Back in October I wrote a post entitled The Trouble with Libertarianism in which I talked about the arrogance of libertarians. Since then I have a received a gift in the form of a psuedo-libertarian who seems determined to prove me right. In one of his most recent comments to me he stated, “Me continuing to attempt having a rational philosophical discussion w/you would be like Einstein trying to explain physics to a Neanderthal…” He’s Einstein and I’m a Neanderthal. Yep, I think that qualifies as arrogance and, strangely, the fact that he sees himself as Einstein and me as a lowly Neanderthal hasn’t prevented him from wanting to engage me in discussion; nor has his high opinion of his own superior intelligence given him the confidence to debate me without resorting to all the usual games that people with a losing position tend to resort to, such as mischaracterizing my argument in order to give himself the advantage. I kind of doubt Einstein would have done that but let’s get on to the substance of things.
I should explain that this commenter – we’ll call him ‘Henry’ – is not really a libertarian. From what I can tell (because Henry tends to be a bit coy about it) he’s a quasi-libertarian/quasi-anarchist or, to be more precise, he subscribes to an ideology (or whatever you’d like to call it) that exists only in his dreams. To be fair Henry would claim that the same is true of the representative republic we ostensibly have and there’s a lot of truth in that. No one could observe what’s transpired since the birth of the Constitution and claim with a straight face that it’s worked according to plan, especially not of late. And I understand the complaint which says, in a nutshell, that the system concentrates power into the hands of a few individuals, perhaps more than they could have achieved without the power of the system. But Henry’s dilemma is that he has no realistic alternative. He asks me: “If THEY [the Founders] couldn't construct a means to keep govt. limited who can?”
Indeed. Good question, Henry. The answer is that nobody can, and yet government is going to exist. That’s the rub, Henry. Government is going to exist because it’s part of human nature. Our old friend Webster’s Dictionary defines human nature as “the ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are common to most people.” Government is common to virtually all people in one form or another, so it certainly fits the description. Your failure to accept this fact of human nature lends support to the second weakness of libertarianism that I mentioned in my post on the subject, so thank you again for chiming in.
What I find interesting is the strategy of the anarcho-libertarians wherein they attack and attempt to marginalize the framers of the Constitution rather than simply put forth their own ideas for an alternative. Apparently they believe that Americans’ allegiance to the Constitution and the representative republic put in place by the Founders is all owing to our irrational worship of the Founders, and those of us who don’t possess their Einstein-like minds are incapable of seeing it for the sham that it is. The truth is that the Founders not only understood the perseverance of human nature both good and bad, they also had no illusions about the fragility of the republic.
James Madison said:
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” (The Federalist Papers, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788).
Alexander Hamilton said:
“As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that awaits our State constitution, as well as all others.” (Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June, 1788).
Samuel Adams said:
“[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” (From an essay in The Public Advertiser, 1749)
So there was never any pretense that the Founders were promising perfection. They went out of their way to warn that government is only as good as the people. And the Founders’ intelligence? I happen to believe, based upon what I’ve seen and read, that they were a pretty intelligent group, but that’s not necessarily what’s most important. These men wrangled for years, perhaps decades, over the question of how to create a lasting system of self-government. In that process they argued and debated and THOUGHT. They concluded, rightly so, that the stateless, government-free existence you envision is impossible. In other words, the Founders were light years ahead of you and your anarcho-libertarian friends, not the other way around.
As for comparing yourself to Einstein, Einstein didn’t just come out and declare that Isaac Newton was wrong and then disparage Newton and beat his chest over his own superior intelligence. He put his theories out there so that they could be critiqued and tested. I’ve seen nothing like that from you.
If you’ve got a better plan, let’s hear it – in detail. I won’t hold my breath because I’ve been through all this before with the last anarcho-libertarian. He at least tried to rise to the challenge and put forth some ideas on what he would do differently than the Founders did. Problem was it was still just government by a different name, and he took great exception to my saying so. No one likes having their precious prejudices challenged.
I’m willing to give you one last shot for a fair and honest debate. If you think I’m uneducated, then by all means educate me. But if you come back with a bunch of smarmy “LOLs” and other nonsense then we’re done here, Einstein.