Libertarian Fish Killers

As much as I dislike President Obama, the politician, I can’t countenance one of these Republicans getting in. Nor can I understand why anyone would find them attractive or qualified for the office. I suppose with the intense polarization it’s to be expected, and with the weak press, and the weak-minded electorate, what can you do?

The right have sold too many people on the nostrum that government is the problem, and the left hasn’t come back with an answer that resonates. Somehow the right think that they’ll be able to manage everything that needs managing in the country without any sort of central government. They don’t want to pay taxes, but they expect everything to run smoothly, they expect things to get fixed when broken, and they expect to be safe in their homes and persons, all apparently for free. They denigrate struggling teachers and worship multimillionaire basketball players. They ignore critical issues like infrastructure, the environment, education, and the like, and focus laserlike on trivia such  as including the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance, as if saying the pledge, with or without those words, will magically ensure the success of the United States and guarantee them a safe and wealthy life. They don’t want politics and reasoned compromise, they don’t want intelligent thought and reflection, they don’t want realism. They want magic. They want voodoo. They want to dance around a fire in their cave to propitiate their gods, occasionally throwing a virgin on the coals to make things right with the heavens.

Yesterday, during a radio interview in New Hampshire, some woman rattled on and on that government has gotten too big, had no right to tell her how to live, and that she should be able to do whatever she wanted. She of course extended that to everybody, but gave not one bit of thought to community, to the idea that if she just did whatever she wanted, how would people react when her actions impinged on their freedom to do whatever they wanted. That seems never to occur to these so-called libertarians. They don’t want to pay for government, they don’t want courts, they don’t want a political process, they just want to do what they want to do. And the irony is that they pretty much already can do whatever they want to do, except when their actions infringe on the common good of the community. You want to build on wetlands, filling them in so you can build your house? If you do that, you contribute to the destruction of offshore fisheries because the young fish are hatched and grow in those wetlands. So if everybody fills in the wetlands, the fishery dies, and the fishermen, who may be your neighbors, or may live and operate their boats a long way from where you live, lose their livelihoods, and the ecosystem is disturbed when the fish that depend on the fish you exterminated are deprived of their food source. But the right object to government agencies and government scientists putting facts in the way of narcissism, ego, and greed.

The right want to eliminate government agencies like the FDA, but when some company that the FDA now regulates no longer faces oversight puts poison in a bottle and kills your kid, what are you going to do? Shoot somebody? Go to court, putting your thousand dollars in savings against a megacorporation that doesn’t give a damn about you or your kid because nobody holds them accountable? They’ll crush you with their suites of million-dollar lawyers and they won’t even notice the cost.

Don’t want the EPA? You’d rather breathe coal-soaked air, drink water full of the byproducts of gas fracking, visit oil wells in national parks, see the Grand Canyon honeycombed with uranium mines, watch rivers become so polluted that they catch fire like the Cuyahoga did before the Clean Air Act (signed by Nixon, by the way)? That’s your vision of a better America?

Government is not perfect, and it is at the moment broken in large part because rich people like the Koch Brothers want it broken, which is why they finance the Tea Party and encourage the sort of mindless libertarianism that runs rampant today in Congress and on the right generally. When you see the big money boys supporting the minimalization of government you had better start asking yourself why. It’s nothing high-minded, you can count on that. They just want to do what they want to do without anyone calling them to account or holding them responsible for their actions. They don’t want government. They want to rule. And they’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars to get their way.

Your dollars, by the way. Not only do you support their actions when you buy their products, you pay their taxes for them because they cut deals with politicians that allow them to pay either nothing or a pittance in taxes. You make up for what they don’t pay. How’s that for doing what you want to do without government interference?

You cannot make government good by eliminating government.

If you want to live in a country of three hundred and fifty million people, and live in peace and follow your bliss or your dream or whatever it is that you want to do, you have to come to terms with the idea that governance is required, and that such governance is complex and complicated and messy, and that it requires your thoughtful, educated attention. To want to have everything your way is childish, it is ignorant, it is thoughtless. But if you insist then it is best you go live alone somewhere, perhaps up in the northern wilds of Canada, if they’ll have you, and while you’re there perhaps you can breathe in the methane and other greenhouse gasses releasing from the melting permafrost, courtesy of the mindless politicians on the right, the deregulators, the obstructionists, the whores of uncontrolled capitalists, in the Republican Tea Party who insist there’s no such thing as global warming and we certainly don’t want the government interfering even if there is such a thing.

Don’t bother sending a post card home.

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7 Responses

  1. You are arguing against a straw man here. None of the Republican candidates want no government. What true Conservatives and many libertarians want is a smaller government based on the Constitution. Obama promised to end the Guantanamo Bay interrogations. He has not done that, instead ordering the assassination of American citizens. Obama promised to save our economy. His regulations have killed it.

    I and many like me want a smaller government that does not try to regulate private citizens unless they are directly infringing on another person’s constitutional rights. In other words, we want the rule of law. Most Republicans and most Democrats are opposed to the rule of law and prefer rule by politicians. We have seen how that works out. The politicians are rich and order assassinations and wars, we are scraping by and dying in those wars.

    I support Ron Paul because he stands for the rule of Constitutional law and freedom. A small government that does its job well instead of a huge government that tries to do other people’s jobs poorly.

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    • You’re talking about government based on your interpretation of the Constitution, whatever that might be. Libertarians seem to find it convenient to ignore some two hundred years of case law and Constitutional law, seeking instead to substitute their interpretation irrespective of the complexity of governance.

      As for the straw man, no, l think not. Far too often people who call themselves libertarian proffer that line of thought, if you can call it that. That may well be a failure to educate the people who profess to follow libertarianism, but then that’s a problem with any ideology. We don’t need more ideology, we need better education of our citizens.

      I do think you’re wrong also about most Democrats and Republicans being opposed to the rule of law. But there’s two questions there. First, whose interpretation of the law and which laws? We send politicians to Washington to work that out, ideally to the benefit rather than the detriment of our society. Second, the political parties have backed themselves into a corner where they depend on the largesse of both the public and the corporations to fund their political campaigns, and since the corporations have the upper hand both financially and in presence in Washington and in politicians’ offices, they win out. Until that financial situation is remedied our political system will continue to be whipsawed and demeaned. Yes, the republic has lost its way, there is injustice and unfairness, but the same would be said of your solution, if that’s what it would be. Indeed, when Rand Paul says that private businesses serving the public should be allowed to refuse to serve anyone they choose – blacks, gays, Indians, whites – then you lose any moral authority you think your system might have. His idea(s) simply open the door to reinvigorating antebellum America.

      A serious problem with what you call libertarianism is that its practitioners generally dismiss any idea that society is complex and messy, as noted above. Government is a human endeavor. It will never be neat and clean and simple. It all sounds very nice – rule of law, small government, Constitution, and so on – but in the real world libertarianism would kill people in greater numbers than society already allows. Your libertarianism might work in small, but in massive societies, no. It’s simplistic and refuses to address the real world, as lived by real people.

      I’m sure you have a whole slew of counterexamples and so forth and we could go back and forth forever, which is to my mind a good reason not to. We disagree. Oops. Oh well, life goes on. Thanks for visiting and for the comment.

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    • You are arguing against a straw man here. None of the Republican candidates want no government. What true Conservatives and many libertarians want is a smaller government based on the Constitution.

      No, Ric is correct. You can equivocate over terminology, but in all the instances he’s talking about, it equates to “no government”. Rick Perry wants to eliminate three whole Cabinet level departments (or was that two?).

      Eliminate the FDA, for example? Then with regard to drugs and our food supply, we effectively have no government. Who doe that benefit? You? Me? No the corporations that will no longer have the oversight the FDA provides. So for all practical purposes, there is no government in those areas of our lives.

      Looked at as a whole, eliminate the FDA and other services now provided by government, and you’ll think government in general has shrunk, but in the particulars, government has disappeared. Poof! And what savings have you received? Well, maybe your taxes are sightly smaller, but you or your neighbor or your sister or your father or your daughter will be poisoned so that some corporation can tell their stockholders the bottom line is looking good. In the long run that’s not a savings you’ll enjoy.

      And “long run” is the operative phrase here. Maybe Paul or some other Tea Party kook will convince you that you are better off, today, because your tax bite is a little less. But in the long run, you’ll end up paying a lot more out of your pocket – in medical insurance premiums, because more people will need medical care, in the quality of your life and that of your family, in the cost of your food as the food supply becomes harder to produce and more expensive to provide safely, etc, etc. And in the long run, who’s going to pick up those pieces when you and your family complain? The government. Will you expect that it will be freely provided? Will you mind when your taxes go up to help pay for it?

      Shortsightedness is not an endearing virtue, but it is the hallmark of this kind of thinking.

      So it’s not a straw-man to say that this will result in no government. Government will shrink, but in the places it affects most of us, it will, for all practical purposes, disappear.

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      • You da bomb!

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  2. “If you want to live in a country of three hundred and fifty million people, and live in peace and follow your bliss or your dream or whatever it is that you want to do, you have to come to terms with the idea that governance is required, and that such governance is complex and complicated and messy, and that it requires your thoughtful, educated attention. “

    God’s truth right there, comrade.

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    • Is old Russian proverb. Unfortunately I am old Sicilian man.

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  3. Great post, Ric. My one little quibble is that I plan to return to Canada someday and would rather not have libertarians fouling the air and water up there.

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