Libertarian Democrats And Other Walking Contradictions

Perry DeHavilland of Libertarian Samizdata devastates Kos’ calling himself a “libertarian Democrat”. (Kos’ original essay can be found here. Obsessive-compulsive logicians will be overjoyed to the point of climax at the sheer number of logical fallacies contained therein.)

Kos makes the following argument:

Traditional “libertarianism” holds that government is evil and thus must be minimized. Any and all government intrusion is bad. While practical libertarians (as opposed to those who waste their votes on the Libertarian Party) have traditionally aligned themselves with the Republicans, it’s clear that the modern GOP has no qualms about trampling on personal liberties. Heck, it’s become their raison d’ etre.

The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty — the government and other individuals.

The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty — the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn’t believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them — corporations and other individuals.

Yes, and the wolf can protect the chickens from the cats too.

Kos is hardly an intellectual, but this attempt at pseudo-philosophical dreck reveals why he’s better off remaining as a fire-breathing partisan hack. DeHavilland immediately jumps on the gaping contradiction at play in Kos’ attempts to square the circle:

And there you have one of the classical error of the left: the idea that corporations have great power to coerce in and of themselves. Now it is true that corporations often behave disgracefully (no one has ever accused Samizdata of being soft of corporate wickedness or being reflexively well disposed towards Big Biz) but the overwhelming way they do this is by using their vast wealth to manipulate the power of the state in their favour. When the state uses the power of eminent domain to take land from people so a wealthy corporation can profit from it, that is an example of state power. When corporations get subsidies and regulations which make it harder for new market entrants to compete with them, that is an example of state power. When corporations use laws to bust unions and restrict reasonable rights of workers to organise, that is an example of state power.

Anti-corporate rhetoric is incredibly common with the left, and corporations are a tempting target. However, corporations aren’t the problem. Last I checked, McDonald’s can’t have you killed. Corporations are annoying, stupid, and predatory. Government kills. Without the coercive power of the state, corporations can’t do all that much – and in a truly free market corporate power is far more dilute. The problem with Kos’ idea of being a “libertarian Democrat” is that he would give more and more power to the government – which would only exacerbate the situation. He’s basically trying to define himself as a libertarian then ignore everything that libertarianism actually is. It’s just an empty word to him – a shibbolth that will do what the word “progressive” has as yet failed to do – escape the negative connotations of the term “liberal”.

Kos further demonstrates his sophomoric understanding of politics:

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement — we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.

Kos seems to fail to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees. How the hell do you pay for all that without taking the money from someone else? Apparently a “libertarian Democrat” is just a plain-old economic redistributionist.

Libertarianism is based on the notion that the freedom of individuals is paramount – and that includes their economic freedom. A true libertarian recognizes that government must be strongly limited – only intervening to restrict the actions of individuals when there is a direct harm involved. A true libertarian wouldn’t demand public transportation because that is something that can be done by the private sector, and is not an excuse for taking from others through taxation. A true libertarian would argue that government labor laws distort the market and reduce the sphere of individual choice. A true libertarian would argue that if one’s employer mistreats one’s employees those employees have every right to form contracts with someone else – they can vote with their feet. A libertarian would not support expansive social programs as those by necessity force the government to take more and more resources.

Even someone who doesn’t agree with the doctrines of libertarianism – and I’m not a libertarian myself – should see the way in which Kos fails to understand its most basic doctrines.

In short, Kos doesn’t have a clue about what the hell he’s talking about. His entire argument is so incredibly, deeply stupid it’s almost laughable. He’s trying to argue for a contradiction by removing every bit of meaning to the word “libertarian” and applying it to himself without a shred of regard for its actual context. As DeHavilland notes:

In short, ‘kos’ can call himself a Libertarian Democrat if he wishes. He can also call himself a horse if he wishes. However saying it does not make it so.

Kos’ “libertarian Democrat” schtick is an abuse of language, an incredibly thoughtless argument, and doomed to failure as an ideological movement. In fact, there’s something Orwellian about it – trying to usurp a word and then redefine it as its antithesis. Then again, intellectual lightweights like Kos almost certainly don’t know any better.

2 thoughts on “Libertarian Democrats And Other Walking Contradictions

  1. Kos is a libertarian like I’m a muslim. And, since I’ve long been a supporter of the Democrats moving in a quasi-libertarian direction, or at least more warmly embracing their free market, free trade and civil liberties wings than they have in recent years, seeing Kos try to twist that in a bizzare direction is rather sad. Doesn’t the guy know the difference between positive and negative rights?

    Of course, that said:

    “However, corporations aren’t the problem. Last I checked, McDonald’s can’t have you killed. Corporations are annoying, stupid, and predatory. Government kills. Without the coercive power of the state, corporations can’t do all that much – and in a truly free market corporate power is far more dilute”

    I’m not entirely sure of that. Due to strong rule of law and government power, our corporations are rather limited in their power. But there has long been a worry of global megacorps, unrestrained by weakened governments, building private armies, conducting assassinations and usurping coercive power, essentially becoming quasi-governmental organizations themselves. To date, this hasn’t really happened, but the emergence of international NGO’s with terrorist or quasi-millitary functions and the increasing presence of mercenary contractors in our millitary operations suggest that it could be in the offing. Just one thing to be wary of…

  2. Why do the Dems go out of their way to put a little fruit like Kos on TV as a spokesman? Do they really think people see that and say “Oh yeah, I’m supporting the Nancy-girl!” And next they’ll nominate Hillary because she’s got a big war chest. It’s the only chest she’s got. Dems really are their own worst enemies. For more, check out “Rush Limbaugh’s Evil Plan” on my blog.

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