Libertarian Angst

My view of things is neither Libertarian nor Collectivist. I find it a unique political thing that we in the West are trying. I’d say we have to find a dynamic balance between liberty and order, rights and obligations. After all we are not mindless ants to be commanded for the good of the whole, nor immortal magical beings who create the land upon which we stand lacking obligation to our progenitors and inheritors.

We all act within our societies rules and incentives. You and I would likely both prefer our own governance, warts and all, to the Soviet system or the complete lack of governance in Somalia. In a state of nature we would rob, beat and kill each other for reproductive advantage, nature and evolution are brutal. But we have, uniquely in history, created a wholly artificial societal structure that allows us to function as individuals. In a state of nature we would be in a band of families. It is to our advantage to maintain this structure, pay taxes, participate, and see to it that the formal rules and informal incentives make sense. Libertarian thought goes too far, taking as free goods, the laboriously and bloodily constructed institutions and behaviors that we rely on.

We in the West do have our troubles, at home and abroad, some self inflicted. They start with our our inability to see what we do from other perspectives, or to put ourselves in our competitors place. Not to agree with or validate them, but to understand our true options, and how to gain advantage. Western forces are fought against when they leave the Western world. The countries where blood flows most copiously are countries we dragged into a Western world wide economic system. That was an hostile act. Trade is war at a basic level. We Westerners have been screwing around overseas for centuries; I see no point in bellyaching about the blow back, we have most of the marbles. Were our states overrun by foreigners would we not fight? Regardless of the reason, no matter how justified the foreigners felt they were, we would fight them. That’s not hard to follow in any time, or any place.

I say it is high time for us to appreciate what we have accomplished, eschew gratuitous harm abroad that costs us so much, and to let go the hysteria and paranoia that we Americans have engaged in since WW1. We should recognize that we Westerners grabbed an entire continent for ourselves and no one can take it away. We are now and have long been protected by our geographical breath, distance and barriers. Humans may be homicidal, but they are not, by and large suicidal. Our fine military has extended our power abroad, but has not had to defend our shores since 1814. A worst case WW2 scenario still leaves us North America and the Gulf/Caribbean. We are not in a position like the Romans who had the vastness of Eurasia on their border. Even if we suffer a population crash like the Romans, there are no unobserved places for hordes to assemble. Immigrants always assimilate by the 3rd and 4th generations. We should recognize that there are skills to be prized beyond money management, and that some goods and services need to be produced at the societal level: the military and support elements, the police and courts, education, health care, land stewardship, good use of human assets. We should recognize some things, most of the rest, are best done by the individuals or voluntary associations.

None of us are self made entirely, we rely on knowledge and infrastructure that precedes us; we stand on the shoulders of our progenitors and must lift up our inheritors.

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2 Responses to Libertarian Angst

  1. Rich says:

    I would argue with one basic premise here:

    I’d say we have to find a dynamic balance between liberty and order,

    I would argue that this is a false choice, especially in the area of economics.

    We have had, for the last 95 years, a Federal Reserve bank which has been increasingly active in trying to control — that is, impose “order” on — the free market. At the same time we have had huge economic interventions into the economy to achieve social goals. These interventions have also been attempts to impose “order” on the marketplace. You can see the result of this striving for “order” all around you: economic chaos.

    The problem is that there is a natural order to economics, which is almost impossible to overcome. The market can be manipulated by brute force. Illusary prosperity can be created by the introduction of fiat money. Illusary poverty can be created by the sudden reduction of the fiat money supply. Success can be simulated with handouts, failure can be simulated by taxation. Supply can be simulated by maximum prices, demand can be simulated by minimum wages. But these are the methods of the illusionist: their effects are brief, and their consequences severe.

    The consequences can be hidden, for a time, through more illusion. The bust which follows an artificial inflationary boom can be hidden with a second, larger, dose of inflation. This is the effect of our current bailouts. But each time this occurs brings us closer to a second constraint: eventually, the population comes to understand that inflation will be ongoing and there is a “flight to real values”. Money becomes a hot potato, to be disposed of as quickly as possible, before prices rise again. For an example, refer to Zimbabwe now, or Germany in the 1920’s. This is called a “crack up boom”. It is similar, in action, to a “run” on a bank, but it is a “run” on a currency. It means that the people know you to be insolvient, and they want to get what little they can salvage before you collapse. When the people are disillusioned in this way, the end is near. And there is a rising chorous of people in America who are coming to understand what is going on.

    Economics is not finance. It is not about “money management”. It is about unscrewing the inscrutable, and solving the insoluable. The calculations involved in achiving an economy which provides, as the Utilitarians advocated, “the greatest good to the greatest number” are so mind-numbingly complex that they cannot be solved by any small group of planners. Only the whole population, ordered by the market, can perform these calculations in any meaningful way. Any attempt to impose an arbitrary “order” on this process leads to anarchy.

  2. Thanks for your comment Rich.

    The view point you have stated would come from the Austrian School correct: Mises, Hayek, Rand; et al? Heres the problem with what they state: like Marx’s Communism, Rands Libertarianism predicates humans acting in a very peculiar manner for which we have not evolved. Any system that postulates a change in human nature is bound to fail.

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