But first, a story!
Last August, my brother-in-law and I were doing our fantasy football draft in a small town bar. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but bars are where they keep all of the whiskey. As we drafted players for our make-believe teams, we also worked to dwindle that fine establishment’s supply of alcohol to nothing. My brother-in-law is a staunch Democrat, a lawyer, and easily the most stubborn human being I have ever met. As for me, I’m a guy who started a political blog “for fun.” Literally, the worst thing that could happen to anyone is for them to encounter the two of us sauced up on whiskey and try to engage us in politics.
Enter “Ron Paul Guy.”
In this small town we were in, a non-local entered. Young, cocky, and determined to get into a political discussion with two drunk idiots playing darts. My brother-in-law was sporadically tossing darts at the board with his eyes closed, if you’re curious where our heads were at. Ron Paul Guy starts talking about Ron Paul. Shocking, I know. This discussion came out of nowhere. Now, admittedly, I may have forgotten the nuanced conversation that took us to that point, on account of libations. But it certainly FELT like the guy walked in, saw the only two people in the bar, sauntered up, and said “Ron Paul rules!”
What followed was arguably the rudest, most ill-stated refutation of Libertarian politics ever attempted by anyone. Oh, we were convinced at the time we were talking sense into Ron Paul guy, but I’m pretty sure it was just the two of us acting like total boobs while slurring out general statements about Ron Paul’s suspect associations with white supremacists and dissing Ayn Rand. We laughed about it the next day, freely admitting that it was probably (A) horrifying for that stranger and (B) totally embarrassing behavior on our part. But oh well! At least we’ll never see that guy again!
I saw that guy this past Saturday.
My brother-in-law were in the same bar. In walks a guy we do not recognize. He tells my brother-in-law “I bet you five bucks I know who you are and you don’t know who I am.” To which my brother-in-law responded “Well, the only way I could win that is if you don’t know who I am, because the second part is DEFINITELY true!” Ron Paul guy says “We were playing darts in here once, and…” We gasped! “You’re Ron Paul guy!” We all laughed! How silly we were that night!
Five minutes later Ron Paul guy passed out dead asleep from a bar stool and pooped his pants.
Let this be a lesson to you. If you support Ron Paul, shit happens.
Libertarians I have loved
I don’t have a lot of close friends who are ultra-conservative. I do, however, have a TON of friends who are Libertarians. This is because much of the party’s philosophy sounds significantly less batshit insane than the current GOP philosophy. I mean, distilled to its base, libertarianism is basically the belief that the government is generally an interfering nuisance that often steps on our rights. It’s the “back off, Uncle Sam, we got this shit” political party. Seeing as how the Founding Fathers allowed slavery and committed genocide against the Native Americans, I can’t argue that the Fed is a perfect and noble institution.
Today I want to talk about the problem I have with this party before getting into the news item that made me think of it.
The problem with Libertarian philosophies to me are three-fold:
1.) It presumes that people aren’t dumb and/or evil
2.) It ignores the fact that we are not all born into equal conditions
3.) The government is an important agency that does many things right
First, the entire concept of personal liberty is a good one. However, I need to be protected from other people’s personal liberties sometimes…and sometimes people need to be protected from themselves. Let’s look at what the party says about law.
Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution to the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.
Some of that sounds good. But that part with the “voluntarily assuming risk” sticks out. I understand that philosophically saying “if someone wants to do something that could kill them, that’s their choice.” Except, it doesn’t work in practice. For example, the Libertarian way of thinking would basically mean no traffic laws. Sure, it sounds great to say that you believe in the right of people to do what they wish. But people are dumb. Like, really, really dumb. If the government can create a law that saves lives without dramatically infringing on liberties, I am all in favor of that.
Think of what this means in terms of the economy too.
Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.
So…we’re just going to pretend that corporations won’t do anything for money? That without regulations they won’t exploit the living shit out of workers? That without the prohibition of certain investment practices, they won’t flush all of our money down the toilet attempting to make it multiply?
Not all corporations are bad. But they are all in the business of making the most money possible by whatever means possible. If you don’t set up restrictions, they’re going to do the shadiest shit humanly possible.
Second, you don’t see a lot of poor, minority Libertarians. This is because the entire foundation of Libertarian thought is that people as agents are equally capable of taking care of themselves and working to succeed. That’s just crazy. If you’re born to a mansion-owning billionaire, you can do a bang-up job of looking out for yourself. Not so much if you’re born to a drug-abusing homeless person. Libertarian ideology is set in a Utopian world where everyone can do anything they want to. It’s just not true. Without the government helping those in need, without plans and programs to help individuals rise from poverty, a sizable group of Americans would have no chance at even a decent life. It’s unconscionable to me that anyone would make this argument, and it’s here where I could never find myself endorsing this party.
Third, and finally: Libertarians are big fans of using stuff the government did or does and then wishing the government would go away. Everyone’s a libertarian up until a tornado hits and you need federal funds to rebuild. Those roads Libertarians use to conduct their business weren’t hand paved by the individual business owner…and they’re not maintained by fairy dust but by taxes. The government isn’t a perfect entity. But it’s just a tool. It’s not about whether it should be big or small. It’s whether or not it is doing a good job or a bad job. Some things shouldn’t be handled by the government. Other things should. But the philosophy that “Government BAD, people GOOD!” is overly simplistic and undersells the good things that the government has done and will do. I know it’s fashionable these days to equate our government with evil doers. The truth is, the government is whatever we make it, provided we actually vote and stuff.
How do you like U.S. now, Dan Snyder?
So here’s the news item that brought this all to my attention today. You can now use the official Redskins logo and name however you’d like. An acquaintance of mine took to Twitter to declare the government was interfering again, saying it was another example of the government “abusing its power.” I immediately pointed out that technically they are NOT doing something. As in, they’ve decided NOT to protect the Redskins intellectual property. The discussion then dovetailed into how “what’s offensive is subjective” and that the government “may as well start uncopyrighting songs with certain letters in them I find offensive.” Ah, yes, that’s the exact same thing.
Here in America, we like to sometimes cop out on some decisions in the protection of perceived liberties. What I mean is, yes we can say the term Redskin is objectively offensive. It’s not a subjective thing. You can pretend it is, but it isn’t. Sometimes hiding behind the argument that the government is too big is a way to avoid engaging issues that need fixing. Again, our arguments shouldn’t be philosophical discussions of government scope so much as they should be trying to decide if certain things are “right” or “just” or “needed.” Our government systematically wiped out an entire race. We are a nation founded on genocide. For us to continue to allow, all these years later, a team to be named a racial slur against those same people isn’t embarrassing it’s disgusting. It is literally the same thing as a German soccer team being named “The Auschwitz Jews.”
The Redskins debate is a 100% perfect example of why the Libertarian way of thinking just doesn’t work. Libertarians argue that we should let people handle something that’s offensive. But this name hurts only a small percentage of Americans. And the ownership refused to change it despite requests. And even though many fans protested, many did not. So you have something that is hurting a group of people who have no means to change it. This is all of my problems with the philosophy rolled into one:
1.) It shows people are bad sometimes (Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, refusing to change the name)
2.) It ignores the fact we’re not all equal (The Native American community doesn’t have the size or scope to change what’s hurting them)
3.) The government gets it right sometimes (Sure, it’s decades too late, but the move today was a good one)
I respect the conceptual principles of the Libertarian way of thinking. I just reject the real world implications of it. And remember, I’m not saying ALL Ron Paul supporters will pass out and poop themselves. I’m just saying I’ve seen it happen.