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View Diary: What Conservatives Mean When They Say "Libertarian" (279 comments)

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  •  That's also what "Tea Partier" means (19+ / 0-)

    It's shorthand for, "i totally cant deal with the fact that I've voted for Bob Dole, Sarah Palin, George W Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain to lead the country in the past 15 years. What is wrong with me. Someone put me in the witness protection program. Oh screw it, just change the party name."

    "A lie isn't a side of a story. It's just a lie." The Wire

    by glutz78 on Sun Apr 18, 2010 at 06:32:25 AM PDT

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    •  "witless protection" = "git'er dumb" n/t (8+ / 0-)

      "...calling for a 5" deck gun is not parody. Not by a long shot." (gnaborretni)

      by annieli on Sun Apr 18, 2010 at 06:58:20 AM PDT

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      •  Conservatism, explained by Thomas Frank (10+ / 0-)

        [C]onservatism has always been an expression of business.  Absorbing this fact is a condition to understanding the movement; it is anterior to everything else conservatism has been over the years.  To try to understand conservatism without taking into account its grounding in business thought--to depict is as, say, the political style of an unusually pious nation or an extreme dedication to the principle of freedom--is like setting off to war with maps of the wrong country.  Yes, there have been exceptions, and yes, the conservative coalition has changed over the years, but through it all a handful of characteristics have remained steadfast: a commitment to the ideal of laissez-faire, meaning minimal government interference in the marketplace, along with hostility to taxation, regulation, organized labor, state ownership, and all the business community's other enemies.  Laissez-faire has never described political reality all that well, since conservative governments have intervened in the economy with some regularity, subsidizing railroad construction, putting down strikes, adjusting tariffs, and propping up the gold standard.  But as a theory of society, laissez-faire has always been persuasive to the business class.  The free-market way was nature's way, conservatism held; the successful succeeded because they damned well deserved to succeed.

        [However, when you realize how easily "the public face of conservatism change[s] so radically" that "it [is] difficult sometimes... to understand that it [is] still conservatism" with prominent conservatives railing against a new enemy-of-the-month and hailing some new-found aspect of the free market..]  These people all [seem] to change, but their essential political views [do] not.... Their superficial changeability reveals a truth about American conservatism generally: The interests of business are central and defining, while every other aspect or strategy of the movement is mutable and disposable.  Indeed, even the cult of the free market, which appears to be such a solid, fixed element of the business mind, is malleable as well, with conservatism whining for bailouts and high tariff walls when those seem like the way to maximize profits.  The justifications for laissez-faire have varied more widely still, swinging from the savage philosophy of social Darwinism a hundred years ago to the market populism of our own time, in which business is just a way to empower the noble common people.


        The needs of business stand like a rock; all else is convenience, opportunism, a bit of bushwah generated by some focus group session and forgotten the instant it is no longer convincing.  Fundamentally amoral, capitalism is loyal to no people, no region, no heroes, really, once they have exhausted their usefulness--not even to the nation whose flag the wingers pretend to worship.

        from Thomas' The Wrecking Crew, quoted in my diary about how Conservatism killed the miners

        •  The rich and elite see other people (3+ / 0-)
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          fumie, QuestionAuthority, AguyinMI

          as profit centers. They feel justified in shutting down people as individuals or groups if they stop being profitable.

          This can be most clearly illustrated by the actions of health insurance companies.

          If wanting the country to succeed is wrong, I don't want to be right.

          by Angela Quattrano on Sun Apr 18, 2010 at 10:34:35 AM PDT

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        •  The US has never been Laissez Faire. (3+ / 0-)

          "Laissez-faire has never described political reality all that well, since conservative governments have intervened in the economy with some regularity, subsidizing railroad construction, putting down strikes, adjusting tariffs, and propping up the gold standard."

          Agreed and a fair point. A "real" libertarian does not believe in the government engaging in those shenanigans either. Also a real libertarian is not anti-union, because a union is a private organization created by individuals to address wrongs (as they see them) that come up in the workplace. A libertarian capitalist may not like unions, but a real one does not believe the government should be used either to quash them or empower them, it is a group of free individuals organizing to better themselves.

          A libertarian is certainly against any bailouts or the notion of too big to fail. There is a strong desire to tie libertarians to TEA-baggers and Neo-Cons, they are as radically different as Republicans and Democrats.

          I have said it here before and will say it again, libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a moral one. It is a distinction which needs to be made.

          •  May I disagree? (0+ / 0-)

            It is a philosophy of ethics which informs and guides one's politics. It is not a moral philosophy, as morals are too often tangled with religion and cultural mores.

            •  Fair enough. (1+ / 0-)
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              If you want to consider libertarianism a philosophy of ethics in a purely deontological sense, that is probably OK (for me) for here (although I have misgivings about even bringing that up in this forum.). But, I think you cannot ascribe any axiological position to it--that is what Libertarianism, at least attempts, to try to avoid.

              Surely there is an ethics at work when describing a system of individual rights, whether you believe they are scientistically derived, derived from nature, or granted by the flying spaghetti monster. I mean a system of individual rights seeks to protect people from direct harm from others (which is certainly an ethical position). But it does not actively seek a method for which the situations of others can be lifted via a centralized coercive force.

              So the ethical nature of a libertarian position is rather broad, in that it only seeks to create a communal environment where people can thrive in the ways that they see best. But it offers no guidance on whether it is right or wrong for people to be happy, or whether a central government should make them happy. The major problem that Libertarians have with progressivism, is that although the intentions may be good, there are always so many variables that lead to unintended consequences that you cannot ultimately achieve a viable centrally-planned economy; a consensual system of ethics applicable to everyone, A happy life for everyone, etc. with resulting in at least some flavor of tyranny.

          •  NO-ONE is Laissez Faire. (1+ / 0-)
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            The term "free market" is an oxymoron, if it means "free from political distortion."  The minute a group of people prospers sufficiently from any market, they put a certain amount of that prosperity to work... distorting the market politically.

            "Arguments are to be avoided. They are always vulgar, and are often convincing." -- Oscar Wilde

            by Villagejonesy on Sun Apr 18, 2010 at 07:40:50 PM PDT

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            •  Agreed. (0+ / 0-)

              I think you and I are in total agreement on this point. But that type of political distortion occurs in all forms of governance where the state is granted a monopoly on coercive force. It is easier to get to public officials than private ones. I like to look at it this way. The reality is that most people wish to make their lives better, many of those wish to become more prosperous. When you are a government bureaucrat and you are ambitious it is difficult to substantially better you position, so corruption and graft are the alternative to the capitalistic acquisition of wealth. I just ask you, which is more immoral. My concerns with the government running everything is that it becomes a system of political favors and bribery, on a scale that makes the same situation in a capitalist market seem tame. If the government is locked in by a strong constitutional bill of rights and there is an elected body creating laws, this issue becomes limited. It does not go to zero and no system will allow for that. But look at eastern Europe, to go to college you had to show up with a bucket of cash, tvs, etc. just to bribe all the officials necessary to allow your child into university. It had nothing to do with academics, merit, or fairness. Socialism breeds a different kind of corruption from capitalism, one, I think, that most people on here who advocate socialism, really do not want to live under. I don't want to try to change your mind. But the major hole in a socialist philosophy is how to keep government officials in check. I admit there are difficult issues that a libertarian has to face, and there are aspects where notions of free-market and private property (especially) become slippery. The only thing I ask is that there are a lot of people in this country who wish for more government involvement in our lives, please take a look at issues such as this before letting the government run more and more. A socialist system may work, but this is a major issue that needs to be dealt with and the only way to do that is to hold democratic leaders accountable on this matter. I see more fighting against the other side, with very little introspection, than actually looking at what the actual mundane functioning role of new bureaucracies is going to be. That is where the horror lies. Focusing the discourse on Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and not on where you want your party to go and how you want it to lead, is a problem. I know I am going to get screamed at for this but Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh may have become to the democrats what the flag burning issue was to the republicans in the 80's. I think one of the most dangerous places to get in your life, is once you convince yourself that you are right.

              Hell, whether you agree with your politicians or not, always question them.

              Peace Friends.

              •  Thanks NH--I'm a social democrat, not a socialist (0+ / 0-)

                BIG difference.

                Socialism is based on the idea that excessive profiteering cannot be allowed, and of the workers controlling the means of production, and allocating resources.  How this would work, without an elite governing class ending up doing the controlling and allocation, I don't know.  This was the problem with the Soviet Union.

                Firstly, you CANNOT legislate away profiteering.  When money exists, each side in any transaction will always try to get more money and do less labor for it.  That's how monetary transactions work.  The Soviets had RIDICULOUS keystone kops debacles all through the 1920s, as they tried to make profiteering illegal, and economic crises resulted, and they had to allow profit-making in the end.  Just as the idea that you can have a free market without political distortion is a capitalist myth, so this idea that you can get rid of profiteering, without getting rid of money, is the socialist and communist myth.

                Secondly, it is impossible for a government to allocate resources as efficiently as the business world does.  Right-wing economists, reactionary though they may be, were correct when they pointed out that a business need only manage the particular resources that pertain to its business (and even this is hard work); a government seeking to allocate raw materials and finished goods with minute focus must become expert in the needs of ALL businesses.  This is impossible to do efficiently.  These are among the reasons that Communism, in its attempt to anticipate an eventual socialist state, had an unworkable and inefficient economic system.  People were fed in the Communist bloc, but resources were not allocated in any sensible way.

                Social DEMOCRACY, on the other hand, has worked quite well.  In such a system, such as Western Europe has had for decades, capitalism and profit-making are allowed; but the government is also expected to provide certain services, like life and death emergency services such as health care; things important to the economic health and spiritual well-being and self-improvement of the people, but which aren't in our Constitution, such as education; and things related to economic functions and quality of life, such as efficient mass transit systems, like subways for big cities.  Germany, for example, has excelled in its mass transit systems, and France's public health care system has regularly returned well over 80% satisfaction levels, which is great.  Our health care system lets people die or go bankrupt, because it's based on profit and letting people die if the bottom line dictates it.

                Social Democracy has worked so well for Europe, in part, because they haven't been obliged to fight any major wars since 65 years ago.  But then again, we haven't either, yet we still spend as if we must.  This is crazy to me.  It's also crazy to me that, if Germany's public works projects positively gleam (and they do--visit Hamburg, and you'll see a really shiny, nice, modern city, in a country whose deficits are regularly a third of ours), we don't seek to copy them on their public works, and France on their health care system.

                "Arguments are to be avoided. They are always vulgar, and are often convincing." -- Oscar Wilde

                by Villagejonesy on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 09:15:41 PM PDT

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                •  Nota bene: obviously, the Soviets didn't allow (0+ / 0-)

                  profiteering as we do with our super-rich.  But they did have to allow profit-making, and there were, of course, more privileged and less privileged, those with more and those with less, in all Eastern Bloc countries.

                  "Arguments are to be avoided. They are always vulgar, and are often convincing." -- Oscar Wilde

                  by Villagejonesy on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 10:06:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I agree with that statement. (1+ / 0-)
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                    The haves under the Communist system were not capitalists but were party members and government bureaucrats--The people who controlled access to goods and services. The corruption occurred at the gatekeeper level as well as at the top. This type of corruption is commonplace even in Western European Democratic Socialist states. My point was not to argue the merits of a capitalist system over a socialist one, it was merely to encourage others to question the structure and accountability under a socialist state. Replacing one unfair system with another, doesn't in my mind, seem to accomplish much.

                •  But is it sustainable. (0+ / 0-)

                  Europe, is by no means a utopia. Look at the largest western European immigrant group to the US, it is Germany. They (the Germans) leave because a bureaucratic caste system has developed that is making it harder and harder for individuals to prosper and to choose their own way in life. I also do not believe that the levels of european socialism are sustainable, eventually like other socialist states, they run out of money.

                  Ludwig Von Mises did a pretty decent job of proving that there are too many variables to centrally plan an economy and the adjustments only lead to larger problems.

                  At the risk of sounding caustic, the problems facing America, have little, I think, to do with a failure of Capitalism, or the free market, because we have had a lighter version of a socialist state in the US since FDR. I think the failure is in the selective government regulation of business in order to help donors, lobbyists etc. This is not merely a problem with the Republicans. It is rampant in the Democratic Party as well.

                  I will admit that there is no panacea to solve the worlds ills, but but greater and more absolute power in the hands of the only group to have a monopoly on force, I find, is troubling.

                  My question is, do you think that the type of corruption I am talking about would not happen in the US because somehow our leaders are just good people. I am just asking, how to deal with this issue, in a socialist, quasi-socialist, capitalist, social democratic or communist state.

                  How do you check the power of the government?

                  It's like this, I often ask my progressive friends who are for strong gun control. What is a Bush administration actually turned out to be the dictatorship it was purported to be? Don't you think the left might wish to rise up against that tyranny, it certainly makes it easier if they are armed.

                  I am not seeking broad philosophical statements, I would like to know others on this site's position about government and bureaucratic corruption under a strong central state. Is this a problem to a progressive, and how the democratic socialist system purports to take care of the unfairness that would arise in this situation? Yes capitalism has these problems, so does communism, a theocracy, a monarchy, etc. It just seems to me that the western liberal tradition offers a better method for handling these issues, even though the system is admittedly unfair.

        •  Only to the extent that business is royalty. (0+ / 0-)

          pre-capitalism, conservatism was monarchism: rear-guard action of the hereditary nobility against the ebb of feudalism.

          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 04:29:41 PM PDT

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