Libertarian philosophy has gained in popularity within the U.S. over the last decade or so....and that's understandable given the self-absorbed, narcissistic age that we find ourselves living in.
Libertarian philosophy holds that freedom of self is the highest priority. Ayn Rand's novels are held up by libertarians as philosophical evidence that freedom of the individual, individual freedom to do whatever one chooses, is the epitome of what is virtuous, is the highest of values. That is one reason why when President Obama was asked last fall what he thought about Paul Ryan's devotion to Ayn Rand's libertarian philosophy, he said this...
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity -– that that's a pretty narrow vision....
What's interesting, or confusing, about Paul Ryan's love of Randianism is that the Wisconsin representative credits the self-centered writing of Ayn Rand for his getting involved in public service in the first place....
“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said according to a transcript of the event. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”
Apparently, then, Ryan got into government in order to....how did Grover put it...."starve the beast." Ryan didn't become a Congressman to help his constituent collective...instead, he did so to "drown" collective federal government en route to setting the individual free.
Anything that interferes with individualistic 'freedom', anything that dares to replace the priority of the individual with the priorities of the collective is rejected in libertarian thought as foolish and weak altruism. In Randian thinking, altruism, or selflessness, is the gravest of sins....the ultimate human weakness.
Critics of libertarianism suggest that the end result of elevating the freedom and liberty of the individual over all other priorities actually leads to anarchy....
Libertarianism tells us that freedom is the ultimate good and that it should be maximized, so in order to accomplish that, we must limit government intervention, which restricts free action. Here's the problem with that premise: Freedom isn't simply the absence of government. It's the absence of any force stopping people from doing what they have a right to do. If we take away government, we aren't left with freedom; we're left with anarchy.
I think that's basically correct. If freedom of the individual is the ultimate good in libertarian thought....then what would a society based on libertarianism (although I don't know of any such society) look like? How could it not look like an 'every-person-for-themselves' clustermess? Chaos....anarchy.
Now it is true that libertarians today say that one's Randian freedom should not be permitted to infringe on another person's exercise of his Randian freedom.....but then.....that's the problem, isn't it? And that is where I part with the libertarianism of Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and others who have recently been promoting the self-centeredness of libertarian Randianism.
In 2010, Rand Paul fielded a very-specifically libertarian question from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
Maddow: "Do you think that a private business has the right to say 'we don't serve black people'?"
Rand Paul: "I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form," he responded. "I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But I think what's important about this debate is not written into any specific 'gotcha' on this, but asking the question: What about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? . . . I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires."
In Paul's libertarian mindset, a business owner ostensibly serving the "public", who blatantly discriminates against a subset of potential customers based on skin color....or whatever....must be left alone to do so because he is exercising his right to free speech. That's what libertarian "freedom" means. To Paul, public actions of discrimination, such as refusing blacks at lunch counters, is but a protected expression of free speech.
Paul suggests, unconvincingly, that "freedom" requires tolerating the open, structured discrimination of the Other in public. Why? Because there is nothing loftier or more important than the freedom of the INDIVIDUAL to behave "boorishly and uncivilized."
About This Blog