Libertarian Fascism

Michael Lind makes connections between some of the icons of libertarianism — i.e., Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, the Cato Institute — and fascism. Not a total surprise, of course, but there were details I did not know, such as the ties between Hayak and Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Also, when Chile began transitioning to democracy, Milton Friedman mourned the loss of a “free society” that was being dismantled by “the emergence of the welfare state.” The thousands who “disappeared” while Pinochet was in charge didn’t count for much to Friedman.

14 thoughts on “Libertarian Fascism

  1. Lind ends his article with: “The only question that remains to be settled is why anyone should pay attention to libertarians.”

    Because if we don’t, they’ll kill off this country, and a good deal of people with it.

    Next time a Conservative goes on and on about how we don’t need government, and that during tough times people ought to help out their family members, friends, and neighbors, ask them the following question;
    “So, what you’re telling me, is that not only do I have you save money for MYSELF in case of an emergency, but I need to save extra money to help YOU OUT? Ok then, tell me, how much are you setting aside right now to help me out?”
    And they won’t have a nickel set aside for you, because they are greedy hypocrites with sociopathic tendencies.
    ‘They want to have their cake, and eat it too.
    And it tastes even better, if there’s none for you.’

    Now, these people may not be TOTAL sociopaths – there are various levels of sociopathy, and the stone-eyed killers in prison are merely their ideal.
    Remind your Libertarian friends that one of Ayn Rands heroes was a serial killer who kidnapped, tortured and then mutilated the corpse of a 12 year-old girl:

    And that after typing her idiotic anti-government manifesto’sand ode’s to greed, Ayn Rand didn’t “Go Galt,” but grabbed Social Security and Medicare when she needed them:

    It’s this complete lack of self-awareness that leads Megan McArdle to write her impecably wrong articles blasting the government, and then later in the same day bitch about waiting in line for her free government-issued sandbags.
    It’s laughable.
    But Conservatives/Libertarians won’t get it – they suffer from a severe irony deficiency.

  2. I guess I would describe myself as “reasonably paranoid”, that is to say that I believe that there are empirical data, from which a logical, well reasoned argument can be made that we should all be scared out of our minds.

    I think wealthy Libertarians, like the Koch brothers, may well see this moment in history as the best shot they will ever have to destroy the American democracy and to build their Randian “utopia”. I think it is not unreasonable to see the possibility that they will “go for it” as that fellow in those horrible “Rocky” movies used to say. The majority of people already think the federal government is not working. From there it is only a small leap to, “Well, that democracy thing didn’t work out, let’s try something else.”

    Capitalism is expansionist and if it is not balanced and confined by some other mitigating force, it becomes destructive. When there was still a USSR and communism was a viable threat, capitalism tolerated democracy as an ally necessary to fight off a greater threat. Once communism receded, democracy was the former ally, and the new enemy. Democracy as a political system restrains the destructive aspects of an economic system, capitalism. For a while it was a good match, as exemplified by the labor movement, the New Deal and the Great Society. In these, democracy acted as a governor to capitalism. Somewhere along the line the captive began to worry its cage and when it escapes, it will become a beast to be reckoned with.

    Capitalism, Libertarianism, Fascism and the religious right do have a few worrisome things in common. In the big picture they all embrace “creative destruction” and in psychological terms , their adherents see themselves as “passed over”, with their virtues unrecognized. They believe that they belong to an elite, whether it is an elite of power, intellect, will or morality depends on the group. They believe the destruction of the current order would lead to a world that recognized their virtue and talent. To them the ashes of our democracy would smell like justice. These are dangerous people.

    I suppose it is a stretch for some to imagine how people like the inarticulate baggers screaming from their lawn chairs can possibly see themselves as part of an elite. But, they obviously are self appointed experts on both the Constitution and the Bible irrespective of the fact that they seem to have read neither, although it may be just a reading comprehension problem. “Against ignorance, even the gods struggle in vain.”

    Gosh guys, maybe I shouldn’t have had that third cup of coffee this morning.

  3. I think Lind is onto something incredibly important here. I’ve been thinking about this very topic for some time, and it seems to me that even if established with the noblest of intentions, a property-centric, economic libertarian society will almost invariably come to depend on a repressive police state to shield the prerogatives of the propertied from the hungry rabble.

  4. stratplayer,
    Yup, all of the countries that were “Friedmanned” by Chicago School “Shock Doctrine” economics had the people who could afford it living behind gates with armed security guards permanently stationed there, and travelling in the car with the family.

    If we’re not careful, our coming US version of Hell may mix the worst elements of a police state, Calvinist Domionist Christianity, and a Corporate-backed feudal system, with some very vague resemblence to a real democracy, all backed by 21st Century technology to keep the serfs, if not exactly happy or compliant, at least subdued and fearful.
    The Dominionist Christian Corporate States of America!
    “We’re Here to Serf You!”

  5. goatherd, I think you’re exactly right. This is THE MOMENT for the libertarian junta to make gov’t the way they want it made. They have had 30+ years of lower taxes, with the ensuing debt, and now they are crying about reducing the debt and the ONLY way to do that is with cuts to services. They have a relatively, sorry, completely obedient wing of the republican party to do their bidding. I think the next few years will be monumental in what our democracy will look like for the next 100 years. The only good I see is that Americans love them some social security and medicare and believe that the wealthy need to be taxed more. If we are able to have legitimate elections in the future, this may save us.

    Gulag: you beat me to it. This is a large portion of Kline’s Shock Doctrine. The free-marketeering of South America basically enriched a few, including Pinochet etl al. while driving down wages for everyone. The sell off of publicly held enterprises to a few corporatists was the key. Oddly, per capita income remained about the same but the difference between the rich and poor was astronomical. The actual definition of fascism is a cooperation between gov’t and corporations, one of the key differences between Stalin and Hitler. Communism, in theory, will look out for the worker. Fascism will look after the wealthy and powerful; everyone else needs to get in line.

  6. I think my favorite part was the bit about “competitive government.” “In competitive government, people take leaders as given, and they select jurisdictions.” So now Afghan warlords are to be our model?

    Well, I glanced at the article, but I don’t have time to read it right now. I am curious to see how this dude thinks it would work. I did notice this, though, which is something I’ve noticed before: libertarians write a lot of books, so they’re always able to include a lot of footnotes and references in their essays. Makes it look all scholarly, but the references tend to be on the order of “Some libertarian proved this once and for all in such and such a book, so we can now take it as a given.” So really every libertarian argument is ultimately just a compilation of assertions by other libertarians.

    • I am curious to see how this dude thinks it would work.

      I don’t believe Lind thinks it will “work,” exactly. His premise is that libertarianism is incompatible with democracy, and I take it Lind prefers democracy.

      libertarians write a lot of books, so they’re always able to include a lot of footnotes and references in their essays. Makes it look all scholarly, but the references tend to be on the order of “Some libertarian proved this once and for all in such and such a book, so we can now take it as a given.”

      LOL! That’s the truth. And in the event they are forced to confront real-world examples from history, the solution is … rewrite history!

  7. I’ve read a few libertarian responses to Lind’s piece, and while they hysterically deny fascist or police state leanings, few, if any, attempt to mount a defense of democracy or demonstrate its compatibility with econo-libertarianism. The prize for intellectual honesty, however, must go to the inimitable Lew Rockwell:

    He doesn’t come out and say it directly, but I think it’s pretty clear that Rockwell believes that the preservation of his liberty interests will of necessity require the repression of others. If democracy can’t protect his interests, what is left but brute force?

  8. I read an article briefly posted on one of the websites I frequent that defended libertarianism from the standpoint that a society without government “had not been tried in recent times”. (Forget all that ugliness between the Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthals, that was like SO yesterday.) So, that conceivably, they were right and a society without government might yield a better world. The article was withdrawn so I figured someone hacked the site to post the article or else someone’s fourteen year old nephew had composed the article when everyone was out to lunch.

    Let’s be real. If government were dissolved, how long would it be before something took its place. Let’s see here it would be a fundamentalist church. In 24 hours I would be living in “The Handmaiden’s Tale”. Elsewhere your new “government” might be the local chapter of a gang, the KKK or those militia guys. Organized crime already has a well established “corporate matrix” and some well tested foot soldiers. I am sure those helpful people from Xe formerly known as Blackwater, would be very willing to “establish order”.

    Fascism and Libertarianism both extol the virtues of unbridled power, and both seem unconcerned with how it is acquired. This is normally a formula for virulent corruption.

  9. Excellent comments.
    Goatherd, keep drinkin’ that coffee!
    I was interested in libertarianism several years ago, interest driven by my antiwar
    Sadly, libertarians don’t have empathy, or at least lack imagination to understand the “Mad Max” world we would have in a libertarian utopia.

  10. I’ve often wondered if libertarians went to public school during adolescence. When I was in junior high school, we had a very straightforward, though unofficial, laboratory for libertarian principles whenever students had to move from one classroom to another. As a late-developing boy, I learned that, in absence of effective government, the big dumb guys will shove you into a locker, even if you fight back. It never seemed to me like size and age of onset for puberty made good grounds for organizing a society, but there it was.

    Heck, it’s not like you need to read the Federalist papers, or Rosseau and Locke, to get the clue about this. Governments are instituted among men to secure the blessings, etc.

    It usually doesn’t take much scratching the surface of a Libertarian to understand that that is EXACTLY their problem with it. They identify with the bullies, not their victims, and don’t want anything stopping them from going all “state of nature” upside your head.

  11. Now I know what a “free” society means. It is one I don’t have to pay for. Taxes take all my “freedom” away.

Comments are closed.