Monday, April 14, 2008

This Is What Makes Me Laugh

A comment I just received to my post extolling the libertarian virtues of Switzerland:

I would love to see an entire country where every one of you libertarian freeloaders can live out your selfish greedy existence. It would be fun to watch a divided population of individuals bow to the corporate largess you so admire. The sad reality: It would be a short live utopia. You'll either die from the unregulated food that you consume, or contaminated ground water that you'll drink down stream from a coal fired plant.

I absolutely love crap like this, which shows a complete lack of willingness to engage in rational argumentation. Of course, for starters it shows exactly zero understanding of libertarian philosophy (not surprising), reducing the philosophy of thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, FA Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Jefferson (amongst many, many others) to "selfish greed[]" based on a "divided population of individuals" who admire "corporate largess" and like to "freeload."

Of course, except for (arguably) Rand*, libertarianism quite bluntly rejects "selfish greed" as a moral virtue. Instead, libertarianism argues only that most people act in what they believe to be in their rational self-interest. (I have further argued that when people act in what they believe to be the rational self-interest of others, they wind up harming both themselves and the other person). On the contrary: libertarianism is centered entirely on the premise of "do no harm" to others. We just think that the government should be held to the same standard.

Then there is the claim that libertarians are "freeloaders." This is perhaps the most ignorant statement one can make, as libertarians alone believe that no person is entitled to the work of another person. Indeed, that premise is one of libertarianism's most basic tenets. Libertarians despise corporate welfare every bit as much, more even, than we despise regular welfare.

Libertarians likewise do not necessarily admire corporate largesse. To be sure, we admire anyone who can produce a high quality product for an efficient price. However, this does not mean that we all admire all large corporations. For starters, many large corporations have become so through their willingness to suckle at the teat of government largesse. Those corporations we do not admire. We also do not admire when corporations get bailed out of tough situations by legal changes and backroom lobbying. We particularly despise corporate fraud (when it really is fraud, at least), as fraud is a form of coercion and coercion is the one activity that is most despised by libertarianism. Finally, we do not admire corporations who provide a product or service that we do not like; when this happens, though, we do not go crying to the government to fix our problems. Instead, we simply stop using that corporation's products and services and find a better alternative.

As for our desire for a "divided population of individuals," that is something that no libertarians view as desirable. Instead, we simply believe that all relationships should be consensual. This has the effect of minimizing conflict and maximizing cooperation. To be sure, there will be those tiny number of people who prefer no contact with the outside world. Libertarians have no beef with them - they are doing no one any harm and are living their lives as they see fit. But their lifestyle is not exactly the preferred lifestyle of most libertarians.

As for the evil effects of unregulated economies causing massive pollution and poisonous toxins: well, that's pretty freaking silly. Last I checked, the most libertarianish countries in the world all enjoyed extremely high standards of living, while the countries with the most regulated economies in the world like, I don't know, Zimbabwe, had as low a standard of living as you can imagine. Put another way: those countries that have remained truest to Enlightenment ideals are the countries that have the highest standards of living, while those countries that have most abandoned the enlightenment enjoy the lowest standards of living, or at least rapidly deteriorating standards of living. After all, it doesn't make much sense for a business to allow so much poison in its products that its customers can't live, since that would mean they wouldn't have any more customers (and not just because they all died off - people won't buy a product they know will kill them).

Meanwhile, if you look at the world's most polluted cities, you'll notice a common theme: they're all in highly regulated or recently highly regulated locations (by high regulations, I mean outright Communism or something close to it).

But hey, if you really think air travel was safer in the early 70s than it was just before Congressman Oberstar's ego-trip last week, well then I have a beautiful bridge to sell you in Venezuela.

*I read Rand in a somewhat different fashion from most, in that I believe her definition of "selfish" is very, very different from what we typically understand as "selfish." Of course that might change once I read "The Virtue of Selfishness" in the next few days.