Monday, April 18, 2011

Week of 04/18/2011

Libertarianism vs. Corporate Capitalism
– by David Matthews 2

“I really don’t see any daylight between libertarians and conservatives,” according to one online user I came across in Facebook. “Libertarians want to turn everything over to corporations.”

Sadly, I couldn’t come up with a response right away on that charge.

Not that the poster was right, because he or she wasn’t, but that it was hard for me to refute it when so many people who call themselves “libertarians” or who are branded as such are more corporate capitalists than true defenders of individual freedom.

This comes at a time when the Reason Foundation, one of the largest supporters of libertarian ideas, has been trumpeting a different idea… one that says that private businesses are more important than individuals. Sponsored by the Koch brothers, Reason has been posting videos poking fun of the IRS, whining endlessly about healthcare reform, poking fun at liberal rallies, using Wall Street doublespeak to fix our public roads (which did SO WELL with pensions, didn’t it?), and hyping up the idea that one city in the Atlanta area could outsource everything and succeed when the rest of the nation couldn’t.

Sure there is SOME talk about individual rights, but when the choice is between the individual and Big Corporate, the folks at Reason will either be very quiet… or else they will side with Big Corporate.

Let’s talk about healthcare. The problem from DAY ONE was not about doctors or patients. It was about Big Corporate. It was about big pharmaceutical companies and big insurance companies and big hospital companies all throwing their weight around and screwing over hard-working Americans who have the “audacity” to actually USE the healthcare services they were paying into. It was about insurance companies selling people on this idea that they’re there for the customer, and then not covering their bills, rationing the expenses, and deciding to cut coverage based on profitability. Rather than suggesting that insurance companies knock off the BS and do what they were contracted to do, Reason’s champions attack any attempt to fix the problem, pompously declaring that ANY attempt to fix this problem is instantly DOOMED to fail, and defaulting instead on this fictional idea that “the free market would provide”.

Oh those magical words: “the free market would provide”. That gets bantered about a lot. It presupposes that there would be some company that magically appears to do what all the other companies would not. Yeah… and if you believe that, then I have some stock in Enron to sell you.

Here’s the problem: free markets and free people are NOT mutually exclusive! The former will ALWAYS try to subjugate the latter, and there is a LONG and tortuous history that backs that up. In fact, America went to war against itself a century-and-a-half ago BECAUSE of that very conflict. Oh, and you know the party that originally fought FOR free people? They’ve flipped over and now are supporting “free markets” screwing over those formerly “free” people. Thanks for nothing, GOP.

Speaking of markets, let’s talk about “Too Big To Fail”… the folks at Reason believe that the bailouts were (and still are) a bad idea. On that point, I agree. But… where’s the talk about arrests?

You see, the great codicil about “Free Markets” is that it’s supposed to be anything goes EXCEPT when it involves force or fraud. But between the recent news of robo-signers rubberstamping foreclosure abuses and the report this past week to Congress that said that the financial ratings agents were forced to give misleading ratings for the sake of profit, we pretty much HAVE both FORCE AND FRAUD going on with “Too Big To Fail”. So… where’s the call for cuffs? Where’s the call for frog-marching these criminals in front of the cameras? Instead we hear how “Freddy and Fanny are evil” and “Hedge funds are just misunderstood”.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it’s hard to support libertarian ideas when the chief supporter and promoter of libertarian ideas is doing the dirty work of the conservatives and neo-conservatives. I mean, what’s next, Reason? Whining about how the rich pay taxes and blame everything on spending? Oh, wait, they just did.

I’ll come out and say it if the folks at Reason aren’t willing to… REAL libertarianism is not about corporations. It is about INDIVIDUALS. It is about the freedom of INDIVIDUALS. And where we have a problem is when a group - and it doesn’t matter if that group is a committee, a company, a union, a corporation, or a government - decides it has the power to subjugate that individual and take that person’s freedom for their own gain.

The problem is that with the public sector, there are supposed to be safeguards put in place to prevent the government from going too far. There are supposed to be rules that even those in power are obligated to follow. Things such as a constitution and “The Rule of Law” are supposed to keep the government from abusing their rights of the people, or else they run the risk of a revolution. Just look at what went on in Egypt if you need a recent example.

But the private sector has NO such built-in safeguards. There is no “or else” with them other than turning to the government for the traditional “redress of grievances”.

So what do you do when a corporation goes too far? Take them to court? In a courtroom governed by a judge appointed by political friends of that corporate entity? Going against the best attorneys that corporate money can buy that can afford to put up delay after delay after delay to destroy your case through attrition? Or better yet, how about binding arbitration? That’s been the kick over the past decade now… arbitration by arbiters hand-picked by the corporate entity. It’s not exactly a level playing field, guys. It never has been a level playing field when one side has all the money and gets to make the rules.

And as for “the free market will provide”, I have two words for you: Preston Tucker. Free market? Not when you have corporations controlling it with their wealth and influence.

Corporate abuse is really no different than Government abuse, and should be considered just as abhorrent. It’s even worse when the two habitual abusers work together as they are doing now with the housing market. To presume that any libertarian worth their salt would consider the former acceptable and not the latter is sheer ignorance and this commentator would seriously challenge the source of anyone who believes otherwise.

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