I Used to Be a Libertarian. I’m Sorry.

libertarian-intersect

I didn’t know what I was thinking.  It sounded great at the time when I first heard about it in my junior year of high school.  Even then I thought that drugs shouldn’t be illegal, and burning the American flag was definitely a matter of free speech.  The government had no place telling me I couldn’t read this book, or listen to this music, or watch this movie that had boobs in it.  Who did they think they were?  Yes, Libertarianism not only appeals to our sense of self-determination, it also appeals to our inner child.  The child that wants everything.  We don’t need no stinking nanny state.  Or public education system.

By the time I was 19 I was reading Ayn Rand and swallowing it chapter and verse.  She became my prophetess, I’ve read Atlas Shrugged five times.  Five.  Times.  That would be considered torture if read to a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, I did it willingly, and I bought into it.  I became an evangelist for Objectivism, but within a year or so I mellowed.  I still believed in a lot of what Rand wrote but I wasn’t quite so zealous.  For years thereafter, I just went around in my own cloud of Libertarian Randroid bullshit and nobody really challenged me on it.  I thought it was because I had a superior argument that could not be broken.  It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized it was because I was exhausting and out of touch with reality to the point where people just patted me on the head and sent me on my way.

Oh, my wounded pride!  To think that all these years I had been so…  right!  Meanwhile, all of those Libertarians I supported and voted for and their close allies in the Republican party were smiling at me and others like me knowing that I was a useful idiot to them.  They would throw me into a shark tank in a second and tell me to just pull myself up by my own bootstraps and sail away on their yacht.

It was my husband, who was then my boyfriend around the time I started to shift, who challenged me on a lot of the shit I was talking.  We would have these epic political discussions and unlike others who simply backed away slowly, he would counter my points.  He would ask me to go into a better defense of them.  Stock answers didn’t work anymore.  Appeals to freedom and liberty didn’t seem so effective.  All of the things I believed in so strongly didn’t seem so strong anymore, and over time I realized that I had been craftily duped.  This is why I understand how so many working-class people can vote against their own interests and support candidates completely hostile to their very existence.  I did the same thing, and I’m sorry.

Many of us hold onto beliefs simply because we lack contrary information, and then when it is given, we hold on because we don’t want to admit we were wrong about something.  I think, though, that this is one of the biggest reasons we don’t change: We don’t want to explain why to friends or family who were ideologically similar.  It’s tough to change directions, and let’s face it, when we do change we’re not often equipped to defend these new ideals against a barrage of criticism coming from our former ideological cohorts.

For me the change was gradual and I tried to work in my new appreciation for progressive principles into my Libertarian framework.  There are some common threads, such as, many progressives and Libertarians agree that the drug war is immoral, wasteful, and creates more crime than it prevents.  It should also be noted that Libertarianism has shifted hard to the right as well, with many believing there should be no government and that the Non-Aggression Principle is all we need to live by.  This is naive folly at best, but as the tide of Libertarianism moved in that direction, many of us who were more traditional or party-oriented felt set aside.

But here’s what it comes down to for me.  Libertarianism is for the privileged.  Like me.  Like many people who live in first-world countries with governments based on the democratic process.  For all they whine about being oppressed by the government, the truth is that most of them don’t know what real oppression is.  Paying your taxes isn’t oppression.  Having armed juntas burst into your home, kill you, and sell your wife and children into sex slavery is oppression.  Being targeted and murdered for being gay or LGBT-allied in Uganda is oppression (and a form funded by U.S. right-wing Evangelical conservatives who, surprise, don’t like big government).  Being black in America and being harassed and attacked by police for the crime of sitting on a public bench waiting for your children is oppression.  It pains me to think that I once thought of myself as “oppressed” because taxes.  Again, I apologize.

We can always have a healthy debate about what we spend tax dollars on, and in that respect I still agree with a lot of Libertarians.  We should not be the world’s police force or arms dealer, we should not be in the business of waging war and mass murder abroad.  We should be taking more care of our own citizens here and making sure Americans have a better standard of living before we consider foreign aid (not that I am against all foreign aid, though).  And we should not be lecturing anyone on human rights while we still torture prisoners of war and hold them without charges or trial and while private prisons are one of our nation’s largest growth industries.  But there are far too many people who would rather tear it all down and replace it with…  nothing.  No state.  No government.

ABSOLUTE FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM!!!

Again, what a whiny, self-centered, over-privileged, white and entitled mindset.  Or as George Carlin once eloquently stated, “GIMME IT, IT’S MINE!!!”.  Libertarians are the Veruca Salts of the political world.   Don’t care how, they want it now.  Don’t care if people aren’t paid a fair or living wage, I got mine.  Don’t care if the power structure in this country favored you in your scholastic and employment pursuits, you “earned” it.  Don’t care if it costs taxpayers less money to have a universal health care system, taxation is immoral because it’s “theft” and letting people suffer and die from treatable/curable medical conditions they can’t afford to access is somehow not immoral.  It’s only gotten worse as the ideology has shifted more towards social Darwinism, and of course they want as little government as possible, BECAUSE IT BENEFITS THEM!!

This was a difficult conclusion to accept because I used to think, no, it benefits everyone, but that’s just not the truth.  Trickle-down economics didn’t work either.  Feeding into greed only creates more greed. Giving the already rich and powerful more money, more power, and less regulation only gives them more incentive to chase more money, more power, and total market anarchy.  It doesn’t benefit those of us with zero chance of breaking into that stratosphere, but we keep selling the myth of Horatio Alger and pushing the narrative that we can all be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffett, and that’s just not true.  Most of us are going to live rather average lives (and that’s okay).  We’re going to be people who punch a clock for a living working for other people.  If we’re lucky we will have our own small business and we will raise families, form communities, and have kids that grow up and play together.  There will be a few among us who do rise to amazing success, and we should all strive to be successful, but billionaire or bust is a bad way to chart your life’s course.  It’s far better to have a system in place that benefits all of us, not just those at the top with the hopes that the crumbs cast off from the table will be enough for us to survive on.

I am sorry that I wasted so many of my prime years preaching a bunch of arrogant, entitled bullshit.  While there are some good points that Libertarianism brings to attention, they are becoming lost in a sea of self-worshiping assholery and dreamy-eyed visions of anarchic paradise.  I am writing this in hopes that it wakes people up from their delusions of what it would be like, but I am not holding my breath.  I just had to get this out there in hopes that one person will at least think twice before going off on some rant about “liberty” and “freedom” as if these were somehow inalienable absolutes.

They’re not.  Get over yourselves.

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37 thoughts on “I Used to Be a Libertarian. I’m Sorry.

    1. If only it were as simple as a game of antonyms.

      I would say that in some areas that personal liberty, when the exercise thereof does not harm anyone else, should be respected even if some do not like how that person expresses it. However, having no rules at all has never worked either.

    2. So there’s no grey middle ground for you? either a Oligarchy utopia or a Facist?
      I swear you tarians are mad as hatters.

  1. George Orwell used the term “Doublespeak” in his novel 1984 to describe using a word that conveys its opposite.

    The truth is that Libertarian leaders do want authoritarianism. The authoritarianism they want is not unlike the authoritarianism of the old U.S.S.R. where you had to get papers from the communist party in order to get anything you needed. It has just been re-branded. Instead of getting papers from the communist party in power in order to supply you with what you need, you have to get papers from The Federal Reserve. Their monolithic, all powerful state that would control us is a corporatocracy that answers not to us, but to the oligarchs that own and profit from those corporations.

    Libertarianism isn’t about liberty. It isn’t about freedom. It is about our populace being enslaved to corporate control.

      1. Well I guess if it came about voluntarily it wouldn’t necessarily be against libertarianism, I’m not sure how that could happen without force. Do you have any examples of a voluntary central bank?

        The comment I replied to specifically mentioned the Federal Reserve, which I assume is the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States. A libertarian should definitely be against the Federal Reserve Bank.

        It sounds to me like Chris Vardijan was closely describing today’s USA in his “truth is that Libertarian leaders do want authoritarianism” comment. I can assure you the USA is not a libertarian paradise!

      2. I never said it was a Libertarian paradise, only that there are many corporate feudalists who would like it to be. I think they’re satisfied now with mere oligarchy… better to let the slaves think they’re really free and hand them the illusion of choice than to have to spend all that money and effort controlling them through me direct coercion.

      3. Ok, well I disagree that the corporate feudalists would want anything close to a libertarian paradise. They would lose their muscle.

        Also, is it ironic that your “libertarian intersection” meme is actually a state owned road?

      4. No, because the point of the meme is, with no regulations, everyone just look out for themselves and in an attempt to win/get there first, end up tangling everything up.

      5. haha, you’re a good citizen. So since you haven’t thought of a way for roads or transportation to exist without using violence, violence must be the only way. Got it.

      6. Well the actual sign is not violent, but the current enforcement of those signs is….I don’t see why stop signs couldn’t be used in a libertarian society

      7. “everyone just look out for themselves and in an attempt to win/get there first, end up tangling everything up.”

        Right, because “looking out” for yourself means getting into a car accident instead of arriving to your destination safely.

        Tell me, Matti, would you be one of the people who ram into another car in a libertarian society?

      8. Why would they though? Or do you think you’re so smart that you don’t need to be told how to live your life but everyone else does?

        Why is it that I can walk around a privately owned supermarket without people jumping in front of me and bumping into me and grabbing stuff off the shelves before I can?

      9. As a reliability engineer, I think I have a decent understanding of risk. Ironically, your comment questioning whether you can compare the risk between the two shows how clueless you are.

        Risk is exposure to danger. It’s a combination of severity of consequence and likelihood. Since the consequence of crashing your car is fairly severe (physical damage to your car and personal injury up to and including death), the vast majority of people will take steps to minimize the likelihood of it. This includes things like defensive driving and acknowledging right of way. Have you ever driven your car when the power to the stop lights go out? People tend to naturally follow an order to ensure a fairly efficient and safe navigation through the intersection.

        It’s also important to note that just because the state doesn’t own a road does not mean that there would be no traffic signals, signs, or driving rules in place on privately owned roads in a libertarian society. Why someone would assume that is silly.

        Now let’s compare the risk of driving through an unsignaled intersection with bumping into people at a supermarket. The consequence of bumping into someone with a shopping cart or your body is fairly low–it is probably not much more than an annoyance, but at worst it could presumably cause some a broken bone. Overall, the risk associated with bumping into someone at a supermarket is fairly low and is much lower than the risk associated with a car crash.

        Given that we know that people almost never bump into each other at a supermarket, there is an obvious preference among people to avoid the bumping; people prefer avoiding causing physical harm and annoyance to themselves and others. Since people tend to avoid such low risk actions, it logically follows that they would also avoid higher risk actions such as crashing their car in an intersection.

      10. You’re putting an awful lot of faith in the common sense of people. Even with traffic laws people still drive like complete and total assholes, they flout the laws, and either get hurt or killed, or kill others.

        Your mathematical response might make sense on paper, but it lacks the one thing you can’t factor in- randomness. And you can’t always factor in human behavior and response.

        But I expect this from libertarians who will go to great lengths to justify why they feel that rules shouldn’t apply to anyone (meaning they don’t really want the rules to apply to them, they don’t care much about anyone else- remember, I used to be one).

      11. People generally act in ways that they believe won’t get them hurt. That was the reason for my supermarket example. And by your own admission, current traffic laws don’t do a good job of preventing accidents. Maybe the system is bad. No one is saying that we should do away with stop signs, lanes, and traffic signals; there are better ways to manage the roads though.

        You clearly don’t understand risk. Tell insurance companies and other engineers (like myself) that we’re wrong how we go about managing risk. Your comments that I’m not taking “randomness” into account and that my approach is mathematical (when I was qualitative and not quantitative) are utter nonsense. If that randomness is such a concern, what knowledge does the state have that actors in the free market do not that allows the state to be a better manager of risk?

        Where have I said that I shouldn’t have to follow rules? You’re the one who thinks that you’re smart and have common sense but almost everyone else needs some sort of guidance from a central authority. Also, our “I used to be a libertarian” holds no water since you’re the one who thinks that Ayn Rand’s objectivism equals libertarianism (hahahaha).

        Can you give specifics as to why my analysis of comparing the risk of car accidents to bumping into people in supermarkets is wrong? Or are you just going to come up with more nonsensical generalities that contradict your own views?

  2. @ Matti “they feel that rules shouldn’t apply to anyone (meaning they don’t really want the rules to apply to them, they don’t care much about anyone else- remember, I used to be one)” This is a non sequitur. I realize it is your blog and you can do whatever you want, but at least address the comments. I could just as easily say, “Statists just want to use guns to force their morality on everyone else, remember, I used to be one.”

      1. I have a standing personal policy. The minute someone says “statist” I kind of tap out because anyone who uses that term is welded to their ideology and will find any reason to justify their anarchism.

  3. This was spot on. Your handling of the libertarian spam here is equally impressive. It’s incredible to hear ancaps try and defend the indefensible position that stop signs are rape, but then go full Rothbard and dismiss actual rape as being an extension of the free market. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  4. Mr.Frost, I understand, I went though a radical phase in my life, but on the other side of the fence: I was a Marxist. Like you, I thought I had an unbreakable argument, but it was just no one wanted to spend 5 hours arguing with me.

    Marx truly resonated with me, I came from a low income, single parent household, and I learned what the glass-ceiling meant at a young age.
    As much as I hated seeing poor people suffer,I came the conclusion that people are too fucked-up, yet wonderful, and too diverse, and always evolving to ever fit under a paradigm.
    Another thing, though Marx had high ideals, not he nor any of his contemporaries ever figured out the distribution system that would replace the market system. They couldn’t figure that out in the early days of the Soviet Union, and so they resorted to an authoritarian form of government to preserve their power, while they tried to figure it out. When anyone would come at me what the argument of how the Soviet Union fell, my response was always, “Oh, well that wasn’t true socialism, and real Communism has never existed”– that’s the problem with radical ideologies like Libertarianism and Marxism, you can always attack the current established order, and say how everything will better under your paradigm as it has never existed. You don’t have to back up any claim.

    On another note, recently I irked a Libertarian Asatrur when I asked if it’s possible that Che Guevara went to Valhalla.

    Accomplished warrior– check
    Died in battle– check
    High ranking officer– check
    Possibly related to European Nobles– check

    Can you imagine how fucking dumbfounded the athiest Che Guevara would be if after getting executed, Valkeries escorted him to Valhalla?
    That would be hysterical!

  5. “For all they whine about being oppressed by the government, the truth is that most of them don’t know what real oppression is. Paying your taxes isn’t oppression. Having armed juntas burst into your home, kill you, and sell your wife and children into sex slavery is oppression.”

    Sorry, Matti, but you have entered into the realm of argumentum ad lapidem and the fallacy of relative privation.

    You are dismissing a statement as absurd without giving proof of its absurdity, which is an argumentum ad lapidem fallacy.

    “Paying your taxes isn’t oppression.”

    Your proof? You didn’t really give any. Instead, you then made the informal fallacy of relative privation. You just pointed to other examples of oppression, which are obviously worse, and dismissed the claim as absurd. Yes, murder, rape, and slavery are horrible examples of oppression. Does that make the oppression of taxes seem relatively minor? Yes. Does it prove that taxes are not oppression? No. It’s like saying “Slapping your wife isn’t abuse. Hitting your wife with a belt, knocking her down the stairs, and giving her a black eye is abuse.”

    You have to prove that slapping your wife isn’t abuse if you are going to make that claim. You can’t dismiss it because other kinds of abuse are worse.

    Taxes are theft, and oppression, for the same reasons that murder, rape, and slavery are oppression; because they are not voluntary.

  6. This was hilarious. Thank you. It seems that thoughtful young people discover one of two authors in their youth. One is Ayn Rand. The other is Kurt Vonnegut. Those who discover Vonnegut end up healthier, even if they outgrow him eventually.

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