Libertarianism: The New Communism?

My nominee for the silliest op-ed of recent weeks is this Bloomberg View piece by Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, titled “Libertarians Are the New Communists.” Seriously: the authors’ thesis is that libertarianism is just like Communism. It isn’t worth a lengthy deconstruction, but it stands out because it pioneers a new concept–the straw straw man. A few excerpts:

By radical libertarianism, we mean the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values.

No idea what that means–anarchism? I don’t know–but I doubt whether any libertarian has so defined it.

Some of the radical libertarians are Ayn Rand fans who divide their fellow citizens into makers, in the mold of John Galt, and takers, in the mold of anyone not John Galt.

Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.”

“Economic royalists?” Aren’t people who try to get the government to subsidize their businesses or force consumers to buy their products more properly described as “royalists?” And the authors apparently are not aware that there is no such thing as “trickle-down economics.” I think they mean free enterprise.

Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government.

Yup, that’s it! Ted Cruz has never done a single thing but try to shut down the government. Which, come to think of it, would be a difficult thing to accomplish single-handed.

Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.

I don’t know anyone who thinks humans are “wired only to be selfish,” and I doubt that such a belief is held by any non-sociopathic human being. And you can’t have free enterprise (or anything else that isn’t nasty, brutish and short) without cooperation. It doesn’t seem to occur to these liberals that cooperation needn’t be compelled by the government. In fact, if it is compelled by the government, it isn’t really cooperation.

The authors say that “radical libertarianism,” a philosophy held by approximately no one, wouldn’t work in practice:

What might radical libertarians do if they actually had power? A President Paul would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress.

Sure. The tantrum-veto is right there in Article II. Are these people serious? At all?

A Koch domestic policy would obliterate environmental standards for clean air and water, so that polluters could externalize all their costs onto other people.

Really? Has Charles or David Koch ever said any such thing? Why do you suppose Koch Industries has received hundreds of awards from the Obama EPA for its exceptional compliance with environmental laws and regulations? Does reality ever intrude upon liberal fantasies?

But this is the great part–the straw straw man:

Some libertarians will claim we are arguing against a straw man and that no serious adherent to their philosophy advocates the extreme positions we describe.

Yes indeed.

The public record of extreme statements by the likes of Cruz, Norquist and the Pauls speaks for itself.

So this is where–for the first time!–the authors will actually quote Grover Norquist, Ron or Rand Paul, or any other libertarian? No, of course not. Those “extreme statements” might speak for themselves, except that the authors never give us a single one.

Reasonable people debate how best to regulate or how government can most effectively do its work — not whether to regulate at all or whether government should even exist.

So there you have it: these liberals are not attacking a straw man, but rather those who believe that government shouldn’t exist! Which is not a view held by anyone who has been active in public life, ever.

“Libertarians Are the New Communists” is my nominee for the silliest column in recent memory that wasn’t written by Paul Krugman.

Responses