ZeroHedge is an occasionally-reliable, often-interesting source for news from a vaguely libertarian perspective, in addition to financial news from a vaguely Austrian perspective and breathless reportage that, any day now, the stock market is going to go either down or up unless of course it stays the same, so you should probably buy futures contracts, gold, and bitcoin all at the same time.
Hey, things could be worse. They could start running openly communist claptrap about how capitalism has failed and needs to be replaced with something more "fair."
As any fule kno, the problem with us stupid libertarian ideologues is that we refuse to accept that there are certain things out there that people need, but that simply cannot be provided on the free market. The big one, of course, is roads — regardless of what clueless rubes say, there’s no possible way that free men acting on their own could figure out how to get a stretch of relatively flat, clear ground between you and Wal-mart. Also, can you even imagine a way that mail could be delivered without government? Impossible! Public safety is another one; who has more of the knowledge and incentive necessary to keep your neighborhood safe: your neighbors, or faceless bureaucrats in Washington D.C.? It’s the bureaucrats all the way, of course.
Put those three things together and you have an obvious no-brainer. Who can keep the roads safe so the government mail can get delivered? Only the government, obviously. It’s too large, too expensive, and too complex an endeavor for anybody else to manage. Well, anybody else except for PornHub, anyhow.
Years back, I was arguing philosophy with a friend of mine, and he asserted that the difference between us was that he would be willing to embrace socialism in a heartbeat if it could be shown that people would be better off under socialism, but that he didn’t believe I would. Uncharacteristic though it may be, I had no response to that; on the one hand, I surely don’t want to believe that I would gladly condemn the human race to immiseration before I would back down from my libertarian purism, but, on the other hand, I really cannot conceive of a reality in which I would endorse socialism.
This gave me quite a bit of trouble. As I’ve written before, if there’s a conflict between your ethical system and the survival of mankind, surely the former and not the latter is the problem. How was this to be reconciled with deontological libertarianism, though? Am I compelled to become a utilitarian?
One of the foundational questions libertarians need to have a response to is the ever-popular "who will build the roads?" The question has a sort of superficial plausibility to it; most of the roads we see in our daily lives, after all, were built by, and are allegedly maintained by, some government or other. There is, however, no substance to the idea; the best and most concise explanation of how absurd this question is was given by Tom Woods, who said:
"Who will build the roads?" is the question that belongs at the top of every libertarian drinking game. If we didn’t have forced labor, the argument runs, there would be no roads. There’d be a Sears store over there, and your house over here, and everyone involved would just be standing there scratching their heads.
Clearly roads are a socially desirable good, and, given that it’s rather a challenge for people to get to work or go shopping — which is to say: produce or consume — without them, there’s quite an obvious and powerful incentive to build them. It should go without saying that, even in the absence of coercion, roads would get built. As to the specific question of who would build them, here it’s important for libertarians to be cautious; there’s a natural tendency to push the argument too far and attempt to outline some scheme by which we imagine the roads could be built, but, in reality, the most a libertarian can say in response to "who would build the roads if not the government" is "somebody else."
Libertarians do a terrible job fighting against socialism, but the tragedy of it is that we think we’re winning. In the end, though, it’s impossible for us to win as long as we fail to understand our opponents, which is the key problem; libertarians devote so much time to fighting against Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant and their idiotic promises of free this and free that that we come to identify the "free stuff" mentality itself as the heart of the socialist ideology. Don’t get me wrong, now; Bernie is wrong, as any fule kno, and it’s important that we keep pointing that out, but smashing dopey politicians is playing the short game. The long battle is fought by the philosophers, and no serious Marxist philosopher bases his philosophy on a foundation of "rich people will pay back your student loans."
We libertarians are often fooled into believing that we can smash the socialists forever by pointing out that socialist economies are notoriously unproductive, and that a hundred million people starved to death under their reign in the last century. While that does pretty effectively blow up the bumper-sticker socialism of a Sanders or a Sawant, it should be noted that, as a philosopher, Bernie Sanders makes a great long-distance runner, while "Kshama Sawant" is a Hindi phrase meaning "intellectual lightweight." Just because those two goobers have literally no comeback at all when faced with the obvious failures of real-world socialism doesn’t mean that the serious thinkers haven’t considered the problem. They have — and the answer they’ve come to is so far afield of what libertarians are used to dealing with that we basically don’t even realize it’s there.
The Adam Smith Institute’s Tim Worstall claims to be one of the world’s foremost experts on scandium. Whether or not this is true I am ill-equipped to say, as I know almost exactly nothing about scandium. I assume they use it to make scanners, and I was figuring it was probably from Sweden, but then I realized I was confusing it with Scandinavium, a similar metal so heavy that Iron Maiden’s played there nine times. Anyhow, the point is: I don’t know anything about scandium, and I freely concede, in advance, any arguments about scandium I ever get into against Tim Worstall, who knows much more about scandium than he does about socialism. Sadly, it’s the latter he’s chosen to write about today, in an utterly bizarre article nominally about the mining strikes in Bolivia.
If you haven’t been following the Bolivian mining strikes, they’ve now escalated to the point where Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Rodolfo Illanes was recently kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the strikers. Our friend Tim Worstall would have us believe that the strikers are protesting against socialism, but is that really the case? We’ll explore that very soon, but before we dive into the pièce de résistance, we need to whet our appetites with this lovely little amuse-bouche of stupidity:
Around here we usually make fun of Bolivarian socialism by reference to the idiocies which Nicolas Maduro has been imposing upon the people of Venezuela. They do, after all, call their system "Bolivarian socialism." Across the continent, in Bolivia, we also have a closely related Bolivian socialism. Evo Morales has often said that he takes inspiration from Hugo Chavez, and that the system he is using in Bolivia is similar. So, Bolivarian socialism in Bolivia then. Umm, perhaps both Bolivian and Bolivarian socialism?
Why yes, those do sound rather similar! What an astonishing coincidence! On a related note, I’ve always found it weird how similar the titles of Superman and Superman II are. What do you suppose were the odds that would just happen by chance, as it so obviously did? The universe is a mysterious place, my friends!