Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Libertarian: Isn't That Just Another Name for Social Darwinism

Cynically defined, a libertarian is a person who believes that all humans should live in total and absolute submission to market forces, at all times from birth to death, without any chance of escape. (Paul Treanor, “Why is Libertarianism Wrong?

Truth: Libertarian economic ideals are untried, theoretical; some would even call them fanciful. Nevertheless, evidence exists to show that Libertarianism can not meet the needs of the citizenry; indeed, evidence shows that Libertarianism applied in the public and private sectors is dangerous.

Libertarians hold on high an unrestrained marketplace. Government’s role is narrow: government exists to protect the property owner. That’s it; that’s all, Folks. Those who come and go upon that property, making use of the goods or services produced and sold, have no protections until and unless they stand upon their own property.

Regulation and restraint at the State and federal levels exist because an unfettered, unregulated marketplace harms citizens. That’s a fact, Dear Readers. Human history, both ancient and modern, proves the truth, and I will offer several examples from recent history as proof.

First, Dear Readers, especially readers who are parents, consider marketplace forces that continue to place our most vulnerable citizens, our children, at risk when they board school buses that are not crash-worthy; i.e.,

•    School buses that, in most states and school districts, are not equipped or manufactured to restrain children and prevent ejection;
•    Buses in use in this country that do not provide survival space after a crash or absorb crash energy during an accident; and
•    Many buses in use that do not include a protective frame to prevent the gas tank from crumpling, leaking, and sparking a fire (http://www.vehicle

Other nations, including the United Kingdom, France, and Australia, make and sell crash-worthy school buses because the governments in those nations require bus manufacturers to meet crash-worthy standards without regard to a cost-benefit analysis. Those nations begin with the assumption that a life has worth and that all lives should be protected if means exist to do so.

Thus, in those other nations, school buses have seat belts and governments require that they be in use. Here, in the United State, seat belts are not in use in every school district or state because using seat belts costs money. Without seat belt restraint, three small children can sit on one bench seat, but with seat belts in use, only two sit on each bench, resulting in higher transportation costs due to the need for more buses, requiring more drivers, more fuel, and more labor to maintain the buses in working condition.

In spite of Click It or Ticket campaigns across the nation, our children learn the hypocritical message that their lives matter to their parents, but not as much going to and from school. Libertarians would have us believe that the bus manufacturers will do the right thing for consumers, but they have not done so yet. Bus manufacturers are now unfettered with regard to crash-worthiness, yet they have not seized the free opportunity to protect our children. Indeed opponents of seat belts and other crash-worthy measures argue that the number of lives lost and injuries sustained do not merit increased production and retail costs, and we, the consumers, appear satisfied with market-driven forces instead of human ones.

In addition, other nations spend a bit more by choosing the metals and joint compounds that will withstand more pressure in order to provide survival space. In a roll-over crash, the roof does not collapse onto children and adults within the bus. The materials also absorb crash energy just as front and back bumpers on the safest cars made in America do. Moreover, the window glass installed in other nations is superior; it does not shatter or break as easily, and this helps the bus hold its shape, especially during a rollover accident. These materials are not unknown to U. S. manufacturers; they are available, but the manufacturers, liberated from government regulations, do not use them.

Manufacturers also do not choose to protect children from fire, and they silence their opponents with a cost-benefit analysis that begins and end with the presumption that some lives are expendable. Those few children who die as a result of fire are statistically negligible, thereby nullifying the cost of retooling the manufacturing line or retrofitting buses on the roads today. I would argue, however, that the value of any life is immeasurable, making the cost to save one negligible.

Another arena in which regulation has been good for citizens and the country is the financial one, but systematic snips and trims to the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 and to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 have liberated banks from regulation that they would categorize as onerous in spite of the fact that modifications to Glass-Steagall in the 1990s opened a path to mergers, mischief, and megaliths. Changes to the 1933 version of Glass-Steagall allowed commercial banks, beholden to depositors and real money in real vaults, to merge with investment firms that sometimes create and exchange products that may or may not have real money or commodities to underwrite them. Consequently, thousands remain homeless even though banks have the power to rewrite loans in response to a deflated market. Millions more are unemployed, thanks to banking schemes and incredible bonuses that led to layoffs, downsizing, and closures. Now those banks sit upon billions in profit, refusing to reinvest the money, waiting for the favorable winds of Libertarian impulses to blow while ordinary citizens remain tightly fettered, awaiting the promise of better times ahead from job-creators who simply don’t create jobs.

Finally, consider the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we consume. How has an unfettered, unrestrained marketplace worked for us in those three basic biological human arenas?

Manufacturers and energy companies have fouled our air, and they object loudly with expensive lobbyists when government suggests regulation. In fact, the current incarnation of the GOP, a party leaning toward Libertarianism by protecting the rights of property owners at the expense of other citizens, objects to government intrusion that would make our air safer to breathe. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a duty to regulate air pollutants including greenhouse gas emissions even if regulation imposes additional costs upon property owners. Some resent such judicial activism when it rules against property profit and holds property owners accountable to the general welfare.

U. S. manufacturing not only pollutes the air, it also spills toxins into our ground water. Erin Brockovich became a household name, thanks to a well-endowed bosom, Julie Roberts, and hexavalent chromium, a poison that Pacific (in California) Gas and Electric knowingly allowed to seep into the ground water and create human victims. Once again, the courts intervened and held the property owner, P G & E, responsible to little guys.

But air and water are not the only resources which need regulation. Food producers have cut corners and sent tainted meat, vegetables, and fruits to consumers, sometimes resulting in their deaths and certainly resulting in the Food and Drug Administration, created to oversee the safety of our food supply, a task made nearly impossible by complaints about regulation and budget cuts to the agency.  Dangerous foods still make it into our food supply and measures such as irradiation and genetically modified seed bring their own level of risk to our tables.

However fanciful or idealistic you may be, the recent record of mankind does not suggest that he will yield his own self-interest, especially when profits and losses are part of the equation. The history of mankind leans toward taking from those who are weaker and uninformed, suggesting that our sense of supply and demand more often yields a Lord of the Flies rather than a man who will restrain his own desires when they infringe upon his neighbor’s.

Ayn Rand wrote novels about ruthless, ambitious men and the occasional woman. Her philosophy, antithetical to altruism, has more to do with social Darwinism than a brotherhood of man. It should never be required reading for Congressional staffers or the guiding principle for a government that serves property owners at the expense of everyone else.

Anarcho-capitalists are against the State simply because they are capitalists first and foremost. Their critique of the State ultimately rests on a liberal interpretation of liberty as the inviolable rights to and of private property. They are not concerned with the social consequences of capitalism for the weak, powerless and ignorant. Their claim that all would benefit from a free exchange in the market is by no means certain; any unfettered market system would most likely sponsor a reversion to an unequal society with defense associations perpetuating exploitation and privilege. If anything, anarcho-capitalism is merely a free-for-all in which only the rich and cunning would benefit. It is tailor-made for 'rugged individualists' who do not care about the damage to others or to the environment which they leave in their wake. The forces of the market cannot provide genuine conditions for freedom any more than the powers of the State. The victims of both are equally enslaved, alienated and oppressed. (Peter Marshall, from Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism)