The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Libertarianism and Government

I think I've mentioned my conservative Facebook friends... so now I'll switch gears a little and talk about my libertarian Facebook friends.

I identified myself as a moderate liberal earlier - not quite aligned with everything the left wing does while disagreeing with most of the right wing. That said, I think I disagree most consistently with libertarians, as opposed to conservatives or liberals.

I say this mostly because of my reasons for joining the military - namely that I want to do something useful with my life, so to speak. In short, I actually believe that the government, in my own person as well as with the service of others like me, can actually do useful things. I would not still be here if I thought the government was corrupt enough to prevent my service from having a positive impact... a point that this Facebook page, for a radio show titled "The Angel Clark Show", seems to strongly disagree with.

I could spend all day talking about each individual post I can see for several days back, so I guess in the name of keeping this short I'll just talk about libertarianism in general - although I'll try and use some examples from the page.

My problem with libertarian thought is really quite simple. It worked this way when I read Atlas Shrugged, and it seems to work the same way with a lot of other examples. They take the free market's power to an extreme while completely negating the government's.

This means that a lot of what they say is right - anyone who thinks government is above any sort of corruption, or that its agents never abuse their power, probably should read the news. Likewise, anyone who thinks that businesses never do any good for the world or that they're all greedy thieves also needs to look up some examples. In this the libertarians get it right.

That said, those are extreme cases. There are a lot of government officials who can't be bought, or who won't abuse their power - I often harbor a fantasy of inviting people that think otherwise to the training sessions I've seen where we discuss where the lines are drawn, so our commanders can be more sure we're not going to step over them. There are also plenty of businessmen that get paid all out of proportion to the positive impact they have on the world, as well - stories abound of CEOs that get paid absurd salaries for a level of performance that would get me fired. The reality is that either government or the private sector can be good or bad, and I don't think I've seen that many libertarians acknowledge that. Most of the time, I see arguments - like some on the linked Facebook page - which merely say that "hey, the private sector can do this too; stop relying on the government for everything". There's no discussion of which is better or worse in that situation - merely an assumption that the government can't do it well, so the private sector should do it.

Those that do tend to argue that the government tends to be worse than the private sector. That one's debatable. In general, I argue that some things need to be done and that the will or ability simply isn't there in the private sector.

Finally, I'll address the one thread I see on this page in particular... namely that the government is, frankly, an enemy of its own citizenry, either because it wants the prosperous people's money or because it wants to exert more control over everyone's lives.

On one hand, I won't attack it too strongly, because such issues are a valid concern. But like anything else, going too far with them is a bad idea. In particular, I think it's relevant to remind everyone who thinks that the government is that evil that it is, ultimately, still made up of people. The big faceless evil that is the government still has to go home in the evening and do the same everyday things as everyone else... and will be negatively affected like everyone else if things go that far south. They want what's best for the country the same as most of us do, in short.

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