Disclaimer: I’m neither an expert on or an enthusiast of orthodox libertarianism. I think it is yet one more narrow utopian social philosophy that a band of economic puritans want to impose on society. To their credit, it is a scholarly economic theory. But it seeks to validate and legitimize the most selfish and materialistic impulses of our primate sensibilities.
I have a comment on the recent public flare up on comments by candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Randal Paul, son of Ron Paul, seems to be very much influenced in his thinking by his father and by Ludwig von Mises. I would characterize father and son as ultra-orthodox libertarians (if only by virtue of their scholarship) along the lines of the Austrian school but lacking the John Birch Society fascist and theocratic elements. I sincerely acknowledge their understanding of economics and history. However, I must differ in regard to their understanding of the non-mathematical aspects of civilization.
Rand Paul’s recent expression of his views on the civil rights act comes straight from the Austrian view on statism. It is right out of the textbook. The man is not a racist. He just does not approve of the intervention of the state into the affairs of a property owner. I think he would prefer to see market forces solve the problem in the domain of private property.
The problem is that market forces have a substantial element of greed. And greed is what greed does. Social justice is orthogonal to greed forces. American slavery did not end because the market found a way out of it. The slave states were deeply dependent on the economic advantages in labor overhead that slavery provided. The nonmarket forces- government- that are inevitable in civilization intervened and put an end to it.
The impulse to accumulate power is expressed in the market and in government. Power is the ability to allocate resources. The domains of both government and business need to be watched closely because both are subject to the corruption of greed. Both socialism and libertarianism are utopian in their conception. Both tend to fail because adherents must rely on the adoption of their tenets by diverse groups. Both require a kind of homogeneity in thinking that is inherently unstable over large populations. Neither seems willing to accomodate a bell curve of views and behaviors.
Just read history. You can’t even get large populations to agree on how to enable or even what is meant by the meaning of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I fail to understand how people who do not trust big government can somehow trust a business system which can fund methods to override the checks and balances of a natural market. The notion that consumers actually have power through the allocation of their dispersed resources is perhaps partially valid in a village market. It fails in contemporary society because businesses are focused and populations tend to be defocused.
Advertising works. Consumers are subject to suggestion by advertising influence. Consumers are not perfect, rational economic units. In some ways, we are fish in a barrel. Businesses can obtain patents or assemble local monopoly and dominate a market in a way that consumers are powerless to respond. Look at how big box stores can move into a local market and dominate. They do provide lower prices, but they also offer a channel for foreign suppliers to cross the border and invade a market for the profit of corporate owners who live elsewhere. They apply instant globalization to local markets that are ill equipped to compete. Economic purists would say that local businesses are unfit in this circumstance.
The proclivity to trend into big-brother influence seems just as certain with business as with government. The purpose of civilization is to buffer the Darwinian forces of nature and make life less brutal and short. Government provides a way to accumulate resources and focus effort on large scale infrastructure and allow access to all. Access to infrastructure facilitates innovation and economic growth and diversity. If you don’t like infrastructure, move to Haiti or Somalia where you’ll be blissfully free of it.
Government can grow to the detriment of all. And, arguably, it is in such a position now. But to abandon this important element of our culture in favor of a more Darwinian approach to everything is a utopian dream that will not come to pass. Libertarians need to develop some pragmatism.