Libertarians? Thoughts on Economics
July 3, 2008

by pegleghippie

So Libertarians fundamentally believe that people should be left alone, right?  But then Libertarians are almost always defenders of capitalism, even predatory supercapitalism

I’m sorry, but doesn’t capitalism boil down to taking what you can, from who you can, before someone gets to you?  Sort of like a big contrived game of legalized assault on other people’s well-being? 

Sure I’m simplifying here.  Trade, ideally, is an agreement where both parties benefit, and markets are the effective mechanism whereby private ownership of goods utilizes trade, largely based on the given variables of supply and demand.  None of those things scream, “cut your mother’s throat for your next meal.”  That’s how capitalism is usually explained, and that’s usually what libertarians defend.  What does scream of throat-cutting, however is that trade is almost never ideal.  Everyone wants the best deal for themselves, at the lowest cost to themselves.  So people lie, cheat, and steal, and cut throats.  In other words, they don’t really leave each other alone at all.

A plain old non-libertarian capitalist may respond by saying, “sure, nobody is an island, nobody is really left alone, that’s kind of the point.  The rest of the point is that with markets and a stable rule of law, everybody will be in a position to demand the best deal for themselves, people will compromise with each other, fair deals, more or less, will take place, and we’ll all benefit as autonomous individuals coming together voluntarily for those things that are of common interest, namely, the markets.”

So, hypothetical capitalist (I know this looks like a straw man argument here, but honestly, I want an answer to this question, so if anyone wants to step into the shoes of the man of straw here, be my guest), what about those areas that are of interest to just one or a few autonomous individuals, and nobody wants to trade?  This is where I see the throat-cutting coming in to play.  Hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan started lynching people just as soon as the market on humans was closed for good in this country. 

Maybe my last example is what libertarians are getting at.  No one deserves to be lynched, so KKK, have some respect for the individual and just leave people alone already.  Fine, that’s reasonable enough.  By the same token, though, the flow of money and trade effect people’s lives on a life-or-death basis daily.  Where is the respect of the corporation for the factory worker when a factory goes to Indonesia?  Where is the respect of that same corporation for the Indonesian worker who works 14 hour days in a sweatshop?  These seem like raw deals, issues where trade goes badly for one party, and super-awesome for another.  People lives get interfered with, without voluntary coming together, without consent, without any exchange over common interest.

So we’re back to square one.  Capitalism can be used to greatly interfere with people’s lives, violating the “leave me alone” principle.  Libertarians defend this system, and argue that democratically-elected governments can only interfere in small amounts, saying that (drumroll pllleeeeaaaasssse!) the government isn’t leaving people alone (I know there are economic arguments against all manners of regulation, here I am specifically addressing the hypocracy on the “leave me alone” Principle). 

I call bullshit.  Either you’re for an evolving system that protects people and their relative freedom from preditors of all kinds:  criminals, government totalitarianism, as well as other individuals (rich and poor), and large conglomerates.  Or you’re for various entities always trying to get the best of each other; mostly working together voluntarily because of equal bargaining grounds, but sometimes using one-sided information or power to take advantage of others for a large gain. The first is a position that values universal liberty (leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone).  The second values personal liberty , to the exclusion of the liberty of others (leave me alone long enough for me to stab you in the back). 

Before everyone rises up and tells me that there’s way more than two political economies that one can support, let me just say that I realize this.  I’m addressing the capitalist-libertarian dichotimy specifically, and how someone who defines themselves as such must choose just how much the “leave me alone” principle applies to them, and whether they take such a notion seriously or not.

Black Gold: Why Offshore Drilling is Bravado
June 23, 2008

Written by Mekhami and Addendum by Pegleghippie; crossposted to My Left Wing

I was working at my favorite West Texas hospital today, and a wealthy property owner came in for his daily treatment. Well into his 70’s, this gentleman and I always had a good conversation and a good laugh while I checked him and prepped him for the treatment room.  He told me about the 10.4 million dollar property he’s been dying to sell, and how he hasn’t gotten any real offers yet. Eventually the topic, given my politivangelistic© nature, turned to offshore drilling, and the energy crisis. We sparred semantics for a few minutes before getting to the nitty gritty about it. He’s a Republican (one of very few vices on the man) and so naturally, he’s for offshore drilling.