Ten Reasons I'm No Longer Libertarian
The older I get the less libertarian I become. It’s been a live-and-learn process that has finally unravelled for me recently. The following points are a journey, in no particular order, revealing how my thoughts have changed over the years as I’ve slowly left libertarianism behind.
1. Ann Coulter
Ann Coulter is a hardcore conservative, but she’s not libertarian. She appeared on Jon Stossel’s program and did a town hall with young libertarians. It’s worth watching. Here is the link to the segment in question. I watched this clip and it stuck with me. Ann doesn’t exactly hit a homerun on any of these questions, but libertarian ideology is taken to task in a practical way that I hadn’t quite seen before.
Ann is basically suggesting that sticking to libertarian principles, at a time when reality is so far beyond where libertarian principles begin, ends up making those principles ineffective and unrealistic.
About ten years ago I remember getting a phone call from a polling company in order to ask my opinion about Bombardier. I found it strange, but used the opportunity to unleash my free market ideology. So what was my impression?
“Bombardier is an embarrassing corporate welfare client that exists off the backs of exploited taxpayers.” I was thanked for my time and I was happy that I got the chance to vent the truth.
As time went on, however, I began to realize the nature of the industry. Basically all aerospace industries in every country are in some way heavily subsidized. Bombardier’s biggest competitor is Brazil’s Embraer. Embraer is heavily subsidized just like Bombardier. They have been fighting each other through the WTO for a very long time. What would happen if we just stopped subsidizing Bombardier? Realistically, they’d go bankrupt and Embraer would eat their lunch.
What would we gain? Well taxpayers would gain back whatever money no longer went into subsidizing Bombardier, so we’d all get an extra two or three bucks in our pockets every year, but Canada would lose a $16 billion dollar company that employs 18,000 citizens.
The libertarian would shrug and say, “Nobody should subsidize these companies, and in the aggregate, we’d be better off with our two or three bucks and if Canada needs planes just purchase them from Embraer... thus exploiting their subsidies for our own consumer gain.”
But with less competition in the market, Embraer would be able to raise their prices and it’s pretty hard for us to fire up a newly competitive aerospace industry once the old one has already been bankrupted.
The real world doesn’t play by libertarian principles.
3. De-platforming right-wingers on social media
Google, Facebook, YouTube and especially Twitter are run by Silicon Valley liberals and with the recent Fake News politicization of these platforms, the censorship within these companies is increasing.
There are proposals for government intervention. The argument is that these social media platforms are functioning as 21st century public utilities and by allowing them to censor free speech we are giving them power and influence that is undemocratic. Heavy intervention and regulation is in order to restore constitutionally protected rights to free speech.
Libertarians would counter that these are private companies that people use voluntarily and if you don’t like them then don’t use them, or just go build your own. That’s a great pat answer, but it’s unrealistic for the times we’re living in. I’m not seriously capable of launching my own search engine just because I don’t like the left-leaning algorithms of Google.
Kurt Schlichter is a great writer with very innovative conservative ideas and insights. Read this article explaining why conservatives should advocate internet regulation to see what I’m talking about. He explains it better than I can.
4. Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” moment
If you’ve forgotten Obama’s speech in which he hamfistedly tried to explain how the economy benefits from public sector spending…
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business – you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.” ~ Barack Obama, July 13th, 2012
Conservatives of all stripes lost their minds at this statement. The news soundbyte was, “If you've got a business – you didn't build that,” and suddenly Obama was attacking entrepreneurs.
I’ve thought about that statement and the argument that followed and I agree with Obama. Successful people put too much stock in their own arrogant greatness to recognize that much of their success has been a product of luck, birthright and the contribution of others.
I used to produce a television segment in Calgary called, “Success Stories” and I interviewed a lot of successful entrepreneurs. After a while, I noticed that they all said that the secret to success is focus, persistence and hard-work. Three good rules to live by, but does any entrepreneur not do these things? 80% of businesses fail pretty quickly. Are those folks just not working hard enough or lacking in focus and persistence?
I doubt it. Life is more complicated than that.
5. Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel became a billionaire by inventing PayPal. He doesn’t believe that freedom is compatible with democracy and political libertarianism is doomed. Read his essay on the matter here.
What’s his solution?
We need to look beyond politics in order to institute libertarianism. He cites cyberspace, outer space and seasteading as future endeavours for libertarians. That’s cool and all, but if your political ideology requires you to go into outer space or live your life on a floating island... then holy shit, maybe you need to have a rethink. (Even Ayn Rand only required a hidden valley with a Wakanda-like holographic camouflage)
Rather than contriving a libertarian utopia, we should be looking at alternative methods that function more realistically.