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.

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