). And often the people who directly provide the services are knowledgable and driven by the noblest of intentions (not profit). On the other hand, when the profit-motive is directly involved in the provision of services, the consequences are often disasterous. Scams abound, unqualified people jump on the bandwagon, and disparities in quality widen (thus reinforcing existing social inequalities). The ability to profit brings out the worst of human qualities, not the best, as many libertarian types and others insist. But isn't government wasteful and inefficient, they counter? Everything is wasteful and inefficient; that is the nature of bureaucracy, whether public or private. The arena of education, in particular, demonstrates very desicively that public management is by no means less efficient or less effective than private management; to the contrary, public schools often do a better job - particularly with the challenges they are given - than private schools. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the supposed "crisis" of American education is a fabrication of political/economic interest groups.

So, if the only two options I am given are state control within the framework of the current system, and privatization within the framework of the current system, in most cases I would prefer state control. But that is like a slave choosing the house over the fields. I would REALLY prefer not to be enslaved.

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