Long ago and far away, when I was in High School, and dinosaurs ruled the earth, I had some acquaintances who were self-described Libertarians. They carried their copies of Atlas Shrugged the way the Red Guards had their little red books, considered themselves the intellectual elite (though they had the odd habit of conflating the words “logical” and “rational”), and generally believed that if only people understood The Virtue Of Selfishness, then everything would be just ducky.
I didn’t believe a word of what they said, but I found them an interesting group. They were sort of the mirror image of the small number of Marxist-Leninists that I also knew. There was the same certainty…the same inflexibility…the same sureness that utopia could be had, if only the lesser breeds did as they were told.
Anyway, over the years, I’ve watched while Libertarian rhetoric, if not always practice, has become dominant in America. From Reagan on, it has been our national ideology. I’ve not happy about that, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
Can This Be Libertarianism?
Recently, I ran across an interesting article in The Intercept, “What the Far-Right Fascination With Pinochet’s Death Squads Should Tell Us,” by Christopher Ketcham. In it, Ketcham writes about the fascination that Trump supporters seem to have for Chilean General Augusto Pinochet—who, you will remember, had the habit of tossing socialists, social democrats, liberals, and anyone else he just didn’t like out of helicopters. The Deplorables seem to have similar ideas for those of us here in America who, similarly, support things like labor unions, same sex marriage, freedom of speech, and other diabolical things like that.
Now, Trump supporters are not Libertarians…or are they?
In recent years, people calling themselves “libertarians” have taken to reading a book by a “libertarian” academic named Hans-Hermann Hoppe. The book in question is entitled Democracy: The God That Failed and among other things it says that democracy has failed and is continuing failing because it allows normal people to vote themselves ever larger slices of the economic pie. Monarchy, by contrast, limits such extractions to one individual, and thus it is actually better than allowing voters to run things.
Which is not to say that Hoppe is a great fan of kings. He is just saying that monarchy would be better than our present system. Better still, he says, would be some sort of anarcho-capitalist system like, oh, Galt’s Gulch. Never mind that the Gulch has never existed anywhere, and that it remains, alas, as imaginary as Never-Never Land.
I know all this because I stumbled across the book, and some of its “libertarian” fans, during one of my brief and disastrous forays back into the academy in the early 2000s. Again, I didn’t believe a word of what Dr. Hoppe said, but I thought he and his book were interesting.
Ah, but then I discovered the article by Ketcham. Guess who also reads Dr. Hoppe. You got it. Trump supporters, who for some reason also associate Hoppe with Pinochet’s murderous regime, presumably because at one point in his book calls for non-libertarians to be physically removed from his utopia by any means necessary—including, presumably, by tossing them out of helicopters over deep water.
Or, at least, that’s what it sounds like he’s saying. Here’s a quote from The God That Failed, “In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, . . . naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They – the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism – will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”
This sound like the antithesis of libertarianism, at least as I understand the word. But, here it is, using the name “libertarianism,” and being read and widely promoted by self-described “libertarians.”
So…given this…you have to ask, was libertarianism ever, genuinely, libertarian? Or was it always really just reaction in disguise?
A reaction just waiting for a full fledged fascism to come along…
And adopt it?
Until next time…
Onward and Upward
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker
Quote from Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans-Hermann_Hoppe