Monday, April 29, 2013

Libertarianism and The Great American Scam

by Anthony Schiappa

For a long time, I took the Libertarian party line at face value. Though they seemed to have respectable views on social issues, they also seemed to be true believers in the myth of the free market. I couldn’t figure out why it never dawned on them that when the investment class—mainly banks and insurance companies—runs the economy into the ground, the government must resuscitate it with public funds, lest the country finally keel over for good. I was convinced that Libertarians just don’t realize that if they eliminated the stabilizing role of the state in this dynamic, the whole Ponzi scheme of the American economy would devour itself in no time. 

Chalk up my misunderstanding to some vestigial Lefty haughtiness; they know full well what they’re doing. The Libertarian program is a classic bait-and-switch.

Whatever its roots, the modern Libertarian party is in practice an attempt by a right-wing that has lost the “culture wars” to re-brand itself as a group of laid-back, gay-friendly ganja hounds in order to drain the youth vote from Democrats and to convert those who profess to be “thoroughly disgusted” with party politics—conservative-minded people too hip for the GOP’s morbid Calvinist positions on social issues. After poaching enough of these people by leaning left socially, they can push even harder right on economics, dismantling what few barriers remain preventing Wall Street from gobbling up absolutely everything.

And that’s it. Like any group of elites, all they really want is more for themselves and less for everybody else. The song-and-dance about liberty and freedom only provides ideological cover for a ramped-up program of legalized theft. They will get right to work on the agenda that the far right has been pushing for years: dismantling Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, keeping that cash for themselves, and then slapping a price tag on every aspect of social life. Those galvanizing moral and social issues will be left to the states, where they can be quietly ignored.

But this kind of scam—hawking “freedom” to convince people to willingly participate in their own exploitation—is hardly new. It is, in fact, quintessentially American. Just take a close look at those heroes always evoked by Libertarians, the Founding Fathers. 

And make no mistake, those stodgy old WASPs do indeed represent perfectly the Libertarian philosophy, the real one.

The Founders were for the most part an elite class of businessmen born or married into the colonial aristocracy, who expanded their fortunes and thus their political power by the sweat of their slaves’ brows. In a scheme to get out of paying their taxes to the Crown, they convinced the landless peasants to fight their war for them by feeding them a line of shit about the struggle for liberty against tyranny, co-opting the revolutionary propaganda of proto-socialist radical Thomas Paine. They then created on the one hand an American ideology in which people were convinced it was their duty as citizens to participate in civic life, and on the other, a political system into which they placed as many barriers as possible to truly democratic governance, thereby consolidating and protecting their class power. 

It's ingenious in its own way. And like saps, we fell for it. Hard.

Thus the fantasy of Libertarianism is part and parcel of the American fantasy. Over 200 years later, most of us are still true believers in an American Dream that was never meant to be taken literally, but forever chased like a rabbit at the economic dog track. We were never intended to have equal opportunity this Grand Republic; it has always been by and for the owners. The inspiring moments in American history have been those attempts to force this country make good on its false promises, and the price for those meager concessions has always been paid in blood. 

The Libertarian project is but another attempt to roll back those hard-won privileges, preparing us for a more complete takeover.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Unremarkable Massacre

by Anthony Schiappa

What else can be said about the attack on Boston? For all its carnage, it just confirmed what we already knew.

It reminded us that real legacy of the Bush years is very much alive, namely that the distinction between war and peace has disintegrated and will eventually become meaningless. For over eleven years now we’ve been fighting a war with no clearly defined enemies or objectives or battlefields. In many cases there are no obvious weapons—instead, we now have pressure cookers, ball bearings, and airliners. War is always happening and it is everywhere, a fact we are continuously absorbing into our everyday lives. And we’ll keep on getting used to it. Eventually it will become mundane. 

Within twenty years, Boston-like massacres followed by a martial lockdown will become little more than a nuisance, slightly more inconvenient than a traffic jam. 

Of course, this kind of violence has been a fact of life for millions of people for decades on end; the only thing new is that this violence is now happening in America. The history of the global role of the United States in the postwar years is well-known and no longer controversial. Even the most reactionary right-wingers accept these bland truths. The Long War, to borrow Rumsfeld’s ingenious phrase, has been raging on the periphery for years. On 9/11 it came home, becoming visible on our turf. Nothing more, nothing less.   

And it’s here to stay.

Without a strong, organized, and truly unapologetic Left, there is no reason to expect things to ever be different. What we have instead is more pleading from liberals for tolerance of Muslims and immigrants, and reminders of continuing horrors abroad. Many find it impossible to critique such a sentiment that on its face seems like a well-meaning message of understanding, but we must do so, because ultimately these sentiments miss the point. They reveal a tacit acceptance of an intolerable situation—namely the infinite violence engendered by the exercise and expansion of power through the marketplace—simply wishing to manage this repugnant, unholy state of affairs in a more human, multicultural way. We’re not exhorted to resist but admonished into superficial empathy.

It is easy enough to discern the familiar motivation behind the liberal reminders of the world’s ongoing horrors. It seems to come not from a genuine solidarity with the victims but from a desire to shame our fellow Big Dumb Americans for their narcissistic compassion. It’s a group surely worthy of scorn, but I have my doubts that anyone really cares about the Syrians, the Afghans, the Iraqis, or any of the other groups routinely blown to bloody smithereens, either by us or our donated weapons, but plenty of people are happy to use those same victims to embarrass Uncle Sam, the fat, ignorant maroon that he is, and the Diet Coke-guzzling, church-going, gun-fanatic proles that love him. This is not radical emancipatory politics, it is snobbery. The rancid class-prejudice Orwell identified way back in the 1930s still permeates the coddled and comfortable Left, a whole generation that has never had to put anything on the line for its alleged ideals.

This is why I harp so much on Left. It’s not around when we need it the most.

So it continues: a fearful and vain population more completely subsumed into the world of postmodern, everyday warfare of the “network,” endless power games waged across our bodies in ball bearings and shrapnel, on and on, until there's no more money to burn.