I was on ‘The Big Picture’ with Thom Hartmann last night, getting into it with Tea Party activist Kris Ullman and Libertarian Patrick Hedger of ‘Freedomworks’. We discussed the Benghazi conspiracy theories, Nancy Pelosi, the Republican’s disastrous immigrant outreach strategy, and the causes of the global economic crisis.
It’s incredibly frustrating arguing with people living in a completely different reality, and while I usually try to be respectful, this time I got pretty angry.
Ullman and Hedger wanted to make up their own facts, and Thom and I called them out on it over and over again.
I can’t stand Ron Paul. Why? I should have some sort of warm sentiment towards him, right? He is, after all, an anti-war conservative riding against the tide of brainless militarism that still rules the GOP, right? But like almost everything else with Paul, it is wrapped up in the type of brain-dead simpleton talk that renders it effectively useless.
Besides bring back some pork for his district like any other congressman, what the hell has Paul actually done in his tenure in the House? He hasn’t seriously affected the mainstream thinking of the GOP and his Simple Simon view of the federal government’s role in America isn’t ever happening.
Thank God. (The invisible hand of the market was never going to desegregate the Jim Crow south)
As much as people despise the sort of dippy-hippie views espoused by some people on the left, they are often equaled by the late night dorm room bong hit logic of the libertarian movement. Only they’ve been even less effective politically. The hippies at least had some effect on public sentiment on the Vietnam War and even nominated a “peace” candidate within one of the two major parties (he went down in flames to one of the worst presidents ever, but still).
By comparison, Ron Paul couldn’t win a single real contest in the 2012 Republican nomination process. This is a nominating contest where tired retreads like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum actually won states!
What’s the point of Ron Paul then? He has cultists online who don’t actually show up to vote for him and he doesn’t seriously influence the debate within his party like past, fringe candidates have.
What’s the point?
At the Republican Convention, there’s this idea going around that Paul and his supporters are going to cause a ruckus. Not going to happen. The parties have both become experts at stage managing their national conventions. This isn’t the smoke-filled room of yore or the chaos of 1968. Do people really think that Reince Priebus is dumb enough to let Paul’s trickling of supporters disrupt the coronation of Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee?
By Ben Cohen: Those who define themselves as Libertarians, Tea Partiers, and Free Market Capitalists have one primary objective: To get rid of government and let markets reign supreme. Unfortunately, none of them seem to have thought through the consequences of a country with no functioning government – if they did (or could) they would probably leave America for communist loving Europe.
To the market fundamentalist, government can do no good when it comes to economics – it is a hindrance to the efficiencies of a free market and must be cut at all costs. The profit motive makes private companies inherently more efficient because in a market system, those who do not produce get thrown aside, and the producers get rewarded. It is a simple system where work is rewarded, and laziness punished. This philosophy can be translated into every aspect of our lives and should in theory create a perfectly functioning society.
Except of course, it doesn’t.
Envisioning a modern industrialized country with little to no central regulation is virtually impossible given in every instance, they were created through central planning and heavy government regulation and protection (if anyone doubts this, please read Cambridge economist Ha Joon Changs book ‘Bad Samaritans‘ – a comprehensive study on how successful industrialized nations built their economic power through protectionism and central planning).
Taking apart the institution that built the country we live in would be disastrous on all fronts – industries would collapse at the first sniff of recession due to fear (just imagine what would have happened if the federal government hadn’t bailed out the banks in ’08), the environment would suffer unimaginably if polluters got the chance to regulate themselves (they wouldn’t because there’s no short term profit in it), the education system would splinter into pieces; amazing schools for the wealthy, and nothing for anyone else (poor children would go straight to work in order to maximize their market efficiency), the medical insurance industry would hike their rates and get rid of any liabilities by refusing to cover sick people, and there would be no money to repair roads or build infrastructure (roads would be for the rich only). Inefficient people would be reliant on the charity of the efficient and left to die if unable to attract a wealthy benefactor.
Taken to its logical extreme, a free market economy would result in a society so complicated and inhuman it would collapse almost instantaneously. A society built on the principle of maximizing profit through self interest would be about as great a place to live as North Korea. Why? Because selfishness is only one aspect of human nature, and when thinking about building a society, it is about the last attribute that should be encouraged. You only have to think about it for a second to realize how inefficient it would be – human beings are social creatures that have always existed in cohesive groups, and rebelling against it would be rebelling against our own nature. We have literally evolved to cooperate with each other, and our society should (and does to varying degrees) reflect that. This isn’t to say that humans are not capable of selfish, greedy behavior – it is clearly as much a part of our nature as being loving and kind is. It’s just not an aspect that needs amplifying.
Tea Partiers, Libertarians and Free Market Capitalists believe in a utopia that reflects their own view of humanity – an irrational, fear based belief system that says more about them than their critique of the current status quo.
A utopia based on a free market isn’t really worth thinking about – it isn’t actually possible, and even if it were, no one would have anything to do with it.
My friend and fellow Banter Media blogger Matt Osborne disagrees with me on Glenn Greenwald (again):
First, Greenwald is not a liberal. He's a libertarian who's just peachy with Citizens United and compares anyone who dares to say anything supportive of Obama to Leni Riefenstahl. A "cult of personality" around Obama is the constant projection of the lunatic right, raised as they are on Jesus Camp and charismatic politics. Drum's statement reflects the reality that presidents are surrounded by information and influences that we don't have — Obama probably knows more about what's happening in Libya than we do. Acknowledging that is not an "abdication" of anything. The only abdication going on, the only obsession with personality, is Greenwald's.
I've had this debate with Matt before, and I'll say it again – I think he is misrepresenting Greenwald's political views and is in danger of tearing down a figure who generally speaking, is on the same team as him. Firstly, the accusation that Greenwald is 'just peachy' with Citizens United is not accurate or fair. I wrote the following about the charge in the last back and forth we had about the topic:
I don't agree with Greenwald when it comes to the supreme court ruling that allows unlimited funding of political candidates by corporations, but I understand his point of view. It is highly nuanced, and Greenwald recognizes the dangers of corporate funded elections – he just believes freedom of speech supercedes it (Greenwald also believes that public funding of elections can redress the balance).
Also, Greenwald is quite clearly not a Libertarian – as he once tweeted about the accusation:
Libertarian is a pretty weird label to apply to someone who favors single-payer health care and massive increases in social spending.
I do understand where Matt is coming from when he attacks the Jane Hamsher/Glenn Greenwald wing of the progressive movement. The militancy with which they attact Obama and those who do not agree with them on the Left is self defeating – as Chez Pazienza points out:
I've said before that the narcissistic dipshits within Obama's own party who can't shut up about how he's "just like Bush" because he didn't dismantle the military, make gay marriage and drug use mandatory and build a Whole Foods on top of Ground Zero are actually a hell of a lot more irritating.
Because remember, the most important issue currently facing this country is whether or not Bradley Manning is having a good time in jail.
It is absolutely true that the Obama administration has behaved appallingly over issues like the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission at Guantanamo as opposed to a real court, and yes, the treatment of Bradley Manning. The press should be all over issues like these and Obama should be held to account for his unconstitutional activities. But when the other party is actively trying to shut down the government, destroy medicare and social security and invade Iran, a little perspective is needed.
I think it is undeniable that Greenwald does important work – his priorities may be wrong and counter productive from a political point of view – but I'm glad someone is doing it. It's part of the debate, and Greenwald adds to it in a big way. As he wrote himself the other day, it is the essence of civil discourse and intellectual consistency to engage seriously with those you don't agree with:
A vital part of critical thinking is to purposely expose yourself to opposing views that are formidable and worthy of respect; I wrote just a few days ago that I do that with Juan Cole's writings on Libya, and the reason I've read Kevin for years (and, as I wrote in this post, found it largely worthwhile) is because, though we have different intellectual and political dispositions in the context of agreement on numerous issues, his points with which I disagree often force me to think. It's absolutely true in general that any rational person would pause to examine their convictions if someone whose judgment they respect disagrees with them, and it's also wise — I'd say necessary — to seek out the input of people who know more than you do on any particular issue
In short, I have a lot of time for the Matt Osbornes and Glenn Greenwalds of this world, and I believe to dismiss either out of hand does a disservice to much needed debate within the progressive movement.