Are libertarians sociopaths?

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.”



4 Replies to “Are libertarians sociopaths?

  1. Libertarianism is just purely selfishness.

    If I said to the libertarians why have any government because ANY government requires we “force” taxes from people without their consent. They would respond and say ALL people need police protection that is why we have government for that. I would say do not pretend you give a damn about what other people need … say YOU need it. If you really gave a damn about what other people need you wouldn’t cut off government as soon as your selfish-ass needs were met!

    Libertarians act like government is the problem but they want government all right… tailored all the way up to meets their selfish needs. Then as soon as their needs are met they want to cut off government for those less fortunate. Well libertarians you are not special or better or more deserving then anyone else so you can forget it! I ask you libertarians why we should care about what you WANT when people still have not got what they needed?

    LIbertarianism is simply a “knee-jerk” reaction to communism.
    Another extreme in the other direction. We don’t need more absolutistic ideologies. We need to use common sense and weight the costs and the benefits of having a society where ALL people have been taken care of with a “Minimum” of basic needs.
    Libertarians talk as if their big issue is “Freedom”. Freedom for WHO I say? They use the word as if it’s an absolute that you have or you don’t have. Freedom requires POWER. LIbertarians would argue that everyone here is free. Not so! The sick and poor are not free. If you want to go out and enjoy life it requires you have your health and you have money. Libertarians all have their minimum safety net of health and money. Libertarians clearly are ignorant and selfish.

    The thing is that not only do they have what they need but they also want to get in the way of government giving others what they need… and it’s so they can reap the rewards of that money saved for themselves (which they do not deserve by the way since they should be paying for the emergency rooms and tax breaks to the rich). Not funding programs to help the needy (thereby letting the sick and poor suffer and die is stupid and immoral. But even more outrageous is how they are completely ok with allowing corporate welfare and letting the super rich avoid being taxed. Even if they are upper middle class their money is being redistributed to the very top and they could actually benefit from a more fair tax system (but not a flat tax system because that tax system does not take into account “relative sacrifice”), but somehow gaining that money doesn’t matter.

    So I have to go back to my core belief about conservatives … the fear of empowering others “below” them takes precedence over all reason. The fear they would LOSE POWER over others drives them.

  2. The libertarian ideal is not a successful strategy. Human beings have risen to the top of the food chain by cooperating not by crawling into a hole and pulling the hole in after them.
    It’s a false idea to think that everyone can take care of themselves. No one ever does.
    There isn’t a single thing in modern society that doesn’t hinge on cooperation from the food on your table to the light bulb over it.
    Government is a cooperative by definition. Everyone has certain responsibilities and everyone is supposed to share in the benefits.
    A handful of predatory human beings have snatched control of our government away from us and that situation demands a stong response.
    The Libertarian response seems to be to throw in the towel.
    Is government inefficient? Private health insurers use up 30% of every healthcare dollar to do the same job that Medicare does for 3%.
    Public utilities charge less for electricity and water than allegedly efficient private industry.
    The fear of losing power comment is an interesting one but I don’t it applies to people like the tea party foot soldiers who are at the bottom of the socio economic ladder. That fear often has its roots closer to home; the real fear is loss of control over one’s self. The more chaotic the inner world, the more one demands order in the world around them.

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