“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I could drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
#199 / The Long Afterlife Of Libertarianism
The June 5, 2023, edition of The New Yorker Magazine has quite a nice article on how "libertarianism" has affected American politics. The article, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, is titled, "No More Rules - The Long Afterlife of Libertarianism." You are definitely invited to see if the magazine will let you read it. Click the link if you'd like to try!
Libertarianism, at least considered as a political "theory," is radically individualistic. Wallace-Wells notes that despite efforts to build a coherent and enduring politics on this principle, which is, automatically, antithetical to "big government," both political parties have actually aided and abetted the growth of big government. One of the strongest statements about the libertarian project, according to Wallace-Wells, came from tax reduction advocate Grover Norquist. He, famously, said:
Why have those professing such views not actually followed through, even when they have had, apparently, the political power to do something to reduce the size of government?
Wallace-Wells doesn't, really, give any unified answer to that question. He just documents the facts - and the facts are that libertarians have never actually done what they say they want to do.
I do have one idea about why the libertarian project has never been realized - even though the libertarian idea is quite appealing, in a lot of ways. In fact, the truth of our human situation is NOT that we are nothing more than a collection of radically separate "individuals." Thus, as we navigate the social, political, and economic world in which we live, we are compelled to recognize the reality of where we really are. Our "ideas" and "theories" may reflect an idea that we are radically separate, and in such a theoretical framework, the "best" of all possible worlds would be one in which we let all individuals rise or fall based solely on their own efforts. No need for government.
Great, in theory, but (again) that is not the actual truth of our human situation.
The truth is, we are in this together.
Our politics, and our government, must reflect, in the end, the reality of the world in which we really live.
We are in this together! If we want to have an effective government and politics, we need to recognize that fact!