MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘pro-market’

How the World Views Libertarianism | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 12, 2019

https://mises.org/wire/how-world-views-libertarianism

Ask ten libertarians for a definition of libertarianism, and one is likely to receive about ten different answers.

Indeed, libertarians have something of a reputation for internecine battles over who the “real” libertarians are.

Most of the world, however, couldn’t possibly care less about these battles over how to correctly slice and dice the different types of libertarians.

When it comes to use of the term libertarian out “in the wild” among mainstream, non-libertarian pundits, the use of the term is surprisingly consistent. It nearly always refers to an ideology that pushes for greater economic freedom in the form of less regulation of economic life, lower taxes, and freedom in trade.

Most writers on political and public policy matters, however, are not friendly to this sort of ideology so the term “libertarian” is also often expressed with an air of disapproval.

A Sampling of Media Coverage

This definition of libertarianism was made more clear than usual in the wake of the death of industrialist David Koch. Koch was known to support a number of libertarian political initiatives around taxation and government regulation.

To say that Koch was savaged for these views in the press and in social media would be an understatement. But the criticism also helped to bring out how mainstream media organs view libertarianism, and how they define it.

After Koch’s death, Salon declared we “live in the brothers’ libertarian utopia” thanks in part to the political machinations of Koch and his brother Charles.

What does this utopia look like? According to Christopher Leonard, a reporter known to have written a “secret history” of the Koch brothers, the assumed victory of libertarians has led to a world in which environmental regulations have been eviscerated, social programs are impoverished, and wealthy corporations wield vast power over workers. Indeed, according to Leonard, this Kochian libertarian program seeks a return to the days before the New Deal, allegedly a “capitalistic free-fire zone” characterized by starving workers lorded over by corrupt plutocrats.

But thanks to libertarians like Koch, the progress forged by the New Deal has largely been brought crashing down.

Similarly, the Washington Post refers to Koch’s “libertarian” empire responsible for pushing the Republican party further in the direction of low taxes, fewer government programs, and what the author refers to as anti-government extremism.

Needless to say, we don’t actually live in a “libertarian utopia” and its unclear if Koch did the things attributed to him. But for our purposes in this article what matters is that the mainstream view of libertarianism is clear: libertarianism is an extreme pro-capitalist ideology.

This view extends well beyond a handful of articles about the Kochs.

For example, Darren Dochuk at Politico writes this month on the now-forgotten Pew brothers who were influential political operators behind the scenes in the mid-twentieth century. The brothers, Dochuk notes, “spent their oil fortune remaking the GOP in their libertarian and conservative Christian image.”

Both the Christianity and the libertarianism are apparently meant by the author to be seen as nefarious aspects of the brothers’ agenda. The nature of the libertarian side of their agenda is consistent with what we see said about libertarians elsewhere: the Pews’ libertarianism impelled them to oppose the beloved New Deal, especially its “encroachment on their corporate sector.” Capitalist dystopia allegedly ensued.

From Guns to Free Trade

The title “libertarian” can also be used to encompass those who take an excessive view of the freedom to own firearms. For example, Georgetown historian Robert Curran writes “Our scandalous gun policy is the inevitable consequence of libertarian ideology.” Libertarian laissez-faire, we’re told, doesn’t just encourage oppression of hapless workers. It encourages murderers as well.

Other writers have claimed to be appalled by the callousness of libertarian ideology. For instance, consider David Masciotra’s confession about once being libertarian, but eventually coming to his senses. Masciotra describes libertarians as “individuals myopically pursuing their own interests have no solution to ecological catastrophe, thousands dying for lack of health insurance, lethal disparities in the public education system, and the unending terror and devastation of racism.”

The context makes it clear that these are problems government regulation and control could solve, but libertarians dogmatically insist on their idiosyncratic views of how government regulation and funding in areas such as health care and education are a bad thing.

Other references make it clear that the term “libertarian” can be generally used to describe any organization that, on the whole, favors even a marginally pro-market political economy. This often involves applying the term to a variety of organizations that are also often just regarded as mainstream “conservative” organizations. As Max Moran writes at the American Prospect:

Democrats, if you’re reading, here’s a shot of reality: Google doesn’t just donate to think tanks on the center-left of the political spectrum. It also funds libertarian and right-wing institutions like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.

To many libertarians, organization like the Heritage Foundation may hardly qualify as libertarian. But from the outside looking in, Heritage is libertarian because it takes a low-tax anti-regulatory view on some issues. What may seem milquetoast to a libertarian appears as extreme pro-market superstition to the average writer at The Washington Post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »