I saw a New York Times headline reading “The Randslide and Its Discontents” and assumed it was about the South African currency (which I hadn’t known was in trouble … it isn’t).
This introduced me to one Rand Paul, a self-declared “libertarian”? I use the term by which he calls himself advisedly because that sure as shit ain’t my definition. How does one get to be a libertarian and still oppose a woman’s right to choose an abortion? That’s a contradiction. I didn’t have to go much deeper to find more.
Paul is articulate and hard-line. When he says he is antigovernment, he means it. Unlike McConnell, he wants to end all earmarks, including agricultural subsidies for a state that thrives on them. (He does vow to preserve Medicare payments, however; they contribute to his income as an ophthalmologist.) He wants to shut down the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve. Though a social conservative who would outlaw all abortions, he believes the federal government should leave drug enforcement to the states.
Shut down the department of education? And, yes, Milton Friedman may have proposed this but about the only thing that development economists agree on is that universal access to a high standard of quality education is the best path out of poverty. How exactly does one provide that to everyone without the involvement of a central state? We can debate whether the state should own those schools. I support vouchers, but I still believe that the state should be collecting the taxes that pay for those vouchers and then monitoring the bang-for-buck it receives for those vouchers. How else but through a Department of Education? It is about the only manipulation of the state I believe is necessary but it should certainly be debated, not thrown in the bin.
Same goes for the Federal Reserve. A currency needs to be managed if it is to be believed. Money is simply an indication of trust (whether it is backed by gold – only made valuable by the belief in its value. It certainly isn’t sufficiently scarce for practical purposes to warrant such high values). Someone has to be responsible for managing that trust.
Seriously? The man’s a twat and no libertarian. Liberty is a social construct. It requires support from a stable and powerful central state. It does not exist in and of itself. I agree with wanting to end trade distortion (earmarks) and I hope I have been consistent in that expression. However, in my view, the state exists to prevent such distortions and this is actually quite difficult. You won’t achieve liberty by dismantling the state.
The Tea Party never struck me as being libertarians. Associations with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have led me towards viewing them as the more aggressive type of religious conservative. And the little impact that libertarianism has on the US body politic (aside from Ron Paul, who seems to have a “party of one” attitude to libertarianism) hasn’t added to my need to pay attention.
A quote from Umberto Eco’s essay “Ur-Fascism”:
If you browse through the New Age sections in American bookshops, you will even find Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a Fascist. But putting together Saint Augustine and Stonehenge, now THAT is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.
Elsewhere, he says:
The term ‘Fascism’ fits everything because it is possible to eliminate one or more aspects from a Fascist regime and it will always be recognizably Fascist. Remove the imperialist dimension from Fascism, and you get Franco or Salazar; remove the colonialist dimension, and you get Balkan Fascism. Add to Italian Fascism a dash of radical anti-Capitalism (which never appealed to Mussolini), and you get Ezra Pound. Add the cult of Celtic mythology and the mysticism of the Grail (completely extraneous to official Fascism), and you get one of the most respected gurus of Fascism, Julius Evola.
Now, none of Rand (Ayn), Hayek or Friedman are fascists. Like ‘em or loathe ‘em, they are products of their times. Friedman convinced the progressive world that it would be better for freedom if conscript armies were replaced by volunteers who are paid professionals. Hayek was analysing the inevitable consequences of Nazism and Stalinism and his reason had to hold because the war was still on as he wrote. He was correct. Rand was a refugee from the Stalinist purges that followed the war. She wrote that government should not be allowed to grow so big as to limit individual choice.
Stripped to these essentials you might find yourself with some common ground. But Rand also believed in a gold standard in her odd quest to find external and fixed measures of value. It was this which led to her falling out with Hayek who certainly didn’t. I don’t know enough about either of Hayek or Friedman to know their quirks but most people have a few.
If you formed a political ideology by cherry-picking the views of people – no matter how well-formed their original ideas – I’d say, using Eco’s definitions, you’d be well on the way to Ur-Fascism.
Most importantly, if you believe in real liberty you also believe in a person’s right to not choose liberty.
If you wanted to take sexual liberty to its logical extreme you’d have 100 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, who was a Libertine. If you wish to impose liberty on others you get regime change and the so called “liberation” of Iraq.
The very idea of fanatical libertarianism is so absurd a contradiction as to lead one to question the very meaning of US political thought.
I hand it over to Rand, Friedman and Hayek. You may not agree with them, but they are rather severe in their criticism of conservative politics.
Rand – “To be a conservative means to uphold the established regardless of whether it is good or bad … not because it is right … but because it old…”
Friedman – “We have no right to impose it even if we had the authority…”
Hayek – “We live in a world where three moral traditions are in constant conflict: the innate ones; the traditional ones; and the intellectually designed ones…”
Note that they disagree even with each other and that forming a universal approach from their ideals could take you in a wide range of directions, from dictatorial to liberal.