Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Conservatives, liberals, libertarians and inconsistency

You know what pisses me right the hell off about liberals -- and conservatives, albeit to a lesser extent -- vis-a-vis libertarians? Both of them pooh-pooh libertarianism as a valid political philosophy right up until libertarians support things they support as good liberals or conservatives. Witness one good lefty's witless screed in which he claims libertarianism is "juvenile" and "stupid." Matt Welch at Reason eviscerates Gabriel Winant pretty well, so I'm gonna go in a different direction.

We all know that liberals AND conservatives have their own pet causes that are ultimately antithetical to liberty. Libertarians not so much, as you see if you'll examine their platform. I might concede that certain planks of the Libertarian philosophy (that many small-L libertarians subscribe to) are so weak as to be fatal, such as open borders -- because if you're going to let everyone in, that 's going to include a lot of people outwardly hostile to libertarian philosophy. I would go so far as to say that's the only part of said philosophy that's completely unworkable, with it being the self-defeating thing that it is. Ultimately it's a contradiction that can't be worked around, and so I don't understand why they hold on to it the way they do. But to take that contradiction and throw the entire philosophy out is what is the stupid and juvenile thing here. Rand Paul was rather tone-deaf in his proclamation that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be thrown out, but even still I wonder to what extent the free market would work these days, with racial discrimination not being nearly as socially acceptable as it was back in 1964. I'd argue the CRA of '64 should stay in place, but I think the principle Paul was alluding to deserves a more honest look than the one it's been getting. It was rather ironic that Winant referred to libertarianism being juvenile, when the entire philosophy is predicated on the proposition that adults should be treated like, well, adults.

Which brings me to the pet philosophies of the left in general, and Salon in particular, that Welch pointed out:

As for the main argument here–that libertarians and their policy preferences are "out of touch with reality"–the same could be said, at minimum, of Glenn Greenwald's principled fight against ever-expanding executive power, and Salon's long-running critique of the War on Drugs. (Each of those categories of government abuse, by the way, are often defended precisely on grounds that "someone else really is looking out for your best interests by saying no.")
So apparently government interference is good except for when it gores your own oxen. The right is just as guilty of this (see their calling for the continuance of said War On Drugs and outlawing of gay marriage), but off the top of my head it has always seemed that they're more aligned with the libertarians calling for less government -- at least the REAL conservatives are, as opposed to George W. Bush and his "compassionate" conservatives.