The libertarian notion that we could all live happily without government has always seemed so ridiculous that I had not until recently seriously thought about it. To dismiss libertarianism lightly, however, may be a mistake. The doctrine may be nuts, but the forces driving it appear to be sinister.
The basic libertarian idea, that every one should be free to do as they please, provided they infringe no one else’s freedom, and that government is therefore unnecessary and taxation to support it an evil tantamount to theft, is clearly nonsense, as spelled out in my last post: The Illogic of Libertarianism.
Specifically, I rebutted the Libertarian argument against the necessity of government for a prosperous and civilized society by reliance exclusively on arguments of Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, who libertarians love to quote but apparently never read.
Smith’s key arguments rebutting what is now known as libertarianism, was that in the absence of a government capable of providing defense of both the nation from foreign aggression, and the individual from the depredations of his neighbours, the accumulation of property, and hence the creation of a capitalist economy and the prosperity to which a capitalist economy gives rise, would be impossible.
Having thus established that the state, which in a democratic society means the community at large, is necessary to the protection of private property and capitalist business enterprise, it follows that the state must have the right to exact the cost of such protection from the citizenry, and this it bound to do, and is morally justified in doing so, in accordance with individual capacity to pay.
Further, if the state, in the name of the community at large, decides that the rich must, in return for the protection of their wealth that the community provides, contribute to the welfare of the poor, for example, through the provision of housing, schools, hospitals, etc., what argument do the rich have? The obvious argument would be along the lines of not killing the golden goose, a view that Adam Smith endorsed, asserting the need to keep public expenditures, which is to say taxpayer-funded expenditures, to a minimum.
But the libertarian billionaires and their groupies do not rely on Smith’s argument. They simply assert that taxation is immoral. But that, as we have already shown, is a nonsensical argument. Taxation is the price the rich must pay for society’s protection of their property and privilege.
So what drives libertarianism? Stupidity? Or is it billionaire’s flim-flam aimed at undermining democratic society?
I’d always been inclined to the first alternative, but recently I have run into some libertarian intellectual hooligans (for example, see comments here (and examined here) by a regular participant in discussion over at Mark Perry’s libertarian blog, Carpe Diem), who prompt the thought that libertarianism truly is no more than anti-tax propaganda for billionaires, and that its advocates are mainly either dupes or shills.
That, it seems, is a widely held view, which saves me the trouble of attempting to address it in detail here. Instead, may I suggest any who are interested do a Google search for “Libertarianism, taxation, morality” or some other such combination of terms. Among the links that may come up, are the following instructive essays:
No doubt, despite the title of the first of these essays, there is much more that could or should be said. But I for one, am content to go back to my earlier belief that libertarians, like their anarchist kith and kin, are either nuts or dangerous. The details, they can spin as they like, but they are not likely to negate the arguments or Adam Smith.