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December 30, 2004
From Time To Time

A rant comes over me. (Sorry...comments are currently closed because of spammers. Feel free to e-mail if you have an opinion.)

This morning, at 7;15, Bossyboots, a much-disliked co-worker of mine, showed up in my office, all ready for an early morning chat. This annoyed me to start with. I don't show up at work at 7:15 n the morning to chat. Anyhow, I was nice. And we got to talking about my adventures this week (I was trying to get new stickers for my license plates) and I mentioned that this task required not one but two ventures into Five Points, a rather problematic area of the city mostly noted for gang violence, although that was largely several years ago.

I mentioned how I'd seen signs of urban renewal in the area, some refurbished businesses, some very nice looking residences that I wish I could afford myself, etc., and that I hoped this was the result of local efforts and not alien "gentrification" efforts that were pushing the current area residents out.

Anyhow, we got onto the subject of gangs and I was lamenting that no one takes the right track in dealing sensibly with the problem when he chimed in, already snickering because he knew he was about to light my fuse, with a nod and a suggestion of his own. Shoot them all, he said.

I ordered him out of my office forthwith. "Get out of my office," I said.

He didn't go, of course. Mostly he said that because he was just yanking my chain, but he also sort of believes it would work.

He is a Libertarian and a bit of a wingnut at the same time. He's one of those people who believes that the closer government gets to nothing, the better off we'll all be (never dreaming, of course, that if it weren't for stringent laws about such behavior, I'd push him down the nearest stairwell) and who thinks that way because he's smug in the knowledge that the only part of government he approves of, the military, is providing him with an income for life after his years of service.

Libertarians are among the most pointless of political groups I've ever encountered. Aside from outright anarchists, who are just delusional, Libertarians are the silliest group I've ever met.

(Interestingly enough, most of the Libertarians I've met are in Bossyboots' same circumstances. They're ex-military, they're usually inactive and not at all likely to be called back up, and they disapprove of every government program except the one that's putting money in their own pocket every month. Not all of them fit that description, but most of them. For the ones who don't, my apologies for the rant that follows.)

All of that idiocy about no government and no taxes, for instance. No matter how often you explain to them that their pet project, a national sales tax to replace the income tax, would cause devastation among the poor and nearly poor, increasing the unemployment and crime rates, increasing the need for police, judicial, and prison systems and, consequently, resulting in larger government, they persist in thinking that it's a more "fair" way of financing government and would, in the end, result in everyone paying less money for the same or better services.

Just the necessary services, as defined by themselves, of course.

Nevermind that such a program would only increase the problem of corporate ownership of our government (biggest retailers = most taxes collected = biggest government contributors = influence) and decrease the voice of the average citizen (your vote wouldn't count...just your spending power), they think paying taxes for the services government provides is unconstitutional.

And less government? I discovered last year that (for reasons I still think are inadequate and poorly thought-out) there are many who think the Department of Education is the font of all evil. Of course, I've never heard this position adopted by anyone who would have been subject to the kind of private schooling that would be offered in the back hills of Tennessee if not for federal laws about education.

As far as that goes, I've never heard this position adopted by anyone who seems to have really considered that while, yes, charter schools can, in some cases and for a lot of money, offer superior education, that comes at the expense of every student not lucky enough to be enrolled in that school. And they never have an answer to the point that schools used to be better because parents stayed involved and because people didn't reflexively vote against every tax or bond issue that came out and was designed to fund education. It's a mystery to me why a parent thinks they government should give them "vouchers" for a school that costs $35,000 a year per student, but that same parent would kick, scream, and file a lawsuit at the idea of spending half that much per student in the public school system?

Aside from that, Libertarians and small-government fanatics would like to eliminate welfare. Once again, they know not of what they speak. They believe apocryphal and muckraking articles in the press about "welfare queens" who live like royalty on government handouts, without bothering themselves to find out what welfare is all about (or that that story was an outright lie, made up by the responsible political candidate's staff). They know nothing of the pain and shame of a woman forced to stay on welfare when she'd rather work, because for every dollar she earns, she loses two dollars in welfare benefits and she can't earn enough to make up the difference. They know nothing of the bitter despair that someone faces when they have nothing but a subsistence-level future to look forward to, living on handouts and food stamps and facing the scorn and disgust of an ignorant and uniformed society.

Nor do they know anything about the frustration and hatred that can fill a child's heart when they start to grow up, see a world around them in ads and on television and in the movies that they will never, ever be a part of. To know a world exists where the next meal is always assured, where clothes and a room over your head are taken for granted. A world where people have so much they throw away things, things that child desperately needs, because it's the wrong color or shape, or last year's model. We have this world and we have the resources and more to help them into it, but we don't. You want to know where gangs come from? They come from those of us not living in slums.

And what about the rest of the government? Yes, the FDA is flawed. Ask yourself...when did these problems develop? Could it have been during the Reagan years, when pharmaceutical money flowing into campaign coffers caused a sea-change in how the FDA was expected to relate to the industry they were ostensibly formed to police?

And what about food safety? We hear Libertarians scoffing at government programs, but how many of them know anything about food safety or the role the FDA has played over the years in keeping our food supply reasonably safe for consumption?

The EPA? You hear a lot of condescension from them about the EPA. Apparently they're under the impression that Dow-Carbide would not do to Texas what it reputedly did to Bhopal if not prohibited by law. (Caveat added for legal protection purposes.)

Apparently they're under the impression that air clean enough to breath and water clean enough to drink would happen by magic, without any laws or oversight from the government. Apparently they think the lakes and rivers they like to fish and the woods they like to hunt would remain full of healthy wildlife without anyone's intervention. (Take a look at Houston, if you want to see what happens when corporations are asked to "voluntarily" police themselves.)

And how about worker safety? I've yet to hear from a Libertarian who works in a factory or manufacturing plant, asking to have federal laws that regulate the safety of their working conditions abolished.

And you don't hear from many disabled Libertarians, asking us to please stop putting in curb cuts and automatic doors on public buildings, do you?

I've never talked to a Libertarian dependent on public transportation because he couldn't afford a car who asked to have government stop subsidizing public transportation.

I disagree with a lot of political positions, but I disagree with Libertarians the most. It seems to me that they, more than any other political sect, have a philosophy based on a complete failure to grasp the reality they live in. I've never yet talked to one who seemed to have the slightest understanding of how drastically our society would change, entirely for the worse, if they managed to put their half-baked ideas into action.

None of them have ever said so, but I get the impression they think the country would still be pretty much what it is today but we'd all be magically free from...whatever evil they think it is the Department of Commerce is doing to us, and that other than having more money in their paycheck every two weeks, nothing else would change.

People say I have my head in the clouds. I've been called an idealist and I am in many ways, but my idealism is rooted in reality. I don't offer silver-bullet solutions for problems because there aren't any. There are only right and wrongs ways to begin to solve problems. But Libertarians? Fuzzy-minded idealists living in a fantasy world.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:04 PM