Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From the heartland of stupidity to the border of insanity

Adolescent rebellion in nominal grown-ups is called libertarianism. I don't know much about libertarianism's leading institutions, but I gather that one of them is the Ludwig von Mises Institute (Motto: "Advancing the scholarship of liberty in the tradition of the Austrian school").

To judge from Mad King Ludwig's web site, libertarians start with a healthy skepticism about government and twist it into a loathing of all external limitations on being as whatever as you wanna be. You don't know it yet, but human freedom died a couple of centuries ago when the government started carrying the mail.


Here from the Mises site is commentary by Jim Fedako about his family trip: "From the Heartland to the Border." I'd rather watch videos of his kids making faces and pretending to shoot each other at the Alamo than read his cut-rate philosophy, but since the Most Holy and Apostolic Church of Liberalism seems to have inspired a Libertarian Reformation in some quarters, it may be worth a brief look.
One of my daughters asked, "Why did the state make it illegal to ride in the trailer?" Questions like these always give me pause. There is the party line: "Well, state officials feel that riding in the trailer can be dangerous. They are only protecting us." But, wait. Since not all states ban such travel, the party line is not valid — it never is.

The true response is this: "The state officials ban activities because they can. Regardless of the reason, regardless of their belief in an individual's ability to act in his or her best interest, they ban it because they can. Plain and simple."

No, state officials didn't chuckle with glee and think to themselves: "We'll fix all those free spirits who want to ride in a towed trailer! We're going to make it illegal because we can!" They felt that riding in a trailer can be dangerous.

Whether the risk of riding in a trailer is actually greater than the normal risk of being a passenger in any vehicle on the road might be debatable. Perhaps the State Highway Department or the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority should have conducted a series of tests using anthropomorphic dummies to obtain statistically significant data — except that such tests would have to be elaborate and expensive, and Jim Fedako would be expected to cough up tax money to support the testing, which I don't think he would approve of.

But the factual, or if you prefer, probability question is a whole different level of discourse from what animates Fedako. He just gripes because someone in authority — ay yi yi! Authority! — has seen fit to tell him he can't put his daughter in the trailer.

After a section called "Division of the Consumer" which makes no sense, he carries on:
… every public school that we encountered was the best-looking building in sight, surrounded by the greenest grass. This is the result of the false belief that government spending drives improvements and leads to positive results, and the belief that tax dollars spent by public schools benefit children and society, both locally and throughout the nation — as if impoverishing the nation for new bricks and green grass will bring about utopia.

In reality, these expensive, well-kept edifices are simply the tokens that government provides for confiscated income and indoctrinated children. Not a fair trade in my eyes.

If he wanted to make the case that our national obsession with education as the panacea for every problem is mistaken, or based on a false premise (that everyone is equally educable), I'd be in his corner. But what winds him up? The alleged attractiveness of the school buildings! The grass! (I have to wonder: what God-abandoned towns did he drive through if the schools were the best-looking buildings? Schools generally resemble warehouses or starter penitentiaries.)


When he talks about indoctrination, he's bang on the money. In the absence of any further explanation, though, it's impossible to say what he sees as the indoctrination. Is it the quasi-Marxist mind control that passes for teaching in public schools? Or would he be satisfied
if the schools taught Mad King Ludwig in trade for his "confiscated income"?

There follows a section about campgrounds and swimming pools and the interstate highway, whose point is lost on me, unless it's that he's narked about the government building highways — presumably it would be righteous with him if individuals had gone out there with picks and shovels and built an I-40 — that contribute to swimming pool degeneration.

Then we get to the so-called border (just a line on a map! Can't see it from out there in the Milky Way!) and Fedako really warms to his topic.
Just a handful of years ago, the border in this area was relatively open, and park visitors and village residents could cross at will. That all changed with 9-11 and the fear subsidized by government and prodded by politicians. Now, it is illegal to cross the border.
A word in your ear, Jim: It was always illegal to cross the border just by strolling across without going through Customs. It used to be easier, perhaps. But, no doubt, Jim Fedako thinks anybody should be allowed to go anywhere they like if it will enable them to make money.
The "illegals" we encountered were very friendly, just business folks looking to put food on the table. Regardless, someone under threat of government will react differently than the storekeeper in some situations.
Well, slap me running! So he encounters a handful of "folks" from the other side of their border and they're friendly. Hey, no problem! Mexican invasion? Parts of California indistinguishable from Tijuana? That's just Mexicans who want to make an honest living selling stuffed iguanas to Yanquis. Gang bangers turning parts of the United States into no-go areas? Get over it, they're friendly folks under threat of government. The government is the real nest of terrorists.

The dead hand of over-regulation does press heavily on us. But it's driven some people insane.



Terry Morris said...

Nice post, Rick. Ever tried to convince a libertarian that, for instance, speed limits are not "arbitrary?" It's a fun-filled experience, lemme tell ya.

Rick Darby said...


I'll bet. I'm glad you've tried the experiment, so I won't ever have to.

Probably there are more sensible libertarians than this bozo, although they don't appear to inhabit the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Much of the misbehavior they ascribe to government seems to me to apply to large institutions in general. They all bring out power trips, inflexibility, and groupthink. As you know, I believe in federalism, strict constitutional interpretation, and reasonable limits on government. But it's loony to think that every problem can be solved, and every necessary task accomplished, by "market forces."

Terry Morris said...

The scary part is that this guy is passing all this on to his children; look out society, here they come!

Can you imagine:

"Daddy, why is it that you make me sit still while riding in the car?"

"Questions like these always give me pause. There's the standard party line "because your moving about in the car while daddy is driving can be dangerous," but wait, since not all movement in a car is dangerous and exceptions are sometimes made to the rule, the party line is not valid - it never is. No; the real reason daddy makes you sit still in the car is because he can.

Besides, if the government had not arbitrarily made riding in a trailer illegal, you'd be there right now free to move about as you like. So in reality daddy only makes rules for you to follow as a result of government arbitrarily making rules for him to follow. See what I mean, honey, about the evil arbitrary nature of government and how it destroys individual liberty? Never forget this lesson.

Now please, sit back down, buckle up, and stop asking these stupid questions which any libertarian worth her salt already knows the answer to."


Homophobic Horse said...

Under Libertarianism one can conceivably sue your parents for giving birth to without your prior individual consent.

Rick Darby said...

homophobic horse,

I don't understand why that is a libertarian viewpoint. Anyway, if I were miffed about being born without my consent, I wouldn't stop there. I'd contact the ACLU and sue the hospital that provided assistance at my birth, as well as the state and federal governments who stood by and did nothing to stop it. I would also demand reparations from society to atone for all my ancestors who were born without having given prior written consent, duly witnessed and notarized.

Pangloss said...

This chatter about Libertarians is equally nonsensical as the chatter about the hated neocons at the usual suspect websites. If you want to read the good writers at, start with Ludwig Von himself, instead of with people who draw weighty philosophical conclusions from a family trip with a camper. Then carry on with Bastiat, Roepke, and Rothbard. Especially Bastiat. He's dead 150 years, but his short articles are still well worth reading.