Monday, June 20, 2011

Libertarianism On The Rise

Über-statistician Nate Silver notes that according to recent polling, libertarian views are on the rise, both social libertarian and economic libertarian.


As a libertarian of the left this is welcome news to me. But as someone who understands the basics of MMT, along with the scientifically established fact that human beings are primarily social rather than individualistic, it is not all good news.

It is good news in that the country is moving past the days when culture was largely dictated by mores of the past. On the positive side for all libertarians, that is, of both left and right, this means that broader freedom and fundamental human rights are being recognized to a greater degree. We don't need politicians in our bedrooms, or government in the doctor's office when we visit.

On the negative side for those who understand MMT, the economic data may suggest a failure to comprehend sectoral balances and how government and non-government cannot be in surplus simultaneously. (See Stephanie Kelton, What Happens When the Government Tightens its Belt? and What Happens When the Government Tightens its Belt? (Part II) for the MMT reasoning.)

Ignorance of sectoral balances inevitably leads to policy choices that result in economic contraction and loss of financial independence for many as they are forced to draw down savings, sell assets, or borrow to maintain lifestyle, which is unsustainable. Those in the most precarious postion begin to fall into poverty — the opposite of libertarian values.

Read Nate's post at the New York Times (subscription required, but you can get in with this link)


Dan Kervick said...

I see the growth of libertarianism as a disaster, and my hope is that the pendulum will soon begin to swing the other way. The tendency in the United States for decades has been in the direction of libertarianism in all areas, with everyone devoted to "liberating" themselves from foundational social values, from their communities, from commitment to one another, from the bonds of social camaraderie and from the very government which democratic citizens are charged with running and mastering. It's no wonder that the public is not pathologically allergic to public sector activism, and so susceptible to the libertarian, small government message that the government cannot do anything right.

Chaos said...

I ain't american but from the view I've formed from reading on internet this hijacking of 'libertarianism' is a shame, at leats from my more european point of view. It looks like 'libertarianism' = 'anarcho-capitalist'

My view of libertarianism as understood in the USA nowadays is mostlly (I guess there are exceptions) 'property above all' and 'hard money/gold' (a thing that can only be forced by state oppression, nevertheless, and is quite fascist).

An understanding of true anarchist values will show anarcho-capitalism is just an other way of opression and there can't be real individual and collective freedom, because economic coercion that takes place in typical modern capitalist economies is a reality, as long as there is property of resources needed to create wealth and wage work from ones above others one can't say is trully free (and anyway, pure freedom is unachievable by our social nature, which impose rules to live in community).

However I can understand, on the contemporary america ideological frame, the rise of this ideas (however they take place in practice later or how strongly does people really believe in them). Afterall, having same or stronger taxes, for saving banks, while economy tanks and standards of living decline. And this is, in the long run, if the situation doesn't change, a real problem for the system, as it can implode from the inside as people is not willing to pay taxes anylonger and confidence in currency is lost.

Tom Hickey said...

I don't think that one can make blanket statements about "libertarianism" without distinguishing between libertarianism of the right ("Libertarianism") and and left (no specific name). Both Warren Mosler and Bill Mitchell consider themselves "libertarian" although they are far from Libertarianism as a philosophy based on extreme individualism. In fact, I think that that most US "progressives" would show up as libertarians of the left on the Political Compass test.

Tom Hickey said...

My Political Compass score:
Economic Left/Right: minus 9.62

Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: minus 8.97

Minus ten is maximum economic left v. right and social libertarian v. authoritarian

I am clearly a "libertarian of the left" in this test.

Kevin Fathi said...

Anarcho-capitalists and paleolibertarians seek to destroy the state and they may succeed.