Libertarians Branded "New Communists" at Bloomberg.com

By:  Jack Kenny
07/07/2014
       
Libertarians Branded "New Communists" at Bloomberg.com

The trite joke used to be that right-wing zealots would look for communists under the bed. A pair of political commentators writing at Bloomberg.com apparently can find them at the Cato Institute.

According to venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Eric P. Liu, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, "radical libertarians" are the "new communists."

The authors acknowledge the apparent contradiction. "Most people would consider radical libertarianism and communism polar opposites: The first glorifies personal freedom. The second would obliterate it. Yet the ideologies are simply mirror images," they contend. "Both attempt to answer the same questions, and fail to do so in similar ways. Where communism was adopted, the result was misery, poverty and tyranny. If extremist libertarians ever translated their beliefs into policy, it would lead to the same kinds of catastrophe."

Since the "extremist libertarians" rarely get the opportunity to translate their beliefs into policy, Hanauer and Liu are hard pressed to find evidence in support of their thesis. They go so far as to claim Somalia as an example. "It is in failed states such as Somalia," they contend, "that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression." Really. While some hardcore libertarians are self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalists, most would welcome a return to good old U.S. constitutional government. It might be possible to find American libertarians calling for a central government run by rival tribal chieftains, but they would be rarer than hens' teeth.

The authors define "radical libertarianism" as "the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values." That's a stretch. Libertarians by definition hold liberty as their primary value. So did many, perhaps most, of the Founders of our Republic, especially those who risked their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" for freedom and independence from the British empire. Surely it is true of those who composed and ratified the Bill of Rights. But individual freedom need not "trump," but may co-exist with other values worthy of the name. It should, however, trump any "value" attached to the alleged "right" of some to the fruits of the labor and enterprise of others. It should trump also the "value" of having government compel some people to provide services others may want, as is the case with the federal "contraceptive mandate" in the maze of regulations in what is known as ObamaCare. Obviously, "all other values" include the value of public safety. Perhaps Hanauer and Liu know of libertarians radical enough to claim freedom of speech does include, in the memorable phrase of Justice Holmes, the right of "falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." If they do, they might tell us about them some time.

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