Monday, April 18, 2011

Motherfucking Libertarians on a Motherfucking Train

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." (via)
I honestly meant to have this up on Friday so that it would coincide with the release of the Atlas Shrugged movie and I could be all "Go me I'm so relevant and timely" but whenever I spend time and think about all things regarding libertarianism my eyes start to glaze over and I either start drinking or go take a nap, so there's that.

Anyway, the long awaited release of "Atlas Shugged: You've read the book, now let me bore the hell out of you by making you watch actors struggle with my incredibly bad dialogue that makes it appear I've never had an actual conversation with a fellow human being" was today Friday. Actually, just the first part of what is supposed to be a trilogy. Based on initial reviews, we may never see the completion of that trilogy, which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to "John Galt's speech, the musical!" in the upcoming years.

They probably would of been better off just remaking "The Fountainhead". Atlas was basically written because Ayn Rand honestly believed that everyone but her is a moron, and thus had to drag out The Fountainhead's message and repeat it over and over and over and over again. And over again. And shame on the director, because really guys, the first part of that book should be easy. It's just trains and fucking and thumbing noses at evil politicians, and really, who doesn't like trains and fucking and thumbing noses at evil politicians? But it sounds like they even managed to mess that up.

But I can't honestly say I'm too upset with the massive fail this movie is drowning itself in, because could you imagine if it was a hit? Since ACORN elected that socialist Kenyan dictator into office and the Tea Party Patriots bravely donned funny hats to save America, John Galt is all the rage. I honestly don't think I could take any more Very Serious discussions about how we have to bravely drop Grandma from Medicare in order to give the wealthy larger tax cuts in the name of patriotism anymore. For a lack of a better political philosophy to leech off of, Randians decided to latch itself onto the Libertarian Party, and "Fuck you, I got mine" is very popular these days, so libertarianism is in, folks, and once you add a dash of social conservatism (which, it should be pointed out, Rand would of despised) it's just plain sexy to all the Serious Pundits in our media.

Poor libertarians. To be fair, I owe libertarianism debt of gratitude. I find it a useful lens in which to observe policy, because at its best, it's devoid of any moral-based motives. I'm told often that socially, I am a libertarian (they like to recruit). But I feel that is really only because liberalism has violated its own social contract in that regard, it's funny how we can scream about government overreach unless we feel that we know (better then you, obviously) that this policy X will be "good" in some moral sense for everyone so just ignore this little intrusion into your personal decisions. It would be nice if liberals would pause and consider that morals are subjective, and that attempts to insert them into government policy can only lead to disaster in the end, even if the immediate results are pleasing to them (mention religion, and they seem to get that shit right away. Why wouldn't the same logic apply to trans-fats or the free speech rights of Fred Phelps as well?). Libertarians can be very convincing when talking about their ideology by just focusing on these things.

But then, there's the economic side. And this is where they get tricky. They will often pit the ideal form of libertarianism against the applied (and as such, flawed) form of other ideologies. Isn't the tax code confusing? Do you know how much potential for fraud social safety nets have? Do you really trust career politicians with your tax dollars? But they never really talk about the flaws of their own philosophy if applied (the running joke is that libertarianism is awesome, so long as you don't take into account people or the entire scope of history). They often cite and ridicule a naive and total trust in the government, which in fairness, is an apt critique. But they fail to miss the other half of that equation, that a naive and total trust in capitalism is just as easily ridiculed. If anything, the legacy of "the biggest asshole in the universe", former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, should show that libertarianism indeed has some major flaws. Even Greenspan himself appeared bewildered at the recent economic meltdown, admitting in a rare moment of honesty that he was perhaps wrong about that whole "profit-motivation is all the regulation we need" outlook:

The 82-year-old Mr. Greenspan said he made "a mistake" in his hands-off regulatory philosophy, which many now blame in part for sparking the global economic troubles. He quoted something he had written in March: "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief."

He conceded that he has "found a flaw" in his ideology and said he was "distressed by that." Yet Mr. Greenspan maintained that no regulator was smart enough to foresee the "once-in-a-century credit tsunami."

Naturally, he got over it, and is now back to work making sure our economic policies continue to lead to disaster, while the pundits block out that massive failure of judgment and fawn all over him.

The main problem I have with the economic model of libertarianism (Aside from it being naive, the idea we can fund the country on nothing more than a sales tax or "fair" tax is ludicrous) is that, unlike its social stance, it appears to have a pretty strong moral value undercurrent running through it. Mainly, that the value of a person is dependent on their wealth, in the sense of how much influence that person is able to have on society. This isn't explicitly stated for the most part. But in a philosophy that assumes that greed, and not regulation, will produce the best outcome for society cannot be based in anything but the assumption that those with wealth are the best citizens for determining the path of the country. The voice of the people does not exist, merely the use of their dollars. The more wealth you have, the larger influence you will be able to have.

As someone that is invested heavily in social and economic justice, is there really any confusion as to why I can't buy into this model? I can only assume that the logical outcome of this is not a democracy, but an aristocracy or oligarchy.

I should probably go into that at some point on here, but I'm done for now, promise.

(Title shamelessly stolen from here, and that shit better become a meme or I quit the internets.)

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