Dear Libertarians

March 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm (Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Dear Libertarians,

It seems it’s that time again.  That time when I have to say it’s over.  I’d say that it’s not you, that it’s me… but I think we both know that it’s actually you.

We got together because we shared something special.  We both believed that the government needed to back down, that it needed to reduce its interference in people’s lives.  That personal responsibility should take precedence over laws and regulations.  That there was obvious evidence on the record of gross negligence and disregard for civilian life by the government that wasn’t even being covered up, just ignored by society at large.  We’d spend hours debating the best way to gradually work in a wedge of sensible third party candidates to break the two-party stranglehold on our country’s government.  The nights spent going over plans to gradually reduce government interference in daily life will always be fondly remembered.

I suppose this was also when I started to realize there would be problems.  I’d quote Andrew Carnegie, and you’d quote Ayn Rand.  I’d suggest the government should redirect sources where they were a better investment, you’d insist that going cold turkey was the right approach.  You’d propose the immediate repeal of all gun laws once a Libertarian was in the White House, I’d point out that the Constitution you wanted to protect didn’t give the President that power.  I’d advocate for improving the rights of minorities, and you’d insist that doing so was actually harming them by giving the government more power.

That was the moment when we started having real problems, I understand that now.  I agreed with your general suggestion; the government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business at all.  Marriage licenses could be replaced with civil contracts to achieve the same legal protections, there could even be a standard template, but anybody could enter into those contracts, and marriage would simply be a socio-religious affair, and excuse to have a party.  It all made sense, until you said that we shouldn’t make gay marriage legal because it would reduce the pressure to eliminate marriage as a legal construct.  It was our first fight, but it would hardly be the last.  To be honest, I’m not even sure it ever stopped so we could have a second one.

Maybe I was just blind at the time, ignoring your more extreme elements in the search for something new.  I had questions about some of your ideas early on, about the fact that the President couldn’t just say “these laws don’t exist anymore,” but you explained that as something that would be proposed, not just done unilaterally.  I had questions about some of your roommates, the ones who were more socially conservative.  They reminded me a lot of the people who’d just thrown me out of my last relationship, with Christianity.  But you explained that they were disgruntled Republicans who were squatting, and you were trying to get them to leave.

So I put up with it, and dealt with the raving and the questionable decisions and the arguments.  You got the roomies to move out, told me they’d gone back to live with their parents, and I thought things were going to get better.

But then I found out that you were cheating on me, not just with your old “roomies,” but with some people who seem to be even crazier.  I hadn’t thought that was possible at first, but this Sovereign Citizens guy you’re seeing?  Honestly, I thought he was a nuisance at first, but the more he says the more he scares me.  Not just for what he might do to me, but for what he’s doing to you.

In trying to impress your old roomies and your new partner, you’ve been straying further and further into crazy land yourself.  You’ve started calling me, me of all people, a leftist, a liberal, a fascist apologist, and for what?  For suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the ideas you’ve started promoting are a little… well, insane.

Just in case this whole thing is one great big misunderstanding, I’m going to take this one last chance to make myself perfectly clear.  I don’t have a problem with your idea that the government really needs to pull back.  I agree with you that the police in large parts of this country are dangerously over-armed and over-militarized.  I agree with you that the prisons are overcrowded with people who don’t really deserve to be there.  I agree with you that we need to stop spending useless money.  I agree with you that corporate special interests wield far too much power in this day and age, that the plutocrats are taking over and not even bothering to hide it anymore.  And I agree with you that we need to really stop and think about if we’re going to be the land of the free, or the home of the terminally paranoid.

What I don’t agree with you on is how we’re supposed to accomplish that.

This Sovereign Citizens guy has been telling you that government, as an institution, is inherently evil and tyrannical.  Not just federal government, but local government, even a city council.  He’s been telling you that any legal system whatsoever is an infringement on the freedom of the people, a false contract established by force and intimidation without the consent of the people.  And he’s been telling you that what we really need to do is get rid of it, and shift to… what?  Rule by the free market, where people’s will and ability to acquire and apply force is what enables them to protect themselves from their fellow men.

What I can’t believe is that you’re buying this line, and that you’re not seeing the problems with it.

The government we have now is flawed, yes.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not like our government.  The tirades I’ve made about the NSA, drone strikes, and our country’s… how to put this delicately… utterly fucked up sense of entitlement to the world’s resource should prove this.  But when you look around you, how can you not see the terrible, terrible flaws we have with the free market, with complete deregulation?

Earlier this year, 300,000 people in West Virginia had their waterways poisoned by private industry.  A year or two ago, a private chemical plant in Texas exploded.  Not too long before that, a major (private) oil well exploded, pumping unknown amounts of oil and God alone knows what else into the Gulf Stream.  All three of these events were due to lax oversight and lack of regulations, and not even the companies responsible have argued otherwise.  We still haven’t figured out how much damage the Fukushima Reactor meltdown has caused, because private industry hasn’t cleaned it all up yet.  New reports of preventable tragedies are coming out of one private company after another every day.  Every.  Single.  Day.  And that’s not even counting the number of people whose lives are gradually ruined by the working conditions that they’re told to put up with or quit and find a new job… where the conditions will probably be just as bad, if not worse, especially in this job market.  Productivity in this country has increased drastically, but the only people who are seeing any real economic benefits from that are the super-rich.

And this is under what you’re calling a dictatorial, regulation-happy, practically-communist regime.

I just have to ask… how is this going to change, if we don’t have anybody holding them back?  If the only way we have to punish these companies is to not buy from them, how do we, the people, hold responsible companies that produce industrial solvents that are used for coal production?  We don’t buy their products ourselves, and the only way to stop patronizing their customers in protest would be to shift to solar and wind (which you argue are unsustainable) or nuclear.  And while I’m all for a well-regulated nuclear industry with high safety standards, do you seriously, sincerely believe we’ll have the incredibly safe reactors of today without somebody to tell the people building these multi-billion dollar facilities that, no, they can’t cheap out on the reactor shielding?

After all, it costs money to build the sort of redundancies that actually prevented Three Mile Island from being a hideous disaster with fatalities.  Without that money, you get Chernobyl.  It works!  Kind of.  Until it doesn’t.  Then you end up with… well, Chernobyl.

Do you really think that the unfettered free market would have prevented the economic disasters caused by the Enron, Worldcom, and our recent megabanking collapses?  Because as an accountant, I’m here to tell you that’s a load of grade-A manure.  Fraud and economic disaster thrives in an environment without regulation, far more than it does in an environment with too much regulation.  And I’m not in auditing; I’m in the field that usually complains about more rules coming down the pike to force me to add another layer of checks to my numbers.

Do you really think that a lower tax rate and fewer regulations will keep companies from outsourcing jobs overseas?  That they’ll bring jobs back to the States if they just don’t owe as much in taxes?  That’s bullshit, and if you don’t know it, it’s because you’re willfully ignoring the facts.  Look at their tax expenses.  Then look at their labor expenses.  That’s the line item that has them shipping jobs to places like China or India.  Apple could build the iPhone stateside without any problems; there are enough people to do the jobs, there are enough resources to build the factory, there are cities that would get on their knees and BEG for a FoxConn-like plant and that sort of industry!

But in China, they can do it at pennies on the dollar for the labor, and with working conditions that drive people to kill themselves.  You can’t do that in the USA.  In the USA, you have to pay a minimum wage that still isn’t enough to keep somebody out of poverty, and you have restrictions on the hours you can make people work.  You have minimum standards that the plants have to be kept up to.

Of course, you don’t like minimum wage laws either, but I fail to see how leaving us competing on the same wage scale as the Chinese is supposed to actually make life over here any better.  And when I ask you about that sort of thing… you don’t like to answer.

Frankly, there are a lot of questions you don’t like to answer.

You throw around words like “plutocrats” and “corporatists” as much as you throw around words like “statists,” but then you say that we need to give these people and their money more influence… and you really don’t like to be asked how that’s supposed to fix anything.

I’ve asked you how corporations are supposed to be kept in check without any sort of effective regulation, and the closest you come to answering the question is to say that we haven’t seen a country where the corporations haven’t been able to buy the government, so we can’t say what would happen.  And when I point out Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and any of a dozen other nations where corporations have had unfettered freedom to do what they want, the abuse of natural resources, the rampant human rights violations, the rape and enslavement of nations… you don’t like to answer any questions about that sort of thing.

I just can’t stand by and ignore it any more.

When we met, I could suggest smarter ways for the government to use its resources, and you thought those were good ideas.  Now, you tell me that I’m trying to socialize medicine when I suggest that making birth control freely available is a smart investment.  Because, you know, daily pills or annual shots are much cheaper than either helping to make sure that a kid grows up to not be a felon, or the costs of imprisonment.

Of course, your solution is that the private market should handle all that stuff.  Because the problem they’re having at food pantries is that not enough people show up who actually need help.  Because the private prison system has been proven to be so free of fraud and abuse, and get such better results than government-funded prisons.

What you are currently advocating isn’t a democracy.  You’ve actually gone and actively said that democracy is a tyranny of the majority.  I’d ask what sort of government you want, but I know that the answer these days is ‘none’ more and more often.

By the way, we actually have tried that governmental system before.  It’s called the feudal system, or a dictatorship.  He who can afford and wield the most intimidating force makes all the rules.  The reason the government is working with the corporations in those nations is because the corporations buy the government and make it take the rules away.  It wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t a government – they’d still rule through force of arms.  They’d make the rules.  And those rules would be to their advantage, while abusing the people and land as much as they can get away with.

The unfettered free market runs on money.  Ergo, the people who have all the money… have the power of the unfettered free market.

I’m sorry, I suppose I’m starting to ramble.  I really do wish that I didn’t have to write this letter, but here I am.  Maybe there’s still a chance… one of these days, maybe you’ll realize what you’re doing wrong and straighten things out.  It wouldn’t take much… just loose the lunatic fringe jacket, actually quit seeing your scary friends, and maybe we can make this work.  But until then…

Not yours anymore,

The Wolfemann



  1. Justin L. Oliver said,

    Hi, I was browsing the “capitalism” tag and visited for the first time.

    After reading, it seems one of the premises in the post is that businesses generally oppose government intervention1. Would that be a fair assessment? In challenging that idea, it seems left-libertarians like Kevin Carson and Noam Chomsky have made a pretty solid case, at least to my satisfaction, that governments generally prop up big business, like was the case for the New Deal to insulate oligopoly firms from market competition and legal accountability (under the ruse of promoting the public good, of course).

    If an intermediate goal of a corporation is to crush competition, it would have an easier time of that by lobbying for special privileges than by continuously besting its competition for perpetuity, no? As Carson writes, there’s no reasonable way to avoid the capture of regulatory bodies by big business, even if only well-meaning people are in power.

    1. By intervention, I mean a government regulation that goes beyond the bounds of defending people’s rights. That is to say, not all regulations are interventions.

    • wolfemann said,

      If that’s how it came across, then I apologize. On the contrary, big business is often very much in favor of government intervention; you hardly heard the banks complaining when we Bush was saying we needed to transfer billions of taxpayer dollars to them!

      I was using the phrase “government intervention” in the context that it is typically used when I’m arguing with my ex-fellow Libertarians; anything that the government does, period. A lot of these people are calling, say, laws that prevent Wal-Mart from firing workers for demanding better working conditions “government intervention.” Of course, by a strict reading of your standard, it could be called that; Wal-Mart has a right to “free speech” in firing workers who are exercising their own freedom to assemble, hypothetically.

      Usually the argument goes something like this:

      “Wal-Mart shouldn’t be firing workers who are advocating for better conditions.”

      “They have the right to free speech! The government doesn’t have any place stopping them!”

      “So how is anybody supposed to be able to improve their working conditions if a complaint is grounds for being fired?”

      “Get rid of government regulations and taxes, and Wal-Mart will make things better for their employees!”

      “They have massive tax exemptions in most areas already, and they’re just pocketing billions in profits while leaving their employees on government assistance.”

      “So get rid of the government assistance!”

      “…That’s the exact opposite of making things better for the employees, and does nothing to encourage Wal-Mart to do anything differently.”

      “If they want to do better, they should go to school, get better training, and get better jobs.”

      “…You’re kinda missing the whole point of ‘not having enough money to live on,’ aren’t you? If they can’t afford their basic needs, they can’t afford college, even with government assistance.”

      “What are you, some kind of socialist?”

      *end of thread, while I slam my head against a wall*

      • Justin L. Oliver said,

        I can appreciate your comments and the frustration. If it’s the case that businesses typically lobby for more government control, restrictions on how they exercise their political privileges shouldn’t necessarily be objected to. Seen in context, if the reason companies like Wal-Mart (really, bosses in general) have such a stilted bargaining position is because of government intervention (as left-libertarians like Carson would argue they do), government regulations that tilt the playing field more evenly could be seen as a reduction in intervention. It would depend on the actual effect of the law, since some laws (like the Wagner Act) that purport to help workers have unintended consequences that more than undue the intended purpose.

        For example, from my understanding, the Wagner Act and later the Taft-Hartley Act displaced less hierarchical unions and blunted more radical efforts of workers to receive their full product.

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