In recent years, the word “libertarian” has been hijacked by the Right, who have transformed the definition of the word from “one who supports the principle of liberty” to “one who supports an idea of liberty that gives license to the elite to continue to exploit others for personal gain”. Personally, I think these soi-disant libertarians suffer from a combination of arrested development and bad parenting. Why do I say this? These so-called libertarians are fond of complaining about “big government” and if you unpack this discourse, it’s no different to a child railing against a parent. Yet, paradoxically and without any apparent sense of irony, they would demand the retention of the repressive functions of the state should their dream of a ‘free’ society come to fruition. So much for liberty.
Among these so-called libertarians, selfishness and greed are celebrated and venerated. Selfishness is one ugly trait that the majority of parents stamp out at the age of 2. “It’s mine”, screams the toddler. Many parents will have witnessed such behaviour and will act swiftly to nip it in the bud, but other parents will cave in as soon as their child starts screaming, stamping their feet and holding their breath. It’s the children of these parents who grow up to become Right Libertarians. They continue their selfish, greedy behaviour into adulthood and seek to rationalize it with cherry-picked words from Hayek or will hide behind the dull prose of Ayn Rand, whose words are akin to gospel in their eyes.
I saw this amusing cartoon a couple of years ago and I thought I’d share it with you.
The followers of Ayn Rand, who call themselves “Objectivists” (Oh, the arrogance), deny that they are libertarians but their gross misanthropy and their obvious cupidity says otherwise.
Right libertarians never tire of telling us how much they love freedom and this wide-eyed zeal often seems like nothing more than the veneration of a fetish-object. This is clear in the language they use to promote themselves too. By the way, I’ve never heard anyone say that they “hate” freedom or even love for that matter but love is the last thing on the mind of the Objectivist. I mean, what’s in it for them? If you see what I mean…
As I’ve indicated in previous blogs, the Right’s idea of freedom is narrow and can only define itself against what it perceives as unfreedom. In other words, anyone who isn’t on the Right or doesn’t support a neo-Hobbesian formulation of liberty is, in their eyes, against freedom. If you think the NHS is worth saving, then you “hate” freedom. If you’re a socialist, you “hate” freedom and so on and on it goes.
I support civil liberties and I consider myself to be on the Left – I am a libertarian socialist. To the Right libertarian, this is as bad as admitting to being a Stalinist. Ironic, really, when you remember that many of them gave the thumbs up to General Pinochet and others like him. When you confront them with this truth, watch how they squirm.
Other self-described libertarians will tell you that they are “anti-war”, but will then advocate the use of military force to “open up” markets, often under the rubric of fighting “terror”. Remember Iraq? There were some of these so-called libertarians who saw opportunities created by the invasion and occupation of that country. In fact, they don’t mind sharing a bed with neoconservatives. Indeed for all their talk about peace between free-trade nations, many of them are ardent warmongers and some are even members of the Territorial Army (others hold undergraduate degrees in War Studies). What does that say about them and their brand of libertarianism? It says that they lack the capacity for self-reflection and they don’t have the critical skills to interrogate their ideas. It also shows them up for the immature liars they truly are.