Having been involved in British libertarian circles since I was in my late teens about 18 years ago – god that makes me feel old – I have gotten used to the charge that the likes of us are crazed dogmatists. In Britain’s notoriously anti-intellectual culture, being interested in ideas, and worse, ideas which question the need for most of what governments do, is to be branded as a dangerous nutter. (Mind you, having read abusive comments directed at yours truly by various LewRockwell.com types, I feel almost quite moderate and middle-of-the-road these days.)
Step forward Aidan Rankin, who in The Spectator magazine, charges that eurosceptics within the Tory Party and among libertarian circles are the “new Trotskyists,” every bit as militant and dogmatic as the old left. In a way, that is a backhanded compliment of sorts because it shows that folk like Rankin are at least becoming aware of our existence, even though they prefer to construct straw men for the purpose of easy knock-down pieces rather than describe us more accurately. Anyway, let us fisk:
On Europeans and other issues the Tories are still impeded – not by indecision as in the recent past, but by an insidious ideological rigidity, a right-wing version of political correctness.
Huh? Really? Has the Tory Party, in recent years, called for, say, total withdrawal by this country from the EU? No. But to read Rankin you would assume that to be the case.
Public scepticism about the single currency is matched by the lack of public support for Eurosceptic campaigns. This is because even to sympathetic observers such campaigns appear so often to be bitter and bigoted.
He has half a point. I think the eurosceptic lobby would do better to focus on the essentially illiberal nature of the EU rather than on the fact that is being run by vile Frogs, etc. He then turns his gaze from Europe to other issues. Here we go:
“Libertarians, whose influence in conservative circles is growing, are free market fundamentalists.
We think that the market, which is a place where sovereign individuals freely transact and deal with one another, is better than any other form of human order devised, such as state planning. Fundamentalist is a boo word.
Like Marxists of the most dogmatic kind, libertarians reduce the individual to homo economicus: the man or woman as a mere unit of production or consumption, without any cultural reference points.
Complete Bull. Many libertarian thinkers, of which Ludwig von Mises was an outstanding example, did not reduce Man to a “mere” economic being. Rather, he used the insights of economics to help show how human beings behaved. Libertarians understand that people seek to acquire and keep values, including non-material ones, and that in an open society, such action will produce things like markets.
Libertarians combine economic purism with a naive commitment to counter-cultural values.
Speak for yourself, ditto. A perusal of the literature should show Rankin that libertarians often value things like marriage and other institutions, which are the opposite of “counter-cultural”, presumably in the way Rankin means it. What of course he objects to is the fact that libertarians insist that membership of institutions be voluntary.
Like the politically correct Left, libertarians believe in open borders and the abolition of immigration controls.
I take it Rankin believes in immigration control. And anyway he overlooks the fact that libertarians like me would only support totally open borders if the Welfare State were to be abolished first. I would also support the right for states, or even better, private communities to sell rights to citizenship for a price and even trade them on an open market.
At its most extreme, it (libertarianism) celebrates family and community breakdown as forms of liberation, or drug dependency as consumer choice.
Speak for yourself, ditto.
They [evil libertarians] oppose with revolutionary ardour any public money for faith-based institutions, single-sex schools or regiments, or anything not “open to all.
By George, I believe this man has been paying attention. Actually, I am even more extreme than that. I oppose spending of public money on schools, be they co-ed or whatever. Let schools of any type exist, funded by consenting adults. Libertarians do of course differ between minarchists who favour some kind of tax-funded spending on courts and the armed forces, and anarcho-capitalists who do not.
I could Fisk some more but you get the general drift. Aidan Rankin is a conservative, I would guess, and obviously deeply alarmed at the libertarian meta-context.
He should be.