In the comment threads on CalPundit, My Friend Roger posted a longish message (under the nom de net of "Marsman") in response to a libertarian argument about taxation. When the libertarian labelled it as a "rant", Roger backed off, but I think he may have been wrong to do so. Perhaps he did go over the top a bit, and maybe that qualifies his little essay as a "rant", but if it is, it's a well justified one.
We're dealing right now with the dire consequences of an administration whose foreign policy is run by people who dogmatically adhere to their ideological predispositons no matter what the practicalities of doing so are, and regardless of the empirical evidence which points to their policies being wrong-headed and dangerous. Because of this, Neal Gabler has labelled Bush's administration as being a "medieval" Presidency.
But dogmatism is dangerous no matter what ideology is involved, and Roger is, I think, very right to point out that libertarianism is indeed such an ideology:
Libertarians will say anything at all -- I mean, ANYTHING -- in order to affirm and proclaim their religiously-held, absolutistic dogma.
A Communist will say that Capitalism and the free enterprise system is the greatest single cause of income disparity.
A Fascist will say that scheming racial minorities, nefarious Commies, and an anarchistic and uncontrolled social order are the greatest single cause of income disparity.
Fundamentlist religionists will say that Satan -- working via immorality through whatever group or ideology the religionist personally dislikes -- is the greatest single cause of income disparity.
LaRouche-style Technocrats will say that barbarian environmentalists and anti-nuke activists are the greatest single cause of income disparity.
And the Libertarians, who at the most fundamental level are *precisely* identical to these other absolutistic extremists -- differing only in the flavor of the dogma they favor -- will without exception blame all problems on government, and proclaim all solutions to lie with anarcho-Capitalism.
Which of course is why it's easy to be a Libertarian. No thinking required. The "answer" is already in hand, always. "Government is always BAD, BAD, BAD." So simple, even a complete flaming imbecile can spout it out. All you have to do is selectively gather facts that support, or at least can be represented to support, the Revealed Truth.
Liberals and moderate conservatives, by contrast, reject absolutistic answers. Government (and business, and religion, and almost anything else) can be good or bad, a cause of help or grief, depending on many, many factors. For liberals, when one sits down to study a problem, there is NO pre-determined absolutistic answer. Facts, pro AND con, count. Nuance counts. Circumstances count. History counts. The complexities of human nature and human social interaction count. The fact that, in the end, none of us really "knows" anything for certain, counts. The inevitable fact that last year's best answer may, this year, no longer be advisable based on new knowledge and changes in the social dynamic ... well, that counts too.
That's why -- notwithstanding the endless stream of lies and misrepresentations of the extreme rightwingers and Libertarians about what we think, including those profoundly dishonest and dimwitted efforts to equate liberalism with Communism -- liberals do NOT always assume that government is "the answer" for any and every problem. We think it is frequently part of the answer. And we are not afraid of it when it does seem to be the best answer. But we are also pretty big on market forces, religious values, private charitable work, and any other social force that might help make life better.
I like to illustrate with a little thought experiment this difference in the way extremists, on one hand, and liberals on the other, think. Imagine that you have two "scholars": a Libertarian and a Liberal or moderate Conservative. And they are confronted with a problem to consider and recommend responses to ... say, global warming. Imagine that they carefully assemble all known data on this problem, objectively and fairly weigh all the facts. And let's just say that, IN REALITY -- God himself would confirm this in this thought experiment, okay! -- IN REALITY, at the end of the day the facts are that the ONLY effective response to this problem must entail some meaningful government action involving regulations, restraints on commercial activities, etc. In the case of global warming, the reasons might be because it's utterly worldwide in nature, involves time frames that are 5 to 10 times longer than any free market force would or could ever take into account, and can be constrained only by wide embrace of manufacturing practices violation of which would invariably result in vast, short-term profits.
Oops ... the Libertarian is in a real bind, now, isn't he? That's because he can NOT recommend government action. After all, his dogma has already proclaimed the Absolute Truth. Right? Government is NEVER the solution, it is ALWAYS the problem. So what can he do? As a practical matter, his intellectual toolbox is half empty before be ever sits down to the problem: no matter WHAT the facts, he already has the answer, an answer he cannot deviate from.
What's he gonna do? Well, if he's the Cato Institute, he'll probably respond by ... TA DA! ... pretending that the problem doesn't even really exist. He'll find the 5%-7% of scientists who are contrarians -- even if they happen to be cranks or working far beyond their professional area -- and champion THEIR view as the truth. Then he wouldn't even have to deal with the prospect of his dogma crashing into reality. And when THAT tactic no longer works, why, he'll start talking about all the profits to be made curing skin cancer and opening seaside resorts in places that are currently 50 miles from the ocean.
(Hey, do you know what? Forget the thought experiment now, because this is PRECISELY what the whackos at the Cato Institute did).
Which is all why it's absurd to even speak of "Libertarian scholars." It's an oxymoron, just as it was to refer to "Communist scholars." In my experience, so-called Libertarian scholars sometimes sound very convincing when attacking government -- after all, they specialize in that, don't they? -- but they live in a fantasy world when it comes to suggesting real world alternatives.
Oh, and of course, because the dogma's received wisdom is always on the line -- the highest of high stakes in every argument -- they even frequently cook the facts ... picking and choosing *just the right ones* to support their belief system, building tables and charts that conveniently twist history or omit any and all inconvenient realities.
Nope ... Libertarianism is just another pernicious, brain-dead dogma. Which is why it's entirely appropriate, when hearing a statement such as yours I've quoted at the top of this message, to retort: "Who the hell CARES what a Libertarian says? Life is short ... there are REAL issues to deal with, REAL arguments to come to intellectual grips with. One has to have priorities, after all, and arguing with people mentally enslaved to dogma should always be really low on the list. So why should we pay Libertarian dogma any more heed than we do to any other nitwit extremism?"
Roger is fond of saying that liberalism is the scientific method turned to the social and political world. It is based on reason and not dogma, and goes about solving problems through a rational analysis of the available empirical evidence to determine what solutions are viable, and then filters the selection of which solution to try through humanistic and empathetic criteria. That's the complete opposite of dogmatic ideologies such as libertarianism or neoconservatisim, which pre-determine which solutions are acceptable, and then applies those solutions to every problem, regardless of their efficacy or appropriateness.
In this respect, at least, liberalism has much more in common with the rational "realistic" realpolitik of Bush Sr. and Henry Kissinger than the policies of Bush Jr. do.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.