Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Libertarianism's Achilles' Heel | E.J. Dionne | Commonweal Magazine

Murray Rothbard's call to arms
Libertarianism's failings will never be recognized by its proponents because it never has been and never wlll be tried.  They (and here I mean the usual pantheon from Murray Rothbard to Robert Nozick to the legal academy's Richard Epstein) are free to propound their rationalist, contractarian utopia.  The practical consequence is that they are always against all social welfare measures - Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, etc.  That government  is best which governs least, etc.  But as E.J. Dionne asks - isn't the absence of libertarian government anywhere proof of its impracticality? - gwc
Libertarianism's Achilles' Heel | Commonweal Magazine:
by E.J. Dionne
We had something close to a small government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn't work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.
And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.
In fact, as Michael Lind points out, most countries that we typically see as "free" and prosperous have governments that consume around 40 percent of their GDP. They are better off for it. "Libertarians," he writes, "seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality ... ."
This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can -- or will -- put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.
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