Skip to main content

A bunch of libertarians have taken great offense at my earlier post yesterday on libertarianism in Somalia. The key part of that post was:

This, by the way, is why racism, theocracy and libertarianism go hand in hand, when from a philosophical point of view they should have little to do with one another. The negative effects of the lack of a central government are so obvious in developing countries that wherever the social order fails as in Somalia, it must have been due to bad religion, or the defect of having been born to an inferior race.

Ron Paul fans must reassure themselves that such things would never happen to white, Christian folk. They're immune from the Somali problem by virtue being of different stock and different values, you see.

The "Somalia" argument is a sore spot for libertarians. They either fall back on the old line of race and religious prejudice I outlined, or they claim that it isn't true Libertarianism, you see: it's anarchy. True Libertarians believe in just enough government to protect private property and personal safety; without those protections, they argue, anarchy ensues.

The only problem for libertarians is that they cannot point to even a single current or historical example of a government that functions as they imagine it should. They have no concrete, real world examples, so they ply their arguments in a theoretical construct.

Each and every example of places with little centralized government is dismissed by libertarians as an anarchistic situation, not a "true" Libertarianism. It's the "no true Scotman" fallacy, Ron Paul edition. The hellish situation in Afghanistan is blamed on 30 years of war and tribal anarchy, rather than the lack of a central government. The case of Somalia is blamed again on war, on American intervention, and again on tribal anarchy. Historical examples of feudalism arising in the absence of a centralized state, or the repeated Dark Ages that arise after civilization collapses, are dismissed as either irrelevant to the modern world or invalid because of war and anarchy. The fact that corruption and the Mafia are more prevalent in southern Italy where tax collection and central government are weaker than in the North, is again dismissed as a cultural or anarchistic issue. It's always the same argument.

Libertarianism, in other words, is infallible. Wherever it fails, it does so because the people weren't ready for it, or there was too much violence to allow it to work, or because the government wasn't powerful enough to protect people from harm.

Libertarians fail to realize that there has never been--and never will be--a government that functions according to their principles because it runs entirely contrary to human nature.

As any libertarian understands when it comes to statist authoritarians, power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you decentralize and remove the modern welfare state, leaving only essentially a glorified police force in charge to protect private property and personal safety, one of two things happens:

1) The central police force turns into a right-wing military dictatorship invested in stamping out all leftist thinking, then appropriating the country's wealth for themselves and their friends (e.g., Chile under Pinochet);


2) All central authority and protection break down completely as power localizes into the hands of local criminals and feudal/tribal warlords with little compunction about abusing and terrorizing the local population (e.g., feudal France, Afghanistan, Somalia, western Pakistan, etc.) As I said before:

Feudalism is the inevitable historical consequence of the decline of a centralized cosmopolitan state. That's because the exercise of power by those in a position to wield it does not end with the elimination of federal authority: rather, it simply shifts to those of a more localized, more tyrannical, and less democratically accountable bent.

Urban street gangs in under-policed neighborhoods, mafias in under-taxed countries, and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon invariably step in to fill the void where government fails. When the Japanese government wasn't able to adequately help the population after the earthquake and tsunami, the yakuza helpfully stepped in to do it for them. The devolution of local authority and taxation into the hands of criminal groups willing to provide a safety net in exchange for their cut of the action is the invariable pre-feudal result of the breakdown of the government-backed safety net. It happens every single time. The people will want a safety net where utter chaos doesn't prevent it: they'll either get it from an accountable governmental authority, or from a non-governmental authority of shadowy legality. Both kinds of authority will levy their own form of taxation, be it legal and official, or part of an illegal protection scheme.

In its own way, the "No True Libertarianism" argument is very similar to the "No True Communism" of those on the far left, who argue that the fault of Communism lies not with the idea, but with the practice--despite the fact that no successful large-scale Communism has ever been implemented in the world. Neither ideology can fail its adherents. They can only be failed by imperfect practitioners.

Both ideologies run counter to human nature for the same reason: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The people with the money and guns will always abuse the people who don't have the money and guns, unless there are multiple levels of checks, balances, and legal and economic protections to ensure the existence of a middle-class tax base with a stake in maintaining a stable society. The modern welfare state didn't arise by accident or conspiracy: it evolved as a means of avoiding the failures of other models.

Libertarianism is a philosophical game played by those without either enough real-world experience of localized, non-state-actor tyranny, or enough awareness of history to understand the immaturity of their political worldview. Unfortunately, the harm they do to the social safety net and to governmental checks and balances is all too real, and all too damaging.

Cross-posted from Hullabaloo

Originally posted to thereisnospoon (David Atkins) on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 12:02 AM PST.

Also republished by The Royal Manticoran Rangers.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

N in Seattle, fly, claude, Lestatdelc, JekyllnHyde, Superskepticalman, Ed in Montana, renska, dwellscho, filkertom, rfunk, tundraman, jotter, melo, samizdat, dalemac, alyosha, teacherken, Trendar, AaronInSanDiego, glitterscale, Liberal Thinking, Detlef, latts, Geenius at Wrok, dfarrah, badger, am, BigOkie, DebtorsPrison, Emerson, RNinNC, MouseThatRoared, Shockwave, EdinPHX, LynChi, Pescadero Bill, donna in evanston, Wintermute, Andrew C White, genethefiend, eeff, Pompatus, RKS, windwardguy46, gjohnsit, fblau, Mr Teem, concernedamerican, bronte17, Silvan Elf, missLotus, TracieLynn, EricS, cyberKosFan, wonkydonkey, sja, because, highacidity, KMc, mole333, joe pittsburgh, Minerva, Bionic, Dante Atkins, otto, ovals49, bobinson, marylrgn, Fe, BruinKid, Boxers, splashy, Cedwyn, high uintas, admiralh, sidnora, menardk, Brit, wader, rusto, psnyder, annan, danthrax, jsmagid, Karash, plan9pub, Miss Jones, pat bunny, ranger995, roseeriter, TiaRachel, laughingriver, BMarshall, NYFM, CarbonFiberBoy, ohiolibrarian, RuralLiberal, Tillie630, rlharry, clarknyc, Bluebirder, frostieb, Oaktown Girl, Exurban Mom, djtyg, VerbalMedia, zerelda, Curt Matlock, randallt, parryander, Vicky, CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream, Deward Hastings, TheOrchid, rickeagle, vacantlook, wezelboy, Toddlerbob, eztempo, boran2, Dave in RI, bibble, TexMex, sawgrass727, scarolina, Skennet Boch, tovan, maybeeso in michigan, historys mysteries, Bluesee, Simian, marina, RaveON, denise b, ichibon, wmc418, gerard w, jiffypop, caul, JanetT in MD, skidrow, SherwoodB, HudsonValleyMark, democracy inaction, PBen, wizardkitten, vgranucci, Flint, kitchen sink think tank, gshenaut, ChemBob, drewfromct, zamrzla, Brooke In Seattle, YucatanMan, Praxxus, fixxit, farmerchuck, majcmb1, SaraBeth, jimreyn, LABobsterofAnaheim, Ice Blue, peteri2, nwsound, gerardbellavita, ivorybill, Sandino, ord avg guy, Captain Frogbert, minidriver, The Raven, power model, Jlukes, MetalCelt, Alan Arizona, zozie, xaxnar, Jim R, CJnyc, begone, Ian H, reddbierd, Reality Bites Back, mariva, alrdouglas, WuChier, martini, cre8fire, occams hatchet, Paul Ferguson, esquimaux, BachFan, Orinoco, DrSpalding, Mr Bojangles, BlueInARedState, tobendaro, Themistoclea, Kimball Cross, Scientician, sleipner, Naniboujou, Albatross, ktar7582, NBBooks, Conceptual Guerilla, DarkestHour, gpoutney, The Hindsight Times, gatorcog, Sagebrush Bob, happy camper, plf515, armadillo, Preston S, oxley, middleagedhousewife, hlsmlane, onionjim, bajadudes, CA Nana, profh, rsie, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Dianna, means are the ends, ethanthej, Ian Reifowitz, nannyboz, shaharazade, kurious, amini1, bstotts, sea note, bmcphail, Pandoras Box, ZenTrainer, cpresley, Babylon, DBunn, Thinking Fella, clinging to hope, factbased, out of left field, dotsright, Habitat Vic, AdamSelene, leema, Dartagnan, ColoTim, offgrid, UU VIEW, gloriana, EdSF, Via Chicago, Cofcos, noofsh, Matt Z, gustynpip, Mgleaf, sfbob, bnasley, US Blues, TheSpectator, rovertheoctopus, pioneer111, GeorgeXVIII, crystalboy, Zydekos, A Person, shmuelman, Counselor730, Mighty Ike, 123man, Blue Boy Red State, msblucow, revm3up, gzodik, Catzmaw, ScottyUrb, zerone, poligirl, prettyobvious, Involuntary Exile, bythesea, Cat Servant, filby, CDH in Brooklyn, ajr111240, lineatus, wonderful world, KJG52, jakebob, Calamity Jean, pamelabrown, RandomNonviolence, pickandshovel, bluesheep, carver, Jeff Y, Tam in CA, Lyddea, SottoVoce, mofembot, J V Calin, glendaw271, venger, qm1pooh, jjohnjj, MarkVA71, My Spin, BYw, punkdavid, Blueslide, nb41, palantir, ekyprogressive, Ellinorianne, Our Man in Twisp, CatJab, CA coastsider, squarewheel, RWN, bluegrass50, Johnny Venom, legendmn, LaFeminista, maggiejean, artmartin, J Ash Bowie, cybrestrike, J M F, Fonsia, arendt, Dirtandiron, emboyo, litoralis, Dopeman, lilsky, banjolele, Mislead, LeftOfYou, ryan81, Methinks They Lie, FinchJ, Partisan Progressive, Zotz, FrugalGranny, shopkeeper, Obama Amabo, dRefractor, TheOpinionGuy, Leslie in KY, paintitblue, kevinpdx, histOries Marko, IDrankWhat, IreGyre, dalfireplug, Livvy5, Leftcandid, Larsstephens, Botopdawg, BlueOak, Railfan, Amber6541, Its the Supreme Court Stupid, icemilkcoffee, LaughingPlanet, NJpeach, aklib, Tea and Strumpets, Susan Grigsby, Derek Bateman, jethrock, stunzeed, dminor9, skyfox, Lost and Found, plankbob, leftist vegetarian patriot, ATFILLINOIS, Eddie L, BoxNDox, gulfgal98, CayceP, SoCalHobbit, anonevent, DeanObama, DiegoUK, NYWheeler, ban48, nickrud, BobboSphere, ericlewis0, cocinero, science nerd, Its a New Day, not4morewars, JClarkPDX, Mac in Maine, TheHalfrican, Mike08, redlum jak, kerflooey, ladywithafan, ozsea1, Plox, StateofEuphoria, mpointer, jm214, boriscleto, myadestes, Cintimcmomma, La Gitane, m00finsan, magicalpig, UtahLibrul, Fickle, deeproots, CoExistNow, trumpeter, boophus, marleycat, antonrobb, Muskegon Critic, pwn3rship society, beka, Yogurt721, dakinishir, worldlotus, whoknu, peregrine kate, organicus, Crider, MinistryOfTruth, Imhotepsings, poliwrangler, VTCC73, Marihilda, lovespiral, rlk, Vatexia, jolux, MattYellingAtTheMoon, credstone, Miggles, jack23, zenox, stlsophos, MikeBoyScout, RLMiller, DRo, Chitown Kev, aerie star, DEMonrat ankle biter, allergywoman, I C Mainer, No one gets out alive, Azazello, longtalldrink, IowaBiologist, chmood, stormicats, JTinDC, RhodaA, Heart n Mind, anodnhajo, mooremusings, damfino, cwsmoke, Williston Barrett, Siri, eaglekid85va, Citizenpower, wordfiddler, AlaMoJo, S F Hippie, AnnieR, Deep Texan, Nice Ogre, FloridaSNMOM, Trotskyrepublican, Evolutionary, Horace Boothroyd III, kait, Lh1695, Halandri, pot, nerve, Free Jazz at High Noon, Syoho, reginahny, TBug, BusyinCA, MartyM, ClutchCargo, doroma, absolute beginner, dfwlibrarian, Margd, avsp, bigrivergal, Real Fact Bias, kitsy, dotdash2u, Artandscience, maf1029, lastlegslaststand, efrenzy, Greatwyrm, The Geogre, Canis Aureus, lycey, Captain Chaos, TheLawnRanger, mygreekamphora, blueoldlady, onceasgt, Saint Jimmy, sujigu, Illinois IRV, TheMeansAreTheEnd, The grouch, akadjian, Herodotus Prime, MsLiz, sixeight120bpm, Praxical, Setsuna Mudo, Dustin Mineau, pyrophilia, ladyjames, woodyJesus, SixSixSix, Alhambra, Homer177, martianexpatriate, Edmund Xu, Bartskid1, Will Stark

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site