Friday, June 25, 2010

Libertarianism and my rights

By Capt. Fogg

Non pudet, quia pudendum est;
prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
certum est, quia impossibile.*


I really want to like Ron Paul. There have been times when I felt we needed Ron Paul, even if only to keep the others honest. I concur wholeheartedly with many of his ideas about leaving people alone in their homes and private lives; about transparency in financial matters. I share the loathing of surveillance, of being forced to carry papers. I agree about the wars that are useful only to increase government power over domestic affairs. I agree about the importance of the Bill of Rights that neither Party seems to care much about -- and so on, but I am constantly reminded that I really don't know how he can say what he says, nor can I understand his motivations without postulating entities sufficient to send Occam running down the street screaming.

Two years ago he told us that
"Congress refuses to allow reasonable, environmentally sensitive, offshore drilling."

They did, of course, allow drilling, but they allowed unreasonable, unsafe and reckless drilling, free of unbiased oversight, which according to Libertarian doctrine should have magically resulted in safe and reasonable results: they allowed the drillers to tell us what was safe enough and what was too expensive to do. They allowed the rig operators to determine what the lives of the workers were worth relative to profits and they allowed them not to give a damn that my grandchildren may never see a clean beach in Florida or eat Gulf shrimp.

It wasn't reasonable, environmentally sensitive drilling that got us into the current mess, now was it? It could have been all that if the laws had been enforced. The blowout might have been prevented if the people in charge of oversight hadn't been on the oil train and had done their jobs; if the regulations themselves hadn't been written by oil men and largely in secret -- if government hadn't been made to look the other way because of a philosophy teaching that government should look the other way. Eleven good men, many of whom saw this coming, would still be alive had we had some very basic oversight -- if we didn't have people insisting that the people who profit write the rules and the people with everything to lose keep silent or be called Communists.

Yet Dr. Paul says it was because of too much government that BP cheated and lied and people died -- that vast tracts of land and sea were destroyed, important industries were ruined, property made worthless -- and old fashioned as it may sound, I think contradictions in logic and fact weaken an argument. Is it a contradiction that oversight in an industry that has the capability of doing unprecedented damage is "too much government" while giving tax breaks and incentives to companies making tens of billions in profits is not?

Yes, it is a contradiction! Are we really so afraid of Communism that we're willing to accept what is by definition, giving state supported irresponsibility to state supported industries while calling it "limited government?" Or is it that the rather insignificant benefit of allowing a foreign corporation to pump American oil and sell it abroad in amounts that really don't matter either in terms of conservation or the price of crude, is a consummation so devoutly to be demanded that risking the end of the world is not worth talking about?

"We still need oil, and a lot of good jobs depend on oil production,"

he advises us. But do we need that oil, from there and do we need it so much we'll gamble our country's future on it, people's lives and livelihoods on grabbing a tiny bit more of it. We should be held hostage so that foreign corporations who pay hardly any taxes yet have a bigger vote than you do can add to their already obscene profits: so that they can play while we pay -- and pay forever.

It's a bad argument, a very, very bad argument, even coming from someone not smart enough to see that -- and Paul certainly is smart enough, so why is adding an insignificant amount to the current supply of oil so desperately important? Why are oil jobs more important than the countless other jobs destroyed by oil spills? Are today's fishing jobs, logging jobs, more important than making sure that there are fish and trees next week? Libertarianism would seem to say so. Libertarianism would seem to promise that passenger pigeons will return now that they were hunted to extinction, that we'd still have the American Bison and the Bald Eagle if we'd been allowed to shoot as many as we liked, but you know -- it's not true.

Look, I don't think I'm channeling Marx when I say that we don't have crime simply because we have too many police, that Enron destroyed lives and fortunes because the Government looked at their books; that people wouldn't rob banks if banks had no guards and robbery weren't illegal. I don't think it's communism to have a government say: no dammit, you can't build a fireworks factory next to that school and if you build it anywhere, you'll install sprinklers and put up no smoking signs, but that's just what people calling themselves libertarians are saying.

I don't understand and I'm quite sure I don't understand because it's not to be understood, it's to be believed. The pieces of the puzzle don't need to fit, the ideas don't need to work. In fact they have a history which proves it so. It's the logic of emotion; the argument from anger and the special pleadings of selfish solipsism: I don't care what happens to my country if oil is a penny a barrel cheaper for two weeks. I don't care if it's a Ponzi scheme because I'm making money. I don't care if I poison the river, my property rights are my property rights. I don't care if your grandmother can't ride my bus -- it's my bus and my right. I don't know if I'm more disturbed by the fact that I don't understand or by the fear that I do understand.

*There is no shame because it is shameful;
it is wholly credible, because it is unsound;
it is certain, because impossible.

(with apologies to Turtullian)

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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