Liberals and libertarians: Today's bitter clingers
Back in the early 1970s I was faculty advisor to the University of Florida College Libertarians. The students were the answer to the leftist clubs on campus. I remember them as being a fun group but serious about free markets. We had bumper stickers that said “Taxation is Theft”. Mine got stolen off my Saab Sonnet. I tell people that I was young and naïve but now that I am matured I realize that taxation is expropriation. Today far from being happy warriors, libertarians have joined liberals as being never happy. Do you know a happy liberal? I don’t. They are usually bitter, cynical and intent on spreading their unhappiness upon the rest of us. Sadly, the same is now true of many of today's libertarians. They, too, are usually bitter and cynical. Their only saving grace is that they – true to their philosophy – aren’t in the least interested in spreading the misery but keep it to themselves. There are three propelling forces in modern libertarianism: free markets, railing against the Federal Reserve and non-intervention in foreign affairs. I am still strongly on board with the first. As I pointed out in my last posting (a Knoxville News- Sentinel article), today’s republicans and even Tea Party activists have not given serious consideration to privatizing federal spending. I believe that only the military would be exempt from privatization. I firmly believe that we could cut the federal budget in half and achieve more, rather than less, benefits from it. I have written before that I believe that the Federal Reserve has been brilliantly conceived although at times poorly executed and the changes recommended by its detractors would be suboptimal. As to foreign policy, although George Washington and Thomas Jefferson advocated no “entangling alliances” with foreign countries, I believe that it is not in the national interest to have a laissez faire stance with regard to foreign policy. Libertarians would argue that free trade would motivate nations due to increased economic well being. However, socialists have demonstrated that economic well being is not primary to them. More importantly, despots have demonstrated the same. A basic question is whether foreign alliances can minimize the potential harm done by those we consider as the bad guys. I think most of us looked askance at Ron Paul when he said that if we were libertarians, the victims of 9/11 would still be alive. Few of us would make this argument. One of the clearest examples of a bitter libertarian is found in Gary North’s Mises.org piece “If only D’Souza were right” http://mises.org/daily/6182/If-Only-DSouza-Were-Right. Here North virtually ignores D’Souza’s film and instead rails about what is not in the film – namely blaming Bush and the republican’s for the economic and deficit mess that we are in. North points out that congress could have stopped Bush and Obama but did not do it. He points out that D’Souza ignores the unfunded liabilities of the federal government and Bush’s prescription drug benefit. Of course North does chose to point out that politically Bush had little choice and his signing of the bill took the issue off the board. The democrats were pushing hard for the benefit in their upcoming campaign and Bush knew that in a close election, the vote of seniors was critical. Yes it was a budget buster, so it was enacted without funding leaving that responsibility to future generations. North then argues that Obama is doing nothing more than continuing Bush’s policies. Indeed, he calls Obama Bush in blackface and the “star of a 21-century minstrel show.” Pardon me if I join the crowd and say that such a characterization is unfortunate and frankly racist. So read North’s piece. Also go see the movie. What D’Souza wants the viewer to do is to get to know Barack Obama. If you read North, you wonder if he saw the movie, because what he reviews is something else entirely.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com