Washington Post Runs A Smear Piece Against Libertarians

Today, I planned on writing an article talking about Josh Hammer’s idea about justice and government. However, as I ran through his Twitter to get some quotes, I found something that made me stop in my tracks.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet columnist Henry Olsen. He’s the latest person to write an article about how he’s angry that libertarians dare call out his socialism.

The title of this article alone confuses me. “Libertarianism Is Losing Its Grip On Conservative Thought. Good.” Wait, when did we have any kind of grip? In 2016, populist Trump, social conservative Cruz, neo-conservative Rubio, and moderate Kasich were in the lead. 2012 was moderates Romney and Gingrich vs. social conservative Rick Santorum. 2008 was neo-conservative McCain, moderate Romney, and social conservative Huckabee.

Basically, if we had a grip, why didn’t Ron Paul get the nomination in 2008 or 2012? Why didn’t Rand Paul get the nomination in 2016?

I should note, I figured I’d do something different and do a blind read of the article. Basically, I’m writing as I read through the article. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this — I also did it with the article on Marco Rubio’s “Common Good Capitalism” article — but I figured I should say I’m doing it ahead of time.

Conservatism and libertarianism have long been locked in a symbiotic embrace.

If only.

A new essay by libertarian-leaning economist Tyler Cowen suggests that embrace will soon end.

Who? Oh, the same guy who wrote in favor of the TARP program and said libertarians should embrace growing government. I’m not joking about that second one.

We should embrace a world with growing wealth, growing positive liberty, and yes, growing government.

This is who Olsen considers “libertarian-leaning”? Has he ever been in the same room as one of us?

Cowen’s provocative argument is that libertarianism is “hollowed out.” He notes that whether they call it “libertarianism” or “classical liberalism,” people who believe the government generally ought to do little to nothing have little useful to say about modern problems.

Tom Woods? Shane Killian? The staff of Reason Magazine? John Stossel? Myself? The CATO Institute? The Mises Institute? Freedom First Blog? The Liberty Hawk? Do all of these people and groups just not exist all of a sudden?

As a result, “smart people” are developing “synthetic and eclectic views” and abandoning a “just say no” approach to government power.

Speaking of “smart people,” anyone remember when a survey done from within the Triple Nine society — a group that requires you to have an IQ in the top 0.1% to join — took a survey of its members, and they agreed with us?

He notes this is especially the case among educated women.

I’ll make sure to tell the Groypers.

He doesn’t come out and say it baldly, but the essential political problem with this type of libertarianism is that people do think public entities should address public problems. Old-style, “big L” libertarianism rejects this view, contending that any form of government action is inherently unjust and creates more problems than it solves.

Because that’s what experience and imperial evidence has shown us. All your doing is telling us “well most people think your wrong.” Really? I had no idea! Wait, yes I did. Because I’ve seen the growing sentiment of populism, and I intent on fighting it.

Few libertarians or classical liberals acknowledge the full import of this position, preferring to take a deus ex machina approach to public policy whereby their preferred solutions (school vouchers, for example) are just and can work while their non-preferred ones (like subsidized health insurance) aren’t and won’t.

School vouchers were intended as a compromise between those who believe in public schools and those who don’t! No libertarians would support school vouchers in a system where government is not getting money for education. This is also, because I have a feeling you’re going to pull this chestnut later, why we don’t compromise anymore. Now, the position that existed as a moderate solution to public education has become “the libertarian idea.”

But the underlying metaphysical assumption — government always bad, private action always good — pervades the thinking of most libertarians and libertarian-influenced people.

Which libertarian believes this? We base our arguments on the principle of non-contradiction, which is usually simplified to the non-aggression principle. No libertarian thinks government garbage trucks (a strawman William Buckley used against us back in the day) is worse than free market heroine.

And this means they are congenitally unable to present plausible answers to challenges that people want addressed.

Sometimes I feel bad for statists, to be honest. I mean look at this guy, so weak he can’t even stop himself from getting addicted to opium in his comfy columnist job. Don’t worry Henry, I truly weep for you.

Cowen’s approach is liberty-friendly but abandons the doctrinaire belief that the exercise of government power is inherently illegitimate, unconstitutional or unproductive. He calls for “State Capacity Libertarianism,” a philosophy that acknowledges government is necessary for the securing of basic rights (something even most big-L libertarians concede) and for the provision of a host of beneficial services.

So he’s a minarchist? That’s still part of libertarianism. Albeit, a section of libertarianism I have some issues with, but one I and my fellow libertarians will all be fine with him holding.

Thus, Cowen is for a big military to combat China, for government public-health programs, for government action to combat climate change (including subsidizing nuclear energy) and for big government infrastructure programs.

Let’s go down the list:

  • Why does the military need to combat China? Isn’t that what this trade war is for?
  • Would need a more clear definition of “government public-health programs,” before I could say if I’m for or against it. If you mean something similar to Medicaid, well all that does is ease the burden poor families have regarding healthcare. It still doesn’t allow them to get the treatment they need, in fact, if they’re making just a little too much, even if they can’t afford private healthcare, it still might not help them at all.
  • The EPA is a bigger polluter than any private company. Oh, and studies have found that the free market is linked with a clean environment. Anyone remember the Black Sea?
  • I have no issue with government building things. I do have an issue when they’re building unsafe housing (public housing still used lead paint even after it was banned for use in any housing) that they then force poor people into because it’s either that or homelessness.

I applaud Cowen’s general approach even as I might disagree with him on particulars. But it is not libertarianism in any sense in which the word is used by the movement’s adherents. It has more in common with traditional conservative approaches to public power and is essentially similar to the “One Nation” conservatism advocated by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the “common good capitalism” advanced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

No, it’s pretty standard left-leaning minarchism.

These approaches take the essential insight of economic liberalism — free exchange between individuals, democratic self-governance and the rule of law are moral and produce enormous material wealth — and temper it with a sense of the public good. Their specific policies can differ depending upon the specific challenges a nation has. For Johnson, it is the massive gap between Britain’s depressed north and its economically vibrant south.

Maybe they’d be doing better if Johnson wasn’t taking so much of there income in taxes.

For Rubio, it is the way that global trade with China has hollowed out large sections of U.S. manufacturing, leading to the popular anger that contributed to President Trump’s rise and risking our future national security.

Yet the unemployment rate is lower than it was in any era post-NAFTA. And why is manufacturing the end of be all of jobs in the mid-west? Factory work is hard, dangerous, and has nasty effects on your long term health — especially regarding your back. Hence why when those jobs started, your intellectual grandparents were talking about the evils of factory work. Should we also make sure communities that were once farmland remain such a thing forever?

The challenges are different, but both leaders start with the premise that democratic governments can legitimately define a problem and then use tax, spending and regulatory policy to try to accomplish a specific, publicly defined goal.

What is Johnson doing to help these people? I’m being serious, he’s the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, what is he doing to help these people?

This premise is common sense to most readers but remains anathema to libertarians and their Republican fellow travelers. Encumbered by the belief that these people must be kowtowed to, most Republican officeholders remain unable to voice any significant alternative to progressive visions for health-care policy, climate change or the modern economy’s impulse to value formal education and devalue common labor.

So what was the American Healthcare Act? Remember that? That was the attempt by the Republicans to finally repeal Obamacare, and it was a big government mess! That’s what you think libertarians want? We don’t just want Obamacare repealed, we want the HMO Act signed into law by Nixon repealed.

That requires saying that government can do some good, and in the GOP, that is the love that dare not speak its name. Those such as Rubio who do speak are uniformly — and often stupidly — castigated as “statists” or even “fascists.”

Question: If government is so great why is calling someone a statist — someone who believes that government is good and should act in our day to day lives — an insult?

Also, where would anyone get the idea a Catholic who was obsessed with women having as many children as possible was a fascist? On an unrelated note: Did you know Mussolini use to give metals to any woman who had ten or more children?

Cowen’s essay could thus be the thing that moves the GOP’s Overton window.

Nobody knows who this guy is. I already forgot who he is to be honest, and I just wrote about him a few minutes ago.

He teaches at George Mason University, a bastion of libertarian thinking, and is known as one of the libertarian world’s deepest thinkers.

I could not find a single famous libertarian from George Mason University.

If even he thinks government can and should act to solve problems, then advocates of that view have to stand up and pay attention.

Or we could just disagree with someone?

That, in turn, lends intellectual respectability to conservatives such as Rubio who are slowly breaking the ice that has frozen conservative thinking for too long.

I see someone is in the mood for metaphors.

The holiday season marks the time in the Northern Hemisphere when the sun is farthest from the Earth and daylight is at a premium.

Just shut up.

Cowen’s essay is thus aptly timed, bringing a ray of sunshine into a long-darkened movement and raising the prospect of more light to come.

That’s not how the sun works!

The hard core will try keep the rest of us in the shadows, but the days will lengthen as more and more conservatives break free from their frozen slumber. Summer is coming, and it’s about time.

Question: If people are calling Rubio fascist — does that mean you’re saying you’re happy it’s spring time for Hitler?

Political Commentator; Follow My Twitter: @EphromJosine1