Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Annus Horribilis Libertarianis

On a personal level, it's not been the best of years; although that corner seems to have been turned, seeing yourself being described as a 'morally bankrupt parasite' by some libertarian goofball does not really do anything to endear their philosophy to you.
Yet he who laughs last, and all that jazz. The year 2008 might just be recorded as the year in which libertarianism, an ideology as doctrinaire as Communism, finally hit the skids, like the light going out of a Terminator's eyes, or HAL being disconnected. Its true-believing cheerleaders (amongst whom I count some with whom I hope to remain on friendly terms), will no doubt continue to sit around singing The Hayek Hallelujah in the same way HAL sang 'Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do', their voices becoming slower and slowweeerrr, until someone turns them off as an act of kindness. When the end comes, one hopes that, for their sake, it is quick.
A philosophy that deserved to be strangled at birth, the intellectual props supporting this vicious, unforgiving cult of the self were finally cut away when Hank Paulson proposed a public sector bailout of the American banking system which could only be described as being fascist in character. The word 'fascist' is often abused by those who seek to discredit their opponents - the one thing upon which even scholars of fascism cannot agree is what fascism actually was. It beggars definition as surely as a flying giraffe. Yet what they can agree upon is that fascist economic policy was once defined by a now long dead Italian, who took a load of abuse from libertarians, as being that profit should be private and personal, loss public and social. That was Paulson's first bailout proposal. That's fascism.
Even as we speak, it is being asserted in the fastnesses of libertarian bunkers that the Israeli assault on Gaza is all about property rights. This is wackadoo, loony toons stuff, the product of having read way too many ideological tracts and nothing like enough history. For this grossly disinterested observer, libertarianism will only be able to recover some intellectual credibility when its adherents can actually answer the following questions -
1. Where 'spontaneous order' has ever 'broken out' in the absence of government. It has not ever happened, and it never will happen, because all societies are hierarchies of one kind or another and in hierarchies it is incapable of happening. Some will shout 'It happens in evolution!' Yeah, right. I'm sure that there were dinosaurs who were really pleased with their evolution's spontaneous order - just before the asteroid hit them; and
2. Name just one war, just one, that proves Bastiat's maxim that 'if goods don't cross borders, troops will'. Name one. Just one.
They can't do it; because there has never been such a war, because when he said it, Bastiat was addressing the concerns of a specific audience at a specific time. It was not meant to be of general application. In The Great Unmade Economic History Movie, one could imagine The Pie in the Sky Fairy being played by the late Charlton Heston; but Bastiat, the man who once tried to besiege a castle only to discover that it had already surrendered, well, he would be Charlot - an amiable if rather pathetic loser.
But he wrote The Candlemakers Petition in support of free trade!
And as they say on the Scottish soccer radio phone-in shows, what's your point, caller? As satire, it fails. It is a defence of the practice of importing manufactured goods that uses the admission of sunlight, the greatest gift that nature has bestowed on us, as its starting point. If you're going to satirise something, satirise like with the example of like. Anything else can be dismissed as the scribblings of charlatans and clowns.
What really gets to me about free trade is the almost schizophrenic way in which free traders can divorce their personal reality from wider macroeconomic reality. We're all protectionists - if you own a home, you protect it with locks. When I first started visiting my wife's home town in rural County Cork, her family all still left their keys in the front door - mass immigration into Ireland, the imposition of free trade in labour on the Irish without any real consent, has since put paid to that. If you're a Bismarck or Colbert amongst homeowners, you might even own a burglar alarm. If you own a car, you protect it with a deadlock, or one of those things you stick across the steering wheel.
So why shouldn't we protect our economy with a tariff in the same way? What is particularly different about the nature of the economy of which we are all a part that the rules for protecting its security should differ so radically from the simplest domestic precautions?
Friedman's Doxology to The Pie in The Sky Fairy that 'there's no such thing as a free lunch' (a phrase he did not coin) breaks down when discussing free trade. It's just like the way that Newtonian physics breaks down at the sub-atomic level - the great principles can only stand a particular level of scrutiny. Look at them under a higher degree of magnification, and the whole bang shoot comes apart.
If there is no such thing as a free lunch - how can there be such a thing as free trade?
Libertarianism is a philosophy which has been adopted by many civilised men; yet other civilised men have also adopted other political philosophies, and all of them have turned out to be nothing more than post-Christian barbarism.
Good. I feel better after that.
Have a Happy, and Sacred, New Year. Let's hope it's better than the last one. At this point, 2008 has still got 18 hours to go, and anything can happen.

4 Comments:

Blogger chris said...

How on earth can you liken protectionism to putting a lock on your front door and free trade as leaving it unlocked. Your anology doesn't hold at all. The candle makers petition is perfectly valid, the message however seems to have escaped you. The point is that the effort expended on an end doesn't matter, its the result that is important, i.e. you wish to achieve a result with minimal effort. This is the message of the candle makers petition. You aren't wealthy according to the amount of effort you expend, you are wealthy according to the results you get. So if you can acquire a car from Japan using less effort than producing one yourself then you should import the car! Imports are a benefit! It is a good thing that Japan will provide you with a car at a cheaper price than you can make it. The truth is that household actually engage in free trade all the time. I mean do you import your food from the supermarket or do you survive on your household agricultural industry. Do you not see how by importing food from a supermarket you benefit! Are you worried that you household will be flooded by supermarket food?

31 December, 2008 09:58  
Blogger Obnoxio The Clown said...

A philosophy that deserved to be strangled at birth, the intellectual props supporting this vicious, unforgiving cult of the self were finally cut away when Hank Paulson proposed a public sector bailout of the American banking system which could only be described as being fascist in character.

Dude, WTF? Are you implying that Libertarians supported the bailout? Are you mad?

I don't know a single Libertarian who supported the original bailout or any of its subsequent perversions. Have you not heard the term "moral hazard"?

What the hell does Paulson's statist action have to do with Libertarianism?

31 December, 2008 10:44  
Blogger James Higham said...

Read this, read DK's reply. Hmmm.

Happy New Year, Martin.

31 December, 2008 14:10  
Blogger PJMULVEY said...

Martin: As I see it there are two strands of libertarianism. There is the atheistic school personified by Ayn Rand and her disciples such as Alan Greenspan who glorify the SELF and reject all constraints on economic or social conduct. The other libertarian school, much older, is grounded in the Christian conception of the human person who is born with natural liberty and rights independent of the state. I place myself in the latter school and view state activity in the private sector with suspicion with their nefarious schemes in social engineering, political correctness , war and onerous taxation.
It is ‘oligopolistic’ globalism that is the problem because it is not an outgrowth of libertarianism but rather governmental-corporate apparatus of rules and regulations that favor the rich and large corporations. Free trade is a misnomer when applied to globalism. Try breaking into the Asian markets with a new product or service that competes with a domestic product if you are a small corporation. It is not going to happen unless you are an extremely large corporation that signs a number of quid pro quos with government and other large corporations. ….and you are required to invest millions in that market. Is this libertarianism in practice? No, not by a long shot and this globalist system operates independent and agnostic of ideology. Hence, communistic China is the linchpin of the globalist scheme. Free trade and open markets in China? Not a chance….even the Internet is censored.
The planning for globalism started back after WWII but gained steam in the 80’s. The premise of globalism is to create equilibrium of income between the developing world and the west irrespective of religious, cultural and political constraints. If a vote were taken tomorrow in the USA, globalism would be rejected by a large margin. It never comes to a real vote since both parties have been captured by the global plutocrats. We in the West have seen our real income and standard of living declining when adjusted for inflation for the past 30 years. Why? In the global statist model, in order for the developing world to become equal, the western economies must decline proportionately.

01 January, 2009 18:08  

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