Where libertarianism fails

The joke has been around for a while and it goes like this:

What is the definition of a conservative? A liberal who has just been mugged.

What is the definition of a liberal? A conservative who just lost his/her job.

To the above we can safely add the following:

What is the definition of a former libertarian? Someone who has just eaten bad, uninspected meat.

Like the proverbial guy at the bar who has had way too much to drink and doesn’t seem to know it, libertarianism falls flat on its face when it has to deal with the real world. All the platitudes about making our own way in the world without help from the nasty government means nothing when society has to, you know, like function.

Several months ago I was able to interview Gary Johnson, who had just received the Libertarian Party nomination for president. There were a few things he wouldn’t talk about (why John McCain dislikes him, for example) but he was glad to speak about the subject at hand, which was the possible legalization of Internet gambling.

Johnson received very few endorsements, although the Chattanooga Times Free Press somehow found both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney unacceptable enough to back Johnson. And Johnson, the only candidate to advocate legalizing online gambling, had the support of gamblers who would prefer to bet legally on their computers in the United States rather than deal with shadowy sites that populate Central America and the Caribbean.

So I asked Johnson what form legalization would take if he were to catch Power Ball-type lightning in a bottle and somehow found himself in the Oval Office.

“Not sure of the details,” he said. “I’d leave that to Congress.”

In other words, government would decide.

And that pretty much sums things up. Libertarians love to talk about freedom on the individual to do just about whatever (s)he wants, wherever (s)he wants to do it. But they don’t really consider the consequences of their actions.

Live where you want? Fine, but what happens when the idiot next door decides to populate his own yard with old cars and there’s no town ordinance to deal with it?

Get really sick? Cancer even? Do you want the person in the next hospital bed be allowed to smoke?

Driving with your family? How do you feel about sharing a road with cars and trucks that have never undergone mandatory brake inspections?

Speaking of those roads, which you want to be privately built, would you mind paying a toll every few miles?

And if you take libertarianism to its foolhardy but logical Darwinian extreme and welcome a country choking with pollution and vigilante law, it wouldn’t be long before we would turn into a giant Somalia with pirates up and down the East and West coasts.

The libertarians’ family patriarch is failed Republican candidate Ron Paul, who has been grooming his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, for a run for national office in 2016. But Rand got himself into a bind when asked on national TV several months ago if restaurants should be allowed to deny service to minorities.

Rand warmed libertarian hearts coast to coast when he responded by saying  that free enterprise means free, and restaurant owners should be allowed to serve (or not serve) whomever they wanted. In other words, had he been alive in 1960 he would have been foursquare with the owners of the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s store which denied lunch counter service to blacks who conducted sit-ins  — a showdown that helped spark Civil Rights legislation.

There’s no evidence that Paul was/is a racist, but since the enemy of my enemy is my friend, young Rand found himself aligned with the nastiest elements in the country and clearly on the wrong side of history. He took such a ferocious beating in the press that even the staunch ideologue that he is had to retreat. Shortly after the interview Paul said that after consideration, he is just fine with federal legislation that prevents companies from discriminating.

Guess pragmatism defeated libertarian ideology again.

By the way, for those who aren’t aware of Paul’s background, he was an eye doctor. And 50 percent of his income came from patients receiving Medicaid. Which libertarians want to eliminate.


Latest posts by Northeast liberal (see all)