There’s always something to howl about

Cultivate your garden

There’s a lot of caterwauling these days. I used to be a libertarian, and still have many friends who hew to that line of thinking. In recent days, my Facebook page has been awash in complaints and claims that the country has turned a corner, that the best years are behind us, and on and on. I had to chuckle.

This is all nonsense. First, it’s a narrative awash in nostalgia for a period when, presumably, peoples’ individual liberty was more or less respected, when the free market more or less reigned, and when the government was small and limited.

Let’s be clear. This country has never had a truly limited government, and if you think so, you should tell it to the victims of chattel slavery, to the men conscripted into armies to fight wars, to those who lived in the Jim Crow south, to those interned at places like Manzanar.

And before you start on about how universal health care is a diabolical plot to destroy your liberties, please take a moment to think about the hundreds of thousands of human souls confined to American prisons for the crime of selling, transporting, or using what politicians have defined as “controlled substances.”

Or the couple hundred thousand held in detention this very day because the U.S. government says they crossed a political border to earn a better living for them and theirs.

There are a lot of injustices in the world. Universal health care, however corrupt and ultimately ill-fated a project that may be, falls pretty far down my list of crimes. Your mileage may vary.

I got out of libertarian politics because, it seemed, a lot of it was built around a commitment to protect a set of institutions that privileged a certain middle class, bourgeois status. Libertarians would go on and on about the horrors of the capital gains tax, or the injustice of Social Security, or stupid regulatory rules.

But while many of them would give lip service to the idea of ending deep injustices – like the war on drugs – so few actually do that hard work. There’s no money in it.


2 Comments so far

  1. Sean Purcell March 24th, 2010 8:43 pm

    …so few actually do that hard work. There‚Äôs no money in it.

    You remind me of an adage I read once: “People will always be more violently opposed to the wearing of fur than of leather for the simple reason that it’s far safer to harass rich women than biker gangs.”

    Your post brings up a few of the many hypocrisies to be found in our current “national debate.” More and more I find the purity of Mr. Swann’s anarchy argument to be the only one I can intellectually defend. It’s amazing the labrynth of puzzles we find ourselves in when trying to extricate from a system so twisted by nannyism.

  2. Brian Brady March 26th, 2010 8:16 am

    An eloquent and appropriate admonition.