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    Libertarianism: Lost in Translation

    Libertarianism: Lost in Translation

    I get Presseurope, a roundup of translated opinion pieces from the EU, sent to my email.

    For the most part, the newsletter is incredibly informative. For instance, I had no idea that someone could honestly think that the Greeks deserved pity… or that disbanding the German nuclear program was a great idea.

    But I don’t necessarily recommend subscribing to Presseurope. It isn’t for the faint of heart; it entails reading a lot of crap.

    Yesterday, for example, I was lured into reading this piece: Children of Marx and Microsoft

    The piece is a profile on the German “Pirate Party,” who won nearly ten percent of the vote in Berlin’s mayoral election. As far as I’m concerned, pirates should be rugged seafaring men with a penchant for talking birds, but they’re apparently also political:

    The party principles and the electoral programme of the Berlin Pirate Party, including points such as free public transport and the right to an unconditional basic income, were tagged as ‘radical left’ by commentators on election night. … ‘Free’, ‘open’, and especially ‘transparent’ are the buzzwords that have been shaping the platform of the Pirate movement since it first took shape five years ago in Sweden as a party born out of the struggle against existing copyright laws.

    Okay, so they’re typical left-wingers who have one pet issue and topped that off with a bunch of moronic proposals. What brought my eyes to a roll was this section:

    The thinking is deeply rooted in America, where it is known as libertarianism. From a high appreciation for the freedom of the individual derives an extreme scepticism towards the state and government, which receives legitimacy only through direct participation. In Germany, the best it had done till now was as the hobby horse of a kind of fundamentalist grouping within the Liberal Party. But libertarianism in the U.S. is a very broad movement. To it belong both disciples of Ayn Rand, the prophet of a radical egotistical capitalism, and libertarian socialists guided by anarchist thought from the turn of the 20th century.

    Such theoretical roots should not be overestimated. […] Among the new Berlin deputies are some who are passionate about Karl Marx, and the national chairman of the party was previously in the CDU. What’s libertarian about the pirates is their penchant for the most direct form of democracy possible.

    The Pirate Party is not libertarian. Perhaps it started from good principles (demanding government transparency) but it became tainted once it transformed into a political movement and bribed the electorate with free (paid by other people) goodies.

    I think the Pirate Party’s transformation shows the worst side of extreme democracy, offering to redistribute the property of others to gain favor. This stands in contrast to a libertarian paradigm of a a voluntary system of governance or one bound by certain inalienable rights; which are not necessarily places where popular opinion is always magically legitimate – as the piece suggests. I would praise direct democracy only insofar as it takes power away from politicians.

    Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my echo chamber that I find it hard to understand how most people aren’t libertarians. That is, until I ask someone to explain to me what they think the philosophy is about and I get a stupid answer like the Süddeutsche Zeitung offered.


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    The_Aged_P | September 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    There is sometimes a tendency to identify Libertarianism with the “right” but in fact there is a degree of affinity with Anarchism, often seen as a viewpoint from the “left”…the Pirates might be attempting to pass themselves off as Anarcho Communists, followers of Kropotkin. Kropotkin and his supporters were always consistent opponents of the Bolsheviks who advocated a strong central government under their control as the only way of “withering away” the state.

    Anarchists were very strong in Russia, Spain and other countries. However, their very suspicion of a higher authority meant that in political and military terms they were far too individualistic to act in concert for any length of time….

    Having just read an article about “World Car Free Day”, I just had to come back and make another comment about free public transportation. It is not free in the US, but it is subsidized by the gas tax that I pay everytime I have to go anywhere. We don’t have a choice in rural areas. The gas tax should be used only for roads and bridges, not to fund subways. Also not only is a car an absolute necessity in the country, it is along with the washing machine one of the most liberating inventions of all time. I think they should rename the day ” Rural Genocide and Oppression of Women and Families Day”.

      WarEagle82 in reply to ella8. | September 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      Cars are not an absolute necessity in rural or urban areas.

      We could abandon automobiles and live as subsistence level farmers in an 18th century economy and we could deal with literal mountains of horse manure in cities like they did at the end of the 19th century.

      We could also suffer the mass starvation and an 80% to 90% population reduction that de-mechanization of our farms would cause.

      So, at least 10% to 20% of us could live without our cars…


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