Atrios-Eschaton-Black, strolling once more onto the field where self-described liberals take shots at the side of the barn . . . and miss wildly.
At heart really is the knee-jerk libertarian reaction against government infringement on some nebulous concept of "liberty." Drop me in the middle of the desert and I am truly free, though it's not really the kind of freedom I am interested in.From people who whine and cry and rend their garments all day about media misrepresentation and conservative strawmen and the lyingest liars who ever lyingly lied and the rest of their on-again, off-again ideological enemies, this is an awfully tawdry effort.
Since every internet kook and law professor with an axe to grind and a fetish for Confederate glory claims the mantle of libertarianism these days, I'm going to speak, in libertarian fashion, well and only for myself. It's not "some nebulous concept" of liberty, lion laying down with the lamb, wars ended and mankind perfected, that I'm looking for. Let's leave the perfectability of man to modern liberalism and the coming of the meshiach to their conservative buddies. Rather, it's that governments use incremental, innocuous intrusions on the private spheres of their citizens to consolidate unnecessary, destructive, and tyrannical powers. What motivates me to oppose government interventions in my life is not at all my belief that I as an individual represent the perfect decision-making unit; that left alone I am infallible; that in no instance can a collectivity deliver a benefit to its members. It's rather the long history of our government and every other government to fall at some point into the hands of venal, incompetent, evil, or simply dangerously well-meaning men who will take the structures of support, dependence, and census and twist them to the purposes of tyranny. Atrios, meet the no-fly list. No-fly list, meet Atrios.
Liberal technocrats and New Deal aficionados endlessly pimp for a society run by people like themselves, ruled by a beatific FDR, united in peace and brotherhood and prosperity, debating only on merits, always telling their superiors when they've screwed up, always fessing up to the public when that's the case. Needless to say that's not the way things happen. The burden of proof is not on the private citizen to show that some new law is onerous, but on the government to show that it is not. It isn't the theory of the Last Man that drives libertarians toward a Utopia, but the corruptibility of man that drives libertarians to oppose John Q. Manager having access to a database of my DNA, retinal pattern, bank records, and porno preferences.
Now Atrios says:
Having said that, I do think libertarians could find their calling by focusing on stupid state and local laws, and I don't mean symbolic but not especially important things like seatbelt laws and smoking bans. Small businesses do face rather onerous regulations and taxation, often applied by corrupt and/or incompetent agencies, in many municipalities. There are genuine and pointless barriers to the kind of economic freedom libertarians talk about, but the federal payroll tax isn't really a particularly important one.And of course, when that's the case, libertarians are accused of "knee-jerk libertarian reaction against government infringement" and relentlessly interrogated as to why we spend so much time yapping about smoking bans and seatbelt laws instead of concentrating on the Patriot Act and habeas corpus. It's a perfectly circular critique. Meanwhile, it's true that there are libertarians with a boner for taking the wrecking ball to the IRS, but me, myself, I'd rather take it to the Pentagon.