In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry
about where the next meal would come from.
- Peter Drucker
Economics is not my strongest field, but lucky for me it is a discipline created and dominated by self-serving fools (a very predictable group, not all that dissimilar from 5 year olds). Approaching economics as I do all irrational fields of study (religion is a good example), I should have no problem finding inconsistencies in reality by citing historical evidence.
Libertarianism is a rebranding of old ideas. It is American conservatism, far more so than Republicanism since Reagan onward (perhaps going back even as far as Nixon). One notable addition which dominates their ideology is borrowed from Liberalism (of the Jeffersonian variety): laissez-faire capitalism.
We are perhaps doomed as a nation to constantly have to deal with resurgences of this infantile ideology. Thomas Jefferson was fascinated by it and actively practiced it during his presidency; he had a taste for French ideas. It is forever ensconced in the writings of Jefferson. Of course, so is slavery and racial bigotry, and we seem to better off without the one and striving towards an absence of the other.
Laissez-faire capitalism is a doctrine under which the government does nothing to alter and affect private industry; it is a “hands off” approach. The phrase translates from French as literally as “let them do,” though has come to more accurately be applied in English as “leave them be.” I could go off on a pathos based tirade against French people, but frankly [pun intended?] I like the French. This is just one of their mistakes; they have many other endearing qualities.
There has never been a laissez-faire economy. There has always been a modicum of government intervention in the form of protectionist tariffs, subsidies, and regulation. The government handled licensing for barbers and doctors alike going back prior to the Revolutionary War. Basically, laissez-faire capitalism is a pipe dream never realized (unlike Communism, which is a pipe dream grossly mismanaged several times throughout history, but that is another blog post).
Worse, capitalism is a system that relies upon exploitation. Being rich is not a victimless crime, and some (often many) must to be without in order for some to have so much. It functioned on slave labor during the beginning of this nation’s history, and moved to near-slave labor after the Civil War. The poor—white and minority alike—were underpaid and set to work in horrendous conditions, from railraods to coal mines to factories to cotton fields. When regulations were put into place in the US during the early to mid 20th century, America flourished like never before. (Ever wonder why we think of the 1950’s, post-New Deal America, as so ideal? It was when we were the most Socialist!)
Minimum wage laws, child labor laws, the progressive tax scale, food and drug safety… all of these are absent in a true laissez-faire government. People tend to forget that there was a time when poor children’s peak learning period was occupied working in sweat shops and dangerous factories because everyone in the family had to work in order to earn enough money to subsist.
In fact, this continues in third world nations so that we may have cheap, lead-painted toys (no wonder they think nothing of giving it to our kids, their kids are making them). At the turn of the 20th century, people were falling into meat grinders that just kept right on operating while shysters went from town to town selling concentrated cocaine in syrup form as a cure-all.
This is reality. This is history. This is how human beings treat each other when the level-headed do not step in and correct them.
Libertarians give people too much credit. You can see it in their policy towards guns. They assume everyone is a responsible owner, or if they don’t, they sure don’t seem to care. They assume the world would be safer if everyone owned a gun, despite history’s lessons of the pervasive violence in the oft-romanticized Wild West. In the end, even their policy on drug legalization boils down to being identical to their stance on guns: we can profit, so it’s good. Drugs should be legalized because they’re safer legalized and regulated than they are on the black market, unregulated (which is anti-laissez-faire). They should also be taxed heavily to pay for the cost to public health, much the same way cigarettes are (another measure Libertarians ignorantly oppose).
Perhaps the biggest travesty is the privatization movement, whereby Libertarians hope to one day have us all pay privately for police, fire, water, and who knows, maybe oxygen. This is all an affront to circumvent equality for all on basic services by ensuring the poor receive less (or none, what do Libertarians care?). If anything, more services need to be moved under the control of our democratically elected government and away from the royalist, aristrocratic tyrants of industry who tell us to take what they give us and like it.
In short, Libertarianism is nothing but a scam touted by capitalist pigs who have or are amassing billions, and by frat boys who wish to one day do the same… but after this bong hit.