Today we are treated to an infotaining essay on the subject of Libertarians by SJ (Science Junkie), my good friend and self-proclaimed Loyal Subject™ (hahaha. WINNING). Science Blogs-era Pharyngula readers from a few years back might recognize his ‘nym. :D
Please give SJ a warm Death to Squirrels welcome!
[CONTENT NOTE: photographic image depicting a large animal carcass lying in a street, and several impoverished young children; casual ableism.]
Three years ago a I posted a blog at my favorite palace in which I heaped contempt on the Libertarians’ patron saint, Ayn Rand. The vastly overrated novelist and “philosopher” died in 1982, but her legacy of superficial, egocentric “moral principles” lives on as a quasi-philosophy and cornerstone of a mean-spirited and delusional political party that is, at least for now, marginalized. (Warning: Things can change quickly here in Loonyland, so don’t write the Libertarians off.)
The graphic below was the inspiration behind the present title, and also for my earlier blog. As I wrote then, “The only problem with the graphic is the word philosopher, which belongs in scare quotes. Philosopher, my ass. If Ayn Rand is a philosopher, Michele Bachmann is a Constitutional scholar. Rand is the late-night infomercial of political philosophy. In a sane, educated society, she would be a standing joke, à la Bachmann.”
Anyway, and for what it might be worth, my impressions of libertarianism kinda go like this: I got mine; you’re on your own, Jack! If there’s no work where you are, just pack it up and move somewhere else . . . If your wages are too low to support your family, get a second job, or put the kids to work . . . Bootstraps, man! . . . Only the worthy will be rewarded, and the wealthy and powerful (hereafter W&P) will deservedly rule . . . And, as former Republican Congressman Ron Paul explained, if you or your kids get sick, you’ll have to look for a charitable doctor who will let you pay him when you earn your share of the American Dream Pie™.
But not to fear. You see, it’s all gonna work out according to the hallowed magic of the Unregulated Free Market. The libertarian social Darwinist wet dream starts with the elimination of virtually all forms of taxation . . . Then the W&P (acting strictly in their individual self-interest, of course) will start creating an abundance of jobs, and the economy will prosper as never before. Which sounds like good old trickle-down economics, that article of faith if not proven fact among conservatives. Just be ready to run for cover when the trickle is aimed your way, because there won’t be any minimum wage or other protections you might think would be taken for granted in The Greatest Country Ever in the 21st Century. But hey, you won’t have to pay any income tax. Just be sure to read the fine print before you sign on.
In an excellent, recent blog titled, Gary Johnson is worse than Donald Trump, Benjamin Studebaker writes,
Gary Johnson has a tax plan that makes Donald Trump’s plan look left wing. Johnson wants to eliminate the income, capital gains, payroll, and estate taxes completely and replace them all with a flat 23% national sales tax.
That brilliant idea seems to have originated with right-wing intellectual and failed presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who calls it the “fair tax.” The idea is the wealthy will buy more stuff and pay more taxes . . . what could be more fair than that?
Except that there seem to be a few pesky reality clauses buried in the fine print.
As Studebaker points out, the W&P will pay sales tax on a relatively small portion of their income compared to working stiffs making less than $70,000, who will pay taxes on almost all of their earnings. According to Studebaker, in some places the combined federal and state sales taxes for working people could amount to as much as 50 percent of their income.
Which means that the 23 percent figure can be grossly misleading: The effective tax rate for someone who makes $300,000 and spends $100,000 on taxable goods and services will not be 23 percent but about eight percent of their income! And the effective tax rate becomes vanishingly small as income increases. But never mind that, because the W&P will reward the rest of us by creating lots of jobs, enough so you’ll be able to find a second or even a third job to make ends meet.
Libertarians also intend to balance the federal budget and eliminate government borrowing, immediately. Imagine how virtuous you’re going to feel, knowing you won’t be “burdening future generations with debt they didn’t consent to” (which is immoral, even criminal, according to many Libertarians). And remember their mantra, “Taxation is thievery” (although I’ll go with author Michael Ventrella’s take on that idea).
Social Darwinism, Anyone?
And there’s more, much more: Libertarians virtually worship unregulated free-market competition – which I prefer to call all against all – as the formula for the success of all . . . Well, excepting certain groups, like slackers, dummies, and the elderly who weren’t wise enough to sign up for a private retirement plan. And if a stock market crash wipes out all those private retirement savings? Too bad, those losers should have made provisions. But even then they’ll still have their precious freedom and their ever-so-realistic hopes of becoming members of the W&P class. That kind of economic freedom has got to be the most glorious thing there is!
There’s even balm for you liberals out there: Libertarians are socially liberal, maybe more so than you are, though they waffle on a few things, like abortion. Just ask Ron and Rand Paul about that (can’t alienate all those religious-right-zygotes-are-humans voters). But for the most part, you’ll be free to do what makes you happy – so get ready to put on your best new duds, or nothing, and go out there and raise hell, so long as you don’t interfere with someone else’s fun. Might be a good idea, though, to pack a gun in that brave new world, because there will be no gun restrictions – freedom, don’tcha know! You may not even be required to have a driver’s license, if you can afford a car. Just free people being free. What can go wrong?
Studebaker’s blog is a good read, with quotes and analyses of several planks from the Libertarian platform. Gotta love this one:
We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.
What can go wrong?
And there’s this:
We favor a free-market health care system.We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.
I mean, what can go wrong?
Scenes like this one from the Good Old Days are evidently A-OK with Libertarians.
Do they really think turning everything over to the “free market” will improve the myriad social, environmental, economic, health, education, and infrastructure problems we face? (Feel free to add your own categories.) Or promote peaceful coexistence among our citizens? Evidently they do. Or maybe they don’t care. Fortunately, they are, for now, marginalized. And let’s hope it stays that way: Their entire program is nothing more than a half-baked, egotistical thought experiment, untethered from reality to a scary degree. I’ll even argue that they’re not a serious political party, that they don’t deserve a place at the table when serious adults are discussing real-world policy issues. Like their guru, Ayn Rand, they have created a caricature of human nature to suit their ideological pretensions.
So please don’t throw your vote away on radical ideologues; and if you’re tempted, remind yourself that their answer for those who can’t afford health care is charity.
One more quote, from H.L. Mencken, offered here with sadness:
No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. . . .
The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand, and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is a folly.
That about sums it up, I’m truly sorry to say.
A smart-ass friend who commented on my first draft wrote, “Sheesh, what do you really think about Libertarians?”
Channeling physicist Wolfgang Pauli, I wrote, “They are not even wrong.” But moments before clicking Send, I had an inspiration and remembered an internet meme I’d slightly modified and saved for just such an occasion.
FRACTAL WRONGNESS: They are not just wrong. They are wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. Zooming in on any part of their world view finds beliefs exactly as wrong as their entire worldview.
SJ (Science Junkie), is the ‘nym of a self-described “older married guy,” a former college psychology instructor and editor at a national magazine. Every stage of his very full life has been dominated by a passionate interest – from chess to distance running to photography (his current obsession). He writes under a pseudonym for fear that the opinions he expresses, particularly with regard to religion, might very well cause real problems for his family in his gawd-fearin’ community. (He plans to “come out” after his wife retires.) In the meantime, SJ promises to do his best to defend and promote science and reason, and to keep power out of the hands of the proto-fascists who have declared war on just about everything he values.