Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Left of Liberty

When most people are confronted with the word "Libertarianism" they tend to think "Oh, a Republican who smokes pot." The Libertarian Party, for example, is full of men and women who don't really understand the purpose of government. They expect somehow that a group of privileged white men from the earliest days of our founding as a nation could possibly have imagined the world as it exists today, and yet, if they could have, would never have contemplated any possible need to expand upon both the authority and responsibility of the federal government.

Clearly absurd. And even if it wasn't, we can hardly take a group of men who saw both women and blacks as unworthy of inclusion as citizens as the final arbiters of what is right and just in America.
We just can't.

It could be said that these Libertarians are Republicans who haven't been corrupted by the insidious poison of Christian Dominionism, and haven't yet been put into a position where it was in the least useful for the powers-that-be to purchase their loyalty. By powers-that-be, I mean, of course, those who serve what Eisenhower (often seen as the last honest Republican President) called the "Military-Industrial Complex"). They still operate under the illusion (or delusion) that in the society they imagine money and the power it grants would not unduly influence the democratic process. They believe somehow that they could stay above corporate control, that "liberty," as they imagine it, would belong to all men and women and the government would not be necessary to keep certain forces in check.

It is idiocy, of course, to imagine any such thing. Government, if it could be to have one single purpose above all, exists to protect the weak from the powerful. They ignore a basic truth. As Frank Herbert put it, "It's not so much that power corrupts, or that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that power attracts the corruptible".

We've lived in a world much like the one they envision. We knew it as the Wild West. Power tended to gather in one place, resulting in the creation of what we grew to refer to as "robber barons." These were men who ruled their little fiefdoms with an iron hand, who hired gunslingers and other thugs to do their dirty work--to intimidate, batter, or sometimes even kill those who would stand in their way. This mindset existed through the turn of the century, and resulted in some of the fierce battles during the formation of trade unions which were born in an attempt to, among other things, free individuals and their families from the tyrannies of these robber barons and their "company towns."

Americans are often accused of being forgetful, of not really having a sense of history. And, fact is, this has some basis in fact. But one might also say that we've all too often become the victims of historical revisionism. Hollywood's version of history becomes "real" to us because most of us aren't inspired or entertained by the way real history was introduced to us. Given that we now have conservative (read regressive or even reactionary) folks trying to rewrite our history books to negate the influence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the foundation of our country, some understanding of our true history is vital at this point in time.

We have to truly understand where we started and what we went through to get to where we are now.
All of this aside, there is another brand of Libertarianism you don't hear much about. It's because it has no official party and, in fact, represents perhaps an even smaller number of people. If that's even possible.

I'm talking about left-libertarianism.

If liberals and Democrats are hard to herd, imagine trying to collect and count the heads of the left libertarians, those who hold corporate America and the vast bureaucracy of our government in roughly equal distrust and disdain. That perhaps understand the necessity of both, but believe they should be at best adversaries rather than any sort of allies. That government should, first and foremost, concern itself with what corporate America does because where individuals may affect the lives of those closest to them, corporations can and do affect the lives of millions. (Ask anyone currently living on the Gulf Coast).

Left liberatarians may understand the need, for example, to spend money on public service announcements to promote public safety. But they may also question the passing of laws to enforce certain behaviors, particularly ones that involve the choice of ostensibly reasoning adults. They may question the ethics of sin taxes, particularly with regards to addictive substances such as nicotine. Should the state directly benefit from the sale of a product as addictive as tobacco? Is this not a conflict of interest?

The questions important to a left-liberatarian are probably as numerous as there are left-libertarians to ask them. Why are mega-churches that meddle in politics allowed their tax-free status? Why are car insurance companies allowed to run credit checks to determine rates? Why are credit scores used as a method of pre-employments screening? Why are adults required to wear seat belts?

Left liberatarians are often as frustrated by the nanny state as the daddy state. Don't tell us to cut our grass, or our hair. Don't tell us we can't brew our own beer, or distill our own alcohol, or grow a little pot to keep us mellow and content in the dead of winter. Don't tell us we have to jump through the corporate hoops to get a job, get (mandated) car insurance, or a bank account. Don't tell us we have to play along when we know we're being ripped off or poisoned just because BP or its siblings owns our local politicans.

We believe that if government was doing its job, we'd all have decent medical care, a decent education, and fruitful, somewhat fulfilling employment. And the corporations would be dutiful citizens paying their share of the taxes, obeying the laws that pertain to them, and be held accountable if found to be playing fast and loose with the rules of probability and the laws of nature.

And the media wouldn't be able to pretend that it could call lies "news" and that asking a preacher or pundit or career criminal about evolution or other scientific matters is being "fair and balanced." They wouldn't get to pretend that crazy as an outhouse rat was an equal point of view to actually knowing what the heck you're talking about.

Businesses are licensed under government authority to even exist. We, as free Americans, need no such licensing. We're born with the rights enumerated in our Constitution, acknowledged by our founders, and defended by generations of soldiers, sailors, and flyers. It is we, the living breathing Americans who have the right to exist here, for whom America was intended. NOT the corporations. They exist on our sufferance. Our sufferance. Our, as in "We, the People."

We do not accept the clearly bought and paid-for ruling of the so-called Supreme Court insisting that corporations are, indeed, people. People are born, breathe, grow, fall in love, grow old, and die. There is, and has never been, any such thing as an immortal person. Thus, clearly, corporations are not people.
The Tea Partiers and their ilk are prone to such expressions as "give us back our country." Yet they don't seem at all aware who's actually taken their country from them. They blame "foreigners," or, even more amusing, "socialists," (as if the socialists have ever been of any real consequence in this country), when clearly the perpetrators of Grand Theft America are the Artificial People so recently annointed by the Surpreme Court.

You folks want to rail against something, rail against that. Then the rest of us might come to the conclusion you actually have a clue.

In the meantime we left-libertarians will be over here. Minding our own business. And the business of business, which is also our business. Because we're the real Americans... flesh, bone, and blood humans born of woman. No matter where that woman originally came from. As long as she was human, it's American enough for us. Or at least deserve to be more than any "artificial" person ever will.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Thanks, Obama. No, really. Thanks for very little.

I wasn't a big supporter of Obama from the beginning.  It had nothing to do with his ethnicity, or his alleged origins, and everything to do with his remarkable oratory ability.  What--I didn't like him because he spoke well?  Yes, it was a marked improvement over the previous nitwit, but being well-spoken does not alone a leader make.  It requires courage and vision, and, sadly, a certain aspect of cynicism, something I believed Obama lacked.

My initial choice turned out to be an idiot.  Not necessarily because he cheated on his cancer-ridden wife, but because he somehow assumed his indiscretions would remain hidden through the general election.  I repeat.  Idiot.

But the one thing I was fairly certain we wouldn't get from Obama or Clinton would be the kind of change we needed.  They barely acknowledged the true nature of what was confronting us in this country, the nature of the precipice we found ourselves balanced upon.  And, yes, many of us knew ahead of time that the housing bubble was primed to pop.  They'd been using it to prop up a failing economy for quite some time.  When every other business out there is a newly-minted mortgage company trying to get you to refinance in order to put some money in your pocket that your job is not, there's a problem.  A big one.

As I have said before, if you don't stand for something, you'll stand for anything.  The "forward-looking" Obama model who wanted to put partisanship behind him and forget about all the questionable things the previous administration had done, simply emboldened those who had reason to hate him the most.  It's the classic expression--the reason Democrats, and by extension, liberals, are painted as "appeasers" so successfully is that our leadership, in particular, spends an awful lot of time appeasing their political adversaries.

People respond better to impassioned argument than they do to dry facts.  Sure, it's manipulative, which turns off a few folks, but it's also wildly successful.  Look at the Tea Party movement.and its trademark "conservative populism" (honestly, about as obvious an oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp" or "Civil War."  They've managed to get folks riled up about the bank bailouts (precipitated by the fact that any other option might well have crashed our economy for good) and yet somehow avoided the distinct odor of a "class war."

It was fairly clear from the beginning that Obama's fascination with the myth of "bipartisanship" (which, ironically, only becomes an issue during Democratic administrations) was going to lead us down the primrose path to the monster at the heart of it all.  Yes, I mean appeasement.  Lots of it.

Rather than swinging for the bleachers, the Democrats tried to bunt on healthcare reform.  Rather than trying for the absolute MOST that might be gained, they came on their knees begging for the least they could hope for.  And "least" is what we damn well got.  And even still the unwashed masses screamed "socialism!" as if they even understood the concept.

I don't blame Obama so much for the legislation--he's the President, not a congress-critter.  But I DO blame him for not advocating strongly enough for a tangible separation from the course that got us into this mess in the first place.  Namely the use of middle men to disburse medical funds and make decisions based not on medical necessity, but shareholder profits.  Namely, the health insurance industry.  The whole debacle surrounded the need to keep the parasite alive while not killing the host.  Fact was, the parasite was, indeed, expendable.  The host--not so much.

But this is, in fact, the least of his missteps.  He alienated many of his liberal supporters by continuing the morally questionable operations of his predecessor, be it the wars, the illegal wiretaps, the now obviously failed supply-side "voodoo" economics that have again shown themselves to be based upon nothing more than smoke and whispers.

The ignorant accuse him of being a "radical" and a "socialist" when, in truth, he's an average center-right politician being used by the unscrupulous to rile up those who couldn't tell a socialist from a Nazi.  (And, yes, there is a difference, despite their use of the word in their acronym.

Obama may talk a good game, but he's 90% talk and 10% action.  We needed a Roosevelt--a Teddy, if not a Franklin, and we got another Clinton trying to be everything to everyone and, in the end, being nothing for anyone.

I applaud America for electing the first mixed-race President.  It was a significant step.  But, like I said in the beginning, he'd best be after doing something remarkable to be known for something else.  Otherwise he'll be little more than an interesting historical footnote.  And no, that crap they served us on a silver platter pretending to be healthcare reform doesn't really count.  The only ones who should be happy about it are the parasites.  Those bugs should be dancing in the street.

So was electing him a mistake?  Not really, since Crazy McCain wouldn't have been a better choice, and, seriously, Nader wasn't going to happen.  Nope.  The mistake was his, for thinking that he wouldn't have to take real risks to be the leader we needed.  He didn't take those risks, wasn't the leader we needed, and yet has been vilified for it anyway.

The worst of all possible worlds.  For him, as well as for us.