A Common(s) Idiot

At CPAC, Glenn Beck gave his usual rant about The Coming Apocalypse to an enthusiastic crowd.  Along the way, he mentioned that he learned what he “knows” (LOL) at the library.

Cue realization of contradiction for comedic effect in 3…2…1…:

“Glenn, the library isn’t free! It’s paid for with tax money. Free public libraries are the result of the Progressive movement to communally share books. The first public library was the Boston public library in 1854. It’s statement of purpose: every citizen has the right to access community owned resources. Community owned? That sounds just like communist. You’re a communist!”

-John Stewart

Good for a chuckle, but there’s a larger tell of what this says about the Right & its incoherence.  It’s obvious why Shouty Glenn didn’t realize what he was saying with that line: he, like myself & like most reasonable people, sees nothing particularly bad about public libraries.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say if the extent of government were merely communal availability of books then there’d be little for all but staunch Objectivists to complain about.

Now, since Beck & presumably most other right-wingers in the U.S. aren’t including libraries on their list of Absolute Collectivist Evil, they can’t possibly be as purely anti-collective as their rhetoric suggests.  Of course, we already know this because they hold sacrosanct even more such things as the public army, public police forces & public national bouncers AKA “immigration agents”.  Their true argument, as a result, is haggling over what should be collectively provided for & what shouldn’t — making them no different than the people they scream about on the means.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have the fact that government is not the only way to do collective provision of goods.  Some on the Right even mention charity, of course, but there have also been co-ops, mutual aid associations, various cultural organizations, myriad methods of providing something to and as a group.  If something is a collective outside of government then there is no grounds, political or moral, to interfere.  Approve of it?  Then join.  Disapprove?  Then don’t.  Simple.

Sure, there’s the hypocrisy of using anti-collective rhetoric when you don’t have a problem with collectivism for things that you personally like.  But I would go further & say that other than the most devout of Ayn Rand followers, we’re all collectivists to some extent.

I personally want “public” to actually mean the public rather than the state, which makes me a radical.  Others, though they acknowledge their collectivism, don’t make that distinction, so they’re part of the mainstream.  Those who make arguments that suggest the mere idea of commons is downright wicked, when their true reasoning is “my collective is wonderful, yours is evil”, have a more appropriate label: dumbass.


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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5 Responses to A Common(s) Idiot

  1. MichaelM says:

    You’ve got the right idea here but are unnecessarily muddying your own waters. In grasping that only the Objectivists are not collectivists, you nevertheless seem to have missed the two key points that they recognize: 1) that the pertinent question is not public or not public, it is force or freedom; and 2) that there is no such entity as the “public” anyway, there are only individuals.

    You may not conclude that advocating a public army and police force is collectivist, because the Objectivist radical laissez-faire capitalism requires them but prohibit the coercion of individuals to fund them.

    In that society, there are only individuals whose every interrelationship with others must be voluntary, leaving “public” to be, as it should, just a broad generalization and not any specific entity.

    Beck & Co. get tangled up in hypocrisy primarily because they are, like most Americans, pragmatists. They are missing the benefit of the Objectivist ethics that unequivocally precludes all attempts to justify forced exchanges of values. Their altruist religious beliefs tell them they must be sacrificial animals at the same time that their seat-of-the-pants American horse sense tells them that they are self-sovereigns.

  2. b psycho says:

    Your point on force vs freedom is one I agree on. As for “public”, I was deliberately using the equation of “public” & government in that line to show how they make a distinction that doesn’t exist on those fronts. I personally don’t subscribe to that interpretation either, since it assumes perfect representation when IMO the concept of “representative government” itself is a falsehood. When I say public I mean the possible array of voluntary exchange & cooperation among individuals, which is in conflict with government. That said…

    You may not conclude that advocating a public army and police force is collectivist, because the Objectivist radical laissez-faire capitalism requires them but prohibit the coercion of individuals to fund them.

    If a police force is funded voluntarily then it is still collectively held by those that contribute to it.

    We’re not far apart when it comes to individuals & voluntary relationships, btw. I just have a different view on what those relationships can do.

  3. MichaelM says:

    If a police force is funded voluntarily then it is still collectively held by those that contribute to it.

    Without being inexorably wed to the word “public”, I don’t think it is accurate to say that a voluntarily funded government is “collectively held by those that contribute to it, for a number of reasons.

    A forceless capitalist government is not a private police force. It answers to the Constitution (and courts and legislature in the usual checks-and-balances manner, not the payers. It would not be a this for that fee based system at all. So, in the context of governance it would be as public as any other, while in the context of funding it would not be.

    It is clear that your view differs somewhat, but “what those relationships can do” is not immediately apparent, because of the variety of possible meanings “commons” can have.

  4. b psycho says:

    If funding doesn’t imply control, then what are people paying for?

  5. MichaelM says:

    They are paying for the universal guarantee of individual rights within the region governed.

    The only moral requirements are that protection be universal and that funding be voluntary. Beyond that, who will pay how much is not unlike the question of who should pay for Google. It is a question of economics, not ethics or politics.

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