November 19, 2010
Libertarianism is dictatorial collectivism. And freedom is slavery.
Angle invoked Pinochet's name when discussing Social Security privatization: "She had previously used Chile's Augusto Pinochet's experiment as an example, but had not used it since her staff shut her down," Ralston writes. "That day, with no media there, saying her staff had warned her not to use it, she raised the Chile example again and added, 'Sometimes dictators have good ideas.' Her staff fretted the line would get out. It did not. Until now."Angle is of course a convenient target of the leftosphere -- not so much for praising just any old dictator, but because the dictator involved was Pinochet. If a left wing politician praised an idea of Fidel Castro (as many have), that would be considered just peachy.
The moral lesson being imparted here is that saying "sometimes dictators have good ideas" is fine if you say that about Fidel Castro, but evil and deranged if you say it about Pinochet.
But that's just the standard "double standard defense" -- which isn't really a defense on the merits of the idea being praised. And while I would be willing to come to the defense of Angle on the merits, I am not sure that she is entirely accurate in characterizing what happened to the Chilean pension system as Pinochet's idea. More likely, it would have been alien to the man's rigid statist thinking. Here's what happened:
On November 4, 1980, under the leadership of Jose Pinera, Secretary of Labor and Pensions under Augusto Pinochet with the collaboration of his team of Chicago Boys, the PAYGO pension system was changed to a capital funded system run by investment funds. Jose Pinera had the idea of privatizing the pension system for the first time when reading the book Capitalism and Freedom from Milton Friedman There have been implemented several (private) pension funds the so-called Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones (AFPs). For all citizens who are legally defined as workers, employers must pay a proportion of the earnings to a pension fund. Workers who had already paid in the old system, got an option to continue to pay into the old system. But the statutory minimum contribution to the new private pension funds was set 11% lower than the contributions to the old pension system, therefore most workers changed to the new pension system.If anyone should receive credit for the idea, it was Milton Friedman, not Pinochet. Friedman was much maligned for meeting with Pinochet and giving him advice, although he never understood why:
Friedman has wondered why some have attacked him for giving a lecture in Chile: "I must say, it's such a wonderful example of a double standard, because I had spent time in Yugoslavia, which was a communist country. I later gave a series of lectures in China. When I came back from communist China, I wrote a letter to the Stanford Daily newspaper in which I said, 'It's curious. I gave exactly the same lectures in China that I gave in Chile. I have had many demonstrations against me for what I said in Chile. Nobody has made any objections to what I said in China. How come?'" He points out that his visit was unrelated to the political side of the regime and that during his visit to Chile he even stated that following his economic liberalization advice would help bring political freedom and the downfall of the regime.It is quite clear that Friedman had no delusions about the nature of the Pinochet regime, but that he hoped economic freedom might help lead to political freedom. From a 2006 piece by Reason's Brian Doherty:
....[Friedman] tried to move the world in a freer direction from the point reality presented him with.Whether Angle was correct in attributing a libertarianish idea to Pinochet, I'm more interested in the way these stories are used to undermine free market ideas, by conflating them with dictatorship, when in fact free markets tend to undermine dictatorship.
Of course, many people on the left subscribe to the Orwellian idea that free markets are themselves dictatorial. I found a particularly stomach-turning example here, although in fairness to the author, he was at least kind enough to warn libertarians in bold letters that they should just leave:
Note that this is not intended as a formal argument with libertarians: as explained below, there are no shared premises for such an argument. If you are a libertarian, it is pointless for you to read this: go somewhere else.I'm one of those foolish individuals who's a sucker for a dare, so of course I didn't go somewhere else. I read the whole thing, and it was almost as much fun as watching the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He is certainly right about no shared premises, though, as he maintains steadfastly that free markets are coercive and collective, that liberarianism is a form of collectivism, and from a libertarian perspective, his argument boils down to saying that what we think of as freedom is actually a form of slavery. A few excerpts:
In practice, free-market decisions are always collective: supply of one product, by one maker, to one customer is not a free market. A free market in the libertarian sense needs at least three parties: with only one buyer and one seller there is no competition. In a free market with multiple parties and mutual competition, all parties influence the final state of affairs. No individual can decide that outcome alone. While claiming to reject autocracy, libertarianism has in fact abandoned autonomy.In other words, when Friedman and his followers speak of the "freedom to choose" that is not freedom at all, but it means being at the mercy of other people. To believe that, you have to be a communitarian, and as I've pointed out many times, arguments between libertarians and communitarians are hopeless. Tar and water.
Freedom is seen not as personal autonomy or the absence of government restraints, but as an outside thing to be imposed -- by force if necessary:
Libertarians believe that to impose freedom is not an imposition. For them, anything which can legitimately be described as 'freedom', may legitimately be imposed. The Libertarian FAQ, for instance, says "America's free press is envied by freedom-starved people everywhere": implicitly, to allow any other press would be a denial of freedom. In this logic, imposition of a political ideology is a generous response to the suffering of others, who are 'starved' of it. The climate of global politics is increasingly interventionist anyway. If US libertarians become less isolationist, they might demand that the US Marines bring the 'gift of freedom' to Africa and Latin America.I'm reminded of what Glenn Reynolds has said about the evil libertarian plan:
"Those dangerous libertarians -- they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"But as communitarians know, to leave people alone is a form of oppression.
Libertarians say they are against coercion, but they support the free market. The introduction of a free market in Russia after 1989, lead to an excess mortality of about 3 million people. I call that force (and not defensive or retaliatory force): libertarians do not. Some US employers require their employees to smile at all customers, or lose their job. I call that coercion: libertarians call it freedom of contract. There is no point in further discussion of these issues: they are examples of irreconcilable value conflicts.I'm glad the author issues the periodic reminders that the differences are irreconcilable, because it makes it easier (especially for hard line, big-l Libertarians) to go about their business without worrying. (Small-l constitutional libertarians like me can wallow in the misery we chose so freely by slogging through this communitarian shlock.)
Contrary to what many libertarians imagine to be true, in the free market, there is no moral autonomy:
moral autonomy:Yes, which is why I reject the war on drugs as a classic example of interference with the free market. Drugs which sell for a small fortune on the street are actually worth pennies, and if they were freely sold for what they were worth, market dynamics would cause users to either maintain their habits, die of overdoses, or get help in the same way that alcohol users either do or don't. Freedom to choose works that way. Some choices have disastrous consequences, as I freely admit. Freedom can not only be disgusting, it can also prove fatal.
Of course the free market can be tyrannical and there are numerous examples of its failures. But if we consider what the alternative has done to many millions of people, I'll take freedom any day.
We can buy gasoline or not. If the price goes up, I walk more and drive less. Still, I like the idea of being able to keep an eye on the prices and drive up to a pump and fill my tank whenever I want. But let us suppose that the government decided that because gasoline is a dangerous, polluting (and of course "addictive") substance, it should be regulated the same way we regulate addictive drugs. You want gasoline, you need a prescription from someone who is officially licensed to prescribe gasoline, and who carefully evaluates whether you have a real need for this toxin. The result would be a huge black market in illegal gasoline, with shady entrepreneurs springing up on street corners, selling adulterated and dangerous "gasoline" which would damage people's cars, start fires, and cause turf wars. Driving would become much more dangerous, crime would increase monumentally, and the government would have to send in SWAT Teams with specially marked fire engines to raid the dangerous and illegal "gas houses," which would doubtless be guarded by armed thugs with pit bulls who would also have to be shot. So to me, regulating gasoline as we do drugs would be a nightmare. But to those who want to save us from the free market and save the planet from our evil carbon appetites, it would be a utopia.
That's because it would save us from choice, and from the illusion of freedom. The reason it's an illusion is that because we are living collectively anyway, libertarianism is collectivism:
In a free market, the individual consumer does not have 'freedom to choose': the freedom can only be exercised collectively. However, those consumers whose choice coincides with the outcome of market forces, are rewarded. The others are not only the losers on the market, but then also face market pressure to adapt their choice. In general, average-taste choices benefit. Free markets are not simply collective, but do have a centring effect.Actually, "open-source" refers primarily to Linux -- a free operating system which is an alternative to Windows and Mac. As regular readers know, I love Linux, and I have long seen it as precisely the antithesis of social and technological uniformity. I suppose that if it became the dominant operating system, the argument could be made that things had gotten too uniform. But where's there's an excess of uniformity, an alternative will spring up somewhere, and people will be free to choose it.
But they're actually not free, you see, because there is no freedom; only a delusion.
I only imagined that I had the freedom to write this post. I only say that I'm in favor of freedom; the reality is that I want dictatorial collectivism.
Oh, and I'm also a conservative who wants to prevent social change:
Thirdly, libertarians are conservatives. Many are openly conservative, others are evasive about the issue. But in the case of openly conservative libertarians, the intense commitment to conservatism forms the apparent core of their beliefs. I suggest this applies to most libertarians: they are not really interested in the free market or the non-coercion principle or limited government as such, but in their effects. Perhaps what libertarians really want is to prevent innovation, to reverse social change, or in some way to return to the past. Certainly conservative ideals are easy to find among libertarians. Charles Murray, for instance, writes in What it means to be a Libertarian (p. 138):Yes, that is all too true. Many libertarians, myself included, would love to see a return to constitutionally limited government.
It's nice to know that someone thinks libertarians are conservative, though, because some conservatives feel very strongly that they are not. And there are a number of libertarians who question the extent of modern American conservatism's commitment to freedom.
But if we consider that there is no such thing as freedom anyway, and we are all working towards dictatorial collectivism, then what's the point of arguing over something that does not exist because it is its own opposite?
I'd say I didn't care, but I don't want to be accused of whistling past the graveyard of freedom.
MORE: Some great wisdom in Dave's latest post:
If there's one point libertarians could best serve society by promulgating and proselytizing, it's that virtually every reason that people's lives aren't a short, brutal experience of miserably cold, sick, and hungry competition for scarce resources is the result of a productivity improvement that resulted in either a new product or a cheaper, better version of an existing one -- and 99% of such attempts at inventing new or better products fail, which is why it's vitally important not to overly hinder the process if we want the improvement in the human condition to continue.
UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all. I second what Glenn said about how to spot the fascists, because they're the ones calling for a smaller government. I should also point out as a public service reminder that you can also spot fascist libertarians by the deadly sneakers they wear.
We can't be too careful!
Comments welcome, agree or disagree.
AND MORE: Speaking of warnings, be sure not to miss the post Glenn linked along with mine. A Newsweek writer has helpfully warned that Tea Partyers are the slave-holders of today! (Their claim of being concerned with unsustainable deficits and federal spending is only a front.)
END NOTE: I guess this observation was inevitable:
hitler was a libertarian that forced the market onto germans thru coercionMay Godwin forgive me.
posted by Eric on 11.19.10 at 12:22 PM
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