Sunday, August 9, 2015

It’s challenging to be a pessimistic libertarian

Optimism is a state of mind.  It means to be hopeful or confident about the future.  It is a belief that the movie you’re starring in will have a happy ending, no matter how bruising the journey getting there.

No one knows what the future will bring because the future doesn’t bring anything.  People do.  You and I and the rest of the world make the future, some more so than others — some a lot more so.  The leading future-makers of the past century — at least those who entered national politics — have left a long trail of blood and misery, and today’s political leaders are staying the course. 

There’s an old saying: “Man proposes, but God disposes.”  If the U.S. government is today’s god, what chance do a relative handful of freedom-loving people have against such an institutional behemoth?  We’re only a false flag away from martial law.  The internment camps are built and ready for occupancy.  The police are militarized and ready to carry out orders.  The voters remain insouciant.  This is no time for optimism.  It’s time to run for our lives.

But before we take off, we would do well to take stock of our assets.

There’s a scene in the Clint Eastwood movie “Absolute Power” that illustrates the point I wish to make.   Eastwood, as legendary jewel thief Luther Whitney, witnesses the murder of a young woman during one of his heists.  The president (Gene Hackman) and his SS agents are the murderers.  The victim is the wife of the president’s biggest supporter, an octogenarian billionaire (E. G. Marshall) whose mansion Luther was robbing.  Whitney was hiding behind a one-way mirror at the time but later learns he’s a suspect, because of the missing jewels.  Luther knows the president’s henchmen will try to kill him before he can expose them and rather than fight such a powerful foe makes arrangements to leave the country.

While at the airport ready to depart he sees a staged press conference on TV.   It’s an appalling political spectacle.  A mournful president is offering sympathy to the bereaved husband, who’s standing beside him.  “This man has been like a father to me,” he announces, then turns to his friend. “I would give the world to lessen your pain.” He blots his eyes, apparently too choked up to continue.

Luther simmers with fury.  “You heartless whore,” he says aloud to the TV.  “I’m not about to run from you.” 

Luther rediscovered his true grit.  He also had conclusive evidence in his possession, as well as a daughter he cared about.  What about you?  If optimism still seems like a stretch, ask yourself what it would take for you, an informed libertarian, to be pessimistic.

First and foremost, you would have to view your “informed libertarianism” as thoroughly grounded in blind faith, not to mention wrong.

More precisely, to be pessimistic you would have to believe that the Keynesians are right, that the current recovery is indeed real and not a bubble, that free markets are inherently flawed and in need of regulation, debt-financed stimulus, bail-outs of the big boys, and an instantly-inflatable money stock to shore up emergencies.  You might long to be free, but the economic truth is, notwithstanding such longings, freedom in a social context is a return to the robber baron days of the 19th century.  

Along with this, you, an informed libertarian, would have to believe that Mises, Rothbard, Hazlitt, Salerno, Hulsmann, DiLorenzo, Paul, Rockwell, de Soto, Shostak, Woods, North, Murphy, and many other Austrian authors were either grossly ignorant or lying when they championed unhampered free markets and sound money as the necessary precondition of peace, freedom, and prosperity.

Along with this, you would have to ignore the overwhelming data showing that market economies improve living standards and concede that what we need is more government in our lives.

For a libertarian to be pessimistic, you would have to believe that bureaucrats and other time-servers inoculated against market forces will outwit entrepreneurs in the long run.  You would have to believe that politicians who steal your money to start wars and bail out their friends contribute more to our welfare than Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, or Jeff Bezos and countless other entrepreneurs. 

As a pessimistic libertarian, you would have to believe that central bank counterfeiting produces a sound monetary system, that a market-selected money inevitably goes astray, that money under control of a politicized committee produces the best results for everyone, and that a managed monetary system will last indefinitely.  You would have to believe gold is truly a barbarous relic, of no more value than a pet rock (when in fact it's more like a door stop, where "door" refers to government).

Along with this, you would have to believe that in this age of Wikipedia, web browsers, Khan Academy, Mises Institute, YouTube, the Ron Paul Curriculum, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, texting, email, TED, the proliferation of web-accessible computing devices, and the high Alexa ratings of libertarian web sites, the government will maintain its grip on education, keeping the vast majority of people clothed in tax-funded wool, inculcating the population with the court view of history, with the state/Keynesian view of crisis management, and getting them to swallow whole the pronouncements that pass for news and rational commentary on banker-controlled media.  

Along with this, you would have to believe John White, Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Serpico, Perry Fellwock, Mark Felt, Michael Ruppert, Frederic Whitehurst, Karen Kwiatkowski, Jesselyn Radack, Sibel Edmonds, Joseph Wilson, Samuel Provance, Russ Tice, Thomas Andrews Drake, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and numerous other whistleblowers are cowardly traitors and are universally regarded as such.  You would have to believe that these people were determined to subvert the lawful undertakings of government rather than exposing the government’s heinous wrongdoings.

Along with this, you would have to believe that the decentralizing, deflationary, and individual-empowering character of information-based technologies, which has been advancing at an exponential pace at least since 1890 and which is powering research in other fields such as medicine (where 3-D printing is producing surrogate body parts) — and which has put in your pocket a device with more computational power than an early 1990s supercomputer — will slow significantly because engineers and researchers are at a loss to move us beyond the current computing paradigm, Moore’s Law.  

It’s challenging to be a pessimistic libertarian.  Luther was nearly assassinated and his daughter almost killed in “Absolute Power,” but in the end everything worked out.  Don’t let the fact that the movie is fictional discourage you.  Use fiction as a guideline and make your own movie real.  If you feel your optimism fading turn up the grit and move ahead. 

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