Monday, January 24, 2011

Liberals, libertarians and Kos: These kids today...

You should take a look at this post by Dakinkat (which drew from here, which drew from here, which drew from the piece I previously discussed here). The topic: "liberal" commentators who are actually libertarians. She has some worthwhile words about libertarianism:
Libertarian ‘insight’ used to the butt of jokes at academic cocktail parties where you discussed Utopian moonbattery and even worse fiction. Now there seems to be an industry around producing what they call journals, institutions, and philosophy that is some how running loose in mainstream conversations demanding to be taken seriously. It’s hard to do that because they don’t associate with data and they seem to thrive on passing memes that have no basis in reality. (The ones on the FED just kill me.) They’re in the tea party, they’re all for Rand and Ron Paul, and yet, some of them have made their way to the liberal blogosphere. What’s going on? Plus, what’s the deal with all these solid working class–in some cases UNION folks–heading to tea party rallies? Haven’t they ever heard of Dick Armey?
Okay, I can answer the last bit, although it's not an answer you'll like. What's happening here is what happened in Germany in the 1920s, when desperate workers sought enlightenment from an anti-union, anti-socialist political party deceptively labeled a "workers" party. That's what the A in NSDAP stood for.

Now, about those liberals:
Matt Yglesias has been labeled a leftie when in fact, he’s a libertarian that supports many of what used to be mainstream republican talking points.
Yglesias is also, like, still in Pampers. I don't know why this infant is suddenly a guy whose opinion really matters. Anyways, here's Timothy Lee, one of the links in the blog-chain listed above (who is also annoyingly close to fetus-hood):
But what’s striking is that the left’s smartest intellectuals and policy advocates now largely make their arguments from libertarians’ intellectual turf. Tech policy scholar Tim Wu explicitly casts himself as a heir to Friedrich Hayek, defending bottom-up competition against the monopolistic tendencies of large corporations.
If you have anything nice to say about Hayek, you are not a liberal. We must not let these toddlers redefine that word in such a way that it loses all meaning.
Matt lists 10 economic policy goals that he favors. What’s striking about the list is that about half of them are straight-up libertarianism (less occupational licensure, fewer subsidies for suburbanism) and there’s only one item on the list (“more redistribution of money from the top to the bottom”) that Milton Friedman would have strongly opposed. One way to interpret this is to say that Matt is a moderate libertarian with a redistributionist streak, but I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it. Rather, what’s happened is that liberalism in general has internalized key libertarian critiques of earlier iterations of liberal thought, with the result that a guy with a largely Friedmanite policy agenda can plausibly call himself a liberal. And actually, this shouldn’t surprise us at all, because Friedman called himself a liberal too.
A "liberal" who helped Pinochet create hell on earth for Chileans? Yeah, right. That's like using the word "progressive" to describe someone who was raised by Suharto's key henchman.

That's the trouble with these kids today: They think that they've done their schoolwork, but they haven't. They insist on playing the game called "How I'd run the zoo" before they're ready. Alas, they just don't know the necessary history.

Let's get back to Dakinkat, who does:
It should be patently obvious now that Wall Street has recovered, bonuses have recovered, and corporate profits have recovered while any one not up at the top of that racket can hardly survive these days. The unemployment rate, the numbers of foreclosures, and the numbers of bankruptcies are tips of the icebergs. We’re not going to see growth rates of GDP that will clear that up too. More frightening is that the powers that be don’t seem to even fake caring.

When you point all these things out to libertarians, they’ll shift the ground on you and say point me where it says in the constitution and mutter something about Wilson and the imperial presidency. This is the place where they firmly intersect the right wing.
Lee suggests that the true mark of a liberal is to show “fealty to labor unions, big government, and the dictatorship of the proletariat”. That is just plain weird too. What is even weirder, is I think all of these people are arguing that they are ‘the mainstream.’ I don’t think any one knows what mainstream is any more. Hell, Nixon was more liberal than most of the Republicans walking around these days.
"Dictatorship of the proletariat"? What the fuck?

I've been a liberal all my life, and hearing my position routinely conflated with Marxism is starting to skeeve me out. When I was a boy, FDR was not considered a commie -- in fact, actual communists hated him. FDR was considered the guy who kept America from going red. That's the way it was taught in grade school. Nowadays, our political discourse has been commandeered by toons who think that not just FDR but Ike were Moscow stooges.

Today, it is considered Thoughtcrime Most Foul to argue that there was any sort of appreciable difference between West Germany and East Germany. When viewed through the modern miracle of Ayn-vision, both nations were non-libertarian societies, therefore they were both socialist, therefore they were both Marxist, therefore they were both hell-holes. By current American standards, Adenauer was so far to the left he might as well have been Lenin. But when I was young, we did see a difference. In fact, our political establishment was willing to wage a nuclear war to preserve that difference.

Let me offer this warning to libertarians of all flavors: If you accept this insane conflation of terminologies, if you damn as Marxist all ideas not found in the Gospel According to Ayn, then watch out. Libertarianism -- being a religion, not a science -- is doomed to failure when put to the real-world experiment. When that failure comes, do you really want the only alternative to be Marxism?

Until recently, I thought Marxism was dead. The devotees of Milton Friedman seem hell-bent on reviving it.

And now, on to Kos:
Let's reiterate a few points I raised in a comment appended to DK's post: The unholy dance of liberalism and libertarianism has been going on for some time. There was a shotgun wedding, of sorts, between the two factions in the earlier days of the Iraq war. Circa 2004, the hard core libertarians and what then passed for the “far” left were the only ones to oppose the neo-cons.

The Obama cult was, in large measure, created by libertarian infiltrators into the Democratic party. Arianna Huffington is a good example. So is Aravosis. So is Kos, who has written for libertarian publications and apparently still considers himself a libertarian of one flavor or another. It was as though the libertarians, having done as much damage as they could to the GOP, had nowhere else to go.

We find ourselves in a strange situation.

Freddie DeBoers sneers at Moulitsas as someone so far to the left as to be a perpetual outsider. By contrast, most of the bloggers with whom I feel comfortable consider Moulitsas a sell-out to the Establishment. Perhaps we can all agree on this: In today's blogosphere, Daily Kos defines the left-most edge of permissible rhetoric.

And who is Kos? He has a CIA background. He is a libertarian of one sort or another. He comes from a wealthy Salvadoran family linked to ANEP, the right-wing group which set the stage for Archbishop Romero's murder.


Meanwhile, the "responsible" liberals have also, for the most part, internalized some variant of libertarianism. Noting this phenomenon, Kevin Drum (writing for Mother freaking Jones!) meekly says that "there are both benefits and drawbacks to this."

Such a firebrand, that Kevin is. I think he's one of those gun-totin' Marxists that Glenn Beck keeps warning us about.

This situation is mad. Absolutely mad. If this is the left -- what's left?

To anyone old enough to recall the 1960s, '70s and even the '80s, the current world is unrecognizable. The zombie plague of libertarianism has given us a cannibal culture. It's unsustainable. We're running out of meat.
Thanks for helping me work this out. I'm just gobsmacked by these conversations. Hence, the need for me to actually dust off my poly sci textbooks. I feel gaslighted!
I've always thought that the weird "Libertarians who call themselves Liberals" aphasia comes from the overlapping niche created by the hippy movement. Drugs, sex and the Man were things that both groups seemed to generally agree about. That and all things herbal--who wants the FDA challenging the curative powers of whatever bogus magic powder you are trying to sell. In the heat of it all it was hard to notice who was singing Joe Hill and who was reading Atlas Shrugged.

You can also see it today in the New Age Movement, where the fav pols are probably Kucinich and Ron Paul. Whacky, no?
Tiro, you got it. Spot on.
Perhaps the corruption of the libertarians stems from having accepted the Supreme Court's views on corporate personhood.

BTW, yesterday Ron Paul and Ralph Nader announced an alliance based on the points where they agree: war/military spending, civil liberties, and banks.
I dont think its an accident. The status quo benefits from the confusion. There is no effective opposition to any of the absurdities in this country. You are ruled by banksters, oil thieves, and arms dealers. The rest of you don't count.

Without a consistent opposition ideology it will take a miracle for the democracy to act to deal with the threat.

And I am sympathetic towards the t-partyers whilst recognising them for what they are. Americas proto-fascist party. Ordinary Americans cant make it. What are they to think - that the whole system is a big lie? Or that they have been robbed by minorities and unions?

It all seems so depressingly inevitable. The economic backdrop will get better for a year or two and then suddenly much worse. What will the country vote for then?

I read Hayek's Road to Serfdom a few years back. Actually I lost a bet with a conservative blogger. I posted a long review in the comments section of their blog, which they didn't even read. As I recall, when Hayek first wrote the book hardcore socialism, government ownership of the means of production was still a live option and he was rightly opposed. Some twelve years later that sort of socialism in Europe was dead, as Hayek acknowledged in the preface to the edition I read. He was still concerned about the threat to liberty and democracy, in the soft socialism, "cold socialism" he called it, that still predominates in Europe, based on a mistrust of big government. In the decades since then the countries of Europe have continued down the "socialist" path, including universal healthcare, but are still democracies with high degrees of individual liberty. Hayek, by the way, allowed a degree of government involvement with the economy that modern libertarians would find most distasteful.

In short, I found reading Hayek rewarding if unconvincing on some points. He certainly convinced me that a top-down control of the means of production by government is not a good idea. On the other hand I still favor universal healthcare.

In my view economic libertarianism, except in its disapproval of actual Marxist government control, which is not favored by today's liberals anyway, has been discredited. Today's right seems to combine economic libertarianism, theocracy-based social policy, and belligerent nationalism, a potentially very dangerous combination.
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