Libertarians, In Case You Didn't Know This About Yourselves

From JM Berstein in the NY Times, via Kevin Drum, this is about Tea Partiers, but since it addresses the Tea Party distrust and disdain for government, I suppose it applies equally well to we libertarians:

My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans' collective self-understanding.

....This is the rage and anger I hear in the Tea Party movement; it is the sound of jilted lovers furious that the other "” the anonymous blob called simply "government" "” has suddenly let them down, suddenly made clear that they are dependent and limited beings, suddenly revealed them as vulnerable.

Do you get that - we oppose the overwhelming size of government not for any rational reason, but out of a psychological need to deny that the government is inevitably going to grow larger and increase its control over our lives.   This is so absurd it is freaking hilarious.  This is what Louis the XVI's sycophants were telling him to make him feel better in 1789.  I mean, after 200 years of only limited government interference in health care, how is it that a law passed over majority opposition for government takeover of healthcare somehow "demonstrates the absolute dependence of us all on government action?"  Why doesn't it reasonably demonstrate the depth of risk we all face from a minority who have constantly through history been bent on wielding power over us.

Kevin Drum, sort of to his credit, rejects this thesis in favor of his own

So then: why have tea partiers gone off the rails about the federal deficit? It's not because of something unique in their psyches. And it's not because they're suddenly worried that America is going to go the way of Greece. (The polls I linked to above show that tea partiers care more about cutting taxes than reducing the size of government.) It's because they're the usual reactionary crowd that goes nuts whenever there's a Democrat in the White House and they're looking for something to be outraged about

So while he rejects the goofy psychobabble, he accepts the underlying premise, that any opposition to expansion of government and its power of coercion over individuals is irrational.

So take your pick -- libertarians are either a) advocating limited government only as a psychological crutch to hide from ourselves that Obama is really our daddy or b) scheming reactionary nuts.  Whichever the case, remember that there can be no principled opposition to Big Brother.


  1. forest:

    "So then: why have tea partiers gone off the rails about the federal deficit?"

    People who object to trillion dollar annual deficits are the ones who are "off the rails"? Bernstein is out of his mind.

  2. Ignoramus:

    The Tea Party isn't a party. It's the activist fringe of a very large number of disgruntled citizens. Importantly, this includes a lot of Independents and even some Democrats. These citizens are more "in the middle" than your typical Democratic or Republican voter, actually.

    MSM types who insist on branding these voters -- and the Tea Party -- as somehow "radical" or "fringe" are either bad polemicists or woefully ignorant.

    In most elections theses voters break close to 50 / 50. Not any more. Recent races show that independents can now vote as much as 2 to 1 against an incumbent Democrat. This is a huge swing, and can affect a lot of races in November 2010. Republicans actually have to worry that some of them may get voted out too.


    There's two basic ways for governments to finance themselves: (1) autocratic dictate -- e.g. Egyptian pharaohs, 20th century communist states, and (2) market-based taxation. e.g., King Henry VIII, present day Canada.

    I submit that massive deficit spending is actually making the USA look more like a hybrid of (1) and (2).

    We can't sustain a hybrid of (1) and (2). We could double taxes on our top 5% earners and still not close the gap we already have, even with no "John Galt" effect. The federal government will need to get even bigger -- so that we turn into something like Communist China -- or much smaller. The middle way is unfinanceable through taxes as we've know them.

    So do some of us get to work for Obama's Borg -- paid in scrip, and the rest of us told to f*ck off and die? Or do we go back to free enterprise?

    There's no way to make the numbers square without it looking radical by today's standards. Canada is an interesting case study in how to fix this kind of problem.

    Can't writers at the NYT see this? You have to be very ignorant, or have an agenda, not to.

  3. KH:

    "The polls I linked to above show that tea partiers care more about cutting taxes than reducing the size of government."

    Reducing the diet will shrink the beast; I see no dichotomy here.

    If the government budget were reduced by 90%, it's reach would be greatly reduced and it wouldn't matter nearly so much what kind of idiot got elected president.

  4. Max:

    Well, isnt' that similar to us calling them liberals to be on the road to serfdom? I mean, if you would linear extrapolate the current position of the Left (I refuse to call them "liberal") you'd end up in between Lenin and Stalin and perhaps a mix of Mao and Marx. However, I doubt that most of the leftists want to go that far, they just somewhat want to stop along the line at some arbitary point (a bit like th Republicans). It will be the mix of leftist and far right policy that will drive it over the edge in the end. I don't think the Left really wants that (though they might be just naive enough to let it happen).

    Yet, we are called psychotic or just nuts for believing into something that HURTS nobody, except those that take it for granted that they should be helped.

  5. frankania:

    I wrote a comment to Kevin Drum explaining that "big govt", not dems or reps, have gotten us into this pickle. People don't seem to understand; the major parties are about the same in spending and regulating.
    Depending on ANY govt is counter-productive. All we can hope for is MINIMUM govt. of any stripe.

  6. Rick C:

    "Reducing the diet will shrink the beast; I see no dichotomy here."

    Exactly. The one necessarily follows from the other.

  7. tehag:

    I'm not worried that America will go the way of modern Greece.I'm worried America will go the way of all flesh; specifically Sharon Tate's flesh, tortured and murdered by people whom Obama's backers admire.