E Pluribus Go F@#k Yourself

Tussling with conservatives as I sometimes do through social media and on the web, I have found lately that I am often running afoul of a new political demographic—the young libertarian.  Who are these people?  From what I can tell (in admittedly limited and electronic interactions), they profess to be wholly unconcerned with “social issues,” but radically “free market” in their economic policy—so much so, in fact, that they will actively work for GOP groups (FreedomWorks, AFP, Crossroads GPS, etc.), even if that means also signing up for mandatory breeding, transvaginal probes, and state-by-state rules on who gets to marry whom.  That’s just how passionate they are about “FREEDOM," of the economic variety at least.  There is, in their minds, absolutely no problem the free market cannot solve.  The Federal government, they believe (like Marx, strangely enough) is a vestigial annoyance that needs to GET OUT OF THE WAY of free market innovation—everywhere, all the time.  If you tell them that NASA has discovered a giant asteroid hurtling toward the continental United States, they will ask you two questions; 1). Why are my tax dollars still buying telescopes for NASA?  2) Why don’t we figure out which state will get hit and then let them hire a private contractor to deal with their asteroid repulsion and/or clean-up problem?

Wyoming contemplates new bond initiative.
Clearly, the right’s “leave me alone to do my thing, man” brand of libertarianism is proving very sexy to this group (even if that sense of being “left alone” is a complete illusion).  If Dean Moriarty were hitting the road today, dude, he’d totally be a libertarian.  Government, get off my back with your speed limits, drunk-driving statutes, and auto-safety inspections.  If I want to drive drunk at 150mph in a car with faulty brakes, that’s my risk to take buddy, so back off!

The easy thing here would be to simply call out the solipsism and privilege of youth, especially the educated middle-class kids who typically fall for this bullshit and seem to think they’ve already accomplished something in life by virtue of being born white and middle-class.  It’s very easy to extol the virtues of Randian Objectivism when you know, in your heart of hearts, you can always move back into Mom and Dad’s attic for a few months to get your shit together.  It’s also very easy to profess a libertarian line if you’ve never been sick, lost a job, suffered a natural disaster, or had to deal with various aspects of the legal system—watershed moments in a person’s life when you realize, perhaps for the first time ever, there are certain things that are simply beyond your direct control, no matter how anal, Type-A, autonomous, and kick-ass you might think you are in starting your own designer cupcake shop.  

Dick Armey of FreedomWorks: "Libertarian"

Or you might point out that these various “libertarian-friendly” groups—FreedomWorks, AFP, Crossroads GPS—are really only using the youthful gullibility of these kids to enact the standard GOP agenda: protect wealth, create more wealth without significant risk to the wealthy, transfer that wealth to the kids and grandkids. Oh yeah, and lie to your idiot base that thinks you’re actually going to reintroduce prayer in school or put Jesus on the dollar bill (although in Dick "FreedomWorks" Armey's case (above), he just might do it).

But that would be unfair.  You have to hit at least 40 before figuring out that you really knew almost nothing about anything when you were 25.   And for the most part, that’s probably a good thing.  Without the blind, boundless optimism of young people, there’s a good chance very little would have changed since we first decided to emerge from caves and recognize we had a common interest in keeping some crops alive from year to year.  Of course, now that “civilizing” impulse seems to be going in the opposite direction.  If the new conservative-libertarianism had existed at the dawn of human history, it most likely would have gone like this:  “Grog crops die.  Grog go hungry.  Grog die by next frost.  Ha Ha Ha.  Grog loser.”  At any rate, I don’t want to dismiss our young libertarian friends for merely being young; in fact, my grief is less with them than it is with the political left.

My question would be this: how in God’s name did the left lose the self-described libertarian faction to the right?  How did the side that usually defends the rights of everyone to do, say, and think whatever they want lose the libertarians to a social movement that constantly threatens to intervene in just about every bodily and ideological function a person could face in life?

In large part, I think it’s because the left has done such a miserable job educating young people about the very concept of the “social,” of how society as a complex mechanism is comprised of interdependent structural components, each with complicated effects on the other.  Some of them have now invested so heavily in the “free market” illusion that they can envision no other structural determinants or motivation in life beyond the idea that money and products yearn to be free.  That, and the idea that a 1% hike in taxes to help stabilize and rebuild a crumbling national infrastructure is an outrage that will not stand (you would think they would at least be embarrassed that LAX and JFK are increasingly looking like Mogadishu International.  If people are still nice enough to come visit us, shouldn’t we at least have a “front room” that says something other than, “fuck it, we give up”?)

Here is how bad things have become.

NOT invented by Comcast
On-line the other night, one such libertarian asked me to name a single item in my home that wasn’t conceived and manufactured in the free market according to the profit-motive.

I don’t know, Brainiac, how about the Internet we’re using this very moment?

The medicine in my cabinet that came from Federal research grants?

Various components in my household technologies that came from NASA?

Quoth the free-market libertarian:  “Obama sucks. Get the government off our backs!"

Let me summarize another recent exchange, one that is even more illuminating in understanding the mindset of this new political breed.  The topic: access to prescription drugs in a private health care system.  I begin by noting that the nation now faces critical shortages in basic cancer medicines and vaccines because the drug companies do not find them profitable (enough) to make.  The below is paraphrased (but not by much, I assure you—the names have been changed to protect the embarrassingly stupid):

Libertarian:  “Bullshit, there are no shortages because the free market will always fulfill a need if it is truly needed."

Me:  “Here is a link from the NYT detailing how oncologists are now creating their own non-profit drug stockpiles to deal with the shortage."

Libertarian: It’s in the New York Times, so I’m not going to read it (for real, this was the actual response!)

Me:  Let me summarize it for you—oncologists are now starting non-profit groups to make cancer drugs because pharmaceutical companies don’t find them profitable enough to waste time on them.

Libertarian:  You have no evidence of this.

Me (somewhat exasperated): It’s detailed in the NYT article that you will not FUCKING READ because you already don’t want to believe what it might say.

Libertarian: “If there is demand, a company in the free market will supply it.

Me: Let me put this in easy-to-understand terms.  Say I’m a pharmaceutical company and I have only a limited amount of resources to deploy in manufacturing my products.  I can use part of my factory to make cancer drugs at 5 cents a dose, or I can make (and advertise!) boner pills that make me $1 a pop (so to speak).  How long until the entire factory is making nothing but boner pills?

Libertarian: That would never happen.

Me: But it already is happening.  Pharmaceutical companies already complain that they consider the manufacture of certain drugs and vaccines “a public service” because they could be making more money doing something else.

Libertarian:  That’s their right.

Me:  Yes, I guess it is.  But if making Whooping Cough vaccine isn’t profitable, are you saying we should just get by without Whooping Cough vaccine?  Maybe there should be some kind of national, non-profit manufacturer to make these important but ‘non-profitable’ drugs?"

Libertarian:  That’s socialism.  If there is a need, the free market will provide it.

Looking back at this incoherent exchange, I think the main point this person wanted to make is that the government should change patent laws and generic profit margins to incentivize Big Pharma to make more of these drugs.  Fair enough.  But if you suggest any solution other than allowing the drug companies to charge whatever they want for everything all of  the time, you are a socialist.  And if you point out we've been a semi-socialist country for almost a 100 years now, they'll tell you they're still working on that. Let the Medicare death spiral begin!

Paxil Ad (2000):  Imagine indeed!
And then it dawns on you—not only do these free-market young libertarians not understand how the collective pooling of insurance risk works, they actually think the free market is really “free.”  In their minds, apparently, the “free market” suddenly decided that everyone needed to be medicated for shyness, so much so in fact that shyness is now a much more crucial health problem than cancer, and resources should be allotted accordingly.  The “free market” decided that there was more money to be made diagnosing every kid as ADHD, and so now childhood “hyperactivity” has somehow gone up a billion percent in the last 20 years.  It was the “free market” that gave us Justin Beiber…and still they believe.

This is the basic mindset we are dealing with.  Federal government = always evil, always bad, always inefficient, 24/7—no exceptions.  Free market = always benevolent, the answer to every problem on earth, no matter what—no exceptions.

And then you really get down to brass tacks, the heart of their delusional sense of autonomy and just what a sad and ugly place the USA is becoming:

Libertarian: Why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s health care?

Me: But you already are.  Your insurance premiums subsidize ER care for the uninsured.  If these people also had insurance, costs would come down and so would your premiums.  It is in our “collective” interest to have these people insured.

Libertarian: My premiums pay for my health plan.

Me: But folded into that cost is the expense of providing health care to the uninsured.  If they show up at the ER with their arm torn off, we’re not going to send them away.  It is in YOUR interest to improve the overall access and quality of health-care—it will be cheaper for all of us in the long run.

Whoops...John Galt forgot to mail his insurance premium.  FML!.
Libertarian: If they don’t have health insurance, they should be prepared to accept the consequences.  That way our premiums will not be impacted.

And then you have a second revelation.  They really do believe a Randian society of absolute economic self-interest is not only possible, but also desirable.  When push comes to shove, if you ask them if the uninsured should be allowed to die rather than be subsidized publicly (through some Federal mechanism) or privately (as we do now through private health insurance), their free-market/personal responsibility kool-aid soaked brain will say, “Sorry poor and/or stupid person without insurance…you are going to die."

Have they just been backed into a rhetorical corner that the free-market can’t get them out of it, or do they really mean it?  Are we really going to have to find out? I should note also that if you bring up real-world examples of the private health industry rationing care or denying coverage, they will often dismiss these (and I am quoting) as “sad, tear-jerker lefty troll stories,” as if these events were such statistical anomalies that the very real pain and desperation suffered by these individuals is nothing more than a rounding error in the theoretically pure justice of the free that is the marketplace.

"Hey! Put me back where I was you free-loading, big government parasites!
What does it take to make a middle-class kid who so far has faced little to no adversity in his life realize that he actually does have something at stake in maintaining some semblance of a “collective” social good?  After all, if you’re living a particularly charmed life, you might hit 40 before you ever really have to tangle with a bank, an HMO, the court system, public education, or a criminal act.  I don’t know—maybe you have to roll your first car down an embankment and hope there are enough county EMTs on staff to cut your mangled torso out of the front seat.  Maybe it takes huddling in an ice cave after your awesome rock-climbing weekend at Glacier National Park goes horribly awry, and your life suddenly depends on just how many park rangers have NOT been furloughed that week.  Then again, maybe it takes someone painting a gang sign on your new Mercedes to realize, “oh crap, maintaining a perpetual underclass structurally disenfranchised from decent education, nutrition, safety, and health care might not actually be in MY best self-interest."

Then again, maybe I should take a lesson from my young libertarian friends.  After all, I’m middle-aged, white, and upper middle-class.  I have a good job with good health insurance. Why rock the boat helping people who don’t have all the great stuff I have?   And if the shit really starts to hit the fan in the U.S. as millions of poor people begin to riot, I’m pretty sure I have the resources and wherewithal to migrate to Canada, Sweden, France or some other horrific hellscape of socialist freedom-killing (if they’ll have me).

I must have low self-esteem or something.  Really, I should take more pride in all the things I think I’ve accomplished by being born white, male, and middle-class.  And I should definitely have more confidence in my abilities to survive, overcome, and repel any significant challenges to those privileges.   Dick Armey will have my back, right?

You know what?  I’m going to go for it.  I am now officially a libertarian.  And as a libertarian, I want to get into the spirit of things as quickly as possible.

For example, why is MY tax money being used to protect and defend tax-sucking red states like Alabama and Mississippi?  If Costa Rica wants to invade and annex those states, God bless ‘em, they’d be doing us a favor by taking them off our hands—it will only make the other 48 states stronger.  I demand immediate defunding of any and all military resources in those two states.

We ain't fixin' that. Let them take the county fire road.
Also, I demand the Interstate highway system be returned to local control.  Sure, some counties will keep the highway in good shape while other, poorer counties will have to let their section crumble into dust and tumbleweeds—and, yes, that might make it difficult to maintain a consistent speed when traveling long distances—but it’s the principle of the thing!  Why should I pay for 600 miles of blacktop in Nebraska that I personally—that being ME MYSELF AND I---have no plans of ever using?  Fuck you, Nebraska.

And you know what?  Is it too late to get our money back on the Tennessee Valley Authority?  The Feds had no business going in there and giving stupid hill people electricity.  Those dumbshit, dirt-poor hillbillies should have been forced to figure out how ‘lectrifying works all on their own.  I want the entire grid taken down, now, and I expect my hillbilly dirt-loafer reparations check deposited in my bank account by the end of the week.

And while we’re at it…do we really need a “United” States of America anymore? Doesn’t “United” sound a bit pussy-ass socialist?  Why not just have the States, 50 land-masses that no longer need or want to coordinate anything of any kind ever again?  Invest in things that might benefit everyone?  Well I ain’t everyone, I’m me, so screw your socialist “United” crap.

And now that I think about it, living in Illinois, why should I give a tinker’s goddamn what’s going on in Wisconsin or Iowa or Indiana or any other place that isn’t Illinois?  Even more to the point, living in Chicago, why should I give a shit what’s happening to those morons downstate in Carbondale or Peoria  (Peeee-oria. Even the name of their stupid little town makes me want to punch them in the face).  Screw those hayseeds!

Yep, Chicago first, Chicago always, from now on…..

We don't cotton to people who ain't me 'round here.
Then again, why should a mayor or city council have all that power over me and my ability to run my life exactly as I see fit?

Guess what Rahm Emmanuel, I’m going to start burning old tires in my back yard for extra money.  There’s tires that need a’burnin’, and folks that will pay me to do it, so if you don’t like the smoke, then fuck you, it’s my property and you ain’t comin’ anywhere near it.

I am going outside right now to oil my shotgun, string some barbwire on my fence, and circle my lawn with landmines.

“Reductio ad Absurdum?” you say.

“Why are you still flappin’ your lips on my tire-burnin’ money farm, jackass?” say I.

NEXT TIME: I have some ideas for libertarian health care reform!

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