Sunday, October 19, 2008

The End Of Libertarianism

Yesterday Slate asked: did the financial collapse kill Libertarianism?

God, I hope so.

Let’s face it, most Libertarians these days are really just Republicans embarrassed by the social conservatives who have hijacked their party. At least, that describes most of the Libertarians I know. These are people who seem almost apologetic about their political views, qualifying their position with “I’m really more of a Libertarian”--in other words, a Republican who likes to screw, smoke pot, gamble and doesn’t need to be in church three days a week.

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg writes:
Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.

To which the rest of us can only respond, Haven't you people done enough harm already?

Amen to that. I find Libertarians especially tiresome in that regard. We really have never tried a truly market-driven economy, blabbedy blah. Yeah, well, there’s a reason for that. There’s simply no such thing, it’s a total fantasy. The free hand of the market is a myth because it will always be controlled by the system that created it: human greed.

Anyway, Weisberg concedes that there’s plenty of blame to go around, but he calls out former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, former Senate banking committee chair (and McCain adivsor) Phil Gramm, and SEC chairman Christopher Cox for causing the global economy to spiral down the drain. And, says Weisberg, they’re all either actual Libertarians (as in Greenspan’s case) or enacted disastrous Libertarian policies which got us into this mess:

Blame Greenspan for making the case that the exploding trade in derivatives was a benign way of hedging against risk. Blame Gramm for making sure derivatives weren't covered by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, a bill he shepherded through Congress in 2000. Blame Cox for championing Bush's policy of "voluntary" regulation of investment banks at the SEC.

Cox and Gramm, in particular, are often accused of being in the pocket of the securities industry. That's not entirely fair; these men took the hands-off positions they did because of their political philosophy, which holds that markets are always right and governments always wrong to interfere.

By the way, let me point my finger and hold my gut while laughing uproariously at Republicans now spouting mealy-mouthed “now is not the time to place blame” dodges, before they slouch off to a corner to suck their thumbs.

Ever notice how it’s never time for the blame game when it’s primarily their fault?

I do agree that Democrats could have been more forceful in demanding oversight and regulations. Flush with cash and greed, they were drugged by the “let the markets run free and unfettered across the land” opium the Libertarians were selling, too.

Hey, people, “Atlas Shrugged” is fiction. As a writer, let me tell you something I know about fiction: you can always make the story turn out the way you want.


Anyway, because of the failure of Libertarianism, we may be getting a nice little dose of Socialism in this country. But if we had to give some socialist ideas a try, I sure as hell wish it were socialized medicine, not nationalized banks. I don’t need a piece of a bank. I do need healthcare.