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Op-Ed: Libertarianism and the Politics of 'Wolves' in sheep clothing

By Michael Terron     Oct 4, 2013 in Politics
On its philosophical surface, libertarianism can be very appealing. Who would be opposed to upholding the Constitution, free markets, civil liberties, limited government or non-military intervention?
Let's take a quick look at the Libertarian Party (USA) Statement of Principles: We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal rights of others to live in whatever manner they choose.." This includes free speech, freedom of association and sexual freedom. Libertarianism favors an end to the prohibition of drug use. What progressive-minded American could disagree with any of that?
Before I delve into this a little deeper, I'll briefly overview Libertarian Party electoral history in the U.S. . .
"The Libertarian Party was formed in the home of David Nolan in December of 1971. . . Prompted in part by price controls implemented by President Richard Nixon, the party viewed the Democratic and Republican parties as having diverged from the 'libertarian' principles of the American founding fathers, toward more authoritarian political positions . . . In the 1972 presidential election the party had grown to over eighty members and attained ballot access in two states. In 1980 the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in every state, the first party to accomplish this since the Socialist Party in 1916.
In 1983 the party was divided by internal disputes . . . A new strategy brought former Republican Congressman, Ron Paul, to the presidential ticket in 1988. Investment advisor, Harry Browne, headed the 1996 and 2000 tickets. In the 2004 election, Libertarian presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik - a gun rights activist and software engineer - received more votes than all non-major party candidates except for Ralph Nader . . . In recent elections Libertarians have run far more candidates for office, at all levels, than other third parties combined."
Libertarianism, as a philosophical idea, has actually been around for 200 years. Anarchists in Europe used the term long before it was co-opted by American political thinkers. One of the difficulties with defining libertarianism and identifying its adherents, is that it is often used very loosely. There are some on the 'left' & 'right' who describe themselves as libertarians. Many so-called centrists - whatever that means - call themselves libertarians. Many anarchists subscribe to it. The term is invariably invoked to refer to certain personality orientations, e.g., indulgence, permissiveness, etc.
However, if we limit our focus to the contemporary electoral political meaning of libertarianism, a distinct picture comes into view . . .
"Many Occupy Wall Street demonstrators voted for Obama and are quite disillusioned. These individuals are ripe for recruitment into the Libertarian Party".
Ron Paul, for instance, ostensibly, argues for a woman's right to choose (whether or not to bring a pregnancy to full term). Yet, he wants to leave it up to the individual states to determine the legality of abortion. Therefore, a woman's right to dominion over her own body could be denied, depending on what state she resides in, and Paul would be o.k. with that. Why is the state's authority so different from that of the federal government? Both could 'trump' the decision of the mother. Also, would this states' rights policy apply to drug prohibition? So, the 'authorities' could prosecute you for using drugs in one state, and in another, they would look the other way? Do libertarians advocate the legalization of crack, heroin and 'meth'? If prohibition is repealed by certain states, would profiteering still be allowed? If so, what would prevent drug dealers from 'mass-migrating' to those states - bringing with them the predictable social chaos and gang wars?
Another major plank of the Libertarian Party is the promotion of 'free trade.' . . "Free trade should benefit all if there is comparative advantage. But in the real world there is absolute advantage, due to mobility of capital. This means that free can (and does) harm some. . . Underdeveloped nations that have been foolish enough to listen to free trade advocates have languished in poverty, while those that have strategically erected trade barriers have developed. The libertarian unequivocal endorsement of free trade is merely the voice of predatory business which does not care if absolute advantage results in harm. The reason multinational corporations flourish is because their internal transfers of capital between nations allows them to exploit absolute advantage at the expense of others."
I've always been perplexed by the libertarian 'aversion' to most government-sponsored social programs. I guess, the following 'explains' it all. . .
In a chapter entitled, Conservatism and Libertarianism, of his book, Democracy - The God That Failed, Hanns-Hermann Hoppe says, "Those parts of the federal 'leviathan' responsible for the proliferation of moral and cultural pollution, such as the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal judiciary should be closed or cut down to size. . . In order to restore social and cultural normalcy, true conservatives can only be radical libertarians, and they must demand the demolition of - as a moral and economic perversion - the entire structure of social security." Whew! Is this how they intend to 'limit' government - on the backs of the poor and low-income people?
Libertarians, of course, worship the U.S. Constitution. They, among others, love to invoke the 'original intent' of the authors . . . as if it's actually possible. They speak of the Constitution as if it's a 'holy' document. As Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once remarked, - and I paraphrase - the Constitution was flawed from the very beginning, requiring a Bill of Rights, a slew of Amendments, a massive Civil War and Reconstruction Acts, to get it where it is now. And, exactly, where is it now? Well, we still have that little clause in the 13th Amendment allowing slavery for commission of a crime. There's that other pseudo-science fiction in the 14th Amendment about corporations having person hood. We have yet to ratify the Equal RIghts Amendment. . .Don't get me wrong. In all fairness, the f.f.s (founding fathers) could not have foreseen the rise of (predator) transnational corporations, cyberspace technologies and catastrophic ecological degradation. For it's time, the Constitution was a great piece of work. Nevertheless, it remains a work-in-progress.
Let's take a look at a libertarian view of property rights. One of the founders of the Libertarian Party Murray N. Rothbard, says, (WARNING! . . . this gets really ugly):
"Every property owner should have the right to sell, hire, or lease his money or other property to anyone whom he chooses, which means he has the absolute right to discriminate all he damn pleases. For, if it is right and proper to outlaw my discriminating against blacks, then it is just as right and proper for the government to figure out if I am discriminating or not, and in that case, it is perfectly legitimate for them to employ quotas to test the proposition. So, what is the remedy for all of this? What has to be done is to repudiate civil rights and anti-discrimination laws totally and in the meanwhile, on a separate but parallel track, try to privatize as much as we can." HOLY-MOTHER-OF-ALL-GRAND-WIZARDS, BATMAN. I wonder what Martin Luther King would say about that?
It's no wonder why Libertarian candidates typically run in Republican primaries and generally align with the Republican Party. Despite all the talk about being 'independent', they not only seem to have an affinity for the 'Grand Ole Party', but also are drawn like magnets to the most extreme sectors of it, e.g., the Tea Party. Keeping with that trend, many libertarians despise the 'moderate' Republicans almost as much as they despise Democrats and radical progressives. They would, literally, devour us if they could . . . or, if we would be as gullible as 'little red riding hood."
Oh, I forgot to mention Ayn Rand, who is usually associated with libertarian thought. Maybe, it's because she clearly said, "I am not a libertarian.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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