Libertarian Angst

2008/12/04

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.