Monday, June 11, 2018

Removing the mask

For years libertarians have described their philosophy in terms of allowing people to do as they wish so long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others to do the same. The less public face of their movement was to allow businesses to operate with as little government intervention as possible in order to maximize their profits.

So, while the one hand called for the freedom of individuals to have sex with whomever they wanted, to do recreational drugs in their homes and to be left alone by the nosy neighbors, the other hand called for an end to unionization, worker safety, environmental protection and the minimum wage. But, surprisingly enough, no one raised their voice about the price of a product reflecting its true cost.

Let me explain, gasoline is sold fairly cheaply compared to what it really costs society (but believe me, I'm none too happy to see that price edging upward whenever I have to fill up the tank). The price we pay at the pump doesn't take into account the cost of operating military bases in other countries in order to ensure the oil flows from the ground into tankers and into US ports. The price doesn't include the damage to the environment caused by extractive industry.

The libertarians aren't losing any sleep over this failure of the market. They don't care about the environmental damage because "the environment" isn't private property; therefore it's free to pollute to your heart's extent. Think of Adam Smith and the tragedy of the commons. And the libertarians are more than happy to use your tax dollars to fund the military occupation of other countries so long as it means the flow of oil continues uninterrupted.

Libertarians have always puffed their chests out proudly with their veneration and love for "the market." They have long preached the gospel of the unfettered market. Throw anything up against the wall - be it a good, a service, an idea - and the marketplace will sort it out and determine which goods, services and ideas are winners and which are losers. The idea was that the more stuff you put out there, the more options everyone had to choose from.

But now, as racism has become more acceptable with Donald Trump in the White House, the true face of libertarianism is making itself seen. Michelle Ray, who goes by the handle @GaltsGirl (an Ayn Rand reference for those of y'all not familiar with libertarian deities), thinks private businesses should be free to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or whatever other criteria they wish to use.

Don't look at me. I think a privately owned business should be able to discriminate for any reason at all. And then to deal with the market reaction to such discrimination.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that I doubt Ms. Ray spent her formative years in the American South in the 1950's and 60's. I'm also going to guess that Ms. Ray is white - again, not too much of a leap. According to Ms. Ray's philosophy, segregated schools, housing, restaurants, bus lines, trains, water fountains and restrooms are fine. If folks aren't happy with such discrimination, they are free to take their business elsewhere. Does she not understand history? Does she not understand that racial discrimination existed because the majority of (white) people were in favor of it?

So, in conclusion, I'd like to thank Ms. Ray -- and all those folks who liked her post - for speaking up and showing the world what libertarianism is really all about.

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