There’s a discussion on the Washington Liberals yahoo group about the heartlessness of libertarian philosophy.

The question came up: are libertarians sociopaths? Or are they just confused?

I too have called libertarianism “sociopathic.” Some of them probably have a deficit of empathy. But I’m sure most of them are pretty regular people, loving parents, more or less kind to their neighbors, etc. So, while the ideology is sociopathic, I’m not sure the followers are sociopaths.

In “The Banality of Evil” Hannah Arendt blamed the Nazi atrocities on bureaucratic thinking and mob psychology, more than on outright sadism and heartlessness. Evil lurks in all our hearts, kinda. And most sins are sins of omission, not commission.

In the American Prospect, E.J. Dionne, Jr wrote, “In 2010, Democrats lost white working-class voters by 30 points. In 2006 and 2008, they lost them by only 10 points.” This shows the success of conservative anti-government propaganda, as well as the success of their emphasis on wedge issues like guns, gays, and religion.

I think the libertarians get stuck on a couple of ideas that make some sense: people should mostly take care of themselves, and government is often corrupt and inefficient.

My response to the first idea is: some people can’t take care of themselves, and, besides, by banding together for certain services and protections, everyone can benefit (the “common good”, the tragedy of the commons), as I discussed in several of my articles.

My response to the second idea is that if government is corrupt, then fix it: make it less corrupt. Also, private entities (corporations and individuals) are the ones who corrupt government,; and corporations (e.g., health insurance companies) are often more inefficient than the government. Government-run health care systems in Europe provide higher quality care than America’s market based system, at a fraction of the cost. Without government, there’d be other sorts of corruption and inefficiency.

Ayn Rand is partly to blame, with her seductive idea that selfishness benefits everyone and her glorification of success.

A libertarian acquaintance said that Governor Gregoire’s altruistic hope to help the poor people does more harm than good. “When Christie tries to save the unproductive people of the world she drags down the productive people.” Pure, hard-nosed conserva-think.

I notice that a lot of young professionals are libertarians. I work as a programmer and I know that many software developers, self-made (so they think) men in their 20s and 30s, are libertarians.

I once was attending a meeting of King County Democrats in a coffee shop in Seattle. In another room there was a gathering of young people. The average age of that group was maybe 30. The average age of our Democratic group was maybe 60. I asked the younger group what the meeting was about. “We’re supporters of Ron Paul,” they said. My heart sank.

One libertarian said that the government has no more business educating our kids than they do forcing a religion on them. Wow, such hostility to cooperation!

Libertarians get SOME things right. The same libertarian guy who criticized Gregoire for her altruism went on to say: “Now if you want to identify true evil in govt, that is easy, look into the eyes of Bush, Gore, Rumsfeld, Kissenger [sic], etc.”