Why I’m not an anarchist and why libertarianism falls short (more thoughts on modern life)

Before I watched the video tonight by Justicar titled “Response to ThatGuyT’s Video: ‘The Justicar & Them Damn Libertarians’ I was starting to think the man had flown the coop based on a few videos that he made right after arguing with libertarians. But after viewing this one I’m better aware of where he’s coming from. And that’s the funny thing about him — why not instead of insulting people and labeling us a bunch of idiots does he not just post up relevant links to videos where he fleshes out his views in greater detail? That would be a lot more helpful than just resorting to snarky dismissals.

I used to refer to myself as a libertarian for a few short years, but by my early-to-mid 20s my views began to shift due to the arguments I kept hearing that left me quibbling over details. So I began referring to myself as “leaning libertarian,” meaning I share certain ideas in common with others who consider themselves libertarian, but not enough to where that label sufficiently describes my own viewpoints.

And before we go any further here, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between libertarians and anarchists. While overlap may occur between these two groups, they aren’t actually one and the same. An anarchist argues for a state-less society, and this is something I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around and have argued with anarchists about for many years. The way I see it is they’re advocating for a revolution but they don’t have a vision for where to go from there, to which I argue that another group will rise in power to fill that void out of necessity. This they always protest, but I see it as inevitable due to the complexities involved in managing any society and settling disputes (not to mention protecting property rights and persons where individuals prove unable to do so on their own). I concur that anarchists are envisioning cooperative utopias that are unrealistic and unsustainable, hence why I have never called myself an anarchist.

A libertarian, on the other hand, is a person who argues for a very limited government restricted from encroaching on matters best left to individuals, communities, and charities to tend to on their own. However, there are lots of disputes among libertarians over where to draw the lines. Some (if not many) are in favor of publicly funding the maintenance of public infrastructure. Some (if not most) recognize the value in funding a military and/or local militia. From there it gets trickier for folks to agree on much, especially considering how many have been indoctrinated into accepting neoconservatism and equating that with libertarianism, apparently not realizing they’d essentially be subject to a corporate state (i.e. corporatism). And that’s a big issue I personally take with libertarianism, dating back several years, hence why I am unable to fully embrace the label.

The way I see it is that an important role of government indeed must be to intelligently regulate businesses, which should have been more vigorously pursued throughout the last century though it was not. It appears that capitalism, if left unregulated (or poorly regulated), will eventually consume itself to where it ceases to be capitalism any longer and morphs into corporatism due to a number of major corporations gaining a stronghold across various sectors. This is accomplished by corporations growing in wealth to where they are able to buy out competitors or sell at a loss long enough to bankrupt competitors. We’ve also witnessed how major corporations have proven willing to collude with one another so as to promote their own interests, such as by agreeing not to undercut one another’s prices, thereby maintaining artificially higher prices than what one would expect in a truly competitive market. And with the wealth accumulated by major corporations, they’ve proven quite willing to bribe and thereby corrupt politicians via campaign contributions and intense lobbying pressure. This is a major problem since it places consumers/citizens at a severe disadvantage in competing for our own interests to be taken into account by our elected officials (and I’d also argue that plenty deserve to be impeached for this very reason, though many of my fellow Americans for whatever reason disagree). Average citizens don’t have the kind of money to throw around that major corporations do, especially when corporations make a concerted effort to sway legislation in their favor.

Furthermore, consumers/citizens haven’t collectively proven willing and/or able to police corporations through voting with our dollars or boycotting their services. Granted, some of the legislation passed has made it trickier for people to create small businesses capable of competing with corporate mammoths, but this is just as much the fault of consumers for choosing to support major corporations rather than spending their money at smaller businesses. And sometimes this is due to smaller businesses not having the funds needed to provide the level of service consumers have grown spoiled on and now regularly expect. We’ve shot our own selves in the foot here, by not supporting our local small businesses and by not demanding that our elected representatives protect our interests over corporate interests. This is largely due to widespread apathy where people give up on trying to discern what has long-term value and instead chase fads or go with what’s most convenient or readily accessible.

I personally don’t see living under corporatism as a better option than living under big government. Both concern me, though corporatism admittedly worries me a bit more due to it pushing arbitration clauses that circumvent our rights to a trial (both Wells Fargo and Netflix I’ve noticed have these clauses included in their small print, as do countless other corporations — even my landlord tried including an arbitration clause in my lease, which I had stricken from it). Because then we’d be at the mercy of arbitrators who I’m willing to bet would be even more easily swayed to upholding corporate interests than a judge might be, and that’s a serious concern. Especially if we’re envisioning a society with no State government capable of holding corporations liable for their shenanigans. Who in a stateless society would determine if there was a conflict in interest between arbitrators and the corporations who fund them, and even if they did, who would have the power to stop this from continuing on unchecked? The people?

People are already finding themselves more and more at the mercy of major corporations to provide what we need because no local alternatives exist (especially when it comes to supplying highly-specialized and technologically-complex goods and services). And no small number of people rely on corporations for their income as their employees. A conflict in interest is already sown into this situation, yet when I listen to anarchists and many libertarians speak on such matters, they talk as if we’re starting with a blank slate. We’re not. The game is already in motion and major powers already exist and have global reach and influence.

This is where it gets very sticky in these sorts of topics, and I feel frustrated that some folks like to bark at how dumb people are for simply having a more local frame of reference. It’s perfectly human for us to comprehend these matters in simpler local terms and to envision market exchanges on a one-to-one basis. Unfortunately though, we no longer live in that sort of world and everything’s become so much more complex, perhaps too complex for most of us to appreciably make sense of. I don’t find that funny so much as tragic, because, once again, this demonstrates how and why average people find themselves in a disadvantaged position in navigating within the current economic climate. We did not evolve to live within heavily-populated and complicated systems of this magnitude. The last century has set humans off into a new orbit never before experienced, totally unprecedented. And I, for one, am not convinced civilizations of this scale are compatible with our best interests, at least not as they’re structured and governed today.

For as much as we like to play confident about our ability to comprehend the marvels of modern life and the paramountcy of economics, it seems rather evident that we’re failing at our prescribed roles within this scheme precisely because of how foreign it is to us and how great the learning curve is to wrap our minds around it on every level. I am becoming convinced that this is asking too much of people, and though humanity has aspired to move into a whole new era filled with conveniences and scientific innovations and brand-new mediums for interaction and entertainment, it’s proving to be a double-edged sword as we individually and collectively lose power over our lives. So much is dictated to us, right off the bat, not much room for choice provided—because we’re groomed to participate in what’s developed over time. We consent because we can’t even take in enough of the picture to realize what’s going on and where we stand until we’re already several decades into living. That’s why it winds up feeling like a trap, because it’s not as if we came up fully informed about this reality or had any way of conceiving how it would eventually impact us on down the road.

It’s a tangled web humans have woven, and this web just gets trickier with each passing decade. We’re confronting not only massive governments but also a whole new economic paradigm at a point in history when fewer and fewer of us learn how or are able to provide for our own sustenance. This places us at the mercy of the “powers that be,” and I think concerns stemming from this is what underlies people’s anxiousness about the current situation despite it being common to zero in on one aspect while minimizing the importance of another that’s every bit as relevant and capable of being just as coercive and domineering.

It is true that people have lost a good bit of their freedom in exchange for living within rising civilizations. Everything in life is indeed a tradeoff, and one issue people are reckoning with today is the realization that what’s now in place might not permit people to return to simpler living that’s more suitable for human psychological health and social well-being. This is the predicament our entire species is being forced to confront in this day and age, and these changes are occurring all over the globe, whether people go along with it (as many Westerners have) or it’s imposed upon them. Power turns out to be one hell of a drug, and it’s centralizing in the hands of a relative few like never before. We may kid ourselves with dreams of direct trade and barter, but we’ve come to live in a whole new world with rules all of its own. I’m not endorsing this, just acknowledging it.

But perhaps these are trivial ponderings from a poorly-educated Southerner that don’t amount to squat. Either way, not all of us can or are willing to adapt to what’s unfolding around us. Many, if not most, will aim to and as a result will spend their entire lives disgruntled and complaining and dreaming of other designs for society. I say let dreamers dream…

The above piece recorded in video format:

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