Hey, Did You Know Libertarians Run the Government?

 Posted by on 24 October 2008 at 12:40 pm  Finance, Politics
Oct 242008

Yes! It’s true! Libertarians have been running the country for years. How do I know?

I know because Jacob Weisberg, the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Slate Group (which publishes the online magazine), has just penned an article describing for us immature Ayn Rand naifs how it is that the financial collapse killed libertarianism.

A source of mild entertainment amid the financial carnage has been watching libertarians scurrying to explain how the global financial crisis is the result of too much government intervention rather than too little…

Utopians of the right, libertarians are… convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.

To which the rest of us can only respond, Haven’t you people done enough harm already? We have narrowly avoided a global depression and are mercifully pointed toward merely the worst recession in a long while. This is thanks to a global economic meltdown made possible by libertarian ideas.

[Emphasis in original.]

That’s all by way of introduction. He follows with a bunch of haphazard facts strung together in a string of non sequiturs that I’ve become bored with, they’re so ubiquitously offered as proof the financial crisis was caused by the “free market.” So forgive me if I don’t quote here the “facts” the article supposedly marshals in support of its conclusions (check out the full article if you’re not easily nauseated). Weisberg concludes with slap at, of all people, Ayn Rand:

The worst thing you can say about libertarians is that they are intellectually immature, frozen in the worldview many of them absorbed from reading Ayn Rand novels in high school.

This article is yet another gob-smacking exercise in tortured rationalization of the avoidance of uncomfortable facts by someone steeped in the rhetorical method not of thrust-and-parry, but avoid-and-slime. Weisberg first avoids the facts that 1) Libertarians have never run the American government, 2) it’s a non sequitur to declare that financiers and corporate-welfare statists who run to the government for a bailout believe in the free market (!) and 3) Libertarianism has been rejected wholesale, outright, and damn near shrilly by Ayn Rand and the philosophy of Objectivism. Weisberg then slimes principled Objectivists as “immature” and “ideologues,” and by playing on the flat ignorance of most of the public of the tenets of Objectivism. (Not to mention trotting out that tired when-are-you-going-to-grow-out-of-it smear.)

I would label this a serious example of the pot calling the kettle black except that there is no “kettle.” There’s definitely a “pot” — Weisberg’s beloved regulatory state has failed. There is no “kettle”; there has never been a free market upon which to blame the current financial crisis or any so-called “market failure,” and I defy Weisberg and his ilk to identify when that state of affairs has subsisted.

I’m not up for reinventing the wheel this morning, so I’ll just send everyone to the new Repeal The Bailout site for an excellent compilation of Objectivist thought leadership on the current economic situation and offer some closing thoughts on Weisberg’s article.

Perhaps the biggest thing Weisberg evades is that we Objectivists who advocate for a truly free market are entirely principled on this: we hold that if you regulate any aspect of the economy, to any degree, it is not free. (I mean, really — you’d think that someone calling Objectivists “ideologues” would jump at the chance to point out how just how “utopian” we are about what we’re saying.) He seems to pay lip service to this fact but then proceeds brazenly to avoid even the most elementary logical implications of the principled consistency of Objectivism.

If she could, I’m sure Ayn Rand would be rolling over in her grave at the willful ignorance of those who persist in equating Libertarianism, which has rightly been repeatedly discredited, with a philosophy so diametrically opposed to it. But let’s accept for a fleeting moment and for the sake of Weisberg’s “argument” his nonsensical conflation of Objectivism and its true free market principles with Libertarianism. Weisberg must nevertheless be charged with his unapologetic evasion of the fact that he’s celebrating the demise of a Libertarian hegemony that has never existed.

The man is deliriously dancing on an empty grave.

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