Tuesday, September 8, 2009

They're not 'libertarians', follow-up

I posted recently on the fact that some on the hard-line pro-capitalist Right call themselves by an epithet that suggests, wrongly, that liberty or freedom has some privileged place in their politics.

I argued that their claim about privileging liberty was tendentious, and that what they really cared most centrally about was defending capitalism and private property. Hence why I suggested that they stop calling themselves 'libertarians'. It's sort of like taking whatever your political view is and slapping a label like "freedomitarian" on it.

I'm sick of people on the Left granting the absurd wish from these people that they be called 'libertarians'. Call them something that reflects their fetishization of neoclassical economic theory and their love-affair with capitalist social relations. 'Libertarian' is ridiculous.

So this got me thinking. These so-called 'libertarians' are completely hostile to the idea of democracy. What I mean is that they consistently complain when democratic institutions (i.e. the State in a representative democracy) make policies, when they ought to just let private market forces work their magic. Democratic institutions should be ultra-minimal and small, whereas capitalist institutions should be extensive and hegemonic. Markets and capitalists should make all of the big decisions. Letting everyone have an equal say leads to 'irrational' outcomes that markets, thankfully, avoid.

This is the view defended by a long line of hard-Right 'Austrian economists', but most recently in Bryan Caplan's "The Myth of the Rational Voter".

The basic thrust of his argument is simple. Most people are basically irrational and don't know what's best. Markets, on the other hand, are rational and do 'know' what's best. To the extent that people who vote don't know this (that they're irrational, that markets are what's rational), they cause democracies to be irrational. The conclusion we should draw is that democratic institutions ought to have far less of a role in the basic structure of society, and market-based institutions ought to have the lion's share.

Caplan, who took inspiration to study economics from reading Ayn Rand, has produced an argument of great interest to the ardent Right-wing Cato Institute, as well as the perhaps more extreme Von Mises Institute. In fact, according to the linked article from VMI above, the problem with Caplan's argument isn't that he is anti-democratic, but that he's not anti-democratic enough. Power, after all, belongs in the pocket-book, not at the polling station.

So as I said earlier, this has got me thinking.

Since we've seen that liberty does not have a privileged place in 'libertarianism', and that, alternatively, these folks are strongly against democracy, why not incorporate the latter insight into their public label?

Why not be upfront about their anti-democratic convictions? I know "anti-democratarian" doesn't have a nice ring to it, but it's at least more accurate. Or how about the (redundant) label "capitalist anti-democrat" or some Latin phrase that means "lover of markets, hater of the people". I leave it to others more witty than I to iron out the details, but it seems to me that the basic framework is in place to correct the situation...


probablynotanonymous said...

plutocriphile maybe?

pluotophile rolls off the tounge more easily, but is less specific (and could be confused with "plutophile" - lover of things Pluto)

probablynotanonymous said...

woops - turns out "plutophile" already means love of wealth. Damn linguists

Anonymous said...

Pink Scare,

You know, I tried to engage you on this, and yet much of what I had to say was ignored. I wonder, are you really interested in answers to your questions, or is this mental masturbation for you? Do you just want to say what you want and have a couple comments by people who agree? If so, I'm fine with leaving you alone, but what can you say if you don't subject your thoughts to the scrutiny of others?

But I'll give you another chance, and put the ball back in your court. First, it's a dull preliminary, but you really ought to define your terms. What do you mean by democracy? And, if you use a more standard definition of libertarianism, how do the two compare and contrast? I'll give you my working definition of libertarianism and let you decide.

My working definition is, "Libertarianism is the political ideology that encourages the maximum amount of individual liberty, so long as it doesn't impinge upon the rights (I'm willing to quibble over that word) of others, and a minimalist view of government in the lives of individuals."

I'll cut it off here. You're also welcome to answer my previously unanswered questions, and I do like that you have a new post in which to address what was formally a tangential matter. If you don't respond I'll assume you just don't like opposition.

Toolbit out.

t said...

"Libertarianism is the political ideology that encourages the maximum amount of individual liberty".

Right, and Budweiser is the King of Beers, because Budweiser says so.

Look, I thought we already went through this. It's tendentious to just say "X politics stands for maximal freedom". Every politics *talks* about freedom, but that's not enough. One needs an argument to show why that's the case, and I gave a series of arguments that showed why anarcho-capitalists (or 'libertarians' or 'freedomloverstoothemax' or whatever) don't care for freedom first and foremost, but capitalism and private property.

You're 'working definition' reads like an advertisement.

We don't need a thick conception of democracy to make the point that 'freedomloverstoothemax' are opposed to it. Take merely a set of democratic procedures that elect representatives. The libertarian view is that this procedure shouldn't have a major role in social and political life; markets should determine how resources are allocated, and if somethings to be done it must only be because someone with money to invest wants it to come to pass for some reason. In a 'free market' paradise, one's freedom is proportional to the amount of money one has (this is why 'libertarians' or whatever frequently argue that people ought to 'vote with their dollars'). Well, the more dollars you have the more votes. You get the idea.

Anonymous said...

You still haven't provided a definition. Are you unable to provide one? Or one that is more than an "advertisement"?

Toolbit out.