Surprise! I disagree with Kevin Drum’s assessment of libertarianism for Mother Jones. [UPDATED]

October 22, 2015

In case you missed my warning about Salon.com and Alternet articles with the word libertarian in their headlines, the gist of it was: Don’t waste your time. These articles are junk garbage noise written by people who don’t know what they’re criticizing. Add to that heap the musings of Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum.

A bachelor's degree, similar to Kevin Drum's bachelor's degree in journalism.

A bachelor’s degree, similar to Kevin Drum’s bachelor’s degree in journalism.

When I used to live with roommates, one of them had a subscription to the print edition of Mother Jones. I regarded each issue very highly as an inspirational journalistic masterpiece. Then someone invented Twitter, so I subscribed to Mother Jones’s Twitter feed. Annoyingly, I found that feed to be a stream of petty buncombe. “The magazine is so good”,  I thought. “I guess they flush their doo doo down their twitter feed.”

Half of the stuff from the feed was written by this guy Kevin Drum. According to his Wikipedia page, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University in 1981, so I guess that qualifies him to pound on a keyboard. He also “invented Friday catblogging”, according to his MoJo bio. Maybe I should genuflect to that, or something. I don’t know.

His stuff isn’t all terrible, but whenever he sticks his neck out to criticize the libertarianish, pro-market crowd, I’ve found him to be transparently ignorant. I’ve therefore come to recognize his name: Kevin Drum. If you see it on Mother Jones’s Twitter feed or Facebook feed and he’s burping up hot air about libertarians, ignore it. It isn’t worth your time.

So I’m scrolling down my Facebook feed and I see this:

cats

Before we even click on this article, which promises to be a turd, let’s clear up a couple things. Well … maybe that’s asking too much. It will never be clear to those who have chosen not to understand. I could explain what’s wrong with this idiocy a dozen more times and never see its end. I’ll never clear it up, so let me just type for a while to hear myself type. Allow me indulge in the mental masturbation of online discourse.

  1. Being offended by willful ignorance is the province of crybaby liberals. I don’t get offended when know-nothings demonstrate their cluelessness about libertarianism. Kevin Drum didn’t hurt my feelings, or anything. He’s just wrong. He shouldn’t be sorry. He should be diligent. He should be curious. He should take some time off to learn what libertarianism is, then he should return to write about what he has learned. I don’t want an apology. I want him to get his shit straight. No hard feelings, just stop being a dunce. Be smart, then write like a smart person. Got it? He should improve his journalism for his own good and quit worrying about my feelings. My feelings are just fine.
  2. Don't be sorry! Be diligent!

    Don’t be sorry! Be diligent!

    Everyone who repeats this “libertarians are convinced of their own independence” horseshit should stop doing that. If I have to post this “I, Pencil” story one more time, I might throw up in my mouth a little. But here it is again: “I, Pencil,” by Leonard Read. It’s all about how no one person alone has the wherewithal to make a useful item as simple as a pencil, let alone any of life’s more modern conveniences. Libertarians love this story because libertarians understand how we each depend on one another for building even the simplest of tools:

    Great. Now can I please never see this cartoonish twaddle again, about how libertarians are all these wannabe Grizzly Adams characters who are “convinced of their own independence”? Shit’s gettin’ tired.

Let’s proceed to article now and marvel what’s inside: Kevin Drum’s grand unified theory on why libertarians are mostly male:

[H]ere’s the quick answer: Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.

This is incorrect. This Kevin Drum’s fantasy about what libertarianism is, and it’s kind of dumb.

The last thing I care about is some stupid heap. I don’t walk around daydreaming, “Man, I want to be Gordon Gecko and talk to my big brick cell phone on the beach! Man, I want to be like Donald Trump! He’s cool! I want to be on top of the heap! Yeah!!” No. That’s dumb. That’s Kevin Drum’s dumb caricature of libertarians.

No, the heap is not the animus. That’s not it. Basically I just want to live my life, and I want others to live theirs. That’s it. I want to enjoy the fruits of my efforts, and I want others to enjoy the fruits of theirs, and if some government busybodies want to boss people around with rules, then those rules should not be preposterous. That’s all. It’s really kind of simple, and I’m routinely amazed at how so many people who write for such large audiences revel in their decision to misunderstand this.

Kevin Drum should get with the program. Rules and regulations are not designed to help the weak. They are designed to help those in power stay in power. They are designed to crush competition. Those who don’t understand how this works should resist regaling us with their naïve fantasies about libertarians’ alleged desire to scale heaps.

When the government burdens street vendors with reams of idiotic regulations and prohibitions, does that help the weak?

When the government requires that 1 in 3 American workers obtain an occupational license at great personal expense before legally working, does that help the weak?

When the government confiscates regular people’s homes and hands them over to business developers, does that help the weak?

When government kidnaps 800,000+ regular Americans every year because they puff on the wacky weed—and destroys everyone else’s Fourth Amendment protections in the process—does that help the weak?

marijuana_arrests_chart468

In general, burdening the creation of new businesses with rules and regulations so expensive that only the rich can afford to comply does not help the weak, and neither does kidnapping them. Libertarians oppose rules and regulations designed to help the rich and punish the weak.

That having been written (but unlikely to have been understood by those who have chosen not to understand), why is it that libertarians are mostly men? Let’s hail Kevin Drum’s singular insight into this perennial conundrum:

Few women share this fantasy [of climbing heaps]. I don’t know why, and I don’t really want to play amateur sociologist and guess. Perhaps it’s something as simple as the plain observation that in the more libertarian past, women were subjugated to men almost completely. Why would that seem like an appealing fantasy?

I see. Kevin Drum hates libertarianism, so he wants to take a shit on libertarians. What shall be his raison du jour for shitting on libertarians? Well, they’re most men, right? That’s no good, so his raison du jour for shitting on libertarians shall be that they are mostly men. Oh, but he doesn’t really want play amateur sociologist and actually figure out why libertarians are mostly men. All he really want to do is shit on libertarians. So he typed out this shitpile, titled it Here’s Why Libertarians are Mostly Men, and submitted it for public consumption at MotherJones.com.

If you ask me, it seems like Kevin Drum doesn’t really want to play journalist, either, despite his glorious bachelor’s degree.

On the matter of this “more libertarian past” in which Kevin Drum’s heroes in government refused to acknowledge the rights of women: Moving from a more selective regimen of rights enforcement to a more general regimen of rights enforcement is a step in toward libertarianism, not away from it. If that’s what holds women back from libertarianism, it shouldn’t. In a more libertarian future, everyone would be treated equally under the law as individuals, and not differently based on gender.

So why is it that more women don’t join libertarians in their opposition to rules and regulations designed to help the rich and punish the weak? Why is it that more women don’t join libertarians in support of equal treatment for each individual under the law? That’s a really good question, and I’d be most interested to hear any woman’s opinion on that.

[F]eel free to take some guesses in comments about why women don’t take to libertarianism as strongly as men.

Goodbye, and I’m not sorry for anything I just wrote.

UPDATE, 10/25/2015: Kevin Drum has issued a follow-up to his post, Here’s Why Libertarians are Mostly Men. It’s called, There’s a Big Untapped Market Out There for Insulting Libertarians. It’s pretty short and it’s pretty great. At the risk of violating copyright, here it is in full. Note that by “over on the right,” Kevin is referring to the Mother Jones website’s right sidebar, which highlights the sites currently trending articles:

Ah, the mysteries of blogging. Over on the right, you’ll notice that a post of mine has been highlighted: “Here’s Why Libertarians Are Mostly Men.” But why? It’s four months old. It’s 200 words long. It probably took about 20 minutes to write. It offers up a theory that I pulled out of my ass.

And it has 161,000 Facebook likes. By contrast, my piece on lead and crime—by far the most important and most popular piece I’ve ever written for the magazine—has 87,000 likes after three years online. This quick post about libertarians is probably the most widely read prose I’ve ever written in my life.

Fine. My public has spoken. Less research, more Trumpesque insults aimed at libertarians. I’ll see what I can do.

First, that’s Mother Jones’s online readership in a nutshell. Second, Kevin candidly admitted the origin of his theory on libertarians and gender. I’m satisfied with his admission, so we’re good. Third, that was a very thought provoking article on lead and crime. It kind of confirms my own ass-sourced theory about Mother Jones: The quality stuff gets published in the print edition, and the farts end up on Facebook and Twitter.


Capitalism Creates Scarcity of resources Artificially? A Rebuttal.

June 7, 2014

I’ve lately frequented the facebook page called Still Laughing at ‘Anarcho’-capitalism (SLANCAP), which is maintained by self-described anti-capitalist anarchists. They believe the that phrase Anarcho-capitalist is an oxymoron, and, as far as I can tell, they believe the that the phrase anti-capitalist Anarchist is redundant. Hence, they feel no need to specify the flavor of Anarchy to which they subscribe. I’ll call them anti-capitalist Anarchists, redundant as that may be.

Maybe I’ll get into the merits of these labeling choices another time. Suffice to say here that I have learned a great deal about anti-capitalist Anarchist objections to capitalism by following the SLANCAP facebook page. The authors of the page have yet to change my mind about how I think the world ought to work, but they have convinced me to pay more attention to the self-congratulatory rhetoric the libertarians and anarcho-capitalists often employ without realizing they’re doing it.

The page admins have launched a traditional website at slancap.com for anyone interested. I think I’m good for trolling only the facebook page for now, whereupon I recently spotted the following video about scarcity. Capitalists and anti-capitalist Anarchists will never come to an understanding about scarcity until they each learn to understand how the other uses the term. This is yet another a definition problem, at the core. Here is the post:

I appreciate this anti-capitalist gentleman’s polite, constructive criticism. Here are a capitalist’s, rebuttals, responses, and apologies. This is going to be a long response, so I’ll sum up the main rebuttals first, and then I’ll launch into details afterwards. The rebuttals are:

  1. Anti-capitalist Anarchists use the word scarcity differently than capitalists do.
  2. Private property and markets create the illusion of abundance where, in reality, there is not enough of each commodity to satisfy all demand.
  3. Describing private property as “an unlimited amount of property that [the owners] never personally interact with” does injustice to those who interacted with the property in the first place to increase its utility.
  4. Where dwellings go unsold, unused, and vacant, owners have a capitalist financial incentive to let others use the dwellings in exchange for maintenance services, and many property owners have begun to do just that.
  5. Government manipulation of incentives away from those of the capitalist price system, often at the behest of an economically naive populace, is why so many people built so many houses so uneconomically in the first place.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I stuck with libertarianism — despite the kukubirds in the movement

December 29, 2013
The Libertarian Kukubird in its natural habitat.

The Libertarian Kukubird in its natural habitat.

Salon is back with another hit-piece on libertarianism, this time from a supposed reformed former libertarian and Ron Paul delegate, Edwin Lyngar, who fled the movement and became a liberal. Aside from being a Ron Paul delegate, his stated libertarian credentials are as follows:

I came by my own libertarian sensibilities honestly. I grew up in a mining town that produced gold, silver and copper; but above all, Battle Mountain, Nev. made libertarians. Raised on 40-acre square of brown sage brush and dead earth, we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.

He later fled the libertarian movement for the following stated reasons:

“Bring in the clowns,” [the smart, charismatic Ron Paul staffer] said, and smiled before I lost her in the mass of people [at the Republican Convention]. I will never forget that moment: Bring in the clowns. At the time, I considered myself a thoughtful person, yet I could hardly claim to be one if you judged me by the company I kept. The young lady knew something I had not yet learned: most of our supporters were totally fucking nuts. … From the ashes of the election rose the movement that pushed me from convinced libertarian into bunny-hugging liberal. The Tea Party monster forever tainted the words freedom and libertarian for me. The rise of the Tea Party made me want to puke, and my nausea is now a chronic condition.There are a lot of libertarians in the Tea Party, but there are also a lot of repugnant, religious nuts and intolerant racists. “Birthers” found a comfy home among 9-11 conspiracy people and other crackpots. After only a few months, I had absolutely no desire to ever be linked to this group of people.

Basically, Mr. Lyngar fled guilt by association. He added:

I began to think about real people, like my neighbors and people less lucky than me. Did I want those people to starve to death? I care about children, even poor ones. I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?

So let me get this straight: Raised in libertarian Battle Mountain, Nevada, on a diet of sage brush and burnt garbage, Edwin Lyngar became a Ron Paul delegate to fulfill his libertarian vision on starving poor children to death. But intolerant Tea Party racists and kukubirds made him nauseous, and he had absolutely no desire ever to be linked with them. Thereafter, he began to “think about real people”. Upon some soul searching, he realized that he no longer wanted to starve poor children to death, and that he liked National Parks, too. That’s when he decided to become a liberal. Do I have that about right?

Well, this may come as a shock to Salon.com’s readership, but most libertarians, myself included, and even tea party kukubirds, don’t see themselves as wanting poor children to starve to death. To the contrary, we envision alternative means of making such necessities more affordable for all, including granting the public greater freedom to innovate, carry on businesses, and work. Of course, libertarians get trounced in most elections because most voters either don’t understand the libertarian alternatives, or they don’t believe that libertarian alternatives will actually make food more affordable, or they believe that trying the alternatives will be too risky. This is all understandable. Although grounded in what I believe to be sound economic principles, it is a leap into the unknown and untested, as far as most Americans living today can tell.

What’s not understandable is a self-styled former libertarian carrying on as if libertarians have offered no alternatives to the welfare state. I won’t go into the specifics of the libertarian vision of prosperity here. Suffice it to say that suggesting that libertarians simply want people to starve to death, or don’t care if they do, as if libertarians have no alternative ideas in mind for improving prosperity, is a shameless libel. If that’s how poorly Mr. Lyngar represented the liberty movement when he was in it, then, frankly, I’m relieved that he is now out of it, and I hope he stays out of it so long as he demonstrates such an inability to articulate the fundamentals of market economics.

Mr. Lyngar threw in this stuff about starving poor children almost as an afterthought. It seems to me that his priority was to rehabilitate his own image. He certainly devoted more bandwidth to distancing himself from kukubirds than he did to feeding hungry children. Fair enough. The libertarian movement has more than its fair share of kukubirds. I am concerned, at times, that I might be mistaken for one of them, but I stick with the movement anyway. I take that risk. I take those lumps. Why do I do it? I do it because I believe that the libertarian political philosophy is grounded in sound economic and moral principles, as articulated by the scholars at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the Cato Institue, and by the thoughtful pundits at Reason.com, among other luminaries. That some racists and kukubirds have also associated themselves with the movement has no logical bearing on the soundness of its underlying economic principles. I posit that, like Mr. Lyngar, these unsavory characters probably joined the movement for reasons other than the sound economic principles on which it is based, such as the nurture of growing up around libertarians, or the inarticulate distrust that spawns conspiracy theories.

I will not abandon sound principles because others do not understand them. I will keep the courage of my convictions. I will not let the presence of kukubirds drive me from what I believe to be right. I will remain a libertarian until some non-libertarian demonstrates to me the alleged flaws of libertarian economic principles. As far as I can tell, Mr. Edwin Lyngar hasn’t bothered to try.

Image: Wonkette

The Barefoot Bum: A Very Special Blogger

March 1, 2010
The Barefoot Bum: A very special blogger

The Barefoot Bum: A very special blogger

(Originally written September, 2009. I’m giving my ‘Drafts’ folder a little spring-cleaning.)

The more belligerent an anti-Libertarian screed is, the more I feel the need to respond.  It’s, like, an honor thing.  I have to defend my honor.  I’ve just now found an almost two-year-old blog entitled Libertarians are Retards, by a gentleman who identifies himself alternatively as Larry H. and The Barefoot Bum. Will I just sit here and take that sort of verbal abuse?  No sir!  Read the rest of this entry »


On Leaving the Lifeboat….

February 26, 2010

"If you don't want to paddle with your hands, then you can leave the lifeboat. There's a plank. Gee, I wonder how that got there. And here's the end of my sword. Oh look! The end of my sword is getting closer to you. It must like you."

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard these three different formulations of the same general slogan, each offered in objection to the libertarian position:

“I think anyone who doesn’t see the value in paddling can leave the lifeboat.”

“If you don’t want to participate in the world, then you should probably excuse yourself from it.”

“So, you don’t avail yourself of [tax-funded government services]?”

The thrust of the slogan is that those who use publicly-funded goods and services should not object to paying taxes.  I hear this so often that it is high time I concocted a blanket, boilerplate response.  Here it is.  Listen:

First of all, most who resort to these slogans do not distinguish between those who merely object to paying taxes, and those who actually evade taxes.  There have been times when I have neglected to tally up cash payments for tax purposes.  Yet by and large, my tax payments have been involuntarily withheld from paychecks, and I have never failed to file a reasonably complete annual tax return.  I am paddling, whether I see a value in it or not. Read the rest of this entry »