Are Loony!

Were you listening? Did you hear what I said? I said "Libertarians Are Loony!" And to make certain you understand exactly whom I'm talking about, I did not say "Librarians are loony!" Or "Libertines are loony!" Or "Librettists!"

No, sir, I speak specifically of that odd and small subspecies of American politics that is getting more attention than it rightfully deserves because of the eccentric presidential candidacy of Ron Paul. And I have chosen this moment to write of their looniness for two reasons: What with Paul's strong undertow of support among disgruntled Americans, I have little doubt this column will produce a slew of indignant rebuttals—almost as many as I expect to receive over my work-in-progress, "Mormons Are Loony" (which I intend to hold in reserve until we see if Mitt is still around for the Idaho GOP primary)—which is fine by me. It is my opinion that without the capacity to generate a steady and dependable flow of indignant rebuttals, an alternative weekly newspaper might as well rename itself Scene and hit the streets on Friday.

But I'm not writing this simply to rattle a cage. The more relevant reason I bring it up is that I truly believe Libertarians are loony, and now, when so much shallow attention is slopping their way, is as good a time as any to examine why I believe such a thing. First, though, allow me to amend my initial statement to the extent that I believe Libertarians to be only semi-loony. Like ... half loony. I pray that this softening of my original premise in no way curtails the volume of indignant rebuttals I'm expecting, but the truth is, regarding approximately half of the Libertarian platform, I side with them wholeheartedly. When it comes to their refusal to take part in the Republican harassment of our homosexual citizenry, I'm Libertarian. When it comes to their disdain of the nation's drug policies or their insistence that free speech must be unconditional, I am Libertarian. When it comes to their loathing of foreign entanglements—and in particular, Ron Paul's demand that we get our troops out of Iraq and never again behave so stupidly—call me a Libertarian.

But from here forwards—or more accurately, backwards—the Libertarians and I must part company, for as adamantly progressive as they may seem to be regarding social or personal matters, they are even more adamantly regressive on matters of governance and economics. If the literature they tack up on the Internet telephone pole is to be believed, property rights are as inalienable as human rights, and whenever self-professed Libertarians actually come to power—e.g., our own Gov. Butch Otter—you'll notice they generally expend a great deal more energy trying to weaken those regulatory bodies designed to protect the interests of workers, consumers, air breathers, water drinkers and food eaters than they ever spend on liberalizing drug laws or defending free speech.

Libertarians insist (a tad too self-righteously, I have to think) that every tenet of their political faith is rooted in the U.S. Constitution—that whatever the Founding Fathers didn't include in that document must not have been worth including in the first place, though they have expanded on the Constitutional mandate of free trade and commerce with the concept they call "agorism" (from the crossword puzzle answer for the clue "a Greek market.") An ardent agorist would have it that any and all matters of human interaction could be handled better by private citizens in the pursuit of their own gain than any government agency, anywhere. You see, Libertarians hate government like a pitbull owner hates dog licensing. They have conjured up such an extreme trust in the virtues of laissez-faire economics that they consider it the ultimate solution to every predicament (short of all-out war) that society might get itself into. And that, in my book, makes them loony.

Even worse: that makes them lazy.

It's easy, isn't it, to stand on the sidelines as a minuscule third party and declare that the institutions established specifically to confront our common challenges—our agencies of governance, in other words—are broken-down, worthless heaps of bureaucratic junk? It's easy (and relatively effortless) to hold a position that all of society's organizational work worth doing has already been done, over 200 years past, by men so much wiser than today's leaders that there is no point in trying to improve on what those men started. It's so much easier to endlessly complain about governmental inefficiency than to roll up one's sleeves and make it work better—to throw it away rather than fix it. (It makes one wonder if Grover Norquist, famous for saying he'd like to reduce government to such a size he could drown it in a bath tub, would himself do the drowning, or hire someone in to do it for him.)

Yet where is the evidence that a blithely unregulated free market is any less inefficient, any less power-hungry, or any less corrupt than a democratically elected leadership? Enron, Halliburton, the banking geniuses who landed us in the current housing market mess ... is this the "agorism" they propose?

Where is the evidence that our Founding Fathers, transported in time to today's world, wouldn't understand the obvious need for regulatory agencies like OSHA, the FDA and EPA? After all, even the brightest of those men had no notion of E-coli bacteria, let alone that it might end up in our Whoppers. Asbestos and dioxins and nuclear waste had yet to be imagined, so how can one assume that Jefferson or Madison wouldn't do something to control their uses? And as sweatshops were not yet even a gleam in an industrialist's eye by 1776 (hence, no sweatshops had burned to the ground with all inside), why would they include workplace safety in the Bill of Rights?

Ultimately, where is any evidence that the simplistic principles of Libertarian economics could possibly work in as complex a world as ours? One thing we know for sure, we mustn't rely on our Libertarian neighbors to find this evidence (if it exists) of how such an extensive survey could only be accomplished through a government agency, yes? And therefore, worthless. Besides, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires political philosophies to be founded on reality, either, so why would a Libertarian bother with facts?

OK, you indignant Libertarians, start your rebuttal engines ... uh, if it's not too much work, I mean. I'll be looking forward to hearing from you.

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