Strawmen & Misdirection

RJ Eskow has a problem. He wanted to write a post bashing libertarianism (despite the depth of abuse by the state being in the news lately) but seems to think it is defined entirely by Objectivism, the Koch brothers, & Rand Paul. That many (I’d assume most even) libertarians are not Objectivists, the Kochs back right-wing republicans the likes of which even RJ should be able to tell aren’t libertarians, and Rand Paul is just triangulating for political gain show the shallowness of his analysis right off the bat, yet he persists.

Throughout the screed are interspersed some questions for libertarians. They’re offered as tests to see if the person responding is a hypocrite according to RJ, though with his assumptions deeply embedded therein. I’ll reply to them while pointing out the problem with those assumptions.

First thing RJ does is consult a list of concepts at the Cato Institute website, fixating on one about spontaneous order & saying the following:

Libertarians define “spontaneous order” in a very narrow way—one that excludes demonstrations like the Arab Spring, elections which install progressive governments, or union movements, to name three examples. And yet each of these things are undertaken by individuals who “coordinated their actions with those of others” to achieve our purposes.

So our first hypocrisy test question is, Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

I don’t know of a libertarian — or anyone, really — who does the blanket dismissal of uprisings in the middle east that he refers to. Also, labor organizing would clearly qualify under the definition given, even if the folks at Cato disagree. As for elections & political parties, though they are coordinated to achieve a purpose, that the purpose is practically speaking to stop spontaneity by way of claiming control of a monopoly on force surely matters. If force in the equation does not at least dull the shine, then the term could be applied to anything, up to & including a military — rendering the term pointless.

By the way: the government reaction to Occupy suggests “order” is in the eye of the beholder. For the ones giving orders to the police during those demonstrations, peaceful protest didn’t count but beating & pepper-spraying the protesters sure did!

2nd question:

Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

Yes, of course, don’t be dumb.

RJ asks this due to a bit of claptrap from Cato about “the virtue of production” and keeping what you earn. His pointing to financialization as falsifying the common wisdom on “production” is a good point, though he apparently doesn’t know that there is a faction of libertarians for whom Cato’s narrative about moochers & buereaucrats robbing productive people runs in reverse, high finance being the true welfare queens.

Speaking of finance, just who does he think manipulates the money? Does the revolving door between the largest financial players & seats at the helm of monetary policy simply not exist?

Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

Obviously. Though many tactics for workers to employ while doing so have been criminalized. Y’know, by the government.

After noting the huge lump o’ fraud in the intersection of finance & housing, RJ’s next question itself begs a few questions right back:

Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?

By who? The same people that served as triggermen for the banks?? Do corporate entity status & a monetary monopoly not count as regulations, though they don’t exist independent of government?
RJ appears to believe in the Government Is Us fallacy, stating that extension of the right to run ones own affairs translates to “the right to regulate the bankers who sell them mortgages”. Idealist progs can make this claim as loud & as often as they want, it will not be “the people” watching the titans of finance, it’ll be the same group of insiders that have always been in control.

You don’t “regulate” such a concentration of power. You break it.

Next returns the claim of “government invented the internet!” as a trump card, despite it having been more complicated then that, followed by quoting Peter Thiel being a plutocrat blowhard & asking the following:

Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.

Considering my thoughts on democracy in a nutshell, try clicking here. Oh, and “what’s wrong” is that representative government is a myth. Go beyond direct involvement & small scale and you run into the agency problem plus a chasm in understanding. This occurs outside of government as well, though when the firm claims the power to kill you it raises the stakes of the contradictions.

Going back to the internet well, RJ asks two questions that pretty much refer to the same thing: enforcement of “intellectual property”. This one gets more to his point:

Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?

Yup! Gee, that was easy… what else do ya got?

Why isn’t a democratically elected government the ultimate demonstration of “spontaneous order”? Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?

Argh…rather than repeat myself like you did, just see above. And if elections are a marketplace, how come we generally get the same crap no matter who is in office? In what kind of goofy marketplace are people required by force to accept a product they didn’t want?

Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?

How do you think they got that large?

[reference to Ayn Rand I won’t dignify with a response]?

[Blank space where response would’ve went if not for above]

If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

Going by his logic this could be said by any successful political figure or party, to their opponents, at any time in history. “You lost, shut up!” isn’t an argument.

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About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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2 Responses to Strawmen & Misdirection

  1. Joe says:

    These people should kneel down and kiss libertarianism’s ass. If it went away tomorrow, they’d have to discover a whole new school of thought to blame for their beloved government’s failure to live up to its supposed ideals.

    Favorite passage:

    On this score, at least, Thiel is no hypocrite. He’s willing to freely say what others only think: Democracy should be replaced by the rule of wealthy people like himself.

    Replaced by? When was our “democracy” ever not rule of wealthy people who owned everything?

  2. Todd S. says:

    Going by his logic this could be said by any successful political figure or party, to their opponents, at any time in history. “You lost, shut up!” isn’t an argument.

    It was (and still is) the same with the fall of the USSR. Everyone took it to mean that communism “lost” and capitalism “won”. Of course, no one seems to realize that time marches on and the race is an endurance event without a finish line. All that really happened is that (state) communism dropped out of the race on the previous lap, which in no way means that capitalism won’t do the same on the next.

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