Libertarianism and Marxism
Like Communism, libertarianism is an ideology that looks good on paper. According to libertarianism, everyone is responsible for themselves and nothing else. The question becomes whether this ideology is as good in practice as it appears in writing. And the verdict for that is mixed.
I say at the outset that libertarianism is far from the worst thing out there. Wahabbism, Stalinism and military dictatorships are much worse. But what is the reality of libertarianism?
Having known a number of people who lived a libertarian way of life, I had the time to observe their experience. And one thing I’ve seen common to all of them is that they all live very anxious lives. They are always striving to be at the top of everything, including things that they can do very little about, and are constantly stressing. If the economy takes a dive, their industry stops growing, or their job gets outsourced, they are in a bad way. If they or a family member develops an illness, more so.
Another problem I’ve seen is that libertarianism appears to have a negative effect on people’s character. I’ve seen even the kindest, warmest people turn into monsters as they embraced libertarian way of life. The attitude of everyone for themselves does away with much good in people; and just as their lives become anxious, stressful and difficult, so does their character also take a dive.
Finally, there is much that is not computed in libertarian thinking. Thus, property is seen as nature converted into productive use; but no value is seen for nature. This allows for brainless, destructive, short-sighted economical practices – such as burning the Amazonian rainforest or flooding the atmosphere with CO2 – while failing to incentivize innovation and ingenuity that actually make capitalism work as intended. Also not computed is the vast contribution to the economy that is done by entities that are not private: Altruistically-valued, government-funded science that’s at the root of all technology; altruistically-valued education that makes people employable; and government projects, such as the Interstate and the Internet, that provide an infrastructure on which private enterprise can do its work. In both cases a vast oversight is made; and in both cases the results are as bad as would be expected from such major oversights.
Is libertarianism malevolent? No; but neither was Marxism. Many libertarians are perfectly well-intentioned and think that they are working to bring about a better world. Marxists did as well. Rather libertarianism is incomplete and fails to include many important factors. And until these factors are included, libertarianism will continue to produce negative side effects such as the ones I’ve described.
Still greater problems take place when libertarians want to make everyone live the same way that they do. This smacks of totalitarianism – something that’s totally incompatible with an ideology of freedom. It’s the same situation as is found with the people who claim that they are “protecting the family.” Nobody is preventing people who want to have a nuclear family from having a nuclear family. The problem is that the champions of “family values” want to deny people the right to live any other way. The same is the case with coercive libertarianism. An ideology of freedom has no business forcing everyone to adopt it; and if it does, then it stops being an ideology of freedom and becomes another form of coercive population control.
Perhaps libertarians should have a test run of their ideology. Maybe they could have a state or two and see how their ways work there. If they work well, more people will want to adopt the same practices; if they don’t, then they won’t. At any rate freedom is reality-determined and not ideology-determined. And that is as much the case for those who don’t want to be libertarians as it is the case for those who do.