Continued from last post . . . Some of my friends who also knew them like to dismiss my old libertarian trolls C & G as cranks and weirdos. Freaks, basically.
But the last few years of politics convinced me that my two years of friendship with them was a case study in new liberal thinking at the everyday level. This is especially true for the conservative and economic right-wing forces that mobilized against the Obama Presidency in the United States and to crush the resurgence of progressive values in Occupy.
|Edward Snowden is a hero to libertarians and social
progressives, but that's as far as the alliance between
modern right and left social movements go.
New liberalism and the libertarian values that underlie and endorse neoliberalism as a popular movement are fundamentally about shrinking the role of the state in people’s everyday lives. And I feel like I should be with them for that reason. One topic that has the most potential to bring the libertarians and progressives together (and in some places, has already) is in opposition to aggressive state police, mass intelligence gathering, and destructive overseas military adventurism.
While it helped a little when Snowden’s revelations first broke, I don’t know how the two opposed Western social movements of our era can achieve genuinely peaceful co-existence. Progressives and libertarians agree on one very specific, if materially massive, political problem: government mass data collection and spying has to stop.
Our disagreement is a much more fundamental matter, which means that thinking through and solving this problem is a task for philosophy.
Those fundamental matters revolve around individualism and economics. I’ll talk about the economics first, with the caveat that I have mostly an average intelligent person’s understanding of the more detailed economic concepts.* I can tell you about the field’s basic concepts, the difference between Keynes and Hayek’s influences in the field, and why austerity politics are generally disastrous but people believe in them anyway. Ask me to build you a mathematical economic model and I’ll politely decline.
* Something I’d like to do for some later writing project is figure out how to build a non-capitalist, non-state economic system that would actually work in an ecologically stable context and avoid systematic injustices. Just to see if we can! The problem is that I’d need to work with a professional economist, and I haven’t yet found one who would even entertain these ideas.
In the shadow of Hayek’s ideas, particularly as they were expressed in his epoch-making popular book The Road to Serfdom, libertarians have become just as economically determinist as the orthodox Marxists** they despise. For Hayek, and for all the members of the libertarian social movement that followed in his wake, what makes a state totalitarian is who controls the economy. That’s it.
** Are there even any of these left?
I worked this out from reading the movement’s foundational philosophical works, conversations with individual libertarians like C, G, and others across the internet, and examining the journalistic and think tank discussions. The sole measure of freedom is how much control the state has over the economy, either as a whole or sector by sector.
Suggest that some restrictions on gun and other weapons sales would help encourage peaceful conflict resolution in everyday life? Absolutely not! When the state takes guns from its citizens or impedes their access to guns, it prevents them from resisting police and military crackdowns.
Have you considered the implications of Frantz Fanon’s descriptions of post-colonial paranoia? That civil conflict can all-too-easily emerge when people (and a local elite) hang onto an attitude that searches for enemies, maintaining solidarity through struggle instead of building culture? Fanon was an idiot! Post-colonial countries collapse into civil war because the state takes too much control over the economy and different interest groups will fight for that power.
Consider Hannah Arendt’s analyses of the racist aspects of totalitarian social and state movements, that they essentially bring colonial conquest home? Nonsense! Appeal to racist beliefs is an incidental piece of propaganda, nothing but a means to get people behind the state takeover of the economy. Besides, correcting racial injustice is just a scam for socialists to take from the rich to build a new upper class of state-funded minorities!
This last part is explicitly in Hayek’s analysis of Nazi politics, and where I think he seriously falls on his face. Unfortunately, since Road to Serfdom became gospel to the libertarian movement, his actual blindness is interpreted as insight into the essence of the problem.
What’s more, the libertarian perspective is so individualist that they don’t believe race exists. And not always in the good way, like understanding how race is a social category that first developed as a function of the trade in African slaves, and so can be overcome through political activism. It’s an individualism so strong that it doesn’t even permit you to acknowledge that RACISM exists . . . To be continued.