Breaking Down Jon Stewart's Challenges to Libertarianism
This is a long one, so let's skip the introduction.
You can find Part 1 of the video here. It's actually a three part segment, but the links to the other two are on the right hand side of the page when you get there. I've highlighted what I think where the 16 most interesting questions Jon raised. Rather than rehasing Andrew Napolitano's answers, I'll try to provide my own view on each. Let's do it.
Does the government enhance freedom through the building of roads, levies, infrastructure, social safety nets, and raising armies?
Another way to ask this question is as follows: Is there a net gain in liberty through government projects. We're not yet asking if there is a net gain in properity, so we'll set aside the economics discussion for a moment.
Roads and levies do not pass through a membrane from another universe. The state does not make them magically appear from nothing. In order to build a road in Community A, the state must acquire resources. If Community A does not have those resources, they must come from somewhere else. That means the state must take those resources from Community's B, C, D, etc. Those resources must be acquired through force. So whatever freedom is enhanced for Community A by the building of a road in their community is necessarily offset by the loss of freedom and resources in communities that had their wealth and resources confiscated through force. In the end, no freedom is enhanced.
Another way to look at this would be the situation of Iraq. We have built roads in Iraq. By how much has that improved Iraqi freedom? And where did those resources come from? How much freedom did you lose by the result of that war? You know have wire tapping, torture, detention, and assassination of American citizens. We see an explosion in the growth of the police state at home, where protestors are gassed and beaten, even those that helped build those roads in Iraq. You can see it crystal clear by looking at the force government uses to enhance freedom, that the freedom lost by others is a real phenomenon.
And a zero sum game would be a best case scenario, of course. However we now that the picture is actually much worse for the state's case. Money from the federal government to subsidize road building in Community A often comes with strings attached, pressure from the feds on local governments to implement freedom restricting laws tied to the continuation of that stolen loot. So the new enhanced freedom enjoyed by the people in Community A is fool's gold. Over time that freedom will be lost, by pressures from both the federal and local governments, as well as by the looting of their resources by force to reward some new pet project of the state.
Now what if the government did limit itself to the simple looting of us all for the building of parks and roads? Well you'd never hear a peep out of me. The state is actually good at buiilding parks (although terrbile at building roads). The state is all about efforts to legitimize itself and that means grandiose parks and museums to awe the people. Superb. Stick to that and I'd be a happy little statist. But of course, the stae does not just build infrastructure. What Jon Stewart is describing would be a minarchist night watchmen state with some pomp and circumstance and the occasional boondoggle. He's describing America in the 1800s. He's not describing America today, with 100s of fedreal departments, endless wars, spying, police statism, and money printing.
Social safety nets were not developed out of a love for the people. Jon would like to believe that the state institutes these programs to help the little guy. However, sadly, the opposite is true. Social safety net programs protect the rich and bleed the poor. The original state sponsored, Western model, social safety net program was implemented by Otto Von Bismarck, the cold calculating political demon whose forced unification of Germany crushed the decentralized Prussian power structure. His social safety net program was designed to undermine the local power centers and create a strong federal government. The irony was that the program laid the groundwork for Hitler. Hitler despised local governments (states' rights) and was able to easily crush the last remnants, which had been undermined by Bismark, to solidy his power. Hitler in the 1800s does little damage. Hitler in the 1900s results in the deaths of millions.
The rise of the state has caused the death of hundreds of millions of people and horror unimaginable. Whether it's the deaths caused by the all powerful states of Russia, Germany, China, and the United States today as it bombs its way across the globe, the total damage cannot be accurately counted. This reversal of human liberty and respect for live coincides with the most fantastic increase in state power the world has ever seen.
It seems insane to me to think that the building of a nice park or a convenient new road can be seen as an enhancement of freedom while you ignore the rest of the mayhem, murder, and chaos that the state has unleashed around the world.
"An enervated, spiritless people is far less likely to rise up against parasites who live off their labor, even when that regime is exploiting and robbing them blind, if they have been conditioned to believe that they cannot live any other way." - Thomas E. Woods, Rollback
When it comes to war, Randolph Bourne said it best: "War is the health of the state." The state's main function is commit war. Clausewitz said that war "is diplomacy by other means." But that was incorrect. Diplomacy is actually war by other means. The economic embargoes, for example, that starve millions of people can only be seen as another form of war. The Jeffersonians understood this idea that the state and war were intrincately linked, which is why they didn't even want America to have a standing army. And up until WWII, America did not have a standing army, or at least anything in comparison to today's monster. So despite America's frequent forays into one foreign land after another from 1787-1941, the conflicts were short and the damage at home and abroad was limited. The tide started to turn however well before WWII. The Spanish-American war, which ended up in the soulless slaughter of the Filipinos, and the outrageous entry into WWI helped turn Americans into a militaristic nation. The state always wants war. Whether they get perpetual war or not depends upon your understanding of the nature of the state. If you think it's here to build parks and roads, you will get perpetual war, and constantly be arguing for a bigger state.
What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?
This is a theme I see often coming from the Left. I think they get this idea that in the free market, people that go out of business or lose their job should be left to die. Maybe it comes from reading too much Ayn Rand or watching Fox News. I don't know where it comes from, but it's ridiculous.
Let me start by saying what you shouldn't do. You shouldn't give them more power. We have a system today that takes the losers picked up by the market and puts them in charge of the country. Blankfein, Geither, Paulson, Dimon, etc. These are the free market's losers. But in a fascist economic state, the state not only makes them winners, but they become the most powerful people in the country, with the power to influence how everyone else's money is spent and how the rest of us are treated by the state. I want to thank the Left for setting the bar so low. I'm quite sure Libertarians can come up with a better solution than that.
When a person loses in the free market, he doesn't spontaneously combust. He doesn't keel over and die, with vultures picking his half dead carcass while men in Monopoly hats amble by unnoticing. He has to pick up and do something that 9% of Americans are trying to do right now in the unfree market controlled by today's losers. He needs to find a new job. And in a free market, that is a lot easier since unemployment under the conditions of a great deal of laissez faire was historically 2-3%.
So that's a choice you can think about. On the one hand, in a free market, the loser has to pick himself up but he has a great chance of earning a living and giving back to society through hard work. Or on the other hand, you can put the rest of us out of work to give that loser enough power to screw over the whole country.
But there's a second part to this question, which is the idea of whether people are actually charitable enough to support the losers. Here, the liberal ses only government as a way to help people down on their luck. If that were indeed the only, none of us would be here today. Humans have faced way harder times than the current Great Recession or even the Greet Depression (both caused by government intervention anyway, see the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle), and arrived intact and prosperous without government help. So there must have been something else. And of course, there is. It's the scientifically recognized human traits of altruism and compassion. Everyone has it. Those traits don't simply disappear when the government takes its boot off your neck.
A few weeks ago, a motorcycle rider crashed and was trapped under a burning vehicle. Twenty onlookers rushed to his assistance and lifted the car off the trapped man. Did the government make them do it? Would they not have done this if there was no government at all? I do not understand why liberals believe that altruism and compassion disappears if we remove the force of government from the system. If anything, history shows us that the most compassionate and giving people are the ones that are most free from government oppression, and that those trapped under conditions of the total state lack neither the freedom nor the ability to be compassionate and altruistic.
Do we live in a society or don't we?
Of course we do. But so what? Society does not require a coercive state. Did the Americans from 1787-1913 live in a society? They did and they lived in this society without a coercive and managed quite well. (Without the ability to levy income taxes on the general population, the state's power is greatly limited. Americans lived with a coercive state in those days, but nothing like you see today.)
And how about the millions and millions of humans that have lived in communities without any state and lived perfectly normal lives. Stateless societies are not the barbaric, near death existences that state propaganda implies. Stateless societies were societies. And they did just fine. Don't bother getting on this comment thread to tell me about Somalia or tribal living unless you have actually studied it. Don't make a fool out of yourself. I have studied it. I know the history of stateless societies, at least those that have been documented. They were usually wealthier, safer, and more egalitarian than their state-bound neighbors. The only thing that stateless societies failed in doing was adequately protecting themselves from the rapacious growth of states, which finally have swallowed the whole planet and are left to wage war on each other.
So this is the bogus lead up question to saying that there is some shadowy social contract that supposedly we are all bound by, but all it really means is that the state gets to do whatever it wants while the rest of us follow their rules. Social contract theory is utopian nonsense used to disguise the true nature of the state. But we're going to get into that more when tackle Jon's question on representative democracy.
Is everybody's success predicated on the hard work of others?
There is a difference between the economic work of others and the political work of others. As the great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer noted, there are only two paths to wealth. The first is the economic means, which is the exchange of goods and services among voluntary peoples. The second is through pillage and plunder. That is the political means, and that is how the state "builds" wealth. So your success can be predicated off the work of either source. I hope that it's built on the work of people engaging in the economic means.
Furthermore, the “others” are not identifiable people. I'm sure you're not going to walk into Walmart, point to the 275 pound piece of trailer trash with the "I <3 Threesomes" tee shirt on and tell me that my economic success is predicated on his hard work. It isn't.
Those who actually did work hard and laid the groundwork for your success already get a reward. It's called money. They get it in exchange for the goods and services they provided. There is no need to re-reward them with anything else. The trailer trash gets her reward too. She gets a tee shirt.
But I think this is one of the least thought out positions by liberals. They're basically saying that entrepreneurs (economic means) and government officials (political maens) haven't been rewarded enough for laying the groundwork for your success, so we need to reward them some more by taking your money and giving it to the fat chick picking her butt in aisle 5 at Walmart. Something tells me this is not what they had in mind.
What they might be referring to is the hard work of laborers. But the term laborers is merely a semantic play. We are all laborers. Which is something you find out when the government and union takes over GM and nothing really changes in any of their labor or management practices. Why would it? Everyone is a laborer. The solidarity of workers as a general class is a fasle dichotomy. I have been a laborer and a worker all my life, yet I have nothing that gives me commonality with the man pushing buttons in a factory in Detroit, except that perhaps we both likes sports. (Btw, that's also the one thing I have in common with our Presidents, it seems. Ugh.)
Labor is a short cut term to describe the act of mixing your body and mind with the resources of the planet. That's it. It does not connote some special super bond between you and every truck driver in the world. Nor should it. Everyone's contribution to each other is unique because everyone is unique. If you equality before the law or before God is a good idea, that's fine. But no other equality exists that I am aware of.
As a group, you don't believe in evolution and you are anti-science.
I'm going to pause here. This is a fun one, but I will have to come back to it and the remaining questions in a bit. So in the biz, they'd call that a teaser.
Hope you'll come back for Part II. Comments welcome. I will attempt to be civil but I reserve the right to say whatever I want to whomever I want whenever I want.